Steve Moore writes about Julio Diaz, a New York city social worker who would take the subway to the Bronx each night to eat dinner at his favorite diner. One evening, a teenager brandished a knife and attempted to rob him. Diaz handed over his wallet, but as the thief walked away he said to him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” This baffled the teen, and from there Diaz was able to talk him into eating dinner with him in the diner. The teen was struck by how so many knew him and greeted him. The bill came at the end of the dinner, and Diaz offered to buy if he could get his wallet back. Without thinking, the teen handed it back to him. Diaz gave him a $20 and asked only for the knife in return (Who Is My Neighbor?, 44-45). We would hope that this prompted the teen to reform his life and make something nobler of himself, but if he does not it will not be Diaz’s fault.
What would you do if you were in a predicament like that? Maybe you would fight back, and who knows how that would end. Maybe you would compliantly give the wallet and watch in silence as the thief left. Yet, notice how profoundly Julio Diaz impacted this young man by doing more than was expected. His victim was willing to give even more than was asked of him. The world cannot produce that kind of wisdom and street smarts.
Diaz took a page right out of the Divine playbook. Jesus taught, “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. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Mat. 5:38-42). What incredible wisdom! Such action melts hearts and gives people a glimpse of Divine thinking.
It’s not likely you’ll be robbed at gun or knife point today. However, somebody will mistreat you, speak evil about you, or otherwise hurt you–soon! What will you do in response? Why not pull a Diaz? Why not follow the guidance of the greatest sermon ever preached?
Occasionally, I run across someone whose sincerity and earnestness I do not doubt but whose manner and tack are incredibly brusque, confrontational, and antagonistic. These same ones seem to frame questions disingenuously, almost as if to entrap you with the information they think they already know or pin you to positions they already believe you take. They may be quick to want to ascertain whose side you are on or what your stand is, even in matters that can be terribly complex and not so easy to answer. Their seeming attitude toward others is that they are guilty until proven innocent or that the ones they are examining are innately unwilling to stand up for what they, the “examiner,” believe is the truth.
This same belligerent approach was often taken by the Jewish leaders during Jesus’ ministry. They would come up with a scenario for Him simply to entrap Him or try and use His words against Him. Even though Jesus always answered correctly and never sinned or took a “wrong position,” they eventually twisted His words as part of their ploy to have Him crucified.
Ironically, these would deem themselves God’s staunchest defenders of the faith. Yet, through deceit, manipulation, unrighteous judgment, and the like, they reflect worldliness and fleshly works which God addresses in scripture. In Galatians five, Paul calls such things as “contentions,” “outbursts of wrath,” “selfish ambitions,” and “dissensions” works of the flesh (20). In instructions on dealing with one another, Paul tells Ephesus that such things as “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (4:31-32).
There are brethren in Christ who have compromised God’s truth, and this has sadly occurred in every part of the country. That is not what is under consideration here. There are also some who are intent on redrawing smaller and smaller circles of fellowship all the time. They are using as criteria laws they have made and standards that are from themselves. No one can very easily or for very long stay inside their circle. But let us not be bullied or intimidated into thinking that something is wrong with us if we do not walk lockstep with the belligerent. Let us pray for them and continue to have the courage to speak what is truly truth in a way that is truly loving!
NOTE: SOME TIME AFTER THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN, THE RIDGEDALE CHURCH OF CHRIST FACEBOOK PAGE WAS HACKED. THE CONTENT THERE NOW CONSTITUTES AN 180-DEGREE TURN FROM WHAT THAT GOOD CONGREGATION BELIEVES. DON’T BE DUPED BY THIS PERSON WHO, IN EFFECT, IS COMPOUNDING THE PERSECUTION UPON RIDGEDALE FOR SIMPLY TRYING TO FOLLOW GOD’S WORD. –NEAL
In the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus wrote, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mat. 5:12-13). Persecution takes many forms, but if you want to see one form of it simply go to Ridgedale’s Facebook page and look at the dozens of examples of tolerance from broad-minded people as they help that congregation face what the world thinks of them.
An article by Kevin Hardy in today’s Times Free Press online (http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/aug/21/repent-or-leave/), which reflects some basic ignorance of what the Bible teaches about church discipline, unleashed a firestorm of hateful response by readers who are on Facebook and who in turn posted their remarks on the aforementioned page. My prediction is that things will get worse before they get better for the good people at Ridgedale. Understanding that we do not have all the facts of the case and would not expect a person in the world to give them to us, what we should do is focus on what is alleged. A professed lesbian’s family that attended Ridgedale was approached by church leaders after the woman’s mother publicly supported her daughter as she sought same-sex benefits from the city of Collegedale. As the family’s support of their daughter was public, the church felt compelled by scriptural mandate to ask the family to repent or be subject to church discipline. The family publicly made their exit and a congregational matter is now being splashed across news outlets. But, why is this congregation facing such an outcry and disapproval? The answer will differ from individual to individual, but here are some broad reasons evidenced from people’s responses.
Ridgedale is getting slammed because of the cultural sickness of subjectivity. One woman writes, “I think the decision makers of this church will one day pay for their sins…” Another woman writes, “I think the Cooper’s will be far better off without a church who punish’s them for not turning their back on their child….” Another puts it, “In my world, my God accepts, doesn’t judge and loves all his children!” Still another says, “Wow! I guess we know different Gods. My God offers unconditional love and tells me not to judge others….” (misspellings and grammatical errors made by the original writers). Others’ subjectivity is more subtly expressed, but here is the common thread. People think they get to co-opt God and make Him over in their image.
Ridgedale is getting slammed because of society’s warped view of tolerance. Certainly, so many who commented on that page are not tolerant of anyone who interprets Scripture literally. They are not tolerant of this congregation’s autonomy. They are not tolerant of the view that homosexuality is a sin. It is abundantly clear from the comments. You will read such slurs as “bigot,” “hoping the church burns in hell,” “Scumbag Church,” “group of horrible people,” and more. This is dripping with irony.
Ridgedale is getting slammed because the average person does not know the Bible. People speak of God loving unconditionally, Jesus accepting everyone, and that one’s sexuality does not matter. There is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord in our land (cf. Amos 8:11). Such lack of knowledge will destroy a people (Hosea 4:6). God’s unconditional love does not mean unconditional acceptance if someone lives in rebellion to His will. Jesus will not accept everyone. To the majority, He will say, “Depart from Me” (see Mat. 7:13-14, 21-23). Apparently, one’s sexuality does matter (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11). But people are grossly uninformed about the only book that reveals the heart and mind of God.
Please pray for Ridgedale. Encourage them and show them love. The detractors are popular and validated by a world separated from God. Let us have the courage to stand by God’s people who are willing to stand up for His will.
- Take the time at the beginning of class to break the ice, exude warmth, and build rapport.
- Make sure you have done due diligence, entering the classroom with ample preparation.
- Strike the balance of being “open” and “approachable” as a teacher without putting out the vibe of vulnerability or uneasiness.
- Guide the direction of the class rather than letting the class direct you.
- Always ask questions that are meaningful and not those that are either fillers or those that insult the student’s intelligence.
- Avoid embarrassing or putting the student on the spot, as you cannot know the frame of mind or circumstances that may be weighing on him or her in that moment.
- Never fail to draw conclusions and take a stand on matters of faith.
- Do not overly press personal convictions or judgment calls upon the classroom.
- Keep the specter of pride away from your heart so that you do not always feel the need to be right and for the student to be wrong.
- Do not let blatantly false statements by the student go unanswered–speak the truth in love, but remember the utmost need for truth to be upheld.
- If you make the class interesting (this is the product of study and preparation, including searching for appropriate illustrations), class feedback and discussion takes care of itself
- Budget your time, neither glossing over or bogging down in material
- While forced excitement will seem artificial, generating genuine passion and enthusiasm is infectious and aids the learning environment.
- Leverage the resources in the room, looking to mature, knowledgeable Bible students to assist you in making particularly difficult or controversial points.
- After properly interpreting and teaching the biblical text, be ever the gleaner for application–material the student can take and translate into daily living and personal use.
In the 1100s, in an effort to protect travelers going from northern Spain over the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Dogs of God, Reston, 50), a military force known as the hermandads (“the brotherhood”) was organized. Soon, these vigilantes spread across Spain and offered themselves as protectors of roads and merchants. Eventually appointed as a national police force who could collect taxes and prevent insurrection in every municipality, they would go on to exterminate untold numbers of Muslims, Jews, and other “enemies of the state” during the Middle Ages. Reston mentions an unsettling “right” granted to the hermandads in the 15th Century, during the famous reign of Isabella and Ferdinand. He writes, “In a curious turnabout, executions took place first, and trials were held afterwards” (51).
Given our country’s constitutional concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” this practice seems both backward and barbaric. How useful is a trial to present facts about a case after the defendant has been executed? What if the deceased was found innocent? What if there was no proof of guilt? Of course, the “facts” of every case incredibly supported the punitive action that preceded it.
While we may find such a practice appalling, how often do we do the same with our tongues? Through rash anger, reckless gossip, and rabid prejudice, we can serve as judge, jury, and executioner of the reputation and actions of another. How often do we jump to conclusions and assassinate another’s character, but later revelations prove our actions both premature and unjustifiable? Unfortunately, the damage having been done, nothing done by way of reparation can fully undo the effects upon the victim.
What we need to see is the spiritual danger we face who “execute” before “trial.” Solomon wrote, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13). A few verses later, he says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (21a). That New Testament “wisdom writer,” James, adds, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (3:8-10).
Be very careful! Even when we think we have the facts about another, let us post a guard outside the door of our lips (cf. Ps. 141:3). Better to deliberate and reserve judgment than to execute before the trial has been held!
What a sad story emerged from Campbellton, New Brunswick, last week. Two little boys were spending the night at a friend’s house. The friend’s father, Jean-Claude Savoie, owns an exotic pet store and was apparently keeping a 14-foot-long African rock python in his home. During the night, while the boys slept, the python got loose from his glass enclosure, crawled through the ventilation system, and landed in the living room where the boys slept. It was then that, incredibly, he took the lives of the boys. Reports indicate the children had been to Savoie’s farm earlier in the day and had played with llamas, goats, horses and dogs, but had not bathed. Officials speculate that the python probably mistook the boys for prey, thanks to their scent. The parents must be grief-stricken and the snake-owner devastated (via http://www.cbsnews.com).
Perhaps what makes this so tragic is that it involves something physical, that can be seen or at least visualized. Yet, an infinite number of times over daily, a greater tragedy is occurring. Children are being assaulted by “that serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). But because his deadly work is done upon souls and not bodies, it is so easy to ignore. Children are placed by their parents into circumstances that expose them to this dangerous predator with seemingly little thought to the consequences. Parents allow the “scent” of the world to be left upon their children, allowing them to see and hear worldliness, become comfortable with it, and do nothing to be cleansed from it. God has made moms and dads the guardians of their children’s lives, whether it is their entertainment, friends and associations, activities, education, or the like. We are responsible for guiding them toward truth and away from error.
Do we ever, rather than taking that stewardship seriously, become lax and careless? We sing, “This world is not my home,” but are we helping to make our precious heritage cozy in its arms? May we all resolve to protect our children from the “evil one,” appreciating the gravity of what is at stake.
Without A Belief In The Bible’s Inspiration…
- Why would I read, meditate upon, or study it daily (or at all) to guide my life?
- What will be the paradigm for directing and shaping my life?
- From where will I draw my understanding of Who Jesus is, what He did, and how I must relate to Him?
- How do I form my understanding of where I came from, why I am here, or where I am going?
- Why would I trust or follow what it says to do in even a single case, circumstance, or verse?
- What logical, ultimate constraint do I have from any behavior or act I desire to do, no matter how aberrant or outlandish society finds it?
- How do we evaluate the content of any word, attitude, or action for rightness or wrongness?
- On what basis would I accept absolutes, which I must (even if I absolutely deny the existence of absolute truth)?
- Who or what will be my standard of authority?
One of the most famous movie scenes of all time depicts Dr. Richard Kimble, played by Harrison Ford, desperately running, orange prison jump suit, shackles, and all, as a derailed train caroms out of control, rapidly gaining on him, and threatening his life. The videography is spectacular, cutting quite an imposing figure. A multi-ton mass of metal off the rail and out of control promises nothing but damage and destruction. As long as the train is on the track, its weight and speed do not pose a threat. If it is not, the prospects are frightening.
The premise that the Bible is the Word of God from the mind of God through men provides an answer to all the above, weighty questions. If one refuses to accept the Bible is what it claims to be (1 Cor. 2:11-12; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Jude 3; etc.), then of necessity he or she must choose an alternate guide for life. It is fair to evaluate that alternative with equal criticism and scrutiny. Wisdom would seem to suggest choosing what best explains the whole picture–our complex design, moral compass, appreciation for beauty, universe’s order, and more. What we are talking about are the very biggest issues of life! They deserve our deepest thought and wisest choice.
Since 1970, San Diego has been home to a Comic Book convention that has grown to international renown and is patronized by over 100,000 people per year. This is where your comic book aficionados, sci-fi fans, and the like congregate to celebrate imaginary heroes from the entertainment world. From Spider Man to Spock, these fictional characters are honored by attendees who dress, act, and talk like them. It matters little if the patrons are 5’6″ and 300 pounds. It’s a place and time to pretend.
This year, three stuntmen promoting an upcoming movie heard the screams of onlookers as a drunk, jilted woman had climbed outside the railing of the balcony of her fourteenth story apartment. In her inebriated, distraught state, she intended to take her life. The stuntmen sprang into action, scaling a fence and then racing up to her apartment, before stealthily racing out to stop her from what seemed to be an imminent jump. They had been trained for lifesaving operations, but they typically used those skills for entertaining moviegoers (via http://www.abcnews.com).
When I heard about this, I thought about the wonderful opportunities you and I have, week after week, to assemble and study God’s Word together. Added to that, hopefully, is daily time spent by each of us in the Bible in personal devotion. While this time and effort is meant to spiritually strengthen and protect us, it is also training for the work we have to do as Christians. If we are not intentional, however, we can find ourselves in some ways resembling New Testament Christians without doing the heroic things they did. Or, we can undergo that continuous spiritual training without putting it into practical use to save those who relatively soon will head into eternity. God needs us mustering the courage and conviction to put what we know into practice in order to save those in desperate need of rescue. What will we do this week to reach out and help someone in need of Jesus? Doing nothing, as a matter of practice, makes us, at best, pretenders. Seeking to save the lost makes us heroes on an unparalleled magnitude! May we so strive.
I rarely modify the word “Christian” with adjectives like red, yellow, black, or white. Occasionally, however, an event happens that threatens to divide God’s people of a racial nature. The recently ended George Zimmerman trial in the death of Treyvon Martin is one such event.
It seems to me that so many children of God have reacted to the verdict in that trial along either political and, as often, racial lines. Everyone from adherents of the NRA to those of the NAACP seems to have strong opinions and stronger reactions. From such a long distance away from the facts of the case, many whose opinions are decidedly sympathetic to one side or another seem certain that either justice or injustice was served by the jury.
While forming an opinion about cases like this one may approach inevitability, there is a caution to be heeded.
We cannot allow the world’s division, whether due to politics, religion, race, or the like, to infect us and divide us. That means that we should be very careful as we communicate with one another through the various means we use–Facebook and other social media, email, the Bible classroom and pulpit, and even our conversations with people. Our passion cannot be rooted in these things that do not matter in eternity! Eternal things ought to be our cause and obsession.
When I was a graduate student at Freed-Hardeman, Earl Edwards taught a course on missions. He depicted the first-century scenario powerfully, asking, “Can you imagine Paul and the other apostles spending all their time picketing abortion clinics, lobbying Rome, or consuming themselves with the social causes of their day?” His point was that the early Christians’ focus was on the living hope (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3). They were not distracted by the causes and factions of their world.
Please be careful of rhetoric in defense of Zimmerman or lament of Martin that raises walls that Christ died to destroy. While his focus was Jew and Gentile rather than black and white, his words apply to us today that Christ “is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (Eph. 2:14). The wall of separation, in context, was the Old Testament. But, the law represented that which kept the two groups apart. Christ reconciles us in one body and makes us “one new man” (Eph. 2:15-16).
There will be no “white heaven” and “black heaven” (or whatever race comes to mind). That being the case, we had better develop and maintain colorblindness on earth. Let the world be divided, if they will not submit to Christ. Let us be united, submitting to our Lord!