We – Muslims and Christians – need to learn to dialogue like this.
I’ve been hesitant about whether or not to write this post. There’s pain involved – my pain and others’ – and I’m not sure I will be able to communicate exactly how I feel. But being Ramadan, I felt compelled to write this piece. It will be long for sure. I wanted to share this for the sake of my own memory keeping. It’s easier to write down my thoughts once they’ve been processed.
I know some things about Ramadan. I spent a Ramadan in India. I wanted to fast with my friends, but I just didn’t seem to have the guts. I know it is one of the pillars of Islam. I know it is a time to get closer to Allah, and that Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sex to purify their souls. They feed the poor and the homeless. They make a big deal out of family. They help each other and the community. They pray. They give.
If you’re Muslim, I say to you, “Go for it”
Fast. Pray. Thank God for what He has given you. I love the idea of you wanting to please the Lord of the universe – The Creator of this world who is above all names. The God who made this Earth – so immense and full of glory. I love the idea of celebrating Him and Him only. I love the idea of worshipping Him with all our might.
Make no mistake, though, you will never be able to earn God’s favor. So watch your motives this Ramadan. I pray the LORD will reveal His glory to you this month. That’s exactly why I want to share what has been of me during the past few months: I’ve been in counseling.
I’ll skip you the details of how I got there, but there were some behaviors towards my spouse, and my children that were not right, or good, or healthy. I did not know this, of course. I thought my spouse was the only one in the wrong, and I wanted his behaviors to change. I was angry, but mostly sad – heartbroken. A friend who came alongside me encouraged me to get some help. So I did.
I was terrified of going to counseling. I think I had a panic attack while driving one night. I couldn’t take a deep breath. What am I gonna do? That is all I could think of. I had no idea about my future or my children’s future. I could only see what my fear was allowing me to see – a divorce. I mean, what else, right? If you go to counseling, and your husband doesn’t ever change… What did that mean? It obviously means he doesn’t love you enough to change.
I cried myself to sleep some nights thinking I was a liar. I had lied to my children… All those times in which I had told them Mommy and Daddy would be together forever might not be fulfilled. But what was I going to do as a divorced woman? I did not work. I had forsaken every single thing that could have allowed me to work. Plus, I was in a country that was not even my own. If I divorced my husband, that meant I was getting out of the country. Would I then stay with him just for my children? And I was so fearful of everything. Of every possible outcome. Then, if we divorced… my parents, his parents.
Oh, God! What was I going to do?
Why would God be doing this to me? Maybe I didn’t pray enough. I always said I’d pray more for my marriage or my children, but I end up forgetting to pray more. Maybe I didn’t have enough faith. Maybe God was just testing my faith. Maybe I just had to persevere… Persevere? Doing what? I didn’t like my situation…
I just read an article this morning so full of everything I am feeling. You can read the original article here.
You might be feeling that if Jesus really cared so much for your comfort, then you would not be dealing with such pain. But that is not true. What is true is that you likely prefer the comfort that comes from the absence of discomfort, while Jesus prefers you to have the ultimate comfort of your holiness.
So while you might feel frustrated over a very uncomfortable situation you’re being forced to deal with, Jesus is actually pursuing your long-term comfort through that very situation.
That did not make sense six months ago. That Jesus wanted to achieve something in me through pain. Yet, in my counselor’s office, there’s a plaque that says:
Every true strength is gained through struggle.
The article continues:
If you’re a Christian, you are a disciple of Jesus. And by necessity, a disciple undergoes discipline. If a disciple is a student, then discipline is training. Jesus’s discipline for you, however severe (and it is severe at times), is not God’s wrath against you. If you are tempted to believe that, don’t. It’s your unbelief or the Enemy talking to you.
No, discipline is training. Training in what? Training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The unique training course that Jesus has designed for you (he designs a unique course for each disciple) has one great aim: to teach you to trust him in everything. That’s his goal for you. Jesus wants you to learn to trust in him in all things at all times. For the more you trust Jesus, the holier you become.
And this is horrible. It has felt terrible at times. To trust God in everything…
Fearful, yes, but I went to counseling. Alone. I thought my marriage needed help. I needed help. I needed perspective. Hands down, it has been one of the best decisions of my life.
Of course, I wanted my counselor to tell me if I was gonna end up having a divorce. Or for her to tell me if the situation that had led me to finally look for help was really that bad. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, you know? Maybe I was overreacting, or maybe I was making a big deal of something that was not a big deal.
During my very first session I learned that I am prone to make idols of things or people. And that was so weird. My counselor said, “If you cannot say NO to something or someone, you have made an idol out of that thing”. She then told me to go, and ask the Lord to reveal things to me. I was supposed to do that for the next week. Just to ask the Lord.
“Why do I make idols, God? Why do I get in these kind of relationships? Why do I feel the need to rescue or care for people?”.
I kid you not, the word CODEPENDENCY came to my mind. I am familiar with the word because my sister has always said my mom is codependent. I had no idea of what that word entailed, though. And, of course, I never thought it would involve me. But after reading about it, I realized the condition fits me quite well. Like a 100%
I have always felt that I’m stupid. That I am unworthy. That I am a failure. That I am not enough. I have always felt the need for approval and recognition, the need to control people, and how dreadful it is to make a simple decision. I know about low self-esteem, and compulsive behaviors like trying to be the best mom, or the best cook, or the best wife. Always trying to find purpose in something outside of myself because it helped me to avoid dealing with myself. Pleasing people.
It’s taken me some time to read about codependency, and the reasons that drive my behaviors – specially with my husband and my children. My family of origin played obviously a big part on that. My dad is an addict, and my mom has always enabled him. I can’t generalize a whole culture based on my childhood experiences, but my culture revolves very much around shame.
I lived in a very dysfunctional family where pain, and anger, and fear – feelings in general – were not to be expressed. There was never confrontation. I learned to repress my emotions, and disregard my own needs. I became a survivor. I developed behaviors that helped me deny, ignore or avoid difficult emotions. I don’t think I had every trusted anyone for real – not even my husband. Just until recently I thought self-control was meant to be swallowing what you were feeling. Stuffing it deep down inside you, and you never talk about it. That was not right.
But that’s how I learned to do life. I asked my counselor, “Where is God in all this? Where has He been?”. She said, “What do you mean? He is in the middle of it…”
I did not understand what she meant at that point, but little by little it’s beginning to make sense that God IS the One revealing all these things to me. He is the One guiding me through all this process. And I’ve been given the opportunity to face who I am – to know who I really am. I heard a sermon the other day in which Rich Nathan said that we really are worse than we think. But God loves us more than we can ever imagine.
Why are you striving these days? Why are you trying to earn grace?
Why are you crying? Let me lift up your face. Just don’t turn away.Why are you looking for love? Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough?
To where will you go child? Tell me where will you run, to where will you run?
Idols. My husband. My children. My friends. It all made sense. I am always trying to make people happy. Somehow I grew up like this. Trying not to rock the boat. It has become clearer than water that all I have ever wanted is for someone to love me. And the need for love has been so great that I went way too far in so many relationships to make that happen. I would lose myself – if that makes sense – so that other’s would love me.
It was painfully obvious with my husband. He never asked for this, but I put him on a throne. The throne that God deserved. I was expecting my husband to fulfill something that God did not create him to fulfill. I was setting my husband for failure really – expecting him to make me happy and to satisfy my most deepest need for love.
Dear God, won’t you please… Could You send someone here who would love me?
Who would love me for me, not for what I have done or what I would become. Who would love me for me… ’cause nobody has shown me what love really means.
I know you’ve murdered, and I know you have lied… And I watched you suffer all of your life. And now that you listen, I will tell you that I – I will love you for you. Not for what you have done or what you will become. I will love you for you, I will give you the love, the love that you never knew.
After my first session – that obviously rocked my world – I told my husband that I was going to start making changes for me, and that I hoped that we could really have a good relationship, and work through the challenges that lied ahead. I said I did not want to be afraid anymore of anybody or anything. I was going to follow God wherever He would lead, even if that meant that our relationship would have to come to and end. I never felt that God was telling me to divorce my husband – let me be clear about that.
The Lord has been very gracious to me, showing me that it was not my husband who needed to change, but me. Mainly ME. It was liberating to see that this person I thought was perfect, was so imperfect. It opened my eyes to the fact that I had been trying to get my worth based on my husband, or my children, or my friends. On what people thought of me. Counseling has really changed my life. The Lord is changing my life through it.
God has shown me that even when I had been so unfaithful to Him (basically breaking the Shema Yisrael, and the first three commandments since EVER), He still wanted ME. God wanted ME. He was pursuing me. He was like a husband in love with His Bride.
And I was His Bride!
I have always wanted someone to love me like this. And I was so angry at God, because this love that He was offering to me, I wanted it. Yes. But I wanted it from my husband. I wanted to be everything to my husband. God showed me, very gently, that I would always be disappointed if I kept on expecting this from my spouse. That was not my spouse’s role. He was not meant to make me happy. That was not what marriage was all about. Marriage meant something much deeper. Marriage was about intimacy.
An intimacy that I had never had – not even with my husband. Intimacy meant more than sex. Intimacy meant feeling wholly accepted just the way I was. Marriage was a mirror, like a reflection of the intimacy God wanted to have with me. But all those dreams, and hopes and expectations were for the Lord to fulfill – not my husband. I would keep hitting a wall if I expected somebody else to fulfill them. Only the LORD was perfect to meet and surpass my expectations of love.
Another thing was I didn’t even know who I was. And I’m still learning. I know this might sound weird, but it’s difficult for me to know what I like or dislike. I was raised to mirror everybody else. I am afraid of making mistakes, I’m afraid of being rejected. I was rejected as a child. I felt rejected by the people who were supposed to love me the most – my parents. I was abused emotionally. It’s difficult to say those words because maybe it wasn’t that bad. I’ve tried to find memories – good memories – but it is so difficult. I cannot remember my dad telling me he loved me while sober. And I cannot remember my mom not being worried, or angry, or crying, or yelling, or taking care of him. And it hurts.
But it was bad. Yes, it was that bad. It was not okay. It was not normal to go through what I went through. No child should ever need to hear a parent calling her stupid. No child should ever have to beg for forgiveness from a parent. No child should ever have to wake up in the middle of the night, and decide if she should stay with her dad or go with her mom. I think I faced these feelings and for the first time I said, “Yes. It hurts. And no, it was not okay.”
I had never done that before.
Do you dream of a home you never had?
An innocence that you cannot get back
The pain is real. You can’t erase it. Sooner or later you have to face it down. Down.
You have to face it down.
You are loved.
Do you keep your thoughts inside your head? Will you regret the things you never said? You have a voice. You have to use it. You have a choice. Don’t let them shut you down. Down. Don’t let them shut you down
You are loved
Do you feel the ache inside your soul? You know you’ll never make it on your own.
Sorrow is too great for you to hold it. You’re gonna break. Why don’t you lay it down?
Freedom comes in letting go. Open up the window to your heart.
Freedom comes in letting go. Open up your heart.
Why would you want to be with me, God? Don’t you know who I am?
I cannot relate to a loving father. Let me be fair. I know my dad loves me – in whatever his idea of love is. I give him that. But then you tell me about a Heavenly Father who loves me. Uh… I know what the Bible says. I know. It is the very first time that I am experiencing this kind of love, though.
God also has revealed to me that I know nothing about unconditional love. I grew up learning behaviors, and I made them my own to survive. Making people feel guilty, putting people down in order to feel better myself, I manipulated and controlled others. I basically knew emotional blackmail very well. I have blamed others for my lack of self control, and I have let others abuse me. I have tried to fill my need for love and acceptance the best way I had known so far. I don’t forgive. I always remember so that I can bring it back.
God has been been so very gentle and sweet while giving me a reality check of who I am now. I feel like I should not use these corny terms to describe the Maker of the Universe, but He has been so very gentle. Like if I was dating somebody for the very first time, He would be the perfect date. He has shown me that He has loved me forever. That even though I have rejected Him, He is still waiting for me to come back. That now that I had a clear picture of who I was, I was able to walk towards the woman He made me to be. And all this, He does because He loves me. Nothing else.
God is not codependent, that’s for sure. He doesn’t need me. And He loves me. Unconditionally. So it began to make sense. This intimacy thing. This is what it means. It means that God knows who we really are, and He loves us. There’s acceptance. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It meant that I didn’t fear divorce anymore. Becasue the truth is that my husband is a gift God gave me. He is my husband, and I want to know him, and I want him to know me. So I’ve been open in sharing with him these feelings and issues, and he says he loves me. It means conflict and arguments are there. It means I don’t need perfection. It means I feel accepted. And I also need to work on being accepting.
God loves me. I wanted this with God. Yes, with my husband, too. But God. With God. This is the relationship God wants with me. Why would I say NO to that?
I bought myself a ring. I married God. My other marriage is fine, by the way. We are learning to communicate better, and I’m not stuffing my feelings when I am angry. I’m learning to be assertive, and we are not divorcing – this goes beyond divorce. God is changing ME.
I am the Lord’s wife first. He is the one that will fulfill ALL the expectations of love I have. He is actually showing me what love really means. He has been faithful to me even when I have been a spiritual prostitute. He has shown me what a Covenant Keeper He is. He does not leave nor forsake me based on my performance. He has lived with me the book of Hosea. Even after I had gone after my Baals, my lovers, and forgotten Him; He has betrothed me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy.
He is a devoted husband.
Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold,like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old.
Your love is enduring through the winter rain,
and beyond the horizon with mercy for today.Faithful You have been and faithful you will be.
You pledge yourself to me, and it’s why I singYour praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
You Father the orphan. Your kindness makes us whole.
And you shoulder our weakness, and your strength becomes our own.
Now you’re making me like you, clothing me in white.
Bringing beauty from ashes, for You will have Your bride
Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame
And known by her true name and it’s why I sing
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
You will be praised. You will be praised.
With angels and saints we sing worthy are You Lord!
You see it? It is LOVE. It is nothing else. If you know what I am talking about, if you have struggled with acceptance and your self-worth, you understand the need to be loved. And you understand that you would give yourself to people, and do things in order to get a tiny crumb of love. You may not be aware of it, but you stay in relationships that deep down you know they are not good for you, or you don’t even like to get something – acceptance, praise, whatever it might be.
I have given myself to get something in return. Always. Becasue I want to be loved. But God? What does He need? He doesn’t need anything. Why would God give Himself to me like this?
He wants me to be FREE…
All my Christian life, I have been a slave. To my idols. I had failed to see that Christ died to set me free from my sin, but also from the things, and behaviors, and patterns of thought that have entangled my earthly life. This is what it means to walk with Christ. Yes, I get heaven, but I also get to enjoy my life here and now. My Lord and my Savior died so that I could be free to choose Him.
That’s what God’s more interested in – my freedom. I understand slavery. I have been a slave to my anger, and to these behaviors that I’m working on changing. Along the way, I had been raising little slaves… They don’t deserve this. No child deserves what I went through. And while I am not and will never be the perfect mother, I do want to change my family history. Without realizing it, I had been encouraging the same patterns of family disfunction that both my husband and I were raised in. It is so clear now.
On my last session I was so very happy to share with my counselor some changes that I’ve made, and some tough conversations that I had with people I was afraid of. I felt different. I turned around, and I read a verse that meant a lot to me:
Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
This is in the context of the prophet Isaiah speaking to the Israelites. God is telling them He will deliver them AGAIN from Babylon – another “exodus”. Where there is no clear path ahead of me, God will create one. He is always a step ahead of me. He knew about all this. He knew about my fears, and about my shame. He has covered it all.
I am learning a lot about being a parent in counseling. I am learning to show my children who they are, and who God is. To show them, not to teach them. I was teaching them one thing, but showing them a completely different one. I was being harsh, laying down the law. If they did something, they paid. Again, God is changing ME.
I am being more patient. More forgiving. I think that can be mistaken as if I’m letting them off the hook many times, but I don’t think I am. I am just showing my children what I have been learning myself. I am showing them how to regulate their emotions, and really, how to manage them. I just feel that I haven’t been very gracious to them in all these years. I have been expecting a behavior that it is right -like obedience – but I don’t think I have taken enough time to cultivate what it takes for that behavior to develop.
Basically I haven’t been a very good listener. It’s taking a whole lot of help from the Lord to wait fifteen minutes by my son’s side while he cannot stop crying. Waiting until we can talk about what triggered that anger explosion. It was easier to spank him because he pushed his sister, and then make him apologize. And then he would cry more and more. And sometimes I do think, “You know, all this emotional Let’s-talk-about-it-crap takes a lot of time, and a lot of effort…”
And the truth is I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t. Then I close my eyes, and I’m like, “Yeah, well… nobody showed you how to deal with your emotions. You have stuffed them all your life and when they explode, it has been disastrous – in family, in friendships, in marriage… “
The Lord reminded me of this the other day at the library:
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
I have been treated so tenderly by my heavenly Father. He is showing me how forgiving He is. I deserve the worst, but I don’t get what I deserve. He loves me. Are there consequences? Yes. Is there discipline? Yes. But I am just happy that God is working something in me through both my children and their strong will. He is showing me how to be more like Jesus. Isn’t that the point of the Christian life anyway? Jesus will not leave me alone…
So yeah, feelings are not being stuffed anymore. I think it is being particularly difficult for my husband. Sometimes I think that what I do here at home does not really have an impact on anyone. But I am realizing, basically, that God is helping my husband and I to get closer to each other, and also to potentially change future generations. God is helping me to break away from the cycle of abuse and codependency of at least four generations on my side.
I’ve been swimming, so this next song means a lot to me. I’ve never swam before, so learning to breathe correctly and all that was very challenging for me. All those feelings of inadequacy, of being a loser, would continually come to my mind. But I kept on trying and I’m getting much better. In my class, sometimes we practice drafting for triathlons. When there is a lot of people swimming next to you, the water gets really choppy. And even though I know how to breathe correctly, sometimes when I open my mouth all I get is water inside. No air. I have to put my head back in the water, then lift it up again, and try harder.
This time in my life has felt a little bit like that – like swimming in choppy water trying to get air. But God has been with me every step of the way. We are not done yet. I’m sure He will keep on revealing things to me, things that as of right now I have no idea about.
I like swimming because God showed me that I can swim. When I see a lake or a pond, I feel like swimming there, even though I have never swam in open water before. The idea of drowning in an open-water swim terrified me, but I can’t wait to try it now.
One final thought. I began this post with Muslims in mind. If you are Muslim, and you are reading this, I think you can relate to a lot of the issues I talked about. We do share honor and shame societies. I wouldn’t be surprised if you have been treated like this. I pray that one day you will be able to relate to God in this forgiving, accepting, and unconditional-loving way. There is no other way, but through Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Life gets choppy at times. Being Ramadan I know you want to please Allah. I know. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him for a dream. Test Him on that. Dare to call Him Father. And always remember that if God calls you to swim, He will keep you breathing above the waves.
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep. My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name. And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise. My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!
For the past several weeks, we have been investigating how the historical Jesus of Nazareth fares by being tested by the traditional historical method. Before wrapping up our investigation, NT scholar Michael Licona provides two additional tests that need to be considered. This article will investigate those two additional tests or methods and will offer some concluding thoughts on our quest.
1. Arguments to the Best Explanation.
Licona notes that the Arguments-to-the-Best-Explanation method “makes inferences and weighs hypotheses according to specific criteria.” In other words, the data is compiled and examined according to a particular hypothesis made by the historian. The criteria include:
Explanatory scope: Examining the most relevant data according to the hypothesis.
Explanatory power: Looking at the “quality of the explanation of the facts.”
Plausibility: How much confidence can the historian possess that a certain event took place? For the skeptic, if they are to be honest historically, they must suspend their skepticism, and allow for the possibility of the miraculous if they are to become unbiased.
Less ad hoc: Covering only what the data suggests without going “beyond what is already known.”
Illumination: Where one piece of data strengthens other areas of inquiry.
Speaking of this method, Licona goes on to say that “Arguments to the best explanation are guided by inference and can sometimes be superior to an eyewitness to an event. Testimony to the court does not provide truth but data.”
Examining the data that we have presented already when using this method demonstrates that the best historical explanation is that Jesus of Nazareth existed and walked out of the grave the first Easter Sunday. Licona, in his work The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach , comes to the following conclusion in his over 600 page work:
“I am contending that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the best historical explanation of the relevant historical bedrock. Since it fulfills all five of the criteria for the best explanation and outdistances competing hypotheses by a significant margin in their ability to fulfill the same criteria, the historian is warranted in regarding Jesus’ resurrection as an event that occurred in the past.”
Thus, from using this method, Jesus’ historicity as well as Jesus’ resurrection are confirmed.
2. Arguments from Statistical Inference.
The Arguments from Statistical Inference method evaluates all data in question and evaluates the probability that an event could have happened. If one eliminates the possibility of God’s existence and God’s involvement in an event, then the odds that a “miraculous” event occurred goes down dramatically. However, if one holds that a greater power was involved, the odds go up drastically. Licona gives the illustration of one evaluating whether his son could lift 200 lbs. over his head. While such may be improbable, if one is willing to add that a bodybuilder assisted him, the added datum allows for such an event to become much more probable. If the historian is going to be unbiased, then one must allow for the possibility of God’s existence, and the possibility that God may have an invested interest for raising Jesus from the dead.
While this method will always be somewhat subjective, the historian can make an educated synopsis of how historically certain an event is. McCullagh uses the following grades:
“Extremely probable: in 100-95% of cases
Very probable: in 95-80% of cases
Quite or fairly probable: in 80-65% of cases
More probable than not: in 65-50% of cases
Hardly or scarely probable: in 50-35% of cases
Fairly improbable: in 35-20% of cases
Very improbable: in 20-5% of cases
Extremely improbable: in 5-0% of cases.”
While it must be admitted that in history one cannot hold 100% certainty that any event took place one could argue that one cannot be 100% certain of what a person had for breakfast. However, one could say that it was extremely probable that a person had Cheerios® for breakfast if one sees a used bowl and spoon with bits of Cheerios® cereal, accompanied by used milk at the bottom of the bowl, with an empty Cheerios® box sitting beside the bowl.
So, what can we draw from our investigation?
So, does Jesus pass the historical method? I would say so. In fact, so much so that I think one can logically hold the following premises.
It is extremely probable that Jesus existed. One can say with over 95% certainty that Jesus existed. To claim otherwise is to hold a level of skepticism that will disallow one to know about anyone or anything in history.
It is extremely probable that Jesus rose from the dead. The strength of Jesus’ existence is coupled with the strength of his resurrection. In my estimation, I would say that one holds a very strong case for the resurrection of Christ being an actual event of history.
It is extremely probable that Jesus’ disciples saw him risen from the dead. Some may argue that this point deserves to hold the level “very probable.” However, I feel that given other data to consider that it is extremely probable that Jesus’ disciples encountered the risen Jesus.
It is very probable that we have good eyewitness testimony telling us about the life of Jesus. While we have fantastic eyewitness testimony for the life of Jesus, particular debates surrounding the Evangelists’ identity and the like take down the probability a notch. In my estimation the eyewitness testimony deserves to have the highest ranking, but to be fair to all the data involved, I give it a very probable ranking (95-80% certainty).
It is extremely improbable that the Jesus Mythicist campaign has any leg on which to stand. Even agnostic Bart Ehrman has confessed that the Jesus Mythicist campaign is erroneous. While the historical data does not prove Jesus to be the Messiah (that comes by faith), the data provides solid grounding for accepting such a belief. In stark contrast, one can claim that the idea that Jesus was a myth is extremely improbable (0-5%).
Therefore, one may deny Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, one may reject his claims as divine, and one may pass off his miracles as the work of a magician, however one cannot deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed and one will be hard-pressed to deny that this same Jesus walked out of the tomb the first Easter Sunday.
Jesus of Nazareth passes the historical test with a solid A+.
Note to self and others struggling with faith: In my darkest moments, I held for dear life to the fact that the most certain thing about Jesus historically is that He died by crucifixion. And if He died on that cross, then Islam was false. I still had to deal with the fact of Jesus being divine or Jesus resurrecting… But if He died then Islam was false. That did not make Christianity true but Islam was false. I felt joy. And the best argument that Islam gave me about the cross was that God wanted to test people. Allah went all the way deceiving everybody to think that Jesus had died, but it wasn’t really so. Of course, Islam said Allah loved Jesus PBUH so much that He had to rescue Him from the shame of the cross and whatever, that’s why He had to raise Jesus to Himself.
Okay, fine. But why? Why would Allah make other guy loo like Jesus? Why the secrecy? Why the lying? Why not be open about it and say, “Look, this is Jesus, I’m taking Him up to me”. No. Allah made other look like Jesus. That was deception in my eyes.
If that was God I would rather go to hell than to follow Him. Didn’t Allah know that by making other person look like Jesus many people would start a movement called The Way? Didn’t Allah know these people would follow Jesus as Lord and Savior? Didn’t He know I would be deceived as well in to worshipping this Jesus? And He still did it – just to test me? Why would Allah put so many obstacles between Him and me? I decided I would rather follow the Biblical Jesus and go to hell – even if that Jesus was a product of my own imagination – than to embrace the Islamic understanding of Allah and the non-historical life of Jesus in the Quran.
As it turns out, Jesus did die for my sins and did rise from the dead. My head went ahead my heart, and the Holy Spirit kicked in later as I came back from India. I am now on fire for my Lord Jesus and I will forever proclaim Him as my Savior 🙂
Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010.
McGullagh, C. B. Justifying Historical Descriptions. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
 Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010), 108.
 Ibid., 109.
 Ibid., 110.
 Ibid., 114.
 Ibid., 610.
 See Licona, 114.
 C. B. McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 52.
I know Muslims who say they submit to the law of the land. Other Muslims I know think Sharia Law will solve all the problems around the world.
The entire debate about what it means to be “Muslim” and Shariah-compliant might be solved with a quick lesson in Arabic grammar.
This is because the word Muslim contains in its Arabic meaning its own definition.
You see, the word Muslim in Arabic has two parts: the Mu prefix, and the triliteral root that forms the word Islam. That root word, Islam, is a verbal noun that means submission. When an Mu prefix is attached to such a root in Arabic, the resulting noun means: a person who does the thing that root word denotes.
Therefore, with Islam being a verbal noun meaning submission, Muslim therefore means one who submits.
Submits to what? To Allah’s will – which is Shariah. Islamic Law.
Thus, anyone who presents as a Muslim is by definition Shariah-adherent, because that’s what the word itself actually means. If someone claims to be a Muslim, or converts to Islam, or was born into Islam, but does not apostatize or separate from it, then it is reasonable to conclude that such a person is Shariah-compliant—at a minimum, tacitly—unless and until told otherwise. And the converse must also be true: one who does not submit to Shariah, one who does not adhere to Shariah, does not meet the linguistic definition of Muslim.
As for Shariah, which is defined and understood by the Islamic scholars to be an all-encompassing, legal-military doctrinal system that features some religious beliefs, it is binding for Muslims, even as the word Muslim dictates. Although Shariah includes a multitude of obligations, among which many are innocuous (to believe in the oneness of Allah; to pray five times per day; to avoid eating pork, etc.), jihad as warfare to spread Islam is also a core, compelling obligation. All who are Muslim by birth or conversion are obligated to actively support the establishment of a universal governmental system (Caliphate/Imamate) based on Shariah and the replacement by means of jihad of any political system not governed by Shariah.
It is this commandment to Islamic supremacism that is most problematic for non-Muslims and responsible for much of the debate about what exactly “being Muslim” means. But if we realize that the answer lies in the etymology of the Arabic word Muslim itself, then it will be understood that unless and until that identity as “one who submits” is abjured by the individual in question, the person is accorded full credit for living a Shariah-adherent life.
Look… I know a woman who told me she has had four miscarriages, and that her husband of eighteen years died of a silent heart attack. She’s Muslim. She remarried two years later. I think I’m her friend.
Unless she has some Machiavellian plan to get me to like her in order to convert me to Islam, I think she trusts me. And she trusts me because I am the only person she can relate to in a white-only-environment. I guess Muslims want to be my friends after all 🙂
I’m not even Muslim, but I know her culture and her religion. She feels safe talking to me. I have shown my love for her by asking her about her life. I have shown her the love of Jesus by just LISTENING to her.
Is she Sharia-compliant? Maybe. You know what, though? The Lord Jesus is after her heart. And I am honored to be the instrument that He might use to bring her HOME, and sweep her over her heels with a LOVE that she has never known.
To Isa al-Masih [Jesus the Messiah] be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
While on vacation, several things happened regarding my faith journey. I was asked by a waiter if I was a Muslim. I couldn’t but laugh nervously. Apparently he saw my daughter eating enormous amounts of bacon with her pancakes.
No, I am not a Muslim. Why do you ask me that, Abdullah? [Points at the bacon] Oh, the bacon, of course. Nope. I am not a Muslim, but I know about the bacon. I’m reading your Quran. My best friends in Chennai are Muslims, and I always tell them how a terrible Muslim I would make because I like beer. Are you married, Abdullah?
Abdullah is married, but he sees his daughter -who is 18 months old- only a few days every six months. He also told me that a lot of Muslims eat bacon because they don’t even know they are not supposed to eat it. This is in a country where alcohol and pork are banned from consumption (except at the resorts), and importing anti-Islamic materials (including idols for worship and Bibles) is an offence. Abdullah was nothing but nice to me. I did not take any offense in him asking me whether I was a Muslim or not. My husband, of course, thought that was none of his business.
But I actually thought it was really sweet that Abdullah would care for my daughter and for me not sinning in case we were Muslims. My daughter has a free pass on sins until she reaches puberty, but not me. He was not telling me it is wrong to eat pork. He was not holding me accountable to his beliefs. He was holding me accountable to my sin only if I was a Muslim. That is why he asked first. And I think that was a beautiful Muslim parallel example of the accountability I explained in my last post Christians – Part 2.
Another thing that happened is that I was asked by a young woman [Sherry] which religion I followed. She explained she was Catholic, but she did not understand why the priests were so controlling to the people in her native country, and why her Muslims friends at the resort were telling her that Jesus was not God. I seriously felt like hugging her and asking her, “Have they told you yet that the Bible is corrupted?”
She asked me if I could explain the Trinity for her. I gave it a shot, and I explained it to her – as much as I grasp it. The Trinity belongs to another post, tough. I just want to make clear that The Trinity mentioned in the Quran is indeed a blatant blasphemy for me as a Christian.
They have certainly disbelieved who say, ” Allah is the third of three.” And there is no god except one God.
And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “‘O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it.
After reading these two verses together the question begs to be asked… Is it reasonable for me to think that Prophet Muhammad thought that the Trinity of Christianity consisted of Jesus, Mary and Allah? I say maybe. Many Muslims on the web wrongly assert this is what Christians believe. My own Muslim confronted me one morning on why I prayed TO Mary. Who told him that? Other Christians? I don’t think so. I will have to ask him, but he definitely read it in the Quran. Maybe Prophet Muhammad was referring to a smaller group of Christians who seemed to have a heretical emphasis on praying TO Mary.
But it is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church that Catholics do not pray TO saints or Mary, but rather that Catholics can ask saints or Mary to pray FOR them. Whether this practice is biblical or not, my Catholic Brothers and Sisters in Christ worship GOD ALONE. We may have differences in understanding, but Catholics will never tell you Mary is part of the Trinity. I was raised Catholic, FYI.
Anyway… Sherry was very sweet. There are people hungry for God. There are people who have questions about God. I knew there were people actively looking for God, and maybe this was God’s way to show me. This morning, on the other hand, my children and I were surrounded by five Muslim women all wearing black from top to bottom – abaya, hijab and all. They were all smiling and shaking my hand as my landlord introduced them as his wife and his four daughters. What is God trying to tell me? My Muslimah thinks Allah is trying to open my eyes to the truth of Islam. Sure. Why not?
BUT IT IS NOT FAIR.
It is not fair that I have to become a Muslim for God to love me. Being a Muslim is not as easy as believing in One and Only One God and submitting to Him. One cannot be a Muslim until one recites the Shahada, the First Pillar of Islam, with sincerity and conviction: I bear witness that there is no God worthy to be worshiped but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Obey Allah and His messenger [Muhammad], but if they turn back, Allah does not love the unbelievers.Whoever disbelieves, he shall be responsible for his disbelief, and whoever does good, they prepare (good) for their own souls, that He may reward those who believe and do good out of His grace; surely He [Allah] does not love the unbelievers.
God’s love for me is contingent on whether or not I believe in Muhammad. As of right now, I am an unbeliever. I cannot recite the Shahada from the heart. And if I do not believe in God AND Muhammad:
There are more verses, but those are enough for me. After doing all this reading, not a single Muslim can sincerely tell me that Christianity is too narrow. No way. Islam is as narrow. I don’t have a problem with the doors being narrow, you see, because I do want to choose a door. My doors are either the Jesus of the Bible OR Muhammad [and the Jesus in the Quran]. I cannot have both. Christianity and Islam are mutually exclusive.
But I have experienced that God is loving. I know God is just. And I know God is fair. Our human understanding of His justice is what makes us question His love and His fairness. But God’s ways are not our ways, neither His thoughts are our thoughts. His ways and His thoughts are higher [Isaiah 55:8-9].
As I read my Quran, I constantly ask God with an open heart, IS THIS TRUE?
“Aren’t you afraid?”, I asked my husband. “I know you are sick of me with all this, but I need to hear from you. What do you think? Don’t you care about going to hell?”
Sweetheart, you are looking for something that you will NOT find. You are looking for proof that what you believe is true. You won’t find that. The only thing you will find is information that will enable you to make a decision – a sensible choice. I made a choice a long time ago to follow Jesus. I read and I chose. Can I prove it? No, but I still choose to believe it. That’s faith. Go running, it will help you clear your mind…
He is right, you know. I don’t know how it happened but I have committed so much of my time to find information about Islam and Christianity for the last six months. It probably started after the Bible-corruption talk I had with my Muslims. They are my Muslims and they will always be. But my husband is right. I will never be certain of anything. These things are not very likely to be settled scientifically. All I can do then is to make an informed decision. If I end up going to hell, I cannot blame anybody but me, I guess.
A Muslim is a person who submits to God. Any human can be a Muslim if he believes in one and only one God AND he leads a good life by submitting to that one God.
A non-Muslim, by definition, is a person who does not recognize God as a Sovereign Law giver Who rewards the good and punishes the bad.
The duty of Muslims is to do more good deeds and minimize evil deeds. That’s how they hope to attain salvation. Again, bear in mind, only in general terms. So on the Day of Judgment, Allah will judge them and ask them about each single deed that they did in this world. If the scale of good deeds exceeds the bad deeds, by Allah’s mercy they will enter Paradise.
Allah has written down the good deeds and the bad ones. He who has intended a good deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over. But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed
– Prophet Muhammad
In Islam actions are judged on the basis of intentions. Bad actions are not necessarily bad. Actually, good intentions in themselves have become good because they are based on the right philosophy or the right belief. Personally, I don’t think that would fly with the Jesus of the Bible. They might fly with the Muslim Jesus in the Quran, but not with my Jewish Husband. I have been so angry with my children that I have felt like throwing them out of the window. That is murder according to the Jewish Jesus.
When Jesus walked on this earth, He elevated the standard of morality to a higher level than The Law of Moses. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus says that you shall be subjected to penalty (bound, guilty) if you get the kind of anger (irritation) that focuses on punishing your offender rather than punishing the moral content of the offense (that’s me with my children). Not only that, if in contempt you call someone a moron, a fool, a stupid idiot – anything that puts into question his “brains” – you are risking going to gehenna (hell). Keep in mind that Jesus is talking to his twelve closest men, and to a whole crowd of people.
I am telling you people, following Jesus is creeping me out. This is a Jesus I had never seen in these eight years. This man is NOT a pushover. But then He forgives, and says that there is no greater love but to give your life for your friends, and He dies willingly. So Jesus calls you out when you sin, but then He dies for it. I think trying to explain how He embodied grace AND truth is impossible for me as a human being.
According to Islam, though, even if I felt like killing and thought about it many times, it doesn’t count as a bad deed. It actually counts as a good one because I didn’t follow through with the murder. Of course I was confused, so I asked my friends. They told me to read the Quran first, and to stop messing with the hadiths. Haven’t they realized they got me into this to start with?
So to make things clearer: Muslims follow the Quran, the Sunnah and the hadiths.
According to some Muslims, the Quran and the Sunnah remain as their primary sources to understand Islam. But there are other Muslims who only follow the Quran and disregard the Sunnah, so you see them arguing on the web about this. These arguments do not even include the hadiths. There is a whole process for determining if the hadith is authentic or not. But a good rule of thumb is to go with Sahih al-Bukhari since it is recognized by the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world to be the most authentic collection of sayings of Prophet Muhammad. After that, Sahih Muslim is the second best collection. So for now, I’m sticking to those.
He who obeys the Messenger [Mohammad] has obeyed Allah
– Quran 4:80
Were am I going with all this? Well, it has actually crossed my mind the idea that if Islam is the true religion, I have to dump Jesus as my Savior, acknowledge Him only as a prophet, and embrace the Seal of the Prophets: Muhammad. If I am going to be a Muslimah, I’m gonna have to give it my best shot because No Savior means it all depends on me. My salvation rests on my shoulders, and of course, Allah’s mercy.
As I’ve seen, though, there is no consistency in how Allah punishes sin. Sometimes He wipes it all away, sometimes He does keep track of your wrong doings. This, of course, has me all confused because Allah in the Quran does not display the same character that Allah in the Bible displays (which has given me headaches for the last 6+ months). Seriously, it is hard to keep track of my children on an everyday basis, how am I supposed to keep track of my deeds with God?
Whoever says, ‘Subhan Allah wa bihamdihi,’ one hundred times a day, will be forgiven all his sins even if they were as much as the foam of the sea.
Whoever says, ‘La ilaha illal-lah wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahu-l-mulk wa lahul- hamd wa huwa ‘ala kulli shai’in qadir,’ one hundred times will get the same reward as given for manumitting ten slaves; and one hundred good deeds will be written in his accounts, and one hundred sins will be deducted from his accounts
Allah can do whatever He wants because He is God. God is God. The One and Only True God that Muslims, Christians and Jews worship according to Quran 29:46. So I think I owe it to myself to learn from Prophet Muhammad. It only makes sense that if he is a beautiful pattern of conduct (Quran 33:21) then I have to evaluate whether or not I want to sign up for Islam.
I am questioning things. I have to dissect the Jewish Jesus, the Muslim Jesus, Christianity, Islam, Muhammad, even Judaism and reincarnation. Anything goes in my search for truth, and I am telling you, it is NOT fair.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Now that my life is spinning around the internet researching for stuff, I have stumbled over the subject of Jesus as the ONLY way to heaven. Most people think it is unfair. Let’s say it is. I agree. It is unfair. It is very narrow. What I would like to know is exactly what fairness is. I cannot speak for everybody because I cannot know the heart of every single person in the world, so I will just speak for myself.
The very fist time I heard about a guy named Jesus had died for my sins, and that He loved me so much He wanted to help me with my life was when I was 12. I vaguely remember a friend of mine inviting me to this Protestant church in Mexico. Mostly I was hanging out with him, and then his parents took us with them to church. I don’t know how I ended up there, but I did. After the message, a gentleman asked us if we wanted to know more about Jesus. I raised my hand, but when someone came to talk to me, they saw that my parents were not there. They said they could not talk to me about Jesus because I was not with a responsible adult. Apparently, I needed my parent’s permission to hear the gospel [sarcasm].
Then, at age 20, a friend from high school invited me to church again. He told me about a guy named Jesus being amazing. My friend told me how he was a new person, and how this Jesus had rescued him from his sins and whatnot. Keep in mind I was Catholic, alright? I had been baptized as a baby. I was Christian. Is that what being a Christian means? Anyway… my friend stopped inviting me after I said no many times. It was wonderful that he had seen the light, I was just not interested.
My point is this. Of all the people who say Christianity is too narrow, that it is unfair that a loving God would only choose a person – Jesus – as the ONLY way to come to Him… Of all the people who refuse to come because the gate is too narrow… How many of those people really want to enter? I ask because the narrow door was just an excuse in my case. The truth is I did not want to enter. I was very comfortable sleeping around. I might have known deep down inside me that God knew better and that having sex like I had candy was not good for me. But who the heck cared? I liked it!
If you told me back then that the gate was too narrow and that the ONLY way to come to the Father was through Jesus, I would have objected. Of course. I would have made plenty of excuses. I’m happy Jesus works for you, but it’s not for me. I don’t think it’s a sin to have sex with my boyfriend, you know. After all, if we love each other, then it’s okay. It is not a sin if it’s done with love. I need to clean up my act before coming to God. Besides, it is unfair to other people. The way to the Father is too narrow. Why ONLY Jesus?
You name my excuse, I would have given it to you. I knew there were things that might have been wrong with my life, but it was okay. I was happy. I never felt broken. Not all the time anyway. Sometimes I did feel lonely, but then I would just sleep around some more, and my loneliness went away. But my burden, my load, began feeling really heavy. I don’t know how it became heavy or when, I just felt really tired.
Being a disciple, a follower of Jesus, requires sacrifice. I wish I could tell you I am a disciple. For the most part, I am trying to follow Him. But now that I am reading all this, and even doing a little bit of Greek here and there to understand the New Testament in its original language, I am scared of Jesus. I had always been like Jesus, Jesus, lovely Jesus, softy Jesus, but you don’t mess with Jesus. He said that if you wanted to be his disciple (to go after Him) you would have to deny (to disown, to repudiate, to ignore) yourself, to take up your cross, and follow Him. He doesn’t sound like a pushover. If the guy really died out of love for you, it is only fair He would demand obedience from His followers. The gift of salvation is free for anybody who wants to take it. But free doesn’t mean cheap.
So I rejected the offer many times, mainly because I had no idea what the offer was. Tell you what, tough, unconditional love… you don’t walk away from that. I just couldn’t. So one day, I decided to walk through the narrow gate. I wish I could tell you I had objection for the door being too narrow, but I didn’t have excuses anymore. I had tried many things, but nothing seemed to change. So why not? I gave Jesus a shot. In faith, I asked God to help me change my ways, and my heart. I was ready for Him to do whatever He needed to do, I was done trying to figure out life on my own. And He kept His word. He helped.
But last night I couldn’t sleep at all. I was afraid. I was afraid I am going to hell for believing in Jesus as my Savior. I have been reading my Quran too much, you see, trying to make sense of all this. My Muslim friends told me to read it if I wanted to understand their religion. All this time, though, my husband has probably gotten the worst part. I talk constantly about all these things, about all I am finding out, about all the debates I’ve watched, and the latest news on Jewish and Islamic websites.
I know my husband loves me, but this definitely is not something he enjoys talking about – at least not for hours, like me. Hence, the blog. This morning I asked him, crying, if he was not afraid of going to hell for having confessed Jesus as His Lord and Savior eight years ago.
Seriously? We are going on vacation tomorrow. I am taking you to the beach for the first time in eight years. WE HAVE NEVER GONE TO THE BEACH. Do we have to talk about hell right now? Can you just disconnect your brain from all this until we come back?
– Dear Husband
Yep… that’s my husband right there. All our closest friends know this is him. He kept on talking.
TO BE CONTINUED…
I heard the series CHRISTIAN from Andy Stanley two years ago, and it changed my view of Christianity. It was radical for me. It left me with two options: either to embrace Christianity as it stands now, or to think outside the box I was in. Was I a Christian? Yes, I was. Was it comfortable to be one? Yes, it was. Very comfortable. Did Jesus want me to be a Christian? No, He did not.
The word Christian or Christianity is not defined in the Bible. It was never used by Jesus himself. Actually, the word Christian [from the Greek Χριστιανός Christianos] appears only three times in the New Testament, and it was used by outsiders as a derogatory term. This whole movement Jesus started was named after His title: the Christ [Messiah in Hebrew].
But now a Christian can be anything you want it to be. You can be a Christian and do or believe just about anything. Think about it this way. In just about any political argument, any war, any lawsuit, any issue… there are always Christians on both sides. People have killed other people in the name of Christianity. There are so many cults, so many denominations, and for the most part, it seems we cannot agree with each other.
This sadly happens everywhere. It also happens in Islam. Sunni Muslims think that Shia Muslims are not real Muslims. I don’t get why. They believe in Allah and the final messenger, Muhammad. But apparently, the reasons are not something that can be explained in a line, a paragraph, a page, or even an article. I will do my research and will let you know. Reading this kind of stuff, and drinking coffee in the morning while my children watch T.V. is my thing nowadays. I tell you, when it comes to religion, Christianity and Islam are not that different.
Personally, I have hated Christianity at times. There ar dozens of people in my own peripheral world that hate Christians, and everything that has the word Christian in it. And here’s why:
Christians are judgmental, homophobic, moralists who think they are the only ones going to heaven and that secretly relish the fact that everyone else is going to hell.
– Andy Stanley
When I was far, far away from God, this was my first objection to God or Jesus or anything Christian. I don’t think the problem is God. People want God in their lives – at least most people. I think the problem is us. And when I say us, I mean all the Christians. Sure, nobody is perfect. But we were never called to be Christians. We were called to be Jesus’ disciples.
I have a friend whom I love with all my heart, and I want to share her story…
She has never believed in anything. But hey, she is in a relationship, and she is in love. The woman that she is dating wants them to go to church for whatever reason. My friend doesn’t know what to do. She hates church, but off she goes to please the girlfriend. She figures something good might come out of it. Therapy is working, but maybe God has His own way of helping her. Once they get to church, she sees wonderful things. But she also gets spotted as a lesbian. She is even asked if she had issues with her mom while growing up. You know, probably these Christians were also therapists trying to shoo her homosexuality away [sarcasm]. Then she’s told God dislikes homosexuals and that as women, we should marry a man, and obey that man. Because when we obey the man, then we are obeying God.
That’s not all. Heck, no… but I’ll stop there. When she told me all this – which I’m glad she did – I felt ashamed. I felt angry. I seriously think that regardless her sexual orientation, the questions these Christians were asking her are none of their business! That is just to start with; second, it is NONE of their business!
My friends are not going to church anymore. At least not in the near future. I wouldn’t want to go to church, either. I pleaded with them for not quitting on God. Quit church, but not God.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
– Jesus. First Woe
The Teachers of the Law were very likely Levites. They were given the duty of instructing the people in the Law of Moses. They made sure the people worshipped God and fulfilled their obligations as God had instructed. The Pharisees competed with Jesus and with other groups for the influence of the people. Jewish Oral Tradition describes them as “destroyers of the world” and “Pharisaic plagues”.
In Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus goes hard at them. Jesus tells the people to do as Pharisees say, but not as they do, because they do not practice what they preach. All they want is for people to applaud them and honor them. They want to be noticed for how good they are, and how other people are not. These teachers were supposed to bring the people close to God, but instead they drove them away!
Today I was reminded that I have been these Pharisees. I have been judgmental, I have been moralistic. I have felt better than thou. What makes these Christians believe they had the right to treat my friends like this? What gave us the right? Nothing. Who gave us the right? No one. Not God. Not Jesus. But our own sin of self-righteousness.
God took me as I was eight years ago: multiple sexual partners, an abortion, an addiction, and plenty of psychological issues. I wonder about the Christians who drove my friends away from God. Who were they when they found the love of God? Have they actually found it? I have passed judgment on these Pharisees and Teachers of the Law every time I study my Bible. But I sadly realize that we, Christians, have become the Pharisees of Christianity.
TO BE CONTINUED…
It was a hot and humid afternoon at the playground when I finally decided to approach her. It had been at least a month since I had seen her everyday taking care of her son. And she was always alone. I was always alone.
As much as I tried, there was something not clicking with the moms at my daughter’s school. I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was that I didn’t speak Tamil. They spoke English, but they were not very chatty with me. They were chatty among themselves, but not with me and of course I felt left out. I wanted to hang out with people. I had recently moved from Houston to Chennai, and I was eager to experience the world of preschool with my daughter. But so far, it wasn’t looking very good.
However, I was not the only unsuccessful mom at the playground. And, please, do not read between the lines. I know success as a mom doesn’t come from having random conversations with other moms at the playground. I only mean that I actually wanted to make friends, but it seemed more difficult than I thought it would be. So I finally took the courage to approach this other woman.
She was always wearing sunglasses. Who is she anyway? A Bollywood star? I don’t really remember what was the very first thing I said. But I do remember she took her sunglasses off, and for the very first time, I saw those darn big black circles under her eyes.
We began chit chatting, and she told me she was from Pakistan. During the conversation I came to tell her that I was Mexican, and that my husband’s work was what had brought us to India. I found out she had lived in Dubai before. And then, I opened my mouth too much…
Dubai? I’ve been in Dubai. Well, only at the airport. Man, I was impressed with those women… They are so beautiful, and their eyes are so dark, so deep. That’s the only thing I saw. They were all covered with a robe-like dress. They are Muslims. I like your necklace. What does it say?
The necklace said Allah…
Over the next couple of weeks we continued having random conversations – probably about the weather. Somehow I invited her to my apartment to have tea or something, but she never came. She would always give me an excuse. Her husband went to the office later in the afternoon since he owned his own business, and she mentioned they had breakfast together every morning. So I understood that maybe she just wanted to hang out with her husband.
But one day she actually decided to meet me at Tryst Café and she brought her husband along. No offense to all the Muslims who are reading this (if there are any), but this man looked really Muslim. No topi, no beard like your prophet… just his face. It was like looking at Islam right in the eye.
She introduced us, and for the most part, we were having a really nice breakfast. My son was being such a good boy. No crying, no drama. No interruptions. She mentioned to her husband that I was very interested in different religions. That I had been reading a lot about Hinduism and even Islam. A little. We probably talked about school a little bit more, and the conversation changed little by little to friendship. They were interested in the fact that I was not really hanging out with the expatriates in India. It wasn’t that I didn’t know any, I just felt like I wanted to mingle with the locals. I wanted to experience India and the people. I didn’t want to be isolated in my own world, where everything was like I knew it, and with people who looked like me. He said I was a different kind of Westerner. I took that as a compliment.
We also talked about their diet. It finally made sense what Kosher and Halal meant. They were very easy to talk to. The husband intimidated me a little bit, but I guess it was because I had just met him. Both of them spoiled my son so much that day, that was very sweet. She asked me if all Westerners dated many people before getting married. She had always intrigued by that.
Oh, boy, where to begin?, I said. She was laughing so hard.
He asked me many questions about America. They have heard so many things in the media. We cleared up many misconceptions they had about them. It is natural to assume that most Americans are awful after you watch the news. I am not American, but I feel like one. Except for the last year, I have lived there for the past eight years – my whole married life. My children were born there, and most of my best friends are Americans.
The conversation was relaxed and he was very calm. To make a point about the media, I asked him if he was carrying a bomb under his shirt.
If you are carrying one, I would really appreciate if you waited until I finish my croissant before blowing the whole place up… He got my point, and he smiled. You see? Not all Americans are awful. I guess not all Muslims are terrorists.
To be very frank, I don’t know if it was him or if it was me, but somehow the conversation turned to religion. They asked me about my faith. I told them I was a Christian, but that I was kind of not wanting telling people I was one. I didn’t want to call myself that anymore. I told them it was a long story, and that eventually I would explain it to them. But yes, technically, I was a Christian. I was a follower of Jesus. He was my Lord and Savior.
Then he said something that would change the course of my life forever. But not only my life. Also their lives. Their whole family life, and my whole family life. As a very good Muslim (I should have known), this man looked at me right in the eye, and told me something I had never, EVER, heard before in my entire life.
You know your Bible has been corrupted, right?
I had no idea what the heck he was talking about. The Bible – corrupted? What nonsense was this? This man told me something that in the Muslim wold is accepted as a universal truth. My Bible has to be corrupted because if it is not, then Islam and everything is built upon is false. This was a very bold approach on his part, but I’m thankful that he did that. Without knowing, he introduced me to the world of Christian Apologetics.
This conversation was a little bit over six months ago. And since then, my life changed. I spent almost all my free time with them, and they became my best friends in Chennai. Our families have spent so much time together over dinner, over tea, over boat rides and water slides. They are great people.
In this part of the world, nobody dislikes Jesus. They dislike the Christians. I think a lot of people feel that way… I should start by dissecting Christianity.