About this Blog

This blog is for those attracted to Jesus but who question the traditional baggage often attached to his message, so it has two large areas of focus.

The first area of focus is learning who Jesus is, what he says about the Father, and how we should relate to the Father, to ourselves, and to others. The second focus is examining major baggage issues that often detract from following Jesus freely.

I grew up a fundamentalist and later became an evangelical. As I examined my beliefs, I discarded a lot of baggage that was added to the good news of Jesus, and I hope to help and support others who are on the same journey.

The Intended Audience for this Blog

If you are concerned about unreasonable baggage (rules and beliefs) often associated with Jesus, then this blog is for you. It is a message of Jesus without baggage.

1. First and foremost, this blog is meant as a support for those questioning beliefs they have been taught as true, or even essential. This can be an extremely frightening process, so this blog is a safe place for interaction, questions, and support.

Those escaping religious baggage sometimes abandon Jesus along with it and feel the loss. We are here to say that baggage is not part of Jesus’ message to us; you can certainly follow Jesus without it.

I don’t claim to be an ‘authority’, and I certainly don’t want to become an authority figure to replace authority figures people are escaping. I believe everyone should decide issues for themselves, but I am pleased if this blog provides information and help on the journey. The regular readers and commenters also give a great deal of support.

2. The second intended audience are those already on a spiritual journey from religious baggage and would like confirmation or conversation from friendly co-travelers. Readers here interact freely with me and with other readers. It is nice to be part of a community of like-minded persons, especially when you might not have that in your local area.

3. Finally, this blog is for those interested in Jesus but not the traditional baggage often associated with him, whether or not they identify as followers of Jesus. It is also for those who simply enjoy discussion and interaction on these important topics.

Objectives

Let me make a clear statement. Many conservative believers and many atheist will disagree strongly with my views, but my purpose is not to persuade anyone to accept my perspectives on Jesus, the Father, or the Bible.

My objectives are:

  • To offer for your consideration a foundation for following Jesus without baggage
  • To offer support and conversation for those interested in Jesus without baggage or in the concepts involved

I am happy if my understanding of Jesus without baggage makes sense to you and is helpful; but it does not bother me in the least if you don’t agree with my understanding. I respect your right to your beliefs even if you disagree with everything I think.

The Meaning of Jesus without Baggage

Since the death of Jesus’ earliest followers, certain views have become accepted as ‘truth’ and those who disagree with these ‘truths’ are often excluded from the Church and are no longer considered part of God’s family. This is baggage.

I was raised a fundamentalist, which is an extreme form of evangelicalism, and I fully embraced Jesus at a very early age and accepted a lot of religious baggage along with that choice. Over time, I discovered that much of the baggage I accepted was not legitimate. I first abandoned legalism–the keeping of religious rules, but I also dealt with other baggage that came as part of my religious tradition.

However, I did not abandon Jesus. I still find the person of Jesus, as described by his earliest followers, intensely compelling. He resolves my alienation from the Father, myself, and other people, and he provides eternal life in his death and resurrection. Jesus is the most important thing in my life.

He included me in his invitation

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

I accept his invitation, and the invitation comes without baggage.

Major Baggage Issues

Most issues on which followers of Jesus disagree are not alarming or destructive, but some are very harmful. The elements of harmful baggage I see among Christians today:

  1. The belief that the Father is an angry, capricious, vindictive God
  2. The concept of eternal punishment and torture in hell
  3. An insistence that the Bible is somehow inerrant in every word
  4. An over-emphasis on rules and doctrinal requirements
  5. Commitment to a literal approach to the creation stories in Genesis
  6. Disapproval and rejection of gay people

These views are not only misguided, but they create burdens instead of freedom and are harmful to our relationships to the Father, ourselves, and other people. We will discuss these and other issues, and their ramifications here.

To all the groups mentioned above–and more, I invite you to explore Jesus without baggage.

~Tim Chastain

182 Responses to About this Blog

  1. Jackie says:

    Is there an actual religion that follows Jesus without all the baggage

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Good question, Jackie. If you find one, please let me know! I will say that there are individual churches that come much closer to avoiding baggage, while there are many churches that are FILLED with so much baggage that the message of Jesus is almost buried.

      If we are seeking for a group without baggage, I think the best we can do is to find one that is close enough to the place on our journey that we can be comfortable with it. Anytime there are people together, there will be some understandings that differ and ideas that vary on the best ways to follow Jesus. I think the key in our personal following of Jesus is to focus on loving people appropriately and to continually reflect on the good news message of Jesus.

      A group need not be perfect in order to follow Jesus effectively; in fact, there is no perfect group because none of us is perfect. But that does not mean we cannot accept each other and benefit from our shared kinship in Jesus.

      • Chas says:

        For me, that group/place is here.

      • Tom M. says:

        I went primarily to Baptist Churches when I was younger and most of those that I went to added a whole heap of extra “baggage” to believing in Jesus.
        The sad part is that I did believe…and still do…in the core beliefs that they taught but it was all that extra man-made “baggage” that kept me feeling a bit distant.

        After years of not attending Church I decided that I was going to explore several until I found one where the emphasis was on the love and acceptance of God.
        After visiting about a half of a dozen churches in my area I was lucky enough to find a Nazarene Church that, while holding all of the key doctrines I believe in, puts the emphasis wholly upon the love of God and our need for Jesus.
        I have been attending that Church for about a year and half now and feel at home in a local congregation for the first time.
        My point is that sometimes you have to keep looking until you find your own Church “home” which is a good fit for you as an individual.

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Tom, I am so pleased that you discarded the baggage but not Jesus. The right congregation makes all the difference in benefitting from the believing community.

  2. consultgtf says:

    Yes, As human I will fulfill all my duties only when I think, I am being watched and will be punished if I don’t follow the rules! How many of us will disagree with this confession, as I am born with free will, which I would like to test.
    If I can assume and change GOD, thinking that things will change accordingly, there can’t be a better fool than me!
    but this is/was tried by many, by so called intellectuals and kings, conducted elections to FINALISE GOD?

    And today after creating and worshiping new God, After 1690 years nothing has changed except, we suffer more and dying a pathetic.

    God is God,(I AM WHO I AM) as He commanded,
    “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the house of bondage.
    3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

    4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

    5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”;

  3. Lemon says:

    @Jackie, I think that Universalists follow Jesus’s teachings but do not believe in hell or a wrathful God. We have a church called Circular Congregational who hold similar beliefs and are a Christian church. They exclude no one and even perform gay marriages. Great blog, Tim!

  4. lee says:

    I have come to believe these tenants. Hope there are more people who do as well.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Lee, there seem to be a rapidly growing number of believers who think this way. I am glad you are one of them!

  5. Cliff Jackson says:

    A missionary to the lost sheep outside and, especially, inside the fold, I, too, exhaust myself with religion and religiosity. Vainly, for years on end I carry on, misunderstood and pilloried by atheists and religionists alike, speaking their language, intersecting their lives, feeling their pain and confusion.

    Sometimes I despair.

    Then I withdraw a bit to re-energize, bloodied, scar tissue concealing the true cost: the wounds inflicted not by the atheists but by His own who know not what they do.

    His own who know the words but not their meaning, who chant the lyrics but hear no music, who bow and scrape to (their literalistic understanding of) every jot and tittle but know not the living Spirit residing in them, who religious-speak a time-warped language rather than understandable English, who sacrifice the very love of Christ upon the altar of the shibboleths of Holy Dogma.

    And at such times I crave the company of saintly sinners, authentic atheists, because they are real people, not religious robots parroting programmed mantras in robot-speak.

    My despair is deep. I just want to give up on them. The chasm is too wide. Between them and me a vast gulf is fixed.

    And it is lightless, a void, without hope or meaning, two parallel worlds, the only bridge my weary mind extending tendrils, paltry words, vainly into the darkness toward the other side.

    My shredded, bloodied Self, not fully crucified, rebels against His yoke, no longer easy but exhausting, futile, and Darkness calls my name: “It’s okay. You don’t have to do this anymore. You can give up. Simply curse God and die. Leave them in their literalistic legalism, for they are happy in the harbor of certitude.”

    But giving up is not in my nature so long as I have voice to speak for the voiceless, power to assert for the powerless, spiritual wrongs to be righted. Others walk away, vote with their feet and their pocketbooks. Not me. I re-join the fray.

    Because, you see, when I was lost and undone, He reached way down for me. When I was near to despair, He came to me there. And He told me that I could be free.

    Yes, He set me free, of this I give testimony here in the darkness between the two worlds: My Jesus set me free, giving me hope for my despair, peace for my troubled mind, and rest for my weary soul.

    I must freely give that which I have received. So I trudge on.

    As do you, my fellow sojourner on this road.

    Nice to find you! It is always better not to be alone, no?

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Cliff, I agree that interaction with some believers can be painful, but they are our brothers and sisters. I really like the sentiment you expressed though: “I crave the company of saintly sinners, authentic atheists, because they are real people.”

      It is wonderful to have a few fellow sojourners in life. It was nice to discover you, as well. It IS better not to be alone.

      • Thank you! I have extensive Facebook Notes, many on religious issues. Some are “out there”, probably beyond your parameters, especially my Daliesque “weirdest Easter sermon” in which I explore the nature of time, alternate/parallel universes, and alien “Jesuses”, in short, the ultimate expansionist view of the Resurrection.

        Would it shatter my faith if intelligent alien life is found in our universe? Nope. Nor other universes. God, the Creature lurking behind it all, is in control, n’est pas?

        Btw, please feel free to share any of my Facebook Notes you think might benefit your readers, and I will do the same. I am going to start at your second blog piece, having read the first, and go progressively through them. Over time, I will probably share them all. Thanks for thinking your thoughts and for sharing them!

  6. Tara says:

    Hi Tim,
    I first started my search today on Google and I am glad I read your blog. My problem with baggage is that I am a feminist and for the past year and a half I have struggled because I grew up in a Christian home and I still go to church but I feel so out of place because I do not agree with the oppression of women and that’s exactly what the bible says. I also believe in equal rights for all including the LGBT which most churches have a huge issue with. I know so many people who say you can’t choose bits and pieces of the bible to believe in but that’s exactly what I do because I refuse to believe and follow some of the stuff included in the bible. So now I ask myself, then what do I call myself, because it seems impossible to be a Christian and a feminist at the same time, though I do believe I am a Christian?!?

    • Chas says:

      Tara, when you say that you are a feminist, what does that mean?

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tara, I am glad you found the blog as well. Women are oppressed in many churches, and it is just wrong. I believe women (and girls) have the same value and access to the Father that men have. Often churches and leaders promote Patriarchy, in which women are subject to men, but this is misguided and unbiblical.

      I hope you visit again soon!

  7. SallyA says:

    I am intrigued, seeking, and hopeful.

  8. Amy Haiken says:

    Tim, I’m so glad to see new entries! I love your positive message and outlook.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thank you Amy! I was interrupted from my usual cycle for a few months due to circumstances beyond my control. It is good to hear from you!

  9. eduardo martinez says:

    Hi to all. I’m a former ex Jehovah’s witnesses. And atheist for 13 years after I was disfellowship. I love to read and i’m proud of my critical thinking, I won’t fall in any other cult like org. Six months ago I was reading about Jesus, and after read Acts 7 59,60, my heart shook. I discovered I never knew him, so after reading and reading I happen to like him a lot, and be grateful for what he did for us; I always considered selfish from Jehovah to kill his son to vindicate his name, I wouldn’t do that to my son, but to think that God himself came to earth and suffer like us and died for us, well, that’s empathy and love. And after prayed for the first time in some years, I found peace and I knew he was listening to me. Anyway, my critical thinking is still on, and I don’t believe an actual flood happened, nor that some people will suffer for eternity in a literal hell, I don’t believe the bible is supposed to be taken literal or that is without errors; I’d like to say, the critical mind God gave me can’t handle that. And I can’t stand people who are judgmental or dogmatic like my former “brothers”, cause I find that unloving. Are there others like me? Your blog has helped me a lot to understand Jesus. And to know that I’m not alone loving him without baggage.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Welcome Eduardo! I read a lot too and depend on critical thinking. It does bring into question the validity of some beliefs we are taught, doesn’t it? I am glad you now have a strong relationship with Jesus–that is the most important thing of all. And a healthy relationship with Jesus produces love instead of dogmatism, judgmentalism, and condemnation.

      Good luck on your continued journey!

    • Chas says:

      I wonder to what extent judgmental or dogmatic behavior comes as the result of doubt in the minds of people who behave this way. Maybe they are fighting to retain a house that is built on sand. My Dad, who certainly did not believe, was able to undermine Jehovah’s Witnesses by merely pointing out that they believed that only 144,000 people were to go to Heaven and asking them how they knew that they were among that number. It seems that they were unable to reply.

  10. Nan says:

    I’m no longer a believer having left “the church” over 15 years ago. The last church services I attended were at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. At the time, they were most definitely without the “baggage” and were all about worship. I don’t know if this is how they are today, but for anyone looking to fellowship with like-minded people in the faith, it might be worth checking out.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Nan. I was never involved in Vineyard, but I read about it a good bit when it was first coming to people’s attention and for the next ten years or so. In fact, I had a very close friend who was part of Vineyard, and he was among the most balanced people I knew.

    • Chas says:

      Nan, you say that you are no longer a believer, although you give the impression that you liked the Vineyard Christian Fellowship experience. What caused you to cease to believe?

    • Deborah says:

      All I can say to fifteen years ago is way to long to tell any one to check it out. I attended the vineyard church for years. I was even a Sunday school teacher which is the one thing, I did right. The vineyard in it’s thoughts and ways are changing so fast I fear for them that they are losing their first love. I would not tell any one to go there. I love Jesus and I realize none of us have it all right. I think there is more to that story of the tower of Babel. God confused them for a reason. Think about it. I think God wants it to be one on one first because he knew when we come as a group we will try to take over and make it about us. I thank Jesus every day and do my best to let other people know what I am about.I am about Jesus and saving Grace and Love for me.I refuse to shrink back from man and most people I meet respect this and tell me I will have to think about it.Let’s get more people to think about Jesus. God the Father is able to do the rest. Loving Jesus is the best thing I will ever do!

  11. John Messimer says:

    I have been an Episcopalian all of my life and not saying there has been baggage in the past. We seem to be dealing with a lot of the doctrinal items that kept us from truly expressing the Gospel, such as female clergy, gay ordination and gay marriage. I truly sense we are very aware of the past baggage and the new baggage some wish to bring forward or at least hang on to the old baggage. In all of this I have never lost the abiding faith in Jesus, only strengthened my belief that our only law is to love one another as he loved us.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      John, as you point out–religious baggage is not limited to fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. All traditions carry some amount of baggage they need to work through.

  12. Carol Allen says:

    ALL I HAVE TO SAY IS I AM A CHRISTIAN AND WOW-WOW -WOW

  13. Mike says:

    Thank you for this.
    due to events on my life I needed spiritual healing and I found a great church with a great community of people. I honestly can’t buy into the contradictions and negativity that floods the stories in the bible. I do believe however that Jesus was a MAN who did die for what he believed in. Salvation for mankind. Anyway, I am glad to have found at least one person who feels like I do

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Mike, I am so glad you found a great church for you; I know how good it is to find one! And I am also happy that you seem to have enjoyed what you found here. There is so many baggage beliefs that get in the way of hearing and following Jesus.

      Be sure to let me know if you think I can help in any way.

      Have a great day! ~Tim

  14. tony says:

    I believe in Jesus, but i dont fully believe everything in the bible!
    If i could i would love a bible with just the red bits of what Jesus sais! Any such thing? Appart from cutting my bible up! Lol…
    I really do find all the rules in Religion alot of rubbish & rubbish made by men & not GOD!
    GOD would not set one lot of people against another or send plagues to people!
    I really cant believe some Christians believe all that stuff! And then ya hear GOD works in strange ways! No i think thats people!
    I believe in Jesus & i think some things he said was taken wrong by people too & thats why one reason i would probebly not be accepted in ya everyday church! I also believe Jesus was very much into getting people to realise just how powerful we truely are & to tell us that GOD is within everything & always is!
    be nice to meet like minded people 😃

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tony, I was raised with a lot of that religious baggage, but I have worked through much of it and now I would not be considered acceptable by many churches either. However, as I have learned–there are a LOT of us in that situation, and it is nice that a number of us are able to interact with each other here. Like-minded people, as you say.

      Welcome to Jesus without baggage! I hope you continue to visit and interact as you feel inclined.

  15. Camryn says:

    Thank you so much. I definitely identify with the first person you said this is for. I got tired of the church and of God and completely dropped Jesus along with it. I definitely missed feeling the comfort of Christ being my savior but still felt that the rest of Christianity was a bunch of bull. I’m glad to hear others are the same way. I was always taught “you can’t take bits and pieces of the bible.”

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Camryn, I have discovered over the past few years that there are a LOT of people who are the same way. And I am happy to say that some of them, like you, find support in this blog and others.

      I hope you continue visiting and that you participate as you feel inclined. We don’t have all the answers, but please let me know if you feel I can be of help to you. You can even contact me by email if you prefer (see Contact on the menu band at the top of each page).

  16. Jesus is a person, not a religion. As a new Christian, it was hard for me to decipher the difference between religion and a genuine walk of faith in Christ. God has been faithful to show me the difference and my journey has many points in common with yours. I really don’t fare too well with religious folks and it helps me to know that Jesus didn’t either. It was unspiritual, religious leaders who put Jesus on the cross. Now, the same kind of people try to keep Him there!

  17. Tim. Love your site. I’m C of E (English Anglican, like you Episcopalians) by tradition, though increasingly coming to terms with a personal revelation I had — That Christianity is essentially life without bull****; that the rituals, rules and strictures are exactly what He did not want us to follow, but came to free us from. Cheers. Miles.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks Miles! I hope you continue to visit–and interact if you so desire.

      • Thanks, Tim – I will.

        I went for a walk today, to think. I’ve recently decided to leave my church. Not a particularly fundamentalist crowd (C of E, like I said), but a very conservative (Tory, over here). I found that I could not reconcile the hypocrisy of congratulating ourselves on raising £700 for Christian Aid while most subscribe to a political party that perpetuates the need for the most hard-pressed in my country to rely on food banks to survive.

        • On top of this, I began to wonder if the smells and bells and ritual were really necessary – None of that in the Gospels. Then I got to thinking of Jesus’ teachings: Basically taking the power from the priests and giving it to the proles; making all food clean and emphasising that what’s in you heart is what counts. End of. That’s why I see the likes of Islam, which came later and went boosh — here’s a another nice fat rule-book, with the utmost suspicion.

          • Sorry – You’ll notice that I’m new to this WordPress malarky and haven’t figured out how to edit.

            Anyway, for sometime I’ve also critically studied scripture and though “really?”. I’ve increasingly come to accept that Jesus is God Incarnate, not God Inlibrate (i.e. in book form). I’ve ultimately come to the point where I desire Jesus in my life without, as you say, the baggage.

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Yes Miles, I often find commenting on less familiar formats to be a bit tricky as well, but I think everything came through in a clear sequence.

        I wish you a good transition as you leave the Church of England. I think it is important for a person to find a community that is sufficiently compatible with their beliefs and tastes. I personally do not care for the highly liturgical services of some services, but I know it suits other people very well. And I also have difficulty that seem to align with a political party; we have that same problem among many of our churches in America as well.

        I really like your concept that Jesus is not ‘God Inlibrate’. This is a VERY good way of describing some people’s approach to the Bible–an approach that I cannot support. Thanks again for the contribution of your comments here.

  18. Conway says:

    Tim, what sort of Christian do you consider yourself to be? It seems I along with many other bloggers here including yourself have very similar views as to what type of religion suits us best and that our love for Jesus and our Father come before any world wide third world (or less) “religion”. So when you strike a conversation about the Lord and someone asks you what type of Christian are you now? What is your reply? I personally tell people I am just “simply Christian”. Does that even make sense?

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Conway, I have spent a lot of time trying to determine how I should describe myself in answer to the question, ‘What kind of Christian are you?’

      I consider myself an evangelical, though many evangelicals would vehemently disagree. But I have the fire of the good news of Jesus burning in all my being and feel compelled to share the good news to those who are interested (without the usual attempt to convert or recruit them to ‘my views’).

      Some people consider me a progressive believer, but the term ‘progressive’ is used in different ways by various groups and can mean emergent, progressive in worship, focused on progressive Christian politics, or progressive in denying Jesus’ uniqueness and his resurrection. I am none of these.

      I prefer to call myself a believer or follower of Jesus, though those are both vague descriptions. Sometimes I say that I am a theologically progressive evangelical–figure that one out!

      Your response of ‘simply Christian’ is a good one, in my opinion. I try to stay away from using ‘Christian’ myself–certainly not because I do not follow Christ–but because the word Christian carries so much baggage in the minds of many people. However, I think it is a valid response and appropriate to those who choose it for themselves.

      Labels are very useful but are always so inadequate! They often serve as short answers to a question that requires more nuanced explanation. Thanks for this excellent question; what are your thoughts?

  19. Tony McGurk says:

    2 weeks ago I left the Jehovah’s Witness religion because from reading the Bible without the Watchtower publications telling me what to think & believe regarding their interpretation as well as much online research about their history & activities that have been hushed up by the leaders, I came to the conclusion that they are not what they claim to be. My conscience would not allow me to continue as part of it all. Found your about page both interesting & helpful as the Watchtower piles on the extra baggage like no other.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tony, I am glad you broke away from a group that did not allow you to think for yourself. It is easy to just accept some authority to dictate what is true, but being spoon-fed is ultimately unsatisfying when one begins to think and question the authority. It is also a burden on our humanness in determining our own thoughts.

      Indeed, the Watchtower does pile on the baggage, but I am not certain they are the masters at it; fundamentalist Christianity piles on plenty of baggage as well.

      • Tony McGurk says:

        I put a post on Facebook on Monday for all my JW friends stating that I was no longer considered myself a witness due to my conscience not allowing me to accept doctrines & practices that I felt were out of harmony with scripture. I stated that I still viewed them all as friends & loved them dearly but if they chose to unfriend me that was their personal choice. I came home from work Tuesday & couldn’t believe the attacks I had received in the comments under my post from so many of my “loving Christian friends”, Every one of them accused me of rejecting God which is an outright lying accusation as I’ve not done so. I have felt closer to God in the last 2 weeks than I have in the past 20 years as a JW. . One woman who lives locally & is one of my wife’s best friends & a good friend of mine too said that I obviously have no love for Jehovah & his Son whatsoever & don’t care about my wife or any of my JW friends or I wouldn’t be doing this to them, as though I’ve committed some kind of heinous crime or something. . Then she unfriended me… My wife who’s still 100% loyal to the JW Governing Body Leadership tried to defend them by saying “It’s just because they’re concerned”. Yeah right… I’d previously read warnings on a few ex-JW websites saying that even close friends you’ve known for years will turn on you in an instant if you leave, I still wasn’t really prepared for the extent nastiness I received..

  20. George says:

    Love the site and the thought space you’re nurturing here. I hunger for the discussions, frustrated at how so many can’t even get to a place to enter the discussion. I can’t help but automatically classify the site as “liberal”… which speaks to my habit of unnecessary judgement perhaps, and that is a bit of a turn off for me. Unfairly to be sure, since many of my own positions are “liberal” but I despise the label. I want to know whatever is true, plain and simple, and I’ve come to believe with some level of confidence, that this life is far more than what the world says it is, that God exists, and love is a central if not the primary purpose behind it all, and subsequently, that Jesus has a special role in our purpose here. No one demonstrates or teaches of love better than Jesus, and it doesn’t matter what you believe about him, you can follow him even as you question everything about him. Following, step by step, loving a bit here a bit there, and moving where he leads us, that doesn’t require anything but a little trust. My following Jesus started long before I ever read any significant part of the Bible. The Bible though caused me to stumble when I did get to it… I started from the Jesus bits and moved backwards… and the farther back I went the less it made sense to me. At some point, I had to change how I considered the Bible… instead of a single thing, it’s a sampling of the minds of followers across time, with all the cultural biases and historical nuances and political meddling. I’ve had to reach outside of this document stream to help me interpret the mess of it. But what additional sources are reasonable? For me the most reasonable has been near-death-experience research. Honestly, that has been the foundation for me. I can trust consistent testimony from folks across generations, cultures, religions… all speaking of a fundamental reality that seems to resonate deeply with Jesus core themes, teachings and message. The testimony from this source is that the absolute most important aspect of our life is loving, in all its depth and breadth. Interpreting the Bible with this in mind, I can arrive and most of the same positions you speak of here: obviously, if you aren’t loving, you aren’t following Jesus. Even as I know this is true, that love is central and that God is loving if not love itself, I can’t quite dismiss Hell, Satan, and Evil. I can’t quite dismiss Atonement, I can’t just accept that at-one-ment is all there is to the atonement tradition. There are NDE’s that reflect something of these darker aspects. No doubt, the predominant message from NDE testimonies is clearly love, but the whole idea that “you can’t truly understand the love of God without understanding his wrath” rings true to me despite its bitter taste. Why does it ring true? I don’t know. Does it ring true to you? Is there a way to make sense of atonement even as we put Love in the center where it belongs?

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hi George, welcome to JWOB. I don’t consider myself theologically liberal, though it doesn’t bother me when people use the term. And of course many conservative believers call everyone a liberal if they deviate from their ideas. The term I use most often, when such a term is needed, is ‘theologically progressive evangelical’. However, I am not sure how useful labels are because each one has a broad scope.

      I love your statement: “No one demonstrates or teaches of love better than Jesus, and it doesn’t matter what you believe about him, you can follow him even as you question everything about him. Following, step by step, loving a bit here a bit there, and moving where he leads us, that doesn’t require anything but a little trust.” It is so true.

      Jumping into the Old Testament can really be confusing–and distressing, but I am glad you concluded, correctly, that it represents the thoughts of many people, all of whom were bound by their culture and limited understanding.

      We seem to think differently about ‘God’s wrath’, but that’s okay. I don’t accept the view of an angry, violent, and vindictive God. If you are interested, I have a number of posts on the topic, as well as articles from other people, at https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/books-and-resources/angry-god-and-the-father/.

      I hope you continue to visit the blog and interact in the discussion to the extent that you wish.

      • George says:

        Thanks for the invite to jump into the discussions. I think I will. :)

        Great link and I am in alignment with a belief in a God that isn’t vindictive. That petty, easily angered depiction of God, I have no problem dismissing. I’ve reoriented my view of the “wrath of God” with Jesus’ warning in his sheep and goats story Matthew 25:31-46. I think God will be brutally truthful as we are judged (together if NDE’s are to be believed) where we see the truth of how we were really loving in our lives. I haven’t chased down the textual history, to see how it may have been embellished, but the theme seems consistent across the story. The text here would seem to suggest there is eternal punishment. Whether God inflicts that punishment or not, I think is an interesting question. It seems to me, that under the full scrutiny of seeing the consequences of your actions or inactions, one might be tempted to blame God or forever turn away from God in an attempt to avoid the pain of humility.

    • Tony McGurk says:

      Hey George, aI’ve just left the Jehovah’s Witnesses after 20 years & am undergoing a complete reassessment of my beliefs. Your simple statement spoke volumes to me. “No one demonstrates or teaches of love better than Jesus, and it doesn’t matter what you believe about him, you can follow him even as you question everything about him. Following, step by step, loving a bit here a bit there, and moving where he leads us, that doesn’t require anything but a little trust.”
      I’m going to copy & print this & stick it inside the front cover of my Bible as a reminder of the need to keep my focus on Jesus & the love he shows us & also teaches us to show to others. Thank you for this spiritual gem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s