In California, a family has come under attack for holding a Bible study in their own home. Evidently a neighbor complained, and according to local regulations, you need a permit for regular gatherings. It used to be that where three or more were gathered, Jesus said he would be there. Now, if three or more are gathered, a government official will soon appear asking for a permit. You can read the story here. The problem is not that it is a church under attack, although that is very troubling. It would be just as concerning if someone tried to stop a group of Muslims from meeting. Once religious liberty begins to erode, it is a dark path for a nation.
Category Archives: Church
The newest trend on libertarian websites is to invent names for evangelicals who join forces with the “hawks” in our government. Some have thrown out terms like warvangelicals, or relligerents (religion and belligerents). Name-calling is never the answer to our problems, but Christians should always be concerned with how the world sees us. It will hate us for following Christ, but at the same time should be profoundly affected by our godly lives. However, the derision that many have for conservative evangelicals comes not from their association with Christ, but from their association with war. Conservative evangelicals have had two main approaches in dealing with war. One is enthusiastic endorsement. An example of this is Jerry Falwell’s statement that God is pro-war. Others have passively supported the wars without the thinking about the ramifications for the gospel. I am not criticizing anyone who supports any specific war. However, I do want to encourage people to carefully consider the ramifications for the Christian, and only support a war after careful and skeptical consideration.
I would like to highlight two reasons why Christians should take care when supporting or engaging in military conflict. The first is Jesus command to seek peace.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
This does not mean that force can never be used, or that all wars are evil. It does mean that Christians should seek peace first. God is not pro-war. In the past, he has used war to punish evil men, but that was only at his express command and authority. We are not the nation of Israel. We are a spiritual nation and our weapons are not physical. The Christian must consider wars with suspicion, realizing that God has called us to peace, and also realizing than men are evil and often go to war for unjust reasons.
The second reasons Christians should be very serious when contemplating war has to do with Jesus’ final command to his disciples. Perhaps the most important mission for Christians is to bring the gospel to the unbeliever.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
The gospel is the Christian’s number one priority. War presents the Christian with a tremendous difficulty. Christianity teaches that there are two types of people in the world. Those who have accepted the gospel and those who are still in unbelief. War is about killing. There is no way around it. A Christian involved in a war is doing one or both of two very solemn things. Either the Christian is killing a fellow Christian, or an unbeliever for whom Christ died and to whom he is to bring the gospel.
If the Christian kills a fellow Christian he is going against some serious commands in Scripture and seriously compromising the testimony of the church in the world.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12
Christians were not even supposed to have lawsuits against one another.
I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 1 Corinthians 6:5-7
On the other hand, if a Christian kills a non-Christian, he is sending him to face God’s judgment without telling him the gospel. How can a Christian carry out the Great Commission in Afghanistan.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12
Either way, a Christian involved in war is taking a very serious action that has an effect on the gospel. This does not mean that a Christian can never participate in war, just that it should never be taken lightly, and that the Christian must weigh the justification of the war against the effect on the gospel.
The church must commit itself never to blindly follow anyone or anything except Jesus Christ. When the church becomes affiliated with war in people’s minds, whether justly or unjustly, this is a very serious matter. The church must seek peace and the communication of the gospel of first.
Fear is something that we all feel. However, it is something that as Christians we must always guard against. There are two reasons for this.
First, of all, God has not called us to fear, but rather to godly faith. We are not to fear, because God is with us, and we believe that his presence is more important than the circumstances around us.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
God has not given us a spirit of fear; he has given us his Spirit.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
Finally, according to John, the defining characteristic of the Christian life is love, and perfect love and fear cannot coexist.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
In the spiritual arena, we have no fear of punishment, because Christ has borne the punishment for our sins. In the physical realm, we can have confidence in God’s providence and his knowledge of what is best.
This does not mean that we never fear. It only means that we should not fear, and we have reasons to be confident in Christ.
The second reason to avoid fear is that it clouds our judgment. It leads us to make decisions rashly, or to blindly follow anyone who offers a solution. In the political realm, fear of immigrants changing our culture may lead us to regulate the immigration and labor sector heavily even though we profess to believe that government in never the true solution. Fear of radical Islam may lead us to mistrust and avoid all Muslims, even though we believe in the Great Commission, Jesus’ command to tell the nations about him. Fear of terrorism may lead us to allow the government to destroy civil liberties in the name of keeping us safe.
In the spiritual realm, fear of sharing our faith leads us to only associate with those like us. Fear of failure leads us to never attempt. I confess that I have felt many of these fears.
However, fear is not part of the Christian life. God has called us to a life a bold faith, not fear. This lifestyle will open our eyes to the opportunities God has for us.
Immigration in the United States is a hot topic. We debate the economic effect of immigration, fiercely debating the question of immigrants and jobs. We dispute the effect of immigrants on culture, worrying that those with different language and customs may take over the country. These two complaints soon become hollow, however. We complain that immigrants will take “our jobs,” neglecting to prove how they belong to us, and not to the company that freely chooses its employees. We complain about the change in culture, ignoring the fact that culture is always changing, and not wondering if it is the governments goal to ensure that culture stays the same.
This is not an argument for illegal immigration. That is breaking the law. This is simply a series of questions about whether we might want to allow more legal immigration.
What about immigration from God’s perspective? God says he controls the placement of people.
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. Acts 17:26
Perhaps he sees immigration not as an adverse economic and cultural force, but an oppurtunity for his church in the US to reach out to those from other cultures. He is bringing the world to us. Sadly, caring for immigrants and bringing the gospel to them is not even on our list of priorities. We worry more about our schools, our neighborhoods, and our jobs. Maybe we should take a look at this issue from God’s perspective. He is not a respecter of persons, and immigrants are just as important to him as we are.
Second, we don’t think of immigration from the immigrant’s perspective. We have again forgotten the golden rule. We have not considered whether the Golden Rule applies to this issue and then rejected it; we have totally failed to think about it. Immigrants may be coming from desperate economic conditions. They may be escaping brutal and repressive regimes, or authoritarian religious ones. It is definitely a good thing that we allow people who seek freedom and economic opportunity to come to the United States. Perhaps, if we fix the welfare system, we can allow more to come to the place we call the land of opportunity.
There are two questions I want you to think about. First, how can the church help the immigrants who live among us? Are we ignoring them or reaching out to them? Second, if the issue of allowing more immigration comes up in the halls of our government, should we consider the issue solely from our side, or should we think about the immigrants’ perspective as well?