A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Friday, October 14, 2005

A heretic?


Zebra Crossing
Originally uploaded by sweet-indigo.
It's often simply a lot easier to ignore people you disagree with, especially if you're likely to lose arguments, or at best meet a stalemate. Which is probably why, in my first two years, I didn't join Christian Union, instead sticking with the much less controversial group Christian Focus.

The thing is, now I've actually met a good portion of CU people and talked to them, I find that I can't help but like them and I admire their passion for learning and for evangelism.

But... you know there's a however coming! However... I helped out at a CU event yesterday 'with gospel message' and the speaker spoke on the Parable of the Ten Virgins. It's in Matthew 25 and I'll quote it here.

1"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'

7"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'

9" 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'

10"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11"Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'

12"But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'

13"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

He used this to say that if you didn't have a relationship with Jesus you'd go to hell (because we all deserve that) but if you did you'd go to Heaven.

To put it shortly and honestly, I disliked his message.

I think some Christians believe if you don't mention hell in a gospel message you're being soft. Perhaps you should mention hell. I still personally believe that it's a second death, not eternal pain, but that's interpretation.

My main problem is this - is our faith in Jesus so poor that the best we can say about him is that he's better than hell?

Afterwards I was talking about this to Andy and Lois. I haven't mentioned Andy before, but I'm sure you don't mind :)

I told them that I felt dubious about the message, partly because I felt it was something that Jesus said to disciples (ie. Christians) rather than to general non-believers - see Matt 24:3, which is the beginning of his teachings on the end of the world: 'As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"'

The parables, therefore, are aimed at Christians who already know what the cost is. We at least have an inkling of how terrible it would be to be without God. We already want to go to the wedding banquet, and we've already started to prepare. I believe that Jesus is telling us not to give up what we have, and to prepare for the long haul rather than figuring that we've done all right so far. And that if we want Jesus as Saviour and not as Lord, then we're in for a nasty shock.

(Incidentally, I do believe that life is full of second chances, but we have to take them. There have been lots of times in which I've messed up, but God kept pulling me back. If I'd refused to be pulled, I don't think he'd have pushed the point.)

Perhaps I'm rather predictable in suggesting that the parable of the lost son might have been a better choice but... perhaps it would have been. I felt that the parable of the ten virgins makes the most sense in the context of Jesus's character. It makes sense when you consider that Jesus offers compassion and healing but that he also says, "If you love me, do as I command." And he doesn't command things arbitrarily. He didn't gain followers by telling them they'd go to hell if they didn't follow him. First he demonstrated his love. Hordes of fish for fisherman. Healing for the sick. Food for five thousand families of devotees. A simple conversation with a hated Samaritan woman. Acceptance for Zacchaeus. People understood how much he could give them - how much he wanted to give them. Then they realised the consequences of being apart from him.

In short, I mentioned to Andy and Lois that I thought the passage was taken out of context because Jesus used the parable with disciples, not with non-Christians. They responded in mock-horror, and joked that I shouldn't mention that to certain people in the CU... who go to a certain church (you can probably guess which one). Then Lois joked that she and Andy were the CU's heretics and Andy said that some people take the Bible very literally.

I thought they were missing the point.

In fact, wasn't I taking the Bible literally? It annoys me that there is ever a time when we have to jokily apologise for being heretics when we genuinely believe something. Something doesn't become more Christian just because it's hard, intolerant or frightening. Jesus might have come down hard on people who thought they could get the blessings without obedience - the 'goats' who didn't bother feeding the hungry or welcoming the stranger - but he had compassion for the 'sheep without a shepherd'. So in conclusion I refute that I'm a heretic, and I'd also like to add that Andy and Lois aren't either.

But hey. Before I was outside the CU so I could mutter criticisms from afar. Now I'm in the CU so I can cause much more trouble. *evil laugh*

Now, perhaps I should e-mail my thoughts to the speaker? Yesterday I was still mad. Sigh. So I didn't want to just go up to him and tell him he was rubbish. Today I've thought about it some more. Perhaps (in fact, I hope) some people did think about Jesus as a result of his message. But I think I'd still like to express my concerns. Who knows, perhaps he'll set me right on a few things ;)

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