Freedom From Complaining

The Weight of Scripture

So Jesus said to those who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

This is a difficult post to write. Not because of the subject matter, but because I needed to write it in a way that humbles me into abiding in the words of Jesus, and into following the words I write here.

Let me begin by saying that I am always disturbed when I read vitriolic attacks by Christians toward other Christians, particularly when these attacks are toward someone’s faith in Christ. Particularly when Scripture is used to fortify or justify anger, hatred, judgment or division.

In my humble opinion, quoting Scripture is vastly different than abiding in Scripture. It is a weight we must measure carefully.

So when I began to read about a few blogs calling for a boycott of the Son of God movie, I wondered why, and I began to read. And read. And the more I read, the more profoundly sad I became.

These blogs didn’t simply critique the movie, which in my mind would have been legitimate. There were some things in the movie done for dramatic effect – it’s a movie! Yes, Jesus says to Peter, “We’re going to change the world,” instead of, “We’re going to be fishers of men.” And that one line, taken out of the context of the entire movie appeared to the bloggers to tell and entirely different gospel message. When taken in context, however, the gospel message is there, very loud and very clear. And the producers’ intent was to spread the gospel to those who would not have ordinarily have been exposed to it.

However – and it’s a big however – the bloggers, and one in particular, questions the lifestyle and integrity of the producers (Mark Burnett and Roma Downey) and calls into question their Christianity, even criticizing them for choosing an overtly attractive actor to portray Jesus.

Any Christian who has been to Sunday service, who has been to a Bible study or has studied the Bible at all, and anyone – Christian or not – who has seen the movie, The Ten Commandments, understands the concept of gossip, grumbling and complaining. It was why the Hebrew people who, when they got into the wilderness when the Promised Land was only an 11-day walk, were forced to wander for 40 years in the desert.

We are called to love one another, to refrain from judging and gossiping, we are warned by Jesus, his apostle Paul, and his brother James from using our tongues as a weapon. We are told we need to forgive each other and that we would be known as Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another. We are called to unity, yet we continue to make the same mistakes our ancestors made after God delivered them from the captivity of the Egyptians. Yet, they continued to bind themselves with the chains of gossip, complaining and division.

As long as we continue to quote Scripture to do the same thing, we are still in chains. There’s a big difference between deliverance and freedom.

Christ shed his blood to set us free. Brothers and sisters, until we break our own chains, until we stop focusing on the splinter in the eyes of one another and ignoring the logs in our own, we will never live in the promised land of the freedom of grace Christ so freely gave us.

Heavenly Father, I pray for myself and for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, that you give us humility and discernment to state our opinions in love, to include and embrace each other as your followers, to seek your wisdom in all things, and to strive for unity and inclusion in all matters regarding you.

41 comments

  1. Very sensible understanding in this essay. Thanks visit my blog. Many people of faith follow too. In Christ…..

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    1. Thank you, Carl. Love the cartoons. And, yes, they do make me smile. 😀

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  2. VictoriaJoDean · ·

    Well said. It easy to get awfully caught up in rushing to defend our interpretation of scripture and miss its truth.

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    1. Thanks, Victoria. Glad you stopped by!

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      1. VictoriaJoDean · ·

        🙂

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  3. I have often had to pray, “Lord, give me a critical mind and a loving heart.” It is so easy to fall either way, into a total lack of discernment or into a total lack of grace. Good reminder to hold onto both!

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    1. You’re absolutely right, so easy. Thanks so much for your comment and a reminder to pray for help to stay on the narrow path.

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  4. Susan,
    Finding your blog has been such a blessing in my life.
    Your blog today answered a question in my heart. I am beginning to understand for myself what it means to partake of his word, not just read it. You stated this in such a beautiful and plain way that I felt the light bulb go off. Thank you so much.

    Also, your thoughts about using the scripture to destroy one another is also an issue that I am facing in my life. I could feel the arms of my Savior around me as I read your words. I was raised in a particular religion, and have recently chosen a different path for my family, and I am being gossiped about because of my choice, but I will continue to go where I am led, and your blog did so much to encourage me to keep moving in the direction of the word of God, not man.
    God Bless you. Thanks for your wisdom.

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    1. My sweet friend, you are the reason I blog.

      Do not let anyone sway you from your love for the Lord. Only He and the Holy Spirit who abides in you can reveal to you His unconditional love and everlasting presence. Jesus came to draw us closer to our Father in Heaven, to redeem us all back into relationship with the Triune God. It is only Jesus who will judge at the end; it is he who said, “Not everyone who calls out, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

      Bless you on your journey to know Him and love Him.

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  5. Thanks Susan for your open heart of grace to boldly declare the truth in love. I read carefully and I could feel the weight of your concern and humility. This cutting edge statement; “In my humble opinion, quoting Scripture is vastly different than abiding in Scripture. It is a weight we must measure carefully”. really cut off the religious heart, which is destroying many of us in the body of Christ. When our heart is weighed by the truth of scripture, we live in the liberty of the truth and not the dogma of a Church or denomination. Thanks for sharing…it’s a blessing stopping by.
    McDaniels Gyamfi
    Warm Regards

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment. And as well, your statement, “When our heart is weighed by the truth of scripture, we live in the liberty of the truth and not the dogma of a Church or denomination,” defines the difference between deliverance and freedom in a nutshell.

      Thank you and bless you.

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      1. God bless you more, Susan!!

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  6. Oh no seriously? Already blogs boycotting that wonderful movie?
    You are right. How sad. I actually think that these people “Christians” think they are doing good. I remember when my father in law baptized my son and it was such a sweet moment afterwards as we were all standing around and right in front of my son this woman came up and said that he needed to be re-baptized because he didn’t say all the words correctly. And my father in law graciously turned to my son and said “Well son, do you feel baptized? ” and he said he did and my father in law said “well that’s all that matters. ”
    The sad thing is – that woman is actually very nice. And meant well. That is the scary thing about well meaning Christians. They are not out to ruin the moments they are just so legalistic they can’t see what Jesus really was/IS ALL about.

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    1. Yes, I agree with you. I don’t think it’s out of malice but out of captivity. That’s why I wrote the blog. If more people pray that their hearts be opened, perhaps – just perhaps – they might look again, and choose to be reborn into the heart of Jesus.

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  7. I cannot add nor detract from your beautiful heartfelt words -(PLUS all the brill comments!! 😀 )
    I can only say IMHO 😉 –
    We have three groups:
    Pharisee; False prophets; and then – the dudes in the MIDDLE who just want what MOST of us all want. peace and unity and understanding Gods ways.
    We are all going to lean a little one way or the other – (or nothing at all – as in the lost)
    Now the thing is hey, if we lean too far either way – we then lose how to be what we are intended: Messengers of truth and hope.
    Ain’t called the straight and narrow for NOUGHT – AND – THAT is why Christs final commandment to us was – LOVE – and funny how we have ALL we need written on HOW to love and yet we still fall so short of the mark?
    We seem to reverse the ten commandments – I am sure they ordered the way they are for a reason…ie – do not try and implement other said commandments UNTIL you have mastered the first 😀
    It is a journey with many many pitfalls – we get too staunch and fundamental 😉 – or we believe blatant sugar coated lies –
    The best fix?
    Keep our eyes on the spirits leading…as in Christ we are ONE body with many different parts – all doing different things.
    KNowing and seeing the ‘wrong’ ideology is not a bad thing – teaching of it gently and kindly with patience (tada) is the key – ALL should be covered in love right?

    ANyhoo – you know I can go on on this topoic till KIngdom come really!

    NIce Susan! VERY nice!

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    1. GREAT point about The Ten, my friend. We cannot do the other 9 without the first. We forget every day and try to do everything on our own (independent creatures that we are!) and then get muddled up in the messes we create always expecting Him to pull us up and out. Which, of course, He always does.

      Yes, the key is not to turn a blind eye, but to “reason frankly in love” and “in private,” and absolutely with patience and forgiveness. Nowadays, we want to blurt our opinions about an individual on social media for all the world to read.

      And yes, we all complain and whine, we all turn away from correction our of fear. We must look at ourselves first and walk that narrow path, correct ourselves first. That’s where humility and prayer come in. All this to say, I agree! (As you can see, I can go on, too!)

      Thanks for adding your 2+ cents!

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      1. For sure 😉

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  8. Oh Susan, thank you so much for this powerful, truthful and real Christian blog. I haven’t seen the movie you refer to nor read about the controversy (where have I been??!) but this sort of thing really gets my blood boiling. I was bashed over the head by a ‘Christian’ friend of mine back in the States when I told that my now ex and I were splitting up. It was the most horrendously painful time. She and her family were preparing to move to Indonesia as missionaries and I had spent a long time listening to her, sharing in her excitement and nervousness and praying for her. I thought she had been listening to me too but when I broke the news to her she immediately jumped (wrongly) to the conclusion that I was leaving my then husband and taking the children away from him and condemned me for doing so by throwing numerous scriptures my way. This showed me two things: 1) She didn’t know me at all and hadn’t listened to anything I had shared from my broken heart with her because if she had she would have known that I would never have done such a thing. Indeed, it was the Lord who kept me in the marriage for 22 years and 2) When I really needed a loving friend to support me she was completely absent. So where did her Christianity go then? I have forgiven her, it was a long time ago, but I mention it here as my personal example of the kind of judgmental behaviour of some ‘Christians’ and the way so many today are far too quick to do so. It is troubling to say the least and I feel your sadness with you. We all need to look at ourselves first.

    Or I could have just copied Nav and said ‘Amen’!!

    I love you Susan, dear, dear friend…you are right on, God bless you and make his face shine upon you always… 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Sherri, and…Amen! 😉 I’m only glad my words have been some comfort. We are all way too quick to judge, and to use Scripture to bolster ourselves when we “weigh in” on a neighbor’s faults. I really don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind when he told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He quoted directly from the Old Testament, yet we sometimes forget the two verses that comes directly before that one. Here are all three verses from Leviticus 19:16-18 – “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor. I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother and sister in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor lest you incur sin because of him [the sin of gossip, slander, anger, etc.]. You shall not take vengeance or ear a grudge against the sons and daughters of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

      How often we forget to hold that in our hearts. When we forget, it tends to spill out our mouths and our pens (and our keyboards!)

      Thank you for your comments and prayers, Sherri.

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      1. Yes, loving your neighbour as yourself. How we forget so often to do just this. A very salutary reminder. Thank you again dear friend 🙂 xo

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  9. For some reason, the only comment that comes to mind is “Amen.”

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  10. There are those who profess to be followers of Christ and then there are those who are disciples of Christ. True believers depart from iniquity. Critiquing bible based movies, denominationalism, and internet trash talking are smoke and mirrors. Instead the central focus and message should be on Jesus Christ and the message of salvation. Those supposed believers who cause strife, let them be because the wheat and tare must grow together and God will remove all things that offend.

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    1. Well said. I cannot profess to be wholly innocent, and I confess I have spoken ill in the past of fellow Christians. As I grow in the faith and mature in my relationship with God, I realize that my mistake not only hurts other, but hurts me and grieves the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us all. I ache for those who still walk in condemnation of others, because it only serves to condemn them and separate them from the One who offers grace, mercy and eternal love.

      I articulate the distinction you mention as those who profess to be Christians and those who follow Jesus. Same difference, different words. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

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      1. Thank you for permitting me to comment and you raised an excellent example. A weak Christian is different from a hypocrite. The former grows in grace while the latter remains unchanged. This walk is ongoing and when we receive God’s grace into our hearts we in turn must extend it to others. That is when we personify the word and bear the weight of it. And when we do that the world will see Jesus.
        🙂

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      2. The more of us praying for open minds and open hearts, the more of us there will be to pass along the grace and love of Jesus. Your comments have been gracious. Thank you for taking the time to bless us.

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  11. Very well said Susan. I have yet to see it. I loved The Bible series and I am grateful someone is willing to plant some seeds. There’s a harvest out there ‘Ma! And I don’t think Daddy likes it when we fight. ;(

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    1. Agreed, Diana. 🙂 I think Burnett and Downey are introducing Jesus millions of people to the beauty, grace and freedom of the gospel in ways they wouldn’t be able to otherwise hear. I pray many of those seeds will land in good soil. And after all, our Father will harvest those seeds as He sees fit.

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  12. Stephen Mattson · ·

    Love this!!!

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    1. Hey, thanks Stephen!

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  13. As a Roman Catholic, I was shocked to learn (in high school) that some Protestant churches distinguished between Catholics and Christians. This struck me as ridiculous, since clearly Catholicism pre-dates Martin Luther. So, I have been quite skeptical from that moment on of so-called Christians who make invidious comparisons of Christ’s followers. It is a contradiction in terms. Christ is our role model and we need to follow his precepts and his behavior, both.

    So, I agree. The only thing I would say, is that we must be willing to stand up for principle against those who seek to harm others. Sometimes this means a verbal administration of the truth — delivered in a kind, respectful but firm manner. To me that is not gossip, that is protecting the innocent from the ignorant or malicious. The distinction between malice and moral weakness needs to be considered, when discussing the behavior of others.

    God said, ‘vengeance is mine’, so we needn’t administer punishments, but we can certainly speak out to prevent the infliction of suffering or wrong doing. I think that is our obligation too.

    {Good first IMHO – starts right at square one, our quick-silver tongues.}

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    1. Thank you, Beth. I would agree that we definitely need to take a stand when it comes to speaking out against those who harm others, particularly through abuse or other forms of violence, I’m right there with you. I

      When we Christians play the, “my doctrine is better than your doctrine,” game, or attempt to deny the validity of how someone spreads the gospel through his or her Spirit-given gifts, I think it harms the delivery of the message of the gospel for us all. IMHO, it erects a stumbling block where there should be none, as others watch us argue amongst ourselves.

      We should all be feasting at His table of grace and mercy instead of fighting over who gets the better pieces. They are all the better pieces.

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      1. Absolutely! I had a troublesome discussion with two very old friends of mine who are the strictest of strict fundamentalists. I was saying that I found Joel Osteen to be uplifting and he seems to be a good person, as well as sincere Christian and preacher — of his own making. They were adamant that he was not a properly trained, strictly by the book pastor. That he is merely administering sugar to the gullible, that he is more of a snake-oil salesman. I don’t see him that way. I watch Dr. Charles Stanley regularly – he is about as fundamental as I want to get and I don’t see a huge difference between his approach and Osteen’s. As a Catholic, maybe I am not qualified to judge. I take Osteen for what he seems to be and is promoting: following Christ and being positive about oneself and others. So, sue me :-). When he does something egregious to prove me wrong, I will say so. But, so far, I haven’t seen or heard anything. Furthermore, sometimes the truth even comes through a false master. I just keep listening for the Christ-like encouragement and inspiration, and try not to judge the messenger too much.

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      2. Funny…I think they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum. I do have trouble listening to both of them because of that, but I do agree with you that in their own way, they bring the gospel to people who otherwise might not hear it. I think God brings us each to the perfect messenger. As long as we find our way to Him, and hear the mystery and miracle that is the gospel of Jesus, who are we to say that God’s messengers are wrong? After all, He did use a donkey once (Numbers 22)!

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  14. And Jesus said: Matthew 12:25
    And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
    Matthew 12:24-26 I believe this could also be applied to the Church. We are separated by denominations and all claim to be Christians. I truly believe in the non-denominational way of worship although I have been worshiping in the Methodist religion the past 22 years. In saying that, I do not believe John Wesley (founder of Methodism) had the inside scoop in understanding the Bible.

    Hollywood always takes dramatic license when telling any kind of story…including the Bible. I remember when I was a teen and Jesus Christ Superstar was popular….ohhhhhh…. the religious commentary had anyone going to see it as a blasphemer. So….I went to see it and it remains one of my favorites to this day. We took our children to see the Broadway play with the original cast from the movie..the songs were awesome. My children and grandchildren love it, as well.

    If I were to cast someone as Jesus, I would also make Him beautiful. I just know that Jesus IS beautiful…not handsome….B-E-A-U-tiful…….I loved the telling of the Bible series by Burnette and Downey. I heard their interviews and they realized the very important undertaking they assumed in dramatizing the stories of the Bible. Of course, there is always room for error because of the human aspect. I will avoid my own critique until I see “Son of God”..and I do plan to…as well, as see “Noah”….I hope that they do not retell is like NBC did years ago and completely made up their own story…as in Lot same up along side the ark after the flood???? REALLY? Hollywood should heed the warning in Revelation..the last chapter…Rev. 22:18 It is fair warning that God does not take kindly to those who would distort His word.

    Sorry for the length in this reply….it struck a chord with me today…as you always do….xo

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    1. Thank you, Dale. Actually, the movie was taken pretty much from the Bible series. They added in a few scenes that didn’t make the series, but it it was almost scene for scene the same. And thank you for the Matthew quote – I agree.

      I simply find it sad when we do this to one another when we could be standing side by side in a greater battle.

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      1. I absolutely agree!

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  15. I’m not a Christian myself but have an abiding belief in the goodness of Christ. I’ve never understood the need for different Christian groups to tear each other apart to prove their faith is the best way. In reality Christians are the one denomination and yet it seems there is such dissent among the different branches. The need for humans in general to prove their own worth by deriding others is one of our greatest failings as a race and I agree that until we learn to find within ourselves a measure of peace and compassion we will never be a truly united world. Excluding others over a difference in doctrine serves only to divide which is not the message Christ brought to this world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts they show a great deal of insight and compassion for others.

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    1. Thank you, Jenni. We do so much more harm than good when we fail to follow Jesus in that regard. Yes, we all get annoyed; yes, we all have our opinions. Yet if we believe in a Creator who made us all in His image, don’t we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity? I pray we become better at it.

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      1. In all honesty so do I – even if we pray to different deities.

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