So anyway, last night was one of those nights where Father was really able to show me some things. Funny how reading a book like 1984 all over again in homeschool really brings things into perspective the way it never did as a teenager. I remember a time when I was part of the out of church movement – you know, I would often read the Bible three hours a day before everyone else woke up (that’s kinda what happens when you live on adrenaline). I would get up in the wee hours before the twins would wake up and pour through my Bible, but I did it with an agenda. I was reading my anger at the Christian Church into the text (even though I was a Christian). I hated churches after having gone through some really bad experiences. I decided that whatever people told me about structured churches outside of people’s homes was true and I zealously read the Scriptures to prove it. And when I say I believed what people said, I mean that I believed absolutely everything bad they had to say about it and nothing good. If someone made a pro-church claim, I set out to disprove it, and if someone made an anti-church claim, I simply thought about how much sense it made to me, read it into the text, and repeated it. I learned a lot about the Bible through these readings, but what I learned was tainted by my hatred – it poisoned me. I found proof for everything I believed at the time, because that is why I was reading. In talking to many people over the years, I have found that I am in no way unique – we tend to read not to find out what is there but to justify what it is we already believe. In other words, we read not to find out what is true but as an act of self-justification.
Evolutionists do the same thing with science, and so do Creationists. What happens when we go into our readings with an agenda? Well, the same thing that happens when evolutionists and creationists approach science – they toss the data that doesn’t fit and will oftentimes twist whatever data can be twisted. Each side fervently and genuinely wonders why the other side doesn’t ‘get it.’ And yeah, that’s what happens when people discover Torah as well – it gets easy to start reading the Bible in order to prove the other side wrong and ourselves right. But does God’s Word exist for the purposes of massaging our egos? What happened to the desire to find out what is actually there, even if it means finding out that we are wrong? Finding our own errors revealed in the Word is far better than finding our justifications in it.
When we discovered our fathers inherited lies (Jer 16:19), some of us got so angry that we stopped believing in and started believing against. I did that for a while, and those were the dark days of bad fruit for me – I treated people badly. I talked a lot – talked a pretty good game at that – I am a very persuasive person when I want to be, when I want to manipulate and discredit the person I am disagreeing with. I had to resort to that sarcasm, the mocking and manipulation because I really was against and not for. I was against the organized Church, against Christians, against Sunday Sabbath, against Christmas and Easter, against ‘lawlessness.’ But what was I for? Was I for seventh day Sabbath? For the Feasts? For the Law and the testimony? I thought I was – and I should have been, but my focus was on the things I was against – while deceiving myself that I was actually for the opposite of those things. I was so busy railing about the people who don’t get it that I wasn’t really getting it. I was very busy trying to be right and I wasn’t very busy becoming the kind of person that the Torah was designed to make me into. Zeal makes it easy for us to look like we are for when we are actually against.
What am I now? I am a person who reads the Word and studies context so that I can understand everything my Bible has for me. I spend my time and money so that not a single Biblical treasure will be left beyond my grasp – I want it all, even though I know the task is beyond me. It isn’t about being right anymore, but about finding out what is actually right – it isn’t about being against Christmas and Easter. Of course I don’t keep them, and of course I don’t approve of them – I don’t need a houseful of questionable European rituals when I have the Feast of Sukkot, and I don’t need the sequel that comes around in the spring to replace the Passover and First fruits. Of course I am against Sunday sabbath – but my faith is no longer defined by what I am against. What I am against is pretty much in the rear view mirror. I am merely and profoundly grateful that it is in the rear view mirror because I cannot go forward lugging them behind me. I am looking forward to the Feasts of the Lord, setting my sights on them, learning them, rejoicing in them – striving to live the life that I was called to live. I don’t have time to mock people whose eyes are not opened, or worry about the ones who do know but refuse to do what is right – or to think that I necessarily know which of those two scenarios this or that person falls into.
It’s about perspective, and when I was looking behind me I was stopped dead in my tracks, or at best, stumbling and tripping in a haphazardly slow forward direction, but mostly staggering to the left and to the right because we can’t walk while looking backwards – we weren’t designed for it. Maybe I simply see clearly now that I don’t have enough reason to be impressed with myself to dare spend my time looking backwards and mocking others. Once we start having our focus being “against,” we start getting into trouble. With me, it resulted in nothing but bad fruit – but I was so pleased with myself at the time that I never noticed. So last night as I was laying in bed I was deeply ashamed of the years I spent focusing on what everyone else was doing – and especially the efforts I took to shame them, thinking that I could convert them through pushing them down and degrading them.
I have been studying the Sanhedrin lately, and I am in awe of the requirements that they had in place for good judges. The Bible tells us time and again the qualifications for a good leader and never do they include the words we look for when deciding who to listen to and vote for – nothing there about being entertaining, or passionate about what they are doing, or convincing, or oozing charisma. They had to be experts in the topic they were speaking on, they had to be fair and yet merciful, mature in the faith, and respected – but in modern times, we don’t want to oftentimes listen to people unless they are entertaining. I was repenting last night of being the type of person who really used to believe what entertaining people told me. I was repenting for enjoying hearing people being mocked. I was ashamed for appreciating a compelling argument and rushing to judgment based on how much more quick on their feet one person was over the other. With my track record, I might have followed Korah rather than Moses – nothing charismatic about Moshe and he was too humble to spend his time mocking and insulting the people who disagreed with him. We follow personalities because they tickle our ears by propping up those who follow them with accolades and making those who don’t seem to be fools. Everyone wants to be one of the cool kids, we never really do outgrow high school.
Nowadays, we have the Presidents we deserve, and the lawmakers we deserve – because we act the same way they do, and we gleefully enjoy their antics, well at least the antics of the ones who agree with us. We are quick to hate and denounce the same behavior from those with whom we disagree. Ever wonder what it would be like – if we all stopped the antics and divisive behavior within the Body of Messiah? If we could present our facts without telling everyone something terrible about the person who disagrees? If we could just preach without telling our audience that everyone who is sane agrees with us and therefore why they should too? What would happen if we stripped the manipulative language, the mocking, and the sarcasm from our message and stopped telling people we are right – and instead just started acting right.
I look out there and see shadows and reflections of who I used to be, and wonder how much of it is still left in me. I know that I could easily slip back into it again, all I have to do is turn around and focus on battling someone else. I fight the urge to give in and return to those tactics, because those tactics are easy and they draw a crowd, but I don’t want the attention of that crowd anymore. I see how they treat people, and then I look at who does and does not respect them. Then I look at the people who don’t act that way, and I notice who does and does not respect them.
A long time ago I noticed something about myself that I think is pretty typical. When I have facts behind me, I am much less likely to manipulate, mock and divide because I don’t need to – and I am not tempted to compromise the truth. It’s when all I have is ideas and theories that I get down and dirty – because the facts are facts and they don’t need to be violently defended, they need only be presented and then people have a choice whether to believe or not. But when I am promoting my deeply held ideas or theories and they are shot down, it hurts – because their source is always emotional; the source is always about me, my opinions, my intellect, my ego and my desires and defending that at all costs – well in the past it meant that the ends justified the means of what I was doing, even if those means came at the expense of the basic dignity and humanity of someone else. The more I desperately need to believe something and the more desperate I am that everyone else believe it too, the more likely I am to compromise truth and sacrifice people on the altar of my agenda.
This is why I don’t spam people with my teachings. I put them on my wall and on my ministry page, and that’s it. No one has to read them and no one is required to agree in order to have me treat them with dignity – when I was a Torah Terrorist, everyone had to hear me and everyone had to agree, or I most certainly would not treat them with dignity. Father forgive me and guard me from slipping back into that pit if not for my sake then for the sake of Your reputation and for the sake of the lives of the people I would damage.
My teacher tells me all the time, “Just because we are right doesn’t mean we are right.”
When we are willing to compromise on the way we treat our brothers and sisters whose only crime is to dare disagree – it no longer matters what we are preaching, because we have become wrong. And if we are going to be wrong, it would be better if we stopped teaching the truth because when we teach the truth while acting badly, we make the truth look like a lie and make the lie look like it is good.