Monday, February 11, 2013

Picking Our Battles


It has become fashionable for evangelicals to complain and resist any and all things that seem to be an attack on Christianity. No rejoicing here. Now many suggest the Constitution protects all expressions of the faith both public and private. But that is not only a misnomer, but it misrepresents the pluralist construct created by the founding fathers. And in practical terms that means that no one religion can be expressed in public and governmental places because that would suggest governmental approval. At the very least all religions would have to have equal access for their own expressions.

But again, that is not what the Constitution dictates. We are a pluralistic republic which endorses no religion and protects all religions. But let us examine a recent issue and its ramifications. HERE is that story.

Now that may be grandfathered in, however in the strictest interpretation of the Constitution that picture must be taken down unless we allow a picture of Mohammed, Buddha, and a long list of others including L. Ron Hubbard. But leaving the Constitutional issue, let us as believers clearly see the issue in the context of our faith and the teachings of the New Testament.

How often do we wail and moan over Christian artifacts? Is a picture of Jesus which some even believe is unscriptural worth getting breathless about? Isn’t the representation of Jesus to be found in His living epistles and not some painting? But it has become customary to find all these small minded battles without seeing the larger picture. Are we to force feed a secular culture or are we to humbly be salt and light?

Do we as believers think, or more powerfully pray, these things through or have we become reactionary at the extreme? Pictures are now the power behind the Christian faith? I believe professing believers have become much more acquainted with political issues than with the Word of God. We cannot sanitize secular institutions with pictures or pasting the Ten Commandments on walls. We live in the covenant of the Spirit and things like this do very little and often make Christianity appear superstitious to those outside the faith.

Instead of a picture hanging on a wall Jesus should be a living expression in and through our lives. And no one can remove that. The self righteous nature of western Christianity has so misrepresented Jesus and now reacts to any perceived insult with venom and legal revenge. Even such a little thing as removing a picture from a public school is met with taking up an offense. These are little more than childish games which satisfy the religious flesh but in reality do a major disservice to the gospel cause. But it has become quite the approved spectacle. Instead of startling humility; instead of unconditional love; instead of expansive grace; instead of prayer and fasting; instead of self denial; instead of ministering to the poor; instead of sharing the gospel to a secular world; instead of all those things some fight over a man made painting.

No wonder sinners cannot see the real Jesus. All they have is a painting.


Cherie c. said...

I just got finished reading 1Corinthians. No one reads the Word anymore. It is evident in this very story that American Christianity has become a clanging sound instead of a way to bring unbelievers to Christ.

1 Corinthians 13

13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

And as you know, American Christianity needs to keep itself in the lime light. Like Hollywood, negative press is still attention. Staying in the forefront of people's minds. Distraction, distraction, distraction.

P.S. Praising God for a quiet morning of prayer and study.

your sister in Christ Jesus,
Cherie c.

Anonymous said...

This article is RIGHT ON TARGET! Thank the Lord for Brother Rick to articulate the issues and get to the root them.

When "christianity" becomes a culture, it's just another voice clamoring for ascendency in the democracy; fighting all the wrong battles with all the wrong weapons for all the wrong goals. No power of the Gospel unto salvation for anyone; no living epistles read by all men.

May I opine here, at risk of sinfully criticizing some of the Lord's own, that "christian" radio plays a large role in the silly reactionary spirit-less hysteria of "christians" in America? It is largely given to culture-war propoganda. The fear and paranoia that we are "under assault" and the self-pitying squealing that goes on over the embarrassing shame.

Poignant contrast you make, Rick, between a man-made painting (which I am one who believes is unbiblical anyway) and a living epistle.


Anonymous said...

Years back, I remember preachings about how the church should be offended at the removal of Christmas and Easter paraphernalia, 10 Commandments plaques, etc. from the public. Christian writers would push this faint christian "persecution" complex on us and we'd all believe this was the westernized version of persecution.

It finally dawned on me that Santa, elves, reindeer, and trees, lights, stars, even nativity scenes (made out of wood and clay) or pictures of Jesus, or saints, or any of the pagan mixed with the celebrations, parties, shopping, and birth of Jesus just didn't compute that this was a sacred festivity. We were being fed a delusion by our christian elite (those who make great salaries by inciting christians), that we needed to stand up to the heathen who would remove Jesus from this mixture. It would be the same as if an apostle was offended that the romans removed church relics from their pagan temple devoted to their goddess Diana.

There are spirits that confuse in these times, and one of them is a spirit of "persecution complex" that has invaded the church. It's inconceivable that the church has fallen for it; we know nothing of real persecution and it makes us look foolish to the world.

Thank you Bro. Rick, for bringing these to the forefront. It's an attitude that can easily be reversed, if we are reminded how hoodwinked we can easily get.

Anonymous said...

I believe that if the church would just accept the constitutional protections of all religions and blend in with the multi-culture that is apparently growing in the U.S., it might be easier to reach people. Instead of fighting City Hall, the church would be busy with their feet being shod with the gospel in every community that has people who have never heard.

The church in the U.S. seems to feel it's not relevant unless it's the head and not the tail. It seems to feel that if it loses it's place at the top, then it won't be effective. But the opposite is true.

The mega-churches don't seem to be interested in being effective in reaching the lost. They are more interested in being effective in keeping their position. They want to be like the keepers of the holy grail. They are protecting an image, an idol, a principle, and they'll fight tooth and nail to be the protectors of it. Whatever "it" is to them, it isn't all about Jesus.

I think what we're witnessing is our Savior being overridden by fanatics who have founded a religion in His name, They would rather be in authority over
a nation than be pilgrims on this earth. They aren't satisfied with just being temples filled with the Holy Spirit. They want to be in charge of temples. They want to dominate, force a nation to be "christian" because it's comfortable and familiar. Not being the dominant force is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. And unfortunately, some western christians are still not comfortable being around people of different race, color, culture, beliefs. I don't think these people would have been effective disciples or apostles in the church in Acts. I know I am weak, and really need to shake myself to see how much I would be willing to lose to be like those in the first church.

It's like we, the church, need to step back to the beginning and start all over again.

michael said...

Just a comment about the "10 Commandments issue" taken up that they should not be placed in full view on public property on walls or as a monument on a rock or, or, or. You might not know this? The posting of the 10 laws of the Torah was started by Hollywood as an advertising ploy to get people to start thinking about a movie with that name soon to be released for showing in the 1930's I believe? These plaques were showing up everywhere as an advertisement across the country. The loud voices rising up against public displays of religious artifacts and Bible quotations is a most recent event in the whole of history.

My wife is a native of the Philippines from the island of Bohol. Back years ago in the city of Tagbilaran drivers of taxis and delivery vehicles were displaying vulgar comments or photos on their vehicles until the Mayor was touched by The Lord. He acting with convictions had a law enacted that all such vehicles had to replace those vugarities with Scripture! Today when you go there you can still see some of these old vehicles as well as modern ones too with Bible verses displayed on them. However now little by little the vugarities are starting to reappear.

AnonymousNoMore said...

As Anonymous said, "I think what we're witnessing is our Savior being overridden by fanatics who have founded a religion in His name"

That resounds with me "....the fanatics who have founded RELIGION." That's just it. Christians are not followers of Christ, but are followers of religion. BIG DIFFERENCE PEOPLE! The WWJD bracelets, the fish emblem car decals -- I'm not saying these are bad, necessarily, but doesn't it in a way tend to leave people with the impression of letting others know they are followers of Christ by what they own (ie pictures hanging in public view....) rather than by what their actions project?

I hear you, Pastor Rick, loud and clear!!


Joseph said...

God can use art and music or any form of God-honouring creativity to make someone more interested in finding about Jesus Christ. However when painting or music has no edifying element in it then it's influence will be counter productive. We need to first and foremost be lovers of God's word, so that we can become lovers of the giver of God's word.As we commit ourselves more to studying the Bible and resisting what God calls sin He will take us on a journey of denying ourselves and bless us more consistently with the fruit of unconditional love.
And all those wonderful things that Rick mentions like preaching the gospel out of a humble, loving ,gracious heart will become a high priority in our lives.

Anonymous said...

This article is spot on. Christians nowadays have a hissy fit about religious icons but fall short of actually walking the walk. This includes me. I remember when people who identified as "Christian" wore crosses all the time. Now you rarely see anyone wearing a cross but I'd rather see someone living a Christian life. Please don't take this the wrong way I wasn't trivializing Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. -Noel