We all have problems that we wish would go away. Whether it is arthritis brought on by the weather, or the constant waves of utility bills that come to the house, everyone wants problems to just go away! In our lives, in personal relationships, and in our schools and churches, we often experience issues that need solving and resolution of conflict between parties of differing opinions are ways seem to bring out the worst in people. Yes, problems need solutions. But how we eleveate stress or irradicate a problem is an important part of the discussion. So, Is it OK to get rid of a problem by getting rid of people?
Here are some examples to stimulate mental inspiration.
Example #1. The employer who needs to address a work-related issue with an employee. After repeated attempts to correct the emplyee's work behavior, the employee is fired.
Example #2. A citizen is arrested for violation of law. He is found guilty and the judge sentences him to a fine and community service. The crime is repeated, and this time the judge sends him to jail.
Example #3. An elderly person is not contributing to society the way she once was. The cost and effort to care for the increasing needs of an unproductive citizen become a heavy load to bear. Her family decide to let her die peacefully through euthenasia.
Example #4. A young woman becomes pregnant without husband or resources. She cannot see how to provide for herself for the next 9 months, let alone providing for her child after birth. She makes the decision to have an abortion.
In each of these examples there is a temptation to solve the problem by getting rid of the person. Whether you are the employer, the judge, the family of the elderly, the pregnant woman, or some other example from your own life, each of us face this issue of how to solve life's problems.
Let's talk about Grace. How does Grace apply to each situation? How far does Grace go? Is it an act of Grace to git rid of the person in any of these situations? Why? If so, how is that situation different from the others?
According to the scriptures, there are some things in life that have no limits. Forgiveness is one that is mentioned. Some believed forgivness to be limited to 3 times, or 7 times. But Jesus said to extend forgiveness 70 times 7, which actually means "don't keep track". Paul says in I Corinthians 13,
'Love keeps no record of wrongs". How does this scripture apply to solving problems by getting rid of people?
These are complex issues and wisdom is best excercised when grappling with hard issues. It might be ok in some situations to remove people from their current situation, but Christians must be in the business of rehabilitaiton for the people in problem situations. Some cases like euthenasia and abortion seem clearly wrong to me, and life is so respected in scripture that we know God would not approve. We must ask for Godly wisdom in these matters.
Sometimes in church work pastors are eager to fill their chruches with the "right kind" of people, and other people are ignored, gotten rid of, and rarely missed. This is tragic. Sometimes church people are so eager the move on to a new pastor that they ignore, get rid of, and rarely miss the pastor forced to move. This also is tragic. Especially in the church we must model Jesus' life. We must value people, rehabilitate people, have faith that God can build these people up, and revisit the notion that we are here (the church) for the least of these.
2 Kings 15:36-38
36 As for the other events of Jotham’s reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 37 (In those days the LORD began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah.) 38 Jotham rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David, the city of his father. And Ahaz his son succeeded him as king.
Are there similarities in this passage between Judah and America? The short answer is “Yes, I do see similarities, but I see potential pitfalls in preaching or teaching the comparison.” Let's look deeper.
This is a historical text, which means that it is most often used to present historical details. These details ultimately point readers to the attributes of God, and how past believers have served Him (as positive example) or disobeyed Him (as negative example). It is therefore common to extrapolate teachable standards of behavior, or a constant attribute of God, and then give application to the present. Less often, historical texts are used to say what God will do in the present, based on the fact that these events (or in this case, these judgments) were given to a specific people at a specific time, for a specific reason. The main reason historical texts are rarely used to suggest specific action of God in the present is because it is a rare occasion when the exact circumstances of the present line up exactly with the specific circumstances listed in the text.
This text gives several statements about decisions or judgments of God in the lives of God's people, as well as some reasons why. For example, in 2 Kings 15:3-5 we read: “[Jeroboam] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. 4 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. 5 The LORD afflicted the king with leprosy[b] until the day he died.” We read that Jeroboam did some good things, but did not remove the high places, and the judgment of God, leprosy, was then given. Let's use this as an example. If we conclude in general that full obedience to God is required, and that lesser levels of obedience may bring God's judgment, then we are correctly preaching and making useful application from an historical passage. If we conclude more specifically that the modern day equivalent of pagan (other world religion) high places must be torn down, then we may be sharing the desire of our God in regards to world evangelism, but that does not mean that God has therefore asked us to tear down temples today. We know, of course, that a Christian should not go to our neighbors place of worship and begin tearing it down. By comparison, the 15:37 passage is preach-able as a general warning that God, in His sovereignty and timing, may deliver a judgment against unfaithfulness, but I would have doubts about any preacher who concludes that a specific attack against America is God's judgment simply because God did sen these two kings against Judah in 2 Kings 15:37.
Having said that, I believe that there are Biblical passages which are meant as prophetic that may find fulfillment in our lifetimes, and some of them may be judgments of God for unfaithfulness, or some other reason.
Here is another similar example: In Isaiah and again in Matthew we are given a prophecy regarding the Lord's return. Notice the description of what will happen prior to the Lord's return,
“Immediately after the distress of those days“‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’(Isaiah 13:10, & 34:4) 30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven.” Matthew 24:28-30
Now, when I see a shooting star, or a sky darkened by thunderstorms, or a cloud covering the moon, I know that these are signs of the Lord's return. But these things happen so often that I cannot claim the immediate return of Christ each time I see them. It is good to keep watching for the Lord's return, but the specific descriptions in the prophecy do not say that these things will only occur on this prophetically predicted occasion.
These understandings are important if we are to responsibly teach. We should responsibly teach that the Lord will return, and these signs will be preceding the event. We should responsibly teach that America, or any nation or people group, may be judged by God for unfaithfulness. And when these things happen we will be able to point back and say that God said it would happen and that it is within the character of God to do so. We can responsibly teach that God is active in the world and that His Word tells us of how God can judge and has judged in the past. However, I believe it is a leap to ever say specifically when, where, and to whom God will dispense His judgment. It is enough and well-sufficient to say what God said without adding my map and calendar to the passage.
In 2 Kings God DID dispense His judgment as He has done many times, as recorded in Scripture. And I BELIEVE God certainly will do it again. 2 Kings 15:37 points to the heart and mind of God, and it teaches me that if God chooses to do so, He can and may judge us similarly. But I do not believe this passage says when or even if He will do so.
Our understanding of Grace in the New Testament sometimes causes us to sit in unbelief of such Old Testament passages which describe God acting in judgment. But God does judge us, even today, and we know that the final judgment is yet to come. We must seek to know the full Biblical description of our God both as merciful and jealous. Therefore, we must be mindful to teach both of God's patient grace and His jealous judgments. And Christians, clergy and laity, must be careful to teach those who will listen of the full Biblical description of the God we serve.
I am sure that we all see the news and wonder how long God will tarry. I say Maranatha! Lord, come quickly! May God help us to win some more before that day arrives.
I heard today about a fellow Christian pastor of an independent congregation in Florida who is encouraging congregants to participate in an event planned for September 11, 2010 at which copies of the Islamic sacred book, the Koran, will be burned. This man is clearly not easily intimidated or deterred, for while many condem his plans he continues to announce that the event will proceed. It is not illegal to burn a copy of the Koran, so long as one owns the copy marked for burning. Furthermore, our constitution protects the right of citizens to have peaceful protests at which various other articles are occasionally burned, such as flags, crosses, the infamous burning man, etc. I personally have no serious objection to the public denouncement of the Koran as a "holy" book. As a professing Christian I do not personally believe it to contain spiritual truth, but opinions of man, lies of the devil, and deciet of eternal signifigance. Everyone has a protected right to an opinion and this man has the legal right to express his conviction with the destruction of the book.
Yet, there are other considerations here. Paul tells us, in regard to our personal conduct, that everything is permissible, but not everyting is beneficial or constructive. (I Corinthians) Is this book burning legal? It seems so. But is it beneficial? Is it constructive?
What if someone where trying to burn a copy of the Bible? How would I feel? Simply put, we Christians feel it is our duty to defend the gospel, and the truth found in the Bible. Many Christians in lands where owning a single copy of the Bible is illegal, have protected their copy of the Scriptures with thier lives. But that is not a true comparison of what is happening here. This pastor is not burning someones only copy of the Koran. He his planning to burn his own copy. This is a public outcry to defend the honor of a book, much the way a young man would defend the honor of his girl from one who would speak unkindly about her. That young man would take pride in going to eny length necesarry to see that everyone respects the girl he cares for, even violently. And that is precisely what bothers me about this pastor. He is the antagonist disrespecting someone else's girl. Perhaps he is one who takes pride in himself and his beloved God, and choses to demonstrate that love by disrespecting others.
Peter chose to defend his Lord with his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus performed a miracle and restored the man's ear. Then Jesus told Peter that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. I fear that this pastor is walking a similar path. The only upside from this course of action is the personal satisfaction that some people seem to enjoy by boldly performing antagonistic demonstrations. Certainly no greater good can come of it. This man's hope of obtaining the smile of his God through such boldness is as ill-conconcieved as was Peter's.
Christians should remember that our Gods chief gold for us isn't to defend Christ, it is to live like Him.