Apr 23, 2006

buddy, can you spare a dime?

Occasionally I stumble across some Bible teaching that just doesn't seem to mesh (at least in my feeble mind) with what's written in another place. If the teachings seem to conflict (by my interpretation at least) perhaps my understanding is shallow, or it's a mystery that just doesn't lend itself to easy interpretation.

Jesus clearly states in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:42 ESV) we are to give alms to those who ask:
"Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
Side note: What would you do if someone you don't even know asked to borrow your new $80,000 Hummer? Remember, were not to refuse the one who would borrow from us.

Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 ESV) presents a case for thoughtful giving. If we give indiscriminately to everyone who begs for help, we aid someone Paul tells us should not eat because they are unwilling to work.

"... If anyone is not willing to work let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living."
On the surface it appears these two passages of scripture place us in an untenable position, and wedges us between a rock and a hard place trying to figure out what to do when someone begs of us. Jesus says give to the one who begs, while Paul says if a man is to lazy to work he shouldn't eat.

When we provide alms to a beggar who is obviously too lazy to work (not referring to those truly in need,) he becomes useless to himself and society, and becomes dependent on handouts without seeing the need to provide for himself. By our alms we encourage laziness, and actually cause him more harm than good.

Jesus says give to the beggar, yet my common sense says don't give to the beggar; not without first checking to see if he's really in need, or just seeking to add my name to his list of suckers who support him. Sucker, or not, I prefer to err on the side of benevolence than to take a chance of rejecting my neighbor who truly needs help. It's not always an easy decision, especially with the overload of those on drugs, booze, and whatever, that are roaming our streets looking for an easy source of income to supply their bad habits.

Apr 19, 2006

a fragile religious freedom

For years we have lived in America with very little Christian bashing, but times they are a changin' as Bob Dylan rasped in his 1964 hit song. It has become the major goal of many atheists and the non-christian to undermine and scoff at our belief in a risen savior, and to deride our attempts to keep America a Christian nation. Their goal is a godless nation where we have no right, in any form, to proclaim God as our creator.

If we continue to sit around with folded hands,unconcerned and inactive, while a small percentage of our population rants against prayer, and other public displays of Christianity, we just may be looking for a good catacomb for our Sunday morning assembly. We must realize that our "church buildings" and "church signs" will eventually infringe on the rights of the non-christian minority, and soon (because of their loud protests) they will be the "squeaky wheel" our elected officials will be oiling.

We can still be Christians, but not permitted to refer to God or His Son publicly; pray, but only in our "church buildings" and closets. Basically just keep your religion and God to yourself, and don't promote your beliefs in a public manner.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer while imprisoned by Nazi thugs in Germany knew exactly how fragile religious freedom could be, and how it could be banished in a very short time. Read Bonhoeffer's Letters And Papers From Prison for a chilling account of life when religious freedom ceases to exist.

Apr 14, 2006

the perfect christian

Not only is it tough being a perfect Christian, it's impossible!

About twenty-five years ago a man caused a great deal of heartache to a small church he claimed as his family. He decided (in his own legalistic mind) that an elder must be perfect in order to shepherd the church scripturally, and went about promoting his agenda for perfect elders, and letting everyone know how corrupt the existing elders were...they were not perfect and should be replaced with those who were perfect.

Many in the church family (including the elders) attempted to explain that perfection was impossible for any mortal including those desiring to be an elder, but scripture, logic, and common sense meant nothing to him. He would always spout his favorite elder bashing scripture quoting Titus 1:7, 8 as absolute proof of his sound convictions.
For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.
Being "above reproach" was equivalent to being perfect in his mind, and he didn't think the existing elders were qualified to be shepherds and should resign. No one in the local church met his standards to lead as an elder...they just didn't meet his flawless interpretation of God's Word.

After causing a lot of problems this man eventually left the church and was always quick to pronounce the whole group as a bunch of hypocrites. Unfortunately he died a very bitter man with no use for the church.

We're all far from perfect-even our shepherds, but expecting perfection in others when we can't meet the criterion ourselves is ridiculous!

Apr 6, 2006

when brothers disagree

Alan Rouse causes my brain (or whatever that pea-sized-thinking-thing is) to hurt! His current post seeks a method to reconcile differences between Christians, and between different congregations. This post is basically an extension of my comments on his post.

Our conflicting brothers guide is found in Mat. 18:15-17 (ESV):

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of the two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
These verses reflect the biblical process for resolving conflicts between brethren, but care must be taken to insure that following this process doesn't generate additional problems that end up worse than the original. If I honestly, though unjustly, perceive a sin has been committed against me, and I roundup some of my biased friends to confront the "sinner" as witnesses, and my biased friends deem the evidence to be weighted in my favor, this would be unfair. It would be unfair even if the brother was actually guilty as charged. Imagine the consequences if this Christian charged with sinning against his brother is innocent, yet because of tainted testimony he is suddenly treated by the church as a "tax collector."

We pride ourselves in conforming our thoughts to Gods' Word, but often the scriptures are twisted just enough to fit our way of thinking. If the brother in the previous paragraph was honest about solving the problem with his brother, he would seek unbiased brothers/sisters to establish evidence that would be fair to all concerned.

It's difficult to believe a Christian could not find it in his/her heart to forgive another Christian who sinned against him; whether the sin was actual, or perceived...but it happens.

I wonder if Jesus forgave those who sinned against him?

Apr 5, 2006

warm planet theory

Scientific proof the earth is warming.

Apr 1, 2006

the "group think" principles

Check out an interesting post at Believing Thomas that lists the actions and thought processes of people involved in "group think." Often the legalistic tribes of the COC approach the concept of being a church the same way.

Of the symptoms indicative of "group think" (a term coined by the psychologist Irving Janis) a couple thoughts on his list fit comfortably in some churches:

7. "Direct pressure on dissenters to conform": Unless you believe and practice the way we do your wrong, and unless you conform to our precise understanding of scripture your not acceptable to God, and not recognized as a Christian by our group. Seems like something I have heard before!

8. "Self-appointed 'mindguards' protect the group from negative information": In a few of these groups only the King James Version is the only authorized and acceptable Bible Christians should read. Any book written by someone not sharing the groups particular belief system is suspect, and shouldn't be read because it only confuses us with false information.

Some symptoms of decisions affected by group think according to Janis:

1. "Incomplete survey of alternatives": You probably know of churches that refuse to even consider alternatives to their paternalistic and traditional practices. Can you imagine one of these churches considering the alternative of allowing a woman to stand up in front of the congregation and participate in the process of passing the communion to other Christians-even if she didn't speak a word!

3. "Failure to re-appraise initially rejected alternatives": Once an alternative has been dismissed by some churches it takes an act of congress for them to rethink their position. Old traditional methods are the only acceptable practices-if it was good enough for Grandpa Jones it's good enough for me!

Christians involved in a "group think" (my-way-or-the-highway) church wouldn't even realize the listed symptoms applied to them. While Janis may not intend his findings to be exclusive to church groups, his study certainly seems to apply to some churches where I was a member.