If you want to know whether a “biblical” teaching or belief/practice is really of God – the Spirit of Love – then look to the fruit of that teaching.
What is the fruit of Christians’ biblical (and supposedly sacred) teaching that women should do whatever their husbands say?
- Christian marriages becoming breeding grounds for abuse, selfishness, and crippled accountability.
- The wisdom and intuition God gives to women being ignored and suppressed – a marriage in which only one mind, not two, is free to think and express itself.
- Children trapped in unsafe homes, in which the wife does not feel she is “allowed” to take her children and leave.
- Home environments in which women and children are afraid to speak the truth, because the husbands/fathers will not hear it, or may even punish them in some way for speaking up.
What is the fruit of a preacher perpetually shouting to Christians that they are messed up and need to clean it up?
- Christians walking away feeling increasingly alienated from God, as though he is unreachable, and they beyond grace.
- People reliving shame from the past, and struggling to move forward as whole and renewed children of God.
- People walking away feeling overstimulated and exhausted from the shouting.
What is the fruit of Christians’ condemnation of homosexuals?
- Increased self-righteousness among Christians.
- A degradation of the purity and truth of the gospel (salvation free for all, not depending on one’s sexuality or even sexual choices, however safe or unwise various sexual choices may be)
- Christian blindness to personal and Western-Church-wide issues: pride, poor self-control, greed, selfishness, self-righteousness, gossip (homosexuality easily becomes the scapegoat for all of these).
- Increased fear, depression, and suicidality among the LGBTQ community.
- Increased sense of spiritual hopelessness and abandonment by God among the LGBTQ community.
These are just a few beliefs and practices which I have seen result in so much harm.
The sad thing is, Christians trust theologians, authors of letters to the early churches, and our modern interpretations and translations of scriptures more than Jesus (the center of Christianity, at least once upon a time) and their own brains that they say God created.
I don’t believe that “Lean not on your own understanding” means “Shut out any logical questions or cross-examinations.” I think that is a gross misuse of that verse. In context, the verse appears to be advocating a trust in God rather than looking at the circumstances before us (and consequently, being afraid, or feeling we have to figure out and fix everything with our limited knowledge).
Trust in the Lord with all your heartProverbs 3:5-6
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Many religious organizations try to disarm or bypass people’s intellect – their last safeguard against abuse and deception. Sadly, it’s often an effective method.
But I don’t believe that the true God would ever want people to have to sacrifice logic or truth for belief and holiness. It is not a sin to want to see things as they are, nor to ask questions.
When we examine any of the topics (homosexuality, gender roles, pastoral approach) listed above, we can easily think of more loving, God-honoring ways to approach any of these arenas that would result in more healing, trust, freedom, and peace.
So many of the teachings supposedly (and actually) derived from the Bible have resulted in extreme destruction – to people’s health, safety, sanity, and yes, even faith and spiritual health.
This does not align with the Jesus I know, who came to set the captives free, died for the sins of the world, and whose new command was love.
Jesus was both spiritual and intellectual. He asked interesting questions and taught people spiritual truths in parables. He shocked his detractors with his logical and wise responses.
Jesus also valued and empowered women. He assigned women the task of first preaching the good news to the men. He let them accompany him on his journeys, and received support from them. He let a woman sit at his feet and learn, even though that was a “man’s role.” He didn’t tell women to stay home and cook, or Mary and Martha that they ought to prepare him an elaborate meal.
Jesus healed the centurion’s servant (whom many have suspected was also the centurion’s gay companion, as was extremely common in Roman culture between “superiors” and subordinates).
Jesus was the fiercest and most angry teacher not in his words to his disciples, the “tax collectors and sinners,” or the seekers and doubters, but in his words toward the Pharisees and the devil, and in his temple cleansing demonstration.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we can easily see that his priorities were very different from those of Christianity – especially conservative, capitalist Christianity – today. Jesus chose homelessness over a home and family, emphasized the needs of the poor over the goal of prosperity, and esteemed the racial and spiritual outcasts over the blind and self-righteous “in-crowd.”
Do we care more about a woman respecting her husband than we care about a man loving his wife? Do we care more about children obeying their parents than the injustice of a father exasperating his child? Do we only care about the causes of the powerful and dominant in society? Jesus defended the poor, meek, and devalued – the women, children, and social outcasts.
Are we more aligned with Paul than with Jesus? Although it would make many Christians bristle to hear it, the truth is that Protestants often treat Paul as their equivalent of the Catholic Pope (the “infallible mouthpiece” of God), while diminishing or sweeping to the side many of Jesus’s words.
And the fruit of that prioritization shows. It’s rotten, and it fails to nourish. It harms more than it helps.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23