I never thought I would be a Jesus blogger. That was not on my list of “things I want to be when I grow up”. In fact, I made sure my life went in the exact opposite direction of “Jesus blogger”. I’ve met all kinds of “I love me some Jesus” people and I would always think to myself, “That’s great for you but also, I have nothing in common with you.” It feels like beating a dead horse sometimes to remind you that I grew up in the church with my dad as a minister, but I continue to share that tidbit of information in case someone is new to me.
I grew up in the church but never identified as a Christian. I was agnostic at best. My level of understanding went something like this:
So there’s God (he’s kind of a big deal). Then there’s Jesus. He’s the reason we celebrate Christmas and Easter. He died (in a terrible way) but not to worry cuz he’s coming back! There’s also other people and other things that happened but that’s all filler and doesn’t really matter.
Yes, that level of understanding coming from the preacher’s kid who went to church, Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School in the summer. Church was simply an activity and an obligation for most of my life until I graduated high school. Once I was in college and went home to visit, I went to church to support my dad but never because I believed a word of it. I didn’t understand the purpose or application to my life.
Again, you most likely know my story. If not, you can read the beginning of it in Radical Rebirth. I, too, had the cliche rock bottom on my bathroom floor, praying to a God I didn’t know. As I’ve thought more about it, though, I’ve started to wonder, “Is it really that cliche?” How many stories have you heard from others where when things got really difficult in their lives, they called out to God? Even non-believers have been known to call out to God when things have gotten painful enough in their lives. Does that mean there’s something innately within us that knows to reach out to our Creator when the pain has gotten to be too much to bear?
I started down the path of cultivating a relationship with God by completely avoiding what is known as “His word” (the Bible). The Bible felt completely overwhelming with my level of understanding at that time, so I decided to go down the metaphysical New Age/New Thought movement route instead. In the back of my mind, though, I had Jesus and Moses reminding me they were always there when I was ready to visit their stories.
In January 2021, after a few months of half-assing reading the Bible, I truly committed to it. I committed to spending every morning in scripture and prayer. I asked for guidance from Christians I trusted (including other pastors I knew) and I began to spend a decent amount of time between the old testament and new testament in order to get a pretty broad understanding of it. (Full disclosure: At the point of writing this, I still have not made it through the entire Bible. I continue to run things by others who have read the entire Bible multiple times to make sure I am understanding it accurately).
A few of the books that began to help with my understanding: John, Romans, Matthew, Galatians, 1 John. Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Elijah were a few that stood out, as well. Job comes up a lot for others, but I haven’t read it yet.
There were some pretty common core questions and doubts I had when I first started reading the Bible (which also happen to be some of the other projections others have thrown at me, as well), so I wanted to share my personal take on these common misconceptions and hopefully bring it down to a basic level of understanding for anyone who is potentially struggling with the same questions or misconceptions.
- We must fear God.
- We have to follow rules in order to be loved by God (and go to Heaven).
- Gay people are going to hell.
I know these are not the only ones, but these are some that I really struggled with. “How can I be a Christian if these things are true?”
One thing that really bothered me was “fear God”. It didn’t make sense to me. If God is so loving then why should we fear Him? In fact, when I was on dating apps and I saw anyone who identified as a “God fearing man”, I immediately swiped left because I didn’t want a man who lived his life in fear. I simply didn’t understand what it meant, especially when in the Bible it also states “fear not”. If you do even just a basic Internet search, you’ll see this talked about in a variety of ways, but my most basic understanding is this: to fear God means to be in awe of Him. When we are in awe of someone or something, we have respect for them/it. We naturally begin to live a much different life when we live from a foundation of respect.
This naturally brings me to the next misconception. We have to follow rules in order to be loved by God and therefore go to Heaven. Another question that commonly gets asked is, “If we’re all God’s children, then why does He seem to favor some but not others?” There are a few pieces to this one. First of all, “we’re all God’s children” is a lie. God wants us to all be His children, but He also gave us free will to choose. If someone genuinely wants to be His, He wants that just as much. There’s a key player in this whole “we have to follow rules in order to be loved by God” belief. Jesus. He’s kind of a big deal and I didn’t understand his role for my entire life. First we have to accept that we’re all sinners. All of us. The word “sinner” triggers a lot of people. I get that. The simplest way I have come to understand “sinner” is simply being imperfect or unholy. We’re all imperfect. I think we can all agree on that and therefore because we’re all imperfect, we’re all sinners, regardless of what our intentions are. You could have the best intentions in the world and still be imperfect.
In the days before Jesus, the punishment for sin was death. Intense, right? Yeah, I know. It’s hard to be on board with the whole “God is love” belief, but stay with me. In the old testament we see a lot of sacrifices of animals and children because of the punishment of death. But then, Jesus came along (whose life and death was prophesied in the old testament) and completely changed the game. Not only was Jesus God’s only son, but was God Himself. When He died on the cross, He made the ultimate sacrifice so we would never have to pay the price of death again. Jesus had already done it for us, knowing that we’re imperfect and would naturally live a life of sin. Through believing in Jesus and what He did for us, we basically have an advocate who loves us unconditionally. The only “rule” is that we must believe in Him.
Now, there are a variety of ways to live your life. You can live your life knowing the standards God has set for our lives and be like, “Whatever, I get a free pass because Jesus already paid the price for me.” Or (and this is how I have begun to transform), you can have such respect for what God has done and be in awe of that level of love, you naturally want to obey Him, knowing you will still make mistakes and be imperfect because that is who we are as humans. When we make mistakes, we simply ask for forgiveness (aka repent for our sins). We are not righteous (right with God) because of what we do. We are righteous because of our faith.
Now for the misconception that is the most divisive, I think. I’m going to attempt to be as clear as possible and tread lightly on this one because I understand this is extremely personal for so many out there. There are a lot of Christians who preach that gay people are going to hell. Does the Bible talk about it being a sin? Yes. Does the Bible state that homosexuals are going to hell? No. Not simply for being homosexual. The Bible states that sinners or non-believers are, but it does not single out the gay population. This was one I personally struggled with and spent many hours reflecting on back in January. Some of my best friends are gay. When I lived in Gainesville, I spent 7 years playing electric violin in a queer band. I’ve had multiple crushes on women throughout my lifetime and I dated a woman for a short period of time before moving to Houston.
I think when it comes to personal relationships and those we love, it of course feels like a personal attack. As I read through the Bible, I have had my own personal questions and struggles, “Can I not have sex with my boyfriend?” God has some things to say regarding divorce, as well (another sin I’ve committed). It’s easy to go to, “But I was in an abusive marriage. Would God not want me to leave that?” The thing to keep in mind, in my opinion, is simply this— we’re all imperfect. We’ve all committed sin. Whether we agree with it or not doesn’t really matter. We still have free will to continue doing the thing(s) God has told us not to. At the end of the day, it’s not about what we do or don’t do. It’s whether we have faith and believe in the fact that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us, knowing no matter how hard we try, we will always fall short of perfection.
The beautiful thing about Christianity, in my opinion, is it puts us all on a level playing field. We’re all making mistakes doing the best we can most days and none of us are so far gone or too broken for God. God has quite the wrath and punishment for those who choose to deny Him, but for those of us who choose to come to Him, there is an immense amount of love and compassion. Sin is sin. Imperfection is imperfection. It’s human nature to want to point out someone else’s faults instead of looking at our own, so if you hear a Christian stating that gays are going to hell that’s not 100% accurate from what I understand about the Bible. Gay believers can go to Heaven, too.
As always, don’t take my word for it. Read the Bible and begin to understand it for yourself. I honestly thought it was going to be a lot more complicated than it is. Once I started to dive in, I began to understand it pretty quickly. I’m currently reading the New Believer’s Bible (NLT), which has really come in handy.
If I had to sum up Christianity in an easy to understand way (remember, I used to be a Kindergarten and 1st grade teacher), it would be this—
Hey, you’re not perfect because you’re not God, so you’re gonna eff up. But good news! No more needing to sacrifice animals and children because you know, Jesus. Believe in Jesus, don’t deny Him, and let the Holy Spirit heal you from being an a-hole. Boom. Eternal life.
Hope this helps, friends!
For anyone who has the question, “Can I trust the Bible?” The below video was from the first service I watched from the church I now attend and am choosing to get involved in. It helped answer a ton of questions for me.