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.

 

 

 

 

 

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See No Evil

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We live in an evil world. We always have. Perhaps it is more so now, or maybe we are just more aware through social technology. When I was a boy (can’t believe that just came out of my mouth) I remember Harry Reasoner and Walter Cronkite being our major source of World News, in addition to the printed newspaper. If they didn’t report on it, the American public didn’t know about it. My how times have changed!

Now with the advent of the internet and social vehicles like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the likes, we are made more aware of the atrocities that are taking place all around the world in real time. The only people who can claim ignorance to world affairs are those with no TV, no computer, no smart phones and no newspaper service.  With all the advances in communications technology, you just can’t avoid the flood of available information on any current issue unless you are a hermit. To some the news is a sad story; to others it becomes a burden to help bear.

Consider some of the news stories in recent months:

* 276 girls abducted from a Nigerian school, yet to be found, feared sold into slavery or sex trafficking

* 500 children age 2 to 18 found living in a Mexican refuge among rats, cleaned only to be abused then returned

* 25 Children killed in Elementary school bombing in Syria

* 250 Christian girls gang raped in villages near Chibok in the name of Allah

* 48 Christians shot in head in Kenyan village while watching World Cup

The list is intense and overwhelming. To the Christian believer, it is a burden to heavy to bear. Galatians 6:2 exhorts us to carry each others burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ”. Romans 12:15 asks us to “mourn with those who mourn”.  The question becomes how can we be made aware of these end times atrocities without being brought to our knees in prayerful lamentations on behalf of the victims and their families.

We each have our own dose of issue to deal with in this life, sickness, unemployment, relationships, finances, etc. There are no shortage of burdens to go around. But Christ compels us to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies, in the midst of our own battles-to be spiritually and socially conscious of the plight of our brothers and sistesr in the Lord and the innocent children so precious to God. We can not afford to claim ignorance given the aforementioned media outlets at our constant disposal.  We are to be the arms, the legs, the feet, the heart and the tears of Christ when confronted with these stories and to bear in prayer the burdens of our neighbors, regardless of their religious or political persuasion, or their nationality. They are no longer a world removed-they are are backyard neighbors.

I am so discouraged when I see a story on Facebook for instance, about Hobby Lobby policies getting 1000-2000 likes or comments or anti Government posts receiving hits all day long, but a Christian pastor being jailed or kids being abused in another country going unnoticed as if we have closed our eyes to the real evils of our world in order to engage in the superficial and non-eternal affairs of hollyweird gossip or political stone throwing.  The body of Christ needs to be more engaged in the injustices being perpetrated on the innocent and the voiceless.

Father of all mercies, give us a heart of sincere compassion with eyes wide open for those who suffer and make us ever mindful that your Son died for the salvation of all!  Help us understand the eternal value of a life lived and a life lost. Forgive us our complacency and heal our eyesight and our hearing so we may see and hear the cries of the hurting and respond in kind with the love of our Savior.

 

 

Misplaced Vicariosity

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We are certainly a peculiar society. Those things that trigger our responses or stir our emotions are curious to say the least. We are all creatures of this addictive behavior and it shows up particularly with the television programs we watch. My wife and I like to watch a program where a couple is buying a house and has three to select from.  I must confess how silly we must sound when they choose any house but the one we selected for them!  And how we get caught up in the waste of time when a bachelor series is on and we are vicariously helping them to eliminate each contestant until just the right one remains, to the point of losing sleep when they once again, against our better judgement make the wrong choice. And need I even mention that popular show about idols when even the Las Vegas odds makers place odds as to who will walk away with the contract.  

What is so fascinating to me is how emotionally vested we get get into reality TV and celebrity scandal situations that have zero bearing on our everyday lives.  Our marriage doesn’t suffer (I don’t think) if he chooses the petite red head instead of the tall blonde; our survival instincts don’t become enhanced when one survivor outlasts the others. And I can testify with all sincerity that my income level didn’t change when Billy Bob won the million dollar singing contract over Mary Jane.  And yet our strange compulsions to live through others is never completely satisfied. We so easily get caught up with the superficial events of those we see and follow on television and the big screen.  We know who’s doing who, who’s cheating, who’s been arrested, who’s coming out and who’s checking into rehab.  We make rag magazines profitable and reality television successful by our patronage.  There is little that goes on in Hollywood that we don’t know about, and we seem to have an opinion on every scandal, as though somehow it affects our every day lives.  Those who don’t even know our names have us tied around their fingers of fame waiting for their next move.

What troubles me most is that we know so little about situations that really matter, moreover we don’t seem to care. There are tragic events that unfold and play out every minute of every day in our world that receive little media coverage or publicity because they don’t make us feel good-they are not pleasant.  Seeing a six year old girl extremely overweight living with a redneck family just as overweight, and celebrating their redneck-ness makes us laugh.  Seeing a little girl impoverished or molested in a 3rd world country brings us down so we dismiss it since there’s nothing we can do to improve the situation.  It’s the natural response-receive stimulation only from those things that make us feel good, but is it the right response? Should we be more in tuned with the human state even when it’s not pleasurable?

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For three weeks now there has been a media frenzy over racists comments made by an eighty year old billionaire NBA Franchise owner.  Talk shows have been buzzing about the cat fight between “real” housewives.  We have been inundated with celebratory images of the 249th draft pick in the NFL.  Our attention is divided by events that have little to do with our personal affairs while we live in ignorance of tragedies that cable TV doesn’t wish to cover.  Over 200 Nigerian girls kidnapped to possibly be sold into slavery by extreme terrorists acting on  “a command from God”, that only gained attention when FB brought light to it. Where is the outrage? Every day Christians are executed because they stand firm in their faith in Christ.  Girls are being crucified nude on crosses so the public will take note and denounce their faith when their time comes. Where is the indignation?  Children are killing children in the streets of America but no one knows their names.  Where are the advocates for these victims? Thousands of children are aborted each day for the sake of convenience before they ever receive a name. Churches are burned, sometimes full of parishioners because they are in violation of state rules against the practice of Christianity. Where is our country in the condemnation of these acts against citizens? And why aren’t we troubled in our spirits at just the thought of these atrocities?  Is this the appropriate humane and Christian response?  

Why are we so selective in what stirs our passions?  If I post a political opine on FB or start a thread on full submersion baptism vs. sprinkling or the use of tongues in today’s church, the thread would go on for days with hundreds of likes and comments.  If I post a picture of a man standing on a dead baby in war torn countries or dead girls on crosses, it will be quickly overlooked with few comments. Our response triggers are perverted-our senses have become numb.  We are truly a peculiar people. God forgive and have mercy on us!  Gotta run-My 800 Pound Life is coming on!