The Simple Heart of Christianity

This is a revision of Christian beliefs in a nutshell – revision 1

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In the New Testament of the Bible, the concepts Jesus taught were love/respect, forgiveness, and thankfulness/thoughtfulness.

Love/Respect – Understood using the idea of the Holy Trinity.  Be accepting of all forces acting upon you (The Father).  Be caring and honest with all humans (The Son).  When you are loving and respectful toward everything, self-respect comes upon you (The Spirit).

Forgiveness* – Know that forgiveness is yours if you take responsibility for your actions and learn from the impact of your sins**.  Be forgiving of others as everyone is trying their best based on their knowledge and experiences.

Thankfulness/Thoughtfulness – Dedicate time to focus on being thankful and thoughtful (prayer), especially when faced with difficult situations.

*belief that Jesus is God not required – forgiveness is available regardless
**sin = selfishness that affects others in a negative way

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10 Responses to The Simple Heart of Christianity

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Thank you for sharing that! Love is definitely the central message, and unfortunately that can be lost sight of.

      During my first visit to South Korea, I walked past a church with its neon lights lit up every night as I returned to the guesthouse I was staying at. I took a photo of it, as it seemed strange as a Canadian to see neon lights on a church. I ended up translating the name of the church to find that it was “Church of Friendship”. I found that to be quite the refreshing and unpretentious church name compared to what I’ve ever known!

  1. Redline says:

    “*belief that Jesus is God not required – forgiveness is available regardless”
    If that is the case, then why would one ask forgiveness from Him? If not for the belief that He is Lord over all, and that forgiveness will ultimately result in acceptance into heaven or some other such pleasantry regarding the eternal afterlife…flawed logic.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Couldn’t seeking forgiveness from, as Jesus says, “the Father” possibly achieve the same result? I don’t think the afterlife necessarily has to come into play either, seeking forgiveness does a world of good in our earthly domain as well.

  2. AnoNymous says:

    You are correct that this is a revision of Christianity. I hope your later drafts come closer to the original. You have said here nothing explicit about:

    Self-sacrifice: When you are loving and respectful toward everything, and self-respect does not come your way, but you remain just as worried and self-conscious and maddened about life as before, you’re still not necessarily doing it wrong. Your life is not your own; self-respect and comfort is not your life’s goal. You must take up your cross and follow Christ, to free humanity from the chains of its sin.

    Prayer: I know you didn’t forget it wholesale, but you’re missing a (perhaps ‘the’) central point of prayer. To pray personally to God is to perform an act of planning and foresight, of discerning God’s will, discerning the proper and loving course of action, the one of which God would approve. Luke 22 : 42 – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” This prayer of Jesus was not some abstract internal meditation, it is quite plainly a two-way dialogue between Himself and His Father, and is one of the few times when Jesus shows emotional vulnerability of any kind. His response to this difficult situation was to pray in a way that was directional, goal-oriented; he prayed in order to commit himself to the goal that he knew was his Father’s, that he should go out and complete his ministry in God’s world. Jesus’ response when faced with a difficult situation was not to take time to be thankful; at best within your system, it was only to take time to be thoughtful. Jesus response, his prayer, was better characterized as one of continued dedication and determination to a future, not a past (it made no mention whatsoever of the existence of any past to even be thankful for.)

    The Distinction between Love and Respect: A central part of Christianity is that our hierarchy of values must match that of God. When multiple values come into conflict with each other, we must follow God in asserting that love is the most important. Love and respect are not the same.

    Matthew 21 : 12-17 “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?” And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.”

    Jesus here encountered a conflict of interests between respect and love. He knew that markets such as those in the temple oppress those who are unable to participate fully in the life of the community; and he also knew that chaos, not orderly opposition, is the most practical and efficient way to truly oppose such economic oppression. Therefore, to testify fully to the love of God, Jesus disrespected the merchants and invited all those with nothing to pay to come anyway and receive freely the healing touch of God. And when the children saw that He was good, and the priests became indignant, he still, in a way, disrespected the priests by quoting scripture in such a way as to blatantly defy the reigning theology of the day (though the disrespect comes only from the scandal of his words; on the surface, he was merely debating as per the usual fashion of the day.) What Jesus did was loving. Healing others can never be otherwise. Indeed, it is only ever through honest rebuke that truth can testify to love, to a love that is willing to do what is necessary to stop those who are doing sin, whether that sin be respectful or otherwise.

    Next…

    The Equality of all Children of God: In Jesus’ time, debate in the public forum was the primary way ideas were spread to the masses. Most of all, to debate someone publicly was to declare them worthy of your contest of wills, to declare them your equal. There was also a popular conviction among the Jews that non-Jews, Gentiles, were inferior and unequal. (Jesus uses the term ‘children’ in the sense of ‘God’s children’ for the Jews.) In this light, Mark 7 : 25 takes on a bit of a different tone:

    “Jesus got up and went away … to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.”

    On the surface, Jesus is even more abrasive and harsh with this woman as he was in the temple. He calls her a dog; he called the moneychangers thieves (his insults are equal-opportunity.) But looking deeper into the culture of the time, by debating her at all, he is testing her, the way he tested the old men of the temple; he treats her like she is just another person. He does not insult her intelligence by refusing to debate her, neither by remaining silent nor by giving her what she wants immediately for no other reason than that she is a woman and a mother. His last words to her are to give her the healing love that is his ministry, after she has shown her faith to all watching. He testifies truly and lovingly to the reality that all are equal. (Are already equal.)

    I know that you have already said that we must be caring and honest with all humans, and I’m sure that you include women in that; but there is something else important in this story; he treats a poor woman begging for his help with the same manner as he treats the rabbis of the temple, the Jewish authorities. Jesus does not make distinction between anyone. For any reason. He is the same way with this random woman off the street as he is with Pontius Pilate, the Emperor’s own hand, the Roman governor, the judge over Jesus’ own life. To care for someone can include caring for the authority they have within the world; honesty can include respect for such authority. (Because more generally, notions like caring and honesty say nothing about the very important question of what aspects of a person you value.) On a modern but related note, there are those who believe that people should be unquestioningly deferential to historically oppressed communities, out of a sense of justice; but to follow Jesus would suggest that we ought not care for these things like gender, race, historical background, authority status, social rank, etc. (all of which are things of the world.) We should choose instead to testify to the greater love, the greater reality, that all are not only cared for by the hands of God, but are also perfectly equal in his eyes, whether prince or pauper, irrespective of where they’ve come from or where they are, caring only for where they are going. That not a word explicitly mentioning equality made it into your revision of my faith makes me wonder: “Why not?”

    Lastly…

    Belief that Jesus is God: I am glad that you used the word “revised” to describe your edits; because the heart of Christianity is that Jesus is God. Anything less is untrue to the original.

    It is one thing to say that Jesus is a good teacher. It is another thing to say that Jesus is the best teacher to have ever lived. It is something else to say that Jesus is the best teacher who ever has lived and who ever will. And it is something else so astronomically beyond either of those, to say that Jesus is God incarnate, that the other three barely scratch the surface.

    Within this world there are a thousand possible goals (understatement) and a million possible paths to get to any one of them (again, understatement). Jesus shows us one goal, and one path. It may be the best path. (But what is best?) It may be the one that is most conducive to human happiness. (Most conducive to the production of certain chemicals within human brains.) It may be the path that is most conducive to human power, to human population increase, to human well-being (and no matter how many extra terms I throw out there, nothing I do or say will make it any less difficult to define what exactly it means for anything to ever be “good.”) Jesus’ path might even be the most practical way to reach Jesus’ goal. (And as near as I can tell, science and history have both been backing such an idea up so far.)

    But there is a limit to the sharpness, the clear-cut-ness with which any human can define and visualize a goal within their finite head. There is an even wider margin of error for the amount that a human can execute such a goal. And even if we were to postulate that Jesus were the pinnacle of human achievement, we would still be stuck within the double standard of error that defines all human mimicry of human-derived ideas.

    The simple reality is this; that if Jesus were not God, we would not be able to trust him to be any more accurate than a human of his limited first-century means. Worse still would be if Jesus were preaching rightly that God wishes for us to subject ourselves to one another, without God actually subjecting Himself to us in the person of Jesus; we would not then be able to name such a God as one who walks His own talk, nor trust then that His wisdom would be wise. But because Jesus is God Himself, and because God has come down to walk His talk among us; and because we can taste and see from the fruits of that vine that the Lord is good, that His wisdom is wise, Christians have confidence, without need for constant questioning day in and day out, that indeed the ministry of Jesus is the one we ought to follow, a confidence as unshakable and unobtrusive as the confidence held by a person who goes about their day never questioning whether gravity is still in effect.

    Fortune favors the bold. Practicality favors the confident ones lucky enough to get it right on the first try, to have immediate faith in what is actually true. The message of Christianity is this; that you do not need to spend your life questioning what you have already seen to be true. You cannot have such a message without the existence of Jesus to bridge the gap between the heavens and the earth; without Him to be the Word made flesh. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed are the ones who have not seen, and have yet believed. (Sound Christian enough to you?) When you revise Christianity to edit out the urgency and immanency of purpose made possible by trust that Jesus’ words are as authoritative as the ones that installed gravity and electromagnetism… losing that focus loses the sense of urgent confidence that humanity will desperately need if we are to be the ones who live God’s ministry: who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and aid the poor people who ain’t got the luxury of time to aid themselves.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Trouble is, I’m not convinced that Christians are necessarily any more effective at feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and aiding the poor than anyone else. You speak of Christian confidence, but that confidence breeds arrogance in those who are convinced it’s absolute truth when it is anything but and is interpreted in many ways.

      On self-sacrifice, I think that is part and parcel with love and respect for everyone and everything. The opposite is greed, and that demonstrates a lack of love and respect for others.

      As for prayer, I would suggest that thankfulness is intertwined with thoughtfulness, as being thankful and accepting your current position is the first step toward thoughtful planning. Doing it in the form of a dialogue with God is a good device in being sure your focus is taking into account the bigger picture.

      As for equality, being caring and honest with all humans includes the key word “all” in order to take care of that. There are no exceptions.

      As for the money changers in the Temple, I would argue that Jesus is demonstrating love and respect in the bigger picture of things. Like Jesus says, most important is to love God, then comes loving your neighbour as yourself. Wouldn’t you want someone to bring some awareness to you if you were greedily taking advantage of the poor and growing the resentment toward you from someone else’s house? I would appreciate such a wake-up call. Maybe not in the moment, but upon further reflection.

      I thank you for your thought and insight though, I know my simplification is a point of controversy as it attempts to connect Biblical concepts to secular understanding. I am aware that both sides tend to have difficulty finding understanding in each others’ point of view.

  3. AnoNymous says:

    Also, the Holy Spirit is not self-respect. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are traditionally enumerated as seven; wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, humble piety, joy in the presence of God. Absolutely none of these are oriented to the self.

    Wisdom: Freedom from distraction by worldly goals that are not of God.
    Understanding: The ability to navigate properly to achieve your goals.
    Counsel: Knowing the goals of God.
    Might: Energy and will to accomplish your goals.
    Knowledge: Knowing the context in which your goals are to take place.
    Humble piety: The determination that keeps you set on God’s goals
    Joy in the presence of God: Okay, so maybe one of the seven actually can be construed as oriented to the self; this is the feeling of proof that God and his goals is good. Perhaps the original wording says it better, “fear of the Lord.”

    In any case, if you read the Gospels, you do not find a man preaching us to respect ourselves. If anything, he’s saying we should have absolutely no respect for ourselves because we are never going to be able to reach his standards for us. Not even after the Holy Spirit comes. (Only after he comes again.)

    The fact that you have boiled down the entire mission of Christ to “gives you a sense of self-respect” is very similar to if you’d tried boiling down the entire US Constitution to the phrase “No taxation without representation.” Such a simple view is missing a whole lot of the really important “maintain the balance of power between the branches of government” parts, not to mention the ones that say “don’t trample the rights of the citizens that elect you.” (But I detailed what you’re missing better above.)

    • jasonjshaw says:

      It doesn’t give you a sense of self-respect to be focused on wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, humble piety, and joy? I’m under the impression that it does, but that it is a never-ending ongoing effort where, as you say, the ultimate attainable standard is never within reach.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Shame, Jason. Smile….. did mention that this middle-of-the-road approach was a sure way of ensuring you would be hit by traffic from both directions.
        Sheesh…this one writes comments like a lengthy prologue to a novel

      • jasonjshaw says:

        “Hit” being the operative word!

        Though I may be getting hits from both directions, what I am presenting are fringe concepts to both. Not conducive to high traffic – but that’s not the intention anyways. It’s supposed to be more of a bridge built to allow for connections – though at times it seems more like ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’.

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