Monthly Archives: January 2017

How So Many Believers Completely Misunderstand God’s Love in John 3:16

I do get fed up of the way that dogmatic people in the Church twist the Scriptures to their own ends – and almost always swinging to the side of Legalism instead of Grace. And that’s even the case with arguably the most well-known verse in the Bible: John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. They have taken the most grace-filled sentence and twisted it into deceptive knots.

Well, my friend Tim, of ‘Jesus Without Baggage’ has untangled those knots for us, in an excellent article on this passage which I heartily recommend and share here. Just to make sure you have John 3:16 given to you in the best possible light!

How So Many Believers Completely Misunderstand God’s Love in John 3:16

I suppose most believers think John 3:16 is one of the most wonderful passages in the Bible—and I agree! This passage tells of God’s love for us in a very proactive way. This is why “John 3:16” is found everywhere: on T-shirts, bumper stickers, posters, mugs, at ball games, and in an endless number of other places. John 3:16 appears everywhere.

It is as though the mere reference to John 3:16, without comment or elaboration, is a strong message of God’s love. However, I am concerned that many believers who heavily promote John 3:16 have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means, so that their use of the passage is really a misuse, and the message of God’s love is corrupted and severely garbled.

The Severely Garbled Message of John 3:16

When reading John 3:16, many believers infuse it with harmful doctrinal beliefs that really aren’t there, and the message of God’s love is lost and twisted from good news into what is essentially bad news. The meaning is transformed into something very different than what the passage says.

Here is the text of John 3:16 with typical misguided assumptions added in brackets:

God so loved the world [though he can’t bear to look at us because of our sin] that he gave his one and only Son [to suffer and die on the cross in our place and take the punishment for our sins], that whoever believes in him [and prays the sinner’s prayer] shall not perish [in the eternal fires of hell] but have eternal life [in heaven].

The message of God’s love has been seriously garbled! Instead of good news it has become bad news. The bracketed sections are not part of John 3:16 and do not represent its message. This understanding assumes:

  1. God is angry and upset with us
  2. God must satisfy his sense of strict justice by killing his own son (penal substitution)
  3. God requires us to perform a salvation ritual in order to accept us
  4. God will punish us forever if we do not comply
  5. Eternal life is only in heaven

This is not at all like the loving Father Jesus tells us about; this is an angry, harsh, and vindictive God. And this is BAD NEWS. This terrible misunderstanding of God originates in harmful doctrinal baggage that developed and accumulated over centuries to produce an idea of God completely at odds with the God Jesus knew.

The truth is:

  1. God loves us unconditionally
  2. God accepts us as we are: broken, hurt, and alienated
  3. God desires our healing and reconciliation and requires no ritual transaction of us
  4. God does not punish any of us in some imagined hell
  5. Eternal life begins now

God is like a loving Father/Mother who wants the best for each of us and sent Jesus to tell us of his/her wonderful, unconditional love for every person. This is GOOD NEWS—REALLY GOOD NEWS!

John 3:16 is Only Part of the Context

We need not stop with John 3:16 because the thought continues. Let us see what it says, and note that some believers insert misguided understandings into this passage too [in brackets].

John 3:17, 18:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world [to hell], but to save the world [from hell] through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned [to hell], but whoever does not believe stands condemned [to hell] already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Certain believers (and there are a LOT of them) understand that the goal in accepting Jesus is to go to heaven and avoid eternal hell, which is where angry god will send us if we don’t do the right things. This assumes God to be angry, harsh, and vindictive, but this is NOT the case. There is no reason to be afraid of God, and God is not going to punish anyone. Verses 17 and 18 do not refer to being condemned to, or being saved from, ‘hell’.

If this is true that hell is not in view, then what does it mean to not condemn the world but save it? Save it from what? Or that those who do not believe in him (Jesus) are condemned already? Condemned to what? These are good questions. If people are not being condemned to hell or saved from hell, then what is it they are condemned to or saved from?

I submit that we are being saved from a life of brokenness, pain, alienation, and death. Jesus came to bring good news such as:

  1. God is not angry as many of us supposed but loves us deeply
  2. God’s love for us takes away our fear, guilt, and condemnation
  3. We are not asked to follow burdensome religious rules but to love people
  4. As followers of Jesus we are agents for expanding God’s kingdom on Earth
  5. Death is not the end because Jesus offers eternal life and happiness

But what of those who are condemned already because they do not believe in Jesus? I think this means they are still in a state of brokenness, pain, aloneness, alienation, and despair. But it does not mean this is a permanent condition. When one does hear the good news of Jesus and begins following him, this condition begins to change.

Reading John 3:16 should give us great joy, but misreading it (as many do) garbles the good news message entirely. So let us read the passage for what it says instead of what some people mistakenly think it says. For it is GOOD NEWS indeed!

Click the image below to go to the original article:

Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle

I get into all sorts of debates with believers, Pharisees and atheists on the faith forums. In one such debate, I had an atheist, using a somewhat condescending manner, insisting that Christianity is a fear-based faith and that it’s all made up. Although this gentleman was well-read, well-educated, well-travelled and very polite, he never once let up on his pressure and made no concessions whatsoever; conduct hardly conducive to a fruitful discussion! But some of his comments were really perceptive; this one in particular:

“Try to have a happier life and shrug off that evil influence of a death cult and fear of a “wrathful god”

Hmm. How odd, then, that CS Lewis’s character ‘Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle’, in his book ‘The Silver Chair’ (the penultimate book in the Chronicles of Narnia), should come to my rescue. I will relate the story of course – not to show off my lack of debating prowess, but to let you have the insight into the subject. 😉

My reply went like this

” – oh if only they would! […shrug off that evil influence of a death cult and fear of a “wrathful god”]

“I have to tell you that there is a current trend of change amongst Christians these days – including people like me – who actually fully reject the “evil influence of the death cult and fear of a ‘wrathful god’ “, as you put so well. There are those who don’t believe it at all, not the Hell stuff, not the Wrath stuff, not the inerrancy/infallibility of the Bible and all that. I sometimes wonder if the reason people think that most Christians believe in that sort of thing, is because those who do are the most vocal!

“No doubt you could point to the references in the Bible that refer to Hell, god being a wrathful monster and so on, and say, ‘What, it says it in your holy book and you don’t believe it?’ And the answer is no, I don’t believe it. I know and agree that it says all those abominable things, but I don’t believe it. As I have said to you elsewhere in this thread, my own faith is based on personal experience of God, not based on the writings of (sometimes) deluded people from an entirely different time and culture. Some of it is good, yes, but much of it isn’t.

“Can I prove God? No. And certainly not by quoting the Bible at you as some would.

“Does God make a difference to me, in my life? I have to say yes, I think He does. That’s how it feels to me, anyway.

“Am I deluded too? Maybe. You’d have to look at my life, my work, my writings, my lifestyle, my behaviour, my personality and all that sort of thing to be able to form an opinion on that. But I would say that I am a cynical, professional medical scientist; I am a Pilot; a musician; theologian; teacher; military historian; writer; computer programmer; I’m even a world-class Diplomacy player, or at least I was once upon a time.

“I mean I’m pretty switched-on. I’m not the sort of person who is easily duped. Most people I know and work with both at work and at home would not tell you that they get the impression that I am deluded.

“But still yes, I may indeed be wrong about absolutely everything I believe – but I’m enjoying believing it and for me that’s what matters. And it matters too to people who are positively affected by seeing my faith in action – my friends and family, strangers I meet, my colleagues, people who read my blog. The effects are real even if the cause is not. I’d rather have my belief structure in all its interest, dynamism, depth and comfort, than have nothing like that in my life. It reminds me of CS Lewis’s character ‘Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle’, in his book ‘The Silver Chair’, where he says this to the ‘Lady of the Green Kirtle’, who is actually the evil Witch of the Underworld:

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it.

Legendary actor Tom Baker in his role as Puddleglum in the BBC version of 'The Silver Chair'
Legendary actor Tom Baker in his role as Puddleglum in the BBC version of ‘The Silver Chair’

We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.” ”

Nothing personal to my online critic, of course, but I’d rather have my ‘Narnia’ than his nowt. 🙂

For someone like my online friend, he’s so well-read that he’s actually in a position of unrealised danger of falling into believing: it could suddenly all come together for him as a blinding light of revelation – ‘Of course!! I see it all so clearly! How could I have been so blind!’ What many unbelievers, and especially atheists, forget or maybe don’t realise is that for many Christians, they have not always been believers. Once, they were just as my online friend – interested and well-read, maybe, but lacking belief. And that belief comes to each believer in a different way, but the point is that people who once did not believe, now do. Something happened to them, something that now makes them say, ‘I once was blind, but now I see’. Something happened to convince even the most cynical that God is real and that He cares for that person. Something happened that enables a religious person, steeped in rules and tradition, to suddenly have a ‘Eureka!’ moment and nothing is ever the same again. Something continues to happen in the spirit of even the most cynical people – people like me – that continues on a daily basis to convince us, usually irrationally, that there is a reality above and beyond this one we see, hear, touch, taste and feel.

So, I will live like a Narnian; like my friend Puddleglum. Because there are things I know, things I have seen, felt, touched and heard, that convinced me – and continue to convince me – of the reality of Jesus, Father God and Holy Spirit. This is real. I’m really not making this up!

For another interesting take on Puddleglum, here’s another article by another blogger. Click the graphic below to go to the article:


Sweet Dreams…

This entry is part 6 of 38 in the series Fiona

Today, it’s three months since I lost my beloved wife, Fiona. I’m hoping to post a blog entry on the 25th of each month in order to share more of what I have learned about grieving the loss of a loved one. I know for a fact that there are people out there reading this blog who have said that my thoughts on this subject help them in their grief too*.

I’ve often heard it said that one of the most noticeable features of the bereavement grief process is that those left behind tend to dream a lot about the person they’ve lost. Sometimes these dreams occur every night; sometimes they are less frequent, but it does seem to be a common feature. And today I want to talk about how these dreams can help you to come to terms with your loss.

In my dreams, Fiona has often been present, not necessarily playing an active role, but maybe just sitting quietly in the background. Sometimes she talks to me too; it’s just talk about whatever’s going on in the dream. In the dream, I usually know she’s not with us anymore, but it doesn’t seem strange sitting and talking with her. I haven’t had bad dreams about her, but I do know of people who have had bad dreams about their lost loved ones. I’ll come on to that later. But it really is almost as if I can spend time with her in my dreams, even though it’s neither sought out nor deliberate. And this is a great comfort to me.

So, how does this work, and why can it help the grieving process?

Well, first of all, I think it’s incorrect when people use the old cliché that a person is ‘with us in spirit’. I’m not convinced; I believe she’s gone on to be with the Lord, as I’ve said before. But I do believe this: I think that everything that a person has put into our lives during our time together, is what remains with us on this Earth. All my attitude changes, because of life spent with her; everything she built into my life, all that still remains. I am the man I am today mainly because of her ‘input’ over the years. Everything that she was to me remains, if you like, alive in my memory. That other old cliché, the one where folk say that as long as we remember a person, they live on ‘in our hearts’, is, I believe, approaching what is happening. And so it’s as if we have a facsimile, like a ‘hologram’ of that person – personality, physical body, clothes, voice and what have you – stored away in our memories. And then, in our dreams, we can access these memories on a more meaningful level.**

I think it’s also that our subconscious mind – which is apparently more active in the dream state – has these dialogues with the departed because we can’t do it in real life. Only in our dreams is our full set of fantasy senses released into operation. You know how we can do things in our dreams that we can’t do in real life; well, this is one of those things. We can therefore talk things out with our beloved, albeit not really; it’s not really her, but we are talking with her memory. In a very real sense, we can commune with our loved one that is present in our heart. And so we can maybe say things we wish we’d said when she was still physically alive, maybe tie up ‘loose ends’, maybe assure her of our love (and possibly even be assured in return).

Although we may not always remember our dreams (in fact apparently it’s quite rare that we do), the effects of them, because they happened in our subconscious mind, will remain there in our subconscious mind, where actually they can do the most good and promote the most healing. The subconscious mind is recognised as having a powerful influence on our rational, conscious mind (just Google ‘subliminal messages’ to get a handle on this!) and any good stuff that happens in there is not lost even though we may not be able to access it directly.

What about bad dreams about the person you’ve lost? I personally think these can come from two main sources: unfinished business; and a reflection of the damage and hurt which accumulated during the process of the person’s loss; in Fiona’s case, we were ‘under the cancer cloud’ for just over three years. Or alternatively, the sudden trauma of an unexpected death, say by a road accident or a very short terminal illness, carries a special set of pains all of its own. In this case, there is much more chance of ‘unfinished business’; maybe you had harsh words with the person before they set out on the journey from which they did not return.

Either way, the dream-land can be a place where you can resolve, or at least discern, these issues. Maybe you can talk things out with the departed person. Sort out the unfinished business, ask for forgiveness, offer forgiveness, reaffirm your love. Often, though, bad dreams tend to be much less ‘rational’ than good dreams, if indeed any dream can be said to be rational! And therefore maybe the cause of the bad dreams might be presented in an abstract fashion, or by metaphor or symbolic things or similar. If it’s not clear what the problem is, perhaps you might try seeking professional counselling help. Most hospice organisations, for example, offer a bereavement counselling service at which these issues can be talked out. Or call the Samaritans! Or maybe just chat with a trusted friend or minister – although I realise that your trusted friend may well have been almost as close to the person you’ve lost as you were, so choose wisely. Maybe also have a notebook by your bed so that if you have a particularly vivid dream (good or bad), you can write it down at the time, because it’s almost certain that if you don’t, you will have forgotten it by morning!

Just coming back to the good dreams for a moment, I think that it’s perfectly all right to live in the dreams as if she is here, because in the dreams she is indeed there. You are accessing your memories of her and this is a healthy part of the grieving process. You are remembering her the way she was when she was alive, maybe even as she was before the illness. Enjoy the dreams and enjoy the time with her in the dreams. You don’t need to deny their help even though you know they’re not real. Your mind can still sort things out in dreams that it maybe can’t in ‘real life’.

And remember also that God is perfectly capable of orchestrating your dreams so that His purposes are fulfilled through them. He can easily bring healing into your life through your dreams of your loved one; you just need to trust Him that He knows what He’s doing.

If the dreams are bearing good fruit, then they are good and from God. If the dreams produce a fruit of darkness or uneasiness, then either there’s something you need to sort out (as above) or it’s coming from a different source, including maybe yourself. In these cases, praying in your Spirit language can be beneficial as it safeguards you from enemy activity. But look, what’s happened to you is a pretty dark thing; you’ve lost someone you love. It’s no surprise that your dreams and thoughts are going to be all over the place for some considerable time after the event. Relax, give yourself a break and go easy on yourself. And if the dreams help, then great. If they don’t, just see them as a bonus; a way of spending time with your loved one that you never expected to have.

Remember too that your (good) dreams of your loved one, although based simply on your memories, are really a reflection of a higher ‘Reality’ in which your loved one actually is alive and well, and where you will be going to join them within the next few decades. It’s a higher reality which will not change with time, no matter how much the memories fade or how infrequent the dreams become. Be encouraged!

*St. Paul said in 2Cor1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. [italics mine] 2Cor 1:3-4, and that’s what I propose to do with these posts.

**I realise that some people may be feeling a little uncomfortable with all this idea of talking with the dead. Surely, doesn’t the Bible forbid it? Like in Lev 19:31, “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God”, or Deut 18:10-11, “Let no one be found among you who … is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead”. But let me reassure you that this isn’t the same thing at all. For starters, it’s purely involuntary; you are not actively seeking out the ‘dead’ in order to consult them. It’s a dream; you have no control at all over what you dream or don’t dream. And in any case, as we have already seen, you are not speaking to her herself; you are talking to the memory of her which is still ‘alive’ in your heart – her memory. The memory is still alive; you are not really talking with an actual dead person! It’s all completely innocent; it’s just a dream! If you’re still really bothered by this, just ask the Lord to keep you from dreams that may be harmful, and trust Him to do the rest.


With All I Am

I love to bless my readers with excellent worship music, and I apologise that I haven’t put a proper worship song on my blog for some time. That’s about to change: here’s the lovely song ‘With All I Am’ (Jesus I believe in You) from Hillsong. Go and sit somewhere quiet, and let your heart fly free in God’s Grace with this lovely worship:

Into Your hand
I commit again
With All I am
For You Lord
You hold my world

In the palm of Your hand
And I am Yours forever


Jesus I believe in You
Jesus I belong to You
You’re the reason that I live
The reason that I sing
With all I am

I’ll walk with You
Wherever You go
Through tears and joy
I’ll trust in You
And I will live

In all of Your ways
Your promises forever


I will worship, I will worship You
I will worship, I will worship You



Where you go, I will go

This entry is part 5 of 38 in the series Fiona
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God”. – Ruth 1:16

Today’s post, unlike most of my posts, is a ‘spontaneous’ one. Most of the time, I write my posts in advance and schedule them to appear roughly every three days or so.

But not this one. Today would have been Fiona’s and my thirty-third wedding anniversary. (And I never once forgot, by the way!)

And so, today, it is only right that on my first anniversary without her, I acknowledge the day with something very special, deeply personal, spontaneous (I have just written it right now) and which would have meant a lot to her.

When we first met, Fiona and I used to do a lot of exploration, driving around the North of England in my little old white Mini (which we called ‘Cloud Nine’). And we used to play worship tapes through a ghetto blaster which sat on the back seat – and sing along, of course. One of the tapes we had was called ‘Emmanuel – God is With Us’, volume 5 of the ‘Songs of Fellowship’ series. And on there was a song called ‘Where you go, I will go’, which had a special significance for us. Once, before we were married, Fiona was ill in bed. I sat at her bedside and read her the lovely love story of Ruth and Boaz from the Bible, and we particularly loved the verse where Ruth says to her mother-in-law, Naomi:  “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God”. (Ruth 1:16). That song from the tape immediately became ‘our song’, and it became a symbol of our love for, and commitment to, each other.

I am absolutely sure that this next part of the story is no coincidence. For years now, I have been searching for a copy of that album, ‘Emmanuel’, that we lost so long ago. The album that contained ‘our song’.

And just this week, I have managed to find one on eBay and buy it – the vinyl record version – and so I have used the same technology that I use on my other website – – to convert the album into electronic files that I can play anywhere. I am sure the timing of this is entirely God’s work. Why this week, out of all the hundreds – yes, hundreds – of weeks I have been looking for this music, does it suddenly appear on eBay? That’s the Hand of God, right there. Thank You so much, Lord, for blessing me in this way!

Where you go, I will go”

Today, of all days, should rightly be the day that I make this song public, in honour of my darling wife. It’s cost me a lot of tears to digitise that album, and to hear once again the tracks that remind me so much of our early days together, and also to write this piece. But it’s been healthy. It’s reminded me of the solid foundations of our relationship, and reminded me once again of all the amazing adventures we had together.

We fulfilled our promise to each other for over 34 years.

Where you go, I will go. And we did exactly that.

(Click the play button on the track to hear the song)

Where you go, I will go
Where you lodge, I will lodge
Do not ask me to turn away, for I will follow you
We’ll serve the Lord together, and praise Him day to day
For He brought us together, to love Him and serve Him always

A Challenge to the ‘Heretics’

I’m a member of a Facebook group where we discuss difficult faith questions. We consider ourselves almost heretics, because a lot of what we discuss is what some would call heresy in that we are discussing things not normally ‘allowed’ in churches – things like Biblical inerrancy, Hell, Universalism; however, we assert very strongly that God is a God of Love, and that all that He does is infused through with His Love.

As a bit of background, it’s a good idea that I tell you that many of the Heretics come from a background of abusive churches (and some are still in them). These people have found, or are in the process of finding, their true freedom in Christ, without the strictures of man-made rules and regulations as imposed by these abusive churches. Don’t get me wrong, most churches are not abusive like that, but those still in abusive churches are trapped in the ‘system’ and many don’t even realise it.  And so what we discuss in our group is freedom, Grace and God’s Love. And it can be difficult to communicate to other Christians just what that freedom looks like, and it can be scary for those still ‘trapped’ to see the freedom we enjoy. I have written on this before, and today’s blog post, a great piece by Anna Dialdas, a member of the group, complements my piece nicely. It’s phrased as as challenge to the Heretics, hence my title today:

One of the things I would like to explore is “How do we approach the healing of human beings trapped in toxic religious belief systems?” That is, how do we support the possibility of freedom and peace and wholeness of such people whose condition we all once shared in?

Now, I don’t know all the complexities of what constitutes any core belief but it does seem to be shaped by many influences which may include physiological, psychological, neurological, familial, social, personal and emotional mechanisms (amongst others) that develop over time inside a person. Moreover, conscious beliefs are often attached to a spider web of unconscious beliefs, that together have such strong emotional attachments that are fundamental to who we are as people.

Changing a core belief therefore entails changing one’s identity and developing a different sense of self. It is therefore unsurprising that when beliefs are tied to one’s identity and sense of worth as a person, there seems to be some kind of energy that binds a person to their beliefs, effectively creating a blinding and numbing effect that keeps all contradictory information out. The point I want to make here is that I am not convinced that this is the result of a moral deficiency. Although this may well be a product of the ego, it is a defensive shutdown essential for [the ego’s] survival and I don’t believe it is the consequence of anyone’s willful, conscious choosing. We all desire to be safe; we are all trying to survive, and this is not a desire that ought to be judged. This is important because recognizing this I think, will largely determine how we approach others who believe differently.

Whatever the combination of complex mechanisms that underpin our core beliefs, the fact is, people have reasons for why they believe what they believe – even if it is a lie. It is my suspicion, however, that the root or foundational belief that underpins a belief in retributive or sacrificial religion is the grotesquely wretched belief that one is defective at their core. What we are dealing with is a group of people with such a distorted view of their worthlessness, they genuinely believe that are evil, wicked, and vile and are using religion to obliterate, or perhaps to say more accurately, cover over their intolerable and unendurable sense of worthlessness; and to appease the wrath and punishment they think they deserve. And I think we can all agree that anyone who holds such a belief is suffering internally.

No matter how rigid or stubborn or self-righteous or angry a person may appear, I believe that EVERYONE who holds to toxic beliefs are themselves suffering and we need to recognize their pain and respond compassionately. However, what I witness online [speaking generally and not specifically to this group] are attempts to win an argument through shaming the opposition — something that will almost certainly result in resistance, resentment and rage. But, even more than that, what I also see are jumbles of automatic responses that are the reliving of past emotional experiences — reactions to buried hurts in the past that have been triggered by the conversation– that serve no purpose in the healing of another or self.

Painful situations can be avoided if we pause to observe our own mind- states as well as the mind-state of others before entering into an interaction. Before attempting to engage in conversation, ask yourself: “Why exactly am I offended by this person’s beliefs? Have I healed from the bitterness and resentment I have felt towards religion and religious authorities, or am I projecting my anger and pain unto someone else who is still trapped in that system of belief?”

To share a bit of wisdom I read recently, “the belief that anyone “should” be any different than he or she is is toxic to oneself, to the other and to the relationship. Although we may believe we are acting out of love, when we are critical of others or work very hard to change them, it is always about ourselves” [In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts – Close Encounters with Addiction. By Gabor Maté]

In summary, “tough love” in the form of harsh criticism and judgment is almost sure to fail. Beliefs have strong emotional attachments that are glued to one’s core identity, and to attack a person’s beliefs, is to attack their sense of self. The result is that the person will shut down, withdraw or snap back with emotional edge and what we end up with is an exchange of toxic emotions. Further, it dismisses the complex origins, nature and structure of belief systems, wrongfully ostracizing people for beliefs they hold to, as if it is a moral defect on their part. Finally, it ignores the suffering and pain that the human trapped inside a toxic belief system is experiencing – whether or not they are conscious of that suffering.

As heretics, defined by your Love, I therefore challenge you to approach your interactions with others of differing beliefs out of compassion and a true desire to end their suffering. Only when we have a clear recognition of a person’s suffering, can there be a true desire to help. The goal is never about changing anyone. Ever. But if we can assist in the healing of another human being, let us do so compassionately, remembering that we all once sat in their darkness and pain.

– Anna Dialdas


More Thought-Provoking Quotes

“If it’s not good news, then it’s not the Gospel” – Brian Zahnd

“The power of your own salvation does not depend on someone else’s faith being ‘wrong'” – Me

“If we choose to make understanding the goal in our relationships, it changes the way we diagnose issues and removes the limits of judgment.” – James Arthur

“You cannot reason a man out of a position [that] he did not reach through logic” – Peter Hampe

“If there is a place where God’s mercy ends, be that at death, or after a figurative “three strikes,” then there is a place where God ends”. – Jeff Turner

“But you can use [remorse] for good, so that one day it will be a jewel in your crown rather than a stone in your shoe.” – Me

“Interesting that the more holy a person is, the more they look like Jesus, the more loving, forgiving, and kind, yet people think the exact opposite of God, that is, they say God is unforgiving, wrathful, and violent precisely because he is holy. Interesting that what people call unholy in humans they call holy in God” – Jacob M. Wright

“The narrow gate that leads to life that Jesus taught us about, is the gate of grace. Few find it because they have been so religionized to law and performance and striving that anything other than that seems like heresy. Law and not grace is the broad way that leads to death” – Don Keathley

“When people are different than you, affirm their ability to see their own path.” – Wendy Francisco

“Repentance is the ability to receive the truth that sets us free. It’s a change of mind that causes us to see as God sees and think as God thinks. Repentance is life-changing! Vital in this process is a desire to come face to face with truth. Truth is essential for there can be no transformation without it. We limit ourselves by idolizing mystery or dismissing truth as unknowable. Mystery is good. Mystery is the flavor of the universe. But behind every good mystery is a greater truth waiting to be discovered. It is the glory of the Creator to conceal things. But to search them out, to discover and learn, is the glory of kings. It’s how we grow.” – Paul Ellis

“If your love for, and friendships with, others are based on perfect mutual agreement / alignment with every theological belief, ethical issue or political view, then your love and friendships are for/with those beliefs, issues and views and not with people.” – Rudy M Zacharias

“The religious spirit longs for our personalities to be cut down in the name of good character.

“Our “good” character must be forged in a culture of freedom.

“People don’t fear freedom; they fear the consequences of freedom and how your freedom will affect them. If we really want to live out how the kingdom of God functions then we will need to start working out the consequences with all its good’s bad’s and ugly’s”. – James Arthur

“When was the last time Satan tempted you to show love and compassion towards another, in order to hurt the heart of God?” – Barry Smith

“Remember, the words “my theology” are only a single space and a letter away from spelling “mythology.” May we all (myself included) walk a bit more humbly, and remember how closely we are bordering on fiction each time we choose to assume our musings on the divine represent ultimate truth” – Jeff Turner

I view the Old Testament sacrifices the way I view my cat when it leaves a mouse at my door. It’s a nice thought on its part. It’s more than a nice thought actually, it’s showing love the best way it knows how. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s kind of gross and annoying. The sacrifices are kind of the same way, it was man’s best attempt to relate with God. God being the cool guy that he was empathized with our attempts, but they never changed the way God looked at us, or thought about us.” – Joseph Masters

If, like the issue of Hell, a doctrine bears damaging fruit, then the very least thing we should due is to research the crap out of it in order to find out if it is correct. Anything less is disrespectful both to the Scripture and to those who are affected by it.” – Me again

Grace isn’t Grace if it cost you something! Grace is free and a gift! – John J. Withington

Misjudging the Middle

Here’s another great insight from my Facebook friend (the same guy who wrote ‘A Testimony of Freedom‘). You probably already know I really cant stand it when people judge others; well, this is a great parable explaining just why we shouldn’t:

While starting my workout a few minutes ago I noticed a guy next to me doing push ups…not going all the way up and all the way down the way you’re supposed to.

I admit my first inclination was to point out his poor form and instruct him in the proper way of doing push ups.

Then I stopped myself.

Yes, I’m not his judge or his instructor…but something else occurred to me.

How do I know he hadn’t been here for two hours and hadn’t already completed six sets of forty push ups…with perfect form.

Answer: I didn’t.

I entered his workout in the middle of it and I hadn’t a clue what happened before I entered.

And if it were the case, my new friend had been working hard long before I arrived, my unsolicited advice would place him in the awkward position of coming to his own defense and explaining precisely what he had done hours before I got there…or responding in an outburst of, “hey mind your own business pal!”

Hardly an atmosphere with which to build a trusting relationship.

So often you and I judge…and perhaps misjudge…people and their lives as theirs and ours intersect in “their middle.”

Dare you and I judge people as we enter the middle of their life?

Do we really believe misjudging people’s lives based on a small snapshot of their life is the best way to help them?

And are you and I sure we’d want to invite others to misjudge us with the same misjudgment we mete out to others?

Next time you’re inclined to label someone a certain way and sum up their substance or lack of it based on a tiny snapshot of their life, stop yourself and remember you haven’t a clue where that person has been before you and they came into contact.

The person you so easily write off could perhaps be in need of a friend to restore them to a healthier mindset.

They just may turn out to be a huge benefit to you and to others.

Think about it.