Newsletter from Senior Pastor Paul Dale
Below are 3 enews excerpts from our series looking at other One Questions for God our community has been asking.
Q: Why do innocent people die?
This is a very real question. We see people who love others, and seek to do good, dying at the hands of others. We ask where is the justice in that? This is the right question to ask.
However, another question needs to be asked, what does it mean to be innocent? Jesus summarised what it meant to be innocent or righteous before God - “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38). Can anyone do this 100% of the time? The Bible says no. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:18). We see many people in life who do good things and love God, but as a holy, just God, God demands perfection from us. The consequence for not being perfect before and right with God, is death.
However, the Bible does provide great news. God is not only just, he is also magnificently merciful. God came into this earth as a man called Jesus, and being God he lived a perfect life. At the cross, Jesus took the punishment of death we deserve and gave his perfection to all those who trust in him. This is truly the innocent dying for the guilty. This means that whoever believes in Jesus is viewed as innocent by God, right with him, and gains the eternal life Jesus deserves. God shows his mercy by saving people and shows his justice by taking the punishment we deserve. (answer by James Boardman – Student Minister)
Q: Why do people reject me?
Human beings were made by the creator God to be in perfect, loving and peaceful relationship with him and with each other. So, where did this feeling of rejection come from? Well, it started when humans decided they wanted to reject their Creator, they dismissed him by not trusting that he was good and sufficient as ruler over them and what he had created. Another word for this is rebellion or sin. God was the first one to feel the pang of rejection and this separated us from a perfect, loving and peaceful relationship with him. We became alienated from God. That was the beginning of this downward spiral for relationships between all people. If humans’ rejection of God was motivated by their belief that they were better than him, it makes sense then that rejection, found in human relationships, results as people try to selfishly make and protect their place in the world.
Depressing right!? But, as God experiences our rejection and watches us reject each other, he is filled with sadness and compassion. He sees we can’t do anything to fix this, so he chose to do something about it. This is where Jesus comes into the story. Jesus lived as humans were created to live, in a perfect, loving and peaceful relationship with God the Father, and he died and rose again for us. Because of this, God is the great acceptor! He can again accept us into perfect, loving and peaceful relationship with him as he sees Jesus’ life in substitute of ours. Those who recognise they are unacceptable before God without Jesus and accept the reconciliation available through him, now have significant motivation to accept others. This is because they know that God has accepted them, when they were themselves unacceptable. There will come a day when Jesus will return ushering in the new creation where all will be as God intended, living in perfect, loving and peaceful relationship with him and with each other. This will happen and you can be part of it if you accept God for who he is. (answer by Emma Yin – Intern)
Q: Is the Bible often explained too literally?
A: Whenever we come to a text, we use multiple lenses to understand it correctly. A good reader will try to understand its genre, historical and cultural context, and the purpose for which it was written. This is why we will have a very different approach to understanding a Shakespearean sonnet to a news article from the morning paper. The Bible is collection of books from multiple different human authors, spanning across thousands of years in history, and with a wide variety of genres - from poetry, to historical narrative, to personal letters, to parables. So a good reader of the Bible will take these things into account when trying to understand a particular part of the Bible.
We believe that the whole Bible is “God-breathed” (that is, inspired by God, and the way he has revealed himself and his will for us), “and useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). That means we should read all of the Bible as true, from God, and able to be applied to our lives. But not every word is supposed to be taken literally; instead, we take into account the genre, the context, and the purpose of the text, and seek to understand what God is teaching us through this text, once we’ve asked those questions. For example, when Jesus said “I am the gate” (John 10:9), we instinctively know not to take it literally, and picture Jesus as an inanimate, wooden gate. But this does not mean that the words are not true. Jesus is teaching that he is the way into God’s presence, through the use of metaphor.
Not every word of the Bible should be taken literally, but we do know that the Bible is from God, and it is true, so we should seek to work hard at understanding it! And as we understand the Bible more and more, God will use that to shape and transform our lives. (answer by Bri Barltrop – Intern)