07
Dec
08

I Don’t Have a Problem

darknessI see a common argument among people who dislike evangelism or dislike Christianity in general, and it goes like this: I don’t need to be saved. I don’t want to be saved. I’m insulted that you even think I need to be saved (even if you don’t say so). Stop trying to act like you have any clue how to save my ass that didn’t need saving to begin with.

OK, fair enough. But then again, I’ve never been the kind of person who gets into your face and says, “You need the saving blood of Christ.” Yes, that is what I believe, but I’m not into confrontational encounters where I try to browbeat a person into choosing Jesus.

And before anyone starts, this blog doesn’t count as being in your face. You don’t have to come here and you can leave here any time you like. I haven’t trapped you in a corner or pounced on you at the office trying to proselytize to you. This blog is here for me to muse about spiritual matters, to share my thoughts, to show people that Christians aren’t all from the same cookie cutter, to perhaps get people thinking about Christ, to expand my own thoughts, to entertain, to vent, and other such things.

I find it interesting that some folks here and there still seem to want to paint me as at least slightly judgmental because I believe in Hell. Believing in Hell doesn’t mean I feel warm and fuzzy about it or derive any kind of satisfaction out of anyone who does go there. It’s like saying I’m judgmental if I were to say that having prisons and courts is a necessary thing. Hell is the spiritual equivalent, like it or not. Or believe it or not. Don’t paint my opinions or my attitudes solely on a belief in Hell and judgment of souls. A slice of my beliefs doesn’t give you enough to go on about me. It would be like me judging a person’s intelligence based on the fact they like some empty headed pop music.

But, on to the point of today’s post, which was inspired by a post at another blog, Tit for Tat, titled  Are We So Bad We Need to Be Saved? It’s a short post, so I’ll just paste it below, but check in at Tit for Tat’s site using the link above anyway, because there will be comments to that post, most likely. Besides, you might find some interesting, edifying or entertaining stuff at other posts there. But here it is:

After several recent conversations, it got me thinking(again). Are we really such bad people that we need to be “Saved”. I mean ,like really, do the majority of us continually do crappy stuff to each other, everyday all day long? I like to think that my fellow Human has just as many Good moments as they do bad, and if that is the case then why do many Christians feel the need to see themselves as inherently bad? Im wondering fellow bloggers, do you see yourselves as inherently bad or good?

His general point is a good one to ponder. Are we really so bad? But I would submit that it isn’t so much about being good or evil. It’s easy to couch sin in terms of good vs. evil but that isn’t necessarily always the best way. It has its places and uses, but sin and salvation are a lot more complex than that, which is why I rely on metaphors and analogies a lot around here.

And yes, I’m about to do so again.

Let’s look at sin and damnation/salvation and sinning/being saved from a different angle. Not whether we seek to be good or embrace unfettered badness. Not whether we see ourselves on the side of light or darkness. Not whether we believe in God or not. Let’s consider the alcoholic instead, as a stand-in for the sinner.

Alcoholics comes in all sizes and shapes and types. Some get violent, some get silly, some get unconscious, others get all sorts of other ways. You have constant drinkers on one end of the spectrum and binge drinkers at the other. An alcoholic may drink to excessiveness, or may simply drink constantly at a very low level.

Alcoholism causes problems. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as killing someone while driving drunk. It doesn’t have to be hitting a spouse or child while under the influence. It can be as simple as wasting family money on too much drink and hurting your household in that manner. It can be the fact that your little buzz every night when you come home from work to unwind is robbing you of opportunities to bond with your family. It could be the slow destruction of your liver. But the fact is that an alcoholic chooses to drink, despite doing so to his or her own detriment and sometimes also the detriment of others.

But what all alcoholics share is a problem. It is in part a sickness and in part a choice. And it can only be solved when the person admits that he or she has a problem.

Sin and damnation are very similar.

We all sin. Even born again folks are sinners. They are simply like alcoholics on the wagon. No alcoholic ever stops being one. In fact, in terms of sin, people are worse than alcoholics because even those who “take the cure” will in almost 100% of cases still sample sinful ways, whereas a committed alcoholic in recovery might never again touch a drop of liquor.

The problem of sin isn’t so much being evil. It’s a matter of whether we recognize we have a problem and seek the solution to that problem. That’s the crux of Christianity.

Sin is a departure from God’s plan and it causes us to separate ourselves from His grace. It is the admission that we are sinners that puts us on a road to getting back in connection with God.

Just like alcoholics, there are sinners aplenty who will maintain that they don’t have a problem. They don’t need help. They are mostly good. They can quit being separated from the divine any time they want. It’s not just atheists or agnostics who do this. It isn’t even people who believe in other religions. There are so-called Christians who do the same thing.

But they do have a problem, even if they don’t admit it. All of them. All of us. The reason the Gospel is there is to provide a mirror for those people to look at and, hopefully, see the problem, desire to solve the problem, and take the cure. That cure would be Jesus.

Just like an alcoholic being confronted with their problem and getting help. What is the reason they should seek recovery? Not because they are browbeat into doing so. Not because the law tells them to or else. Not for any other reason than this: They have chosen to do so, and want to do so.

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18 Responses to “I Don’t Have a Problem”


  1. December 7, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    hmmm. The whole salvation thing isn’t about not sinning, but rather escaping the greatest consequence of sin, The eternal separation from God. The biggest problem with seeing our sin, is our standard. We get our Bad-o-meter from our parents, our friends, and our culture (God forbid, we even determine sin based on our personal agenda). Sin, like character, is a moving target, unless we define it according to God’s values. For this reason, I think some of the less blatant wrongdoers prerequire a connection with God in order to realize their status. Kinda like God hanging out with the Jews for three months BEFORE giving the law, and letting them know how screwed up they were. I know this is heresy, but we see God, and Jesus, initiating relationship prior to repentance, in the Bible. Most of my repentance ( and I do have unrepentant ongoing sin in my life…) comes from a closer understanding of God. If repentance is a requirement, than Grace isn’t really free, is it? If we truly set repentance as a requirement, must it be perfect repentance? is repentance a matter of degree, like obesity, or a yes/no thing like pregnancy?

  2. December 7, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    I understand what you are saying.

    I believe in Hell.

    I am one of the few preachers around that STILL preaches and teaches about Hell.

    We have preachers running around talking about claiming silver and gold from God and sowing a seed in order to have silver and gold…but they aren’t talking about “the wages of sin IS DEATH but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    There are many who feel that “God is all about goodness and He will acknowledge good people” and they are forgetting that there is a way to receive salvation that God has outlined quite clearly…

  3. December 7, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    I agree with Chris, it’s about reconciling with God. The little kid in me says, “Why did He let us get unreconciled in the first place?” I’ve heard SisterChruchLadies say, “God is a just God, He had to have blood!” That dude scares me. I understood it for one brief and shining moment reading Bonhoeffer. I can’t remember the passage but I understood it on some metaphysical tip. Some Science of Mind type stuff makes it make sense. I’m the one turning from God; Jesus just points me back right. I dunno.

  4. 4 Deacon Blue
    December 7, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    As far as I can see, neither one of you has said anything I disagree with on any substantive level.

    Repentence is really about WANTING to be better and seeking that reconciliation that God offers. It’s not about perfection. We are driven by a lot of impulses and stresses and temptations. We can’t be perfect. And with our limited perceptions, it is hard for us to even understand why certain things are sins.

    I would argue, Chris, that there is a good chance that the “unrepentant” sin in your life might not be unrepetent at all. I mean, are you commiting this sin while waggling your fingers at God, flipping Him off and saying, “I really don’t give a crap if you don’t like this!”
    😉

    Or are you committing sins because you are (1) a too weak to say no [a lot of us are, myself included], (2) because you find yourself doubting that it’s really a sin because you figure someone translated something wrong along the line, (3) something else [I’m tired and running out of active synapses right now and don’t have any other good examples…sorry]?

    I think ever person has sins they commit even though they know they shouldn’t, and they keep going back and doing it again. Repentence isn’t always about saying “I know this is wrong and I don’t want to do it.” Sometimes it’s about, “I want to do this and I don’t know why you think it’s wrong; please lead me to better understanding, Lord, and if it really is so bad, help me find a clear path away from the activity.”

    And Kellybelle, I like your example that we turn from God and Jesus points us back. Because I think it’s so true. In the end, the big question is “Do we want to be more like God or not?” And I don’t mean about the power and omniscience and all that. Do we want to be part of the family or do we want to walk alone?

    Those who WANT to walk alone will be given an eternal chance to do so.

  5. 5 Deacon Blue
    December 8, 2008 at 12:11 am

    If there is any confusion about my previous statement, I wasn’t ignoring Lisa (aka BlackWomenBlowTheTrumpet). I just now realized her comment was in the spam section and only just now approved it, so I hadn’t seen it when I made my comment earlier.

    I think Hell is hard for people to preach about for the same reason evangelism is hard. We don’t want to piss people off or put a sour taste in their mouths.

    We probably need more preachers who teach that Hell is real. Not because we need to wave it around as a threat to beat people into obedience, but to point out that there are two very stark choices: Do we want to be with God, or do we think ourselves better than God somehow?

    We can choose a path that puts us in a place of love and fellowship and family, or we can choose a path that is lonely and separate and utterly un-divine.

    Hell isn’t there to scare us per se. Because if God wanted us to be motivated by fear and drive us to Jesus with fear, he wouldn’t operate on a system that requires faith and repentence. If all he wanted was terror and obedience, He would simply sit up in the sky, very visible, and tell us that we’re toast if we don’t obey.

    Hell, I don’t even know if this comment is making sense…why am I posting when what I really need is sleep? 😉 😛

  6. December 8, 2008 at 7:17 am

    My issue with the need to be “saved” is its all or nothing approach. Rather than seeing life as a learning process and this includes not only our physical life but our spiritual one as well, we see it as a one size fits all. Jesus becomes the only way to do the “right” thing, and if you dont, some peoples interpretation of scripture states that they will be punished for it. Remember ladies and gentleman, whatever you deem to be Gods word is “your” interpretation not the creators, that is why you have so many denominations of Christianity out here. I heard a funny one once, very appropriate though.

    “Rather than being “Born Again”, why dont people just grow up.”

  7. 7 Deacon Blue
    December 8, 2008 at 10:47 am

    But I would disagree with you here.

    Sure, a lot of Christians, and institutionalized denominations, take a very simple (or simplistic) view. It’s something that irks me a great deal.

    Because I DO see life as a learning process, both physically and spiritually. I am still learning to be the best child of God I can be. Being born again is the start of “growing up” spiritually. It is upon being born again, if a person is truly learning and trying to understand God’s word and God’s plan, that you can start to get a better feel of things. It’s like Paul’s example of starting with milk (the very basic message of the gospel) before he can give people the meat (the harder teachings).

    Sure, yes, I see Jesus as a “one size fits all” in the sense that I do believe he is the mediator between humans and God and the bridge that restores our lost connection to God. But everyone, in their belief system (assuming they have one…be it religious or atheist…agnostics are a whole other matter) believes their way is the correct way. Christians aren’t alone in that feeling.

    God revealed Himself a long time ago, in a long-term plan to get people back in line with Him. In love and family. That has been a painful road. For us, at least, and our short lifespans and limited perception of time. God laying out rules has never been about us actually following them, because in almost every case, we will break them. The rules have been about showing us so clearly that we are willful and need to stop trying to do our own thing. When there was only one rule, it got broken. When there was a detailed guidebook, they got broken. God isn’t punishing us for our misbehavior as much as he is trying to splash water in our face.

    He did it for thousands (probably tens or even hundreds of thousands, as I don’t really believe Adam and Eve, whatever or whomever they really were, were 7,000 years ago) of years to make it clear: You need a better way. You need a path whereby you can be made ready to come to me and whereby you can shed the crap that keeps you away from me and keeps you from being truly in my image.

    Let’s face it, there are only three possibilities, really:

    1. A single God and a single path
    2. No God at all.
    3. Many gods (unlikely, as it seems pretty unlikely they’d all remain quiet and unseen and not be staging power plays all the time)

    A universe without intelligence and purpose doesn’t feel right to me, so I take #1. The uniqueness of the model and example of Jesus, the way that Christianity has survived and flourished against ALL odds, and the overall theme of the Bible, of man’s fall and God’s plan for redemption, feels right to me.

    There’s no way I can sway you to my beliefs. Not everyone is going to get it in this world, and that means extra steps for them, I think, to get the message and make their choice. There may be one path, in my belief, but there are many humans and many different personalities, and how they come to that path, and whether they choose to take it (or go down the lonely road) is up to them.

    I am born again, Tit for Tat…and I am growing up. All of us, Christian or otherwise, are always still growing up. It’s a good joke you’ve shared, I’ll admit that, but being born again and growing up are really not mutually exclusive.

  8. 8 societyvs
    December 8, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    “It’s like saying I’m judgmental if I were to say that having prisons and courts is a necessary thing” (Blue)

    Not really – and this depends on your view of hell and God (punishment). If hell is the price we pay – for what crime exactly? How serious of a crime must one committ to be subjected to an eternal seperation from God (and worse burnt to death for eternity)?

    My complaint with hell is the ‘measurement’ or ‘weight’ of it compared to the life of the human – which Moses says is (on average) 70 years. What crime can be done to deserve an eternity (not the same 70 years in retuen) in hell fires? Doesn’t the view itself make God ‘unjust’ in measurement?

    “It is in part a sickness and in part a choice. And it can only be solved when the person admits that he or she has a problem.” (Blue)

    But admission and saying someone needs to ‘shed their blood’ for you to solve that problem are tied into the solution how again? Parts of the solution make little sense – for the solution of the actual problem.

    “The reason the Gospel is there is to provide a mirror for those people to look at and, hopefully, see the problem, desire to solve the problem, and take the cure. That cure would be Jesus.” (Blue)

    I think there is a disconnect in our faith when talking about ‘salvation’ and the cure for ‘sin’. If Jesus is the cure – then ‘sin’ is ‘finished’ – shouldn’t be a problem in our times (some 2000 years later) – but sin still persists. The problem is much deeper than some blood sacrifice – maybe this is why Jesus gives direction and guidance for dealing with problems in our life (ie: gospel teachings).

    Alcoholism may be a sin – true – but just because someone paid the price for sins doesn’t mean the alcoholic is changed (what is the correlation?). Yet I can show a direct correlation between the teachings of Jesus and possible change for the addict – from the teachings and dealing with the problem – or simply the idea of repentance and the kingdom ethics (namely of support from the community and accountability to our neighbor).

    I think it is fine to think Jesus ‘paid for your sins’ – if this is true – then he paid for everyone’s sins (no exemptions). Yet some people will still end up in hell? I guess I don’t get it – how is it Jesus can be the sacrifice (final sacrifice) and yet not all is quite ‘finished’? Some go to heaven – some go to hell (Jesus paid for all these people – did he not?). Is the power of sin greater than the sacrifice? Or are they even related?

  9. 9 Deacon Blue
    December 8, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Well, again, my use of the term “cure for sin” is analogous to the “taking the cure” for alcoholism. The problem hasn’t ended; it has simply been mitigated.

    And again, the “eternal punishment” thing…I really don’t believe in my heart anyone gets eternal punishment except those who remain unrepentent, even after dying and “doing time” before judgement day. I think souls will be well aware of their choices. The problem for those that won’t see final salvation is that they will not have any SINCERE desire to repent nor any REAL feeling that they let God down. They will be the excuse-makers, the people who wanted to prop up their successes in life, the people who don’t want anything but their own wants.

    It isn’t a matter of how much you sinned on Earth and whether you get eternal punishment for those “crimes.” It’s whether you are willing to embrace God and step into eternity WITH Him…or spend it WITHOUT Him. Souls will be given a choice, but there is not stepping back from that choice, in my opinion.

  10. 10 societyvs
    December 9, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    “I really don’t believe in my heart anyone gets eternal punishment except those who remain unrepentent, even after dying and “doing time” before judgement day” (Blue)

    Still…it’s eternal punishment – what does that look like? Plus the problem is levying a punishment on someone that may not fit the crime…for 70 years of a life having the penalty of eternity.

    I would also raise the obvious question – what is the purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice and is it limited (to believers in it)? Irregardless of Jesus’ sacrifice – people would still suffer?

    I understand your viewpoint, and I somewhat agree, but even the addition of ‘after death and chance to repent’ – these are theological additions that I am not sure are deduced from the texts. I am as much to blame, mind you, with my viewpoint of hell as something ‘here and now’.

    All I know is the ‘pain’ of this time and the ‘joy’ of this time is what we ‘know’ and ‘live with’. I always find it funny someone can repent after the fact (after death) – when they did nothing to alleviate the stress of the people in ‘this time’. I am no judge, this is true, but if I have to weight the case of a single decision and life of abuse and hurt towards others – that case may not tip the way the person (after death) wants to hear – at least not without full repentance and reperation.

  11. 11 Deacon Blue
    December 9, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    My problem is that I can’t say Hell doesn’t exist. Jesus even refers to it. And that’s why I always couch my theories about whether Hell itself is eternal as being just that: theories.

    I think it’s a terrible roll of the dice not to look seriously at a path that says, “This will lead you away from Hell and toward God.”

    I know how icky it sounds to have the idea of eternal punishment, whether that means torture and suffering or separation and loneliness or something else.

    But with eternity out there, we have to go somewhere right?

    Why would everyone go to Heaven? That would suggest that nothing much matters in our spiritual walk down here in terms of accountability. We all have a free ride and could do whatever we want?

    Somewhere, somehow, there has to be some accountability. For my part, I think that even those who receive salvation will receive differing gifts according to how open their hearts were to God to begin with. Frankly, I think I’ll end up in whatever counts as a mid- to lower-income neighgorhood 😉 but I also figure that even the “slums” of Heaven are pretty sweet. 😛

    In part I’m making light and in part I’m being serious, and I understand your concerns. But it seems odd to me that God would fail to have a point at which he says, “Make up your mind already!”

  12. December 10, 2008 at 6:30 am

    @Deac: “Why would everyone go to Heaven? That would suggest that nothing much matters in our spiritual walk down here in terms of accountability.”

    Down here, Deac, Nothing Matters. Or to put it another way, Everything Matters–which is to say, No [One] Thing Matters.

    A conundrum to be sure, but one that gets to the heart of the matter. When you understand Why Everyone is Here, you’ll understand why “everyone go to Heaven.”

    In truth, there’s no other place for us souls to go. We all come to Earth, or go to Earth, depending on your perspective. While here, Earth can be one hellish place. Ask those that suffer miserably, and then die. While here, Earth can be one Heavenly place. Ask those that enjoy the fruit that this Earth offers–good health, satisfying work, and all that money can buy.

    Of course, there’re exceptions: miserable well-off people, and happy, joyful not-so-well-off people. It’s All A State of Mind.

    Now think of Heaven. We All go, just as we All go/come to Earth. But the experience of Heaven may be for one a Hell, and for another Heaven.

    But even Hell is not FOREVER, it is a short-lived, self-imposed experience, just as it is here, All Too Often, but lasting considerably longer. Even the Catholic church has stated that Hell is a state of mind. And so it is. Just as is Hell.

    Don’t listen to me, listen to one who has died and has returned to tell about it, Dannion Brinkley. He was told over there the following, and I repeat it as close as I can remember:

    “You who go to earth are All Heroes and Heroines, because you’re willing to do what no other souls are willing to do–go to earth and co-create with God.”

    Namaste

  13. 13 Deacon Blue
    December 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Your idea that we all reside in the same eternity but with perhaps different perceptions of whether it is Heaven or Hell, is an interesting one and worth pondering.

  14. 14 societyvs
    December 10, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    First Domino made a lot of sense form some reason – and yet since it is new – it is hard to imagine.

    I tend to agree with him – heaven and hell are here – and we have the choice to choose one side – whether to inflict on others or to color our perceptions of our lives. he is right – I have seen both aspects in my life – hell and heaven – and it all depends on how we deal with life.

    I will say I think there is a final judgment – a final court case – where we meet in God’s court to defend our case (of here on earth). Do we really deserve the best? Of course Jesus is some type of mediator – will help guide the proceedings. But we do have to answer to God for our actions upon this earth – and we all may have some repenting to do (some humbling to do) before God’s court (and this is good). I think God will give us the chance to repair the damage we have done (of which we did not repair here).

    If someone refuses to defend themselves and make ‘things right’ – then they are gone (likely non-existent).

  15. 15 Deacon Blue
    December 10, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    SocietyVs…ever see “Defending your Life”? I know Miz Pink mentioned it in her Tuesday post, and it’s one of my favorite films. A lot of the talking we’ve all been doing these past couple days has me thinking about that movie a lot.

  16. December 10, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Never saw it – is it a documentary and if so – who did it so I can try find it?

  17. 17 Deacon Blue
    December 10, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Naw, comedy with Albert Brooks and Maryl Streep in the lead roles…with a great supporting performance by Rip Torn as well.

  18. December 12, 2008 at 3:15 am

    “I will say I think there is a final judgment….”

    SocietyVs, I agree with the judgment part, but I see it a bit differently: rather than Judgment being a Final One and occurring at some distant future, I believe that the “day of judgment” comes hourly, that every thought we think, every word we speak, and every action we take, judge us, and that our judgment occurs in real time.

    Since God is omnipresent, His Court is always in session, so to speak. And yes “we defend our case” by way of our justification for what has been said, thought, and done, and that, too, is done in real time. Whether we “deserve the best” becomes a matter of how well we have acquitted ourselves.

    Do we perceive our thoughts, words, and actions as wrong, or do we continue in our justifications?

    36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
    37 [[[For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.]]]

    Do we feel deep sorrow for the wrongdoing, or do we continue as before? Do we offer profound and genuine “repentance” upon acknowledging the wrong, or do we merely pay lip service to the need for change, without a change of heart?

    I believe, too, that “God will give us the chance to repair the damage we have done (of which we did not repair here),” but I believe that that chance is always in play (for God is, after all, Love), but the time and place of Love’s forgiveness is always at hand (just as the Kingdom of God is always at hand), and God’s Forgiveness dependent on our Change of Heart, not His.

    “Of course Jesus is some type of mediator – will help guide the proceedings.”

    The Christ always stand ready to mediate. Did Jesus not say: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

    Fortunately, the knocking never stops, but continues until we take the appropriate action: hear His voice and opens the door.

    Only then will the Christ within enter the heart and “sup” with us–that is, sit down with us at the table of Love, and partake of a special, spiritual repast, not a Last Supper, but one that will persist for All Times.

    Namaste


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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