THE BLOG
10/09/2013 02:58 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Making God in Your Own Image

You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. - Anne Lamott

When Jesus set forth the rules in the New Testament, one thing was certain: being a Christian is tough. He definitely raised the bar. In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, He explains that not only can you not murder, you can't be angry with a brother or sister. Don't even think about sexual misconduct now, much less act upon it, don't give in to a fight, and love your enemy as well as your neighbor.

If all of these things seem to go against basic human nature, well, that's because they do. For example, Matthew 5:39: "If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn them the other also." No one wants to look weak. So some people go to great lengths to explain what this particular scripture doesn't mean. I've heard pastors say things like, "This isn't saying that if someone breaks into your house and rapes your wife you should give them your daughter too."

That's true. It's not saying that. Jesus used His words for a reason and it doesn't need crazy hypotheticals to distract from it. Matthew 5:38 says, "You have heard it said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'" And we have. It's mentioned three times in the Old Testament, once regarding two brothers in a dispute and twice about two guys in a fist fight.

Always beware when someone tells you what scripture doesn't mean. That quite often means they don't like what it does mean. Again, it's not easy to follow the rules. If a person wants to be seen as a Christian, however, there are two ways to handle these directives. One way is to truly strive to adhere to them and ask forgiveness for coming up short, or the most frequently used practice: simply find means to get around them.

A common way to do this is to claim the Old Testament still applies today. Of course it doesn't. That's why the name means "old agreement." The Bible is clear that the only thing from the OT that still applies today is the Ten Commandments. But some people stick to the OT and love to use this phrase: "You can't pick and choose which parts of the Bible to follow."

Ironically, this is something they themselves must do since the OT has rules like not eating pork, not shaving your beard, not wearing clothes made from more than one animal, stoning adulterers, and killing disobedient children. Therefore, they must pick and choose which parts of the OT they want to apply. If anyone tells you the OT applies today, they are trying to get around the teachings of Christ.

Sadly, you don't have to leave the New Testament to follow the Bible and ignore Jesus at the same time. Have you ever wondered how it is that both conservatives and liberals can lay claim to the NT and Christianity? These are clearly two different belief systems and philosophies. The truth is that both conservatism and liberalism are fully represented in the NT.

Paul was the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus. - Thomas Jefferson

I know a lot of people, including clergymen and women, think of the Apostle Paul as the greatest of them all. But herein rests the conflict. Paul was an educated man from a wealthy family, Jews who were also citizens of Rome. He could already read and write so his writings predate those of the original apostles who were simple men. That means that 16 books of the NT are made up of writings from Paul and Luke, while only 11 books come from the original apostles plus one from John Mark.

I don't know if Paul truly intended to corrupt doctrine or simply attempted to deliver the same message from his own point of view. We all do that after all. Like in Colossians 3:22 when Paul said, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters..." While that might seem strange coming from one of the original apostles or Jesus, Paul actually had slaves and servants, so it makes more sense. So Paul's teachings are much more conservative in nature.

Some of his teachings, however, are directly in opposition to those of the original apostles and Jesus, and hence, possibly more dangerous. In Romans 4:6; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; II Timothy 1:9; and Titus 3:5, Paul makes the case that good deeds are not required for salvation, only faith. I have many friends who cling to these passages like gold.

The Apostle James teaches 180 degrees the opposite. James 2:24: "You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone." And the Apostle John was given a vision to see Judgment Day and in Revelation 20, he mentions twice that people are judged according to what they had done.

Like most issues in the United States today, a person's beliefs tend to mirror their political preference. A conservative Christian is more likely to follow the teachings of Paul whereas a liberal Christian is more likely to follow the teachings of Jesus and the original apostles.

I guess each person who wishes to be seen as a Christian needs to ask them self a simple question: Is it for His glory or your own?

*All Bible verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.