Archive for December, 2008

Christians and violence – whither the line?

Dirk Willems rescues his pursuer

Dirk Willems rescues his pursuer

 

Okay, it’s Question time:

In the picture above, Dirk Willems was an Anabaptist who, while being pursued across a frozen stream and manged to make it safely to the other side, turned back to rescue the man chasing him, who had fallen in. This resulted in his capture and subsequent execution. This, I believe was a very self-sacrificing and proper Christian response. Dirk could not, in good conscience, allow this man to drown who was simply following orders. Additionally this represents the idea of loving your enemy and speaks strongly against going to war.

    And yet Jesus tells us to “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. Paul and Peter also say “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. ….. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. ” (Romans 13:1-2 and 5-8 ESV)

Where do Christians draw the line(s)?

For quite some time now I have been a staunch anti-Calvinist and pro-Anabaptist person, believing in non-violence and pacifism in the affairs of the world. Yet, I cannot come up with an answer to all the possible challenges that I face and consider daily.

On the train, when someone is acting rudely and threateningly toward other people, especially women and older people I don’t see pacifism as a valid reaction. Aren’t I, a person who is supposed to love others as Christ did, also responsible to stand up for the weak? I know Jesus said we are to turn the other cheek, but isn’t that more applicable to personal affronts hat we must endure without seeking personal revenge?

My biggest problems with Calvinism and the early Reformers in general, is their predilection for merging church with state, the magisterial with the clergy. The Ana-Baptists were against military service, paying taxes to a corrupt government, any kind of state or monarchical control over religious affairs and resisted licensing of marriages, births and baptisms. So, naturally I find myself more attracted to these kinds of believers than to those, especially here in America, who seem to think the country is, was, and shall be (if they’ve anything to do with it) a “Christian” country. I recently heard a General of the US Marine Corp give a patriotic and anti-terrorist speech during a church service. This is the kind of Constantin-ism that I thoroughly detest. Can anyone really imagine Peter or Paul inviting a Roman Legionnaire to speak in the churches?

Yet John the Baptist (who was not one:) told soldiers “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:14 ESV)  He didn’t tell them to be conscientious objectors or draft dodgers.

So, back to my earlier questions: Surely God would expect me, a person who should not fear “what man can do to the body” and is secure in his future resurrection, to defend the weak and the poor? And how do I do that? With a meek and mild word? Or with all my might and wisdom? A “soft word turns away wrath”, but does it always deter criminal intent? Hardly!!

These, I am sure, are some of the so-called contradictions we find in God’s Word that seem hard to resolve. But, what is the answer to these? We are told that situational ethics are not scriptural and I tend to agree. But, what about ones family? If a rapist were to break into my house while my family are all asleep am I to wait and see if he means harm before I can act? Surely not! Do I call 911 and cower quietly until the authorities arrive? Of course not!

I believe that in these cases the spirit of the scripture “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8 ESV) must apply. And yet, we are to “… be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 ESV) When the Jewish believers were persecuted after the murder of Stephen, they were in fear for their lives, so one could opine that they were not really ready to die for the faith. Moreover, scripture makes it clear that the persecution served God’s purposes (Acts 8:1-4). When Christ said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 ESV) He evidently did not mean it literally. The asceticists of the Dark and Middle Ages were very much into denying the flesh and even abusing their own flesh, but this did not glorify God or make them better servants of Christ. Many today are falling for the delusional “visions” and practices of these “desert fathers” in the name of Spiritual Disciplines and Spiritual Formation.

Apparently these same asceticists neglected to take to heart the scripture “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, ” (Ephesians 5:28-29 ESV)

We are obviously to resist the authority of man when it comes between us and God’s will (Acts 5:29, 1 Thess 2:4) but are we to resist the authorities by blocking access to abortion clinics, porn shops, refusing to obtain a marriage license or birth certificate (see this interesting but flawed take on this). Apparently they are willingly to ignore the earlier advice from Paul and Peter regarding ordinances and laws of man.

When all is said and done, I believe none of us knows what to do in every situation. Satan would have us judge others based on our own conscientious conclusions, but thankfully none of us are the judge of others, but ourselves (1 Cor 11:31-32) and God will judge all of us based on our heart’s intent. So, as Jesus plainly said, in matters such as these we are to “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” (Luke 6:37 ESV). So, while we may not agree in all matters of conduct because all the answers are not given to us as clearly as we’d like, let us all who believe in Christ “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:16-18 ESV)

Simply put, if your intent is not personal revenge or evil in intent, do what is proper in the sight of all men and God and He will judge you fairly. In that same sense I am anti-war and believe that Christians cannot, in good conscience willingly kill people they do not even know. All wars are manipulations of public ire and prejudices for political or territorial agendas and are entered in to as a result of a refusal on one or both parties to negotiate terms. To my way of thinking, war and self-defense on a personal level are quite removed from each other.

What think ye? And what scripture would you apply to help someone decide what is acceptable to God? Anabaptists refer to Jesus’ saying ““You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39 ESV). But, was Jesus saying to be passive in all respects? Surely fleeing persecution is resisting it isn’t it?  How about escaping imprisonment, which the Anabaptists did whenever they could? I recommend the following article that I found on Phil Johnson’s Pyromaniac blog as well as this free e-book  at an anabaptist site.

ARE YOU VEXED????

Vexed and ready to go home

       Yesterday was a tough day for me in this world. I was steadily growing more cynical as the day went on, what with the financial concerns and foolish injustices of our present world. I do not support the government bailout of the banks and mortgage companies because it’s their bed and “they can lay in it”. The bailout of GM and Chrsyler bother me as well and I am perplexed by Ford’s decision not to apply for inclusion. These are all signs of impending financial collapse, in my humble opinion.

Still, what really discouraged me today had nothing to do with the financial status of our nation, but more the spiritual and moral starvation that are so evident even in much of so-called “Christendom”. Most people today are of a Post-Modern bent because  they simply are not convinced by the lifestyles or evidences provided them by those who claim to be different, but aren’t. Almost everyone I talk to is either already a “believer” or have a professed belief in a “universal God of love”. Some young ladies I overheard recently were saying they found praying to be “scary”. When I inquired a to why they thought this, the girl that aknowledged me mentioned they were looking into other spirituality and religions. I asked why and she essentially told me she was trying to find what worked for her. I told her that prayer should not be scary and if it was, it was toward someone or something besides the true God. Her friend almost immediately accused me of being judgmental, and I replied that Jesus had said there was only one true God and that He was the way to God, and no one could come to know God except through Him.

Surprisingly, this young lady explained that she was raised a Christian, but just wanted to see if these other things had anything better to offer. Her friend didn’t want to talk to me any longer, so recall I simply said “God bless and help you in your journey!” While not as pointed as I would have liked to have been, I am sure they were rolling their eyes at me for quite a while as their departure was limted to moving to another end of the train.

Then last night as I traveled home on the train, a young man and two very young girls (16 maybe?) got on and were talking loudly yet not offensively. After a few discussions about the weather and their sandwiches, they began talking even more loudly about things such as body parts and genitalia, announcing that because they were on public transportation they had a right to say whatever they wanted to and began pushing the boundaries farther and farther. Honestly, I am so weary of such talk and the apparent thick skins these kids have, that I resigned myself to blocking out their talk with music from my iPod. Granted I felt guilty about not confronting these kids with some scripture or sage advice, but unfortunately I honestly felt nothing but condemnation toward them. I was reminded of David’s Psalms where he talks about the wicked and foolish sinners who will not pay any mind to the things of God. Of course, Jesus’ words “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6 ESV.) seemed to apply here, too.

I know from experience as a former correctional officer, juvenile counselor and my current jail ministry that you cannot make someone righteous or just by judging them or throwing condemnation at them. You must consistently offer them the evidence of a life that evinces peace and hope. Jesus did not come to condemn but to save. How can we lead people to Christ who have no regard for God’s Word much less Jesus Christ?

The young man, out of nowhere it seemed, made reference to scripture saying something about “the shortest verse in the Bible” and while I expected to hear “Jesus wept” he mentioned something quite vague about Judas dying. He claimed it was from “the testaments” though he evidently had no clue what he was talking about. Keep in mind that even though I was pumping some piano music into my ears I could still hear their raucous conversation. One lady said sarcastically, as she got off at her stop, “Thank you for making my ride home soooo enjoyable!” That produced comments like “Oh! Did we offend you? Dont worry, we’ll be here tomorrow, too!” Eventually the girls got where they were going and apparently were more instigators than accessories because the train got reasonably quiet after they got off. The young man put on his headphones and pretty much kept to himself the rest of the time.

I confess I thought (after the fact, of course) of things I could have said, like “The shortest verse in the Bible is ‘Jesus wept’ and let me tell you why!” or “You should read the Bible and see what it really says.” I realize that just as a farmer will not spread seed on un-tilled ground, I am, as a believer, to be looking for and desiring the return of the Lord (1 Peter 3:12) and for those souls who are looking for the truth (Matthew 5:6) and be a light to guide them. No one looking for truth is going to ask directions from someone that doesn’t indicate they know the “Way”.

We are to “….always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15-16 NASB). .

To end this rather long story, let me just ask again: Are you vexed in your spirit by the wickedness around you, on TV, in the newspaper, and on the radio? Do you long for your redemption from this world? Or are you hungering for that favorite TV show, irritated because the preacher takes more than 30 minutes on Sunday to speak the Word to you? What is your favorite music? Songs about God and Jesus Christ or the latest pop song? Really folks, we all need to examine ourselves and, in the words of Marshall Keeble “Get right!” with God.

“…And if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, (2 Peter 2:7-9 ESV)And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12 ESV).. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15 ESV)

Do not love the world or the things in the world

President Bush on Nightline

I was up late last night, doing some home repairs that needed immediate attention, so I got to bed about the time Nightline was coming on. It turned out that President Bush was giving Cynthia McFadden his take on religion and what it means to be President and believe in God.

I was interested enough to stay up even later and watched the first 15 minutes of the President’s interview. Let me just say this: Bush is the worst spokesman for religion I think I have ever seen. Even Joel Osteen does a better job of presenting what he believes than did President Bush.

Not once did the name of Jesus or Christ get mentioned. And the two times I heard him speak about God, the definition Bush ascribed was “the universal god”. His moment of conversion was apparently prompted by something Billy Graham said, but Bush did not elaborate at all. He simply said, “I went through the One Step program” in order to quit drinking. Now, granted, President Bush may have come to faith in Jesus, but he really didn’t make much of a case for it.

Ms. McFadden asked him about the Bible and Bush said he believed it was a good and helpful book but added that he was “not a literalist” and that he also thought scientific proof of evolution was compatible with believing the Bible. I beg to differ on one basic tenet. If trees and plants were created one day before the sun and moon, and these days amounted to thousands or millions of years, how did the trees and other plants survive that long without sunlight? Also, since God created birds on the fifth day and the Bible says they were flying above the earth that same day, how does this speak evolution?

To wrap this up, I must say I am less impressed with Busy every time I hear him speak. He may be a decent man and may be well intentioned, but I do not believe he is a true believer and I am more convinced than ever that he is, and has been, a puppet president. The man has never, to my knowledge ever been credited with saying anything that smacks of wisdom or above average intelligence…and I’m being kind.

What do you think?

We’ve been snookered all along! Yes, you too!!

I am sure I will be considered a kook after this post, but I don’t care. Satan, for all intents and purposes appears to be winning the hearts and minds of people everywhere. And it is being done under the guise of brotherhood, community and tolerance for all faiths and all lifestyles. What matters is that, in the famous words of Rodney King “…we all just get along”.

The goal, it appears, is admirable, honorable and only a religious nut like me would find fault with it. But, here is why I fault it: because you’ll be labeled a dissonant voice, a rabble-rouser, a troublemaker if you don’t go along with the “program”. Satan is co-opting the “social gospel” because it is the wheel that the Post Modern world, including the Emergent church, are willing to put their backs to. It is humanism exalted. “Be the change” is a great catch word and one the church of Jesus Christ should have been owning. But, because we have become a nation of people who worship a god of our own making and call it American patriotism, the right to happiness and the “American Dream”, we’ll go for this because it is not very costly. All of us can be great by giving just a few hours a month. That’s a wonderful thing, but Satan is basically bulldozing the idea that the church (aka “faith-based organizations”) is even needed in this Post Modern world where truth is relative and there are not rules that embarrass or offend anyone (except the people who find THIS offensive).

It’s all been a big lie. Satan has bribed the world into buying his second-hand broken junk and we, the so-called church, have been going right along with it.

John the Beloved tells us plainly “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:19-21 ESV) Christians!! This world is not and never will be our home! Hate it, don’t love it!! “Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues’ ” (Revelation 18:4 ESV) Jesus is Lord and all things will be put under His feet…but not yet!

Our new President plans to outdo JFK and Bush, Sr. with a campaign that is intended to unite all Americans and , eventually, the world. It looks pretty well intentioned and harmless, until you take a closer look:

This is an unprecedented move towards voluntary service becoming mandatory, which, at first glance, seems like something this country and the world needs. Unfortunately, it appears to be intended (and this is simply my take on it) to de-church all charitable work, amalgamate people in a cause that will help them to see the dormant “greatness” in ALL people.

Much like the socialist “Worker” parties of the past, the goal is to capitalize on the revived idea of community, change, and tolerance. One of the biggest commercial sponsors is MTV; hardly a godly or even PG-13 rated influence on youth and culture. Rick Warren considers this a part of his global Peace initiative. President Obama’s campaign mantra is echoed in the use of Gandhi’s quote “Be the change!” President Bush, Sr. gave an eerily prophetic glimpse of this in 1988 with his challenge for America to become a “thousand points of light” doing good in the world.
All this seems very well and good doesn’t it?

Did you know that this terminology echoes that of the Free Masons who are quoted in the book, Ecumenism, written by a Freemason in 1908, “the goal is no longer the destruction of the Church but rather to make use of it by infiltrating it.” 

Many good Republicans know that Cheney, Rumsfield, President Ford, and many other neo-conservatives are, or were, Masons? Everyone knows that both Bush Sr. and Jr. as well as Senator Kerry belonged to the Skull and Crossbones Society in college. The whole idea that Democrats and Republicans are different has been a master manipulation of the gullible American public and even Christians who somehow equate being a “good American” with being a Christian!

One World Government and One World Religion are well on their way! Where will you stand?