ever thought of it this way? Jesus, politics & Satan


We, who are so enamored of politicians and their potency, marvel that Jesus rebuffed Satan’s offer of a political career. Taking Jesus up to a high summit, Satan said, “Here are all the kings of the world in their glory. I can give them to whomever I want, for they have been given to me. If you are the long-awaited Messiah, act like it. All you must do is worship me.”

Who gave the world’s kingdom’s to Satan? Did, at some point, God say, “Politics? Not interested. Satan, here are the kingdoms of the world. Have fun with all your bigwig political cronies”? Is a link being forged here between politics and worship of Satan?

Why Jesus? by William Willimon, p. 88

excerpts: Disciple of Peace (2)


Disciple-of-Peace-WattsFollowing are some more quotes from Craig M. Watts’ fine work entitled Disciple of Peace: Alexander Campbell on Pacifism, Violence, and the State (Doulous Christou Press, 2005).

* On the death penalty Tertullian wrote, “Even if he appeals to the power of the State, the servant of God should not pronounce capital sentences.” Such was the dominant position during the first three centuries of the church, just as pacifism was the prevailing position during this time in regard to war. The earliest Christians regarded all use of deadly force as incompatible with their faith. (p.113)

* The cross provides the lens through which we see the world and provides the form by which we are to live in it. It is for this reason that claims made from the time of Augustine to our own that Christian soldiers can kill in war and practice love even in that very act are not credible. Surely it is possible to kill and destroy without hate … But if love is defined by the cross, there is no room for making victims and creating misery either in one’s personal life or for the sake of a nation-state. Love reflective of the cross endures suffering rather than inflicting it and accepts death rather than causing it. Christ-centered love is cross-centered and for that reason is non-violent in all of its way. Campbell’s support of capital punishment was possible only because he failed to be cross-centered in his pacifism. (p.121)

* The cross is not an emblem of victimization so much as an eloquent demonstration of love by One who willingly took his place with victims to save both them and their oppressors. The cross is not just the means of salvation but the shape of Christian existence. To affirm one without the other is to be left with a fragmented, incomplete faith. (p.123)

* … pacifism arises from the call to be like Jesus regardless of the consequences. … It is a life lived in the conviction that God more desires to use our vulnerable faithfulness than our most clever calculation of consequences, and that God will make history come out right without our violent measures. (p.123-124)

* In Campbell’s view, to see war simply as a conflict between nations is not to see it truthfully. So long as Christians are involved in the conflict the rightful reign of Christ is distorted and misrepresented before the watching world. … Insofar as the churches throughout the world fail to repudiate the Christian participation in warfare, oneness in Christ will be treated as dispensable and subject to the Christian’s loyalty to the separated and often hostile nations. Only a nonviolent church can be united sufficiently to witness to Jesus as Lord that the world might believe. (p.125)

* Only as the church detaches itself from the narrow unity rooted in and fostered by the nation-state will it be able to develop a faithful global imagination and act in view of it to minister to the world as it ought. When the church in the United States – or any other nation – compliantly helps reinforce national unity, inevitably this compliance will weaken the credibility of the church’s witness to the God who loves the entire world. … The church does not exist to bolster any of the pieces of the fragmented world against any other, but to offer an alternative to them. The church exists to show that its brokenness is not necessary. (p.126)

* … the determination to utterly submit to God as Master and Sovereign … requires a willingness to live according to the standards of the world to come – to love defenselessly, serve indiscriminately, forgive persistently – without regard to the pride, preferences, or interests of the powers of this present world. To live in this way leaves no room for the preservation of hostile divisions or the use of deadly force but demands a willingness to share in the sufferings of God in Christ. (pp.133-134)

* So long as we are convinced that the historical results we desire for our nation, our cause, or ourselves should arbitrate the decisions we make about violence, we will trust ourselves rather than trust the God who raised Jesus from the dead. The practice of nonviolence requires that we relinquish our imagined control over our consequences and rely instead, upon the eschatological power of God. Violence can be seen as an option – even if it is limited to being a “necessary” last resort – only when we insist that we know what victory looks like and that we are responsible for insuring it is achieved. (p.135)

excerpts: Disciple of Peace (1)


Disciple-of-Peace-WattsHave you ever wondered …

what the earliest members of what we know today as “Churches of Christ” in the United States tended to believe regarding war, military service on the part of Christians, capital punishment, self-defense, etc. …

what Alexander Campbell, the leading figure in the Restoration Heritage in that time, thought about such …

or what Bible-based arguments for nonviolence might sound like …

then I have just the book you’ll want to read. Disciple of Peace: Alexander Campbell on Pacifism, Violence, and the State (Doulous Christou Press, 2005) by Craig M. Watts discusses all of the preceding in a clear, thoughtful, and well-documented way.

Following are some quotes from this work. I’ll reproduce some additional quotes from it in a post here this Friday.

* … Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) was the single most important influence in the American religious movement that produced the Disciples of Christ, the Church of Christ, and the independent Christian church. … Many of Campbell’s convictions remain apparent in the life of the present day churches that trace their history back to him. … However, other facets of his teaching, while once widely embraced by members of these churches, are no longer a conspicuous part of the churches’ teaching and practice. One such fact that is notably absent is a clear commitment to pacifism. (pp.9-10)

* Among the first generation of those in the religious movement he helped found – which he preferred to call Disciples of Christ – virtually all who committed their views to print opposed the participation of Christians in warfare. In the writings of the early Disciples, it was support of war, rather than opposition to it, that was exceptional. … [Alexander Campbell’s] peaceable views were not refuted but rather out-shouted by those who raised their loud and impassioned voices for the so-called “necessity” of war. (pp.10-11)

* The commitment of Campbell to restore primitive Christianity included a commitment to the primitive church’s practice of nonviolent love that leaves no room for war. (p.15)

* … [Alexander] Campbell’s pacifist convictions were widely shared by the early Disciples. Many of the best known Disciples leaders were pacifists. These include his father, Thomas Campbell, Barton Stone, Jacob Creath, Benjamin Franklin, Racoon John Smith, Phillip Fall, Robert Richardson, Tolbert Fanning, Moses Lard, J.W. McGarvey, and others. (p.18)

* … Campbell held that in the time since Christ, there has been no divine warrant for war. Any presence on the battlefield by Christians is not only without God’s authorization but contrary to the command of Christ. (p.32)

* Campbell deplored the practice of elevating military heroes to a stature comparable to saints and of speaking of those who fall in battle as if they are martyrs. (p.34)

* For Campbell, it is not just the exceptional heroic individual who is called to nonviolence. Rather, it is the nature of the Christian community itself that demands nonviolence, not an individualist focus on moral perfectionism. (p.34)

* Campbell stood against the idea that war is a legitimate means for a just authority to oppose an unjust power that oppresses the weak and deprives people of their rights. … Campbell considered such a notion self-deceptive, spiritually hazardous, and biblically ignorant. (p.35)

* In Campbell’s writings on war and peace no words of scripture are cited more often than Jesus’ statement to Pilate … John 18.36. For Campbell, this passage alone was sufficient reason to restrict Christians from the battlefield. (p.37)

* Campbell stated, “Patriotism, it is conceded, has no special place in the Christian religion. Its founder never pronounced a single sentence in commendation of it.” As Campbell knew, Jesus Christ had a love that recognized no borders, “and as patriotism is only an extension of the principle of selfishness,” patriotism being a love of what is one’s own, “he deigned it no regard, because selfishness is the great damning sin of mankind.” … Campbell’s objection to patriotism implied nothing critical of natural affection for one’s own country. Rather he opposed that patriotism which promotes the love for and promotion of the interests of one’s own country at the expense of other peoples and nations or to the neglect of the needs of those beyond the boundaries of one’s own country. (pp.63-64)

* At the outbreak of the Civil War, Campbell lifted his pen to call for peace and to dissuade Christians from participating in the conflict. As he had in the past, Campbell again reminded his readers that “no Christian man who fears God and desires to be loyal to the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, shall be found in the ranks of so unholy a warfare.” (p.66)

* Since the purpose of the military was to prepare for, and when called upon to do so, participate in war, Campbell saw no place in it for Christians. (p.84)

* All of Alexander Campbell’s writings on war indicate that he was an absolute pacifist. He condemned wars of aggression and defensive wars alike. Repeatedly he insisted that Christians had no place in the military because the practice of war is utterly at odds with the spirit of Christianity. Further, Campbell taught that self-defense is contrary to the Christian life. In all areas he stood for nonviolent solutions to human conflict. However, he made one exception. Campbell supported capital punishment as the penalty for the crime of murder. Such a position seems incompatible with his pacifism. However, even Campbell himself recognized as much. (p.103)

vertical church: quotes to ponder


Following are a few quotes from James McDonald’s thought-provoking book Vertical Church (David C. Cook, 2012).

Maybe the greatest rationality of all is the recognition that rationality itself is incomplete as a way of knowing. (p. 50)

God forgive the church of Jesus Christ for trading its birthright access to the transcendent for the pot of stew that is horizontal helpfulness. (p. 56)

When we ask people what they want in church instead of giving them what they were created to long for, we play into the very idolatry that church was created to dismantle.” (p. 59)

May I ask what has happened in your ministry in the past seven days that would be impossible without God’s active engagement? (p. 71)

When people are taught that their ultimate purpose is reaching the lost or building a church or extending their hands to the poor, they derail during difficult times. (p. 109)

We must stop assuming God’s involvement and start inviting it. (p. 128)

If we think ‘business as usual’ will turn the tide in this tsunami of decline, we need to wear a jacket where the sleeves tie behind us. (p. 131)

When the people of God are not told the works of God, they lose the wonder of God, and everyone does what is right in their own eyes. (p. 133)

Placing evangelistic mission above the mission of God’s glory is the single most destructive error in the church today and the one from which many other errors fall. (p. 140)

Is the coldhearted husband who never loves or cherishes his wife but sleeps beside her with his back turned every night better than the philanderer? (p. 145)

Churches don’t die. God’s voice in them dies. (p. 200)

God uses the circumstances of life to ripen people to the gospel. (p. 257)

If you can’t pick the fruit, don’t bruise it. (p. 261)

The problem in the church today is that we treat God’s glory as a by-product and the missional activities of the church as the primary thing when the opposite is what Scripture demands. (p. 300)

make poverty personal (7)


Make-Poverty-PersonalHas any generation been better at avoiding limits? Today when we face real adversity we can always find music, books, TV, or movies to help avoid the sense of that we have limits. Headache tablets, coffee, and energy drinks can keep us going when our body screams “enough!” We can e-mail everyone we know at once rather than spend face-to-face time with them. Mobile phones enable those we know to speak to us whenever they want. Dishwashers can take our dirty dishes and clean them in no time, giving us more family time – but family time is at an all-time low, time we used to spend washing and drying dishes together. All these “advances” should make our lives easier and enable us to do more. Yet, far too many of us have our worlds closing in on us. Like Gulliver in Lilliput, we tower over our tiny world, but don’t see that we are being tied up. Our world has shrunk, and our self-importance is out of proportion to who we really are. Have we missed the chance to understand our miniature role in the history of the universe under the “advance” of technology?

If we are to make a difference among the poor, we have to look at the barriers each of us faces in making our contribution. While new technologies can make a sense of humility and self-awareness difficult, the underlying causes of our relentless drive for them are an important issue.

Make Poverty Personal: Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does by Ash Barker (Baker Books, 2009); pp. 160-161

make poverty personal (6)


Make-Poverty-PersonalThe Christian response to poverty … can be varied. Using the analogy of “fishing,” consider that Jesus and the early church:

gave fish – as when they responded to direct needs through healing or feeding the hungry. Today we would call this “relief,” which could include responses such as feeding programs, emergency development, health care, prayer, providing accomodation, and visitation of those who are in jail or sick;

taught people how to fish – as when they taught truths for people such as Zacchaeus to put into practice. Today we would call this “education,” which could include responses such as job creation, preventive medical care, teaching literacy and numeracy, and vocational training;

asked why there was no fish – as Jesus did when he turned the tables upside-down in the temple, or the apostles did when they confronted rulers and crowds who were oppressing people. Today we would call this “protest and advocacy,” which could include addressing political systems, campaigning, and changing laws that create poverty and oppression. Advocating population control and secure land tenure, and fighting unjust economic structures could also be included here;

modeled a new way to fish – as Jesus did when he became human, forming an apostolic community living in solidarity, “fleshing out” good news with those in need. The apostles lived similarly, serving in weakness. This could be called “incarnational modeling,” which could responses such as Christians relocating to live among needy neighborhoods, the starting of neighborhood churches of the people, and life-on-life discipleship with those in need;

saw a new way to fish, owned by the people – as Jesus and the apostles did when they so empowered a local movement that it could live on without them being physically there. Today we would call this “transformation,” which could include neighborhood transformations, church planting movements of the poor, and grassroots Christian political cells.

Make Poverty Personal: Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does by Ash Barker (Baker Books, 2009); pp. 146-147

make poverty personal (5)


Make-Poverty-PersonalIn the Hebrew Bible, there are five different names for those facing poverty. Each gives a subtle variation on the identity of those facing poverty, with whom we all must engage if we are to obey Jesus:

chacer – those who lack or are inadequate in some way. For example, the chacer lack “food” (Job 30.3; Deut. 28.57; Amos 4.6), shelter (Prov. 6.32), or wisdom. This word is used thirty-six times.

ruwsh – those who are dispossessed of land, possessions, and dignity (2 Sam. 12.1-4; Prov. 18.23; 22.7). This word is used thirty-one times.

dal – those who are frail, weak, and helpless. For example, the oppressed dal need help from those with the power to provide help (Ex. 23.3; Lev. 14.21; 1 Sam. 2.8; Job 20.19; Isa. 26.6; Amos 8.6). This word is used fifty-seven times, most often translated into English as “the poor.”

ebyown – those who are in need and dependent. The ebowyn have no resources of their own and so depend on the charity and justice of others (Amos 4.1; Isa. 14.30; 25.4). This word is used sixty-one times, most often translated as “the needy” and often used with dal.

aniy – those who are oppressed. The aniy are exploited and crushed by the powerful (2 Sam. 22.28; Job 36.15; Ps. 9.18; 12.5; 14.6; Isa. 14.32; 26.6). This word is used the most of the five words in the Hebrew Bible; it is used eighty times.

These words describe the marginalization and oppression that the poor face and experience to the core of their very identity. The poor tend to internalize their marginalization and oppression. This affects their view of themselves and their place in the world; it makes them feel less than human.

Oscar Lewis, an anthropologist, did research into what he would call the “culture of poverty” that emerged from within migrant groups that were marginalized from the mainstream or oppressed in any way. Some of the characteristics that emerged include:

  • suspicion and apathy toward the institutions within society;
  • the production of little wealth and receiving back little in return;
  • unemployment and the resulting lack of resources of cash and food;
  • acceptance of middle-class values, but failure to live by them;
  • hostility toward and mistrust of government and police;
  • uncherished or unprotected childhood;
  • a strong emphasis on the present and immediate gratification;
  • preoccupation among men to prove their masculinity.

It is so easy for those of us not from a culture of poverty to be judgmental – of drug users, for example – and say they don’t deserve our help. Why don’t they just say ‘no” and make their choices like “us?” However, communities that are characterized by the above Hebrew words, and the resulting culture of poverty, are more vulnerable to violence and drug use than those free of such injustice and oppression. If life seems hopeless, living for the moment is all you have, and something to numb the pain is a relief.

Make Poverty Personal: Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does by Ash Barker (Baker Books, 2009); pp. 123-124