Created Dec. 10, 1999 - Updated Jan 21 015
Tolerance and Judging
The tolerance that I am referring to has to do with allowing views other than your own to be expressed and applied by others in their lives. And tolerance in recognizing that Christians can, should, and will believe differently in regards to some doctrines and beliefs. I want to show that this is the will of the Holy Spirit and Jesus, himself. How could that be? Read on. There are a number of issues that are not directly addressed in the Bible and must be left to individual interpretation, not group interpretation. The Bible warns "Do not go beyond what is written." [New International Version]. I hope to show that the Bible insists on an attitude of tolerance and respect for one another's views.
God knows hearts and He judges according to what is in our hearts. Paul cautions us in 1 Corinthians 8:2 that "The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know." [New International Version]. Knowledge changes with our understanding and experience. Paul best illustrates differences in understanding in Romans 14. It is here that our individual accountability to God is stressed as well as judging each other and our differences of understanding and practice. I will start with verse 10 from the New International Version.
Romans 14: 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: 'As surely as I live, says the Lord, Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
What Paul is saying here is that we will only have to account for ourselves and not anyone else. Christians should not be judging each other in matters of conscience and individual understanding such as whether something is proper to eat or not. God does the judging. Only God! So Paul continues in verse 13.
Romans 14: 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.
[Revised Standard Version] Col 2: 16 "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ."
What Paul makes clear here is that nothing in regards to food or observances (among other things) is unclean unless your thinking makes it so. If you think it is then it is. If you think it not then it is not. Paul then sums up the matter in verse 22.
Romans 14:22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
If we think something is wrong then it is. It is a Christian's conscience that is at the heart of his/her being free to do something or not. His conscience will either excuse/permit him or condemn/deny him in matters. Paul here uses a word we translate as faith but in this context the word believe/belief or understanding would be more proper. So a man who doubts, who is not certain about a matter, then he should not betray that doubt and do it anyway. Let me replace the word "faith" in the last sentence of the last scripture quoted: "Everything that does not come from a 'certainty of understanding' is sin."
If we act without certainty then we are being foolish and sinning.
On the other hand, if we are acting according to a certainty of
conviction and understanding then we are guilt free. Of course, at a
later time we may come to a change of understanding. But as long as
we honestly base our current actions on things we are currently
convinced about then we will have no problems. To thine own self be
This topic is born out in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10 by the Apostle Paul. Romans 14 discusses the matter of judging one another in the Christian congregation. Not judging as in a criminal trial with judgment and sentencing but the sort of judging that has more to do with what we think about someone else; our opinions of them. Or maybe even what we say about them to other people. This is the judging being written about in Romans 14.
Verse one starts out saying: Romans 14:1(RSV) "As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions." The KJV puts it: "[but] not to doubtful disputations." Young's Literal T says: "not to determinations of reasonings;" And Green's Literal: "not to judgments of [your] thoughts."
We are to welcome newcomers but not let them disrupt, starting fights and arguments and disputes about every silly little thing. Little things that the newcomer may not understand clearly in his uncomplete understanding. But Paul goes on to explain it further. He points out how "One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables." (RSV, verse 2). Paul then counsels in verse 3: "Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?"
Isn't Paul clearly showing how one believer might understand something differently than another believer, perhaps due to their inexperience, being new to the faith? It would seem apparent that each is to behave and act according to his own personal understanding of a matter and not according to the thinking or judgment of his brother in the faith. In verses 5 and 6 Paul shows other things that people may differ on but each one does it to God, whatever it may be.
Paul sums it up in Romans 14 verse 10: "Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." 12 So each of us shall give account of himself to God.
An important point is now made in verse 13. Instead of passing judgment on one another, "decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." Verse 14 goes on to explain.
Romans 14:14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean." Really, it is our thinking that condones or condemns something, making it clean or unclean. Isn't that what Paul is indicating?
Paul basically tries to point out that it would be terrible if our brother was being injured because of what we eat. It would be better to avoid meat than to hurt a brother. This is not "walking in Love." It is not that Paul really believes that eating meat might harm or injure a brother but he uses such a silly idea to get his point across. Eating meat is such a small thing and preserving our brethren such a big thing. Paul summarizes it for us in Romans 14:19: "Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." And in 21: "it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble."
We may have God's permission and the permission of our own conscience to do something and yet it would still be wrong if it would stumble a brother. So while we should not judge each other, we should look out for each other and take care not to do something that could endanger the spiritual welfare of one of our brothers or sisters in the faith. Seems reasonable enough. Love for others is to be the motivating factor and not selfish love of ourselves and our 'rights.'
Paul sort of repeats himself to emphasize his points in Romans 14 verse 22: "The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God; happy is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves. 23 But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." Again, what we believe inside ourselves is between us and God and He, and no one else, will be the one to judge or excuse us. But if we act out of a lack of faith, not being thoroughly convinced but having a lingering doubt, then we become guilty of violating our own conscience. For that God can and will hold us accountable.
Paul continues to hammer in Romans 15:1: "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; 2 let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him." Always lets us build up our brothers, right?
This lesson of 'thinking makes right' and 'building up (looking out for) our brothers' is important, doubly so, when added in with a similar lesson in 1 Corinthians 10. Here in verse 23 and 24 we see the familiar theme we just covered: 1 Corinthians 10:23 "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor."
But now Paul takes a big leap in 1 Corinthians 10 verse 25 as he states: "Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience." Why? It has to do with the origins of the meat. Some meat might be sacrificed to a pagan god with the leftovers being sold in a meat market. It also has to do with associations we might make with the meat. Notice what Paul says in verse 27 (Green's Literal T):
1 Corinthians 10:27 "And if any of the unbelievers invite you, and you desire to go, eat everything set before you, examining nothing because of conscience. 28 But if anyone tells you, This is slain in sacrifice to idols, do not eat, because of that one pointing [it] out, and the conscience; for "the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fullness of it." [Psa. 24:1] 29 But I say conscience, not that of himself, but that of the other."
This is such a big point. A 'pagan' invites you for a meal. Paul says, Eat! Do not question its origin! You are not required to know its origin. Fine. But if someone should deliberately make an association between eating and a 'sacrifice' then you should not eat for the sake of the conscience of those around you even if they are 'pagan.' What is important is not where it came from but what associations are made for it at the moment you are about to eat; yes, the present. The past need not be considered. All things are clean to Christians. If no associations are made then we are free to partake. If a bad association is made then we must decline. Only the present circumstance condones or condemns our partaking. Verse 32 commands us to consider all those around us, both believers and non believers as well.
Could this idea of "only considering the present associations" be applied to things such as practices originating in paganism but now lost or pagan names as well? Consider the fact that in Romans 16 we have Christians with pagan names such as Narcissus in verse 11. Narcissus was a Greek mythological character. Hermes in verse 14. Hermes was a Greek god who had wings on his feet (ankles) and was known to Romans as Mercury. In verse 15 we have Olympas, which name was the name of a Greek Goddess. Elsewhere we have Apollos, whose name clearly relates to the Greek god, Apollo. Yes, these Greek Christians were up to their necks in pagan origins and yet continued with these pagan names. Why didn't they change them? Why didn't Paul make them change their names? Quite obviously, they didn't need to; it was not required, despite the fact that these names were quite clearly pagan, much as Baal might be considered pagan. Baal is not any more or any less pagan than the Greek gods were. Do you see what I am getting at? What if a person had a name that had Baal in it? Would he be required to change it? Not if we consider Romans 16 to be indicative of God's view. So even using the name of a pagan god can be allowable depending on why it is used.
May I also point out that there are cities in both the Old and New Testaments which are named after pagan gods and referred to by those pagan names by the writers of these various books of the Bible. Evidently Israelites used these pagan names to refer to these cities. Why not? After all, it was not they that chose those names. But in order for everyone to know what city they were referring to, they used the name for which the inhabitants of those cities chose to identify themselves.
Now if using a pagan name is permissible then how much more so should it be if we have ordinary words whose meaning originated from pagan thoughts, ideas, or practices. Take the word 'disaster.' Dis-aster. See the Aster. Easter. Ashter. Ishter. Ishtar. Egypt knew her as Isis. She is one of the most well known pagan goddesses of the ancient world. The word 'disaster' meant discord in the stars. She was the Queen of the heavens. She represented the stars.
If we were to say something was a disaster, it would mean that it was a chaotic mess or a tragedy. That is the only meaning attached to that word today. But we who are educated know the origin of that word comes from a pagan idea. The ancient Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Viking Norsemen were indeed, pagan peoples with pagan origins. But God welcomes them all now due to the sacrifice of His son. And they are welcome in whatever tongue (language) they speak, even though many of their words have been inspired by ancestral pagan ideas or thinking.
Is it important to assess whether a word's etymological origins are pagan or not? Based on what we have learned from Romans and Corinthians, I would emphatically say no! It would depend on how we used it. If for some odd reason, American society in general declared that using a particular word constituted worship to a pagan god then we would avoid using it. That has not, and likely will not - happen. Otherwise all speech is clean as all food is. Even if we still carried around the remembrance of Aster when using the word disaster we would still not sin in my mind. Paul used the Greek idea of Hades (land of the dead) in his writings. It had that pagan association even as he used it at that moment that he was writing.
What about practices or observances whose origins were pagan. I would still say that what is important is whether a particular action or practice still currently has the pagan association with it. The origin of Halloween certainly was a pagan one but it definitely no longer carries that connection in most people's minds today. That is not to say that there are not any people who do not carry on the original observance. I am sure there are a few who do. I believe there are those who practice some sort of witch craft and observe the original Halloween in Salem, MA although the true Salem existed largely in Danvers, MA to be historically accurate. Danvers and Salem border each other.
But even these witches recognize that the original Halloween is not carried out by many, other than themselves. Dressing up like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck and receiving candy from our neighbors certainly does no harm to God or our relationship with Him. There are no religious associations to be found. I believe this is the case with many such holidays or practices. If they have no current, present connections with anything which God does not permit, then they are permissible. We have enough to concern ourselves with in the present to start worrying about the past or the future too much.
Ecclesiastes 7:16 warns: "16 Be not righteous overmuch, and do not make yourself overwise; why should you destroy yourself?" I think this could be important to consider. We could spend so much time weeding out the pagan gnats while ignoring more important camel like matters (Mat 23:24). We may turn off many who might otherwise come to know God. You may scare them away with extremism. I do not think it that profitable a course to embark upon. Here is where I recommend 1 Corinthians 13, the 'Love' chapter.
Of all the things we can pursue, Paul says that by far, love is the most important. Love of others, that is. All other things can be in vain if they are not accompanied by love. Love avoids extremism. Love tries to be reasonable and modest (humble). Love is not headstrong but soft and considerate. One might not start out headstrong but could end up that way if they continue in things extreme such as many who have discovered the origins and histories of customs, habits, culture, beliefs, and the like. Please don't go that way.
(RSV) 1 Corinthians 13:
4 "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;
5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away."
13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Love outlasts all the other things such as prophecies, tongues, or what have you. Consider love when you discuss the scriptures with people. Earnestly try to consider what they are trying to say. We all believe we are right but we want to continue to ponder things and be considerate of the fact that there still may be need of refinement in our ideas from time to time and even a need to occasionally discard an idea or two in favor of new more correct ones.
Humility and modesty should make us realize that we can still be wrong and that we never come to a complete understanding without any error. There will always be room for improvement. That is why good Christians should only insist on the bare essentials of beliefs. There are absolute certainties, there are near certainties, there are fairly certain's or likelihoods, there are possibilities, and then there are doubts, uncertainties, not likely, nearly impossible, and absolutely not. There is a lot of room between the first and last of that list, namely, absolute certainty and absolute impossibility. With every belief, ask yourself, how much can I say this or believe this with certainty and without doubt.
We might have come from different religious backgrounds or a non-religious one. Maybe different political backgrounds or cultural backgrounds. Important beliefs or ideas can come into conflict with each other. You may at times have to pick between one of 2 conflicting beliefs. That is when deciding how possible or impossible it may be for a doctrine to be right or wrong will be useful. It is also useful in determining how strongly you should insist or not insist on something as being accurate or unchangeable.
Many people expect complete unity and agreement on all thought. This is completely in error. Only when Christ returns shall we all be directly shepherded and have our understandings all corrected and united. Till then, the various sheep and goats must grow together the Christ alone will do the judging and separating between sheep and goats. We do not determine that.
I ask you, is there any time when it is permissible to ignore your conscience? What did we learn in the Garden of Eden about conscience? What happened when they disregarded their conscience? It wasn't good, was it? Can you come up with a circumstance that would make you feel comfortable in disobeying your conscience? I hope not! That is probably the biggest lesson in the Bible.
Conscience is a word that has Latin origins. Con means two or double or even co-existing. Science means "to know." Put them together and you get a double knowledge or co-knowledge. Someone somewhere understood that there are 2 ways of knowing or understanding something. We can give them many names. We have our rational, thinking, logical, analyzing way of approaching things and we have the instinctive, intuitive, impressionistic, non-verbal way of approaching and reacting. This type of processing seems to look for overall patterns rather than specific details as does the more analytical part of us. Many of the first type seem to have some special relation to the left hemisphere and the later seem to be more localized in the right hemisphere. There are many different ways of naming them or describing them.
What it boils down to is that we learn from our whole brain, but in different ways. Some things are learned almost intuitively or from large impressions or patterns and closely connected with emotions. The other means is by careful analysis and contemplation. They work together . . . well . . . usually! They are best when they both agree and work together. But sometimes, they are not in agreement. Sometimes they even conflict. That is what gives us that uncomfortable feeling that something is not quite right.
It could be that we have an overall sense or feeling about something, but we do not have a specific rational reason as to why we feel as we do. Other times, we may deduce something by careful thinking and analysis but it still may not seem or feel right. Maybe our thinking was wrong or maybe the silent intuitive half is having trouble being persuaded by our rational side. Whatever the cause, when the 2 aspects of us are out of alignment, so to speak, in conflict, then we are uncomfortable. We may even feel paralyzed as to what to do and suffer confusion and uncertainty. This is part of where depression comes from. The uncertainty due to unresolved conflict from within ourselves. When we resolve the conflict, the hurt and suffering disappear not too long after.
What is important is that we need to be real honest and careful with our rational process. It can be corrupted by our emotions and desires. If I want something really bad, even though I know it is wrong AND feel that it is wrong, I may still try to convince myself that it is OK because I want to do it. So I may concoct some rationale for justifying my acting against my conscience. Only problem is, my non-rational side is not buying it and is still inflicting discomfort in me.
In order to avoid the pain, discomfort, and conflict of my conscience, I have to take care to be very honest in my logical process so that my intuitive side will believe what I have concluded and will let me act without pain or discomfort.
Or it could be the other way around. Maybe my intuitive side is not bothered at all by the prospect of some action I want to take. But I might have learned that it is wrong. My knowledge forbids me even though is seems innocent and harmless. But if I act, I will still be inflicted with pain as my knowledge is still there to prick my sense of internal calm and comfort.
It is the natural desire of the mind to be whole, united, and integrated in its actions and purpose. When there is conflict or contradiction, the mind wants to resolve it and will bother us with discomfort or pain to make us change the course to one that satisfies both aspects of our mind and thinking. We have a desire and a necessity to be consistent and behave with integration, better known as integrity. When one side or the other is out of balance, then it lets us know something is wrong and we had better rethink this.
So suppose that we want to do something that feels right. But our rational thinking can not find a justifiable reason why it can agree and allow us to act. It could be that it is OK and that we just haven't thought it out well yet. Maybe we need more information. Maybe someone could help us understand it better so that our knowledge is in harmony with our gut feelings. Or maybe our feelings are not reliable. Maybe it is wrong but our instincts are off for whatever reason. What I have found is that when I find the logic, the other side takes a little while to come around to agreement. But eventually the feelings are persuaded by the logic and things proceed in harmony and synchrony.
But we are wise never to act until both sides are in agreement. but there will also be times when we may act without the rational justification, or be rather certain about our logic and yet not feel right about it, all the same. Sometimes, we do need to proceed, after very careful soul searching of our logic.
What happens is that our internal feelings, our intuition, our subconscious, or whatever you want to call it, can get messed up. It can get the wrong programming and malfunction. This is where psychological disturbance can come from. For instance, a person might continually be plagued with feelings of guilt or feelings or worthlessness. They may not be justified, but the person will be plagued with them just the same. If they were to carefully do some soul searching and analyze everything thoroughly, they may find no apparent reasons why they should feel the way they do. It is possible their parents did not supply the proper love at the proper time and so the person came to feel unloved and worthless. It happens all the time.
I have found that you must define what should make you feel like you have some worth, do those things, and ignore the false signals. Another example, someone may think that a certain type of sexual activity with their mate may not be right. After carefully considering all the facts, they may conclude logically that there is no reason for their guilt. So they engage in the activity and soon the guilt disappears.
The danger in this method is that it is also the way to violate your conscience and deaden it. The problem is in trusting your own ability to logically analyze without being corrupted by hidden motives within yourself. If you logic is flawed, and you are wrong, the signal that tells you that you are wrong may eventually disappear. But what it will more likely continue to do is to plague you and torment you and you will have to bury and suppress it till you become 2 separate disintegrated people. This is partially the process that can help lead to multiple personality disorders.
The bottom line is that as much as possible, we always want to make sure both sides of us are in harmony and agreement. This is important to being happy, healthy, and at peace, taking a course that will please ourselves and God. So be faithful to your conscience and true to your inner self, your heart.
Jeremiah warns us in chap. 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?"
It is hard to trust ourselves. We tend to lie and deceive ourselves. We are always trying to justify that which might be wrong. So one has to really search their heart and ask themselves some really tough questions and not be afraid of the answers that come to the surface. Probably the greatest quality a person can possess in serving God and being true to themselves is courage. Moral courage. Because it is tough to take a hard look at one's self and be willing to find fault and correct it. Tougher than any other thing we can or will probably do. Some people would rather face a den of lions than be honest with themselves and find anything bad. Paul put it this way in:
Hebrews 12:11 "11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Discipline is tough, but so valuable, especially if one wants to please God and be granted a place in the eternity of life. Let's get back to the Bible and Romans.
Conscience, Additional Definitions
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Having read and learned so much on trauma based mind control (TBMK for short, the K is German for Kontrol, rather than the English Control) and writing things on stupidity and sycophants in the past few years since 2015, I have decided a bit more could be said about what a conscience is.
Above discusses the sub-conscious vs the conscious. TBMK reveals the inner workings of Hilgard's Hidden Observer and the nature of consciousness, which very much helps us to better understand the conscience as well. The sub-conscious and the conscious awareness can be united or very divided. The "sub" is designed to protect the conscious mind and intellect from becoming overloaded with pain or distraction or even complete mental paralysis or breakdown. The "sub" diverts traumas and pain and stores them away from the conscious so that it can continue to function without interference or distraction.
Both sides continue to have the ability to influence each other and even change each other. Either one can be a coward or very brave. But our nature tends to cling to fitting in and getting along with parents, who were and are so important to us in our formative years, but whose influence should diminish some and be replaced by our own developed intellect and understanding, apart from our parents.
We become victims of that need, that dependence, upon our parents and it extends into our dependence upon the extended family of community, even nation and race. But our best interest and everyone's best interest is to become individuals so that a large society can not be herded or compelled to mindlessly serve a tyrant or dictator or a group of dictators, called by some an Oligarchy.
As well, the hidden observer, the subconscious, the protector of the mind, can also be the prison of the mind. We must advance beyond our infancy, and learn not just to stand and walk on our legs, but also stand and walk with our minds, developing a sharp powerful intellect. This is essential, not just for the individual, but for the entire species as well. Most have not understood this aspect, as the world tries to keep it from us.
The sub-consciousness and super-consciousness, must learn to accept each other and work together and get on the same page and remain in agreement. This is the path to growth that so few take much advantage of.
Most fear individuality, thinking it threatens a society or nation from within, when in reality, it protects and reinforces a nation or society, from being mindlessly herded into a mindless collective used against other peoples and nations and against even the people it herds, uses, and manipulates.
Since all leaders and manipulators do understand this, but do not admit it openly, but hide it, these leaders want us to believe that fitting in is the only way to protect their nation and way of life.
So our growth and maturity begins by becoming powerful in our intellect and becoming coordinated between the sub and super consciousness, integrated and united to form a powerful individual. If we do not develop our intellect and independence, we ensure the eventual extinction of our race and species. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We can not afford to have any weak links of stupidity and immaturity of development.
Look at it this way. Say I own and am trying to build a top notch team to compete in the National Football league of the USA. If I hire a great quarterback, but have a bad offensive line, then having the quarterback be good will do me and my team no good. You have to have both. If I have more weak players than the other teams do, then I will not be able to win the Super Bowl Championship. If I have more stronger players than anyone else, and less weak ones, then I stand a good chance of winning it all.
Greatness in society is individuality and intelligence. Individuality and intelligence mean that that sub and super consciousness must develop and grow together. They must pursue logic, wisdom, analysis, deduction; the kind of things that lead to great intelligence, along with one more very important thing.
We must learn to control emotions and reactions. There is a time and place for letting go, and many more times when control must be exercised in favor of the mind. We must develop the brakes of the mind. This just happens to be the job of the sub-conscious. It controls all instinct and also the gates that can open or close. If one is to gain control of one's self, they must get the sub-conscious, the Hidden Observer, to help and cooperate.
So we have to start looking inward and even try to second guess our sub-conscious, which may be hiding things from us. If we confront and let the inner sub-mind know we are not going to tolerate things being hidden and if we have to, we will 2nd guess and outplay the "sub at its own game. We are determined and will not be denied. Once the inner sub-being realizes this, he is going to have to give ground and begin cooperating.
So begin your journey today, if you have not started already. Be brave and
courageous and look for truth in all things. Truth is the foundation upon which
great knowledge and understanding are built upon.
What I want all to understand from this account in Romans 14 is that Paul didn't want Christians to being judging one another but have each be guided by their own faith, their own thinking and understanding, their own conscience, and not that of their brother or peers. And Paul made clear that there may be differences of faith and understanding between Christians. One might think eating meat is wrong, being new to the faith and not understanding matters as completely as an experienced Christian might. But he would go with what he knows and understands rather than depend on the "experience" of his brother in the faith. Let each decide for himself.
Consider this scripture: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." [Matthew 7:1 New International Version].
Our understandings may be different. All of us have had
different experiences in life. These contribute to each of us seeing
things in our own unique individual way. And we will all conduct
ourselves differently as a result. We all grow in experience and
understanding. Growth often leads to a change of views. That is why
Paul wrote in:
1 Corinthians 8:2 that "The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know." As our experience and knowledge increases we see things differently. Our views and behavior will change along with our change in understanding. What is important is to remain faithful to what we understand at the time that a decision needs to be made. We need to obey our conscience, not someone else's. I hope this seems clear to all, especially those claiming to be Christian.
The Conservative Religious Right elements misunderstand a lot. And why? They are not careful in trying to understand the Bible and all too easily throw the blanket over a subject or gloss over it ever so casually. They like simple, easy, cut and dried, black and white answers. But life tends to be many shades of gray and not cut and dried. Or they may have just accepted what has been handed down to them without checking or confirming it with the scriptures. And it is very important to pay attention to small details when examining the Bible. Their resulting beliefs become ridiculously unreasonable for most people to accept or practice.
GLT, 2Corinthians 13: 5
Examine yourselves, whether you are
in the faith, prove yourselves.
They are just too quick to judge. They do not pay careful attention to detail. They do not continually review what they believe so as to make sure there are no errors. The Bible says, "
1 Thess 5:21 "but test everything; hold fast what is good,
1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God"
Acts 17:11 "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so."
2 Cor. 13:5 "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves."
Prov. 18:17 "He who states his case first seems right, until
the other comes and examines him."
True Christians never hesitate to examine and re-examine what they believe to make sure they are right. And they realize that getting help, a second, and a third opinion could be very useful. Note why in the following verses.
Prov. 18:1 "He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound wisdom."
Prov. 11:14 "in an abundance of counselors there is safety."
Prov. 15:22 "Without counsel plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed."
Prov. 24:6 "for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory."
Those not doing this because they trust their leader should consider this.
2 Corinthians 11:
14 "Did not Satan marvelously transform himself into an angel of light?
15 It is not a great thing, then, if also his ministers transform themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works."
8 "But even if we, or an angel out of Heaven, should announce a gospel to you beside what we preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, and now I say again, If anyone announces a gospel to you beside what you received, let him be accursed."
So we want to be careful about trusting anyone too much. It is much wiser to continually check the scriptures for ourselves. And we do not want to insist on what the Bible, itself, does not insist upon. Here's another reason why.
Rev. 22:18 "If anyone adds to these things, God will add upon
him the plagues having been written in this Book."
Rev. 22:19 "And if anyone takes away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and of the things having been written in this Book."
They seem to be blissfully unaware that they are far from the
perfection and glory of God and are, therefore, imperfect and prone
to error. They should realize that they will be in need of correction
and readjustment from time to time. They lack humility and modesty in
evaluating themselves, their ability, their knowledge. Pride come
deep before a fall, does it not?
Often their own experience is quite limited so their "understanding" also proves to be very limited. Their resulting visions and declarations also prove to be limited, short sighted, narrow. Knowledge has its limits as Paul shows here:
1 Cor. 13:8 "as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For our knowledge is imperfect"
These judgmental people need to be more willing to consider the experience and opinions of others. Can one really "love one's neighbor" if one will not listen to his neighbor and try to learn about him and his experience and thinking? We all want to be understood and we all hate being judged before being able to explain ourselves. So should we not extend that kindness to others as we all would want that for ourselves, right?
Everyone learns through the experiences that they have. The more you experience, the more you learn, and the wiser you will be. But nobody ever lives long enough to experience it all. Experiences vary from one person to the next. The wisest people around are those who can learn, not only from their own experience, but from the experiences of others, too, without having to experience it for themselves. We all need to be able to buy the experience of others. Admittedly, it is seldom done by any, but it sure needs to be done.
By combining the experiences of many different people, one can greatly accelerate learning and accumulate far more knowledge than they ever could all by themselves. So the wisest course as well as the most loving course is to consider the experience of our neighbors as well as our own. Our resulting understanding and application will be much more sound, accurate, and effective.
One other problem is that it is so often people who are loaded with guilt and fear who become "Christian believers." This strong guilt (too strong for their or our own good) colors their interpretation of scripture. They become too strict or righteous. Ecclesiastes 7:16 warns us not to be too righteous or act too smart as this would destroy us. It also counsels against being bad with the same result. The lesson taught by this passage is do not be extreme one way or the other, being too righteous or being wicked, either. Either one will destroy you.
It was once expressed by James Burke in his series, "The Day the Universe Changed" which originally aired on PBS in the late 80's that "absolute certainty can be an absolute prison."
Paul was once absolutely certain that Christians were apostates and persecuted them. He was also absolutely wrong according to Jesus and by his own admission as well.
Love moves us to be moderate, modest, and humble in the importance we put on our own knowledge and ability. We are imperfect and should expect imperfect results. That should make us quick to listen but very slow to speak or act.
It was said of Moses that he was by far the meekest of all men. This from one of the most outstanding prophets in the Bible. Chosen by God, Himself, no less. Being chosen by God, he might have considered himself the most wise and capable of all men but he didn't concern himself with that, evidently, and continued to be reasonable and willing to listen. Remember when Jethro advised him to appoint judges to handle small cases? Did he respond with "who the hell are you to counsel me? I am appointed by God as the leader of you all."
He absolutely did not! Instead, he gave some thought to the counsel of Jethro and decided it was a good idea and carried it out. That is how we want to be, wouldn't you agree?
What it comes down to is that knowledge is imperfect, we are imperfect, the Apostles are not here to help correct us, so it is likely that everyone and every religion has some flaws in their thinking and beliefs. True humility and modesty, excellent Christian virtues, will move us to always be willing to reconsider what we previously held as true. New experience and new knowledge are always coming along. Many things are clearly spelled out in the Bible. Many things are not, too. Therefore, we always want to be careful only to insist on the bare essentials and not insist on too much agreement on too many matters. And above all else, we must respect the conscience of each individual Christian. No one should ever ignore their own conscience. It should take precedence over the influence of peers and members of our religion or neighborhood. And among Christians, that should be respected.
Courage and Independence
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As I see it, God can only be pleased with our individual minds, consciences, hearts, souls, and strength in obedience and service to Him. It is what we bring to the table that will determine our judgment. What anyone else does will only affect them. Prophets almost always faced rejection. In fact, Jesus pointed out that nearly every prophet who ever preached in Israel was killed. Today, most Christians religions have been bought out and compromised from the days of Constantine the Great till our day. So called Christians march off to war to often kill Christians (at least in name) in other nations. How outrageous!
It takes great courage and independence to ignore our peers and take a stand apart from them and possible face isolation or persecution. It is also easy to walk along the broad smooth level road leading to destruction. Traveling the narrow cramped, pot-holed, unlevel, rocky, filled with obstacles road leading to salvation is far from easy to travel. Most never even try to walk it or even go through the gate. It takes a brave soul to follow God. Jesus said you must pick up your cross and follow him daily. It is a difficult choice to follow God and righteousness.
The devil has sought to create all sort of groups and organizations to belong to. He has created this vast web of networks to encourage you to belong and go with the flock and get along and don't rock the boat or make waves. Everyone else is doing it so why can't you? Its hard to turn your back on all that. But if we are to please God, we must be willing to say goodbye to all things in this life, maybe even saying goodbye to life, period! We may have to give up our lives for God. We will be resurrected but still, dying is no fun.
It is the independent spirit that we all need. The willingness to suffer for God! Following the crowd or worse, depending on the crowd for wisdom or guidance is a serious mistake. For most people take the easy route, which is, "I'll just do what everyone else is doing." We must resist peer pressure and seek out only what God desires. To do that, we must be using our own minds to determine all things.
We were created in the image of God. That is quite an honor, no? It is our brain and ability to think that is the image of God. If we do not use God's gift and just leave it idle and un-used, we are insulting God and His gift and throwing it in His face. His gift of life and His image goes to waste. So don't squander God's greatest gift. Use it and exercise it and make is sharp and effective. Honor God with your mind and He will be pleased.
I say that only those who stand apart from the exceptionally wicked world of the last days by remaining independent and loyal to God will be saved. To be like the world or the world's friend, is to doom one's self to destruction. Jesus said that it would be few who would be saved. He ought to know, right? So be in that minority and dare to think and use your own intellect to make God proud. It is the ultimate form of worship.
Look at it this way. The world only works well when all people remain independently loyal to God. Then if one sins, the rest don't get taken along with him. But if one sins, and others do not resist, soon many sin. But each of us remaining loyal, we secure the harmony and loyalty to God forever. No domino effect when we all obey, regardless of the one standing beside us who decides to sin. It is the spirit of independence and courage that God most likes and desires. Cowards, liars and crowd followers will all be thrown in the lake of fire, never to be seen ever again. We don't follow crowds and popular trends! We follow God and God alone!
|How to Interpret the
Post-Apostolic Writers on Interpreting Scripture
Why We Can Trust the Bible Only
Tolerance and Individual Thinking
The Psychology Factor
The Great Apostasy
Lying Signs and Wonders
God's Institution - The Nation of Israel
Educate Your Children
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