Explorations, Continued (part 4)

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At the group’s next meeting, Brent reminded everyone of what Fr. Henry had said the week before:– “As C.H. Dodd said, ‘The Bible reads me.’ It’s the sword of the Spirit (Heb. 4:12).It brings judgment, but also points us to Good Friday, Easter, and grace.” I wonder if anyone has any comments or problems with this idea?

Tony Kalinga, a philosophy graduate student, spoke up. Socrates said at the end of Plato’s Apology: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Religion, too, needs to be examined, or it’s not worth anything.  Sometimes when I see what many filthy rich TV preachers do with the Bible, and see how some fundamentalist preachers get so judgmental of other famous preachers—even Billy Graham,it makes me sick!. It’s as if they take a scissors and cut out the Sermon on the Mount, ignoring passages like “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but in heaven. . .”, or “Judge not lest you be judged.” But then I worry—Am I using the Bible to judge other Christians?

Pastor Cortez, the resource person for this evening’s meeting, answered.  I think that what Jesus was saying in Matt. 7 was “Make sure your own motives are clean. He knew how deep sin is in the human heart. That’s why he said ‘How can you take out a speck in another’s eye, when you have a plank stuck in your own?” He was not ruling out all judgments. In fact other Scriptures say things like “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7: 24) Jesus himself repeatedly excoriated the self-righteous, hypocritical Pharisees and Scribes for being outwardly pure and strict, but inwardly rotten to the core with their loveless legalism.

Phillip Jones, retired counselor, interjects: Yes, I’ve been reading a powerful book on Christian Counseling by a psychologist, Dr. Larry Crabb, (Real Change is Possible—If You’re Willing to Start from the) INSIDE OUT.  A key passage is “You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may become clean as well.” (Matt. 23: 25-26)

Cortez, then speaks up. Indeed, Crabb thoroughly shows how sinful our hearts are. Being alienated, through original sin, from God, we try to satisfy ourselves, quench our thirsts, in other things, even our thinking, which is shot through with demands and self-protection. Deep honesty is required, for instance, at the end of Ps. 139: (Contemporary English Version.)

“”You know I hate anyone who hates you, Lord, and refuses to obey.  They are my enemies too, and I truly hate them. Look deep into my heart, God,     and find out everything  I am thinking.  Don’t let me follow evil ways, but lead me in the way that time has proven true.”

Brent wound down the meeting with a story: I once read about a communist soldier who was getting ready to burn up a Bible. But as he tore out page after page, he was reading them before burning them up. Soon he was instead saying, “No, this is good, I need to save this.” Soon he became a Christian. The Bible is powerful, dibah, Pastor? Cortez nods, vigorously. Yes, and faith matters!

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