‘There are no facts, only interpretations,’ said Friedrich Nietzsche, his way of saying that our perception of truth depends on our background and where we are in terms of time and space.
The same is true of ourreligious position, I mean if Jesus said, ‘I am the truth’, why are there over 30,000 different Christian sects and denominations each claiming the monopoly of the truth?
Think, for example of the apostle John, at the age of perhaps 85 having served the Master all his life to that point. There he was on the isle of Patmos, deep in prayer when he had a vision. He heard a voice and saw Christ standing amid seven golden candlesticks, each representing a church. He fell down as if dead from fear when the voice of the Master soothed him and then instructed him to write seven letters, one to each of the churches.
Now that’s pretty dramatic stuff so you might think that whatever Jesus had to say to the churches would be important, would contain more than a mere nugget of truth. And since the letters have been preserved for us in Scripture it is not unreasonable to suggest that we, followers of the same Master might do well to pay some heed to them. But no, their message and meaning have been all but ignored, no worse, their meaning has been distorted beyond recognition, and for what reason? You be the judge of that.
The letter to one of the churches, the church at Laodicea, carries a strong warning; ‘...you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other, you make me sick!’ In other words, I long for your love, your hatred I can tolerate, but your indifference makes me want to spit you out of my mouth. Then the letter goes on to say, ‘I’m standing outside, knocking at your door. Let me in and we can eat together.’
Now that is a clear indication of God’s mercy and grace, ‘You make me sick, but let’s talk.’ Yet how has it been interpreted? The ‘sinner’ is outside the fold and the Master wants to welcome him home. In summary, God is rebuking his church but he wants reconciliation, couldn’t be clearer, but the church has chosen to ignore his plea by making believe - and yes, it is make-believe - that God is directing his comments to the outcast when in reality he is speaking to them.
So, am I suggesting that we jettison our links with the church because it appears it cannot be trusted?
No I am not, but I am convinced that we must recognise the fact that men have wheedled their way into positions of ‘authority’ in the religious establishment and have in effect said to us, ‘No need for you to wrestle with all this stuff. Rely on me. I’ve been to theological college. I’ll do it for you. Trust me, I’m a man of the cloth.’
That is a dangerous abdication on our part that leads inevitably to our faith being reduced to empty and meaningless ritual. We want to enjoy the vibrant, sometimes scary life of faith, don’t we?
Then we must follow the lead of Martin Luther, the reformer who reduced the life of faith to this: the man and his Bible, and the fact that God can be trusted to lead the seeking heart without mediators.
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