I’m not a Bible thumper, but at one point in my life I read the New Testament…
…the last 25% or so of the Bible, from front to back. The highlights are the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which deal with the life and teachings of Jesus. While the stories there are not as archaic as those found in the Old Testament, it can still be some pretty dry reading. But every once in while I’d hit a passage that made me sit up and take notice.
I recently picked up the Bible again for the first time in awhile, and was glad to see I had conveniently underlined the good parts. I came across three passages that again grabbed my attention because they present Christianity in a light we seldom hear about, with teachings that seem to cut against what many of us think about God and church.
Mind Blower #1. “The kingdom of God is within you.”
This passage starts with Luke 17:20 and continues in Luke 17:21: One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
Wait a second you say, isn’t the kingdom of God somewhere in the heavens, manned by a bearded guy sitting on a golden throne? The funny thing is this description of God the father, the one you may have seen pictured in grade school religious books, is never actually mentioned by Jesus or the bible.
For me, this passage supports a personal belief that we have the ability to tap into a divine source of wisdom and guidance at any given moment—a source that lives within our own souls. It is the God within us, and by working with it using our imagination and intuition, we can receive the guidance and direction we seek.
Mind Blower #2. “Ask and you will receive.”
This one comes from Matthew 7:7 and deals directly with what we may ask for in prayer and out of life—and it sure makes it sound easy: Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.
This one I take with a grain of salt, as I don’t think you can take this to mean that God is a fairy godmother granting all wishes. But I do think it’s another sign that divine help is available to us, IF we’re on the right path, pursuing our true purpose in life. Do all you can with your own abilities, but when you find yourself stuck, simply ask for help and it will be given.
Mind Blower #3. “When you pray, pray privately.”
I was raised to believe that the place to pray was in church. Sure, you could say a bedtime prayer, but if you really wanted a direct connection to the divine, it was best done on Sundays from the pew. This passage from Matthew 6:6 counters that in a big way. Here, Jesus instructs:
When you pray, go to your room and close the door. Pray privately to your Father who is with you. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.
As you may know, nowhere in the bible does Jesus talk about setting up a church or attending church. This was the idea of Paul of Tarsus, who’s prominently featured in the New Testament, but who never actually met or received any direction from Jesus.
In fact, the preceding passage in Matthew 6:5 actually seems to say don’t go to church: When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They like to stand in synagogues and on street corners to pray so that everyone can see them.
In closing, I’d be the first to admit there’s a lot in the Bible that can rub you the wrong way. But as a local reverend once told me when I asked him about some parts of the Bible I found questionable, “you’ve got to find the passages that have meaning to you”. Next up: the Tao Te Ching.