The Bible says that all things work together for the good for them that love God, the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). So how is the Trump presidency and the current political and social climate working for the good of those that love God? After some introspection, here are my thoughts:
1. The exposure of religious hypocrisy: No matter how one may claim to represent God, acting in a manner that is contrary to the nature and will of God indicates you really don’t believe in the God you claim to represent. The actions of the Trump administration and the climate it fosters forces the church in America to decide, in the sight of God and the rest of the world, if it is going to truly be like Jesus or be like the Scribes and Pharisees! If a church or faith group endorses or is silent toward the racist, hateful, and inhumane actions that are currently being perpetrated and encouraged by the present administration, then they prove themselves, for all rational thinking people to see, NOT to be the real church or the real representatives of the God of the Bible! Now actually, this is a good thing, because now we have the opportunity to know who is really real and for all hypocrites to be exposed for the hypocrites they have always been!
2. The exposure of political hypocrisy: Now we see who are statesmen and who are politicians! A statesman does what he or she thinks is good and right for the country; a politician only does what serves his or her self-interests and the interests of the people who financed their campaign. A statesmen puts the good of the country before the pride and ego of political parties. The politician will defend his or her party to death; even if their position is wrong and evil! The statesmen’s politics is influenced and tempered by their morality; the politician bends and manipulates their morality to fit their politics!
3. The exposure of social hypocrisy: After all these years; race is still the number one social issue in America! Why? Because America refuses to acknowledge her historical hypocrisy! America refuses to acknowledge that much of her greatness was achieved unfairly with unpaid slave labor! America refuses to acknowledge that she has historically manipulated belief in the God she claims to trust to justify her social and political evils! Racism is WRONG! And any social, political, or religious system that supports it is WRONG!
If you are uncomfortable with the way things are in America today; that’s good, because you should be! But don’t ever think for a second that Donald Trump is to bear all of the blame! No! The biases and racist filth that have risen to the surface since the Trump campaign and presidency were there all the time; Donald Trump just created a climate wherein they can be more easily seen, recognized and expressed! So in a sense, the Trump mantra of “Make America Great Again” presents America with the opportunity to shed the hypocrisy, because in the true moral and social sense; America has never been great for all Americans! But now, since everything is so blatant and obvious; we have the opportunity to work together to truly make America great. . . for the very first time!
There is an old song that says: “Everybody talking about Heaven ain’t Going!” The meaning behind the words of the song is that just because a person talks about Heaven or talks about going to Heaven, that doesn’t mean they will actually go! Well, the same is true for everyone who claims to be a Christian: Everyone who claims to be a Christian is not actually a Christian! And just because a person says that he or she is a Christian, that declaration does not make them one! I wanted to bring this out because there are many today who are calling themselves Christians, but their actions are so anti-Christian that their actions are causing those who are not Christians to despise the name of Christ! Now of course, this is nothing new: The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, cites Isaiah 52:5 in Romans 2:24: “ For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (ESV) The word ‘blasphemed’ means, ‘to be spoken evil of.’ There are many people in the world today who want nothing to do with Christianity or the God of Christianity because of the acts and attitudes of people who ‘say’ they are Christians! So, for the record, let’s find a simple answer to who and what is a Christian.
Simply put; a Christian is a person who follows (is committed to imitate) Christ. A Christian is a person who faithfully represents the beliefs, actions, and attitudes of Jesus Christ. A Christian is a person who does what Jesus would do! A Christian is a person who follows (obeys) the principles and teachings of Jesus by faithfully following and enacting those principles and teachings in his or her own life within their present cultural context. The term ‘Christian’ is not a political term in the sense of party affiliation or platform. Therefore, those who attempt to use the name; Christian to promote a political or social agenda other than righteousness and justice are illegitimate imitators of the faith!
Let me put it in the kitchen so you can cook it: The vast majority of people, making to the most noise in the name of Christianity on the political scene in America today ARE NOT true biblical Christians! They are merely using the name to promote their political agendas! The Jesus of the Bible would not be in agreement with the mean-spirited racist rhetoric that is coming out of the mouths of many who claim to be Christians in America today! The Jesus of the Bible would NOT endorse the KKK, DID NOT endorse American slavery, and is NOT please with many of the policies of the present administration in Washington! Now, this is not to say that Jesus was pleased with all of the actions of the past administration, but to highlight the fact that just because you hear people say they are acting in the name of Christ; that doesn’t mean they really are! The Jesus of the Bible IS NOT pleased with America’s systemic racist injustice system that is bias against the poor and people of color! The Jesus of the Bible IS NOT in favor of white privilege and the oppressive practices of the rich and well-to-do! The Jesus of the Bible would NOT rubber-stamp the actions of our current president the way many so-called evangelical Christians are doing! And speaking of the so-called evangelical Christians, I just read a report from Pew that asked Americans if the U. S. had a responsibility to accept refugees. No group – racial, by age, religious or political – was less supportive of the idea than white evangelical Protestants! The group least likely to think the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees is the group that claims to follow the ONE who would most likely think the U. S. has a responsibility!
The problem with so-called American Christianity is the fact that many of its followers tend to compartmentalize their faith. They have separated their faith from their politics and see no connection between one and the other. They espouse the possibility of being politically evil and morally good at the same time! But real biblical faith is not divorced from politics; real biblical faith shapes politics! Real biblical faith demands a political agenda that demands, letting justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24 ESV)
The problem with so-called American Christianity is the fact that, for many of its proponents, faith is submissive to economic, politics and ethnicity. The ‘Jesus’ they serve is a reflection of them as opposed to them being a reflection of him. Hence, when one creates a ‘Jesus’ that reflects one’s own personal, political, and social beliefs, that ‘Jesus’ is an idol and NOT the Jesus of the Bible!
If you want to know what real Christianity looks like, don’t look at what you often see in America today; take a look in the BOOK! Now, we all sometimes fall short of the glory (the perfect idea) of God, but real Christians are honest about their short-comings, repent and strive to get better. Real Christians are submissive to the demands of Christ and seek to be molded into His image instead of seeking to making demands of a Christ they have made in their image!
There is an old proverb that says: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander! The meaning is: ‘What is good for a woman is equally good for a man.’ The principle is: What is good for one type is equally good for another type, despite any irrelevant differences between the types. Well, we live in a culture and society wherein it seems the rights of the individual are being promoted and respected over the good of the group, even if those rights are detrimental to the group of which the individual is a member.
I’ve been thinking about something that I am trying to ‘flesh-out’ to see if it is a universally applicable principle in view of the insistence of individuals to demand the right to express themselves, even if their expressions are contrary and harmful to the group. Here’s the principle I’ve been investigating: ‘If it is good or right for one or some; it should be good or right for all!’ Now, let’s see how that works with some of the issues that are being debated in our society today.
Let’s start with racism. If it is good or right for one or some people to be racist; it should be good or right for all people to be racist! But, what kind of world would it be if everybody was a racist? Would it be a world that anyone would want to live in? I don’t think so! I think it would be Hell! If everybody thought and acted like they were better or more privileged than everybody else, we would have the recipe for a chaotic and dangerous society!
And speaking of danger: What would society look like if it was good and right for everyone to own and carry guns? Well, we really don’t have to imagine what it would look like; we’ve already been there and done that: It was the era of the wild, wild west! You can see milder versions of what that was like by looking at old episodes of Gun-smoke, Rifleman, and Bonanza! As I am typing this post, I am recalling news reports of shoot-outs between gang members and law enforcement that rival and surpass the famous gun fight at the OK Corral!
At the risk of being labelled hateful and insensitive, I dare bring up the issue of homosexuality! If it is good and right for one or some people to be homosexual; it should be good and right for everybody to be homosexual. But what would our world look like if everyone was a practicing homosexual? In fact, perhaps an even greater question is: Would there be a world at all? It takes a man and a woman to have a baby. Would we really be at ease and satisfied with a generation of test-tube babies; all produced by artificial insemination? I don’t think we would!
What about criminal activity? If it is right and good for one or some people to be crooks, then it is good and right for all people to be crooks! But what kind of world would it be if everybody was a crook? If everyone was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, a devious person, a pervert, or whatever? Do you see my point?
The point is this: Whether we like it or not, there are moral principles and guidelines that have been instituted by a Higher Power! Man, in his arrogance, likes to think of himself as being his own god! But, if everybody was their own god; society would break down into chaos! (By the way; since we have thrown off the yoke of the true God, this is exactly where we are headed!) Just because you may not like or agree with these moral principles, that doesn’t exempt you from their jurisdiction! People think it is OK to break God’s laws, but in the final analysis; they really don’t just break the law; the law breaks them! Our world is filled with people who are broken, disconnected and lost because of their attempt to be their own god! In the final analysis: What’s good for the goose may or may not be good for the gander, but it is not the right of the goose or the gander to decide what that ‘good’ is! That right is reserved only for the Creator of the goose and the gander! The Creator of the goose and the gander knows that there are some things that are good for the goose and the gander, but there are also some things that are good for the goose but not for the gander!
It seems as if the main goal or the over-riding obsession in many Christian circles today is just to get blessings or to be blessed! Now, aside from our fundamental failure to understand that God has already blessed us with every blessing we will ever need (See Ephesians 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:3. Our real need is not for blessings or to be blessed more, but rather, to know how to access and appropriate the blessings we already have!), this emphasis on blessings also indicates another fault in our spiritual understanding. Let me show you what I’m talking about!
In God’s economy, blessings are not, and were never meant to be, the end, but rather, the means to the end! In other words, blessings were never meant to be our destination, but rather the means, tools, or vehicles used to aid and assist us in reaching our destination. When we are so captivated and fixated on blessings, we’re just like a person, so in love with their new car that they just drive around, without ever going anywhere! It is a ridiculous situation for a person to have a vehicle, only to use it to drive around, not understanding that the real purpose of the vehicle is not just to be driven around, but to be actually used to get from point A to point B! In like manner, many Christians are trying to exercise their faith to obtain blessings to just ‘drive around’ with no clue that the real purpose of blessings is transportation and facilitation!
So, when we make blessings or being blessed the main goal or objective, we err on two points! We err by trying to get what we already have! And then, we err by making the means the end instead of understanding the means’ purpose is to help us get to the end! Being blessed or having blessings without understanding their purpose to assist in reaching the destination is not enough! God created and blessed us for much more than that!
In Genesis 1:28, we read: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV) Notice the wording of the text! God didn’t just bless them to bless them; God blessed them so that they would be in position to do something! God blessed them in order for them to fulfill their purpose, which was to be fruitful (productive), multiply, fill and subdue the earth, to have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living thing on the earth! They were blessed for the purpose of fulfilling their assignment! That’s the principle! God doesn’t bless just to bless; God blesses to enable, to empower, to facilitate the execution of His will! The mandate has not changed! The same order given to Adam and Eve has been passed down to us! We are not blessed just to be blessed, we are blessed in order to have and exercise dominion!
Now, what does it mean to have and exercise dominion? What was God doing in Genesis 1:28? God was commissioning Adam and Eve as His proxy rulers on earth! God blessed Adam and Eve so that they might rule the earth in His stead! The emergence of sin DID NOT negate or cancel the Dominion Mandate! In fact, that’s why Jesus came! Jesus came to deal with sin so that, through him, man’s capacity to fulfill the Dominion Mandate might be restored!
Oh! We are so limited and little in our thinking! While we are running around making what we already have the focus of our faith, God has a much grander idea for us! We just want to be blessed, but God wants us to be ‘god’ on earth! God wants us to be Him on earth! (I realized I am treading on what some might perceive to be slippery theological turf here. That’s why I used a little ‘g.’ We are not gods in the sense that we are deity, but rather in the sense that our purpose is to function as God’s representatives upon the earth.) Hence, our main objective should not be for God to bless us just so we might be healthy, wealthy, and wise, but rather our main objective should be that God might execute His will upon the earth through us! I heard a song, not too long ago, and the singer was pleading: “Lord, whatever You’re doing in this season, don’t do it without me!” Now, I understood what the author of the song was saying; he, himself, personally wanted to be a partner with God in whatever God is going to do. But, whatever God is going to do in this season will only be done through us! God only rained down meat and bread from Heaven one time! His normal means of feeding us when we’re hungry is to use our neighbor to do it!
The bottom line is that God’s purpose in blessing us is so that we might be a blessing-hose, not a blessing-pool! God’s intent is not for blessings just to flow ‘to’ us; but rather for blessings to flow ‘through’ us! Blessings are meant to be tools to be used, not just items to be consumed! So, if your main goal and pre-occupation is just to be blessed; being blessed is not enough, God wants so much more than that for you! His purpose in blessing you is that you might be (represent) Him wherever you are!
Ecclesiastes 1:9 says: “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” (NLT) I was reminded of that verse as I was reading an article for a paper I am required to write for one of my D. Min., (Doctor of Ministry) classes. The article was about preaching, postmodernism and the New Homiletic. Without going into too much depth, postmodernism is a movement or a way of thinking that denies the objectivity of knowledge and truth. According to postmodernism, there is no objective truth, but rather truth is socially and culturally constructed. When you hear people saying such things as “my truth,” that is an indication that they have been influenced by postmodernism.
The author of the article, in describing the various elements of the New Homiletic (Homiletics is the art and craft of constructing sermons and preaching. Simply put; the New Homiletic advocates the construction and preaching of the sermon should start with the listener, whereas in traditional homiletics, the process begins with the biblical text) said, according to the New Homiletic, the purpose of the sermon is not to communicate information, but rather to evoke a communication event from the audience in which the audience, with the help of the preacher, creates or discovers the meaning of the text. In the New Homiletic, the most important thing is not what the text actually means or says, but rather the meaning the listener or reader gathers from the text or the preaching event. The article goes on, in much detail, to talk about this ‘new’ way of thinking, preaching, and listening to sermons. As I read the article, I said to myself: “This is nothing new; this is the same thing I did in Sunday School as a boy!”
When I was a youngster, my Sunday School teachers were not, by no stretch of the imagination, biblical scholars. Now, this is not to be disparaging, or disrespectful toward them because they, and the church, did the best they could with what they had! (The only qualification required to teach Sunday School back then was just the willingness to do it; not too much has changed in most churches I am familiar with today!) But, I thank God that they did know enough to light a fire within me to want to know more about the Word of God and the God of the word! Now, I mention them because, as we went over the lesson, each student had to read a verse. Then, after reading the verse, each student would stand up and explain what the particular verse they read meant to them. I didn’t know it then, but the most important thing in biblical study is NOT what the verse means to me, but rather, what the verse actually means! No! I didn’t know it then, (and my Sunday Schools teachers apparently didn’t know it either!) but you really can’t know what the verse means until you know what the verse meant! In other words, the primary thing is not so much what the verse is saying to me, but rather what was the original author’s intended meaning for his original audience. You can’t get the application right (what the verse means and how it applies to your life) until you first get the original meaning right! My New Testament Greek professor; Dr. G. Roger Greene, at Mississippi College (MC) always asked and challenged his students, when I was in his class: “How can you know what it means if you don’t know what it meant? As preachers and teachers of the Gospel: You can’t tell them what it means, if you don’t know what it meant!”
So, I guess what I’m saying is that postmodernism and the New Homiletic are not really “new” at all! The same thing was happening in my Sunday School class over fifty (50) years ago! But, we could go back, even farther than that! Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25 are two verses that are identical in most English Bibles, the verses say: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (KJV) The New English Translation renders it: “In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right.” (Jdg. 21:25 NET) Isn’t that where we are today, with people talking about ‘their truth’ and ‘my truth?’ Isn’t that the same thing postmodernism and practitioners of the New Homiletic are doing and saying when they say there is no objective truth and that truth is subjective and relative? It’s amazing to me, because it seems like the more modern man seeks to discredit the Bible as the Word of God, the more he actually proves it to be true!
If you are a preacher, a prophet, a teacher, or deal with the word in any kind of way, I admonish you to be careful to be faithful to the text. Please remember, we are not being faithful to our calling when we assign meaning without finding and understanding the original meaning. We must remember, the scriptures were not written specifically to us or for our modern frame of mind. They were written to ancient people, who processed things much differently from the way we do today. Therefore, to be honest in our exposition, we must first understand their position! Even in modern communication, the real meaning is not the meaning you, as a reader might assign, but rather the real meaning is the meaning the writer or author intends! For instance, if you assign a meaning to this blog post that I did not intend, there has been no communication; but rather there has been a miscommunication! Even in our daily conversations, we should make sure we are actually communicating instead of just merely saying words to each other. One of the main problems with communication today is with people are using the ‘same’ words, but those same words often having ‘different’ definitions! For example, when I tell you, “I’m cool.” Before the conversation is over, we both need to understand whether or not I’m talking about my discomfort with the temperature, or am I talking about what a great guy I am, or am I saying, I have no problems with our relationship or with something you might have said earlier that might have caused me to be upset!
Now, if we have those communication issues with just simple everyday conversations, and we are in the same culture, time, and place, then how much more do you think there are communications issues involved in properly reading and understanding the Bible, when we are dealing with communication issues with people from a different time, culture, language, and way of thinking? Imagine this scenario, if you will: Suppose, I write you a note and I tell you about this funny joke I heard. And in the note, I make the statement: “That joke was so funny, I died laughing!” Now, fast-forward several thousands of years and my note is found by people of a different culture, language and time. A people who no longer or never, used the expression; ‘died laughing’ to express how funny something is. There will be a distinct possibility that those people might mourn my untimely death because they will think I literally died from laughing so hard! And God forbid that my note should somehow be misconstrued as factual scientific data! Then they would be some sad people indeed, afraid to laugh, lest they were to ‘die’ from laughing! Now, as unlikely as that might sound to you, some of the things that people are so uptight today about what the Bible says were not meant to be doctrines, dogma, or deep truths, but actually were originally just hyperboles and figures of speech! But, you won’t be able to tell the difference between the deep stuff and the fluff, if you don’t dig for what it meant and just take someone’s word for what it means!
We live in an amazing time! On one hand, with the advent of biblical computer software programs such as Logos Bible Software, BibleWorks, BibleSoft, WordSearch, Sword, and many others (some of which are free), access to the Bible in the original languages and the tools for research and correct interpretation are just clicks of the mouse away! Yet, biblical illiteracy, even in the church is increasingly alarming! I remember one night, I was teaching a New Testament Survey class at a church I once served. One student asked me why I kept referring to some of the epistles as ‘Pauline.’ He thought ‘Pauline’ was the wife of Paul! (No joke; he was serious and he was a deacon!) He was almost as bad as the joke I heard about the kids who thought the ‘epistles’ were the wives of the apostles! Or even worst, I actually heard a person reviewing a Sunday School lesson say that he thought the ‘Gentiles’ were called that name because they were gentle!
God help us all! At a time when the need for biblical authority in preaching and teaching is so great, the airwaves are flooded with preaching and teaching that has no real depth or substance! There is an overwhelming number of preachers and teachers, with many followers and listeners; boldly, loudly, and authoritatively proclaiming nothing more than: “This is what the verse means to me!”