Tag Archives: Christianity

What Makes For A Peaceful Religion?

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What makes for a peaceful religion?

Is a religion peaceful because the majority of its adherents believe in the idea of peace and being peaceful? Is it peaceful if you can find some peaceful verses in the religion’s sacred text or its other revered writings?

What about if the religion contains violence in its holy book? Does it cease to be peaceful? What if a group of its followers are committing or once committed violence in the name of God sometime in its history? What then?

Does that make it inherently violent?

My primary point in this article is not to try and make a case that Islam is not peaceful. I do not believe all Muslims are terrorists or violent extremists. On the contrary, most Muslims are peaceful, as are the majority of Christians. This should be obvious to every sensible person.

Instead, I would like us to reflect on the real source of religious belief and practice within Christianity, renewing our commitment to the Prince of Peace.

The source is how you determine if the religion is truly peaceful.

While I do want us to think about the real source of Islamic faith, and whether or not Muhammad clearly and consistently exemplified a peaceful religion, my aim with this article is to help both conservative and progressive Christians avoid the current cultural extremes in being followers of Christ and bearers of the truth who are called to love their Muslim neighbors.

I submit that we do not need to fear Muslims, nor should we pretend that Jesus and Muhammad are the same. They are not. Therefore, I want to encourage Christians not to echo politically correct tripe or gloss over the truth about our differences, feeling that we must do this in order to best love Muslims.

So, what makes for a peaceful religion?

I’d like to briefly address this question by first applying it to my own faith. Is Christianity a peaceful religion? How do I answer that question? How do you? And then I’d like us to think about how it should equally apply to Islam.

Finally, I’ll end with some ways I think Christians should respond in light of the conclusions I’ve drawn. Please keep in mind that this post is a brief reflection of my own personal study and current thinking on the subject.

The Prince of Peace

What is the source of the Christian religion?

If you say “the Bible” then it’s possible that you might not agree with what I’m about to say. Yes, I believe in the inspiration and the authority of the Bible, but I do so because of and in the way of Christ–the Word made flesh (Jn 1:1-14).

Let’s be clear. The source of the Christian faith is Christ himself.

That is why we call ourselves “Christ-ians” or followers of Christ. We love the Scriptures because they point the way to Christ, but we’re not following a book, we’re following Jesus. As I’ve said before, the highest view of the Scriptures is not the one that seeks to make an idol of the Bible (biblicism), but the one that allows the biblical text to exalt Christ as the living Word over all creation.

The Word became flesh. He lived, died, and was resurrected.

So, our enemies can spit on or even burn our book, but it doesn’t incite us to do violence. Yeah, it may hurt our feelings a bit, but the One we worship is alive and seated at the right hand of the Father. You can scoff at his name, but you can’t kill him anymore. He has risen and will raise all those who accept him and follow him as the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25).

This Messiah we worship is the Prince of Peace who taught us to love our enemies and never use violence (Matt 5:38-48) Why? It’s not just because violence begets violence, but because that is what God is really like. The NT is clear that Jesus is the exact representation of his being (Heb 1:1-3).

I don’t believe in peace and praying for my enemies because I think it’s a good idea, or because it is the liberal or progressive-hipster thing to do these days. I believe it because Jesus told me if I want to follow him I must take up my cross and walk his road (Lk 9:23). It doesn’t need to make sense to me, nor does it need to be popular or politically correct. I obey because Jesus said so.

Our King and his Kingdom win by dying, not by killing.

So I don’t try to save my life by proof-texting Jesus in some pathetic attempt to justify violence, or even violent self-defense. When Jesus disarmed Peter with his rebuke to put away his sword, he disarmed me and every other Christian that professes “Jesus is Lord” (Rom 10:9), i.e. Caesar and the NRA are not.

Taking up your cross means first putting down the sword.

But what about the violence in the Old Testament? That’s usually where people go when they want to justify “Christian” nationalism and violence, or an atheist wants to be critical of the Bible. Didn’t God command violence in the OT?

If you’re interested, I’ve written about my views of the Scriptures and how I understand what is going on in the OT in a post called How I View Christ & the Scriptures. But the short of it is this… that was then, this is now.

Disciples of Jesus have been given a new covenant (testament) through his broken body and shed blood on the cross–the ultimate instrument of violence. The old has gone, the new has come. There is a clear division in our Bible so we don’t miss this. Yet some still fail to see the real significance of Christ’s coming.

The death of Jesus brought an end to belief in a tribal warrior God.

Violence in the OT is bound by its historical context within the narrative of Israel. There are no commands to do violence or promote it within the words of Jesus. On the contrary, we have a peaceful Jesus consistently showing us and telling us to do good to those who hate us. True sheep listen to the Shepherd.

If you accept that Jesus is what God looks like and has always looked like, then it not only requires that you read the OT with that in view, but it means that you also accept that any violence done after Jesus (which started about 200 years after Christ with the emperor Constantine) is in direct violation to the life and teachings of Jesus–the source of the Christian religion.

If you want to know if a religion is peaceful, you look to its leader. When it comes to Christ, the leader of the church, there is no shifting of his person or exceptions in his call to peace. None whatsoever.

He is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13:8).

Jesus was peaceful. Therefore, true Christianity will always look like Jesus.

The Cross & the Crescent

So, what about Muhammad & the Quran? Is Islam peaceful?

I readily acknowledge that the majority of Muslims are peaceful people, but what about Muhammad? Can we say with confidence that Muhammad was a man of peace? If the leader and prophet Muhammad was not a peaceful person, what does this say about Islam? Can peaceful Muslims trust a violent Muhammad? This is an honest question for the honest person.

And it is a key point of civil conversation when evangelizing Muslims.

If the leader called for both peace and violence, which is clearly the case in the Quran and in Islamic history, who gets to speak for Islam? If Muhammad is the prophet and final revelation of Allah, on what grounds and on whose authority does one get to say at the heart of Islamic doctrine is a peaceful religion?

I have read the Quran. Have you? If you haven’t, you should.

A major difference between the New Testament and the Quran is that the NT is written from multiple authors within a few decades of each other. Jesus didn’t pen a single word, but instead the apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tell us about Jesus and invite us to accept him and follow his teachings.

The Quran on the other hand comes entirely in Arabic from Muhammad as dictated by the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years, from Islam’s peaceful beginnings in Mecca to the violent militarism of Muhammad in Medina.

There are no “Old and New Testament” divisions within the Quran, none that are obvious to the lay reader, that indicate what teachings of Allah via Muhammad are in effect. I’m no Islamic scholar, but this is definitely why we are seeing the radical differences of interpretation within Islam.

So which Muhammad is reflective of true Islam?

I don’t see how the 100+ violent verses are annulled (e.g. Suras 2:216; 8:12; 9:111). They read as standing commands, not bound by their historical context. And that is of course why Islamic terrorists are saying Muhammad’s final revelation from Allah (God) is in effect. It’s the Islam of Medina.

This is much more than a matter of “twisting” verses in the Quran.

Former terrorists and Islamic scholars have been testifying to this problem, despite the backlash of our so-called “tolerant” pluralistic culture where we are certain every religion is obviously peaceful at its core.

Could it be a combination of this glaring problem with Muhammad and the rise of ISIS that is resulting in mass conversions of Muslims to Jesus?

If God is working like never before to bring Muslims to a saving knowledge of Jesus, why would we turn away refugees out of fear? Also, how does it help when progressives overreact to anti-Muslim bigotry by saying that our theology and history of violence are pretty much the same?

Not only is it not helpful, it simply isn’t true to history or the context.

We need to be clear. This isn’t just about differences of Quranic interpretation, as if Christianity has the same problem with the Bible. It is about the historical figure of Muhammad, the source of Islam, calling for both peace and violence.

What do peaceful Muslims do with this conflicting portrait of Muhammad and his commands to do violence? I’ve yet to hear of a coherent Quranic hermeneutic of peace like the Christocentric one set forth by Jesus in the Bible.

Until then, I will love Muslims as Christ loves me, but I can’t reconcile the prophet Muhammad, a man of war bent on conquest, to a peaceful Islam.

The Christian Response

How then should followers of Jesus respond?

  1. Affirm the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ.
    Christians need to remember that the source of our faith is Christ himself. However you sort through the violence of the Old Testament, the peaceful and non-violent Jesus supersedes it as God’s final Word.
  2. Speak up and out about the true source of our faith.
    It’s time for all followers of Christ to lovingly challenge the distorted perspectives of the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham who are shaped more by the Bill of Rights than the Jesus of the NT.
  3. Get educated and informed about the Quran.
    Buy a copy, read it, and learn about the differing perspectives of Islam. Notice its similarities and differences with your own faith. Listen to Muslims and converts to Christianity talk about the Quran.
  4. Learn about the faith of your Muslim neighbor.
    It’s easy to fear and disdain those you don’t know or understand. Seek out inroads with your Muslim neighbors. Befriend them. Invite them over for dinner or connect via social media. Jesus would and he’d like it.
  5. Lovingly rebuke anti-Muslim rhetoric from the fearful.
    Our only opinion about Muslims, peaceful or violent, should be that God loved them so much that he gave his Son for their salvation. We dare not promote or allow hateful speech/acts against those made in God’s image.
  6. Live the life that comes from the Prince of Peace.
    We live in a tumultuous time right now. Look how it presents us with opportunities to display the peace that surpasses all understanding. Be that peaceful presence. Seek to live the life God’s peace brings.
  7. Remember we do not battle against flesh and blood.
    Prayer is our warfare. Prayer shapes our worldview and enables us to love our neighbor and our enemies. Tap into the power that pushes back on spiritual evil and releases the Kingdom. And pray without ceasing.
Suggested Reading & Resources:

D.D. Flowers, 2015.


Surprised by Hope (Book Review)

Getting It Wright!

A Book Review of “Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church” by N.T. Wright Reviewed by David D. Flowers

Tom Wright undoubtedly stands at the summit of New Testament scholarship. I sincerely believe he is the most important of Christian thinkers alive today. His writings are a refreshing challenge and a beacon of hope in a world where much of Christianity has lost its way. Wright’s work is unsurpassed as it reminds us all that our faith is not founded on shady history and loose myths about Jesus.

In his book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, Wright challenges this notion of “going to heaven when you die” and spending an eternity in some bodiless future. For if this was the case, Wright’s concern is “then what’s the fuss about putting things right in the present world?”

Is our present language of our future existence reflective of sound New Testament orthodoxy? Do we have a consistent biblical message on “life after death?” Wright doesn’t believe so, and he claims we have instead embraced a Gnostic idea of the future that fouls up our presentation of the Gospel in the present.

Our future home is not “heaven”–for this is where God is presently; another dimension altogether. Our hope is in this spiritual heaven coming down to earth. The climax of all human history is the consummation of God’s spiritual realm (heaven) breaking through to our earthly existence. Therefore, in Wright’s view, it is “life after life after death” that ought to be on our minds.

Only this sort of thinking will lead us to a proper practice of the church. If our beliefs about heaven and the resurrection are wrong, then we are not about the Lord’s business in ushering in the Kingdom of God in ways keeping with the example of Christ.

Wright’s greatest emphasis is on “resurrection” and “new creation” that has already begun in this world. It is time to realize the great significance with that which is at the heart of our faith in Christ (1 Cor. 15:12-28). He writes, “it is (resurrection), principally, the defining event of the new creation, the world that is being born with Jesus.”

It is in the resurrection of Christ that happened in this old creation that gives us hope for a new creation taking place right now in the twenty-first century. “Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible…” (pg.75).

This “new creation” should not be confused with baptizing the culture into Christianity and attempting to enact a utopian dream, as so many in evangelicalism have embraced. This misplaced trust in the myth of progress does not work because it does not account for evil, Wright says.

This myth may sometimes run parallel to our Christian hope, but it “veers off toward a very different destination” that ignores the need for the cross of Christ upon the natural fallen creation. It doesn’t see the need for change within, only uniform capitulation to a set order of ideas.

Wright declares, “What matters is eschatological duality (the present age and the age to come), not ontological dualism (an evil “earth” and a good “heaven”)” (pg. 95). We all have seen how this belief in a Platonic escapism has pervaded our theology and demanded that we adopt a popular dispensationalist view of the future; a future where we “fly away” to “Beulah Land” and spend eternity in a glorified retirement home in the sky.

It is time we abandon this empty belief for one that appreciates the hope given to us in the New Testament; a hope where God restores his good creation and finishes the work he began in the universe. Wright states, “What creation needs is neither abandonment nor evolution but rather redemption and renewal; and this is both promised and guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” (pg. 107).

Wright draws our attention to Christ’s ascension as well as his resurrection. Because of the ascension of Christ, we not only have a savior who is indwelling us and present with his people, but a Lord who is at the same time “gone on ahead of us” by being the first to enter in to our promised resurrected existence. In other words, the work of Christ is finished and yet to be realized. It is reflective of the “already, but not yet” tension of the Kingdom of God.

We await a savior to complete the work he began in us. This completion shall come by way of the parousia or his “coming.”  Wright very simply writes, “he will in fact be “appearing” right where he presently is—not a long way away within our own space-time world but in his own world, God’s world, the world we call heaven” (pg. 135).

Wright challenges our traditional picture of our journey being completed upon death. He argues that there is indeed a temporary “paradise” for believers awaiting the resurrection of the dead and the completion of all things.

Likewise, there would appear to be the same for those who have rejected Christ in this life. When Jesus spoke of “many dwelling places” in his Father’s house, he is speaking of a temporary stop on the journey.  To ignore the finished work of Christ through the final resurrection of the dead is to miss the entire Christian hope.

God’s judgment is a good thing, something that believers ought to celebrate—for evil will be dealt with once and for all and heaven will make its home on earth. On the other hand, the non-believer has much to worry about. Wright calls into question our modern interpretations of hell that reflects a theology from the church of the Dark Ages. Yet, he doesn’t go as far as some “emerging” leaders who, I have reason to believe, may never emerge.

Wright finds it impossible not to believe in some sort of “ultimate condemnation” and loss to human beings that have rejected God’s good grace. He simply says that these folks cease to bear the divine image and by their own choice become “beings that once were human but now are not.”  Whatever “hell” is in reality, none of us would ever desire such a place. The important thing Wright wants to note is that heaven and hell ought not be the focal point of the Christian message.

In the last part of the book, Wright does a wonderful job with making this challenge practical for us all. The resurrection and ascension is not designed to take us away from this earth but instead to make us agents of transformation, anticipating the day when, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

Wright looks at the themes of justice, beauty, and evangelism. What do these things look like in light of this radical message of hope?  What does this look like in retrospect to the resurrection of Christ and the promise that we will inherit the same? Wright believes it is “to live consciously between the resurrection of Jesus in the past and the making of God’s new world in the future” (pg. 213).

My only point of disagreement with this book is in the last chapter. Although I do believe there are nuggets of truth founded in Wright’s attempt to manifest our hope in church practices, his commitment to not only his Anglican heritage but to high church in general is reason enough to move beyond his conclusions and on to a narrative ecclesiology that mirrors the earliest disciples.

It seems to me that this is his only break from a legitimate concern for a Pauline hermeneutic. His hope in a revival within the church practices that came years after Paul, as evident in church history, is wishful thinking indeed. It is here that we begin to replace hope with doom and despair.

“Surprised by Hope” is an excellent book that breathes out an overdue challenge to believers in every corner of the earth. I do hope and pray that its message will start a move of the church to return to the Gospel that looks like Jesus and offers the world more than an escape from a devil’s hell.

N.T. Wright is presently one voice among many that is being heard and has earned the right to be heard in a post-Christian world of conflicting voices. How will we respond? Shall we cling to those chains presently dubbed as “tradition” or will we allow the resurrection of Christ to give us wisdom and understanding into that beautiful hope known as the age to come?

I am pleasantly surprised by the hope we have in Christ… for whose sake I am able to reimagine a world without evil.

 

*Please take the time to vote on this review at Amazon.


The Day of Fire

The Day of FireA Dream of Martyrdom and God’s Judgment on the World

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28NIV

It was a Sunday morning in 2003 when I awoke from the most vivid dream I have ever dreamt in my life. It was the sort of dream where you wonder if you have actually awakened from it; the kind that stays with you for the next few days.

This was no ordinary dream for me. It has remained with me in its entirety since I experienced it.

I am usually the type of person that looks a bit skeptically at the “dreams and visions” of others. I did not grow up in a “charismatic” faction of Christian faith and practice. Naturally, I proceed with caution when examining the spiritual experiences of others.

So, as a disclaimer, you must know that I consider myself a level-headed person that has tendencies to choose logic over faith; the objective over the subjective; empirical evidence over personal experience.

I was never encouraged to seek out dreams or visions from the Lord. This one was thrusted upon me and lives with me everyday.  I would be a fool to ignore it. Therefore, I can’t help but believe it to have some level of truth in reality.

I often casually joke about my death with others who know me, but I assure you it is no joke to me. It shapes my entire view of the present and the days to come.

I see my life leading up to this event. Sure, it could be that this dream will not have a full and literal fulfillment. I know others may want to interpret it, and they will. No matter what others may say or think about my dream, for me it has already happened.

Back to the dream…

I crawled out of bed and started getting ready for the morning. I was a youth pastor at a small church in a small East Texas town. We lived right next to the church building. I quickly got my stuff together and rushed over to the youth department to prepare for that morning’s many activities.

This entire time the dream was on my mind, but I didn’t have time to think about it because I had responsibilities to carry out. And so I did my thing and postponed further reflection until I had a moment of stillness.

Later that morning when all of my duties had been fulfilled, I sat in my chair next to my wife to listen to the sermon. In the beginning I was listening and then my mind began to drift back to my dream. I slowly began to see my dream play over again in my head. I left myself for a moment and began to relive the dream from the night before.

What did I see? What did it mean? It wasn’t a long dream, but it was enough.

In my dream I am walking with a group of men. From what I remember, there were no women and children with us. We were in a concentration camp of some kind. I don’t remember seeing barbed wire and all that you can imagine would fit the description, but I do remember the soldiers. I do not know whose soldiers they were. But I am certain they were not Nazis.

I was living in the modern world and was experiencing something in the future.

I was walking with a group of men in a single-file line. There was no noise or any talking, only the sound of footsteps in the sand and gravel. We were walking toward a building. Soldiers were shoulder to shoulder on our left. They had weapons, but they were not doing anything. They just watched us walking toward the building.

We walked into a large building through large iron double-doors. I know they were iron because I remember the sound they made when they closed behind us. The doors closed with a loud creak and “CLANG!” I heard the shuffling of feet, as all of us men were crowded together. I heard the faint whimpering of someone close. I felt the moment building as the sound of something turned on and the high-pitched noise grew louder.

Fear started to come up against me and then at the climax of the sound I saw a bright light. It wasn’t a tunnel with a light at the end. The light illuminated the room and then there was a peace that came over me—then silence.

That was when I awoke from the dream.

Something seemed to be missing though. As I was reflecting on the entire dream and within myself asking the Lord, “What does this mean?” I went back to the moment in the dream where we were coming up to the doors of the building and were about to walk inside. I could see something else.

As we were approaching the doors there were soldiers to the left seeing to it that we walked quietly inside. Then I could see us laying open Bibles at their feet. We laid the open Scripture at their feet and walked in quietly. As I reflected, I was wondering what this was about. I looked more intently and the Lord showed me that the Bibles were open to the book of Malachi.

“Malachi?” I thought to myself. All I could remember from the prophet Malachi was that God hates divorce and something about giving the tithe. Of course I knew it was the last book of the Old Testament.

The next year I would translate Malachi in my Hebrew class. But at that time I didn’t really know anything off the top of my head that could shed some light on my dream.

As the service continued around me, I quickly turned to the book of Malachi. I was certain not to be noticed by others that anything was out of the ordinary.

I started with the first chapter in Malachi. The book only has four chapters so it wasn’t going to take me long to find out whether or not this dream had a supernatural origin or if it was an invention of my own neurological processes during sleep. I began reading at verse one. I read the entire first chapter. Nothing! So I kept reading.

In the first three chapters there was nothing that had any relevant connection to my dream. It wasn’t until I began reading the fourth and final chapter. My heart about stopped as my eyes moved from one word to the next. This is what I read…

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.  But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.  Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty.” Malachi 4:1-3 NIV

At that moment I knew that my mind had not conjured up some twisted thoughts resulting from my knowledge of WWII or my past viewing of Schindler’s List. This dream definitely had the signature of God all over it. How exactly did I interpret this dream in that moment?

It was very clear to me.

Those men who were laying this Scripture at the feet of the soldiers were humbly pronouncing the judgment of God that would soon “burn like a furnace.” As we were being led to our death in this “furnace” we were declaring our hope in the Lord.

We were saying, “We will give our lives in this fire, but you need to know that the day is coming when the Lord will overcome the wicked and exalt those who revere his name. He will trample down the wicked and they will be the ashes under the soles of our feet. This is the word of the Lord God Almighty.”

I believe the Lord has led me to share this dream with you. I pray that it will be an encouragement to those of us who have been called by His name to be a testimony of Jesus Christ. For those that do not know Jesus as the resurrection and life, I pray you will consider the word of our Lord. Lord, bless your church in this final hour.

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser (i.e. Satan) of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”  Revelation 12:10-11 NIV

D.D. Flowers, 2008.


Jesus: Change We Have A Hard Time Believing In

jesuspres08If you follow my blog, you know I believe there is something terribly wrong with the Christianity that we have embraced in America. And I wanted to share some quick thoughts particularly on our misplaced confidence in government and our so-called “duty” to vote. Just some thoughts really. Take it or leave it.

Please be forewarned that his one has a bit of a “tone.” You know, a “tone” that is interpreted as “angry” or “anti-American” or something like that. So please read knowing that I am in-fact a bit… hmm… how do you say… fed up. But, I assure you my sorrow far outweighs any sort of anger.

I am working on it. I still haven’t managed to dress up all of my actions in the garb of the hippy Jesus who wears the façade that says, “I am holy because I do not get angry.” I prefer the stance that says, “I am angry because I am holy.”

In other words, I believe any frustration and concern that I express ought to be shared among all who call themselves “disciples of Jesus.” Hopefully, this momentary expression of anger and sorrow will mature into a renewed Christology that will give us all more reason to trust in Jesus instead of ourselves.

And so I give you my thoughts.

Jesus: Change We Have a Hard Time Believing In

I am convinced that our political “freedoms” are instead a bondage that leads us to reject Christ’s methods of change… only to turn and accept the world’s methods of exhorting power over people. I can see that this marriage of the church to the state by acceptance of its methods only produces a nominal Christian “religion” where we can all live comfortable while we overcome evil with a vote.

We can walk away feeling like we have done someone a favor with our vote. Like we have made a difference by playing in to the system of suppressing evil through law and violence. As if we have been called to confront evil in this manner.

Mark my words:

The intermarriage of church and state is the greatest tragedy in the history of Christianity. It violates the heart of the Gospel of Christ.

The church has been sidetracked. Duped is more like it. We have been misled to believe that we have been called to save the culture and remind the sinners that God is watching them like a drunk abusive Santa Claus figure.

Somehow the mentioning of God on monuments, money, and in our many assemblies means that God is pleased. I just don’t get it. You took prayer out of schools? Well, God is ticked now. Watch out! The culture will go to hell in a hand basket because you have quit stamping the god of deism on worldly institutions for political reasons.

Clearly, we have been deceived into thinking our God “blesses” nations when they talk about him and he “curses” when they don’t. I’m not buying this anymore. It is no longer consistent with the Jesus I know. Shouldn’t we have learned this lesson with Israel in the Old Testament through the prophets like Amos and Jeremiah?

You don’t get points for looking religious and embracing sin in your hearts. You don’t escape the judgment of Christ and receive his blessings just because a worldly empire decides to speak Christianese and mix its agenda with God’s plan through the church. How have we missed this?

Is a worldly kingdom “blessed” because it has material abundance? Does it cease to be “blessed” because it stops using the generic name “God” around town? What sort of God in Christ do we have? It’s time we see things rightly about how God deals with worldly kingdoms and how he deals separately with his church. We need to apply his Word appropriately.

God has always used worldly kingdoms to suppress evil and judge other nations who have become corrupt. They are agents of wrath (Rom. 13:4). God then turns around and judges that nation for its own sin and corruption. Assyria, in the 8th century BC, is a perfect example of God using worldly empires as a “rod” of his wrath. He then punished Assyria and held her responsible for her actions and all of the iniquities found in her.

The story of Israel in the Old Testament, and the church in the New Testament today, is to be set apart and to operate under a different set of rules—to count yourself as a citizen of another other-worldly kingdom with a King who is jealous for our allegiance. All along he has wanted his people to recognize that there is no other King beside him. Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.

If Caesar wants your taxes and you are required to carry a drivers license and obey the laws of the land, fine! But give to God what is God’s. Your spirit, soul, and body belong to him. Your efforts and energies are to be spent investing in a Kingdom that is eternal. Kingdoms of the world are temporary systems that are on their way out. Their methods of changing the world are coming to an end.

The church should not be a part of this endless cycle of worldly kingdom violence and her partisan politics of corruption.

The church’s work should engage the injustices of the world in ways that do not violate the principles of the Kingdom of God. This is what we should be discussing in the forums. This is what ought to be on our minds. Forget the glory of Rome and his Caesar. Sure, honor him, but fear God only (1 Pet. 2:13-17).

Of course, pray for these worldly leaders, but do not concern yourself with putting your hand to the political plow of power. It will take your heart captive and sow evil where pride, arrogance, and all forms of hatred hide (Titus 3:1-7; 2 Pet. 2:11-12). We must give ourselves fully to Christ’s manner of engaging the injustices of this cruel world. This means we recognize that Christ is the only candidate worthy of our campaigning.

Therefore, how ridiculous is it to talk about “our country” and use language only reserved for the church as if it applies to nations that have been instituted by God for the sole purpose of executing wrath. God “bless” America? I’m sorry, I have a hard time hearing the apostle Paul say, “God bless Rome.” And apparently, many Christians can’t understand the absurdity in a statement that takes such pride in the kingdoms of this world.

Are we really prepared to say that the answer to the failing economy and the culture wars is to vote the all-inclusive “God” back in to the world’s vernacular? Sorry, don’t buy that at all. The Christianizing of a pagan culture by worldly methods will only produce a pagan “Christian” culture that knows how to talk religious and make a profit off of religious products.

Which is what we have done in the past. We have a luxury Jesus didn’t have? Times are different? I have a duty to vote and play a role in this mess? I think it is time to question these clichés and begin a revolution back to the Gospel of the New Testament.

I am convinced it is time for Christians to lose these “rights” they are told to “exercise” and be left with nothing but the wealth and security of Christ.

It doesn’t seem to bother many of us that Christianity has found favor among the God-haters. As long as we can rest easy at night knowing we still have our “rights” and that gays won’t be able to marry, who cares about the status of their hearts and reaching out to them as Christ would. I guess it doesn’t really matter that the pregnant teenager really needs someone to take her in, not a picket sign in her face telling her she is going to hell or a meaningless vote in a private booth that you were told makes you a “good” citizen.

It’s much easier to believe in a version of the Kingdom of God that is able to advance through politics; that way we don’t have to get our hands dirty—at least not in the sense of touching people who are in spiritual and physical need. Besides, if we take Jesus seriously, we may actually have to talk to some of those folks. We might be asked to love them to change and stop relying on the methods of the world to stir up their flesh to sin more.

It really is a matter of overcoming evil instead of suppressing it. Laws don’t save people. They only provoke the sinful nature of man. Those without Christ need them, but it is the purpose of those institutions of man to use those methods. You think we would have learned that by now.

It is the world that looks for change through politics.

It is the world that believes that peace will come by legislation and the wisdom of generals and political orators. Who are we to mingle with that rabble? What business is it of ours to hop in the very vehicle that will rise against Christ and make its final stand on that last day.

You know the last time I checked, politicians make great anti-christs. Keep that in mind when you are tempted to join in the partisan politics and play this silly game leading up to November 4th 2008. Where is Christ in it all? How did he engage the worldly systems of his day? I’m willing to bet the answer is much clearer than we would like it to be.

Why then? Why so blurry? Because we have grown accustomed to our life here in Corinth. And as Paul said to the original Corinthians, he would say to us, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

Will we trust the way of the cross? The kind of winning that happens by dying? The battle plan that calls for everyone to lay down their arms and fight with love? Will we reconcile ourselves to a Gospel that demands we operate in an upside-down Kingdom or will we call it foolishness and forfeit our inheritance? How will the church respond in my generation?

I believe she will have that opportunity in this country real soon. Many will be unprepared, I fear. They will be shocked when the veil falls from their eyes and they actually are given no choice but to stare into the blinding light of Christ’s Gospel in the midst of suffering.

I am nervous at the thought of it. Yet, I am confident that our faith will undergo a great transformation. We will tap into a power we have not been acquainted with in these worldly chains we have prematurely dubbed “freedom.” I long for that day. Come Lord Jesus, come!

“And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country– a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16


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