I cried myself to sleep the other night because a girl on YouTube chastised me in public humiliation. I had defended a radio talk show host, a dear brother in Christ, after she declared him an anti-christ because he happens to reference the New International Version of the bible instead of the almighty King James Version. As if the all-powerful God could only communicate the true spirit of Christ through a single set of rules in grammar and usage in one language based on one Hebrew text, she was horrified by my indiscretion and said to me, “Why do you even bother calling yourself a Christian?” I thought perhaps she might be right. Who am I to believe that I am good enough for Christ, especially since I don’t even own a King James Bible and like to use the English Standard Version instead?
Since I again decided to commit myself to the Lord Jesus Christ, sadly I’ve re-entered a space of self-loathing and self-doubt. I remember this is the very reason why I had left the church to begin with, (and not the first time). It is not under Christ’s judgment that I suffer, for his perfect judgment is above the Law while still supporting the Law. But, rather, my pain is inflicted by my fellow man with his incontestable interpretations of the law. There is no bloodier battlefield than amongst the different Christian sects of the world. Everyone believes they have the correct and only understanding of Jesus’ words and therefore are the sole inheritors of Jesus’ promised kingdom of heaven. Many Christians believe that they alone, over other ill-informed Christian brothers and sisters, are inferring the exact truth of what God said, meant and intended. Most of all, those who do have the best biblical understanding are by far the haughtiest boasters and the most condemning finger-pointers at sinners.
Spittin’ images of the Pharisees are they. With fervor they uphold the law but forget that it is through faith that we are saved through grace. They cannot see that the story repeats itself continually in every age until finally learned once and for all by humanity itself. These lawful but judgmental Christians are not singled out by God as better. They forget that they are part of this human race and we are all God’s creation. They act as if they have transcended the human state somehow. As if the hierarchy begins with God, then his angels, then his chosen elect. The rest of us poor, unclean bastards who didn’t quite get the complex subtleties of the bible or hear in time Jesus’ calling to follow him, are damned to eternal hell. But where is the love?
While I always saw God as a personal God, I wasn’t sure that he indeed offered a sacrificial lamb, Jesus his Son. I am realizing why. Because although I believed it was truly possible, for God could do anything, I simply could not be who I was, flaws and all, in the world of Christianity. “The rules” were always so hurtful to me and forced me to suppress every part of myself that would unleash my potential and free me from my chains. If I honored my father and mother to the letter of the law, for instance, I would never have chosen to wander outside my front lawn. They were so overprotective that I had to fight every battle with ferociousness to claim my right to move forward into the world and follow God’s voice beyond the boundaries of the church’s pews.
But while these restrictions could be located in the bible text itself, the ways in which others attempted to enforce these rules were the most debilitating to me. Not like Christ at all–so aggressive and disdainful they were spoken, scornfully reminding me of my worthlessness. While Jesus reminded us of God’s merciful forgiveness, I heard from TV preachers repeatedly how we were all going to hell if we did not repent, repent, repent! I was unsure that I had the strength to do so, nor even the know-how. What exactly was I repenting for? Was it breaking a few rules or guidelines in the bible, or something much deeper than that?
A soft-hearted artist, I saw the blessed soul of humanity and the spark of light in everyone; always able to see the good over the bad, I felt this was a virtue of mine. I believed that God spoke to me through many people who crossed my path, and definitely the lowliest—from homeless beggars I walked by on the New York City streets, to low-income, agitated commuters on the buses and trains I rode, to the sad and bitter loners in my art classes who had given up on the cruel world—the real wretched and depressed. I knew that since Jesus loved them, I was ok with associating with this pathetic crowd. And I knew that Jesus would love me also if I should stumble. I had a choice: either I could venture forth into the world amongst the sinners with whom I had compassion, not worrying too much about their influence on me and judging not their acts. Or, I could stay and hang around those who judged me with stabbing, righteous indignation. If I hated myself when I was around other Christians who interpreted the word of God for me, then I would reject Christians and the Word, for it held very little meaning or truth for me if it hated me so much. My rejection was not an act of betrayal of God in as much as an act of self-preservation of my own heart. I might have been lacking in faith, but I had a passion to seek and find the truth. What I knew for sure was that there was a God. I was just unsure about his nature.
My spiritual journey understandably took me into the all-accepting arms of the New Age. I embraced the shared understanding how many of us, so hurt and stomped on by the Judeo-Christian religion, were in need of great healing and self-forgiveness. Through this journey to self-acceptance and self-love, some many beautiful things happened. I learned that I was good enough to be me. I learned that others around me could be good too, even if they had not reached their higher potential yet of their healed and whole self. Therefore I learned to love the judgers. I learned that God was guiding my steps, and that I should listen for his voice, and that in every place I found myself there was a lesson needed to be learned to bring me closer to him. I learned to trust God.
I learned that if I remained still enough in nature, I could hear the whispers of the wind and the calmness of my heart, which was in direct connection to the Great Spirit, or the Holy Spirit. I learned to recognize God’s orchestration in the beautiful synchronicity of all things, his magnificent masterpiece of life’s parts working together. I learned to notice the depth of his divine mind in patterns of his exquisite creation, from the smallest Fibonacci sequence in the most modest seashell to the most grandiose expression of God’s imagination in his infinite expansive universe of the stars in their galaxies. I learned all these things all the while forgetting who Christ was.
And then on one good day, when I was communing with my inner spirit—a spirit that always guided me in safety through dark alleys of drug users, through the Hindi idol-worshipping lost souls of India, through the critical and godless psychoanalysis of Western medicine—I realized that it was the Holy Spirit that was guiding me the whole time. And I believe this is the voice that all those who are pure in heart hear. “For they shall see God,” Jesus said, as I always had—seeing God in everything and everyone. On that fateful day I heard the words, “Jesus is Lord.” What? I said. How could that really be true? I finally had found the nature of what God really is—the Divine force, the Highest Source, the Sacred Expression of the Universe, the One, the Great Spirit, the personal guiding hand to love. How was there room for a “Son of God?”
“Jesus is Lord,” I kept hearing. I pulled out a special Time magazine I happened to pick up at the grocery store, “Mysteries of the Bible,” along with a copy of a dusty old bible off my shelf, (one that some born-again Christian gave me in the hopes that I would be saved one day). I asked questions of God all the time and would flip open random books I had nearby to receive just the right answers, and it always worked. I was always fed the spiritual food I had needed. But when I lived with my parents a decade ago and tried to do this with the bible, I was always at a loss. It seemed so sterile and dead, spirit-less and uninspiring. But on this day, all my questions were answered in those biblical words, and through these answers loud and clear was pronounced God’s glory. And then I fell to my knees finally in true repentance.
From that point onward, I vowed to never deny Christ as Lord rejecting all that could not fit in that framework, but allowing to remain all the beautiful things I had gained so far along my personal journey that did not take away from Christ. Many truths I had learned gave life to his words and substance to his message as it added to the grace of his Father in heaven. I realized that no, I should not worship God’s creation, but to honor and respect it with utmost humility and thankfulness, just as the Native Americans had, is God’s wish. Through this sacred appreciation, the awe of God is nurtured and infused into our hearts with gratefulness for his manna of life. God’s true nature is not found in explaining him away in esoteric literature, reading between the lines into oblivion and infinite gnosis, but rather, in the heart. In compassion over judgment, with understanding over close-minded certainty, with love over persecution, with acceptance over exclusion, with humility over self-righteousness. This is how I personally choose to live in Christ. I accept myself in Christ as I know he accepts me, flaws and all. I will each day attempt to grow in sanctification for him, but I won’t imitate the spirit of the righteous, but the humility of the sinners. With appreciation and love, I will come to know many wherever they may be along the road back to Christ.
I didn’t decide one day to repent. God showed me how. And he allowed me to be ready and see what I needed to see. This is God’s ability. He finds us, not the other way around. God will attempt to reach every single one of us in his own way before Christ’s return, and in a way that each person can hear him. It is not by one way alone that we hear God’s voice, and I don’t mean to say that there are many paths to God, no. But there are many paths that God takes to reach US to lead us to Christ. He uses tongues, he uses law, he uses grace, he uses our brothers and sisters, nature, and a variety of circumstances and divinely orchestrated synchronicities so that we may finally notice him and accept him into our lives. Who are we to judge how he reaches all his children? As long as we unite under the one umbrella of Jesus Christ, his Son, who are we to walk in pride and judgment, wishing people to hell, warning them of their certain damnation as if only we can save them from God’s wrath? If there is one thing the New Agers can agree on, it’s that God above all else is love.
The Pharisees were equal to the godless Romans for they both had a hand in crucifying the Lord. And now they continue to do so, for as Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40, ESV). So continue to crucify him my fellow exemplary Christians, for just as Jesus had to reinterpret the Law for the Pharisees, he shall be reinterpreting it for all of us upon his second coming. For it is not because we are perfect in the law that we are promised his grace, but rather it is because of our faith, however weak it may be: “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians: 2:23-26, ESV).
Be guided by your understanding but don’t be too certain that you know the glory of God’s full plan of salvation. I expect that Jesus Christ and his Father have yet another card to pull for bringing the whole lot of us to our knees in absolute amazement of their glory. For when his true magnificence and exaltation is revealed, when we discover the true might of his forgiveness and depth of his love for all his children, it will not be just those who read the KJV or who adhere perfectly to the law who will be saved. Instead, we will not only shout in repentance for our sins, but we will also collapse in united and dumbfounded humility for our arrogance in thinking that God’s love for us was as little as we imagined. And we will thank the heavens that it was greater than the love we give to one another.