Have you ever noticed that the Bible is full of contradictions? One disciple’s recounting of Yeshua’s (Jesus’s) life on the earth is different than another’s. Paul and Peter were at odds with one another at times, James, Yeshua’s brother, was at odds with both Peter and Paul during much of his ministry, and John, the disciple who was considered Yeshua’s closest friend and confidante had yet another view of Yeshua’s life and message. Why is that?
The scriptures as we know them were transcribed and interpreted by men. Contradictions abound because men interpreted Yeshua’s message and ministry from their perspective back in the day, and we still do.
Yeshua chose very different and interesting people as disciples, whether they knew Yeshua personally, or later caught the fire of His message. Peter, the disciple who always seemed to be zigging when he should have been zagging, the disciple who rushed in where angels feared to tread, was a fisherman, a common man, often brash, and rough around the edges. Peter was called to spread Yeshua’s message to the Jew and Gentile alike, however he believed there was a distinction between the Jew and Gentile in God’s eyes. He also believed “works” – the things we do to prove our faith and conversion – were a necessary part of salvation. Peter screwed up pretty often and maybe he thought he could “undo” some of the times he screwed up by “works”.
James was Yeshua’s half brother and grew up with Yeshua in a Jewish family and community. It wasn’t until after the resurrection that James believed his half brother to actually “be” the Messiah. Imagine being one of Yeshua’s half siblings; I bet it was more than just a little difficult to believe that your brother was the promised “Messiah”! James believed Yeshua’s message was intended only for the Jew and stressed “works” as the evidence of faith, the importance of living a disciplined life and following the law. In some ways I see James’s dogmatic belief that Yeshua’s message was only meant for the Jew, and the proof of discipleship reflected in the need for rigid discipline, alive and well in many churches today. Substitute “saved” for “Jew” and the result is the doctrine of many.
Paul was a Pharisee, educated, refined, and caught the fire, so to speak, after Yeshua’s life on earth ended. Prior to his conversion he spent a fair amount of time criticizing the new “Christians” to the point that he believed in the death sentence for the heresy of claiming Yeshua the Messiah. Paul’s ministry was primarily to the Gentile, and his message was a message of love and acceptance by God, trust with little emphasis on “works” and he believed there to be no distinction between Jew and Gentile in the eyes of God. Paul had persecuted God’s people for belief in His Son, God Incarnate. How do you atone for that with works? You can’t, and so I believe Paul’s ministry was borne of his forgiveness and acceptance by God in spite of his former behavior.
Today, as then, there are Peter’s, Paul’s, and James’s preaching and teaching their interpretation of the scriptures. How God has revealed Himself to us colors and forms our interpretation of who He is. Each of those He calls have a different ministry; to bring God to others, and very often it is in the way He manifested Himself to them and within the confines of their unique personalities and bents. In this way God reaches ALL people.
Is one interpretation more “right” than another? I don’t think so. We interpret life through the lens of our own beliefs, values, and experiences. Some people are more comfortable within the confines of dogma and rigid doctrine, others are comfortable outside the box. Neither is right or wrong, good or bad, fact or fiction. God meets us where we are and walks our journey with us, revealing Himself to us as He sees fit; sometimes within the confines of our comfort zone, sometimes not so much.
We are not required to be perfect, acceptable, clean, sinless – pick an adjective – in order to have a relationship, or ministry for that matter, with God. Let that digest for just a moment. Maybe you have never heard that before, never had someone say it is ok to be who you are with God and not be afraid of being rejected. There is a place for you in His Kingdom, and the truth is that we all are called to bring God to others.
Yeshua hung with the ones who knew full well perfection was nowhere to be seen on the horizon. He was criticized loudly and often for His choice of friends and disciples. If we believe Yeshua was God clothed in human flesh, God incarnate, how do we reconcile perfection preferring the drunkard, the prostitute, the tax collector, the fisherman, the lowest of the low to spend His time with? Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend His time with the leaders of the Synagogue? They were the keepers of the law, after all, the ones who spent their days in prayer, those in charge of pointing out the glaring imperfection of the masses; perfection should sup with humanity’s offering of perfection. Alas, He did not, so much so that Yeshua spoke openly, loudly, and often about His disdain for the seemingly “perfect”.
Contradictions in scripture? Yeshua was the biggest contradiction to ever grace the face of the earth! Perfection choosing to spend His limited days on earth with any and all who knew full well they were unacceptable to the world. Why? Because they knew He accepted them, as they were, bedraggled, bruised by life, bloodied by circumstance, broken seemingly beyond repair, and anything but perfect. And, in turn for being accepted they went forth to bring God to others as He had been revealed to each of them through Yeshua. Peter, James, Paul, Mary of Magdala, you, me, the list goes on.
That kind of acceptance is powerful and transforms lives. We don’t need a laundry list of our flaws, faults, and foibles. We don’t need reminders that we screw up daily, have taken wrong turns, made bad decisions. We need Perfection’s stamp of approval, not of our behavior, rather we need to know that we are accepted and loved in spite of our behavior. The truth is we have it, we’ve always had it, now it’s time to embrace His acceptance and bring God to others in the very way He revealed Himself to us……