How Should Christians Act in Times Like These?

If we aren’t responding to current events in ways that display love and the fruits of the Spirit, we are “doing it wrong”

Tyler Merbler from USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The events that are unfolding in the United States are troubling from many angles. Many Christians pinned their immediate and long term hopes on Donald Trump. With Biden as President, the fight against the killing of the unborn has been dealt a significant blow.

But there are many other problems. The racial divide, polarization, political fringe groups, rhetoric ratcheting up to the inciting of violence, a willingness to resort to violence, conspiracy theories, fake news, increasing control of popular speech by private monopolies of information, an abandonment of all semblance of non-bias by most media, our ability to choose our own tailored news, hatred for people who don’t think like us, an unwillingness to show respect, listen and engage in real dialogue – these are things that are deeply troubling in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

To my brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus said we would have tribulation in this world. He didn’t tell us to take up arms and fight it. He said we should follow him, spread the Gospel and make disciples.

His kingdom is not of this world. Jesus didn’t come to empower the Zealots, but to turn them into self-sacrificing servants of God and His kingdom – spreading the Gospel and making disciples.

Islam spreads by the sword. The Gospel spreads by people who wash others’ feet, turn the other cheek and love God, their neighbors and their enemies. The Christian wields not a political flag, but a cross that he carries on his own back.

If we are going to fight for anything with biblical support, it would be “to proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”. (Luke 4:18-19) This was how Jesus described his own purpose on the day when he stood up in the temple and announced his ministry.

Should we not follow him?

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All The Little Things

All the little things we tolerate in our lives add up and weigh us down.


I spend some Saturday mornings meeting with people at a low-income, legal aid clinic. Many people come with “one” big issue, but the conversations often reveal a myriad of things they are dealing with. The one big issue brought them to the desperate point of reaching out, but that one big issue often belies many little things that plague them. The little things they tolerate in their lives, often lead to the big them that brought them to the point of desperation.

The circumstances aren’t always the result of bad decisions, bad behaviors or other failures, but often they are. We can be our own worst enemies, and lack of knowledge and understanding compounds the problems that result from those failures.

I often feel overwhelmed by the loads that people carry. Simple answers are rarely available. Many peoples’ lives are bogged down by a thousand little things, and the one big thing is the just tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The best I can do in our short session on a Saturday morning is to identify the key issue(s) to be dealt with and a strategy for dealing with them, but I can often only recommend treatment for the symptoms. It isn’t hard to see evidence of the virus behind the symptomatic issues that are demanding immediate attention. We might call that virus sin.

Sin, in its etymology, means simply “missing the mark”. We miss the mark in many small ways that we might assume are insignificant, but the little things add up. They form habits of thought and behavior that are counter-productive to achieving the things we all want – comfort, security, harmonious living with our family and world, and satisfaction in life.

Sin isn’t just doing something that God frowns upon. Sin is falling short of the way we are meant to live. A thousand little bad decisions, a thousand misunderstandings that are unwittingly adopted, a thousand little things that we allow to creep and remain, without addressing them, pile up and weigh us down.

To be fair, we all struggle with sin that threatens to undo us. Some of us just manage it better than others. Some of us learn to use our sinfulness to our own selfish advantage. Others are steamrolled by it and the sins of others that leave destruction in its wake. Regardless of our ability to manage our sins, it catches up to us – now or later. The most beautiful, white-washed tombs are as empty as a pauper’s grave. Sin also has real consequences for us and for the people around us.

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Vain Discussions

We get into the weeds on issues that may be interesting, but they aren’t central or necessary to the Gospel.

Depositphotos Image ID: 156857478 Copyright: NatashaFedorova

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Timothy 1:3-7)

What Paul characterizes here in the first chapter of the first letter to Timothy is something that goes on quite a bit in religious circles today. We may not speculate about “myths and endless genealogies” today, but we engage in similar discussions. I don’t think that myths and genealogies are so much the issue, as the time we spend locked into trying to prove and persuade others of particular points and principles that are peripheral and  distract us from “the stewardship of God that is by faith”.

When Paul talks about certain persons teaching a “different doctrine”, I don’t think he is speaking about doctrine in the way we might view the word today. In Paul’s time, there were no systematic theologies. Doctrinal issues focused on the fundamentals – who is Jesus? Did he rise from the dead in bodily form? Must believers be circumcised?

Today, there is no end to the theologies and doctrinal points of view that get so finely debated as to focus on such things as how many angles can dance on the head of a pin without jostling each other. I jest of course; but that is the point. We get into the weeds on issues that may be interesting, but they aren’t central or necessary to the Gospel.

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Donald Trump, Fruit and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

We have no business judging those outside the church but are instructed to judge those within the church.

Depositphotos Image ID: 107970678 Copyright: docrob

Paul wrote to the believers in Phillipi:

“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ… standing firm in the spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith.” (Philippians 1:27)

Paul’s earnest instruction to the Philippians was that their “manner of life” (conduct) be worthy of the Gospel of Jesus. The Greek word translated “manner” means, among other things, “recognized as fitting”.[1] Paul is talking about what we see in people, the outside appearances. In essence, Paul is saying let your conduct and the way people perceive you match the fruit of the Spirit that is working within you.

The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….”[2]

Jesus warned about false prophets, adding that we would know them by their fruits.[3] In contrast, Jesus said the world would know us by our love[4], which is the greatest of the fruits of the Spirit.[5]

In this context, how do we, as Christians, respond to the things that Donald Trump says and does? Why do we defend him? Why have we tied our destiny to him? What does the fruit look like that hangs from his tree?

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The Law Foreshadows the Spirit

The Law given to the nation of Israel was is a necessary precursor to the law of the Spirit.

  Photo by Steve Murray – Where Moses looked into the promised land

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

The Spirit does what the Law could never do.

The law is exterior to us. It imposes a standard for us to follow, but it does not give us the desire or the power to follow it. The Spirit gives us both.

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