22 things bin Laden’s death has revealed about Christians for all the world to see

This is my final post regarding Osama bin Laden. Given what I have witnessed over the past ten days in my deliberate and deep observation and investigation into what I hear and see Christians “of all tribes” speaking and writing concerning the death of Osama bin Laden, I have come to the following conclusions.

A great number of Christians are apparently:

  • reluctant to value all human life as equally valuable before God.
  • unaccustomed to feeling remorse for, or even grieving, the death of any and all who die outside of a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ, unless they be a close family member or dear friend.
  • quick to go with the flow of the cultural and political river that surrounds them, rather than, if necessary, deliberately swimming against the tide with Scripture as their guiding light.
  • want to confuse American nationalism and patriotism with Christian faith and worship of God.
  • resistant to even the suggestion to pray for all people, especially those who would be rightly construed as “enemies,” even though they are commanded to do so by their Lord.
  • quite inexperienced in praying about any and all matters pertaining to war except for offering up pleas for God’s protection on “our troops” and for those troops to come home safely and quickly.
  • suspicious or even frightened by the revelation that others might interpret the Bible differently when the subjects of government or military service are raised.
  • not above making broad, sweeping statements of judgment about entire populations and ethnics of people on the basis of little or no real knowledge about such people.
  • content to have their understanding and perspective of global happenings shaped by a very limited number and kind of media sources; that is, they like to have their news thought out for them and presented from only one angle.
  • more concerned about their own national security, yes, even their own personal safety, than they are about confessing and living out the cross-shaped life of Christ, to whatever end that might lead them in this life.
  • persuaded the protection of their life is shaped and determined more by Heckler & Koch, Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, Sikorsky, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, etc. than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • numb or callous to, perhaps even comfortable with, physical violence and killing.
  • unafraid to glory in such undertakings as we have come know as “just war,” surgical strikes,” and “acceptable collateral damage.”
  • convinced that anything even remotely resembling a pacifist understanding of the teaching of Christ and the apostles should be immediately labeled, without real investigation and consideration, as cowardly and foolhardy at best, and more likely dangerous, demented, and damnable.
  • more enthusiastic about their trust in political and military power than they are about the power, purpose, and purity of the Almighty God.
  • Biblically illiterate, being largely unfamiliar with the writings they claim are sacred and will determine their destiny, and so, are unable to converse coherently and correctly with others who inquire of them as what they believe and why in regard to current events.
  • ashamed of God, for they rarely think first of, or make mention of, him or the teachings of God’s book, the Bible, when formulating or stating their perspective of major world events.
  • divided over even the most fundamental matters of Christian faith, such as doing to others as you would have them do to you, the “Golden Rule.”
  • oblivious to the fact the world is constantly watching our reactions to world events and, on the basis of their observations, deciding whether or not there is real life-changing power in Christian faith.
  • not mindful of the fact that the only thing that separates any and all of us from someone like Osama bin Laden is a difference not in kind, but only degree, for there is none righteous, no not one; all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
  • not much different from those who are yet to believe.
  • like myself, have a very long way to go yet in terms of complete imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I say these things to our shame and do so with the humble prayer that all who believe – myself first and foremost – would be humbled and repent of all that does not reflect the light of our Holy God. May we come to give greater and more authentic witness of the only true, holy, and living God. May more come to believe, not stumbling over our failings to submit completely to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Father in heaven, may your Holy Spirit bathe our minds with your will and wisdom. May conviction well up in our hearts. May the blood of your Son Jesus wash our sins away. May every knee come to bow to you before their fleshly knees fail them and die. In the name of Jesus, our Lord, we pray. Amen. And amen.

the sixth commandment

“Though shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13 ASV)

“You shall not murder.” (Deuteronomy 5:17 TNIV)

At MoSt Church this coming Easter Sunday morning, Apr. 24, most of our adult Bible classes will study the sixth of the Ten Commandments (“you shall not murder”). Following are sixteen questions to help you think about this commandment as you prepare to engage in class discussion this coming Sunday.

1. How do you define your worth? How do you define the worth of others?

2. Since we are all made in God’s image, what are the implications of such thinking for how we treat others, all others?

3. “The Hebrew word ‘to kill’ does mean ‘murder’ in certain contexts (cf. 1 Kings 21:19), but it can also refer to unintentional killing (Deut. 4:41-42), as well as to execution of a duly convicted killer (Num. 35:30). … Murder is too limited a term to encapsulate the concern of this commandment.” (Stanley Hauerwas & William Willimon, The Truth About God: The Ten Commandments in Christian Life, p.80) How does this knowledge affect your understanding of the application of the sixth commandment?

4. How do you square this commandment not to kill/murder with other portions of the Law regarding the exercise of capital punishment, making war, etc? Are these thoughts contradictory or what?

5. Someone once quipped: “I love humanity; its just people I can’t stand.” Give some examples of how we live so.

6. Would you say your sensitivity and emotional reaction to hearing the news of a murder today is: (a) less sensitive, (b) more sensitive, or (c) about the same as it was twenty years ago? Explain.

7. What sort of things cloud our vision and so, obscure our seeing the life of every person as something sacred?

8. Brainstorm some examples of things we commonly encounter or experience that demonstrates basic disrespect for the sanctity of human life.

9. How does Jesus extend, and intensify the scope of this commandment in Matthew 5:21-26?

10. Paul the apostle once write: “The commandments, You shouldn’t commit adultery, you shouldn’t murder, you shouldn’t steal, you shouldn’t desire what others have, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You should love your neighbor as yourself.” (Rom. 13:9) The apostle John said: “Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:15). How do these statements expand your understanding of what is being conveyed in the sixth commandment?

11. How does the sixth commandment fit with the text of last Sunday morning’s sermon (Matthew 5:38-48; particularly vs.39,44) and Jesus’ call for us to be a completely non-violent people, a people incapable of retaliation?

12. How does this commandment inform and affect your understanding of Christ’s crucifixion and the events leading up to it?

13. In light of the sixth commandment and Jesus’ commentary on it, is it God’s will for his people to be pacifists?

14. How do we apply the spirit and teaching of the sixth commandment to the following: Abortion? Capital punishment? Poverty? Personal self-defense? War?

15. As someone seeking to do God’s will at all times and in all situations, and given your understanding of his will expressed through Moses in the sixth commandment and Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, what could/should/would you do if a violent person attempted to harm a loved one?

16. If you were to start strictly applying the spirit and teaching of the sixth commandment to how you treat yourself, not just others, what sort of habits and ways in your life would need to change?

sermon follow-up: non-retaliation

“… you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. … love your enemies and pray for those who harass you because of your faith …” (Matt. 5:39,44 CEB)

Really? How far does Jesus expect us to go with this? Well, in context, the answer would have to be the same distance he wants us to put anger (vs. 22), lust (vs. 28), and swearing (vs.34) away from us. Not merely as far as the eye can see, but far as the east is from the west. Just as our holy God abhors human anger, lust, and swearing, he detests anything and everything in terms of violence and retaliation in the lives of his followers. That’s the only way I know how to understand what our Lord says here without doing violence to his words or injustice to the example of our Lord’s own life and death in the flesh.

But this does more than just meddle with many things in our life, no? For if we truly engage this word from our Lord, it makes us ask all sorts of questions about things a great many of us consider natural or just take for granted. It could begin to even play havoc with things we have come to see as “our rights.”

  • Can a Christian rightly take the life of another in military service?
  • Should Christ-followers “keep and bear arms” for the sake of self-defense?
  • If a believer is taken to court and sued, are they to simply surrender?
  • Just exactly what is expected of a disciple if they find themselves in an abusive relationship?

And we know these few questions only scratch the surface, don’t we?

All of which leads me to observe and opine that I think most American Christians today have hardly, if ever, thought long and hard about these words of our Lord. I believe too many have hardly attempted to plum the depths of God’s word and their conscience on these matters. I know until all too recently, such was the case with me. Our culture which is so quick to contest and our society which is so ever set to sue is equaled only by a world eager to wage war and a global village that virtually venerates violence. As the cartoon character Pogo once put it, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Or as the Son of God still says to each of us through these words, “You must summon up the curiosity, courage, and conviction to consider another way, my way.” And I, for one, confess I have turned a mostly deaf ear to his call for most of my Christian life. But no more.

So, if a person is to begin to consider, where could they start? Do this: simply step into the stream of thought and begin to swim. A good place to wade off could be Timothy Archer’s ongoing series on pacifism. He will make you think. His piece today entitled Passion and Pacifism – as well as the comments and exchanges that follow the post – are instructive. Catch up on the series and watch for more. Penned a few years ago, Ben Witherington’s Lessons From the Amish is a particularly powerful and inspiring piece. Or if you’d rather read a book, let me suggest John Howard Yoder’s What Would You Do?

But wherever you begin, I dare say you must start with some acid test questions in mind. Questions such as these:

  • In exceedingly practical terms, am I truly trying to come to grips with what Jesus says here and the Jesus who says them or am I just putting them both in the back closet of my mind?
  • Am I looking for an idol who will simply rubber stamp what I already believe or am I looking for the living God whose ways are not my own?
  • Am I trying to “pay it forward” or am I still looking for a way to give some “pay back” to those I believe have wronged me or someone I love?
  • Just how hard am I running away from anything that remotely looks like retaliation or violence in my life because my Lord has told me to do so?

These are just four; we could easily include more. But we mustn’t dismiss these questions too quickly or too easily. For it’s the will of our Lord and our own conscience that’s on the line here. It’s our witness of the holy God to this dark world that’s at stake. It’s the Holy Spirit’s new creation we’re either helping usher in or are actively, even if unconsciously hindering. This is for all the marbles, brothers and sisters. And our Lord has said to us clearly:

“… you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. … love your enemies and pray for those who harass you because of your faith …” (Matt. 5:39,44 CEB)

God bless everyone. No exceptions.

it went thru my mind

Archaeology. Ah, spring! More sun, growing grass, singing birds, blooming flowers … and the annual parade of hoaxes and supposed “discoveries” related to Christian faith. If you heard that some of the nails used in the crucifixion of Jesus have been recently found, you ought to read Robert Cargill’s piece entitled no, simcha, you didn’t find the ‘nails of the cross’ of christ.

China. Barring something unforeseen, over two hundred will gather at MoSt Church tomorrow, openly worship God, and probably not even think of such as a privilege, but as a right. We’d all do well to follow what’s going down in China, pause, and pray.

Civil War. The American Civil War began one hundred and fifty years ago this past Tuesday. Most of you know of my interest in, and research of, the Civil War in years past. In fact, you’ll see some of the fruit of that labor in regular posts on Tuesdays here on my site in the coming weeks. If you read nothing else that I link to today, read Ben Witherington’s simply outstanding post A Son of the South – 150 Years On.

Drinking. How have you been talking about Charlie Sheen? David Briggs’ piece The Double-Edged Sword of Religion and Alcoholism will make you think. Thank you, Doug Williams, for making me aware of this great article.

God & tragedy. I really enjoy reading Ted Gossard‘s writing. Every week I wind up bookmarking something he’s written. His piece entitled Does God Cause Everything? is something you ought to read. Why? Because what we think about God matters and we’re all theologians.

Idols. In our adult Bible classes just a few weeks ago at MoSt we looked at the second of the Ten Commandments (“you shall not make an idol”). Jared Wilson’s post entitled How to Identify Your Idols is a brief, supremely practical follow-up to that study.

Music. “Oh, be careful little ears what you hear.” Matt Dabbs’ post America’s Top 5 Songs – Better Find Out What Your Kids are Listening To sounds just like a sermon I preached … back in the ’80’s. Some things never change … for the better.

Non-retaliation. As a bit of a visual to go with my sermon this Sunday morning (Toward a Life of Blessing), watch this video (“Cleaning the Cobra Pit“). As Christ-followers, we are like the one cleaning the cobra pit. We’re to take our stand among those loaded with venom and serve them, doing them good. Retaliation is the way of death. “… you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. … love your enemies … just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone …” (Matt. 5:39,44,48)

War, pacifism, & Churches of Christ. If I told you that Churches of Christ in the U.S. were at one time a largely pacifist people, would you laugh? Yes, that’s probably how few know about this portion of the history of my church heritage and it was not that long ago (within my father’s lifetime). If you’re a member of Churches of Christ, three of  Timothy Archer‘s posts this week would be of interest to you along this line: (a) Moral Legacy of War, (b) The Decline of Pacifism in Churches of Christ, and (c) The Decline of Pacifism in Churches of Christ: Cordell Christian College. Tim frequently broaches this subject so you’ll probably want to watch his great site for more to come, particularly as you think about our upcoming study of the sixth of the Ten Commandments (“you shall not kill”).

Just for fun. I confess, I was a Doctor Who fan back in the ’70’s and ’80s, but have missed seeing it since its return in 2005. Who is Doctor Who? Well, if I have to explain, you need not read further, but if you too are a fan, you’ll appreciate The Only Doctor Who Infographic You Will Need. I ought to get the theme song as a ring tone for my phone. Now, if they’ll ever just put that Tardis USB hub into a half-price sale …

this went thru my mind

Archaeology: Unless you’ve been in outer space you probably encountered in the news this week the report that “one of the largest and best-preserved collections of ancient sealed books has been discovered in a cave in Jordan and are believed to be some of the earliest Christian documents.” Don’t bother believing any of that “fair and balanced reporting” for a minute; it’s just more of the usual sensationalism that gets labeled as “news.” For the low down on what’s up you’d be well served to read Todd Bolen’s post Early Christian Lead Books Discovery: Some Problems. If you’re interested in reading still more, Larry Hurtado‘s posts entitled Other Views on the Lead Codices and More on the Lead Codices would be a good place to go. Hurtado is a highly respected New Testament scholar, particularly in the area in question (Christian origins and early Christianity). His “chill dude” and “this is all soooo bogus!” comments alone are worth the price of admission. Or hey, just cut to the chase and read over at PaleoJudaica exactly how we know they’re f-a-k-e.

Churches of Christ: I really like Mike Cope’s take on Ted Campbell’s post Why the Churches of Christ Were RightCampbell is a church history prof at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology.

Climate change: Merely mention the phrase “global warming” in most of the circles I frequent and you’ll instantly lose track of all the eye rolls you get in response. You’ll also risk going deaf from the sound of minds slamming shut. Let’s just say I’m living in the land of skepticism. However, I am a believer in global warming and believe we humans play a huge role in it. And now that you know such, you can understand why I like John Cook’s simple post How to Talk With Climate Change Skeptics.

Fasting: As appears to be the case, I’m finding virtually everything Richard Beck writes to be required reading. His post entitled True Fasting is certainly no exception. In fact, one of his posts regarding all of the ongoing hullabaloo regarding Rob Bell and the upheaval in the evangelical world concerning such is the best thing I’ve read on the matter.

Internet pornography: My sermon this coming Sunday morning at MoSt Church is from Matthew 5:27-30 and deals with the subject of lust. Powerfully relevant to that discussion is just how pervasive is Internet pornography in our digital age. Take a look at this infographic on the matter from 2010 and get on your knees and pray. Incidentally, I’ll be displaying the infographic via PowerPoint during the course of Sunday’s sermon.

Marriage: Trey Morgan‘s post entitled Nine Big Lies About Marriage is good, good stuff every couple would do well to read together. And along the lines of marriage and family, take a good look at Dale Hudson‘s four-part series of posts entitled Post Modern Family Ministry. Here are links to all four parts: 1, 2, 3 & 4).

Tony Campolo: I need only say his name. Whether you always agree or not with everything the man says, he is fearless in his stating matters and never fails to make you think, and I enjoy both of those qualities immensely. Join the enjoyment by reading Losing Faith: Life’s Questions and Why Christians Don’t Like Jesus.

War: Timothy Archer’s brief post entitled Deadly Mirage is worth your consideration. Katie at WIT penned a spot-on post when she wrote Who are the Soldiers of the Body of Christ? And what about doing what we’re doing now in Libya? I appreciate Rachel Held Evans’ transparency in her post Rachel, The Worst Pacifist. And is if often the case with outstanding posts, the comments that follow them are often filled with gems not to be overlooked. Such is the case with all three of these fine posts.

And just for fun: Stand on MoSt Church‘s front steps and you can see the ships going up and down the Houston Ship Channel not very far at all away. Which usually brings up the question, “I wonder where in this old word that ship came from or where she’s going?” Well, now we can know, and we can know, quite literally, globally. My good friend Bill Ehlig clued me in on MarineTraffic.com Imagine ships of every size (all the way down to tugs and yachts!) positioned in real time all over the earth and linked with photos and descriptions of such and you’ve got it. Fascinating stuff, and potentially addictive to all sea lovers.

Never stop reading. Never stop thinking. Never stop being open to growing in your awareness of what is. And never, ever stop being willing to change your mind.