Friday, 16 March 2012
Last month I was sitting in church with my girlfriend. It was very quiet and warm in the church. Everything was at peace. We sat in one of the pews, holding hands and enjoying the silence. My girlfriend turned towards me and whispered: "I have wish."
"You have a wish?" I asked.
"Yes, wish," she answered. English is not her first language.
"What do you wish?"
"I wish this moment is never stop."
"Me too," I said, "We're in a church. Let's pray and ask Jesus to not ever let this moment stop."
"Okay," she said. She put her hands together and said: "Mr. Jesus, please, make this moment forever and never stop."
I started laughing despite myself. "Mr. Jesus." It was so cute! At that moment I realized, like a bolt of white light, that I was in love with my girlfriend. I loved her. I loved her passionately and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.
Of course the moment in the church did not last forever. After about a half hour we got up and left. She went back to work and I returned to the clinic where I had my afternoon shift.
Still, that white light moment that appeared in my head while my girlfriend and I were in church stayed with me all that day. I have no doubt that God was speaking to me, telling me of my love for my girlfriend.
There are many people, however, who disapprove of my relationship with my girlfriend. I am a Christian and she is a secular Muslim whose family is from Kazakhstan. My girlfriend goes to church services with me and I sort of know that she only does so to please me -- not because she actually believes that Jesus Christ is her Lord and Saviour.
I do the same sort of thing. When we went to visit her family in Astana during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, I also attended services with her parents. I fasted with them from sunrise to sunset, not because I believe in Islam but because I owed respect towards the parents of the girl I was dating. When I spoke to my girlfriend's parents, I knew within my heart that their souls were just as sincere and intact and full of love as any Christian.
It makes me sad when my relationship is condemned by people who are in my church. The Bible is quoted as proof that interfaith relationships are inappropriate. I know that the Bible is the Word of God -- but it is the Word of God spoken through the mouths of men. The Bible has been translated from Aramaic to Hebrew to English throughout the millennia. The Word of God has been filtered through the minds and pens of countless scholars.
God's Word still shines through the pages of the Bible, but it is like viewing shining light through a grimy window pane. For example, what does Exodus 20: 4-5 mean when God says "I am a jealous god" ? What does He mean by using the article "a" before "god?" That implies that He is one of many gods, but God is the only God. There are no others. Also, why is God jealous? Why does he commit that sin? Isn't God perfect in His Essence? Why would He be susceptible to the sin of jealousy?
And later on in the Book of Exodus, why does God who is so offended by abortion nowadays showing no pity towards the innocent lives of the Egyptian first-born? And in the Book of Job why does God torture Job over a cruel curiosity about what would make the poor man break? Incidences and contradictions like these seem like chinks and cracks in translation that have come about only through the fallibility of imperfect scholarship by imperfect men -- not God.
There are, however, many passages in the Bible where I see a closer version of the pure light of God shining through the letters. My favorite quote is Luke 6:29: "And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also" The necessity of kindness even towards those who are cruel to you seems closer to the nature of God, in my opinion, than a thousand words necessitating the stoning of idolators.
Nevertheless God is often used by men as an excuse for sinful behavior. In the early seventeenth century local colonial officials in Massachusetts would abuse the name of God by proclaiming a few landowners "witches" and offenders of all that was holy. These landowners were condemned in kangaroo courts and put to death. The local government would then seize their property... which was, of course, the government's intention in the first place. Even today I see officials commit the sins of the Pharisees by speaking out of both corners of their mouths. They proclaim their devotion to Jesus Christ... and then use the name of the Prince of Peace as a justification to go to war and commit great violence for the government's own benefit.
When I see this occur I feel so sad inside. It is the duty of every good Christian, in my opinion, to try to separate the true shining light of God's Word from the dirt smears of man's sinful nature cleverly masquerading as the Word of God. It is so difficult, however, to experience God's Word and know that it is untouched by the sins of the men who translate for Him. I don't know exactly how to recognize when I am experiencing God's true wisdom and when I am experiencing the normal, mortal sinful words of men that pretend to be repeating the Word of God. It is difficult.
I think that quiet moment in the church when, with a great bolt of light inside my head, I knew that I was with the woman that I wanted to marry -- I think that was the closest I ever got to experiencing the true Word of God. I have, in my interfaith relationship, never felt more holy.
What are your thoughts on this man's search for God's true Word? How are we to handle scripture if it is, in fact, so tainted by the hands of man? Is the Bible really as fallible as this author suggests?