Sunday, March 13, 2016

Nasty Politics 2016 - How Should Christians Act?

Friday night, I was about to go to bed when a scene on the TV caught my eye. My dad left the TV on FOX News before he went to bed and on the screen was, what looked like, the riots from Ferguson, MO back in 2014. Except, upon seeing the "breaking news" banner scrolling across the bottom of the screen, I could tell it was recent.

This was footage from Friday night. Just a couple hours old from the campus of the University of Illinois - Chicago. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump was scheduled to have a rally there last night and it was cancelled due to security concerns of violence from the hundreds of protesters. Among the protestors and the Trump supporters, many brutal fights broke out, resulting in five arrests and three injuries.

Watching this mob of people with rage in their eyes screaming, shoving, and punching each other made me realize just how messed up our country is. I am by no means a fan of Trump, my thoughts on him would line up with what best-selling Christian author Max Lucado said in his article, "Decency for President".  I don't agree with a lot of what Trump says, but I believe that he has the right to say what he wants. That's his constitutional right. But these people, as well as the many others who have disrupted his rallies, are taking their disagreement with him to a whole other level. They want to silence him. It is a growing idea among liberals today that if someone says something that you disagree with, then they don't have the right to say it. This is just the latest of incidents where liberals have attacked conservatives' First Amendment rights.

I was first made aware of this issue when my friend, Dr Mike Adams was denied promotion from his university because of his conservative Christian views. He filed lawsuit and fought against his employer, the University of North Carolina - Willmington for close to seven years before he successfully won his case and was promoted. You can read his story here. A more recent example is Ben Shapiro. Last month he was scheduled to speak at California State University - Los Angeles about Free Speech, the liberals on the college campus protested and the event was cancelled. The Young Americans for Freedom group that sponsored the event proceeded with the event, and as would be expected, violent protests broke out. You can read more on that story here.
As I said, I do not agree with Trump, nor do I support him, but as a patriot whose ancestor signed the Constitution, I believe in the freedom of speech. Regardless of what he says, he has the constitutional right to say it, as long as it doesn't threaten to harm others.

As it turns out, the person responsible for organizing the protests of thousands of people was a political activist named Ja'Mal Green, who is a supporter of Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Sanders is well known for his socialist views and for being deeply rooted and involved with the American Communist groups during the Cold War. It makes perfect sense for Bernie and his supporters to want to silence the ideas they disagree with and to attack free speech. That was pretty common back in the day of the Soviet Union, a country who Sanders greatly admired and supported the communist ideas of.

Seeing all of these people protesting made my heart sink. Our nation, once the greatest nation on the planet, has fallen so far. On that news broadcast the editor of National Review, Rich Lowry made a statement that really spoke volumes.

"We're just so polarized, we're just so racialized. To see black and white people shoving and punching people at this event, it's just so ugly and so depressing and there's no healer or uniter on the horizon." 

Lowry couldn't have said it better. We, as a country, haven't been as polarized since the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. We even have people from various sides who are pushing for and promoting widening this divide in our country between people. Everything is split between Republican and Democrat, Conservative and Liberal, black and white, pro- this, or anti-that, the list goes on and on. there doesn't seem to be anyone on the political scale that is seeking to unite or heal people. There is hardly any unity. This is a sad thing.

America is a sinking ship. It's inevitable, there's no stopping it. On one side of that ship, people are trying their best to sink it faster, all the while killing and robbing the passengers. On the other side are those who are desperately trying to save the sinking ship and those on it. Then there are a few people that accept the fact that the ship is sinking and know that trying to save it is useless. They are just trying their best to save as many lives as possible. The latter is where I fit in.

I am a bible-believing Christian, and am thus, naturally, conservative. I have a lot of conservative friends and I see them most on Facebook all the time about wanting to "save America" or "restore America back to its original roots", or "fix our national debt". I believe those are good optimistic ideas to have, but in reality, America is so far gone that the only thing that can really save or nation or restore it to its original roots would be a miracle from God and a revival. That's not me being pessimistic, it's just being realistic.

Lowry said, "there's no healer or uniter on the horizon" and while he is right in the political sense, he is wrong in the overall sense. The only healer and uniter that can fix things is Jesus Christ. We await His coming Kingdom where He will establish a perfect government and unite and heal us all.  But we don't have to  wait till then to be united or healed. He offers us healing and unity now. It is time that we focus less on all the worldly things of politics and focus on the things of God. Should we have opinions on politics and vote, absolutely, but we should vote for and rally behind the candidate that has the strongest biblical values, or is the closest to those values. As believers, we shouldn't fight amongst ourselves  and get angry over politics. I have seen absolutely terrible fights over politics online between several strong believers that I have known for over a decade. The things that are said are extremely hurtful and hostile. Sure, we should have our opinions, but just because a fellow believer disagrees with us, or is too concerned with the worldly things rather than the spiritual part doesn't mean  that we should personally attack and insult them. Their thinking might not make sense to us, but we should still remain respectful to them.

As believers, we should unite behind the ideas that the Lord set forth for us, not be divided. I'm not saying that we should rally behind any certain party or candidate. I'm simply saying that we should set aside the worldly aspects of politics and focus on the aspects that pertain to the Lord and what He has told us to do. When we focus on those things, there will be more unity and peace among believers. We need to do as the old hymn says:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Should Christians Help People?

"Abortion and human trafficking are both terrible things, but Christians shouldn't take part in helping to end them."

Recently I listened to a fellow believer publically condemn the movements and organizations that are fighting to end sex slavery and human trafficking and the above statement was pretty much the gist of his speech from the pulpit. There is so much wrong with this line of thinking.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love the guy who said this, as well as the other people that I've met with his views on this subject. I love them as brothers and sisters in Christ and I love their passion and zeal for the Lord and for sharing the Gospel. The world needs more people with the willingness and passion to share the Gospel. This isn't an attack or criticism of their person. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Our enemies are not people, per se, but the ideas that come from the evil one and his fallen angels. Sometimes these ideas can be so close to the truth and even be mixed in with the truth, this makes it hard to differentiate. As the late Justice Antonin Scalia once said, "I attack ideas. I don't attack people. And some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can't separate the two, you gotta get another day job."

The person I recently heard recently talked about how the Christians who are involved with ministries that are trying to save lives by bringing an end to human trafficking and abortion are teaching a "Prosperity Gospel". Now, this phrase is most often used in reference to well-known pastors on TV that preach that "God wants you to have lots of money and to be extremely successful”. My friend went on to say that the reason it is a "Prosperity Gospel" is because they are focusing on the things of this life and not eternal life. They are seeking to help people get out of horrible situations on this earth rather, than helping people get out of the possible terrible situation that is: eternity separated from God. The intentions of my friend were good, but sometimes people can be so heavenly minded that they neglect the things on this earth that need a Christian touch.

Their line of thinking is extremely naïve.

Before publically speaking on the subject and condemning the amazing ministries that help those people, it would have helped if he had actually researched some of those ministries. The majority of those ministries share the gospel with those that they rescue. I've heard the testimonies of several women who were rescued from years of human trafficking by those ministries my friend condemned, and a common factor of their testimonies is how they came to faith in Jesus Christ. They were freed from the literal chains of slavery as well as the spiritual and supernatural chains of sin.

I first encountered this line of thinking a number of years ago when another friend of mine was asking about the Pro-Life group I led on my college campus. She told me that she believed that abortion was horrible and wrong, but went on to ask "How does you doing Pro-Life activism and education further the Kingdom of God?" I was kind of taken aback by this. I asked her what she meant by that and she explained, "That's awesome that you are doing that stuff, but it's useless if you aren't sharing the gospel with everyone you talk to about it". This exchange left me perplexed. I shared the gospel with people all the time. But God had also called me to stand up against abortion and be a voice for those being led away to death. I did both. She seemed to think that everyone you met needed to hear the gospel from you on the spot as soon as you meet them. She clearly didn't understand how people work.  We should always be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), but we should also show the love of Christ to people by caring for and helping them. I’ve heard countless stories and have had many personal experiences where helping those less fortunate than us allows for the light of Christ to shine through and leads to an open door to share the gospel with people. Its amazing. Relationship building, especially in this day and age is essential to sharing the gospel with people. In my personal experiences, and most of the experiences of people I know is that people will be more likely to listen to you and take you serious if you already have an established relationship with them; as opposed to simply walking up to someone on the street and telling them they are sinners doomed for Hell and need a savior. While this latter tactic has been successful in the past, it is not so much in the present. A prime example of this is what my local pregnancy care center does. They are a ministry and are operated by devout believers, but they don’t shove Jesus in people’s faces as soon as they walk in the door. The women coming there have a specific earthly problem and are seeking help. Compelled by the Lord, the pregnancy center workers council and help them, all the while establishing a loving relationship with them. At sometime along the process they share the gospel with the women. They tell me that the women are more receptive to the gospel after they have seen and experienced the love and kindness from the center workers. There have been several women each year that become believers as the result of hearing the gospel at the center.  

A few months ago I had a conversation with the friend that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. In our conversation he criticized a Christian Senator who heard about what this Christian anti-human-trafficking group was doing and he was encouraged and compelled by his faith to bring this issue before the government. He drafted legislation to help free those enslaved because he knew in his heart that what was being done to those people was wrong and went against what God says. I've heard almost identical stories from Senators and Congressmen in regards to the issue of abortion. My friend was deeply upset that this senator was going to these efforts to help bring an end to modern-day slavery. He claimed that the senator was "wasting his time". He said that the senator "would be doing more good if he just stayed in his office and prayed about the issue instead of wasting his time trying to pass legislation to stop it.

Two passages in scripture immediately came to mind when I heard him say this. The first was a passage which is greatly misunderstood and used by most Christians to push a works-based salvation theology that denies God's grace. I usually steer clear of this passage simply because it confuses so many, but with regards to this issue, it is very important in its correct context. The Lord's brother says: " Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is useless to others." (James 2:15-17).

The second passage that came to my mind was the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-77: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

According to the logic of my friend and those with his view, we should tell our brothers and sisters in need "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," and do nothing about their physical needs. Our faith should be useless to others. His logic also suggests that we should be like the priest and Levite and just pass by the wounded man and do nothing to help his needs. As you can see, this line of thinking that my friend puts forth is entirely foreign to the actions of Christians in scripture.

Yes, Christians are supposed to share the good news of God's son, His sacrifice for the world, and the free offer of salvation to all who simply believe in Him.  But our lives as Christians do not stop here. We should not neglect to share the gospel whenever the opportunity arises, but we are also called to help people and be the hands and feet of Jesus. This is mentioned many times in scripture. In Deuteronomy 15:11 the Israelites are commanded to "open your hand to your brother, the needy and to the poor in your land". The writer of Proverbs tells us to "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” (Proverbs 24:11).  In Matthew 5:16 Christ says, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven". In one of the most convicting passages from the New Testament, the Lord tells believers, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’(Matthew 25:35-40).

According to the logic of my friend, we should be like the second group of people, the ones that did not help, feed, welcome, clothe, or visit the 'least of these'. What is more a type of the 'the least of these' or 'those being led away to death' than those in slavery being abused and raped and those being scheduled to be brutally murdered? It is ideas like this that allowed for the holocaust to happen. There is a famous quote that is often attributed to the Irish Statesman and believer in Christ, Edmund Burke that says “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". That is powerful!

That quote also reminds me of the story of Kitty Genovese. She was stabbed to death outside her apartment in New York City in 1964. There were close to 40 eye witnesses. She cried out for help but nobody helped her. They watched as her assailant walked away. A priest in the movie "Boondock Saints" says the following after telling the story about her attack, "Now we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men".
If Christians are not being the hands and feet of Christ, who will be? If not us, then who? In his song entitled "Do Something", Christian worship artist Matthew West says:

I woke up this morning,
saw a world full of trouble now.
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down?
How’s it ever gonna turn around?
So I turned my eyes to Heaven,
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
people living in poverty,
children sold into slavery,
the thought disgusted me!
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
and said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
I’m so tired of talking
about how we are God’s hands and feet
but it’s easier to say than to be
live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
it’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
but I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”

Such powerful and convicting words. So, I pose the question to my friends mentioned above and to all reading this: What are you going to do? In a world full of Levites and priests, will you be a good Samaritan? Or will you simply tell your neighbor, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," and do nothing about their physical needs? What are you going to do?