What I think Christianity is all about.

It may seem a little strange seeing a page like this, written by a pretty firm non-Christian.  Before you start panicking, and assuming the worst, this isn't a "Bash Christianity" page.  In fact, nothing is further from the truth.  I have just been asked several times to explain my personal "take" on the religion, and so I am placing that here for ease of access.

You will notice as you read through this that I have used the King James Version (KJV) throughout.  This is because I prefer the KJV in its command of the language, for the religous emotion it conveys. For accuracy of translation I have other preferences, foremost the New Jerusalem Bible.

To my mind, the essence of what "Christianity" is all about is conveyed in the words of Jesus, even in the second and third hand accounts we have as the Gospels. The remainder of the New Testament is essentially a collection of the works of Paul, and
while many people find what Paul had to say important for them, I really feel that he missed the mark in a number of crucial areas.

As I looked through my memory, nothing conveyed that essence of what "Christianity" is all about as well as the "Sermon on the Mount", and as I re-read it I reaffirmed that it contained what I wanted to explain. There are some further materials in the Gospel of John, but these are less important at this time.  So, I will begin with Matthew 5 and inter-leaf the appropriate passages from Luke's version of the events. After which I will try to express what I think is being said.

Please note, if you don't agree with me, that's fine.  I'm not interested in converting you to anything.

Please note that I do not believe that these are rules as much as they are guidelines, not for OUR behavior (God doesn't care about how we act), but for A form of relationship with a truly loving and passionate God.

Matthew 5

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of  heaven.

Those people who have been subjected to the worst that life can possibly throw at them, and still survive with hope and dignity, never utlimately giving into the absolute Hell that life can be, are to be revered, for they can and will survive.

Poor in this case is not intended to convey a monetary value, but rather they are the weak and lowly, the little people, the
spiritually shattered.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Only when they can recognize the passing of something, mourn for it, and let it go, can the peace of acceptance be found.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Also translated as the "gentle", they are the unassuming and undemanding. Meekness does not refer to people who are incapable of defending themselves, but rather to those people who are yield themselves for the Ultimate goal.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

The hunger and thirst for Righteousness, or Justice, refers to an unquenchable need for what is Right, in All arenas, and not simply in the realms of politics or society. It can include a burning passion to do all things as well as possible, and to seek greater challenges and more exciting goals - since that is how we can best honor God as we utilize our gifts and abilities

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Those who can truly feel for others, empathize with others, even though it is difficult, or unpleasant, who can find the other in
themselves, will find others where they can find themselves.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Purity of Heart, or in "Clean" of Heart refers to those who are honest with themselves and refuse to give in to self deception, who act from integrity and who refuse to give into the destructive corruption of envy -- even when they must acknowledge to themselves that it exists.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Those people who will throw themselves into the chaos and risk themselves to bring order to that chaos.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Also translated as the Oppressed. This refers to those people who sacrifice themselves to the pain, the abuses, and the traumas that arise from trying to live as Right or as Just a life as possible.

[(Luke) And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said,  Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.]

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,  and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

[(Luke) Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.]

To live the life that God is very difficult. Such a person, can often be perceived as threatening the status quo, and that can lead
to all manner of tortures and temptations intended to drag them back into the mire of hopelessness and loneliness. The sort of
Sacrifice that such a commitment to a Lover requires is to be respected and honored, all the more so since the commitment is to God and yourself.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
[(Luke) Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.]

That sacrifice brings its own rewards, particularly to the Heaven we create for ourselves here in life.

[(Luke) But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.]

There is a great temptation to forget God, while in the midst of seeking the material benefits of life.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Be an example. Live as an example, of an upright and righteous person, and let that example speak for you.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

One of the most significant problems with the Christianity taught by Paul was that Jesus came specifically to teach the Jews of the Second Temple period. He had no intention of teaching the Gentiles. or non-Jews. His teachings are an addendum to the Laws of Moses, a gloss, if you will, for a perfect Jewish life. he had no intention that his teachings should supplant the Laws of
Moses, and clearly felt that those Laws were of paramount importance.

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

To make a commitmant to God, and then to teach that that is acceptable to violate the Laws of Moses, is to betray the Covenent between the Jewish People and God. But to teach those Laws and live them, is a really Good Thing.

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees, the accepted Priests of God, are clearly lacking, to Jesus, a sense of true moral and spiritual base. They have given into the "power structure" of organized religion, which serves only to support itself.

Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Killing is Bad. But even more so, the unbridled destructiveness of hatred and anger are worse. Anger that is sufficient to allow for abusiveness in language is but a short step from far worse negative emotions. "Raca", the Aramaic Raqa means "fool" or "empty headed twit"; "thou fool" is also translated as "Traitor", "worthless person" or "apostate".

I confess to having a small problem with this use of the term "Hell Fire", and personally suspect that it is a later addition, in place of a metaphor for the Hell we create for ourselves here on Earth.  On the other hand, it may not be.

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

Only when you have begun to work past your arguements and angers can you even begin to approach the Love that God promises.

Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

If you can NOT work past your own problems with other people, it can eventually turn on you, and when that happens, you will not escape the penalties that will be levied against you by society.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

You can not be honest with God, if you can't be honest with yourself. If you lie to yourself about so much as lusting after
another person, than you can not help but lie to God about it.

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

If there is something about yourself that you don't like, CHANGE IT. You have that power. It would be better to destroy your
life, such as it is, than it would be to further live as someone you don't like.

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

"Fornication" is also referred to as an "illicit marriage" and "Marriage within a prohibited degree" (or incest).

It is easier to divorce two people in a legal and social sense than it is to do so in a spiritual sense. They will remain tied
together by innumerable spiritual and emotional links that will remain for the rest of their lives.

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Do not make promises that you can't or won't keep. Show some honesty, integrity and sincerity in your dealings with other
people, and for Goodness sake, don't trivialize God by making a theatrical device out of the Divine.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

More harm is done to you and yourself to surrender yourself to the desire for revenge or retribution. so don't do it.. This should not, however, bar you from a reasonable defense from unprovoked aggression; much less opposition to Unrighteous things.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

If you lose a conflict, be gracious, and give more than is required.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Again, give more than is asked for, and make the extra effort to help.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

It is easier to love and forgive your friends than it is to love and forgive those who have transgressed against you, but because it
is so much harder, it is that much more inportant.

[(Luke) But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.]

[(Luke) And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil., Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.]

Treat people in the way that you would like to be treated yourself, especially when dealing with those who are your enemies.

Matthew 6

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Don't brag about your charities, your good works, and so on. People who do that are seeking the social rewards that this
behavior can bring, to feed their egos. And that Ego chow is ALL they will get for it. If you are charitable and generous because it is the Right thing to do, and keep your mouth shut about it.  God will know anyway.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

The same is true for Praying and making a showy display of how pious you are. The social strokes you get from that are the ONLY reward you will receive if you do.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye:

Complicated prayers and rituals are not needed to talk to God, and often God is lost in the rigid structure. The simple "Lord's
Prayer" is an example of how such a prayer might be done (and that Ironcially has become the sort of ossified ritual that Jesus
referred to in the section in front of it.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,  for ever. amen

Note that the "For thine is the Kingdom, etc" is a later inclusion.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

A continuation on a theme. Your relationship to God is YOUR relationship, and shouldn't be fodder for comment. To act as
though it IS is a futile and pointless quest for vainglory.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The Material world is full of temptations like money. It is often easy to lose sight of what is really important: your family, your
inner strengths and will, and your relationship with God can be lost to the golden cage of Materialism.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

If the spiritual light is dimmed within you, the darkness you will suffer will be far worse than mere physical blindness.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

It can come down to the choice between the Material World, and the Spiritual. Even if you must be IN the world, do not be OF the world.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they  reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Honest, everything will work out for the best. It may not seem so, but it will. But don't just sit back and wait for things to come
to you. As Benjamin Franklin put it, "God helps those who help themselves".

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall  take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Don't borrow trouble. Things will be bad enough, and prepare for that, but it is foolish and wasteful to get twisted about things
that aren't a problem yet.

Matthew 7

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
[(Luke) Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.]

This is pretty straightforward. If you are judgemental, you will be judged as harshly.

[(Luke) And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.]

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
[(Luke) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.]

Worry about your own faults, not those of the people around you. Only when your own house is in order, can you even begin to think about helping others.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Don't push your religion on other people. They will not appreciate it, and may get rather nasty with you. (this ties in to the
parable of casting your "grain" (the word of God) on stone, which simply wastes and trivializes that which is important to you)

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

God will answer your prayers, even if it not the answer you were wanting.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Again, respect and treat people the way you want to be treated and respected.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Taking the easy path will not get you to God. The straight, but more difficult path will get you to your destination.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
[(Luke) For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.]

There is in religion what is sometimes known as a "power structure", which is a way of saying that it is an organization
intended to exploit and demean its faithful for the benefit of a few. These are sometimes hard to identify, but if you see what
they produce, you can identify them

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
[(Luke) And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?]

There are many people who will SAY that they are Christians, but who are interested in only their own glorification. These are NOT true representatives of God.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them,  I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
[(Luke) Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.]

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house Upon the sand:  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
[(Luke) But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.]

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Jesus did not base his teachings on the traditions of the ancients, but simply from an understanding of the world as it is.