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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Message- misunderstanding

I wasn't convinced about today's subject until reading two very sage blog posts beforehand.  Later on, I'll share links to them, but right now I don't want to distract from the point- which kinda is the point of the message.

You see, I heard a sermon today that touched upon our using the invisibility and non-physicality of the Holy Spirit to "understand" Him in any of many mistaken, anthropomorphic ways.  And as I was in John 13-14, I was also seeing how Jesus' words were being taken out of context, even by the knuckleheads who'd just followed Him around for the last three years.  And so, I made a list of the items just in John's Gospel that Jesus said and the people messed up, whether they said, "Amen" or not.


1- Miracles and magic tricks (Jn 1:47-50)

Nathaniel is amazed that Jesus could see him when He wasn't even there, and declares Him the Son Of God.  Jesus' response?

Joh 1:50  Jesus answered and said to him, Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.


In other words, a miracle is a result of faith, not faith itself.  What if some huckster with a partner and a two-way radio had done the same thing?  There shall come a time that this very thought process will be used by the Antichrist against the world.  Miracles should always compliment faith.  They are not the stuff of waving a magic wand.  Jesus had declared Nathaniel a Jew without guile, or deceit, because he questioned whether Phillip had actually found the Messiah.  That is the attitude- question.  And learn.

2- Coming to Jesus (2:1-5)

Our Catholic brethren are among the most faithful of God's people, so it is natural that Satan would heap a lot of misconceptions and mis-directions upon them.  The wedding at Cana is among the most powerful, for it becomes the excuse for coming to someone other than Jesus- be it Mary or some "saint"- in order to reach Jesus, when Jesus repeatedly tells us that none get to the Father EXCEPT through Him.  Where the Catholics see Cana as an example of Mary's intercession, they refuse to see that Jesus REFUSED Mary's intercession, and only acted after Mary told them "Do as HE says," and got out of the way.  Praying EXCEPT to Jesus is but a waste of time, when it is so much easier- and is HIS Word- to come to Him directly.

3- Spiritual speech as opposed to physical (3:4-20)

This is where Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law, asked two questions that got to the heart of the problem.  The first- how can I climb back into the womb now? when told he must be born again.  It seems ridiculous in a way, but we are asked to do something actually much harder- to mentally and spiritually become a whole new person.  The second, and often overlooked, was this passage:

Joh 3:9  Nicodemus answered and said to Him, How can these things be? 
Joh 3:10  Jesus answered and said to him, Are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things? 


The Scriptures testified of Jesus- of God's plan, of God's love, and how belief in both was necessary to be saved.  But like atheists who point out what happened to the poor Sodomites, the poor Canaanites, the poor Benjaminites, as examples that "Yahweh is a cruel God and not worth following", Nicodemus was reading the stories and missing the core meaning woven throughout all.


4- Tradition and booklearning ((4;6-26; 7:15)

Not long ago, a Facebook friend posted an article defending the Church Fathers" as being pre-eminent over the scriptures.  I caught one section in particular:

  •  "St. Augustine describes the type of person fit for the proper study and understanding of scripture in On Christian Doctrine. Fr. John Whiteford summarizes for us in his helpful tract on Sola scriptura. Such a person:
    1.Loves God with his whole heart, and is empty of pride;
    2.Is motivated to seek the knowledge of God’s will by faith and reverence, rather than pride or greed;
    3.Has a heart subdued by piety, a purified mind, dead to the world; neither fears, nor seeks to please men;
    4.Seeks nothing but knowledge of and union with Christ;
    5.Hungers and thirsts after righteousness; and
    6.Is diligently engaged in works of mercy and love.

    Absent from this description is the kind of Ph. D. they have acquired, the university that granted it, or a mastery of the finer points of Ancient Near Eastern history. While all of these things (the six points above) are great in their own right, they neither guarantee nor even suggest that a person with that sort of experience is equipped to understand the scriptures as part of holy tradition. Without rejecting scholarship, we must be careful to balance scholarship with the necessary holiness, piety, and mystical union with Christ—which can only take place in his Body, the apostolic and catholic Church—of the interpreter."  
So, to me, this is saying, knowing the Bible is great, but to really understand it, you must be a seminary graduate or equivalent, and that is why we need the Church Fathers and cannot rely on personal reading.  Which I suppose is true to a point, but answer this- Peter, the "Head of the Church"- what booklearning did he have?  He neither read nor studied under the Pharisees and scribes of his day.  Or, as Jesus put it:

Joh 7:14  Now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught.
Joh 7:15  And the Jews marveled, saying, How does this man know letters, not being taught? 
Joh 7:16  Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.
Joh 7:17  If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself.
Joh 7:18  He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
Joh 7:19  Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet not one of you keeps the Law! Why do you seek to kill Me? 

So here, Jesus brought out two points: one, God is our teacher, our ultimate authority, and He teaches whom He chooses; and second, many of those who were "learned" hadn't the first clue of what they should have learned.

Which is much like the discussion of tradition between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.  She brought up three things to defend tradition- and they are actually three worst things about tradition.  First, "I am a child of Abraham."  This was like me, using the phrase, "That's okay, I'm a Catholic" when two friends tried to bring me to Christ.  Jesus would later tell the priests, "I can make descendants for Abraham out of these rocks".  I had a discussion a while back on this same friend's site when he posted the meme "I am a Roman Catholic (big letters), and I believe in Jesus Christ (small print)".  You wouldn't believe the derision I got from one lady who disagreed with my point that the focus should be on the second, not the first.

Second, the woman told Jesus, "Our Fathers did thus and so..."  We're only doing as we were told.  I thank God I was never like that.  When I was a teen, I told my Dad I was registering to vote as an independent.  "We are Democrats," he said.  I replied, "maybe you are... I want to choose for myself."  Counting tradition higher than the Word of God is just like that.  It takes away your option to learn, to choose.  To see what Jesus REALLY meant.

Third, she was more worried about WHERE to worship than HOW to worship.  Jesus didn't say, you must go to this denomination, this group, or this building.  He said, Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth.  Period.  The person who argued against me had a real hard time with Mark 9:40/Matthew 12:30/Luke 9:50- a point important enough to make it into 3 of 4 Gospels:

Luk 9:49  And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out demons in Your name. And we prevented him, because he does not follow us.
Luk 9:50  And Jesus said to him, Do not prevent him, for he who is not against us is for us. 

If I am not a Catholic, I am a heretic.  Simple as that.  That is the gift of prioritizing the Church Fathers.

5- Example and the simplicity of it all ( 6:60; chapter 13)

As this is getting windy, I'll finish up here with two quick ones.  Chapter 6 contains the discourse on the "eat My Flesh and drink My Blood" thing.  Which of course, the Church Fathers turned into the whole distracting and unnecessary transubstantiation debate, and the disciples turned into a difficult teaching (while the Pharisees and Romans turned into a cannibalism thing).  The point is easy if you read the WHOLE thing:  Even manna, the food from heaven itself, was just food.  What God was giving them now would feed their souls.  But, to be worthwhile, this Bread would have to be crucified in our name- and we would have to share in it.  But tied up in the parable-like phrasing, the people who weren't willing to look beyond their stomachs said, this is too hard.  So Jesus boiled it down.  No one can come to me except as granted by My Father in Heaven.  But they were still trying to dope out having a Jesus-and-mayo sandwich, and gave up.

Jesus taught by example.  By actions beyond mere words.  Peter messed that up- one of many times- when he rejected Jesus washing His feet.  The point was to be willing to humble yourself before others.  Jesus didn't mind, because He knew the Glory that awaited Him.  Peter only saw his hero acting like a slave.  The Bible doesn't make things hard.  Jesus didn't make things hard.  We make them hard.

Isn't it time to follow Jesus' example and hit the easy button?  Not that the doing is easy, far from it.  But if you REALLY hear what He's saying- rejecting the physical, the traditional, the "learned"- the UNDERSTANDING is a piece of cake.

The links I promised:  


Disconnected's Is God Dead?

19 comments:

  1. CW-

    As a Catholic, you seem to infer a couple of things in your comments above that have been aimed at me by many non-Catholic Christians as their evidence of the flaws o Catholicism (if I am misinterpreting, I apologize in advance).

    First one- the Catholic Church does not teach us to pray to Mary instead of praying to Jesus.

    They teach us to revere Mary as His mother, and teach us to pray to Mary in addition to praying to Jesus. The same is true regarding prayers to the saints.

    The second one refers to your Catholic friend's post.

    As a child in the Philadelphia suburbs, I spent nine years in a Catholic school.

    I do not remember much in the way of teaching or preaching regarding other Christian faiths.

    We were taught (I believe objectively) about the Protestant movement, but I do not recall any kind of a judgment call aimed at those faiths.

    In Arizona, the former pastor at the Catholic church I attending for years often referred to "our Protestant brothers and sisters," and I believe he was sincere.

    Getting to my point finally, I think most Catholics would also agree that believing in Jesus Christ has far more emphasis than identifying as a Roman Catholic.

    In fact, I would posit that one cannot identify as a Roman Catholic unless one first believes in Jesus Christ.

    This is a little sensitive subject for me, and I seem to encounter many non-Catholic Christians aiming criticism at the Catholic church.

    I once had a hundred dollars worth of merchandise on the counter at a Christian book store, and when the proprietor heard I was Catholic he made a snide comment ("I'll pray for your soul" or something to that effect). I left the items on the counter and walked out empty-handed.

    I do not believe the Catholic church is flawless-any organization run by men has to be flawed by definition.

    I do believe that Christians who waste time arguing whose denomination is the right one are missing the point of Christianity.

    As much as most non-Catholic Christians will say that faith alone, not works, will save you, I have always believed that you cannot have one without the other.

    If Christians want to inspire non-Christians to seek out Jesus, in my mind, the best way is to let their works (actions) set an example.

    Fighting about the differences in dogma between Lutheranism and Catholicism (or insert any other denomination you like) does not put our best foot forward.

    Larry

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  2. Point by point, my friend:
    1- I am a former Catholic, spent 8 years in school at St Louis Besancon, and have nothing against Catholics (which I believe I made clear in the Cana idea). I have a pretty good feel for both sides.

    2- In addition is what I am saying is unnecessary. Jesus' death tore the curtain so that we can all go in through Him. It is my belief that the Cana incident proves this, although I can see where the Church feels differently. And I was not attempting to bring up the worship debate, although I think that the Catholic Church dances far too close to doing just that. In any event, praying to Mary is just putting someone between yourself and Jesus IMHO.

    3- A lot of the things I have said about the Church's feelings about other denominations are not based on what the Church teaches, but what a lot of vocal Catholics with whom I've had contact believe. And in my Father's day, they WERE taught that going into another denomination's building was a excommunication offense (at least that was the impression my parents had), though by the time I came around that had apparently loosened up, as our school took us on a field trip that included a Lutheran church and a Synagogue.

    4- Our late Bishop in this Diocese, was a good Christian IMHO who was seemingly much like the pastor you described. He believed both in his Church and being born again, and had no problems with Protestant brothers, nor I with him. Again, I have fought with "Catholics" who are all or nothing , and the part about if I'm not a Catholic, I'm a heretic WAS a quote from one of them.

    My purpose in bringing these incidents up is first to expose intolerance, second to point out where the Church and the Bible have differences, and third to try to explain what I believe is the true Biblical POV. If I meant them to bash the Church, I'd be kinda stupid trying as hard as I do to find a Christmas midnight mass to listen to every year.

    5- What a surprise that there is bigotry on BOTH sides, eh? Some protestants HAVE to believe that Catholics are lost and some Catholics HAVE to believe that all non Catholics are heretics. And I believe that that is because they have to prop up their weak faith by bashing that of others.

    6- We are in absolute agreement on your last five sentences. I have watched whole post lines arguing the faith/works thing, and eventually try to step in and say 1) this is two ways of saying the same thing, and 2) that it is a waste of time if we serve the One Lord.

    7- I hope you didn't think that this was a "hey Catholics, wake up" post. Although there were several points which I was able to flesh out better because of past battles, my point is for EVERYONE to look at the misunderstandings. They didn't have denominations back then and they STILL misunderstood, even with Christ right there. Just like when I challenged my FB friend on the meme, I want EVERYONE to focus on Christ first. If you were linked to the Catholic friends and their friends that I am, you'd see that there is a lot of Catholic "Crusaders" out there who's idea of eveangelism is the cutting down of Sola Scriptura and other evangelical beliefs. I imagine you may be getting the reverse of that with your contacts.

    I placed a lot of importance in my mind when I wrote, "Our Catholic brethren are among the most faithful of God's people, so it is natural that Satan would heap a lot of misconceptions and mis-directions upon them. " I truly believe that. I don't see Mary, transubstantiation, et al, as sins. I see them as distractions. If I can say one thing to Catholics out there, I t would be the same thing I say to protestants- DON'T GET DISTRACTED FROM THE POINT.

    And that is what this post was about. Hope you understand.

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    1. I came back to check your reply and hate the way I worded my comment-in fact I had meant to include a disclaimer that I was probably missing something by reading too fast (a bad habit of mine).

      I suspected we were probably on similar pages (having read a lot of your posts in the past I thought our core views were close, although mine is based on far less actual study than yours).

      I do think the Catholic Church introduces many ideas to help their congregation.

      Another Catholic concept I've gotten grief over over the years is the sacrament of penance.

      Most non-Catholics dismiss the whole concept, saying "you don't need a priest to be forgiven."

      I think the Church knows that, but also knows that many people need help forgiving themselves.

      In a society where it seems like everyone has a therapist, I see the Catholic Church as being ahead of their time.

      And you can talk to a priest for free. No copay!

      Is it necessary? No.

      Is it a bad idea? I'd say again, no.

      I no longer feel the need to go to a priest to confess my sins-I usually know I've sinned almost as I commit the act, and feel pretty lousy right then. I try not to repeat the act.

      Were I to do something of more significance than my normal level of transgression, who knows?

      Maybe I'd need to talk to someone. And it would be a priest, or maybe the pastor at the church I have been frequenting of late. Certainly not a psychiatrist.

      I wonder if there may have been a similar motivation for the Church's introduction of prayers to the Virgin Mary.

      So while I am not sure I'd agree with the term distraction, I would agree that the focal point still needs to be Christ.

      You are also right in that there are zealots of all denominations. Catholics are no different than any other slice of humanity.

      I believe Christians should stop trying to find ways to divide ourselves.

      A good way to do that is to remember that there is One who is our common denominator.

      And He would probably not look for ways to exclude his brethren.

      Larry

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    2. First, I agree on the sacrament of penance. I know I need only go to Christ- but I remember the first time and how good it felt.

      Unfortunately, we had a hard of hearing priest at the time, and when I was probably a sophomore in high school, they changed the prayers you're supposed to say, installed a light in the confessional, and posted the prayers... but not a 1) do this, 2) do that list. So I came in, whispered, "Bless me father, my last confession was x weeks ago... what am I supposed to do now?"

      Long pause.

      "Is that all?"

      Another pause, complete with little devil jumping on shoulder. "Uh, yes..."

      "Say 4 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys, (mumble mumble mumble in a Lithuanian accent) and God Bless you."

      Thus ended my use of the confessional.

      I'd have to say IMHO the Mary thing is more like, as the Saints, an example of the Early Church trying to co-opt the gods the pagan used to worship for new "gods". If faith in Mary helps one get closer to Jesus, then more power you the worshipper; but I know too many "rosary sodality" types that have virtual shrines to Mary in their homes. I think the Church's allowance of Mary prayers opens the door wide to possible abuse.


      That may sound like I have bitterness issues with the Church. I don't, I learned too much at the feet of priests and nuns for that. I just like to help people who may be stuck, like the woman at the well, "doing what our fathers did", to open their eyes a bit.

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    3. Coming back to this late-I do not mind criticism of the Church-I have plenty.

      I seem to meet a lot of people who want to discredit the whole church on what I feel are small points (meat on Fridays, the books of the Bible they recognize and others do not).

      I don't know the history of the practice of praying to Mary, so maybe it does go as far back as the early days and is an example of the Church co-opting a pagan practice (like the celebration of Christ's birth near the winter solstice, and Easter near the spring equinox).

      But maybe it was simply a way to liven up saying the rosary...

      I think all of the scripted prayers are meant to get one in the practice of prayer, and over time you're supposed to establish your own dialog with Christ.

      Some people are only going to do as they are told, and I think the Church recognized that, and that's where a lot of the ritual an by rote practice comes from.


      I think a lot of Catholics, myself included, never take what they learned as a child and then apply it as an adult. So I was almost forty before I understood confession, and I am fifty-three and still figuring out prayer.

      I don't know that the allowance of prayer to Mary sets the stage for abuse, but I will set myself out as an example that reliance scripted prayers can keep one from finding his own dialogue with God.

      I have never felt one, but find I pray more in the way I was taught in grade school than in an open conversation. Partly those prayers help me clear my mind, but maybe there's a discipline I might have developed years ago that I am searching for now.

      It was great to be Catholic and go to confession.
      You could start over every week.

      -from "A Bronx Tale"

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    4. My Mom read from her prayer book every morning after Dad went to work. I believe it worked for her... I believe God allows you to find your own right way.

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  3. I am not a church goer, used to be, every week in fact but for some reason we just stop going but that doesn't mean I don't believe or that I don't pray, I do both and I believe in the power of prayer..............just saying...........I like these posts most of them really talk to me

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    1. You don't have to be a "church goer" to have faith... it's all about you and Jesus one-on-one.

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    2. I wanted to echo that thought. I stopped attending Catholic services in eighth grade, resuming them at age 35. I went to confession, and the priest made a joke about not kneeling to confess more than twenty years of sins, and basically said, you're forgiven, attend mass (Catholics believe you cannot take communion if you've missed mass, a practice I still follow when I attend Catholic services).

      That's when it dawned on me that God does not suffer if I do not attend services.

      I do not BENEFIT when I do not attend services.

      One of the strongest Christians I know has not (to my knowledge) attended a service of any kind in the sixteen or so years I have known him, but the things he does on his own to both honor and become closer to Christ far outweigh the average church-goer's commitment.

      I think if you find the right person doing the preaching, there can be a benefit to attending services-that's how I have ended up at the non-denomination church I attend. Besides the music being AWESOME, the pastor's sermons speak to me.

      But I do not feel that church attendance is what makes a Christian. As you say, CW-that's between the individual and Jesus.

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  4. Great Great post and comments all above. I also was Catholic for 35 years and attended Catholic schools up until high school . I attend a non-denomination church as well but will admit that occasionally I miss the Pomp and Circumstance of the robes and incense, etc. I am proud of my background and still refer back to most Catholic prayers when i'm in need. I know that God listens no matter what church I attend now.

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    1. Me, too. And I can still smell incense from fifty yards away!

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  5. BROTHER MARTIN ~
    I found your take on Mary and Jesus to be particularly interesting. That order of events had not dawned on me, but the moment I read it I thought: Bingo! Good call!

    By no stretch of the imagination do I think anyone needs to "be a seminary graduate or equivalent" to understand The Bible. But nor do I think "we need the Church Fathers and cannot rely on personal reading". (My personal belief is that some of the "Church fathers" were sometimes as wrong as they were right. And by Church fathers I am not referring to the apostles as quoted in The Bible, but to those who came later and studied what the apostles and others had written.)

    Yeshua clearly told us that if we believed and our hearts were in the right place (condition, open, receptive - however one wants to phrase it) that The Holy Spirit would come to us and teach us all we need to know.

    I believe that because I have found it to be so. But I also believe that God knows best how each individual needs to learn the Truth of The Bible and life. I have learned far more from The Holy Bible by simply studying it, meditating on it, and praying about it than I have learned from Church Fathers or modern Christian writers. (And I suspect this is the same with you, as I can tell by your Sunday blog bits.)

    However, I have definitely learned some things from others as well: from fellow believers, and from Christian writers (some of who learned what they know from studying the Church Fathers).

    Once, many years ago, I found a riddle in The Bible that I couldn't decipher. I pondered it for years and got nowhere with it, but by faith I knew that someday God would reveal the answer to me. And I was right. It probably took 10 years or more, but one day I was reading a particular book authored by a Christian when suddenly - voila! - there was the answer to my puzzle printed on a page.

    So, sometimes it takes faith and a lot of patience - and, yes, sometimes The Holy Spirit will use something said by a Church father or more modern Christian writer to teach us some lessons and impart some wisdom - but I believe that nothing is really necessary beyond faith, willingness and eagerness to learn, and being receptive to The Holy Spirit's way of teaching, regardless of the method the Spirit chooses.

    As you said, the veil was torn at Christ's crucifixion and then we all had the same access to God through Christ's sacrifice and the ability to learn all the essentials directly, individually, from God's Holy Spirit.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Since we are in such good agreement, I will only add one thing. A while back, it was presented to me (from somewhere) that the Bible never mentions what happened to the treasure of the Magi. It was theorized that the family lived off of it to some extent, both in Egypt and after Joseph's passing.

      After that, it occurred to me (or was brought up by the same source, I don't remember which), the question- why would the wine stewards ask Mary about the wine? Jesus had yet to perform a miracle. Thus, I'm guessing, she must have been a mother to the bride or groom- or throwing the feast for a relative. It was then that I saw the truth of something I puzzled over for years- why had Jesus reacted as He did, and STILL performed the miracle? I guess knowing (or theorizing on) the backstory helped me clear the mental block on the important part.

      It also reminds me of listening to a show one night where a guest was asked about infant baptism in light of Ephesians 2:8-9. The answer? "Of course we believe we are saved by grace alone. And by baptizing the infant, we are calling grace down upon the child..." Like the Cana thing, it just seems backwards theology.

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    2. Didn't Life Of Brian solve the mystery of the Gift?

      The wise men were welcome to come back with more gold and frankincense...but never mind the myrrh...

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  6. Hi, CW.
    I think you know I'm a Jewish gal. I'm not sure if you're suggesting, by quoting John above, that the Jews sought to kill Jesus. We didn't. Jesus was one of us. The Romans sought to kill and did kill Jesus. Anyway, that's all I want to say. Plus, can't we all just get along? We all want the same thing, in theory, in scripture, and in our hearts (those of us who are the good ones, at least), right?
    Smiles.
    xoRobyn

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    1. No, Robyn, no anti-Semite here. The quote, just as Jesus intended, was trying to get Nicodemus to understand that, as a teacher of the Law, he should- and the other Pharisees should- know better than to have in their minds the plans they had for Jesus.

      Now, those plans, for a few of them, would grow to include having Him killed. That's not on the Romans- Pilate tried everything he could to get them to leave Jesus off with just a lashing. It is on the leaders of the time, the people that went along, and you and me for committing the sins that necessitated putting Him on the Cross. So I would have to say it is a Jewish responsibility (Zechariah 12:10- ""And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son."- but not a Jewish blame. We all fall short, we all need the salvation. I know there are some Christians who down through the centuries hated and still hate Jews for the "murder of Jesus." To me, those "Christians" are just haters looking for a ready excuse. I do not have it in me to hate Israel- I see too much of my own stubborn self in their story, and learn too much from their experiences. Hope that helps!

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    2. I have experienced similar narrow-minded Christians (holding a grudge against Jews for the crucifixion) and find the idea dumber than when Clinton wanted to apologize for slavery.

      This all happened a couple of millennia ago. I'm pretty sure the people involved have died by now.

      I'm also pretty sure that the reason Jesus was made flesh was to die for our sins, so the whole event was somewhat preordained.

      Finally, I am also pretty sure Jesus forgave them.

      In a world full of WWJD bumper stickers, shouldn't those narrow minds be a little more forgiving as well?

      LC

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