Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment, Part 2

[Part 1]

So who decides who deserves to die? The American government? A denomination or political party? I know from experience that many Christians would quickly spew verses about how we’re to obey the laws of the land. OK then, let’s be balanced. Stop denouncing abortion as it is currently a legal right voted on and passed. Stop picketing against gays and everyone else that you see as inferior. They have legal rights as American citizens. Stop taking a stand against the side of the government that you don’t like individually! The Christian majority is absolutely teeming with hypocrisy and it sickens me. Here’s a news flash that perhaps some need to understand. Jesus did not die for America! God didn’t sacrifice His Son so that Americans could have the “freedom” to kill who they deem as worthy of killing. America is a worldly, temporal kingdom just as any other and any kingdom that exalts Itself above the one that Christ Himself is building is coming down – period.

Let me say something and please listen carefully. The reason that God sent His Son to earth as not to have buildings full of good, moral people. He calls those who claim to follow Him to be holy as He is holy. There are plenty of good moral people who have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity. There must be more to ones spiritual life than just being a good American Christian. I’d like to be clear that I’m thankful that God chose for me to live out my days in this nation. With that being said, there’s a huge chasm between thankfulness and idolatry. I don’t believe in the generic “America is a blessed nation” statement either. I say this because being biblically “blessed” vastly differs from what we’ve come to know blessing to mean. Let me ask, does “those who are poor in spirit, gentle, persecuted because of righteousness, are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness” and are “merciful peacemakers” sound like the American way to you? In fact, I’d say we often lead the way in being the exact opposite in these biblical characteristics of those who are “blessed” (spoken by Jesus Himself). I’d be much more prone to believe that we are exponentially closer to what John saw when he described the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:17. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

On a side note, I’d like to address the ones attempting to rally an outcry about how we need to return this great nation to the way our forefathers intended. Here’s just a diminutive snippet of quotes for those who always promote that our founding fathers had this grand Christian agenda that we must somehow recapture. John Adams once stated “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” He also signed the Treaty of Tripoli (while Washington was President) which states “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” The treaty goes on to state, “The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan [Muslim] nation.” (I can hear the corporate gasp at this one.) Speaking of George Washington, a man who many would love to invite to their church or patriotic rally to speak about how “Christian” this great nation was supposed to be, he stated that “The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.” Well that’s not very Christian-American now is it! What about Thomas Jefferson? He was quoted as saying "I have examined all the known superstitions of the world and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature.” Interestingly, in 1792 he stated that “Christianity will be the ruin of America”. Ben Franklin, in 1758, “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” Lastly, and perhaps most wisely, Franklin stated “Religion, I found to be without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serves principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another.” What a mouthful that is! I include this to make the point that a foundation built upon absolutely anything other than Christ alone cannot support an eternal house. Traditions, fables and feel-good Christian-American patriotism is not enough and is severely flawed! The pro Christian-American agenda is headed for a great fall my friend. It is full of cracks and error and will not withstand the upcoming age.

With this in mind, let me say something that I want to be crystal clear. Jesus Christ will not be placed upon the throne of America. Let me say that again.

Jesus, The Christ will never be seated upon the throne of America.

(Perhaps some of you will need to stop here and ponder on this statement.) His Kingdom is not of this world, remember? Until we grasp that, Christianity will continue to strive to do today what the people did in His days upon the earth. His intent was never to rule an earthly, temporal kingdom! Not then and surely not now! Somehow we’ve been duped to think that Jesus would gladly take the position of President or something (our version of what the Jews wanted – an earthly king). Or perhaps He’d seat Himself in a war plane and fly off to kill America’s “enemies” with great vengeance and wrath! Seriously? We do not seem to know the Jesus Christ of the Bible at all! Either that or we just turn a blind eye to His teachings. We must properly see Christ as He is, not as who we want Him to be.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:9

I see things all the time that promote this prideful way of thinking. For example, a bumper sticker on a customer’s car that I recently did some work for (and I personally know that they’re Christians) exclaims “Give me MY America back!”. “Your America”? What does that even mean? Who do we think we are? This simple statement sums up a vast subject for me. Illegals? Go back to your home! Stop stealing our jobs! So you’re gay huh? Stop being gay! God hates you for it and so do I. You unpatriotic people, you’re just ungrateful and rebellious. Move to Canada! Non-believers, why can’t you just come to church and be like us? That evil man killed a policeman? Put him in the chair and let God judge Him! He’s an animal anyway, not a man. Atheists? Just snap your fingers and believe like me! Look at that homeless guy. Come on man, just get a job and pay your taxes like I do! Stop sponging off of me like all the welfare degenerates. Drunks, users, addicts, prostitutes you disgust us. Go hide in a gutter somewhere where we can’t see you. What? You aborted a baby? You’re a murderer! *sigh* American Christianity boasts the most prideful and arrogant viewpoints in all of Western culture and I believe it grieves God greatly. We’ve elevated ourselves above seemingly everyone else and have somehow deemed ourselves as untouchable and innocent. We categorize who has value and who does not and then act accordingly. In other words, to put it bluntly, “you believe and look like me, therefore you matter and you, who don’t believe and look as I do, do not”.

I watched this play out clearly when Congresswoman Giffords was shot a few months back. Since she’s prominent and “important”, the event instantly received national exposure. You can still find blogs demanding this shooter be hung, mutilated, tortured, etc. Sadly, many of the comments claim to be authored by professing Christians who are calling for justice to be served. If you kill, you will be killed. It’s the American way, right? But what did Jesus say about this mentality? “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Matthew 5:38 and 39 This slams the door on those who desire to cling to an Old Testament “slay your enemies” approach. The question at the heart of the matter is why the vast majority would rather embrace the role of executing God’s wrath and judgment as opposed to walking in love, forgiveness and mercy. I believe it’s because they have a skewed, “angry-God” point of view when they think of God. Their actions speak that they don’t know Him as loving Father and therefore they have no point of reference to extend His unconditional agape love to anyone else. As I’ve stated many times, it is one-dimensional Christianity that lacks the fullness of Who God is and projects a distorted image of the Father.

It seems Paul understood how we’re to live as those who profess to know Christ.

“Do not return evil for evil. Avenge not yourselves, but rather give way to wrath; for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsts, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21

“See that none render evil for evil to any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” I Thessalonians 5:15

Part 3 will post Monday.


Dylan said...

Followed you over from your comment on the Huffington Post article. A lot to ponder here but I think you're onto something. I don't consider myself of any religious affiliation but I do agree that the Christian majority often convey a very mixed and hypocritical message.

Thanks for addressing what is likely an unpopular topic within Christianity. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Andrew said...

Joel again I will quote a nice verse to you -2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth - and I affirm what you say about Jesus not coming back to rule America - that is unless we have suddenly had a geographic shift and we are now Jerusalem; Do I think we need to be a "Christian nation" Yes I do but do I think that we are: no or ever were a Christian nation: no we never were. I think instead of saying we "need to come back to Jesus" we need to come to him for the first time perhaps his promises will ring true if we turn to Him and renounce our evil ways, but who am I kidding we love our evil ways too much to ever want to turn to Him. So thank you Joel again for bringing things to light that I may have turned a blind eye to. There is never lack of a challenge to my so called spiritually when having you as a friend, so thank you for opening my eyes

Joel Spencer said...

Dylan: Welcome! Sadly, most outside of the Christian majority bubble see its hypocrisy and mixed messages quite easily. I hope that you give the Jesus of the Bible a chance to make Himself known, despite the errors of His Church, myself included.

Andrew: The thing is, the mysterious fact that this nation is somehow inherently "Christian" baffles me. I guess because we were taught that George Washington couldn't tell a lie alongside enumerable buildings on every corner with crosses adorning them, we just somehow believed that made the US "Christian". Shallow teaching leads to shallow beliefs and distorted expectations.

Nick said...

I appreciate the thoughtfulness and compassion of your posts here; but I would like to bring a few passages to your attention. Genesis 9:5-6 reads "'And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.'" Note: this is not a part of the Mosaic Law that Jesus fulfilled. It is part of the covenant God made with Noah, which still stands.

Does Jesus give a law that trumps this? Rather, he says, "For all who take the sword will perish by the sword." (Mt. 26:52) You write, “If you kill, you will be killed. It’s the American way, right? But what did Jesus say about this mentality? “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Matthew 5:38 and 39.” These passages are directly related to how the follower of Christ will react when treated unjustly -- not how they will respond to the murderer in their midst. Murder is a sin covered by the blood of Christ -- that is not to say it does not have consequences here on earth. God demands a reckoning because man is made in His image.

Now, two things. One: This is not to say that the examples you gave, particularly of the radio host, are in any way justified. That behavior is still disgusting and unlike Christ. Christians need to examine their motive for following through on the death penalty: is their motive “an eye for an eye”? Or is their motive to uphold the command of God?

And Two: This is not ignoring the teachings of Christ throughout his life. Christ wanted his followers to extend forgiveness and mercy to everyone, particularly those who committed crimes against them. But that does not mean we help them avoid the earthly consequences of the sins committed. For example, a consequence of the sin of pre-marital relations is sometimes a pregnancy. Would Christ, in love and mercy, condone an abortion to avoid that consequence? Or, less extreme, a petty thief is caught in the act. Would Christ, in love and mercy, allow said thief to go free without paying restitution? Christ demands forgiveness, and without a doubt, he would come alongside these people and help them bear the earthly consequences of what they’ve done, with all love and all mercy and all compassion -- just as he’s already born the eternal consequences.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Joel Spencer said...

Nick: First of all, thanks for taking the time to respond with some thoughtful explanation. As someone else also posted your exact same comment on Part 1, I'd say again that it's the mindset that I have the hardest time with - searching for reasons to defend your "right" to execute judgment upon another.

The Matthew 5 reference absolutely addresses our approach to those who do unjustly, not just if a "Christian brother does us wrong". And, interestingly, when did Jesus mention all of this? In the exact moment that He Himself was being betrayed to be put to death by the hands of men. He surely understood His "right" to defend His life, yet He laid it down. If this Noahic law is to be adhered to, why did Jesus not endorse nor execute such activity? He is the Word made flesh so I believe He would have been aware of such law being in place. Do we see any account of the Him taking the life of another or endorsing others to do so? (Please don't use the "sword" reference in Luke 22 as defense. See Matt 26:52 for clarification.)

Thanks again for sharing your views, it's beneficial for us to explore these issues biblically. I just wholeheartedly believe that one cannot err when walking by the spirit, no longer embracing earthly logic and "what seems right to a man". I can easily, in my flesh execute judgment and retaliation. It takes the Spirit of the Living God to cause me to humbly see all through eyes that are not limited to this earthly vision and carnal mind.