An Alternative Point of View

Did you ever come out of a shopping mall to find one of those Bible tracts under your windshield wiper? Happens to me quite often— maybe it's the rainbow sticker on the back of my car. Or the one that reads "Get real! Like Jesus would ever own a gun or vote Republican!" However I must admit I was quite surprised one day when I opened my mailbox and found an envelope inside: no return address. Just some of these Bible tracts. But with no return address, I couldn't respond to the sender, so I responded to the ones who supplied my anonymous benefactor with the reading material s/he sent me. This is the letter in its entirety.

Gospel Tract and Bible Society
Moundridge, KS 67107

To Whom It May Concern:

I recently and anonymously received two of your tracts in the mail. Since I didn't send away for them, I'm assuming I was given them because I quoted Genesis 1:14 on an ad for free astrological birth charts. Or maybe it was because of my letter to the editor advocating equal rights for gays. I would have replied directly to the sender, but perhaps they didn't have enough conviction of their faith to correspond with me personally. But then that's just speculation and judgment on my part. And as Matthew 7:1 reminds us, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

Before addressing the tracts I was sent (entitled "The One and Only True God: Do You Know Him?" and "What Must I Do To Be Saved?"), I'm making an assumption that you believe in multiple interpretations of the Bible since you add to what is actually written. As an example, see the "What Must..." tract where you insert explanations of the passage from Revelations. Since words have been added that are not in the actual text of the Bible, you are not using a literal interpretation, but one of many interpretations. I realize you believe yours is the correct interpretation— if you didn't, why would you believe it in the first place? But I would like to offer my own interpretation that was derived at after much prayer, meditation and study, including completely reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelations twice. (To be perfectly honest with you, I'm still three hundred and fifty pages short of completing the second reading.)

In the event my assumption about literal interpretation is incorrect, I will offer my arguments for why the Bible cannot be literally interpreted. Throughout his teachings, Jesus uses parables to explain the lessons he is teaching. In Matthew 13:10-11, "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." In this passage, Jesus says that there will be multiple lessons learned from his teachings, with at least one lesson revealing the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven and at least one that masks that mystery yet still teaches a valuable lesson to those who hear it. Jesus uses parables for the simple reason that it is possible to derive multiple lessons from them, all of which are true. For example, in the parable of the prodigal son, on a literal level, the lesson to be learned is that a father (not a mother) must welcome home a son (not a daughter) who has squandered everything the father gave him. And when that son comes back, the father will stop what he is doing, prepare a feast to welcome him home using the best resources he has available to him. On another, broader level, that same parable is teaching that children often make mistakes and come back to the parent seeking further assistance. In such a case, the parent should not chastise the child, but give whatever assistance is needed. On a still broader level, it is a lesson to mankind in general to refrain from judging another simply because their lifestyle is not what we would have lived. (As seen in the brother's condemnation of his father's actions and the father's refusal to listen to him.) And on a still broader level, the father is God and man is the prodigal son. No matter what man does, God will welcome us home and celebrate our return. That is only one example of multiple interpretations of the Bible.

A second argument in favor of a non-literal interpretation of the Bible is that, if it were to be interpreted literally and still maintain its timeless nature, we would be required to make sacrifices just like the Jews of old. If, however, we recognize that the messages of the Bible were written in context with the times, we can derive the deeper meaning and maintain the timeless messages it contains. In Deuteronomy 30:11-14, it's written "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." God calls to each of us in different ways, therefore his commandment to each of us is different, even if only in phrasing.

That said, back to the tract entitled "The One and Only God: Do You Know Him?" In I Chronicles 28:9, it's written "...for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee;..." I interpret this passage to read that whatever means man uses to worship God, even if not as proscribed in the Bible, God will realize what man's intent was. This is further backed up in II Chronicles 15:17 where it says, "But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days." What God does not want is for man to worship that "which were the work of the hands of man." (II Chronicles 32:19) And who is this God we are supposed to worship? In I John 4:8, we're told "God is love." It's really an amazing statement when time is taken to analyze it. It's the only place I've been able to find where it's written that God is what we consider an emotion. There are places where it's written God was angry or God hated the evil done by man, but no where does it say, "God is anger" or "God is hate." Love comes in many shapes, colors and forms. The love of a parent for a child is not exactly the same as the love a wife has for her husband. So how are we supposed to love? In Matthew 22:35-40, we're told by Jesus that the two greatest commandments are "to love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" and to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Therefore, when we love, we are in essence worshiping God. How we love is not important� II Chronicles 33:17 it's written "Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the Lord their God only." It's not what we call God, or how we worship him that's important. There are many sides or parts to God, just as their are many ideas in one mind. Ultimately, though, there is only one God, and God is love. So, to answer the question posed in the tract's title, yes, I do know God.

To answer the second tract, we must keep God's commandments to be saved. Those commandments are given by Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40. And in II John 1:5-6, it's written: "...not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it." In II Peter, 1:5-7, we're told again how we must live our lives. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love]." We must remember that we are our brother's keeper and seek to look out for him and let God look out for us. In doing so, we are doing what Jesus did� loving his neighbor as he loved himself while loving God with all his heart, soul and mind. And as Jesus found eternal happiness in heaven with God, so too will we if we live our lives as Jesus led his.

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share my beliefs with you. And thank you for sharing yours with me through the tracts provided. Since I know it costs money to print them, I have returned them to you that you may give them to someone else who may need them more than I.

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