While America Votes Red or Blue the Church Walks Away Red and Blue

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Tomorrow many will head to their local polling places to exercise their right to vote for the candidates of their choice.  In the political arena the colors red and blue have been used to indicate left-leaning or right-leaning voters, and on maps, showing Republican vs. Democratic States during election coverage.  However, it is my humble observation that the church will walk away from this unprecedented election as both red and blue, i.e. bloodied and bruised.

I am grateful that God allows His kids to be unique, to have differing experiences that shape their life long beliefs and philosophies when it comes to certain issues.  God forbid we were all cookie-cutter church droids void of any diversity.  We can have different tastes in worship styles, in dress, in practice and traditions and within limited context we can even have differing views on Biblical topics like tongues or the tribulation, so long as we accept opposing views with respect and humility.  With that said, I am deeply troubled at how social media has applied a magnifying glass to the existing vile and bitterness exchanged within the church when it comes to a civil election.  We can peacefully agree to disagree on tongues or prophesy and call it different takes but when it comes to secular politics, opposing views are tantamount to creating enemy lines.  The passion and the angst we should hold for the Kingdom of Christ is perverted and exploited to “ungodly” levels as we label and in fact view each other not as eternal siblings but as red or blue, left or right, conservative or liberal, and even in some cases, “real” Christians or disingenuous believers.  We invoke God and His will or His sovereignty into the debates when in fact the God I know would have little to do with such petty grievances as secular politics.  Whether one views voting as a Christian obligation or abstaining as a preferable option, both have been demonized and regardless of the outcome of this election, there will be brothers and sisters of the faith left battled and bruised, red and blue.

Many have been duped by those who bastardize Holy Scripture to support a political stance. The “God sets up Kings” and the “God establishes governing rulers” crowds have not only used improper exegesis in interpretation, they have “exorcised Jesus” “straight out of context”.  There is not a single passage anywhere in the Word that advocates an obligation to exercise a secular civic right.  Thank God we live in a country where we can have a voice, but that choice should be individual, personal and most certainly not subject to ridicule by opposing siblings of the faith.  Conversely, the Holy Scriptures are plentiful in reference to how we are to treat each other with love in a spirit of unity that surpasses the limitations of fleeting time in a temporal world.

Romans 12:16, …”be of the same mind toward one another, not haughty…”

Romans 14:19, “pursue things which make for peace and building up of one another…”

1 Peter 3:8, “…be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted with a humble spirit…”

Eph. 4:3, “…being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…”

When the religious leaders came against Christ accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan, He was quick to remind them that a house divided against itself is doomed. We can be peacefully divided when it comes to non-essential differences of opinion-you can love the Colts and hate the Pats, you can cheer on the Cubs and detest the Sox.  You can tithe by obligation or you can be a cheerful giver.  You can fast once a year or on a regular calendar. But any division or opposing view that causes one brother to look critically at another in light of just these few referenced passages alone goes against the grain of the totality of Christ’s teachings on peace, love, unity and humility.  We can’t be the light of the world if we are snuffing out each others candles.  When any light is diminished the result is an increase in the level of darkness. At that point we have failed our commission.

Most would say that tomorrow, Election Tuesday, is the most important day of this year. The result of the peoples’ preference and direction for the next four to eight years hinges on the outcome of the vote.  I might suggest however that for many believers, the following day, Wednesday, is actually the most important day of the year.  It is the day after the election that we as a church will be forced to look at not only the results of this race and the impact it will have on its citizens, but the aftermath and the damage done during the electoral process and the ramifications it will have on eternal relationships. I have to ask this with all sincerity-on that day when we are reunited with Christ in our forever home, how important will it be if you voted red or blue, if you abstained completely, if your good friends or even your family shared opposing social beliefs, or if your candidate won or lost? We hear the phrase “big picture” quite a bit.  But “big picture” should mean totally different things to believers vs. nonbelievers. To the church, this world is but a vacation stop, not our home.  Until we can see each other in the realm of eternity we will continue to take up arms against the political enemy in a secular war with no real winners but a host of losers.  This weekend I’ll  still be in church as always,  I’ll still buy food when I run out, I’ll still be able to post my opinions, popular or not, and I’ll still have a loving Father who will sustain me as He has before when “my guy” didn’t win.  And I won’t be moving to Canada. My prayer is that we will embrace our rights to have a voice but that our love for each other will “Trump” any temporary and insignificant civil situation we find ourselves in, with the understanding that we serve an eternal leader who has already won and one who can never be voted out of office.

God bless our country and heal our land but more importantly, let our rule of law be the debt to love our brother, which can never be fully paid.

 

 

 

 

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Does God Appoint All Leaders? A Twist on a Twisted Passage

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Since the day they were first scribed to a scroll the Holy Scriptures have been subjected to poor translations, misunderstanding and blatant twisting to support questionable theology, not unlike an adult game of Twister with those who have had a bit too much to drink.  The result is often times, well, use your imagination.  A good Accountant can make numbers tell any story they want them to and a clever scholar can do much the same with using God’s Word selectively or improperly. One of the most commonly accepted twisting of scripture is often quoted during Election cycles, Romans 13:1 where Paul instructs us to obey governing authorities because all authority is ordained by God, which leads some to ask some serious questions in light of historical leaders and even the atrocities committed by them.  Can God really be responsible for the appointing or election of all leaders? I am no degreed scholar but I want to attempt to break down this passage a bit and take a closer look at what it really says.  This may be controversial for some.

Since the inception of the first King of Israel it is clear that God establishes a system of rule and authority.  That is, all authority is under His divine providence.  But here is where things get twisted.  No where in scripture does it read that God selects all individual leaders!  Nor does it say that everything done under God’s providence is approved by Him.  That sounds, well, twisted, I know.  Consider this example.  My body is under God’s providence.  There is not a single square inch of it that God doesn’t claim as His.  However, what I choose to do with my body is under my free agency.  If I join my body to a prostitute while under His providence, I am certainly not under His approval.  Scripture is very clear about how I am to treat my body and it is on me whether or not I comply with His will and intended purpose for my body.  The same should apply to the concept of governing authorities.  God expressly establishes the dominion of rulers and order, but does not necessarily appoint or approve of every individual leader.  For Biblical support of this consider Hosea 8:4 which reads, “They set up Kings without my consent: they choose princes without my approval”.  It is clear in this passage that God played no part in the selection of these rulers and most certainly did not approve of them, even though they were under His providential rule of authority.

We can not with intellectual honesty look upon the deeds of historic world leaders such as Hitler, Tung, Stalin or even Clinton (I know, use Bush if you prefer) and say God established government so therefore He approves of all governing leaders.  The Word is clear about God having no part of evil.  To assert that the acts and thus the leaders under God’s providence work under His approval is wholly contrary to His own words. For us to say that God, for instance, gave us two flawed candidates as Presidential choices and consequently must want one of them to be President is flawed theology at the highest level. Just as with our bodies, it is up to us how we respond to what we view to be His will.  The conundrum is that our will and His will don’t always coincide. It is highly questionable and borderline blasphemous to claim God gave us these two Presidential candidates as “thy will be done”. No, we selected them through our own selfish vetting or lack thereof to do our bidding based solely upon our own personal desires and gain. It is unfair to lay this at the feet of God by claim of Godly providence mischaracterized as Godly approval.

The second aspect of Romans 13:1 that needs to be considered is context.  Who was speaking and to whom were they speaking?  Where were they and what was the current social climate under which the statements were made?  CONTEXT IS EVERYTHINNG!!! First the Apostle Paul was addressing the early church in Rome. If you read verses 2-7 you find why Paul makes these statements.  He mentions those bearing swords.  The early church was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Roman Empire.  They hated Christians and looked for any excuse to off them.  The church likewise held Roman authority in contempt of the church and considered them an enemy of God.  Paul was being very clear in laying out guidelines for the church members to avoid trouble, to pay taxes to avoid jail time and to make no waves directed toward the ruling leaders so there would be no additional bloodshed against the church.  Verse 8 states that they, the church of Rome, were to live lives of submissive love and meekness.  Remember that this is the first century A.D and Paul’s letter was written most likely around 40 to 50 A.D. just a few years after Christ. The same leadership that crucified Christ still existed and Christians were still being singled out and persecuted.  Nero was an awful Emperor who is recorded as having Christians captured and set on fire to light up his gardens at night!  The persecution of the church would only get worse upon Nero’s predecessor Domitian. For the church to spread and Christianity to take root, it was important that a large number of them survived the rule of these Emperors.  (Did God appoint and approve Nero and Domitian?).  If they had not been peaceful law abiding subjects of the current administration there would have been few survivors left to carry our the great commission of spreading the Word.  The subjection to governing authorities was under both the providence and approval of God and His will for those people at that time.  The individual Emperors and their respective crimes against the church were most certainly not!  For further evidence, consider the three Hebrew Children of the Old Testament book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach and Abed-Nego.  They were ordered by the ruling authority of the day to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s gold image in worship of it or be tossed into the furnace of fire.  It was, after all, the law of the land.  Should they have not been subject to it?  We all know the story and the outcome. That law and its signor were in direct violation of God’s law so compliance was not permissible.  God honored their disobedience to civil law and spared them the consequences of their direct violation. This is a classic example of the providence of authority being perverted and twisted against the will and approval of God. CONTEXT!

Fast forward to 2016 and a very important upcoming U.S. election.  We as believers are faced with some tough decisions as a result of a selection process under God’s providence but not subject necessarily to His approval which has given us two primary flawed choices.  I won’t attempt to address here the polarization that has split the church body into fighting factions. What I do have to address is the irresponsibility of twisting scripture and consequently condemning brothers and sisters in the faith as a result of the same twisted logic over a Godly institution injected with ungodly man made choices.  The Word is to be rightly divided, not torn into sections to support bad doctrine. I cringe each time I see a verse quoted or applied to a meme removed of all contextual meaning. It is nothing new and it will continue to be done. It is our individual responsibility to test (challenge) all scripture under Godly criteria to affirm its proper interpretation and application, and to call out when positive any attempt to Twist it like an old game.

 

A House Divided

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At no other time is the division of the church more apparent than during the heated and passionate weeks leading up to a Presidential election. But politics in general is just an umbrella label that covers several very controversial and divisive issues that separate the church, some to the point of drawing lines in the sand against brothers and sisters of the faith.  As free moral agents God equipped each of us with the ability to reason and form opinions.  Those opinions may be based on several factors including life experience, demographics and upbringing. Thank God for diversity of thought lest we be zombie-like followers void of any uniqueness. However, are we as believers afforded the option to differ over basic tenets of Biblically doctrine?  What are some of the hot-button topics the enemy is using to divide the church?  With much trepidation, I want to examine just a few, in no particular order.

  1. Same Sex Marriage-this is most certainly not a new issue as the early church had to deal with this shortly after the birth of the church. It has only become a hotly contested issue with current legislation that makes it legal for same-sex couples to marry.  As with any good argument, opposing sides seem to be extreme.  Stones are cast with equal velocity by those who view this as the mother of all abominations and by those who “judge not”.  Is it indeed biological, is it a moral choice, is there restoration offered or is restoration required?  As with anything under the sun these answers may be found upon close study of scripture and a sincere seeking of God’s spirit for direction.  One thing is certain-it is dividing the body at the highest of levels.
  2. Racism-perhaps no other issue in modern times has resulted in or been the result of a blasphemous twisting of Holy Scripture.  Slave Owners used passages with slave references to instill fear and obedience in a way that was never intended.  Although we have evolved as a society from those shameful days of hatred, cells of bias still exist in the church that propagate a continued mistrust particularly between black and white Christians.  I have seen and felt this first hand in largely futile attempts at spurring racial dialogue between us.  That level of bias is exhibited even behind many pulpits.  You have on one side a black church body that continues to see and feel discrimination in a system largely lopsided to their disadvantage, resulting in a defensive and sometimes revolutionary posture. On the other side, a white church that knows the evil of bigotry between brothers but is either ill-equipped to properly engage in the battle, or for self-preservation, chooses to stay clear of controversy completely resulting in a complete ineffectiveness in ending racism.  I’m convinced we will never see a complete dissolution of racial hatred in our lifetimes, and it continues to plague the health of the church.
  3. Abortion-the number one reason some will vote for their favorite candidate or abstain from any vote.  More than any other issue, this one affects the voiceless and defenseless innocent.  It has been masked as an anti-government invasion of privacy between a woman and sometimes the biological father.  It has been debated on arguments of life vs. conception, whether pain is experienced by the unborn child, whether or not the fetus is a living soul before birth, whether or not an unborn child is entitled with the same right to life and liberty the living are afforded, etc.  It has been a painful and shameful cancer in the church that tears us asunder much like that of a late term abortion.  It’s ugly, disheartening and continuing. There are solutions to reducing abortion that include education, counseling and yes, birth control.  While I would never sponsor government endorsed contraception in schools, parents need to stop being naïve about sexual activity during teenage years and be active in teaching Biblical precepts regarding sexual intimacy accompanied with practical advice on contraception.  While some would argue that there is no difference in the sin of fornication vs. the sin of abortion, one involves an innocent victim.  Yet the church will look the other way on this topic when voting for their candidate of choice, which leads to the next issue.
  4. Politics-perhaps it has always been this divisive in the body and the popularity of social media simply casts a spotlight and magnifying scope on its existence. That said, the ugliness of partisan political affiliations displayed on posts and threads available for public consumption truly shed a bad light on the body of Christ. At no other time do Christian brothers and sisters hurl such hateful insults at each other than when done over political stances. Core convictions are placed to the side in preference to personal gain and welfare.  Personal responsibilities are discarded in lieu of government intervention and regulations. The custody and control of “do unto others” is surrendered to a largely non-Christian administration, defended by those who cite separation of church and state as if we are personally absolved of considering “the least of these” in light of big government agencies. Believers are highly criticized if they vote red-they are equally criticized for voting blue-they are called un-Christian if they abstain-they are called mindless if they vote third party and even accused of supporting ABC candidate if they vote for XYZ candidate. A temporary man-made form of secular leadership has caused many to overlook our eternal citizenship and relationships to each other long after any two-party system ceases to exist.  And lest I sound like a stuck record, this too is a top (clergy) down situation where even pastors hang their dirty laundry on social media for all to observe.

What ever the issue of the day, the Word is still relevant and has MUCHO to say about divisions in the church.  It plagued the early church just as it does us today.  John the Baptist or Jesus, Paul or Apollos, circumcision or not, foods, rituals, traditions-all divisive then just as our social issues are today.  Consequently, much was recorded for our consideration:

Romans 16:17; “I appeal to you brothers to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to what you have been taught, and to avoid them, for such do not  serve our Lord…”

1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you brothers in the name of Jesus Christ that you agree and that there be no divisions among you but that you be of one mind and judgment. “

Titus 3:9; “Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law for they are unprofitable and worthless. “

Like 11:17; “But He, knowing their thoughts said to them ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and a divided household falls'”.

Our commission is to present through words and our lives a unified gospel of hope, peace, love and forgiveness to a world looking to us for answers.  That can’t be accomplished when there are canyons of division that present anything but unity.  Love has to be a bridge that holds the church together during enemy attacks.  There is but one Holy church, the body of Christ-one savior, and He’s not red or blue but He’s always Right-one Holy Gospel that should be “rightly” divided, not torn into sections to fit preferred lifestyles-one blessed hope that secures eternal communion. How I long for the day when love rules over all evil and the teachings of Christ become our only guiding principle.