Friday, January 06, 2012

Violence and the Gospel

And almost on cue, here are two infamous heretics praying for God to bless war.

Gen.6:13 - And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Matt.11:10-13 - For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
here was much violence through the Old Testament. I must admit to a level of mystery I have concerning God’s participation in such violence. I mean destroying entire cities, etc.. But I will not suggest that I know better than God, and I will never question what He does and does not do. That is a futile exercise in spiritual hubris.
But no one can read the New Testament and not understand that a seismic shift has taken place. What once was standard operating procedure for God’s people has been revolutionized, and the kingdom of God now centers around humility, love, and mercy. The teachings of Jesus are significant since he Himself was God in the flesh. And the words of Jesus are not only filled with nonviolence, they are filled with exhortations of love and kind works toward our enemies. That is astounding given the history of Israel!
But unless you reject Jesus as the Messiah and the Incarnate Son of God, you must acquiesce to His teachings and His example. We do not have the spiritual luxury to carry the banner of Jesus while presenting truths and principles that are diametrically opposed to what He taught. It is disingenuous at best and treasonous at worst. And we cannot ask hypothetical questions about certain outcomes of obeying such teachings and use those hypotheticals to compromise, and in some cases, obliterate what Christ taught.
But sadly, that is what most of the western church has done. Since the teachings of Jesus are so radical and so antithetical to a culture of hedonism, prosperity, and violence, the church has forced Christianity to bow to the culture and seriously manipulated the Scriptures to accomplish its own will regardless of the clear and unambiguous truths outlined again and again in the New Testament. And besides just openly ignoring the clarity of the New Testament, the church has also come up with a melding of the Old Testament with the New Testament which in effect does damage to the overall integrity of Christ’s gospel message as well as encourages individual lifestyles that are at odds with the example and teachings of Christ.
It can only be denied by those who aggressively refuse to take an honest look at Scripture. I know, I used to be one of those. I want to address the culture in which I live because that is not only what I am most familiar with, but it is a grievous example of ecclesiastical compromise. I used to celebrate America including having patriotic services in the churches I pastored. I sang, “I’m proud to be an American” and in earlier years a song called, “The Statue of Liberty”. And once my two older children sang the four songs associated with the four major branches of the military - in church! I was so proud back then.
But I was wrong, very wrong. But I never questioned the issue of patriotism, nationalism, or the use of violence. I mean the entire evangelical landscape taught and practiced such things, and back then I was an independent Baptist. We were so militant we were one step from bringing guns to church! But every new generation was reared to think as we did, and even many Christian schools have a “Patriot” as their mascot. Go into almost all Christian schools and you will find pictures adorning their walls of many presidents and patriots and founding fathers. Many of them were slave owners and adulterers, but because they were Americans such things are overlooked.
One day my best friend asked me this question, “Where in the New Testament are we allowed to violently overthrow the government when we don’t like the tax situation?” I paused and thought. Then he added, “In fact, where in the New Testament are we allowed to violently overthrow the government for any reason?” For some reason I did not brush those questions off, and even though I made some innocuous “That’s interesting” reply, the questions penetrated my heart. For the next week I did a private, and sometimes painful, investigation of the Scriptures.
As I read and reread and compared Scripture with Scripture, a pattern began to emerge which was, in all honesty, openly there before. It was all too obvious that what I had believed and taught was not true. And the issue of violence was not just some fringe doctrine that believers argue about that has no real impact of our faith and our lives. No, this issue was significant and it revealed a major abrogation of the overarching redemptive message of the gospel and the kingdom of God. In one week of Scriptural honesty I stood before God naked and indicted. I was pierced to the heart.
I praise the Risen Christ for His mercy and patience with such a stupid man as I. I can report to you that God forgives us our sins the very moment we confess and repent of them. And unlike man, God does not hold a grudge. Of course what God does have to do when the Spirit leads us into a greater revelation of His Person and His truth, He has to warn and correct us when we almost inevitable exhibit a level of self righteousness concerning our new found epiphany. And true to form, when we confess and repent of that He is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse.
And through my personal experience concerning the nonviolent nature of the gospel of grace, I also have been led by God’s grace into a greater level of humility, which is both painful and no easy task for God. And by the way, this humility thing? I have to do faithful sentry duty or I can easily slide into self righteousness again. How sinful we are and how glorious is our Redeemer! But the duplicitous nature of the western evangelical church must be uncovered and addressed. We are not of this world and our actions as well as our thought processes must be brought into the obedience of Christ.
II Cor.10:3-5 - For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

We cannot, we must not, sift what we believe about truth through the lense of culture or the hypothetical kaleidoscope of “what ifs”. God’s truth needs no outside support to make it more true, and many times what we call reason is nothing more than cultural baggage. The mild and meek servants of God that desire to reflect the Christ and walk in self denying crucifixion, have become the boasting patriots that claim national superiority, divine favor, and a divine approval and empowerment to go to war. If we could bring 100 early believers back from the year 100 A.D. I am sure they would be confounded concerning our brand of Christianity.
And let me add this observation. My words or presentations about this subject have been met with little enthusiasm. In fact, just the discussion many times elicits manifestations of the flesh. It is amazing to see how people react when you question idols that are considered settled law. But we must continually ask God for His love for them to run through us. Easy to say, difficult to exhibit. So I have found that for the most part, only a person that is drawn by the Spirit to ponder and investigate such things personally will be changed. Most of my time presenting or arguing bore precious little fruit, and if I am honest, sometimes my own flesh was stirred.
Let us pray that God will enlighten many hearts, and that God will lead us to a deeper level of crucifixion of our own fallen man. Just because we have come to an understanding about nonviolence does not guarantee that we will be more like Jesus. There is much ground yet to be taken and our journey continues. To whom much is given, much is required. We don’t just owe God a lot - we owe Him our lives. Let’s pay up!


Anonymous said...

"So I have found that for the most part, only a person that is drawn by the Spirit to ponder and investigate such things personally will be changed"-
This is spot on, and also very frustrating to the flesh. For this reason, rather than try to "win" others, I have just started to learn to speak little and pray much for my brethren who, as of yet, have not been led of the Spirit. The summation of my prayer has become: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints," It is only the exceeding greatness of His power that is able to break off the idols in our hearts, for we always think we have none, until He reveals. Thanks for your post, brother; it is an encouragement to us to press on! Lisa G.

Anonymous said...

This is well put and truthful. Thank you so much for writing this. It is no easy task to live in this culture, and not become entrapped by patriotism and all that goes along with it.

Anonymous said...

It takes a humble man to admit what you did concerning patriotism in the organized church, Rick.

And yes, Lisa G., we must pray for those to whom God has not revealed things that have been revealed to us.
Did that come out right?
I only saw as the Lord revealed to me and often fought what others tried to teach me - what I wasn't ready for.

Blessing war. A war blessing.
An oxymoron.
Lisa (B.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Every night while watching news, it's so evident that another gospel has hijacked the true one. Some churches, thankfully not all, stand behind the candidate-man or woman who presents this hijacked gospel. They claim and express little mercy; make pronouncements of being the best in the world, exceptional, richest, most powerful, and the show pride at targeting the newest foreign perceived enemy. Their audiences applaud executing criminals; they do not defend the helpless, rather call them lazy, there seems to be an element of racism in their talk, they would take away any and all mercies from the sick, mentally ill, families without outside support; and they pride themselves and pat themselves on the back. They make outrageous unbiblical claims. It also seems they love the OT because it shows "works" and is a legalistic system. They seem to cleave to this rather than the NT because the "eye for an eye" command appeals more to their voting base. And the church follows suit. They are so proud of space technology, proud of their military strength, proud of their possessions, investments, and embrace wealthy men who brag openly about their humanistic feats.

I recall the night the Iraqi government executed Saddam Hussein. I felt nauseous. It didn't feel right. The US newscast was delivering moment by moment details of the hanging process. There was no show of mercy. It felt just plain wrong. I knew then that something had turned around and there would be no good coming from a church that promotes itself as supporting politics and politicians who have to live by secular codes. The western church has betrayed the Son of God. The God of the political American church is a God of Babylon.

Anonymous said...

Yes, anon.
It was the same with the description of the killing of Qadaffi.
And Bin Laden.
I was just ill at the way people cheered - but - lost people can be excused for such conduct. Those who call themselves Christian should never exalt over the death of another.
And your comment on how some seem to love the OT instead of the NT - I've thought that, too.
People will quote it and pull examples from it to justify their actions.
Lisa B.

Rick Frueh said...

Let us never rejoice in the death of lost sinners. The earthly government have been given the power to execute such sinners, but we must never rejoice in that system.

Ours is the gospel, first, second, and eternally.