Tribalism and the Body of Christ: What Unifies Us, & What Separates Us is Key

We can’t avoid the conflict of differing views, but we need to be careful how we differ with people and over what we differ with them.

I have been listening to the podcast, Truth Over Tribe, beginning with the episode, How Tribalism Is Ruining Your Life, on Podbean. Check it out.

Whether you label it polarization or tribalism, I have seen people entrenching and doubling down in their political positions more than at any other time in my life. Thus, the podcast resonated loudly with me.

In writing this piece, I am not focusing on people, generally, or the state of governmental affairs. My focus here is the body of Christ and it’s witness in the world. People have always been divided. We have always had wars and fighting to prove it. The Church, however, should be different. The Church should stand a part, like a city of a hill.

Continue reading “Tribalism and the Body of Christ: What Unifies Us, & What Separates Us is Key”

How the “God of the Old Testament” vs. God of the New Testament Idea Might Inform Our Politics

We should have the same mindset as Jesus in doing politics.

In the short YouTube segment, Are There Two Different Gods in the Old and New Testaments? (Part Two), Gareth Black does a good job describing why God appears differently in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. There is one God, but He relates differently to people.

I have explored this dichotomy before, but I don’t want to focus on it here, other than to set the stage for what I really want to lay out. The difference in the way God related to people at different times might just become a guide for Christians doing politics.

First, we know the orthodox view: that the God of the Old Testament is the same God revealed in the New Testament through Jesus. While, heretics abound, this is the accepted view. Still, it sometimes seems like a tough pill to swallow.

God in the Old Testament focuses on commandments. He seems full of judgment and anger. The Ten Commandments God gave Moses became legion with all the ceremonial laws, food laws, cleansing laws, and dozens of other laws people were commanded to follow.

In the New Testament, it may seem like Jesus paid “lip service” to the laws (saying he didn’t come to abolish the Law), because he simplified them into just two commandments: love God and love your neighbor. Easy, right?

At the same time, Jesus seemed to turn up the heat. In the same discourse in which he said he didn’t come to abolish the law, he told his audience the following:

  • It’s not enough to refrain from murdering people; harboring disdain in your heart is like committing murder;
  • It’s not enough to refrain from committing adultery; lusting after a person in your heart is like committing adultery.

He said more than that, but you get the point. So, it’s as simple as loving God and neighbor. At the same time, it’s as difficult as controlling what is in your heart!

To say that Jesus went easier on people is to ignore these things that he said. At the same time, Jesus confronted the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery and saved her. He said he didn’t condemn her (though he also told her, “Go and sin no more.”)

What in the world is going on? If it seems difficult to sort out what is going on here, join the club.

Black offers one explanation in the video. He says God relates to people differently at different times, just as a parent relates differently to their children at different times. Parents tend to be strict with little children, imposing lots of rules about bedtimes, eating, watching TV, playing video games, doing homework and doing chores and so on.

That relationship can get contentious at times, especially as children get older and become more difficult. After children move out of the house, though, the relationship changes. It’s not that parents think the rules were bad; rather the children become adults, and become responsible for setting their own rules.

The analogy isn’t exactly the same with God, but similar. Paul says the Law was given to us as a guardian (tutor, schoolmaster, instructor, etc.). (Galatians 3:24) The Law was given to teach us something, to lay a certain foundation of understanding. The idea that Paul probably had in mind was a stern, taskmaster, training the children up with discipline.

The taskmaster’s relationship to the children is different than a parent’s relationship. A tutor only trains the children for a time when they are young. The instructor’s job is to make sure the children learn their lessons, and that is the only focus.

A parent is always a parent and never ceases to be a parent who loves and wants the best for the children. A taskmaster doesn’t love the children like a parent does.

But, it’s more complicated than that, and this is the key. The prophet Jeremiah talked about it in the context of a new covenant this way:

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. 31:33)

This is God’s ultimate goal: that we would be receptive, willing and able to receive God’s law in us, written on our hearts.

God isn’t looking for law followers, but for children who desire to be like their father. He wants us to internalize His values and be like Him – not because we must, but because we want to!

Until Christ came, men were under the Law, but Christ came to earth in the form of a human and fulfilled the Law. He died to take the penalty for our transgression; he rose from the dead to demonstrate his authority and power over death; and he ascended to heaven, leaving the Holy Spirit as a guide and comforter for us.

The Holy Spirit is how God now writes his Law in us, on our hearts. The Law is set aside, now, with its commands and regulations. (Eph. 2:15) God is looking for people willing to receive is Spirit and internalize His character in themselves as His children.

But what does this have to do with politics?

Continue reading “How the “God of the Old Testament” vs. God of the New Testament Idea Might Inform Our Politics”

Are Christians Required to Evangelize? Are They Morally Wrong to Force Their Views on Others?

Evangelism should flow naturally out of relationship and community with God and His people. it should begin and end with community.

These competing questions bookend the following statement I borrowed from a social media group that was a preface to some questions about evangelism:

“As I’ve been doubting my Christian faith one of the issues I’ve been wrestling with (and frankly have always been averse about) is the reality of forced proselytizing.
Those of us raised in a Christian (and specifically evangelical) churches are all too familiar with being shamed, guilted, and forced to have awkward conversations with friends and strangers in which we were expected to sell them our brand of Christianity.
This sell was to be aggressive. We could not take no for an answer and we were to continually pester and compel the person until they either converted or broke contact with us (for obvious reasons).
Given that the message of Jesus seems to be that we are to give up our lives and enjoyment of them for the kingdom, to wear ourselves out in serving the poor, all while carrying a heavy moral burden, it appears all the more immoral to compel this message on people and to be indignant when they don’t take it.
This is not even mentioning the threat of hellfire for the salesman and prospect.”

The truth is that many Christians have difficulty with the thought of doing evangelism. Many people in our culture today think that forcing one’s views on others is morally wrong, yet evangelism has long been something expected of Christians, especially in evangelical churches.

Before diving in, I need to make the point that we all have freedom of speech in a free country. Exercising that freedom is no more forcing one’s self on others than expressing the belief that forcing one’s views on others is morally wrong. We have equal rights to speak and equal rights to reject what others are saying.

I don’t believe that sharing the Gospel is morally wrong. If it is, then it is morally wrong for you to tell me that it is morally wrong to share the Gospel. I don’t share your views on that position, but I would never say you are being immoral or have no right to express your views or even to try to convince me of the truth of them.

With that said, I feel fortunate not to have grown up in a church tradition that is “aggressive” about evangelism and “forces” people to evangelize or risk hellfire and brimstone. Not that anyone is “forced” to do anything. We all have a choice in the matter.

More importantly, though, God doesn’t work that way. In fact, I maintain that such an attitude is exactly contrary to the will of God. Further, no one can be forced into the kingdom of God. Not even Jesus forced people to be saved:

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9-13)

God became man, and He appeared to “His own people” – the ones with whom He established a close relationship characterized by great demonstrations of power in their favor – and they didn’t even recognize Him. What did he do?

He didn’t rain down fire and brimstone. He also didn’t stop sharing the good news, but most of the people who were willing to listen were the poor, the downtrodden, and the “sinners” who knew their own deficits.

People become children of God not by not by blood: not by being born into the right family line. People become children of God not by the will of the flesh: not by their own desire or wishing that it were so. People become children not by the will of man: not by decree, or force, or proclamation.

People who “receive him” (receive Jesus, believe on his name) are the ones to whom “he gave the right to become children of God”, and that is not of their doing, or of anyone else’s doing; it is God’s doing!

The key word here is “receive”. That is how we become God’s children: we receive him, which requires, first, that we believe him. The believing comes before the receiving. Believing is accepting what he is saying and trusting him so that we put our faith in him and enter into relationship with him.

To receive him means more than simply believing, however. It means receiving him into our lives (into our “hearts”). It means not only trust, but commitment. It means receiving him in to have relationship with us, but this is not of our own doing. The invitation is His, not ours!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God….” (Eph. 2:8)

We simply have to receive it, accept it, and make “room” for him in our hearts and lives – as our Savior and Lord. We don’t do this on our terms, but on His terms.

Notice to the elite, religious leader, Nicodemus, Jesus said, “You must be born again to enter the kingdom of God”, but to the outcast woman at the well, Jesus said, “I will give you Living Water.” The invitation Jesus gives to everyone is ultimately the same (to receive Jesus), but people have to be willing to exchange what they have to receive him. Those are God’s terms.

The Gospel isn’t a dogma or propaganda to be enforced and forced on people who do not want to receive it. It is a gift that God offers, a “free” gift (Romans 6:3), but people must be willing to exchange what they have for it.

Though we have reason to believe that Nicodemus did ultimately receive Jesus and become a follower, the outcast woman at the well likely found it easier to receive Jesus than Nicodemus did. Nicodemus had most of what the first century world had to offer: power, position, prestige, wealth, reputation, etc. The outcast woman had little of it.

Perhaps, this is why Jesus presented a different way of looking at the offer to Nicodemus – you must be born again, you must be willing to give up what you think you have and start over. To the woman at the well, who had little to hold onto in this life, Jesus said, “I have Living Water to give you.”

Both of them had to give up what they had. There is a cost to the free gift of salvation that God offers, but some of us are unwilling to let go of what we have to receive it. We aren’t willing to make room.

How does this tie into the statements that prefaced the questions about “doing” evangelism?

We have to understand what evangelism is and why we might want to “do” it. We have to understand what it is that we are presenting when we do evangelism. We need to understand, ultimately, what God is offering and how people must receive it.

Continue reading “Are Christians Required to Evangelize? Are They Morally Wrong to Force Their Views on Others?”

Is the Darwinian Paradigm Exploding?

The Cambrian Explosion isn’t the only evidence of the sudden appearance of life forms.

Alright, I admit the title of this short article is a bit provocative, but I got your attention. I would actually say the Darwinian paradigm is going through something more like an evolution. The explosions are not in the paradigm, but in the facts that have been slowly uncovered in the fossil record since Darwin championed the evolutionary paradigm.

The short video at the end of this article produced by Science Uprising alludes to a number of “explosions” that elude a Darwinian explanation. Paleontologist Günter Bechly, summarizes,

“The phenomenon of sudden appearances in the fossil record is not just an exceptional case, but actually is a pattern that is found everywhere.”

The obvious example is the Cambrian explosion in which most of the phyla that exist today appeared in the blink of geological time, in a mere five to ten million year window. Charles Darwin, himself, acknowledged the problem the Cambrian Explosion posed for evolutionary theory, but he expressed confidence that future fossil discoveries would fill in the gaps and provide evidence of the precursors to the Cambrian life forms.

Since Darwin’s day, the gaps have not been filled by subsequent discoveries. Rather, the gaps have widened, as Stephen Meyer recounts in his book, Darwin’s Doubt. To make matters worse for the Darwinian paradigm, the Cambrian Explosion isn’t the only evidence of the sudden appearance of life forms. Other examples are numerous, including:

Technical scholarship is replete with the recognition of explosions (radiations or revolutions) of insects, fish, birds, dinosaurs, mammals, and the “big bang theory of human evolution” with no credible transitions in the fossil record. Many scientists, though continue to look for the precursors and clues to plug in the evolutionary gaps.

It seems that the evolutionary paradigm, which arose abruptly and transformed science overnight, is very slow in adapting to new information as it is uncovered. Not that we should be overly critical of the painstakingly slow progress. Science is slow and methodical with intention.

Explosions, though, such as the relatively sudden rise of Darwinian theory, may give way to equally sudden corrections, kind of like the mass extinction events that give way to new “radiations” or “revolutions'” in life forms. For more on the “time crunch” facing evolution, watch the short video that follows.

What It Means to Follow Jesus in Babylon

Live your lives, Increase and multiply. Seek the welfare of this world, BUT ALWAYS REMEMBER that this world is passing away

I tried to set the stage for what it means to follow Jesus in Babylon with a prior post: God’s Ways: a Primer for What It Means to Follow Jesus in Babylon. It is a kind of running start – a view from 40,000 feet. The purposes of God establish the context for understanding how we follow Jesus in Babylon.

Jesus, of course, did not live in Babylon during the 30-some years he walked the earth. I am speaking figuratively here. Jesus urged people to follow him, to live as he did and to “walk” as he walked – to be imitators of Jesus as he was an imitator of God the Father. We follow Jesus wherever we are.

Most people reading this blog don’t live in Babylon either, as in the ancient city. Rather, Babylon is symbolic of our lives in this world. Just as the exiles found themselves living as foreign people in a foreign land filled with foreign gods, followers of Jesus today are aliens and strangers in this world living among people who do not bow down to our God.

When Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish exiles in Babylon right after they were taken captive, right after they lost everything (their homes, their lives as they knew them, the Temple around which their community was organized), his words would have difficult, perhaps, to receive.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon….” (Jer. 29:4)

That God “sent” them into exile would have been a painful reminder of all the warnings of the prophets leading up to the final siege of Jerusalem, captivity, and long march to Babylon. Jeremiah had their attention, though. The unthinkable, that Jeremiah had long been predicting, actually happened.

In that context, this is what he said:

“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:5-10)

I don’t think we can emphasize enough the timing of these words: this was the very beginning of the exile. They just lost everything. They just got there. Their future was uncertain, though they had hope to return to their homes because the prophets who warned them of the exile also predicted their return. 

We are not “of this world” if we belong to God in Christ. We are exiles in this world. This world is our Babylon. In the rest of this blog,

I will relate those words Jeremiah wrote to the exiled Jews to our lives in “Babylon” today, and I will add in the warning, and the encouragement, that Jeremiah gave in the letter that are also instructive to us today. I believe Jeremiah’s words of instruction are how we should follow Jesus in Babylon.

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