What if I don’t like our president?

At the end of eight years, the general population is almost always ready for a change.  In the history of our country, it has only happened a couple of times that one political party was able to see their candidate take office after eight years.  We see ourselves getting too progressive and long to return to our heritage and then we feel so stuck in our ways that we need some serious change.  New generations rise up and consider their values earth-shattering and they rock the country, only to get bogged down in the mundane and a new generation rises up.

For the next month and a half we are in a unique situation where we still have an acting president but the next one has already been chosen.  This means something profoundly true:  almost everyone very strongly dislikes one of the two men.  The voting world who chose President Elect Donald Trump is sick and tired of Barack Obama, while many others still consider him to be one of the best presidents our country has known and fear that Trump is going to single handedly destroy our nation and “undo all the progress we have seen” these past eight years.  In short, if you are neutral about both men – or possibly even like both men, you are probably very far removed from politics.

One of the attributes that makes our nation unique and great in many people’s eyes is our first amendment:  our freedom of speech.  We can say whatever we darn well feel like saying and no one can harm us for it – or judge us, as the culture now states.  There are some tricky aspects to that as we can still be legally protected from slander and harassment, but none of us lives in fear that our daily conversation, our social media posts or even our blog posts will land us in jail.  We have an inalienable right to our opinions and we will make them known.

God, however, has a different opinion about all of that.  Slander, gossip and disrespect are all sins – which are fundamentally rooted in pride, arrogance and selfishness.

“Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.”

– Ps 101.5

“The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.”

– Prov 10.18

“Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

– Titus 3.2

God simply and profoundly commands us to speak evil of no one.  Not only that,  he clearly and profoundly commands us to respect our leaders:

“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

– 1 Peter 2.17

One might object to this commandment because of how wicked our current or upcoming president is.  We simply cannot respect or honor a man who (fill in the blank).  But Peter was writing to the early church who was being persecuted and murdered.  The people were “scattered” across the known world – they were running for their lives.  And Peter’s command was to honor the king:  the king who would murder them for loving and serving Jesus.  Is Obama murdering us?  Is Trump threatening to murder us?  Are we running for our lives?  Even if this were the case we would still be commanded to honor the president.

One may object further and cite our form of government which allows us a voice in choosing our leadership and laws.  “We must speak out and help others make informed decisions.”  “It is our civic duty to have a strong opinion and to play our role.”  Yes, I whole-heartedly agree that we live in a unique and wonderful country whereby we are granted a part (albeit a very small part) of the decision making process.  This is why presidential candidates spend months and millions of dollars campaigning:  they must win our vote!

I would also argue, however, that there is a good and right way to make informed decisions and even to disagree with the values and positions a candidate would take while still respecting and honoring him (or her).  There is even a godly way to recognize a candidate’s moral failures, sin and perceived lack of qualification without slander, gossip and sin.

The reality is simple.  We live in a fallen world.  We are functioning in a fallen and broken system.  Democracy is not God’s form of government!  We are allowing ourselves to be governed by fallen and broken people.  Even if our president were the most mature and godly man to walk the face of the Earth, he would still be a sinner and a man.  He would make mistakes and we would disagree with him on something.  And each of us are fallen and broken people.  Imperfect people will choose imperfect leaders and mistakes will be made.  Period.  And yet we are commanded to respect and honor one another, and we are commanded to respect and honor our leadership.

Scripture does clearly command us to fight sin and pursue holiness.  Thus we see the example of Jesus, the apostles and many others to disobey the leadership when they would have us sin or not follow God (Acts 4.19. 5.29).  We also have the example of some of the greatest forefathers in our faith standing up against political sin, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the abundance of people who fought against the slaughter of the Jews and non-Arians in WWII.  We must never follow blindly, we must always evaluate our own actions and our government by Scripture, and we must refuse to sin even when we would be commanded to by men.  And we are fortunate enough to live in a society where we might be able to make an impact and bring about change!

But this in no way changes God’s expectation of us that we love all men and that we honor the position of king (or president in our nation).

So let me simply ask you this question:  Are your facebook posts and your political conversations Biblically loving, respecting and honoring the president?  Have you slandered Trump, Hillary or Obama?  Sure, you might do a better job.  Sure, you might know better.  But God does not give us a pass to disrespect or not love someone just because we know better.  He sovereignly and intentionally places every king and president in power.  Do you trust Him for that?  Do you follow His leadership when He gives you an opportunity to make a positive change?  Do you obey Him and respect authority?

You do not have to like your leader.  You do not have to agree with him either.  In fact, you are expected to weigh your actions and obedience against Scripture an never sin in the things that you do – therefore you should intensely evaluate your leadership  But you must love him.  And you must respect him.  Otherwise, we bring the condemnation of God upon ourselves:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”

– Rom 13.1-2

Slander is still slander when spoken against our leadership.  Gossip is still gossip when spoken against our leadership.  Whether you distrust or dislike our current president or our future one.  Let us examine ourselves and remember our tongues.

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”

– James 1.26

How long would you wait?

waiting

There once was a man named Abram.  God hand picked him out of a bunch of nobodies when he was seventy five years old, and told him to set out away from family on a journey without a plan and destination and promised to show him the way and bless him with children, a lot of land, a great reputation and Spiritual protection.  Abram semi-obeyed and took his nephew Lot along for the ride.  As both Abram and Lot grew in wealth and numbers, they got to the point that the land could not sustain them both, thus they parted ways.  After Lot left, God revisited Abram and renewed His promise of blessing and revealed the land which would belong to Abram and his descendants.

Ten years into their journey, Abram and his wife Sarai still had no children.  God had promised a few times that they would have a natural-born child, but with Abram now at 85 years and Sarai at 75, they decided to take matters into their own hands.  Sarai gave her maid to Abram as a wife, to have a child.  It sounded like a good idea up front, but once the child was conceived, Sarai was bitter and treated her maid harshly.  The child was born and received a blessing from God, but was still not the child God had promised.

Fourteen years later, God again appeared to Abram and promised once again a child, this time stating that the baby would be born one year from the appearance.  Both Abram and Sarai laughed when they heard the promise, as Abram was now ninety-nine and Sarai eight-nine.  They were beyond child-bearing years and had clearly given up on trusting the promise of God.

However, by the power of Almighty God, the child was born the following year.  Twenty-five years after the promise was initially given.

Twenty five years.

What is the longest you have waited for something?  How quickly does your patience wear out?  Do you ever try to take matters into your own hands?

This story of Abram and Sarai is helpful in many ways.  Firstly, it reminds us that the onus is squarely on God to make His plans come to fruition.  If He said it, He will do it.  He does not always tell us His time frame or big picture plan in how all of the pieces will work out, but He is good to His word.  We can trust Him.

Secondly, God chose Abram because of His own pleasure, not because of anything Abram had done.  Not only this, but God was faithful to His promise even when Abram and Sarai tried to fulfill the promise their own way.

Thirdly, Abram believed God every time they spoke.  In fact, it is noted that Abram’s righteousness was because of the fact that he believed God:

“Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

– Gen 15.6

Abram was righteous because of his faith.  He was counted righteous for having faith, even though he started out his journey in disobedience – taking his nephew with his family along (Gen 12.4).  He was counted righteous for having faith, even though he and his wife gave up on the promise.  He was counted righteous for having faith, even though they tried to fulfill the promise themselves (Gen 16).  He was counted righteous for having faith, even though He blamed God for having no children (Gen 15.2-3) and He laughed at God (Gen 17.17).

Have you ever grown weary in the waiting?  Have you ever doubted God’s promise?  Tried to fulfill it by your own efforts?  Grown so cynical that you laughed at the promise?  Or blamed God for your circumstances?  It is indeed sin to disrespect the God of the universe in these ways.  But praise God that it does not disqualify us from receiving the promises He has made.  His glory and honor exist completely outside of our actions, and He will bring us to faith and righteousness by His timing and plan.

“…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

– Phil 2.13

If you are in a season of waiting, if you are looking forward to the promises God has given us through the Scripture, then let us renew again our hearts.  Let us not despair for our failings of Spirit along the way, God will forgive us if we confess those sins, and our righteousness is not lost as long as we return to faith.  Sometimes things seem slow in their fulfillment to our eyes, but God is using that time for His purpose and His glory.  Let us remain in Him, let us trust Him, let us persevere by the strength He provides, and the day of fulfillment will be all the more sweeter for the wait.  Even if it is twenty five years.

The law is good.

law

Do you go to church?  Do you believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Are you living a life of salvation under grace?  Do you consequently think that the Law of the Old Testament and Old Covenant are bad?  Does your skin crawl when people try to tell you what to do or how to act?

Sometimes we paint the picture that the Old Testament was bad and the New Testament is good.  The Law was bad, but grace is good.  That is, after all, where we get legalism, right?

But Jesus is love, He taught love, it’s all warm, fuzzy, feel good, non judgmental mushy gushy stuff.

Right?

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

– Matt 5.16-22

Jesus unashamedly taught that He did not come to abolish the Law, and that the Law will stand until the end of time – until there is a new Heaven and a new Earth.  And not only that, but anyone who annuls the Law will not make it into Heaven.  In short, you cannot love Jesus and hate the Law.

There was a very real change that happened when Jesus died and rose from the dead.  When the Old Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant, and the Law was fulfilled in Jesus, the sacrificial system was completed.  We do not have to make sacrifices to atone for our sins any longer because Jesus was the final and the perfect sacrifice.  The Old Covenant sacrifices were shadows looking forward to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would make (Heb 10.1-18).  Thus, some of the traditions and practices were done away with by the completing work of Jesus on the cross.  But the theme of the Old Covenant Law is summed up in this:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

– Deut 6.4

This is the very heart of the Law, and the single command that Jesus said is the greatest.  The rest of the Law is how people were instructed to actually live out that love.  You cannot obey the Law unless love is your driving force.  And through love, the goal of life is to follow this overarching command:

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

– Lev 19.2

And both of these commands reign true today.  Jesus taught us to Love the Lord with all of our heart, soul and might (Matt 22.37) and Peter continues the command to be holy (1 Peter 1.15, 16).

Consider this,

“THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM
AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:
I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,
AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”
He then says,
AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS
I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

– Heb 10.16-17

God, when He made the New Covenant with believers, with us, promised to take out our hearts of stone and give us a new heart, and on that heart He would actually write His Law.  In the Old Covenant, they were instructed to write the Law “on their foreheads” and on the doorposts of the house:

“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

– Deut 6.8-9

But now, Hebrews says, we have no need of an instructor because the Holy Spirit is teaching us from within (Heb 8.11).  That does not mean that we do not need to read the Bible, but it means that the Spirit will convict us when we are tempted to sin or start to make the wrong decision.  His Spirit will guide our spirits, when we are willing and listening, in the path of obedience.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law.  The Law is now written on our hearts, and we are commanded to be holy – because of and through the love for God.

Without faith, hope and love in and for God, it is all worthless.  That is why Jesus called the Pharisees white-washed tombs:  They were following the law in their actions but not in their hearts.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

– Matt 23.27-28

The problem was not the Law, the problem was the heart of the Pharisees.

If you try to obey Jesus without knowing and loving Him, you will be just like the Pharisees.  But if you want to know and love Jesus, you have to obey, and you will be compelled to obey because God has written the Law on your heart.

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.”

 – Heb 10.26-27

So let us focus on the greatest commandment:  Love God with everything you have.  Trust the Spirit convicting your heart of righteousness, and read the Scriptures to find out what God has to say about sin and righteousness.  Obey.  But obey out of love, not out of obligation or trying to prove yourself.  Prove yourself to be a believer by your actions, not a bag of dry bones.

I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife

church-model

I heard a song the other day that caught my ear.  It is musically catchy and the first line of the chorus is “Take me to church”, so naturally it caught my attention.  The third line of the chorus, however, is what broke my heart: “I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife”.

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

Curious, of course, I googled the author’s meaning in the song.  These are the two direct quotes I could find from the him:

“I found the experience of falling in love or being in love was a death, a death of everything. You kind of watch yourself die in a wonderful way, and you experience for the briefest moment–if you see yourself for a moment through their eyes–everything you believed about yourself gone.  In a death-and-rebirth sense.”

“Sexuality, and sexual orientation – regardless of orientation – is just natural.  An act of sex is one of the most human things.  But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation – that it is sinful, or that it offends God.  The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love.”

– Andrew Hozier-Byrne

He writes metaphorically; comparing his lover to religion.

The music video is about a male homosexual relationship and the backlash the couple receives from the community when they are found out.  Hozier made this statement in regards to the video:

“The song was always about humanity at its most natural, and how that is undermined ceaselessly by religious [organizations] and those who would have us believe they act in its interests. What has been seen growing in Russia is no less than nightmarish, I proposed bringing these themes into the story and Brendan liked the idea.”

As the lie continues to evolve that we have the freedom to determine right and wrong for ourselves, and that there ultimately are no moral, ethical or eternal absolutes, people will misunderstand the intentions of Jesus and Christianity and will consider themselves the victim for any public declaration of a “different truth” than what they are choosing to believe.

The extremely difficult calling for the Church, for us, for you and for me, is to learn how to walk in obedience to Scripture, to encourage others to walk in obedience to Scripture, and yet to show them love at the same time.  We are all sinners, we all were born in darkness and wickedness and we all were enemies of Christ until God breathes Spiritual life into us.  And yet we all continue to fight our sin daily, failing at times.  Are you afraid that if you confess your sins to another at church that they will “sharpen their knives” and prepare to crucify you for them?  I have seen it firsthand.  I have experienced it firsthand, and that over a non-sin issue!

The opposite extreme is just as dangerous.  Jesus always commanded the sinner who came to Him,

“From now on sin no more.”

– John 8.11

Jesus does not accept or condone our sin.  The Bible tells us clearly what God considers right and wrong, and He – as the creator – gets to decide.  Not me.  Not you.  Not the culture at large.  Only God.  He knows that we are sinners and Scripture tells us that the glory of grace is that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5.8).  Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, and He wants us to knock it out!  He most certainly did not pay the punishment so that we could keep doing those things that He hates!  He gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us and He desires that we would live according to His code of conduct, if you will.  But He does not sharpen His knife when we stumble and repent.  He forgives us – when we confess and turn away from that sin.

There in lies the problem.  What is our attitude about sin?  Hozier makes this alarming and enlightening statement in the very same song:

I was born sick,
But I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

This is actually a quote from Christopher Hitchens, a New Atheist, with the phrase “but I love it” inserted in the middle.  Hitchens rightly observes that he was born sick.  But he is only half right.  We are all born “dead in our trespasses” (Eph 2.1).  We love sin and darkness and we choose it.  So why would someone “command me to be well”, when I am completely incapable of being well?  Hozier adds the sentiment “but I love it”.  We do love our sin.  It is a miracle of God that we are convicted of it and drawn to repentance.

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

 – John 3.19-21

Hozier’s sentiment is Biblical.  Everyone who does evil hates the Light – and the Light is Jesus and His Truth.  The world lives in darkness and the darkness sins boldly because they receive affirmation from one another.  Being in the darkness does not mean that it is in secret.  It means that it is not in Christ: the Light.  And we are all born in darkness, in sin, in spiritual deadness.  We hate the Light, in-and-of ourselves.  We need Jesus to breathe life, to convict us of sin, to save us.

So, Church, when should we sharpen our knives?  If someone comes into our lives who was “born sick” and still loving it, then our concern is not their sin (or sins) of choice.  Our concern is their salvation.  Until the sinner realizes the truth of the Gospel and comes to Jesus for salvation, their actions simply do not matter.  It makes no eternal difference if they happen to abstain from one or more particular sins.  Apart from Jesus, that is as “filthy rags” and worthless (Is 64.6).  If you are in Christian community and someone confesses a sin of habit or temptation, if they are clinging to Jesus and trying to die to that sin, there is no place for knife sharpening either.  In fact, this is one of the most beautiful callings of the Church community:  to hold one another accountable and push one another on to righteousness.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

 – James 5.16

The only time we are commanded to take strong action against sin is when someone among us who claims Jesus gives in to sin and its temptation and will not turn from it.  An unrepentant Christian – one who knows the Truth, has claimed Jesus’ salvation for His sins, yet disgraces Jesus and God by choosing sin instead of obeying God.  Jesus gives us very clear instructions for how to handle such a situation, and it is bathed in love, giving the person multiple opportunities to obey (Matt 18).  We are never commanded to go on a witch hunt, or to crucify someone, but to remove them from our midst with the hopes that they will repent later.  Our primary concern, however, is the holiness of the community at large, and if one will not submit to God, he should be removed for the sake of the Church.

Dear Church, put down your knives.  Love the non believer as one who needs Jesus.  Love the repentant believing sinner (the vast majority of us within the Church) as one who is struggling, just like you, and push them on to righteousness and to obedience.  And love the unrepentant believer by pointing out his sin, naming it for it’s eternal danger, and removing him from the church – to the end that he would repent.

Refined by fire.

refiners fire

God’s ways are mysterious.  We easily forget that creation was made for His glory and not for our own.  We think that He exists to make us happy, not that we exist to make much of Him.  We all have a level of a “god-complex”: wanting Him and everyone around us to praise us, make our lives better, and make much of us.  But that right belongs to only God.  And at times He makes drastic decisions to enforce this natural order.

“It will come about in all the land,”
Declares the LORD,
“That two parts in it will be cut off and perish;
But the third will be left in it.
And I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are My people,’
And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”

– Zech 13.8-9

In this prophecy of Zechariah over Israel, God declares that He will destroy two thirds of the people.  He will kill them.  Wipe them off the face of the Earth.  And the final third He will put through the refiner’s fire.  To what end?  So that they will pray.  And so that they will return to God and submit as His people.

Prayer is fundamentally important.  God will kill off 2/3 of a population and put the rest through trials and tribulations just for the end that people turn to Him.  And we are unable to turn to Him without calling out to Him, crying to Him, relying on Him.  But it is not calling out to Him to ask Him for just anything.  Jesus said,

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

– John 14.13

We all know that there are a myriad of requests that we can make that God will not fulfill.  And we like to qualify Jesus’s statement of “whatever” in a multitude of ways, but Jesus qualifies it Himself within the very verse:  “So that the Father may be glorified”.  God will not answer any petition that does not bring Him glory.  We will not be declared as the people of God simply by calling out for Him, but by relying on Him and being refined.  He has to burn out the imperfections, and we will strive to ask things of Him that will glorify Him.  John Calvin reflected on this passage in Zechariah thus:

“It is therefore necessary that we should be subject, from first to last, to the scourges of God, in order that we may from the heart call on him; for our hearts are enfeebled by prosperity, so that we cannot make the effort to pray.”

– John Calvin

God will scourge His people.  He will burn out the impurities.  He will remove vast majorities of peoples who will not return to Him and will purposefully refine the rest.

Are you being refined?  Have you been left as part of the remnant?  Remember that God’s intention is His glory and for your to cry out to Him and to be declared as His.  How is your prayer life?  Are your requests being made unto His glory?  If you have not or are not being refined, perhaps you should turn to God and submit to Him for the salvation of your soul.  It is far better to be put through the fire and emerge as a child of God than to be discarded for eternity.  Our prayers are deepened and magnified by the scourging of God.  Do not be enfeebled by prosperity.

No one can diminish God’s glory

glory

Glory is a strange concept.  The Hebrew word literally translates as “heaviness”, and the Greek word literally translates as “opinion, judgment or view” and also “splendor or brightness” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).  We use the term glory outside of religious conversation from time to time, and it is usually in the context of outstanding achievement – often relating to athletics.  And while it is very difficult to define and understand, we all have a concept of glory: the weightiness of worth, the supremacy, the praiseworthiness, the value deserving of highest honor.

In it’s truest sense, God alone has glory.  And we cannot add to it nor take away from it.  C.S. Lewis stated it brilliantly:

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

– C.S. Lewis

Sometimes we get a little confused because we talk about “giving glory to God” or “glorifying God”.  Scripture regularly admonishes us to glorify God:

“For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

– 1 Cor 6.10

“…but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”

– 1 Peter 4.16

But God’s glory is not contingent upon, nor increased by our praise, honor or admiration.  Nor is it diminished by our slander or disobedience.  To glorify Him simply means to acknowledge and worship Him because of the glory that He has.  That is how Desiring God ministries can build their mission statement as “We exist to help you make God your treasure because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.  God’s glory is not increased by us knowing Him and being satisfied in Him, rather, we honor Him the most when we are satisfied by Him.

Do you recognize God’s glory?  Do you see His weight and splendor in creation?  In people?  In circumstances?  Do you praise Him for it?

“I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.”

– Is 42.8

Is God concerned about social justice?

justice

Last week I wrote what turned out to be a passion invoking post about feminism.  In response, yesterday I delved more deeply into the topic of hatred in Christianity and today I intend to discuss more thoroughly the overall topic of social injustice.

Feminism, at its root and core, seeks to advocate equality for women politically, economically, socially and culturally.  The movement, although vast in goals, has resulted in women’s rights for voting, contract laws, education rights, suffrage, autonomy and reproductive rights.  As with any social movement, there are extremes and broad generalizations that characterize some feminists but not all, and there are those radicals of whom the rest are ashamed.  It is because of those who misunderstand the foundation of feminism, slandering men and true equality (looking for excess and special treatment) that feminism has now culturally become considered the opposite of male chauvinism.

There is a social history one could spend a lifetime studying and evaluating here, of which I am not a scholar.

But my intention is not to discuss the intricacies or favorable outcomes that the feminist movement has had.  My intention is to consider the heart of God on such a topic.  So, laying the radicals aside, I ask the simple question:  Is God concerned with social justice and equality?  And if so, to what extent?

“Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’”

– Zech 7.9-10

In short the answer is yes.  God is concerned about justice.  His commandment is clear, that we are to dispense justice, practice kindness and compassion, to not oppress the weak and poor, and to not devise evil in our hearts against one another.  We also see in the New Testament that God does not show partiality to gender, wealth or social status when it comes to the gift of salvation:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

– Gal 3.28

Scripture does teach that there are gender roles which are to not be confused or altered, but that is another topic for another time.

Where we run into problems is when we get caught up in the goal of social justice and divorce God and His will from the equation.  As Christians, we are to do all things for His glory, and unto Him alone.  An audience of one.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

– Col 3.17

Why do we seek justice?  Because God is just:

For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him.

– Is 30.18b

He loves justice:

For I, the Lord, love justice,
I hate robbery in the burnt offering…

– Is 61.8a

And He commands us to act justly, to exemplify Him in our lives.  We seek justice for His glory:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

– Micah 6.8

The same principle stands true for God’s compassion and righteousness.  God is a compassionate God (Deut 10.18, Jer 22.3).  Jesus was compassionate:

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.

– Matt 9.36

But in this passage we see the need for which Jesus truly felt compassion:  the people did not have a shepherd; they did not know God.  Yes, we see in the verse preceding that Jesus “went into all the towns and villages, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness” (Matt 9.35).  Jesus did physically heal and care for people.  He fed thousands.  He gave sight to the blind and restored withered hands and feet.  He raised the dead.  Jesus had compassion for physical ailments.

But one thing we never see is Jesus healing apart from the Gospel.

Jesus came to the world to die.  He came to live a perfect life, to preach the Kingdom, and pay the punishment for the sins of the world.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

– Luke 19.10

Never does Jesus say, “I have come to bring social justice” or “I have come to give you physical comfort”.  No.  Jesus came to eternally save sinners.  And He teaches us to love one another, to put one another’s needs above our own, and to care for those who are incapable of caring for themselves.

This is all personal instruction.  But what about the governing powers in authority over us?  In this arena we see less pointed teaching.  We learn that God has placed all rulers and authorities in place:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

– Rom 13.1-2

Paul was not writing from a Utopia that makes our democracy look pitiful.  Paul himself was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, whipped, left for dead and charged not to preach the Gospel.  He ultimately gave his life for preaching the name of Jesus.  He also was writing to Christians who had been scattered because of persecution.  They were slaves.  They were hated.  They were mistreated.  And yet Paul exhorted them to subject themselves to the government.  Jesus Himself taught the same thing:

Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

– Matt 22.21

And we all know the fate Jesus suffered.

Scripture promises us that we will suffer, if we desire to follow Christ (2 Tim 3.12).  Not only that, but the mark of the end of the ages is the fact that Christians will flee to the hills (Matt 24).  We will be unable to buy or sell in the market because we will have not taken the mark of the beast (Rev 13.17).  We will be hated, persecuted, hunted and killed.  And our response is to be love.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

 – Rom 12.14

So what is the conclusion?  If God is just, compassionate and righteous and demands of us the same, if He instructs us to care for the poor, but also to submit to the governing authorities who persecute and harm us, what does this look like?

It ultimately looks like trusting, obeying and serving God.  Jesus said that when we feed a hungry man, we have fed Him (Matt 25).  But filling one’s belly serves no eternal purpose in and of itself.  A fat man will die and go to Hell if he has not been saved by the grace of God.  We are to care for the widows and orphans and visit the sick.  But providing housing and clothes does not save souls.  All men will leave the world naked and will face the judgment seat of Christ (Job 1.21, Heb 9.27), whether we die at 10 years or 100 years.  And we are to fight for justice.  But social justice, equality in the work place and freedom from slavery do not provide eternal security in Christ.  They simply make the path to Hell more comfortable, when provided devoid of the Gospel.  And whatever level of social justice we attain now will fade away when the end times come.

Fighting for social justice is a good deed.  But unless it is performed in faith it is sin:

Whatever is not from faith is sin.

 – Rom 14.23

How can that be?  It is because God is primarily and foundationally concerned about His glory and honor.  To fight for justice without giving God the praise, without offering the hope of salvation, without faith, it is for our own glory, or comfort, or happiness.  And while it may make our existence on Earth more comfortable, we must remember that this earth is passing away.  Soon all of our governments, jobs and lifestyles will be just a distant memory because God will destroy this world and create a new Heaven and a new Earth on which a theocracy will reign under which is no corruption, injustice or sin.

A good deed never saved anybody.  And it never will.

As Christians, we are commanded to preach a holistic Gospel.  We must put other’s needs above our own, care for the poor and the oppressed and feed the hungry.  But to truly love someone, and to meet one’s greatest need is to offer to him the free gift of salvation.  Every person who has ever walked the face of this Earth has had that need; even if he has had more money and physical provision than all others.

If you have the ability, the passion and the position to fight for social justice and implement changes that lead to social reform, then do so!  And that to the glory and honor of God!  Otherwise it is futile.  But be cautious to not get caught up in a social movement that forgets the greatest and only eternal need of all of humanity:  forgiveness of sins.  Because some day it will pass away.  But forgiveness of sins, eternal salvation, is the only need that ultimately matters.

And it is on that foundation that I concluded:  getting caught up in a social movement, however noble it may be, is at best a distraction when divorced from the Gospel.  Satan uses mortal sins to distract some, and he uses “good deeds” to distract the rest.  Anything done apart from faith is sin.  Therefore, live by faith.