Saturday, January 31, 2015

IN CHRIST BARRIERS ARE TRULY GONE

Galatians 3:28 says..."There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [NIV]

I sure like the following paragraph from a much longer editorial by Columnist Walter Williams who is himself an African-American journalist. It seems to me he nailed it. I thank him for doing so.

"Race is no longer the problem that it once was. That doesn't mean there are not white and black bigots or that every vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated. But what racial discrimination remains is nowhere near the insurmountable barrier it once was. For the most part, white bigots are no longer respected among whites and I look forward to the day when black bigots are no longer respected among blacks......"

Columnist Walter Williams.

What Williams said reminds me of how our message of the gospel sets us straight as Christians on THAT topic whether society ever sees it or not.

Our text at the top says it all.

It goes without saying that for Christians the race issue is settled. We are a new Kingdom people and neither race nor gender is permitted to add or detract from our value or our relationship with each other. Anyone who names Jesus as Lord is equally my brother or sister in the Kingdom of God or the Body of Christ and anyone who denies that is being unbiblical in thought. There is an equality in Kingdom living that society may or may not understand depending on the culture in which, or of which, one is speaking, but it is to be EVER PRESENT in the present Kingdom of God.

Paul's culture of the NT time did not understand this equality and consequently did not permit slaves or women that free status. But the gospel did. And while Paul did not fight the societal distinctions that existed per se, he laid down the Kingdom principles of grace and life that did eventually fight against slavery in any form in the mind and lifestyle of believers. One would hope that our culture would follow suit, but whether it does or not, the Kingdom remains our hope in this matter.

Women and slaves were chattel property basically in the NT times but that did not keep Paul from declaring a different thing for the Kingdom while not taking on gender or slavery per se.  [As you are aware "per se" means "in and of itself."]  Paul had one focus and that was the doing and dying of Jesus and the resulting grace embodied in any human who is found to be in Christ.]

Eventually, Christians, as people "in Christ," had to learn to live totally different than their society as they made full application of the gospel and that difference was to be seen in slaves, females, husbands and wives, and every relationship one might can have with another person. Christians WERE different that's for sure. But they were ONE with each other in value AND relationships when the gospel did it's work. "You shall know the Truth [Jesus] and the Truth shall set you free,"

All this does NOT dispute the fact that people ARE DIFFERENT whether it be race, gender, age, abilities, strengths, giftedness, and a host of things left unmentioned. But the Body of Christ is not to be structured or viewed on the basis of any of those differences. We are to use our differences, under His anointing and authority, for the good of all and I believe, when properly understood, the scriptures will not allow for value OR relationships to be based on anything in our differences, but the grace of God alone.

This is not to say that the color of skin does not remain white or black or red or yellow and people don't remain male or female or deny that one does not remain young or old, obviously. But that is only a biological reality that does NOT alter the biblical reality.

Using Walter Williams words in this context I would say that I look forward to the day when racial bigots or gender bigots are no longer respected among anyone in Kingdom living. Then we ALL could serve our Lord by loving and serving each other as the highest privilege we have as we live out the gospel while sharing it with our world. This is the example that act as light and salt yo our culture and what a difference that can make. I think it all needs to begin in me. How about you?

You can tell I believe there is only ONE head of the Body, the Church, or the Kingdom and only ONE Lord and issues such as race, marriage, or church relationships in Kingdom living are not to be one of "authority over" [men rule and women submitting for example] but one of serving "one another" out of our giftedness and uniqueness under His authorityHe rules and we all submit and serve Him and one another.

Paul B.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CIVILITY?

I've noticed, for the umpteenth time, a grievous problem that plagues professed Christians, it appears to me at least, as badly as it plagues our culture. And it is a curse within our culture Thus, the title, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CIVILITY? 

I'm going to illustrate the problem of the loss of civility and give a response to it that pictures what true grace looks like from my perspective. My source for the illustration is a story I read on the internet but have greatly adapted to give no hint of anything or anyone personal. 

The illustration is an exchange between two men I'll name Leroy and Jethro. Those two guys are talking about women in ministry. Leroy holds that women are scripturally qualified for ministry to the whole body when the scriptures are really interpreted correctly and Jethro disagrees with that because he interprets the scriptures differently. Each has been commenting on their position on the issue. Each using their understanding of scripture as they talk. So far so good.

Then it gets a bit rancorous in tone. Here is Jethro's final comment to Leroy...."My position is not just my own. I'm standing on the shoulders of historical, orthodox Christianity."  (Jethro is appealing to church history which is not bad within itself at all.)  But then he says this, "Those FOR women in pastoral ministry are standing on the past 50 years of the woman's movement in America." He continues with, "If you want culture to dictate your hermeneutics, then you've got a big problem being tossed to and fro from every wind of doctrine."

Do you see the problem? 

How about Jethro's statement here, "Those FOR women in pastoral ministry are standing on the past 50 years of the woman's movement in America." In other words, Jethro is saying, if you disagree with my position you do so because you have been influenced by the women's liberation movement of the past fifty years. That's a problem because it is stated AS FACT without any supporting documentation. It is reported AS FACT when it is simply an opinion. Jethro thinks it's valid, obviously, but he says it as if there is no question as to the invalid nature of any other view on it. But making matters worse is the dismissive, condescending, even judgmental words said to a brother in Christ.

Therein is, in fact, the problem. Stating an opinion with no appreciation of differing views and stating it with an implied "end of discussion" tone which smacks of an "I'm superior to you" view of one's self is far from grace. It is this obvious arrogance and lack of civility with people who hold differing views that is permeating our culture AND CHURCHES.

I believe it is a major problem and one we Christians will have to address WITHIN OURSELVES if and when the Spirit of God ever moves us to renewal or personal revival, or for revival in churches for that matter.

Now I want you to see how grace responds.  A blogger named Scot McKnight responded to exactly this situation, though I'll continue my illustration using the name Jethro, I'm giving Scot's ACTUAL answer to my imagined Jethro. Read it carefully...

"Jethro, I can't say I've seen you on this blog very often, so we are glad you have joined in. Blogs have cultures and approaches, and the one thing this blog fights for is civility and trusting that we are here for the glory of God and for the good of one another. Hence, we do what we can to avoid calling one another names. But there's another element that comes into play here as well: there is a history of how this blog has addressed the women's issues in ministry. It can't be said this blog has failed to discuss the Bible, and you can dip into the Women category and find plenty of discussion. Furthermore, I have a book called The Blue Parakeet where one third of the book deals with the biblical passages. Those discussions are assumed on this blog.'"

'Furthermore, it is a little testy of you to suggest these issues are based on the last 50 years of the feminist movement for not only can you not prove that we are each anchoring our ideas in a cultural feminist movement, but you have plenty of passages in the Bible that reveal women leading and at significant (your word, not mine) "roles." We have to deal with Junia, who is an apostle; with Phoebe and with Priscilla.'

"One more point: to suggest that the views of many here are culturally based and yours is not is a little gamesmanship that will be contested every time at this site. Why? We humbly admit here that each of us is shaped by culture and that every theologian in the Church was shaped by culture and that the biblical authors themselves were shaped by culture. Cultural illiteracy then is unwise and unfair, and puts you into a position of being pushed into a similar corner. I did a series on a book by a Catholic historian who had good arguments for showing that the decisive change that restricted women happened in the 12th Century, some of which was passed on among Protestants, and one would have to be conversant with some of the comments and beliefs by early theologians that are not only objectionable (Augustine) but flat out contrary to the approach of what the Bible describes in women leaders. Deborah, Miriam, Huldah come to mind.'

"In light of all the biblical discussions I -- and many of us here -- have come to a conclusion that the Bible endorses women leadership, including teaching and preaching and pastoring, and this letter is one suggestion of a way to get such a conversation started at a local church.'

"I'm sorry to be so direct, but your words are strong enough that they deserve a firmer response."

Scot McKnight


Paul speaking now...

I've come to the firm conclusion I want my demeanor and words on my blog or Facebook and any comments I ever make about any truth as I see it in scripture on another blog or FB to reflect the spirit of Scot McKnight's response whether it's in response to someone named Jethro or whatever their name might be.

May God give us ALL a baptism of just that spirit.



Paul B.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

HEROES__THEN AND NOW

I have an embarrassing confession to make. 

Were I to have made a list of who my heroes were many years ago, that list, while having many men's names and some you would know, would NOT have had a single woman's name on it. The problem was not that I had no female heroes, my sister Betty would come to mind immediately, but because back in those days the only way I thought of most women was as a "wife" even if she was "just" the "wife" of one of my heroes. [There is no downplaying of the significance of being a wife here at all. It IS sad that a "role" said more to me than did being a "person." Thus, the embarrassment part of the confession.] 

In our early pastorates the folks would sometimes forget Mary's name because they so seldom heard or used it as she was basically referred to as "our pastor's wife." That role-playing kind of thinking and environment also made me a perfect candidate for a hierarchical system of authority [That's a REAL problem] that left men in charge of everything. I read the scriptures with this filter in place for several years which was unfortunate for my own family and the churches I pastored.

I'm glad I can now say that hierarchical filter has been removed, both scripturally, since it was NEVER in the text correctly understood anyway, and personally. Were I to create a list of heroes now,  Mary, my wife, would HEAD the list. She is quick of mind, superior in intelligence, has a heart in the right place and knows as much [or more] about life, theology, the Lord, controversial issues politically, you name it, as ANYONE I know. A list of my heroes today would also contain, for differing reasons, the names of each of our daughters, our daughters-in-law, granddaughters,  and many others such as my sister, Betty,  Marcia, my pastor's wife, my niece, Sherry__well__ you see where I'm going with this. It would be a LONG list and it would NOT be gender specific. 

Truth be known,  I'm thinking every person on my imaginary list of heroes would probably object to being there. I'm thinking they should object. Heroes may be more for kids than anyone else anyway. We adults have lived long enough to see that all our supposed heroes fail in some way and they've seen us fail as well. Maybe there really is only one true Hero and if we see Him for Who He REALLY is and how He REALLY is to us, it will enable us to love, accept, forgive, enjoy and even like people right where they are since that's the way we will find He relates to us.

Perhaps our lists as adults should be called our "Most admired." If this is true consider the list of women I've mentioned above to be on my list. [Along with several un-named men for sake of brevity.]

Maybe with Him as our "hero" we need no other heroes because He's "hero enough."  Right!

Paul B

Saturday, December 27, 2014

ENDING THE YEAR WITH A STRONG SUGGESTION

I'm known as a rebel by many who know me well and after this post I may also be known as a cynic. Although I think that would miss the mark of reality a bit. I'm saying this because I want to address something that has bothered me for several years now and seems to be getting worse instead of better. It is the use of what I call Christian-ese.

Christian-ese, which cannot be found in Webster's dictionary, is a word of recent vintage that has come to define certain words or phrases used by Christians in everyday language that have become not much more than meaningless cliches. Christian-ese has developed over the past few years among some Christians and now seems to be something of a secret, coded language and is almost a badge worn by people who appear to find their comfort zone to be only with others like themselves. But I'm concerned that it may, in fact, unconciously feed a need to be known as spiritual as opposed to carnal. [Who can know the motives of another person with any certainty or what carnal means for that matter!]

My basic concern with all this is Three-fold.

One thing is that the Christian-ese lingo is generally thought of as conveying biblical truth when it doesn't really do that at all. "I feel in my heart God wants me to______" is not a biblical method for knowing and doing God's will. "Let this MIND be in you...who THOUGHT it not good to remain equal with God..." is the biblical pattern. [Phil. 2:5-6] The Bible always speaks of the thinking processes when discovering and doing the will of God. Paul said..."It seemed good to me."...when addressing something to be done except on rare occasions.

In Romans 14 when addressing making choices about questionable things his advice was NOT "Feel God impressing your heart"...but "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." [14:5b] He said in another place.. "For we have the mind of Christ.." [1 Corinth. 2:16] which is further indication that it is the mind that is as important as anything in Christianity, with all due respect to anyone who might think Christians are only ignorant and emotional and NOT intellectual.

A second concern is that such lingo too often becomes a source of measuring spirituality or spiritual growth. I've met new believers who sometimes wind up feeling inferior or less "spiritual" because they don't know all the "right" phrases yet. Or worse, they think someone is spiritual who does use the language.

The truth is it doesn't measure true spirituality at all and, in reality, may hide an immaturity behind that kind of language. To continually say, as I once did, "well, praise the Lord," at every opportunity, may sound as if we're spiritually minded in all things, when in fact may be as vain and empty as those who say "Well, fiddlesticks" [or worse] at every opportunity. I'm speaking from personal experience here as you can probably tell.

But a third concern is my greatest. It seems to me that it may forge an unnecessary stumbling block for unbelievers. I often wonder if non-believers hear some Christians talking and think, "Ugh, there go those Christians on their high-horse again using their silly, secret coded language." I know that I have that reaction sometimes and I'm in sympathy with the Christian message completely.

It seems to me when we Christians develop our own private language to be used with one another, we may have really forgotten how Jesus made Himself accessible to ordinary people. Using Christian-ese often does exactly the opposite which model
s the Pharisees rather than the Messiah.

Therein lies the real problem. Our message of the gospel is, in and of itself, offensive to the natural mind anyway. We don't need to create unnecessary obstacles which trite, empty, meaningless, cliches tend to do. I think we, as Christians, may need a new discovery of Koine-English [Common English] as an effective tool of communication much as the early Christians found Koine-Greek [Common Greek] to be an effective tool for conveying the gospel message.

Let me give just a few examples of some Christian-ese phrases along with what is probably meant if the truth were to be known.

1__"I feel in my heart God wants me to_______" Which being interpreted is... "I'm going to do it and I hope it's the right thing to do."

2__"I'm still waiting for God to open some doors." Which being interpreted is... "I don't have a clue about what I'm going to do and I'm hesitant to do anything."

3__"I can't do_______, so Christ in me will have to do it." Which being interpreted is... "I'm struggling with wanting to do this at all and sure don't want to do it right now."

4__"I need to share with you where the devil is attacking me." Which being interpreted is..."I want to tell you where I'm struggling and some of my failures and I feel badly about them."

I'm wondering why we can't simply say what we mean and mean what we say?

Of course the answer to all this isn't to "not speak at all" but rather to talk like normal people and act in such a fashion [Grace, acceptance, forgiveness, love, integrity] that our lives stir some to ask us about what makes the difference in us and then share the truth of our Lord.

I think that is what could be called...Christianity.

Paul B.