Love Your Neighbour as Yourself

Union Jack

Christians do not seek human law to establish their faith–they establish better laws by their faith. Governments can make many things legal, but what is legal may be abhorrent in God’s eyes. We may know this by looking into His moral law. Bad legislation is a curse, and must be rallied against. It is an argument of straw to suggest that Christians are seeking to force unbelievers into faith, or Christian behaviour. We are simply doing what God requires when we expose falsehood and lies.

When Wilberforce (1759-1833) chipped away at the British slave trade for 20 years, before it was outlawed in 1807. He then set out to abolish slavery in the entire British Empire, and did so successfully 1833. He learned of his success 3 days before his death. He was not seeking to pass laws to make men Christian. He did not wish to force people to pray, take communion, or read their Bibles; but he was seeking to save the slaves from their misery. Unless we think sodomy is not such a bad thing, is it not an enslavement to the lowest form of debasement known to man? Can we not see the horror of the abortion from the fleeting sense of the baby? Can we, who supposedly have the light, let people sit in darkness when it is in our power to agitate otherwise?Wilberforce

The command that we “love our neighbour as we love ourselves” encapsulates the idea that we must seek to repeal bad law, and enact good law. The laws that permit same-sex marriage, to teach sodomy to children, to abort children for any reason, to allow euthanasia, and to generally permit and encourage promiscuity, are bad laws. They are demonstrably evil, and letting them stand unchallenged, is a form of hatred against our neighbours, not love. To sit by and say, “we can’t expect unbelievers to act like Christians” is a moot point. Out of simple love of neighbour these new cultural norms must be exposed as the lies they are.

Wilberforce became a Christian in 1785, and from that point on he championed the abolition of slavery. Being a disciple of Christ meant that and it means this: that we are Christians in every facet of our lives. Jesus said to “make disciples of all nations.” Discipleship means much more than personal piety, devotions, church attendance, evangelism, and benevolence (although it includes all this). It means that we are called to follow Jesus, and we cannot, must not, leave Him at the door of the office, shop, academy, or legislature. If He is not Lord in these places, is He Lord anywhere, besides our hearts?

Too much of current Christian thought seeks to reel in believers to an enclave of faith and devotion, and to, in practise, ignore the wider Kingdom of God. I am totally embarrassed for what some preachers have said recently, “Bake the cake! Bake the gayest cake you can!” As though this is an act of love! Really? Are we showing love when we affirm the proof of a man or woman’s depravity? Can we not show love without participation in their sin?

I think of the poor businessmen and businesswomen who are abandoned by the ministers of the Gospel at this time; it is a blight upon the church of Christ. They are told to do as they are told, as if God blessed their businesses so that they can be good apostates. Wisely, most are refusing, despite the crowing of the crowd. It truly hurts, though, when the scorn is cast from those who preach the Gospel. They are as called do business in God’s Kingdom as the preacher is, and it is a perfect hypocrisy to expect them to live by a lower standard. That is a truncated Gospel.

I have heard it said, that “if a person wants to do business in the world, he must do it by the world’s rules.” So I ask, when the world determines that it owns the children of the church, do we hand them over? Worldly psychology has claimed ownership of the soul, so we must stop trying to convert (and therefore, change) those trapped in sin? Sociology exerts ownership of the family through children’s aid societies, so families too are out of the scope of the Gospel? What of discipleship is left? What part of life falls under the Lordship of Christ? If Christian businessmen and businesswomen must submit to the state against their faith and consciences, then when the state demands that preaching the Gospel conform to state standards (they say you’re one of the “helping professions”), these preachers will have to comply, since that is what they are teaching now.

In the first generations of Christianity, the culture was ignored and violated when Christians had the audacity to gather up the abandoned infants and elderly. In later generations, Christians violated cultural norms at every turn, and saved souls and sanctified culture.

In modern times, I think of the Ten Boom family (and many others), who violated both culture and law, and hid Jews from the Nazis (the holocaust was legal, after all). Why did they do this? Because the Jews were in need, they were their neighbour, and the Ten Booms obeyed God rather than man. In all areas of life, there are many such examples. The price paid for non-compliance was often very high. But is this not what Jesus said would happen (Matthew 10:34-39; 16:24-26)?

God is Lord over this world and everything in it, including governments and institutions. This is true whether it is acknowledged or not. Christians cannot pretend otherwise.

A Restorationist's Thoughts on the Confederate Battle Flag

confederateWar_flag_of_the_Imperial_Japanese_Army

There have been many opinions about the Confederate battle flag (for those interested in the various flags of the Confederacy, see here). It has, reportedly, been removed from the Gettysburg National Park, and will likely be removed from all state and federal government properties. I am not going to address the wisdom of doing this or not doing this, since either leaving it nor removing it will likely heal racism in the United States.

This little post is directed to Christians, especially those who think that Melvinious’ phrase, “In Essentials, Unity, in Opinions, Liberty, and in all things, Love” is a useful rule of life (this quote has been variously attributed to Augustine, but is more likely Rupertus Melenius, 1582-1651). The early leaders of the Restoration Movement adapted this phrase to describe their approach to Christian unity, and it is, overall, a good rule. Most of the trouble with it is, however, that there is quite a bit of debate over what constitutes an essential and what determines an opinion.

To illustrate, and to bring us to back to the Confederate flag, there’s this. Later in August, we shall welcome into our home a young woman from Japan, who is spending about a year to experience something of our country. The size itself should be quite an experience. This will be the fifth Japanese boarder we’ve had with us. Canada and Japan have an agreement that, with a special visa, a Japanese person, under 30, may live here for one year and hold a job, as long as that job is not in their area of expertise. For example, we had a Japanese schoolteacher live with us who was not permitted to teach school, but she could hold any other job she could find.  This is reciprocal, and Canadians under the age of 30 may go to Japan on the same terms. The Japanese call this a “homestay” experience.

In our kitchen, we have a large poster frame with two newspapers framed in it from August, 1945. My father was stationed in San Diego at the end of the war, and my mother saved these papers. They proclaim with great excitement, the end of the Japanese theatre of war. They are very interesting historical artifacts, and they are very valuable to us. Before our Japanese visitor arrives, we will take them down and put them away. We are not meaning to hide or deny the ugly truths of Japanese aggression (much of which has been denied by Japan in their education of their young since that time). Keeping this reminder of the Allies’ victory is also showing a reminder of Japan’s defeat.

We intend no covering over of the events of the war, but this young woman may have false information about Japan from that era, or may, due to internet access, have full details of the horror of Japanese aggression. We just don’t know. She may want to know what we’ve been told. It is likely that if she had any family involved in WWII, that they are quite old, if living at all. The presence of these newspapers may shock, hurt, confuse, or anger her, and this is not the reason we’re bringing her into our home. If this war comes up in conversation, we will certainly explain the facts we know, from Pearl Harbour to Hiroshima and Nagasaki (we once had a young woman from Nagasaki live with us).

So, in keeping with this great Restoration slogan, we suppose that having the newspapers on our wall are not essential, or necessary. If she were coming to learn of the history of Japan in WWII, these things might be useful. But she isn’t. She is here to learn of Canada in the 21st century. If the Confederate flag flew at Gettysburg, and this is a museum to a great battle there, it really should fly there now, out of concern for historical accuracy. Our home is not a museum, but a place of welcome for strangers.

What is necessary is that this young woman feel welcome into a home where she may learn Christ. This overrides any concern we might have to keep the story of WWII alive, true and accurate. The truth is still there, even without the newsprint to show it.

The Confederate flag is a fact of history, and need not be banned or eliminated from its place in history, but is it a necessary  emblem of modern life? For the sake of the Gospel, Christians do, perhaps, need to think this one through.

41 Theses on the Megachurch Movement

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Not all costs are financial.

Not all costs are financial.

I believe that as a movement, the mega-church movement is doing positive harm to the cause of Christ. Harm, not because churches are large, but because of the consumerist spin placed upon the Gospel which cannot sustain Christians to stand in the face of trial. The human-centered focus results in a pietism that is antithetical to the Gospel. So I also believe that this pietistic mindset is the cause of the call to retreat from fully engaging the culture. Preliminary research sources and theses here.

On Giving Up in the Culture Wars: Nope.

The term “culture wars” is an embarrassment to the pietists in the Evangelical camp (a very large number). As long as the numbers are up, please read your Bibles, pray, and above all, don’t call down shame upon sin, especially sin such as this:

 

 

disposable human

 

James 2:14–26 (ESV)

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

There must be more than calling this sin–but calling this sinful and an abomination cannot be avoided.. Strong rescue and saving measures must be taken, illegally if need be. Laws must be promoted and passed. Politicians who support abortion must be singled out, be they fiscal conservative or liberal. The Christian view of life must again be imposed upon those who have thrown off the yoke of God’s Law, if this is the Father’s world. He has never abdicated His rule. Personal salvation is a promise, but not the only reason that God takes interest in His creation.

Denying the reality and necessity of a “culture war” (spiritual war, actually) is a naïveté beneath the thinking Christian.

Article about this photo here.

On Trans-everything. A Summary from Douglas Groothuis

“I am nearly sixty years old. I have been studying, writing about, and teaching about culture, philosophy, theology, and art diligently and for decades. I have never seen the revolt against God-given categories of being as we are seeing now. Men identify as women. Women identify as men. Whites identify as blacks. The healthy identify as disabled. Most of these bogus identifications require expensive self-mutilation.

The explanation for all of this sad perversity is simple. Without the knowledge of God, one does not know one’s true identity. If God is dead in our experience, law, traditions, then human beings are no longer reckoned as made in the image of that God. Rather, we are made (and re-made) in the image of ourselves. This contradiction leads to abysmal elasticity. X identifies as Y. So what? What is the basis for this re-identification? It is the self, untrammeled by reality or morality. This is “the protean self” of Robert Jay Lifton from 25 years ago. Yet he had no idea what the extent and depth of the protean spell might be. We do. God says:

All who hate me love death (Proverbs 8:36).”

Douglas Groothuis

Douglas Groothuis

The Christian Alternative to Humanistic Moralism

Ephesians 4:28 (ESV)

28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Aside from 2:11, this is the first set of imperatives in Ephesians, and there are many from here to the end of the book. 4:25 may represent the actual “practical” section of the book more than 4:1.

Note also that this section begins the practical application of 4:17-24: for example, the thief, in taking off the old self and being renewed, puts on something else. Also, the thief, rather than being merely reformed in his behaviour, goes further than the world does (in merely desiring him to cease stealing), but employs himself, and that for the good of others. Humanistic thinking is satisfied with the former thief’s employment to cease to be a burden to society, but a thief renewed in the spirit of his mind will employ himself beyond that to be benevolent to others. This stands, therefore, in sharp contrast to humanistic schemes of charity and benevolence. The one seeks only a an outward change to a minimum standard; the other demonstrates the outworking of a new creation.

It may also be noted that the thief is encouraged to work, not simply to supply his own needs, but to share with those in need. The common word for “give” (didomi) occurs almost 700 times in the New Testament. But there is another form of this word, “to share” (metadidomi). This form occurs five times in the New Testament and is variously translated, “contribute, impart, share.”

This is the kind of application that is true Christianity, and not religious moralism.

The idea that the thief should work so that his earnings may be confiscated by the state (taxed), to be given to others, is foreign to the New Testament order. Sharing is not of compulsion, but is the action of a renewed heart toward one in need. The one who shares is in the position to see a need, and act upon it out of love; the state is unable to determine the difference between true need and sloth, and is too willing to give the property of others to those who are not in need. To often Christians mistakenly view compassion outsourced to the state as real compassion, when this is actually foreign to the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. –SJ