Thursday, November 19, 2015

BUT ...

     It seems that whenever an issue comes up that has ethical and political undertones as well as biblical, there is usually someone who will protest, "But what about ...," or "But if ..."
     Try discussing Jesus' teachings on non-retaliation - Matthew 5:38-42:  "Do not resist the evil, but whoever hits you on your right cheek turn to him the other ..."  Often before these words are out of your mouth, someone will protest.  "But what if someone is breaking into your home?" or "But what if your wife is being raped?"  I actually had someone say to me, "But what would Jesus have done if He saw His mother being raped?"
     Or bring up this one, Matthew 5:44, "But I'm telling you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ..."  If you do you may be immediately confronted with some-thing like, "But it's the government's job to protect us and punish our enemies and we're commanded to support our government!"
     Or the current hot-button issues of the receiving of refugees or undocumented aliens.  The Old Testament is full of commands regarding the acceptance of aliens and strangers.  Leviticus 19:34, "The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt."  Or Jesus' words in Matthew 25:35, 40, "I was a stranger and you took me in ... In that you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me."  Try discussing these issues and someone will immediately protest something about protecting America or that we have enough poor in our own county.
     So we discuss care for the poor.  Again the Bible - Old and New Testaments - is full of commands to honor the poor.  Deuteronomy 15:11, "For there will never cease to be poor in the land; therefore I (the LORD) command you, 'You shall open your hand freely to your brother, to the needy and poor in your land.'"  Or James 2:5, "Listen my beloved brothers, didn't God choose the poor in the world, rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom ... ?"  Bring this up and you may be interrupted with protests about welfare fraud or drugs or alcoholism.  "But how do we know how they'll spend it?"
     I'm not speaking here of whether or not these protests are legitimate.  They may or may not be.  I've attempted to deal with many of them elsewhere in this blog.  What concerns me is our tendency to immediately protest these and other biblical teachings as though they were unreasonable demands.  In fact, it seems as though these protests are raised in order to excuse ourselves from being required to obey them.
     Yes, there are legitimate questions.
     Whenever we are confronted with demands in the Scripture, we should ask if these demands are directed at us (not all are) or if they have implications for us.  And once we understand that God is making these demands on us, we need to ask "how" questions.  How can I integrate this command into my life?  How should this affect or change my thinking?  How will my obedience affect my life?  My relationships?  My politics?
     If we call Christ our Lord, then we are responsible to submit to His demands on our lives, even when they may seem to be unreasonable or contrary to our political opinions.


Sherry Ball Schoenfeldt said...

Far too often, we interpret Jesus commands and light of Western society, capitalism, fear.
Yet Jesus doesn't really give us a way out when he gives us commands.
He just expects us to do it.
And he has never said protect yourself; rather he said we will suffer if we follow him.
He has also said that the world will know we are his if we love one another.
The good news is he also told us perfect love casts out fear so we don't have to be afraid of the world's rejection or oncoming poverty or even death.
Lord, let me put my faith into action by abiding in you, walking with you.
Let me love others fully. As you loved me.
No matter what that entails.

Bob McCollum said...

Hi Bill,

I've been reading your blog on a regular basis, but haven't commented lately. Thought I'd jump back in on this one.

I appreciate your concern regarding,"...Our tendency to immediately protest these and other Biblical teachings as though they were unreasonable demands..." This statement seems to be the heart of your observations, and I certainly agree. But it is so easy to read the pronoun as "Your" tendency. The older I get the more inclined I am to interpret Biblical injunctions as applying to myself rather than to others. I realize there are exceptions--pastor-teachers must have authority, close friends must advise in love (with great care), and we must be free to counsel those with whom we have standing. But to generalize principles for those who might be too eager to protest Biblical teachings seems inappropriate. The clear implication (it seems to me) is that you folks need to straighten up.

Sorry, Bill. I suspect you will bristle at this and object to my comments; but such are the risks of writing a blog.