Exodus 10:21 (NIV) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand
toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt
–darkness that can be felt.”
In a nicer world, two gay men about to be married would walk into a bakery owned by a Christian cakemaker. They would ask to discuss a wedding cake and he would politely tell them that his religious beliefs prevent him from decorating a “gay wedding” cake although he would gladly bake it. Just not provide the desired artwork. But, he would suggest, there are seven other bake shops in town and he knows of several who would gladly provide such a cake. At that point, the gay couple might say “Oh, ok…understood. We respect your views and we thank you for your guidance. We will go to one of the other shops.” Then the Christian baker would offer them good wishes, and everyone would be satisfied.
But what if the gay couple’s motives were to challenge the law and the Christian baker? What if they are not willing to go to another bakeshop but want him to do it? What if they really want to possibly ruin his business because of his views on homosexuality and gay marriage? That is what happened in Colorado in 2012 when Jack Philips declined to bake a wedding cake with artistic decorations celebrating a gay marriage. In the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Philips was found to be in violation of a civil rights law and fined accordingly. This last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated Mr. Philip’s First Amendment Rights of religious expression and ruled in his favor. Many Christians celebrated but many legal observers said, “Not so Fast!”
It is interesting to look at the ruling itself. It seems animated by the contempt that the commission showed to Mr. Philips. Perhaps if they had been respectful and ruled on the precise issue of discrimination, the court might have ruled otherwise. I certainly do not know. But I am left wondering about this case. And…I am uncertain how the Christian baker will fare in the years ahead as we live in a world where “The darkness can be felt.”
I am a thorough-going, Christ-centered evangelical but I am somewhat puzzled at this situation. Of course, we Christians all want the baker to be given some slack. And we get it. We would not expect a Jewish printer to do business with a Nazi group planning a rally…or a black carpenter to build the reviewing stands for a Klan meeting. People should have the right to say, “I’m not interested in doing business with you.” But…how far can this go on religious grounds. How important is it to ask if the religious man’s scruples are “sincere?”
What if he or she sincerely believes that the Bible teaches African-Americans are inferior and therefore he does not wish to do business with them? What if he believes that Presbyterians are of the devil and he refuses to serve them…based on some convoluted interpretation of Scripture? Can we contemplate the Supreme Court Justices sitting with open Bibles trying to see if the merchant has rational and “sincere” views?
Can the Christian Ford dealer refuse to sell cars to Muslims because Islam teaches that Jesus did not die on the Cross? Are we not caught in a hopeless theological/philosophical cull de sac when we allow merchants in the open marketplace to discriminate based on their religious views?
I sense that Mr. Philips is a fine Christian brother. I do not wish to judge his way of doing things. Yet…I’m wondering if such actions do more harm than good for the sake of the Gospel. After all, he is willing to make a cake for their wedding but not write on it? He argued that the latter would compromise his creative talents in accordance with his First Amendment rights. He does not wish to communicate his “approval” of the gay union. But when it becomes known that the cake is from his bakeshop…and it will be known by the wedding guests…. does that not suggest he is “approves” of the wedding? This whole thing is confusing.
It would be nice, as we said earlier, if the gay couple would simply go to another bakeshop and not try to force their will on the baker. As Charles Krauthammer once observed the gay movement has gained every significant policy change it sought in America but they are “sore winners.” It is never enough for some of them. So, this couple was obviously looking for a fight over the issue of their wedding and their homosexual lifestyle.
In short, I sense that our witness as Christians is not enhanced by such a hassle with the gay community. Yet, we are living in a time when the “Darkness can be felt!” How to shine the light of Christ into it? But perhaps the larger point….is the baker’s right to respect himself. Interesting. I don’t envy him. Your thoughts?
Blessings! Pastor Alberta
“Through its corporate donations, Starbucks contributes to one of the most racist organizations in our nation’s history…Planned Parenthood operates the nation’s largest chain of abortion facilities, and almost 80 per cent of its facilities are in minority neighborhoods. About 13 per cent of American women are black, but they have more than 35 per cent of the abortions.”
Dr. Alveda King, Washington Examiner, May 29, 2018
Margaret Sanger, the evil genius behind Planned Parenthood…the one who said, “We must rid the world of morons, misfits and the maladjusted” (see her hard to find book “The Pivot of Civilization”) and who had no interest in the well being of blacks and Jews, etc.…. must be delighted with the good folks at Starbucks. She’d be at the drive-thru every morning. While they are “virtue-signaling” by making it known that they are re-training their personnel to be sensitive to minorities and all people (A nice idea) …at the end of the day they support the killing of approximately 275 unborn African-American children…EVERY DAY! (Yes I know that Starbucks claims moral immunity because the funds are generated by matching employee donations to charities. As if that matters. They do not have to agree to such matching contributions to Planned Parenthood. Would they agree to match donations to the Ku Klux Klan?)
So…. while it is nice that they are committed to treating minorities with dignity, they are totally indifferent to babies, black and white and in-between, having their skulls crushed and their arms torn off or their skin burned away. Our current President has put policies in place to impede Planned Parenthood’s holocaust, but I twitch when I stop at Starbucks for an over-priced cup of snob coffee. I must think about this.
Yet…pocketbook protests are problematic too. If we check online which companies support Planned Parenthood, we will feel even more compromised. Shall we all change banks? And stores? And vehicle manufacturers etc.? The list is endless.
We are reminded that the world is corrupted by corporate sin. Is our church’s sound equipment manufactured, in some cases, by repressive labor in distant places? The smart phone? Put together by people, in some cases, living in brutal poverty. The denominational churches at which some people worship? Part of their offerings go to yup…Planned Parenthood.
What to do? I’m not sure. Only make coffee at home but be sure the coffee maker is from a company that is not involved with corporate sin? Probably quite impossible. Here is one idea: at the very least, we can write to the corporate leaders at Starbucks and express our outrage at their support for Planned Parenthood. And they will not change that policy and may not even thank us for the “input.” But we will be consistent with the Word of God that tells us the most robust way to fight evil is with prayer and action! For forty years, I have prayed that God would end abortion in America and worldwide.
And now, in Ireland many citizens are rejoicing that babies may be put to death. Perhaps Starbucks will open more shops. They have many in Ireland. May their customers rejoice with them…until Judgment Day.
Psalm 10:12 (NIV) Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.
Blessings! Pastor Alberta
PS: Yes, I know about Amazon, BOA, Amex, Groupon, et.al. If anyone knows otherwise about any of these and any corporations that have changed their policies, please advise.
May 14, 2018
“What was God thinking?!” – Grace, in the 2000 romantic comedy ‘Return to Me.”
It was a delightful movie, distributed in 2000, about a young woman who received a heart transplant. A year later she meets a man, falls in love and learns that his first wife died in an automobile accident. Then she learns that she has her heart and she realizes that her fiancé does not know it! Totally over-loaded at this point, she turns to her friend and says, “What was God thinking?” It’s a good movie; you might like it.
I have shocked more than a few friends including unbelievers and nominal Christians and evangelicals when I have said “I am certain that God wanted Donald Trump to be elected President.” Usually, they give me that look as if to say “If that is true, what was God thinking? How could you, an evangelical believe that God could approve that vulgar man with the embarrassing moral record should be the President of the United States? And don’t you shudder at the way you look compromised by supporting such a man? The enemies of the Gospel find it hypocritical and attack the church because of your support!” (I humbly suggest that this last argument is particularly facile. After forty years of ministry, I can assure any who worry about our “witness” that unbelievers were mocking and attacking the church long before some of us supported Mr. Trump. Way before he showed up, they hated our views on gay marriage, abortion and other things. To say that they respect us less because of Trump is to say their respect went from one to zero on a scale of a hundred.)
I continue to find this puzzling. I appreciate the fact that we’d all like a President who was a cross between Jesus and George Washington. But these are men with feet of clay. Some who are offended at my statement need to read history. Briefly…. because this is not primarily a political argument…but briefly: Jefferson decried slavery while he had children with his slave lover named Sally. TR and his former friend Taft kept America amused in the early twentieth century with their brutal invectives against each other. FDR had his adulterous lover in the White House. Harry Truman openly called is opponents “SOB’s” and Eisenhower apparently took a lover while fighting the war. JFK had a fraternity house filled with naked secretaries in the White House pool. LBJ was called a vulgar and lecherous man. Nixon was a major league deceiver. Clinton ran a bordello in the Oval Office. And Mr. Obama lied about “keeping your health care plan.” Perfect Presidents are beyond rare.
Ok. We understand that MR. Trump has a checkered record. Again, I grow weary of non-evangelicals and even some evangelicals criticizing my willingness to “tolerate” Mr. Trump for the sake of “policy positions” as if the moral high ground is only held by those who dismiss policies for the “real” moral virtues. They overlook this reality: policy positions conceived and carried out are moral actions. It is a moral action to fight against crushing the skulls of unborn children. It is a moral action to correct the economy, so unemployment is down, and citizens of color are enjoying greater economic opportunities. It is a moral issue to correct an oppressive tax code. It is morally correct to begin to show respect for our military and our police. So, yes. I pray for our President and I roll my eyes at times. But here is another great moral issue: Jerusalem. I told a friend in the summer of 2016 that Mr. Trump would be elected flaws and all. Why? Because God was focused on two things: abortion and Israel. My prophecy was that God would appoint someone to turn the Supreme Court around for the unborn. (And yes, that matters because states will tighten abortion laws and the big court is needed to affirm their actions.) And God would appoint someone who would defend Israel.
One respondent was stunned. He said, “God would approve of such a man as President?” Sure. He might. God often uses imperfect, even vain and foolish people to serve him. We need only consider Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon in the sixth century BC. He got so puffed up and vain (narcissistic?) that God sent him out to live like a wild beast for seven years. Yet, God restored him and called him his “servant” (Jere. 27.6). So, yes, God uses very unusual people to do his will at times.
Now…as to Jesus and Jerusalem. Today, May 14, 2018, the American Embassy has opened in Jerusalem. It has been seventy years since President Truman recognized Israel as a nation. Finally, their capital is in their own prized city. A string of Presidents had promised to move the American Embassy but never did so. President Trump has done this. Does it matter? I think so.
It cannot be overstated that Jerusalem is critical to the plan of God. From the earliest days, the God of Israel called his own people to that city. It is spoken of hundreds of times in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we find these words from Jesus himself:
Luke 13:33-34 (NIV) “ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day–for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”
Jesus considered Jerusalem the visible capital of God’s earthly reign. And Jesus lamented over Jerusalem saying:
34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Bethany was only a couple of miles from Jerusalem…literally a village suburb. When Jesus called his disciples to himself for his departure, it was on the border of the great city. But just before this, Jesus told his disciples the following:
Acts 1:4-11 (NIV) “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”
Then they met with Jesus and watched him ascend. Notice carefully what the two angels said to them in verse 11:
5 “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
I could be wrong. But after forty years of study on this topic, I have come to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will return visibly and reign upon the Earth probably from Jerusalem. That many in that region, Jews and Muslims and unbelieving Gentiles will be saved. And that literal Israel will join in with spiritual Israel…the Jews and Gentiles who belong to Christ.
What was God thinking in ordaining an unlikely electoral path thru dozens of counties across the Midwest on election day 2016? What was God thinking in bringing about the unexpected election of a brash non-politician with little regard for the status quo in world events? One who would actually move to protect children in the womb? I believe he was thinking of his own will. And I praise him as I pray for this unlikely servant in the White House. I pray for Jerusalem and I pray for millions to be saved and I pray for more Supreme Court Justices who will support the various states as they try to protect the unborn. And I keep this in mind:
1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV) “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
Blessings! Pastor Alberta
May 11, 2018
This article is a bit long. I suggest a fastening of the seat belts! Ok….it is probably the oldest theological question of all. Namely “If God exists, and if He is all- powerful and if He is all-loving, why does He (did He) allow evil into His world?” Or, as C.S. Lewis supposedly said: “I can believe that God is all-powerful. And I can believe that God is all-loving. My problem is believing He is all-powerful and all-loving at the same time.” That makes sense. If God is who the Bible says He is, why does he allow so much suffering? Or, as a young friend said to me recently “I can’t believe in a God who will answer your prayer about some little thing but allow a young girl to be raped and murdered. I want nothing to do with such a belief system.” But…God does answer prayers, sometimes very small ones. And, as we all know, God does allow a great deal of evil. So…how are we to possibly reconcile these realities? Let’s consider…
Before saying more, let me point out that this article is not meant to persuade anyone that God exists. Although I do not believe that anyone anywhere is really an atheist, despite their claims to hold that position. I say that because Romans Chapter One points out that everyone knows there is a God. The creation itself makes that clear. Those who insist there is no God are simply at enmity with him. They insist on being their own God; idolatry begins with self.
Awhile back I asked a self-avowed atheist a question as we sat in his beautiful home. I said “Would you take me seriously if I suggested that this house got here because of an explosion at a lumber yard and at a fine furniture store? That it all simply came down…just like this?” Of course not, although he was quite unwilling to acknowledge my point. It was obvious that a designer and architect and builders brought that structure about. He was not persuaded. In the same way, the creation itself with its order and seasons and design make it obvious that there was a Creator. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
Romans 1:19-20 (NIV) 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Setting those thoughts aside, this blog post is directed at people who are prepared to say that there is a God somehow, some way. And it is also intended for Christians who struggle with the question: “Why Does a Good God Allow Evil?”
There have been suggestions offered by some writers of theology. One “solution” came in the form of a book by a Rabbi named Harold Kushner. Published in 1981, “When Bad things Happen to Good People” was quite popular. Kushner had endured the early death of a beloved son. He wrote with compassion and depth. But, in my view, his book was unhelpful. Why? Because its basic thesis was that God is finite in his abilities to control the world he has made. In other words, “God is doing the best he can.” We should understand this and not expect God to always “come through” for us.
That line of thought is nonsense. The God of the Bible is all-powerful. He created the heavens and the earth. He created the nation of Israel and called it to himself. He opened the Red Sea and delivered his people from Egypt. He revealed Himself again and again and raised Jesus from the dead! Re-defining God is pointless. In any case, that is exactly the issue. If God exists, He must be able to break in upon our world and when He does not do so it is not a matter of in-ability on his part. It is his sovereignty at work.
So. Rabbi Kushner meant well but did not provide a solution. But going much further back, we are confronted with the theological system known as Deism. A quick review here: Deism began in the seventeenth century in England and spread across Europe. Before long, it became popular in the American colonies. Colonial leaders like Franklin, Jefferson and Payne were Deists. Why did they embrace it and what does it assert? Deism argues that yes, there is an all-powerful God and yes, he is just! And yes, there will be a Judgment Day. But, according to His own good pleasure, he is watching his creation, and he does not intervene in it. He is like a great clock-maker who made the time piece and wound it up. He set in on the table and he has stepped back to watch it but he will not touch it again until the end.
What is the appeal of Deism? It allows the theist, the believer in God, to believe without expectations. It solves the problem of evil by assuring us that God hates evil, but he does not break in to impede it or defeat it. It appealed to the early Deists because it was the perfect solution to the riddle. God, according to the Deists, IS THERE and HE DOES CARE but don’t expect him to get involved supernaturally.
The quintessential example of Deistic thinking was found in the “Jefferson Bible.” It was a very thin New Testament. Why? Because Mr. Jefferson took out all the miracles insisting they were mythical nonsense. But he did like the ethical teachings of Jesus, so he left them in! Of course. For a true Deist, miracles do not happen. Thus, Deism was the “perfect” solution. Jefferson and others could believe in a just and Holy God, but they were relieved of the angst that comes when man contemplates evil.
In my view, most Americans are Deists without knowing the word Deism. They are theistic. They believe in God. But they have rescued God from the accusation that he should do more. They understand the “Rules of the Divine Game.” They believe in God; they simply expect very little from him. Thus, they do not wrestle with the question at hand. Namely, why does a loving and all-powerful God allow evil? For the Deist, God takes note and God hates evil, but he will deal with it later when Judgement comes. For now, he simply watches.
Here’s the problem for Deism. If we can observe even one miracle, Deism collapses. So, Deism craters immediately if Jesus was raised from the dead (which he was!) The many proofs both internal and external to the Resurrection are not in our purview in this article. (Any reader desiring to discuss the veracity of the Resurrection accounts is invited to interact on this topic; debate is welcome! And I will respond.)
The Resurrection is the ultimate undoing of Deistic theory…the idea that God does not break into human events. To say nothing of the many other miracles found in Scripture. For me…it contradicts the healing of my back many years ago after an injury…and the millions of other testimonies to healing. God does break in! But, truth be told, often He does not. So, in the end, Deism is not helpful. (Believe me, as a Pastor who has seen everything in the way of suffering, I have often thought it would be easier to be a Deist. It would explain suicides and disease and broken families…everything. I could simply tell suffering people “God loves you, but He will not break in on your life. He’ll make everything better…later.” )
As has been said: “A God who could be fully understood could not be God.” In the end, judging God is the ultimate expression of pride and a lack of humility on steroids. I might liken it to an event years ago when one of our sons was small and requested permission to stay over-night at a friend’s house. In his mind, it was a reasonable petition because they were a nice family. But I knew that the husband and wife were locked in mortal combat and their household was characterized by tension and fighting. I told him we’d rather he did not go there. He was insistent. Almost demanding to know why we were not agreeable. But, of course, I could not tell him. Finally, I asked him if he was willing to simply trust us that we had a good reason? He hesitated. I closed the discussion by saying “Look…there are things you do not know. You’ll just have to believe me.” He was not happy. The Holy Spirit is always saying to us “There are things you do not know.” Often, we are not happy.
Actually, this whole issue revolves around what Lewis called “God in the Dock.” Stay with me here. This is interesting. Lewis suggested that man approaches God as if he (man) had him (God) in the courtroom dock being examined by man the prosecutor. Filled with indignation and certainty, the man demands that God explain his actions and choices. The man IS QUITE PREPARED TO FIND GOD GUILTY ON SEVERAL COUNTS. After all, God unwisely created a world that allowed evil. He neglected to remove that evil. He even took part in it through wars and genocide (see the Old Testament ). One big et cetera here! Man has God “in the dock” and man is going to let him have it!
The absurdity of this word picture should be obvious. God is not a human responding to man’s indictment. Man may think that is so, but it is nonsense. The fact is that God is God and his ways are certainly beyond our comprehension. This is why when Job finally appeared before God, the Almighty spoke to him. We read:
Job 38:1-6 (NIV) 1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone?
This line of thought goes on for several chapters until Job finally confesses that he is way over his pay-grade bringing charges against God. Our suffering friend admits:
Job 40:4-5 (NIV) 4 “I am unworthy–how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer– twice, but I will say no more.”
In other words, Job has just realized that he must love God and seek God and serve God UNCONDITIONALLY! God does things HIS WAY and that includes allowing evil to be in our world. Indeed, God did not just allow evil in general, he even ordained it in the life of Jesus. Peter put it this way when he preached in Acts Chapter Two:
Acts 2:23 (NIV) 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Did this make God an accomplice to evil? No. It showed the world that God used evil (the Crucifixion) for his own purposes and ultimate good. So…there it is. The ultimate decision. WILL WE BELIEVE IN God AND LOVE GOD UNCONDITIONALLY? OR WILL WE ONLY LOVE God IF HE EXPLAINS HIMSELF TO US AND EVEN APOLOGIZES TO US FOR HOW HE DOES THINGS?
In closing, we do well to consider the plight of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they refused to worship the idol that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They were headed to the blazing furnace. Yet here is what they said:
Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV) 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Do we have this attitude of “…even if he does not?” Can we accept the reality that God is involved in his world but does things contrary to how we would do them? Can we accept the fact that God saves one person and not the other? That when Jesus healed a blind man, other blind men remained blind? Will we tell God that he may not answer our small prayer until he answers bigger more important prayers that are being offered up? Will we demand that God must do things…our way?
Two things cannot help us. ONE: Deism, because God is involved. TWO: Telling God what he can and cannot do is blasphemous. As the Prophet Jeremiah said:
Jeremiah 10:7 (NIV) 7 Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.
God be praised! Blessings! Pastor Alberta
The Lord Jesus Christ said this:
John 15:20-21 (NIV) 20 “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”
The Apostle Paul said this:
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NIV) 15 “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?”
There’s an interesting scene in the movie “The Help.” It is the story of a group of black women who in the fifties and sixties worked as housemaids in Mississippi. One of the main characters is a spoiled and uppity white woman named “Hillie.” Particularly obnoxious, one morning she is approached by her maid. Hard-working and polite, the young woman asks Hillie if she could provide a small advance on her pay because she is a little short on her son’s college tuition. A reasonable request. But Hillie responds with condescension and visible cruelty. It’s obvious that she does not want to be helpful. Her husband quickly bolts from the breakfast table leaving Hillie to deal with the maid. What does she say? “As a Christian, I will help you by not helping you because you need to do this on your own.” (Or something like that) So…she takes the opportunity to portray the hypocritical Christian as cheap and uncaring and repulsive.
Once again, Hollywood characterizes the “Christian” as hateful, mean-spirited and cruel. The first time I saw that scene, I thought “If Hillie is a Christian I am a Martian!” But, as you know, the film industry and the unbelieving culture can be depended upon to mock all things Christian. And often they are obsessively suspicious!
Now…before saying more…we must admit that some people claiming to be Christians are downright nasty and certainly un-Christlike. They carry signs that say, “God Hates Fags!” Or they show up at funerals and disrupt a family’s privacy. Such people give all true believers a bad name. I am not speaking of those folks but rather simple, garden-variety, every day, well-behaved Christians who are held in contempt by many in our culture. Why are such polite and “good neighbor” Christians often hated? Why is that? We’ll return to that question.
Consider the Chick-fil-a restaurant chain. They are opening several locations in New York City.
Recently, a writer named Dan Piepenbring wrote an article in the New Yorker. In a wave of hysteria, he suggests that Chick-fil-a is acting as follows:
“…the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.”
What is Mr. Piepenbring’s cause for alarm? That leadership at Chick-fil-a is known to oppose gay marriage and to have Bible verses visible in its headquarters…and its stores are closed on Sundays…and that the company’s “bigotry” is well-known. For Mr. Piepenbring, the management of Chick-fil-a are nothing less than religious terrorists who are obviously planning to bring down America in a tidal wave of chicken sandwiches and praise music! Thus, they are “infiltrating” the City of New York! Interesting that business could not be better for Chick-fil-a in that city; apparently even the non-religious really like their menu! But would a serious writer really see the presence of a company managed by Christians as actually subversive and dangerous? Apparently…yes.
Those who hate the Gospel want to litigate about everything from cake baking to a football coach who was dismissed for praying with his players. Of course, all of these things are mostly “soft persecution.” In many places around the world, Christians are being persecuted as badly as they were treated in the third century. It’s been estimated that more Christians have been martyred for their faith in the last half century than in all previous centuries combined. And that is saying something!
For the first three centuries of the church, Christians were jailed, beaten and executed wholesale at times. The Emperor Nero used Christians as human torches for his garden parties thru the night. In fact, even a brief review of the early church sufferings will shock most believers today. It was not until 313 AD that the Emperor Constantine decreed that Christians were not to be persecuted. In fact, in a burst of enthusiasm, he declared that from that point forward everyone should become a Christian! A policy that no doubt filled the true church will hordes of unbelievers. In any case, persecution was known and expected thru the centuries by those who followed Christ.
Today, such bias and cruelty are still mixed with politics. EPC Pastor Andrew Brunson has been held prisoner in Turkey for nearly two years. He faces a possible thirty-five-year jail sentence. Having been a missionary expressing his love towards the Turks for twenty-three years, this accusation by the government is surely nonsense. Yet, following the unrest of two years ago in Turkey, he stands accused as a collaborator. His real crime? Sharing Christ…no doubt.
That is hard persecution. Here is more of the soft type. I have personally grown weary of non-evangelicals criticizing, even mocking, evangelicals who “sacrificed” their moral integrity by voting for Donald Trump. Heartsick over the moral issue of killing the unborn, many of us found Mrs. Clinton totally unthinkable and were quite willing to take our chances on the unsettling Mr. Trump. But, for some reason, non-evangelicals find the evangelical vote fair game for condescension. One suspects they simply are not interested in our explanations.
Yet….in my view, the distain that many show to Christians is really rooted in something deeper. Usually, it is Christ in us that they despise. I experienced this for months some years ago when I publicly preached against gay marriage. So many of our “tolerant” friends could not stop hating and reviling long enough to even listen to my points. But my love for the Word of God was the real offense. It took awhile for me to realize that speaking out for Christ will truly be, as Paul said, a stench in the nostrils of many unbelievers.
There are some, to be sure, who just don’t care. But many others have figured out what evangelicals are really saying. Namely, that if one does not receive Christ one will be lost for eternity. Hostile unbelievers are usually living with a quiet rage against the true Christian because of what we believe. They may not be able to quote John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life…no one comes to the father except thru me!” But they know that is what the New Testament teaches and since they do not want God in their lives, they are offended. We must not be surprised. This may include people we truly care about…including unsaved family. The Lord Jesus Christ said:
Matthew 10:22 (NIV) “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Thus, we are to the hardened unbeliever, as Paul said, “the smell of death!” So…what are we to do? Realize with pity the lost state of the mocker or persecutor. Pray for that person(s).
Remember what they did to Jesus and his teaching that “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they abused him, they might well abuse us. In closing, a quick story. A very gifted young preacher told me about some severe criticism that he received after a certain sermon. He was a little disappointed. So, I said “Well…one day Jesus preached a perfect sermon (Luke Chapter Four) and the listeners tried to push him off a cliff!” In the end, consider the words of our Lord:
Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV) 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Blessings! Pastor Alberta
In the middle of the night on April 13, 2018, aircraft and ships from the United States, Great Britain and France sent more than one hundred missiles into Syria destroying a tremendous amount of that country’s chemical weapons production. This very precise and militarily vicious attack left a path of destruction and death. According to spokespersons for all three members of the alliance, the attack set Syria back many years in their use of outlawed chemical weaponry. Yet, some commentators said this may have been illegal and/or unconstitutional at least for the United States. Others said the three countries had no right to take such an action. Some said it won’t work anyway. Others said there are many outrageous activities around the world, so why isolate the Syrians and their evil actions? As always, many words and many views screamed across the marketplace of ideas.
Some Christian commentators, arguing from a pacifist point-of-view…or at least something close to that idea…said this from the Word of God: “Never pay back wrong for wrong…” 1 Thess. 5: 15. But, of course, this was exactly the question. Namely: were the actions of the three-party coalition “wrong?” Were the actions of the attackers just as “bad” as the Syrians use of chemical weapons. Was the bombing of Syrian chemical resources morally equivalent to the use of those chemicals a week before killing many dozens of men, women and children in the most agonizing ways? In my view, the answer is “No!” Let’s consider when violence and force in the interest of righteousness is appropriate. As always, these are my thoughts. This is not math. The answers are not as simple as five times two is ten. Smart people may feel differently. Understood.
In Isaiah 13, we find that God sent the Medes to destroy the Babylonians. The Word of God bursts with examples of God using war to punish evil nations. True, it is one thing to be sent by God into battle, but can man discern such a “sending?” He must, at times. When Lincoln reflected upon the 600,000 deaths in the Civil War, he saw the hand of God punishing a nation for slavery. Looking off, Lincoln quietly said “The Almighty has His own purposes.”
Yet, none can deny the words of William Tecumseh Sherman. After the Union General nearly burned Atlanta to the ground, he said “There is no getting around it. War is all Hell!” But 80 years later, it was reported that General Patton looked over a French battlefield and said “My God…I love it! I love it so!” Perhaps he never said that but we all know that some people find warfare exhilarating. Why else would violent video games have such an audience?
In any case, if one objects to reducing the Syrians chemical agents thru bombing, then does one object to a swat team breaking into a house where small children are being held for purposes of sexual slavery…and when the criminals resist with gunfire that they are shot to death? Does one object to the policeman who uses his or her weapon to protect the innocent? Are we really to be a hopelessly unrealistic society that thinks evil must be coddled? Or have some Christians confused the teaching of our Lord to us as individuals to “turn the other cheek” with the rules for a civilized society? They must read Romans Thirteen. We must resist and at times destroy evil. Because we cannot destroy all evil is a poor reason not to do so when we can.
In the Fifth Century, the church father Augustine set forth several principles for a “Just War.” His point was that there are and will be times when war is necessary to combat evil. Among those principles was the notion that all other means have been exhausted or tried. In the case of the Syrian dictator using chemical weapons in total violation of international law, he was not about to stop doing so. Other means had been tried. And if a coalition of the willing, and the morally upright in this case, can stop him…should they not do so? Hence, in my view, their actions to destroy his wicked resources were an instance of overcoming evil with good. In this case, the good being cruise missiles fired from ships and warplanes. Just my view.
Blessings! Pastor Alberta