Satan is a master of a thousand arts when it comes to pulling us away from Christ.
I was just working on some things on Facebook when a woman who says she is the producer of some kind of a radio show or other, ostensibly a Lutheran, popped on to my Facebook page and poured forth a gushing torrent of negativity. I checked out the blog site she is involved with and apparently the site’s sole mission, “Slice of Laodicea,” is to find everything wrong in Christendom and report on it. I’m thinking that people who spend nearly every waking moment on a “crusade” to point out all that is wrong in the Church today are probably transferring some pretty deeply seated emotional/psychological problems.
But it got me to thinking. Where is the line between pathological negativity and the necessary identification of error? And it got me to thinking, when am I so caught up in finding wrong that I miss what is right [my emphasis]
Anyone else ever feel this way?
Posts Tagged ‘Christians’
I have a friend who pretty much believes that even when Brant Hansen breathes it is funny. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but in truth, Brant is funny and I am grateful to my friend who 'introduced' me to Hansen several years ago. (To be sure, Brant doesn't know me, didn't ask me to review his book, and I've never even listened to his radio program. Just so everyone knows there is no bias here.)
I find that I have the most difficulty with being offended in two places. The first place is Facebook. Facebook can be a cesspool of personal ignorance, political hubris, and religious stereotype. Needless to say, I get very little enjoyment out of Facebook and I am typically, generally, always offended at something or someone. The other place I get offended easily and quickly is in the car. I hate driving because there is no one on the planet who drives as well I as I do, who follows the rules as closely as do, and who never tailgates the driver in front of me. I have had to scale back my driving and let my wife do most of the work because my blood pressure elevates to such levels of offendability that I am afraid I might have a stroke while driving to church on Sundays.
But I digress. This blog post isn't about me, it's about this book called Unoffendable. And in my opinion, Unoffendable is a spectacular book worthy of the time spent reading it (and you should read it slowly) and beneficial for those who will invest the time to do so. The main question Hansen seeks to answer in this book is simple: "Isn't being offended part of being a Christian?" (2, his emphasis). Well, isn't it? I have spent a lot of time around the world of blogs over the past many years and there are times when I wish I had not. I would probably be a better person if I hadn't learned that there are so many offended Christians surfing the web and trolling blogs. It is no wonder at all, to me, that so many people dislike Christians. We are some of the most unbelievable offended people on the planet. And why? We have every reason imaginable not to be offended but instead filled with joy and love and compassion and laughter. And yet here we are more easily offended than loving, quicker to anger and slower to love, and happier to frown than smile.
I think this is why I like Hansen, even though we've never really met: he laughs. And he makes people laugh. He doesn't take himself too seriously and I think he is trying to show the rest of us that, perhaps, we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously either. But the fact is we find all sorts of ways to justify our anger and our offendability and our curmudgeonly attitudes towards life and love and sin and joy and peace. I get it: Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees. So we also took this to mean that our self-sufficiency, our condescending-ness, and our frowns and our offendability must surpass theirs also. But the Scripture, Hansen makes clear, says that we are to get rid of all anger and that there is no justification for it. Ever.
All along Jesus is telling us to relax–let the world be the world. But you, disciple, follow me. Perhaps the reason we are so easily offended is because we don't really trust Jesus after all? Perhaps we think that we are somehow enhancing his image by being offended when people do all sorts of stupid things? Perhaps we think if we sneer a little harder, furrow the brows a little deeper, and groan a little louder that the offensive things we do won't be so noticeable to others. It's a distraction. Or something like that. Hansen seems to be making the case that being offended does absolutely nothing to advance our cause or to expand the Kingdom of which we are citizens.
"We should forfeit our right to be offended. This means forfeiting our right to hold on to anger. When we do this, we'll be making a sacrifice that's very pleasing to God." (3) Yep. He is right–even if it offends my sense of right and wrong to do so. Forfeiting our anger is a large part of what it means to daily take up our cross and follow Jesus–the master of un-offendability. Jesus saw all sorts of unrighteousness and unsavory people and yet I don't recall a single instance of Jesus being offended–except perhaps he was offended one time when death dared to knock on the door and take the life of his friend Lazarus. But even as the grave was opened, Jesus wasn't offended. He simply called on his friend to come out and join them. And Jesus turned and occasion of offense into an occasion of joy. Maybe we should practice something like that, you know, take situations where offense might be warranted and redeem it, make it an occasion for laughter and joy instead of an occasion for arguing and yelling and gnashing of teeth.
Hansen invites us to think about the Kingdom of God and what it looks like and how its citizens behave: "I'm already a believer, but the kingdom of God is so shockingly opposite the way the rest of the world works that I need constant reminding of what it looks like and how good it is" (89). Being a member of this kingdom means that for us things are different. The way of the cross means we no longer have a right to hold on to our anger or resentment or bitterness or offendedness. "Humility means there's so much less at stake, so much less to protect" (191).
This book is not an easy read. If you read this book honestly and constantly evaluate yourself as you do so you will likely get offended a lot. Hansen has written a book that forces us to think deeply about what it really means to be a Jesus-follower, a kingdom citizen, a cross-driven disciple. He invites us to look deeply at ourselves and evaluate the things that offend us and get our shorts in a wad and then to lay those things down, to sacrifice them to Jesus, and to get on with living in Him. Perhaps the reason Hansen can write so freely and deeply about this subject is that he has a lot of experience. I don't know because I don't know what's in his heart. All I know is what's in my own heart and and my own experience. I was confronted a lot. I have a lot of sacrifices to make; a lot of anger to let go of.
The good thing about this book review is that I can write whatever I want about the book and, perhaps, about Hansen, and know that he is not going to be offended by what I say. In fact, he might even invite me over for dinner. That's the kind of fella he seems to be and that alone makes this book worth reading: it was written without a shred of pretense or condescension. Hansen says: Here I am. There you are. I love you. I think that's kind of what Jesus was getting at. It's hard to believe that I can't offend Jesus and yet I am persuaded that Jesus thinks I am worth having dinner with or going to a party with or dying for.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about the book is this: I want to be just like the guy who wrote it because I suspect he really knows Jesus.
Highly recommended for it's honesty, transparency, and because, unlike many books written for the masses, Hansen doesn't use Scripture as a mere prop.
Important Book & Author Things
- Where to purchase Unoffendable: Amazon (Kindle, $9.99) Thomas Nelson (Paperback, $15.99) CBD ($11.99) B&N (Paperback, $11.62) (Prices current as of June 10, 2015)
- Author: Brant Hansen's Blog Facebook Twitter
- Publisher: Thomas Nelson
- Pages: 209
- Year: 2015
- Audience: Christians, others, pastors, preachers, housewives, baby-mammas, baby-daddies, high school students, humanity
- Reading Level: High School
- Disclaimer: I was provided a free reader's copy via Thomas Nelson's BookLook Blogger program.
Another of my theme verses during this Lenten season is Romans 12:1-2.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and please to God–this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.
Like the passage I noted from Hebrews 12 here, this verse begins with the word 'therefore' which indicates that what came before it must have led to the conclusions that are about to follow. In this case, at minimum, from chapter 8 on (where we also see a section led with the word 'therefore') we must consider that the present verse (12:1) serves as a conclusion or 'so here's what you ought to do with your life' kind of verse. "If everything I said previously is true, then, therefore…" And so it goes.
And chapters 1-8 are heavy, heavy teaching.
Therefore….offer yourselves to God. In view of God's mercy–'For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all' (11:32)–offer yourselves back to God. Give yourselves over to him. Make a sacrifice back to God–of yourselves. Offer yourselves to God…your bodies. This is the first step. I don't think it means that we are literally to die; I don't think it means we are not literally to die.
I wake up each day and I wonder about what life means and how I am going to manage yet another day…especially after yesterday. The thing is, living sacrifices have a tendency to crawl off the altar. I think the thing here is this: we have to be continually offering ourselves to God. Even after we crawl off the altar. We have to get right back up on top and bring the knife down again. I think anyone reading this, anyone reading who takes Jesus seriously, will agree that dying to the self is very, very difficult. We continue to struggle.
One of the hardest things for me to recognize and confess is this: I will always be a sinner. This will never change as long as I am encased in this corrupt flesh. What can I do? I'm starting to really understand this constant struggle….this wanting to be near Jesus every minute…and knowing every same minute that I am a sinner and that I will continually fall, fail, and forget that I want to be near Jesus every minute. We are walking paradoxes. It probably doesn't bother us enough that we are to worship God in this way–you know, asked to offer ourselves as living sacrifices who are prone to crawl off the altar.
Living. This is key, isn't it? We are to die each day we are living. I take this to mean that every second after we fail is another second we have to offer ourselves back to God. So long as we are alive…living…we are to offer ourselves to him; holy and pleasing.
So Paul goes on to write this, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will."
There are a lot of ideas floating around the world just now–as there always has been. It is very easy to just go with the current and conform to the thought patterns and processes in this world. It is very easy to succumb to the valueless values of this world. It is very easy to give up and become another drone forgetting to whom we belong. And every single minute of every single day our minds are bombarded with the latest philosophy or idea that is making the rounds. I am finding that, frankly, all of this clouds my mind and makes understanding God's will profoundly difficult. So much media, day in, day out is stifling me. If I may be honest, it is killing me slowly because the brain is flexible and susceptible to conform to whatever we allow into it.
This is the problem…the same problem I think when it comes to prayer (I mentioned this in another post). If we are not allowing our minds to be filled with truth, then our minds will become full of lies and the only language we will know how to speak is lies. If we never fill our minds with the Word of God then our prayers will be little more than 'thank you God for the day and thank you for keeping us safe and bless the gift and giver' kind of prayers (these are good thoughts, yes, but there is a lot more we can pray about, don't you agree?). I know what my problem is: my mind knows a lot of Scripture, but my mind is not saturated with it. My mind is filled with a lot of words of God, but I'm not thinking about it deeply enough day in and day out.
I understand all too well how easily how the day in day out business of living crowds out all thoughts of holiness and righteousness. Dare I say that we have to make the effort, we have to create space, it is imperative that we make time each day to renew our minds with the Word of God. We conform to the world when all we take in all day long is the world, but when we allow something contrary to the world, something diametrically opposed to 'the world,' to break in from the outside our minds then start to become renewed. Frankly I don't think we can survive very long if all we are doing is taking in the world. "Did God really say?" I recall it was Jesus who won the battle we constantly lose precisely because his mind was saturated with the Word of God.
We might have to put something else away if we find ourselves losing more often than we are winning. We might have to stop with all the input from the world and dedicate more and more time to the Word of the Lord. We might need to carry a Bible with us and read it at work. Or add the app to our phones so we can read it.
Why do you think the Psalmist wrote, "Blessed are those…who delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night" (Psalm 1:1-2). It's this person who meditates day and night who prospers–and by prospers I think he means what Paul wrote in Romans 12: this person is able to test and approve God's will. This is also what Moses told the people of Israel in his great sermon Deuteronomy:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9; see also Deuteronomy 11:16-21)
I'm reading this book called God in the Whirlwind by David F Wells. Part of the early pages of the book were dedicated to exploring something similar to what I'm talking about here in this blog. "It is Scripture alone," he writes, "that is God-breathed and, therefore, it is the source of our knowledge of God. Is it not entirely sufficient, then, for all we need to know about God and his character?" (17) He then goes on to answer his question this way:
The answer, of course, is that Scripture is indeed sufficient. However, there is a proviso here. Scripture will prove sufficient if we are able to receive from it all that God has put into it. That, though, is not as simple as it sounds. The reason lies in what Paul says elsewhere. We are to 'be transformed by the renewal' of our minds–which is surely what happens when we take hold of the truth God has given us in his Word–but also, he says, we are not to be 'conformed to the world.' The shaping of our live is to come from Scripture and not from culture. We are to be those in whom truth is the internal drive and worldly horizons and habits are not. It is always sola Scriptura and it should never be sola cultura…Being transformed also means being unconformed. (17)
All of our ideas and thoughts are to be formed and shaped and daily renewed by our intimate contact, study, memorization, and meditation upon the Word of God. I confess my own failure. There is a huge difference between knowing the Word of God and depending upon it second by second. I think to dig deeper into these thoughts, but I suppose for now it is enough to know these things, to stop writing, and open my Bible.
Maybe you should too.
Jesus said a lot of things that we are aware of. Jesus said a lot of things we are not aware of. John tells us the whole world doesn't have enough books to contain all that Jesus said and did. I'm not surprised; although, I'd certainly like to have a little more. We like to play games with Jesus' words and conveniently forget those things he made explicitly clear to us.
Christians are a strange tribe. We like to shoot our own wounded goes the old cliche. We like to point out the flaws of those we dislike and conveniently disregard Jesus' most important command to us when we encounter someone who troubles our sense of right(eous)ness. We like to think our sense of righteousness is the thing that matters and trumps the faith of others and our relationship to them. As I have reflected on my experience with the church, via the internet, I have come to think that maybe a little line in a song by Pearl Jam makes a little more sense to me:
I'm ahead, I'm a man
I'm the first mammal to wear pants, yeah
I'm at peace with my lust
I can kill 'cause in God I trust, yeah
It's evolution, baby
—Do the Evolution
That is, we think that so long as I am righteous, as long as I am singing in the choir, as long as I love Jesus, it's OK for me to do or say whatever I want–even if it is hurtful or hateful to others. I don't have to love someone from whom I am different because I love Jesus. And let's be honest: Christians are professionals at this game. We seem to think we can trample anyone who gets in the way of our righteousness. We seem to think it is our calling as Christians to point out the hypocrisy and sins of other Christians. We seem to think that if they offend us, we are permitted to have a word for them via blog or FB or Twitter or radio or otherwise. We seem to think if Christian 'A' offends Christian 'B' then it is the god-given responsibility of Christian 'C' to point out how heinous Christian 'A' is so that all those hopeless sinners won't think Christians 'B' and 'C' are somehow like Christian 'A.'
Because, let's be honest, the salvation of the world depends entirely upon such scenarios taking place rather frequently, rather loudly, and rather lengthily. I'm an intervention specialist and one of my main responsibilities is to help my students who have behavior issues decrease their Meltdown Level Events in frequency, duration, and intensity. I'd like to be have such a job in the church. I'd like to help people learn the valuable lesson that it's OK with Jesus if we mind our own business and worry about our own sins more than we worry about those of others. I promise you that the church will not fall apart if we suddenly stop worrying about others' sins and calling them out publicly on them.
I wish I could help some Christians reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of their hatred of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Maybe even help them love a little.
I'm not gonna mention what provoked this post except to say that if we think it is our responsibility to dredge up everyone's, anyone's, or someone's past in order to point out how mean and horrible and terrible they are then we ought to make certain we dig up our own past too because I have a suspicion we, too, are guilty of something heinous and despicable. I have a feeling that those Christians who feel it their responsibility to harass other Christians by dredging up the past are going to find Jesus a difficult task master at some point in their own lives. You know, that whole mercy, love, forgive thing….
Ask yourself, you dredger-upper of the past: in what manner does your 'work' advance the Kingdom of God? In what way does it correspond to the grace of God? In what way is your rebuke helping to turn a brother or sister from sin? In what way is your rebuke restoring them to fellowship? If they have repented 77 times will you demand yet one more? Does it make you feel really good about yourself? Does it help your google-juice? Does it feed your ego? Do you delight in doing something even Jesus doesn't do? How does your effort reflect obedience to Jesus' command to 'love one another'?
In my opinion, Jesus has no use for such people and if he does then I'm not certain I understand Jesus just yet because I don't recall that Jesus dispensed to anyone the spiritual gift of Spiritual Historian. If Jesus can audaciously say something in the present like, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone," then who on earth are we to think he also said something like, "Appoint people in the church to continually dredge up the sins of other christians and expose them to more ridicule in the public arena"?
If I recall Jesus' words correctly, and I think I do, I recall him saying, "Love one another." He gave it as a command. Seriously, as a command. Seriously, christians of the world, did you skip that part that said, "Love one another."
I sincerely love Jesus and the church, but I am beginning to understand at a wholly new level why so many people are opposed to being involved with Christians or Jesus. It's because of the way we treat one another. Sometimes Christians are among the worst people on earth. Sometimes we deserve God's wrath simply because we choose to ignore his command to love one another. I can think of no other way to say it: we ignore his command. Jesus gave us one command, one task, one thing to do: Love One Another and we cannot get it right. Ever. Never.
Jesus said Love. What's so difficult about that? All we have to do is love one another. That's it.
Maybe it's time to give it a try?
God have mercy on me, a sinner, because I have left undone the hard work of loving those brothers and sisters of Jesus. God have mercy on me, a sinner, because I have loved my own righteousness more than my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I grew up believing the untenable notion that Jesus never smiled or laughed. I'm not sure why I believed such a thing. I suppose it's perhaps because there's no explicit statement in the Bible that says, "And on that occasion, Jesus laughed." But surely Jesus laughed, right? Surely this one who gives his Spirit to produce the fruit of joy in our lives knows how to belly-laugh or chuckle or at least smile.
All that stuff about Jesus being fully human and all that surely means that his 30-some years on earth produced at least one smile or fit of uncontrollable laughter. Was he tempted to laugh at inappropriate times like, say, when Peter tried to start a rebellion and managed only an ear? Did Jesus laugh when Paul said something to people who were pushing for circumcision that he wished they emasculate themselves?
"He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision" (Psalm 2:4).
Perhaps we church folk would find worship and prayer and bible reading much more palatable things if we imagined that every now and again Jesus laughs–that maybe some things written in the Bible are meant to evoke a chuckle from us. I remember once a friend of mine who is a preacher in the Anglican tradition messed up the words of the liturgy during the Lord's supper. He made a self-deprecating joke and we all enjoyed a laugh. I wondered way back then, in a blog post I wrote somewhere else, if this was inappropriate.
I have been partaking of the Lord's supper since July 1983 and I have heard laughter during communion once. Was the Passover always a solemn occasion? Was there never laughter? Is church on Sunday's the saddest freaking place on earth? Shouldn't churches be filled with laughter (at least some of the time)?
So I'm thinking about laughter because I do not want to go back to a church and find myself mired in a way of doing things that is the same as the way of doing things that pervades the world. I want to laugh and be joyful. Furthermore, I don't want to think of Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven staring down at us hapless humans with a perpetual grimace on his face. Surely we do not have to wait until we are dead to enter into the Master's joy (Matthew 25:23).
Here's a few things I imagine make Jesus happy.
I imagine it makes Jesus happy when we finally, after many years of bondage, finally realize that he loves us–unconditionally loves us for who we are. It has taken me a long time to realize what this means in my life, but I think it makes Jesus happy. I think he smiles when the proverbial scales come off our eyes and we sit up with a start as if beholding a rainbow or a parrot or a lion fish or a bride for the first time and spit out some stumbling, fumbling word like, "Wow!"
I imagine it makes Jesus happy when we are peacemakers. You know this world is so disgustingly full of hatred and strife and anxiety and fear and war and violence and oppression and, well, insert your own synonym. And people fight and war against one another. There's competition and jealousy. And there are hurt feelings. I think it makes Jesus happen when we genuinely seek peace. I think Jesus is happy when we lay down our weapons–whatever they might be–and seek to live in peace with one another. I think it makes Jesus happen when someone stands in the gap and helps others pursue a course of peace instead of war.
I like to believe it makes Jesus happen when we love our enemies. I've said it before: hate is too easy. We can hate anyone for any reason at any time. Hate is part of who we are and what we do. Anyone can do hate. But what happens when we struggle our way through our feelings of disgust and distrust and angst that prevail when someone hurts us or crushes us or hamstrings us or goes behind our back with a knife and come out on the other side full of love and mercy and compassion? What happens when we turn the other cheek or go the second mile or give up our shirt and our pants? I think it makes Jesus laugh. I think it makes him happy.
I am also inclined to think that Jesus is happy when we, Christians, love one another. I grew up in a tradition that, while not explicitly condemning those in other denominations, made it rather clear that because we 'baptized correctly' and others did not…well, you get the idea. I have spent the better part of the last five years mixing it up with people are not from my closed-door tradition. Thank God for Anglicans who ministered to us–they were not so much Anglicans as they were Jesus's disciples who loved me and my little flock and ministered to us and brought about much healing.
I confess it has been a hard lesson to learn. I love my tradition and cannot wait to get back to it soon. But I have learned to love people from all sorts of traditions. I think this makes Jesus happy. I think it makes him smile. It seems to me that there's enough discontent and divisiveness in the world that we hardly need the church mirroring it or perpetuating it, yet that's what we often do isn't it?
So I ask: why do we find it so difficult to love one another? I mean some of the stuff I see and hear from pulpits or on FB or in blog posts is just appalling. Jesus did not say this: "A new command I leave you, a new command I give you: agree with one another." No! He told us to love one another. Jesus did not say, "By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you all hold to the same theological construct." No, he said the world would know us by our love for one another. But if all we show the world is that we know how to fight and argue and carry on and bicker and back-bite and tear each other apart on the internet then to whom does the world think we belong? Because it isn't Jesus.
I have to wonder why it is the way it is. I have to wonder why we are not engaging in things that make Jesus happy instead of the things that surely must just make him sad. I don’t even know if Jesus gets angry. I think it’s sadness mostly—all that work on the cross, all the suffering, all the Son of Man stuff and for what? So that the church could behave in a manner only slightly worse than the world in general? Aren't we supposed to be different?
One more thing I think makes Jesus happy is this: when we give up power. It’s true. Jesus was among his disciples as one who serves, as one who washes feet, as one who gave his life as a ransom for many. I question a great deal of what I see in the church—especially the so-called mega-churches because it is not service I see but the ongoing want to power. It’s the constant struggle to be on top, to be noticed, to be adulated and congratulated. It’s the race to be the loudest and the proudest and to have our name heard more than the name of Jesus. Churches are very good at making names for themselves; not quite so good at making a name for Jesus. Isn’t there something wrong with that?
We have every tool imaginable to make churches grow so do we really need Jesus? We can grow congregations, but I think only Jesus can grow a church. It’s because we like power. We like control. We like the applause and the people knocking on our door asking what our secret is. We like the money.
It sounds harsh. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m still a wee bit jaded after my encounter with the church. I don’t know. But I cannot imagine for a minute that our proclivity to activity designed to exalt the name of the church makes Jesus smile. Maybe it’s time to just quit everything we are doing and just get back to Jesus.
Maybe our goal should be to make him happy and not ourselves.
I've been thinking about my relationship with the church recently–especially as I get ready to move back to an area where I will be able to actually participate more fully in the local church. My relationship with the church has been sour for the past several years given the nature of the way my previous ministry ended.
I have had to re-evaluate my relationship to the church and my relationship with Jesus in light of the destructive force the church has expended in my life. I can say that now. I don't feel the need to sugarcoat things as if God needs me to defend the church. My relationship with Jesus has actually become fuller now that me and the church have an understanding. So here's a preliminary post on some thoughts I have about things Christians can do better.
First, I think can Christians can read the Bible better. What I have learned is that many of the so-called arguments we postulate are formulated by taking the bible as a collection of verses instead of reading it as a whole book, one long story. It ends in the same place it begins: God creating. And from front to back it is a book about God's relentless pursuit of humans–his love for us. I think one of the worst things to ever happen to the Bible was that it was turned into verses and chapters and collections instead of being allowed to remain one long story. It is a cohesive story. It should be read as such. Everything else in this post flows from this key point.
Second, I think Christians do not do politics well. Mostly this is because we have done Bible reading poorly. I'm not saying Christians ought not have political opinions. I'm not even saying we shouldn't affiliate with a particular political party (although we should be wary of those aspiring to office and those who ultimately assume office.) In fact, I think we should support some candidates and then oppose them with great vigor after they are elected. Ultimately, though my point is that most of the so-called propositions (in regard to politics) we put forth as Christians are based on some sketchy readings of Scripture. (See: Dispensationalism)
Third, I think Christians ought to be more liberal when it comes to love and grace and more conservative when it comes judgment. Do we think God's grace will be less than what demonstrate to people? Seriously. It remains a mystery to me that in this world there are Christians who will support war at any level, for any reason. When it comes to war and conflict Christians ought to be the first group organizing protests and writing angry letters to the masters of war who promulgate such atrocities in the name of Solomon who once wrote that 'there is a time for war.' Just because there is a time for war doesn't mean Christians ought to be lining up and offering unmitigated, unthoughtful support.
Can I say this? Can I say that I find the whole notion of war appalling? Can I say that I find the entire idea of hostilities and violence to be utterly without biblical or Messianic support? Can I say that we should in no way support the masters of war, the principalities, the authorities that Jesus exposed on the cross and dismantled through his death? Can I just say that when I think of the death perpetuated in the name of anything my heart breaks and my soul cracks. There should be widespread opposition to war in every single church in America and around the world. Our doors should be places overflowing with love and grace and welcome and signs that say things like, "Come to me all you who are weak and heavy with burden. I will give you rest."
Why are some of the loudest voices of opposition to war coming from those who are mere secularists? Why does it seem that only the 'liberal' theologians oppose violence and oppression? Where are the conservative theological voices being raised in opposition to death and violence and hatred and oppression? Again, I believe that our seemingly unwavering support for any form of violence–war, the death penalty–comes from a deeply ingrained, culturally conditioned, and profoundly wrong reading of the Bible.
The bible is a story–more novel than tract, more narrative than textbook. Sadly, we look at it exactly the wrong way: a textbook to convert or prove instead of a narrative designed to make our hearts swell with compassion and love for God and one another. I like when Peter preached: people were cut to the heart. Would that more preachers preached in such a way that the word cut our hearts instead of merely stroking our minds. Later we read that the Bible divides the joints and marrow and is a sword to pierce us. When I read a story, like The Count of Monte Cristo, I always end up crying because that's what a story does. It cuts deep.
That's how we ought to read the Bible.
There are more things I think Christians can do better. We can be quiet better. We can take care of the earth better. We can follow Jesus better. We can write better music, books, and movies. We can do worship better. We can, and we should, take care of the prophets among us better. We would do well to love better and more often those with whom we happen to disagree. A little love will accomplish more than a lot of hate.
Why is it Christians hold the key to this world's problems and yet so many of us are content to live sequestered, judgmental lives instead of throwing ourselves wholly into loving the desperate and hopeless people of this world? Why are we content for peace to be a possession and proposition instead of a clarion call to those who bearing arms?
Why are we not shouting, "No More!" No more war.
Perhaps some of you will find this short note a bit unpalatable and un-American. I hope you find it both. I have a lot of different kinds of FB friends, liberals & conservatives, christians & humanists, atheists & theists, men & women, and so on. What continues to amaze me is that it is my christian friends who offend me the most. Don't get me wrong, I love them all the same, but let me ask a question: What if Jesus treated us the way some Christians are treating immigrants–legal and illegal?
Oh I get it: "It's unfair to all those immigrants who went through the process legally and followed all the steps to become citizens of this country legally."
I keep hearing that word: legal (and any and all permutations of it). Legal.
Since when are christians legalists? Isn't that the whole point of God's grace? Isn't it the entire point that we did absolutely nothing to become his children? And yet we are outraged that people want to become children of this nation–by whatever means necessary?
What if Jesus said, "You didn't follow all the rules to become my son or daughter. You didn't have faith on this day. You didn't eat communion on that day. You didn't read your Bible. You didn't pray your prayers. You weren't baptized the correct way. Therefore, you cannot come in to my country."
What if that's what Jesus said to us?
And yet my Christian friends are saying the same thing to so-called illegal immigrants: you didn't follow all the rules; therefore, you cannot come in to our country.
Since when are Christians legalists?
I know, I know. Someone's great-granddaddy fought in some war many years ago and migrated here legally and therefore that ought to be the paradigm for everyone who comes here. It's unfair to my great-granddaddy who suffered and bled all over this land. Sure it is. I agree.
But since when are Christians about what is fair and not fair? Since when has God *ever* said to us: I'm going to give you what you deserve?
What if christians, instead of acting like those politicians for whom these so-called illegal immigrants are nothing more than a political sledgehammer, started to demonstrate unconditional, welcoming, unashamed love and compassion?
But what about all the diseases they carry with them? So.
But what about all their drugs? So.
But what about terrorism? So.
But what about our job? Our economy? So.
Since when do christians put their hope, faith, and security in the ability of a government to eradicate disease, drugs, and fear? When was the last time you or I went without a meal? Or shelter? Or clothing?
The very fact that we are living and breathing is unfair. We are waging the wrong war because the Bible says that our enemy is not 'flesh and blood': "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).
People are the very people God wants to save. Maybe this their only chance to ever hear about Jesus. Or, truth be told, maybe they are bringing more Jesus with them than we currently have here ourselves?
In making immigrants–mostly the illegal ones–the enemy, we are losing the mandate we have from Jesus which is, very simply, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Are there people who are using this for means of political expediency? Yes: Republicans and Democrats are both using the situation of immigration to secure their power. Make no mistake about it: neither the conservatives nor the liberals have the interests of Jesus–or you for that matter–in mind. They have only their own power in mind: securing it for many years and lording it over you.
Christians have this silly notion that because someone is a gifted speaker that it means they are our friend. Don't be fooled people: the powers that be are only and always friends of themselves and power. They do not and never have had your interests in mind.
Since when are Christians motivated by the power of those in power? We have one King. Period.
So what's all this about? Well, I think the tone of our conversation needs to be changed. None of us know what will happen tomorrow. You think your place is secure because you live in America? You think that because you are older you will never have to leave the security of your country and become and 'illegal' immigrant? Ask yourself, would you want to be treated the way you are treating people?
You think because you have a house or a business or a job that you will never be faced with the prospect of losing your home? Renee and I waited 17.5 years to buy our first house. It was gone in less than 4 years. You think you are secure? You think you can't lose all? Then what will you, christian, do when you have to beg, borrow, or steal in order to provide for your children?
We used to be called a Christian nation, but we are not anymore. And it's not because atheists and liberals have 'taken over the nation'. It's because Christians have failed to embrace the Jesus of the Bible and have instead created one in our own image–one that is based on worldly notions of power and wears the name 'conservative' or 'liberal.'
Maybe we christians should ere on the side of mercy. We too, says the Bible, are strangers and aliens and exiles in this world: "Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without know it."
But even better: "Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:10-12).
Pray for the many people who continue to enter this country legally and illegally. Try to get past all the political rhetoric and remember that they are people and that the US *is* a great place to live. Maybe in coming here they will hear the gospel of hope and be blessed in Jesus. We don't have to change anyone but ourselves and maybe their hope begins by seeing Christians who are not afraid of them, hating them, or angry at them but instead welcoming of them and loving them. Maybe God's plan in their being here is bigger than our notions of politics and economics. Think about it.
And do so without an agenda. Love God; love people. Remember, at one time we were illegals in God's Country. Be glad he did not treat you the way many Christians are treating those who are coming here.
Title: The Global War on Christians
Author: John L. Allen jr.
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Pages: 308 (including postscript and index)
[Disclaimer: To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, please mention as part of every review that Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers has provided you with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.]
Frankly, it is difficult to to comment on a book of this nature. I mean seriously, who wants to poo-poo a book about Christians being persecuted on nearly every continent on the planet? I say nearly because apparently Christians in certain parts of the world have not experienced any form of persecution in their lives. To wit,
"Part of the reason Christians in the West have been slow to recognize the scope and scale of anti-Christian violence is because they have no personal experience of persecution. Today, however, a growing number of Christians in Europe and North America have come to see themselves as part of an oppressed minority. For our purposes, the extent to which those impressions are merited is almost irrelevant; in terms of popular psychology, they have the potential to make Christians more concerned about, and sympathetic to, persecution in other places." (11)
In my opinion, this is an appallingly shallow point of view. If I may add to Allen's list of 'myths' about persecution that make up the middle section (pt 2) of the book, I might add a statement like this: The Myth that it's only persecution if it includes bloody violence and the loss of life. In other words, the most glaring ommission in Allen's book is a report on what's going on in the United States of America.
Granted, Christians in the United States enjoy levels of freedom unexplored by Christians in other nations around the world, but that in no way mitigates the outright and blatant persecution some Christians have experienced in the USA. And if we think that it is harmless to merely stifle speech and activities, I am reminded that stifling speech and activities were only the first step in Nazi pogram that eliminated millions of Jewish and other people in the 30's and 40's. Silencing speech is only one step away from brutal violence.
And let's not forget a string of religious persecution that took place in the late 90's and early 00's when church buildings were being systematically dismantled through arson:
Nearly 1,000 churches burned between 1996 and 2000 nationwide, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Authorities nabbed about 100 suspects, a pace that has only decreased slightly. (CSM, 2006)
Allen would have done well to include at least a passing glance at what is taking place in this country after all, we, too, are part of the globe. I'm not saying it is altogether absent, it is just glaringly sparse. [Allen does justify his exclusion on pages 9-11. I disagree with his justification on both the political and moral fronts; nevertheless, it is his book and the final decisions are his responsibility.]
Secondly, I do not think that Allen spent enough time detailing persecution of protestant/evangelical Christians in the world. For the most part, this book should have been titled "The Global War on Catholics" given how much energy and pink were expended on their undoing around the world at the hands of violent men. Allen writes from an admittedly biased point of view (he is Catholic after all) and it is all too easy to see that bias coming through. Again, it's not that there is an absence of protestants/evangelicals altogether, it's just that there is very little balance.
Third, it might be me, but I detected at times that Allen was not being entirely objective about American politics either. He devotes some time to anecdotal writing about certain political figures in the USA, but it never seems to me to be evenhanded. For example, it was the "Bush administration" that gave us waterboarding, and it was the "Obama administration" that banned it (29) and it was Bill Clinton that gave us the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (35). Then there was the opening anecdote on page 173 where Allen informs us that "fabled 'weapons of mass destruction'…were never found."
There were other subtle jabs scattered throughout the book that were unhelpful because it made the book far more political than the book needed to be. What I mean is this, there is very little theological reflection in the book. Yes, Christians are suffering and being persecuted around the globe. Yes, those of us who suffer less should pay attention and find ways to help lessen that suffering–either by raising awareness, rallying, praying, through micro-charity, or otherwise. But the bottom line is that persecution is not merely a matter of politics and drug cartels and civil-wars. There is an ultimate theological side to this persecution and suffering that Allen pays little attention to. His concern for the down-here-on-earth reasons almost completely ignored the what-has-God-got-in-mind aspect of persecution and suffering. More theological reflection would have been helpful, but I suppose he is leaving that to others.
The best part of the book came at the end of the last chapter 'What's to be Done?' I appreciated that, however man-centered the solutions may be, Allen did not leave us in the lurch when it comes to offering solutions. Praying is helpful and necessary. The apostles all remind us that we should remember and be in prayer for those who suffer. It is important and necessary for Christians in the soft-West who do not experience physical violence to be more globally minded about the church. I especially appreciated his jab at those who spend more time debating inconsequential issues than investing in weighty matters of God's global economy (285).
I'm going to give this book a three star review and conclude on these two notes.
First, he writes on page 198, "The bottom line is that the global war on Christians will never be won as long as the myths persist that nobody's really responsible for it." I'm not really sure I know what that means. I understand it in Allen's context, but seriously? I am optimistic enough to believe that, yes, we ought to be doing something–as believers, as people–yes, we ought to 'love our neighbor as ourselves.' But this is not a war that we are going to win. And that is optimistic.
Second, he writes on page 279, "That reaction speaks to a couple of basic truths. First, the scope and scale of the global war on Christians is almost invariably news to audiences in the west." I scribbled in the margin 'only to those who are not paying attention.' Spend enough time reading, and you can be aware of this. Spend enough time reading Scripture, and it is hard to come away with the idea that Christians are not being persecuted. Jesus told us we would be. Jesus promised we would be. And Jesus also promised that our suffering would help bring about the fruits of his kingdom.
There is no denying that it happens. We may not know all the names. We certainly do not know all the faces. And maybe even a few of the places will surprise us. But it happens and it will continue to happen until God decides it will not happen any more. Until then, the righteous will move about in this world by faith. And that, my friends, is no small feat.
This is a sermon I preached from John 17:6-19 on May 24, 2009. My congregation has been going through some tough times lately and this sermon was a great way to put those issues in perspective. The battle we wage is not against the flesh; Jesus prayed for and prepared us for the battle that is being waged against us.
You can access the sermon manuscript from box.net in MS Word format. Below is an excerpt.
John 17:6-19: Jesus, the World, and Us
An important evening was about to conclude. The disciples had been introduced to the real Jesus. This was Jesus in the raw…the hardcore Jesus who takes off his clothes and washes feet. This was uncontrollable Jesus who quietly announces that his betrayer is among his throng. This is Jesus who says that his people will be defined by nothing less than their love for one another. This is Jesus who sat and listened and patiently, confidently answered all the questions the disciples put forth that evening.
This was the Jesus who decided that the conversation was over because the ‘hour had come’ and that it was time to close the evening’s conversation. So how else would Jesus conclude a conversation, but in prayer. So Eugene Peterson writes:
“The disciples are in the room, but they are no longer asking questions and making comments. They are listening to Jesus speaking with the Father. As Jesus’ followers, we are most definitely included as listening participants.” (Tell it Slant, 217)
Remember, this prayer became Scripture for us. We are not just reading a prayer or even listening to a prayer, but we are listening to the Very Word of God, prayed on and remembered from the night of his betrayal, the eve of his crucifixion. The very night before his death Jesus prayed. It is necessary, then, for us to hear and listen to this prayer—this prayer turned Scripture.
When we take the time to listen to the words of Jesus then we start to hear the voice of Jesus—praying for us, praying with us, praying to the Father. The book of Hebrews says he always lives to make intercession for us. We hear the voice of Jesus in the upper room, on the night he was betrayed, some two-thousand years ago praying a mighty prayer for his people. I want you to hear that prayer this morning.
Be blessed in the Lord.
I was recently reminded of a short but important blog post over at Boar’s Head Tavern. It’s an older post from January, written by Paul McCain, but it is still worth reading:
I think Scripture is rather clear on this too. Here’s how the apostle said it:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32, NIV)
Thank you Mr McCain for a brilliant post. It just goes to show that the blogging world is but a microcosm of the greater world of churchianity. We just cannot understand grace. Too bad for us.
Source: Boar’s Head Tavern
Here is episode #2 of the Rain and Snow Skycast. In this episode, I finish my exploration of Revelation 1 by studying with you verses 9-21. I also included a book review of NT Wright’s book Surprised By Hope. I close the Skycast by talking about God’s grace and how the modern manifestation of the church seems to be lacking in grace to one another and those who are not like us. This is a serious, serious problem. The podcast opens with a quote from the book The Justification of God (or free here). by PT Forsyth which I believe serves as a great segue into my discussion of the contents of Revelation 1:9-21. This episode is about 34 minutes long. Thanks for stopping by. Tell your friends about the Rain and Snow Skycast. Thanks, and may God bless you as you search His Scripture, jerry
Listen here: Resurrected Jesus among the Churches
Or use the inline player below:
You can listen to the previous episode of the Rain and Snow Skycast, The unveiling of Jesus to the Church, here:
Here’s a quote from Eugene Peterson’s book on the Revelation Reversed Thunder:
The subtlest and most common attack in the satanic assault on God’s ways among us is a subversion of the word. This subversion unobtrusively disengages our imagination from God’s word and gets us to think of it as something wonderful in print, at the same time that it dulls any awareness that it is spoken by a living God. It has been an enormously successful strategy: millions of people use the Bible in which they devoutly believe to condemn people they do not approve of; millions more read the word of God daily and within ten minutes are speaking words to spouses, neighbors, children, and collegues that are contemptuous, irritable, manipulative, and misleading. How does this happen? How is it possible for people who give so much attention to the word of God, to remain so unaffected by it?
Yes indeed. How have we remained unaffected by the living word?
Soli Deo Gloria!
Isaiah 3:1-4:1 For, behold, the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah stay and staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water; (2) the mighty man, and the man of war; the judge, and the prophet, and the diviner, and the elder; (3) the captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counsellor, and the expert artificer, and the skilful enchanter. (4) And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. (5) And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor: the child shall behave himself proudly against the old man, and the base against the honorable. (6) When a man shall take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand; (7) in that day shall he lift up his voice, saying, I will not be a healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: ye shall not make me ruler of the people. (8) For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen; because their tongue and their doings are against Jehovah, to provoke the eyes of his glory. (9) The show of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have done evil unto themselves. (10) Say ye of the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. (11) Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him; for what his hands have done shall be done unto him. (12) As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they that lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. (13) Jehovah standeth up to contend, and standeth to judge the peoples. (14) Jehovah will enter into judgment with the elders of his people, and the princes thereof: It is ye that have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses: (15) what mean ye that ye crush my people, and grind the face of the poor? saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts. (16) Moreover Jehovah said, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; (17) therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and Jehovah will lay bare their secret parts. (18) In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, and the cauls, and the crescents; (19) the pendants, and the bracelets, and the mufflers; (20) the headtires, and the ankle chains, and the sashes, and the perfume-boxes, and the amulets; (21) the rings, and the nose-jewels; (22) the festival robes, and the mantles, and the shawls, and the satchels; (23) the hand-mirrors, and the fine linen, and the turbans, and the veils. (24) And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet spices there shall be rottenness; and instead of a girdle, a rope; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a robe, a girding of sackcloth; branding instead of beauty. (25) Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. (26) And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she shall be desolate and sit upon the ground. (4:1) And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name; take thou away our reproach.
When I finished last week, the challenge was: In whom are you placing your trust? Those were the words the prophet ended with, and I thought it was appropriate not to stray too far from his point: In whom have we placed our trust? I am fairly confident that the prophet now intends to draw out some meaning from that as he sort of stretches us out and shows us a little more of what is coming, what is happening, what God is planning for his people.
A while back I read a short book by a Catholic priest who had served time in a Soviet work camp. The book is called He Leadeth Me. It is a fabulous little book. In the book, he asks his readers to consider deeply the implications of our faith in the rather fragile things of this earth:
That same lesson each of us must learn, difficult or not. How easy it is, in times of ease, for us to become dependent on our routines, on the established order of our day-to-day existence, to carry us along. We begin to take things for granted, to rely on ourselves and on our own resources, to ‘settle in’ in this world and look to it for our support. We all too easily come to equate being comfortable with a sense of our well-being, to see our comfort solely in the sense of being comfortable. Friends and possessions surround us, one day is followed by the next, good health and happiness for the most part are ours. We don’t have to desire much of the things of this world-to be enamored of the riches, for example, or greedy or avaricious-in order to have gained this sense of comfort and well-being, to trust in them as our support-and to take God for granted. It is the status quo that we rely on, that carries us from day to day, and somehow we begin to lose sight of the fact that under all these things and behind all these things it is God who supports and sustains us. We go along, taking for granted that tomorrow will be very much like today, comfortable in the world we have created for ourselves, secure in the established order we have learned to live with, however imperfect it may be, and give little thought to God at all.-He Leadeth Me, Walter Ciszek, 21
What are we to do? Here the Lord God made it perfectly clear to the people of Judah that he was going to remove every last vestige of strength from among them. There would be nothing left: A complete reversal of all human wisdom, strength, power, and wealth. All of it would be removed.
All those people so typically counted on to lead and provide and guide and direct and encourage and strengthen and reveal: Gone. No more supplies. No more support. No more food. No more water. No more heroes. No more warriors. No more judges. No more prophets. No more elders. No more captains. Not one. They would all be removed. What will become of you and me when the Lord removes all visible means of support? What will we do? How will we survive?
I had another blog one time where I wrote some short devotionals for my congregation here in Madison. I came across them the other day and, well, here is one of them. I have preserved my original thoughts and language so they might appear a bit strange.
I mentioned that I have been reading Edwin Way Teale’s wonderful volume A Book About Bees originally published as The Golden Throng. The book is fascinating reading even for the non-entomologists among us. He writes with an enthusiasm and joy for for his work as if bees were the pinnacle of the created order. He is, at times, childlike in his wonder of their existence.
Here is what I read on page 148 of the slim book:
Anyone who watches day after day the infinitely varied activity of the bees finds and increasing source of amazement in the manner in which each insect, like a cog in a smooth-running machine, plays its part. Some bees, apparently just the right number, are standing guard at the door; others, apparently just the right number required for the task, are air-conditioning the interior; others are feeding the grubs, cleaning the hive, producing royal jelly for the younger larvae, storing honey, gathering pollen. And so, under the varying conditions of the year, each active worker of the hive goes about her appointed tasks”
Now, if that is not enough to make you want to host your own hive of bees in your living room, then consider this: ‘Appointed tasks–appointed by whom? In olden days, it was accepted that the queen, or the king as she was then called, directed all the activity of the colony, issued orders, apportioned work, functioned in the manner of a general deploying an army. This, of course, has been proved a fallacy. The queen has her appointed tasks just as the workers do. She, too, is but the servant to the spirit of the colony” (148).
I don’t really feel like commenting too much on this. Bees have a lot to teach us if we are inquisitive enough to sit silently, if not bravely, outside their world and watch. Nothing has to tell bees that there is work to be done and that certain bees should do the work that they were specifically designed for doing. There is no fighting. There is no pawning off work to other bees. There is no squabbling about who did it last time or who has already done it and is tired of doing it. It just gets done.
I’ll close with Teale’s thoughts:
Scientists who study the bee–chemists who analyze the content of the royal jelly, microscopists who attempt to count the sperm cells in the pouch of the fertilized queen, physicists who measure the stresses of the honeycomb, all reveal the physical characteristics of the bee and its surroundings. But beyond this lies that intangible, mystical force, the spirit of the hive, running through all the activity of the golden throng; ordering the lives of the insects; molding them into the compact, unified, efficient commonwealth we know” (153-54).
If one were unaware of the title of the book or its particular subject matter, one might almost be convinced that Teale had spent some time in a church that truly knows God.
Always for God’s Glory!
Carson is one of my favorite authors and I read as much of his stuff as I can find. I happened to come across this in his commentary on Matthew in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p 520 commenting on Matthew 25:
The fate of the nations will be determined by how they respond to Jesus’ followers, who, ‘missionaries’ or not, are charged with spreading the gospel and do so in the face of hunger, thirst, illness, and imprisonment. Good deeds done to Jesus’ followers, even the least of them, are not only works of compassion and morality but reflect where people stand in relation to the kingdom and to Jesus himself. Jesus identifies himself with the fate of his followers and makes compassion for them equivalent to compassion for himself.”
I really appreciate these words.
Soli Deo Gloria!