Above All Else Be Kind

Controversy and tension

Over the last several months tension and strife have become the norm for our nation. A new President has been elected. Protests (both violent and non-violent) have seemingly become the main focus of the news and society as a whole. Social media has become an environment of anger and hate in many instances. In general, there are a lot of people choosing to be heard over choosing being kind.

It would be easy for us as Christians to simply ignore all of the problems in our nation by withdrawing from social media and turning away from any controversial discussions. However, I am reminded of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount “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.” Matthew 5:16

Kindness and truth

As we learn from that same sermon, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Removing ourselves from controversial discussions may at times seem like the right thing to do. And there may be times when that could be true. Although, if we look at Jesus’ life we will see countless examples of Him speaking the truth in love when controversial discussions took place. For example, consider His encounter with the woman caught in adultery and the Pharisees who sought “justice”. Instead of ignoring the Pharisees when they mentioned what the law said in regards to the woman’s sin, he answered them brilliantly by saying, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus wasn’t rude in his response, but neither did he ignore the controversial discussion. He spoke in truth and love in the midst of controversy. He simply reminded everyone in that group that they all had sin in common. While it may seem easier to remove ourselves from a controversial discussion, it may be perfectly appropriate to respond in truth and kindness. After all, our light shines brightest when we let it out for the whole world to see… Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Matthew 5:15

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The Silence of Good Men

Good men are distracted

Many good men – especially Christian men have become relatively silent when it comes to speaking up in regards to current events and politically related discussions. Many good men avoid doing anything politically related for various reasons. One obvious reason is that we have become too easily distracted.

Distractions can be leisure activities, entertainment, movies, television, phones, computers, sports, video games, etc. That doesn’t mean that we should avoid these things completely. Good men need time to their leisure. The point is that these things should not take priority over the Lord, our families, or our nation. Yet that is exactly what has happened to many good men. And that is part of the reason that our nation is suffering so much. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

Many men don’t know how to be courageous because they have experienced little discomfort in life. As Americans, we have experienced a great deal of luxury and comfort. When we become comfortable in our lives, we must be reminded that we still have the responsibility to live our lives in a courageous manner. We must stand for that which God calls good. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

Good men are afraid

There are so many things wrong in our nation, which has led to many men giving in to their fears. Many good men believe that life is hopeless. We believe that our current situation is to dark to confront. Yet, in the midst of difficulty God calls us to… “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

We need to stop telling ourselves that the enemy is too great. We need to remember that the Lord is with us wherever we go and whatever we do. He will fight for us, but we need to show up. Our trust in the Lord should always conquer our fears of what other humans can do to us. “In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” Psalm 56:4

Good men are confused

We have convinced ourselves that we shouldn’t participate in politics, but participating in those things that distract us seems to be completely acceptable. The idea that salvation is the only thing Christians should discuss is a completely false, but popular belief these days. That is not to downplay the high importance of speaking about salvation. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) clearly states that we are to “make disciples of all the nations”. Yet, Jesus also stated… “teach[ing] them to observe all that I commanded you“. Jesus commands us to teach others of every command He has given us.

Therefore, we are free to discuss whatever we have been previously commanded by God. Paul the Apostle spoke in regards to current events in his time. Of course, Jesus himself spoke about the issues that were at hand at that time. The issues in those days and the issues we face today are all politically related, since politics is simply the way we govern our lives. And God’s word declares that we are to expose evil deeds of all kinds… “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;” Ephesians 5:11

Good men should not be confused about speaking the truth. Jesus came to testify to the truth; all of it (John 18:37). Good men need to be reminded of their responsibilities to the Lord, their families, and their country. Our relationships with the Lord would grow. Our relationships with our families would grow. And our nation would be in a lot better shape. Our silence and our lack of action has led us to this point, so we must no longer be silent and we must take action. “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And They Called it Independence Day

A timely reminder

As Britain has recently demonstrated, national independence is still valued by a large number of people in the world. #Brexit became a more trendy hashtag than many members of media might have originally expected, once the final vote came through. And as Britain exited the European Union, many Americans were reminded of another quest for independence, which occurred almost 250 years ago.

The founding father’s reasoning for declaring national independence was in large part due to their desire to worship God as they believed He led them to. Consider the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights… “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The founding father’s didn’t want the government to force people to worship based upon laws given by the state. The First Amendment was written with the idea of people freely worshiping God in mind.

National independence is good

National independence has at times been criticized by Christians. It has been said that the independence that we have experienced in the United States has led to apathy among Christians. And that apathy has led to lukewarm faith. However, it can be argued that our apathy has been accelerated much more by our own selfishness and sinfulness as a group of individuals, than our experiencing independence as a nation. Apathy is not produced by national independence or the lack there of. Apathy is produced by a lack of faith or a lack in our individual relationships with Christ.

We have become apathetic because we have forgotten how to love God and one another. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

God made the nations so that they would inhabit the whole earth (Acts 17:26), but not for the nations to become dependent on each other. He made the nations independent so they could independently remain dependent on Him. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” Psalm 33:12

Pursuit of happiness

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While many debate the intent behind the founding father’s reference to a “pursuit of happiness”, it seems reasonable to believe that at least some of them believed that it equated to the pursuit of God.

“There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation, than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong. Taking the word “interest” as synonymous with “ultimate happiness,” in which sense it is qualified with every necessary moral ingredient, the proposition is no doubt true. But taking it in its popular sense, as referring to the immediate augmentation of property and wealth, nothing can be more false.” James Madison

As we celebrate this Independence Day, may we remember that God gave us independence and the freedom that we have so that we would choose and pursue Him… “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…” Deuteronomy 30:20

Sword Free Zones

That time Jesus banned swords

Sword violence was rampant while Jesus lived on the earth. Fortunately for those who lived during that time, Jesus issued a decree and banned swords from certain areas of the nations. Thankfully, sword violence decreased dramatically once Jesus established a law that permanently removed swords from those particular areas. Potential criminals agreed to no longer carry swords in those areas and the people were safe.

Does that story sound accurate? It shouldn’t, because it isn’t true. Yet it is the same type of fantasy land that some Christians live in today. Our nation experienced another tragedy last week and some Christians believe that the way to fix the issue is by making it more difficult for people to own firearms. They believe in so called “common sense” gun laws and proclaim that… “those who live by the sword, die by the sword”.

Why didn’t Jesus ban swords or create sword free zones when He walked the earth? He certainly had the authority to. That would have brought peace to the earth, right? No, but the answer is quite simple. Jesus knows where violence comes from. Violence is rooted in sin. Our sinful desires are what cause us to fight, steal, and murder. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:1-2

Weapons aren’t the problem

Sword free zones wouldn’t have solved anything, because mankind is rebellious to God. Mankind has experienced murder from almost the very beginning. Cain killed Abel with what some scholars believe was a rock (Genesis 4:8). David killed Goliath with a sling and a stone (1 Samuel 17:49). Members of the Sanhedrin stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:59-60). Things haven’t changed much throughout history. Sinful mankind will use just about any tool they can get their hands on to murder.

Jesus knows that weapons are not the cause for murder. Jesus knows that murder comes from the sin in our hearts. And Jesus knows that banning weapons does not change hearts. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matthew 15:19

Die by the sword

Jesus never told his disciples to get rid of their swords. In fact, Jesus told his disciples to purchase a sword (Luke 22:36). Jesus did say the following words… “Put your sword back in its place, Jesus said to him, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:52

However, those words must be taken in context. Jesus was speaking directly to Peter after he cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus was telling Peter that he would die if he didn’t sheath his sword. It was not a blanket statement in regards to owning or carrying weapons.

Instead of advocating against firearms, we should be praying for the victims of the tragedy in Orlando, along with their families. We should be seeking Jesus and asking that our hearts would be right with Him. We should confess our sins to Him and repent. We should be praying that He heals our land. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

 

The Actions of One Person

One cause of apathy

Apathy among Christians is one of the greatest problems facing the church in the 21st century. Some Christians are apathetic to sharing the gospel, loving people, caring about society, and a whole laundry list of other things. While I believe there are many reasons for our apathy, it seems that there is one common denominator among those who are apathetic. We believe the lie that says, since we are only one person, we can’t have an impact on society.

We avoid doing the good works that God has planned for us, because we don’t believe anyone or anything will be changed based on what we do. Even though that completely contradicts the true meaning of faith… “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 We do not see how anyone or anything will be changed, so we do not act. That is not faith!

There are times when people may tell you that you can’t accomplish something because you are only one person. That is only a partial truth. Yes, of course you are only one person, but the implication is that you cannot have any affect on society because you are only one person. Have we forgotten that we serve a might God?

Individuals from the past

William Wilberforce was only one man. Wilberforce opposed the slave trade while serving in Parliament during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, when almost no one else around him supported abolition. He said, “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the [slave] trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” And he never rested until God did a mighty work through him by abolishing the slave trade.

When being commanded to go to Egypt, Moses responded to God’s commands with excuses. He said, “…Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11 In other words, Moses was saying that he couldn’t do what God wanted him to do on his own. In a sense, Moses was right. He couldn’t do it on his own. However, God could do it through him.

Esther was only one woman. Mary was only one woman. Noah was only one man. Abraham was only one man. David was only one man. Daniel was only one man. Paul was only one man. One man or one woman can accomplish great things if he or she is fully committed to his or her relationship with God. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

We have common ground

What did these biblical and historical men and women have in common? It’s what we all have in common. We were all created by an amazing, perfect God, who lavishly loves us. One man died on the cross for the sin of the world. Jesus did what no one else could do because he is God in the flesh. Jesus was obedient to his father in heaven and took the burden of sin upon himself for our gain. Do you know him as your lord and savior?

Trust in the mighty power of God in everything you do. Stop settling for a the status quo and start trusting in God’s greatness. Stop believing the lie that you are alone and can’t accomplish anything, and instead know that you serve a perfectly righteous and all powerful God. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13