A Soteriology of Selfies: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well

“Come see a man who told me all the things that I have done.”
– John 4:29a (NASB)


Nearly two decades after the advent of the first camera phone, selfies remain a thing.

It seems everyone from former president Barack Obama to Pope Francis has become enamored with the prospect of taking pictures of the themselves and posting them on social media to the admiration and idolization of millions.

Me, My Selfie, and I

Though often innocent and harmless in their intent, selfies can say more about us than we would care to admit.

Selfies appeal to our vanity (Philippians 2:3).

They satiate our desire to be worshiped (Luke 12:16-21).

With the help of an ever-increasing suite of social media platforms, selfies have become the primary means by which we display to others how physically attractive we are, how nice of a car we drive, how happy a marriage we have, and how well-accomplished our children have become (among other self-exalting purposes).

“Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.” Psalm 26:2 (NASB)

The beauty of selfies, no pun intended, is they afford us opportunities to formulate narratives about ourselves by picking and choosing how others see us.

Motivated to a large extent by an innate longing for affirmation and approval, selfies advertise our most attractive attributes and qualities, while concealing and disguising those things that are less praiseworthy about us.

But given that selfies are so subjective, is it really a selfie when one can so easily manipulate what others see and don’t see?

True, what other people see of you in a selfie is still you, physically speaking, but what they see is not really you.

Is it?

Seeing is Believing

The New Testament provides what I consider to be a genuine selfie moment, not a mere superficial or manufactured one.

It is a story which, more than likely, you are not unfamiliar.

I’m speaking of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4:7-42.

The name of the Samaritan woman is not mentioned in the text. Nor is her age, height, or weight given.

We know nothing about her that would be evident had selfies existed in that day – the color of her eyes, the length of her hair, the whiteness of her smile, or how well-manicured were her fingernails.

What we do know is she was a woman who lived a morally-depraved life; a fact that not even she denied (John 4:19).

“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.” – Proverbs 27:19 (NASB)

The Samaritan woman had been married five times (John 4:18a), and on the occasion of her encounter with Jesus at the well, was living conjugally with a man who was not her husband (John 4:18b).

She went to the well to get water.

The irony of this is that water is transparent; you can see right through it.

But not only that.

Water also acts as a mirror.

It reflects images as they actually are.

Believing is Seeing

In our desire to fulfill the ‘Great Commission’ (Matthew 28:19-20), there are various tactics we Christians will employ to introduce unbelievers to Jesus, most of which are designed to be inoffensive and non-intrusive. Kind of like how selfies display only what is on the surface while concealing our true nature (Mark 7:17-23).

But, you see, that’s neither how Jesus, nor His gospel, works (Hebrews 4:12).

“You will never glory in God until first God has killed your glorifying in yourself.” – C.H. Spurgeon

The gospel of Christ is a gospel that is invasive.

It is that way by design.

Unlike the selfies we like to share with others, the word of God is such that it reveals things about ourselves that we would want no one else to see or know.

Not even God.

To have our sins laid bare to others is the last thing you or I would want for ourselves. (Genesis 3:8-10). But to encounter the perfect holiness of Christ is the ultimate selfie, for it is in that moment that we see ourselves for who we really are (Luke 5:8).

And it is only as we begin to understand the reality of our sinfulness in light of the reality of the holiness of Christ, that authentic spiritual transformation can begin to take place (Romans 12:2).

“Come see a man…”

The Samaritan woman was so utterly transformed by having her sinfulness exposed by Jesus, that her motive for telling others about Jesus was that her sinfulness had been exposed by Jesus (John 4:29). Subsequently, Jesus used the transparency of her testimony to bring many others to faith in Him (John 4:39-41).

The attitude exhibited by the woman at the well is both profound and challenging in its application to us as believers today.

When was the last time you were motivated to tell someone about Jesus because of your sinfulness not theirs?

In posing this question, I am not at all naïve to the fact that such an attitude would be virtually unheard of in the Jesus-meet-my-needs milieu of today’s evangelicalism. Nevertheless, to see ourselves reflected against the living water of Jesus Christ is to see not an image of a selfie but an image of self.

There is a difference.

Just ask the Samaritan woman.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit: netloid.com

Related:
Don’t Let Facebook Make You Miserable – NY Times

Why the Talladega College Band Should March in the Trump Inauguration Parade


According to a CBS News article a controversy has arisen regarding the decision by the “Great Tornado” marching band of Talladega College, a historically black college and university (HBCU) located in Talladega, Alabama, to participate in the inauguration parade of President-Elect Donald J. Trump on January 20.

At first glance it would be easy to assume the consternation being expressed is merely the fruit of an ideological rejection of Donald Trump by certain individuals close to this venerable institution.

And though I do not doubt that is the case to a great extent, I would argue there is more that lies beneath the surface. Namely, the long-held stereotype that black Americans, whether individually or institutionally (as in the case of Talladega College), should myopically support the ideals and activities of the Democrat Party and its candidates.

This mindset is not exclusive to white Democrats, as evidenced by remarks made by First Lady Michelle Obama – an African-American woman – to African-American voters just days before the presidential election in November 2016:

“That’s my message to [African-American] voters. This isn’t about Barack. It’s not about the person on the ballot — it’s about you [African-Americans]. And for most of the people that we’re talking to [African-American voters], a Democratic ticket is the clear ticket that we [African-Americans] should be voting on, regardless of who said what or did this. That shouldn’t even come into the equation.”

We need not be naive about what is actually going on here.

The reality is that had Hillary Clinton been elected and not Donald Trump, I wouldn’t be writing this article because there would be no controversy to write about.

Why?

The reason is clear enough: Hillary Clinton is a Democrat and African Americans – simply because they are African American – are obliged to do whatever the Democrat Party requires of them.

It is an ideological stereotype the genesis of which goes back more than half a century.

With all due respect to the alumni, faculty, and student body of Talladega College, the truth is the institution would not exist were it not for the aid of Republicans like Union Army General Wager Swyane, a member the Freedman’s Bureau.

In fact, the vast majority of HBCUs can attribute their origins to Republicans who, during the Reconstruction Era, advocated for the education of former slaves and their children.

Conversely, Democrats, primarily through the enacting of racist Jim Crow laws, employed every conceivable method to deny freed slaves – and their descendants – access to such opportunities.

Ultimately, this “controversy”, such as it is, is neither about Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton. Nor is it about to whom kudos are due for establishing the many HBCUs that exist across our country today.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” – Ephesians 4:31 (NASB)

To whatever extent the alumni and supporters of Talladega College are opposed to the worldview of Donald Trump – as is their solemn right – what brings about change in people’s minds and hearts is dialogue not distance.

Which begs the question: What do those who are protesting this decision by Talladega College really gain by its marching band refusing to participate in the Trump inaugural parade (as many other performers have done)?

At best they will have “made a statement” (which is fine as far as making statements go).

At worst they will have deprived this historic institution of the opportunity to build on its legacy by participating in one of the truly unique events in American history, while accomplishing nothing toward ameliorating the concerns that gave rise to this particular disputation to begin with.

When all is said and done, the debate over the participation of the Talladega College marching band in Trump’s inauguration parade is less about politics and more about the legacy of an institution that was founded on the principle of opening minds not closing them.

Admittedly, this is not always an easy goal to pursue.

It was not easy on November 20, 1865, when Talladega College was founded by two former slaves. Nor will it be easy on January 20, 2017, when Donald J. Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

Nevertheless, I say, let the Great Tornado march.

And may the great discourse begin.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

A Theology of the Electoral College

Image result for Founding Fathers Electoral College


As I consider that today the United States Electoral College will cast its votes to certify Donald Trump as America’s 45th President-Elect, I am struck by the reality that there actually is much theology to be found within the Constitution.

Please understand that in stating the aforementioned, I am in no way inferring or implying that the United States Constitution is a theological document in and of itself.

I am not saying that at all.

What I am saying, however, is that the protections that are inherent within it are clearly and unarguably rooted and grounded in the doctrine of the sinfulness of human beings.

The Electoral College is but one example of this.

“Every soul has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ. The unregenerate soul is unclean and sinful both in condition and in action.” – R. Stanton Norman, from A Theology for the Church, edited by Daniel L. Akin, chapter 8, Human Sinfulness, p. 434

Regardless if the Founders were deists, theists, agnostics, or even atheists, they clearly had an appreciation (if not an affinity) for the fact that human beings are innately sinful and, as such, are susceptible to the temptations and seductions that invariably accompany positions of power and influence.

So, it is in that sense that I am most thankful to God for the wisdom bestowed upon the Founding Fathers in giving our nation both the Constitution and, conversely, the Electoral College, as safeguards that exist for the purpose of protecting us from ourselves.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 (NASB)

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

How Support for Donald Trump by the Right Exposed the Racism of the Left


The question is a simple one.

Does an American citizen who is legally registered to vote have the right to cast that vote for the candidate of his or her choice?

Simple enough, right?

Apparently not, as it depends on who you ask.

The post-election lamenting of the Left continues to garner headlines.

More than a week after Donald Trump became this nation’s 45th President-elect, their collective petulance remains on full display for all to see.

As a conservative who is black, it has been interesting to observe liberals direct their anti-Trump vitriol exclusively at the 81 percent of white evangelical Christians who voted for him.

But in the midst of their targeted rage, they completely disregard the fact that 13 percent of black males also voted for Trump.

Are these voters not equally deserving of their derision and contempt?

As confounding as it may seem to liberals, their willingness to ignore the fact that Donald Trump garnered double-digit support from black voters is a serious commentary on the extent to which they are helping to perpetuate the decades-old stereotype that the so-called “black vote” is monolithic.

Needless to say, it is not.

I, for one, am proof of that.

In the wake of what was unarguably a devastating and, by many accounts, unfathomable political defeat, liberals are blaming everyone but themselves.

But that liberals view the election of Donald Trump as tantamount to an eschatological catastrophe of biblical proportions is not entirely the fault of white evangelical voters.

In fact, it is not the fault of any one particular ethno-religious voting bloc.

Though 81 percent support from white evangelicals is nothing to sneeze at, even more significant is the 8 percent of black voters who backed Donald Trump.

Because although it was widely expected and accepted that white evangelicals – particularly white male evangelicals – would galvanize behind Trump, being motivated in large part by Clinton’s unbiblical positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, no one gave him a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of making even the most infinitesimal strides with black voters.

After all, blacks are monolithic, you know?

We don’t think for ourselves.

We simply do as we’re told.

https://i0.wp.com/media4.s-nbcnews.com/j/newscms/2016_30/1637401/gettyimages-510875866_6b89731f747a0b429950dcfda378338a.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000.jpg

That black voters traditionally have been held to a lower standard of political autonomy than any other voting bloc in America, is clearly evidenced by a Salon.com article I recently came across entitled, The Real Reason Black Voters Didn’t Turn Out For Hillary – and How to Fix It.

The title alone is enough to give pause.

That black voter turnout turned out (no pun intended) to be less salvific than Hillary Clinton and the Democrats hoped – as opposed to blacks voting their individual consciences or, perhaps, not voting at all, which is also their right – is apparently a problem that needs to be “fixed” according to many on the Left.

It is a philosophy that warrants translating.

“Fixed” is liberal code for developing targeted strategies to ensure black voters continue to tow the line, and stick to the nearly 60-year old script of voting for only Democrat candidates for president.

“Fixed” is the plantation mentality which holds that black votes belong to Democrats in much the same way that black people once belonged to them.

“Fixed” – as far as liberals are concerned – is the perpetual political servitude of black voters to the Democrat party.

“My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did.” – Condoleezza Rice

It is interesting, if not ironic, that liberals will tout the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for its prohibitions against racial discrimination in voting, particularly with regard to their seemingly incessant claims of voter suppression on the part of Republicans, while tacitly endorsing ideological discrimination in assuming that Hillary Clinton receiving “only” 92 percent of the black vote instead of the anticipated 95 percent is something that needs “fixing”.

The hypocrisy of liberals is that their acceptance of white evangelicals exercising their right to vote as individuals, albeit against their preferred candidate, is offset by their belief that blacks should cast their votes solely on the basis of the interests of the collective “black community”.

Which begs the question to what end was the Civil Rights Movement, especially with respect to black Americans being granted the right to vote as equal citizens, if not the freedom to exercise that right as individuals in voting for the political candidate of their choice?

That liberals appear to believe this ethos applies to every ethnic voting bloc except black voters is telling to say the least.

Ultimately, it is not black voter turnout that needs to be “fixed”.

What needs “fixing” is the stereotypical mindset that black voters are joined together, as if by umbilical cord, to an electoral process rooted in political tribalism rather than ideological individualism.

Which brings us full circle to the original question, doesn’t it?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
The Myth of Black Community
The Truth About Jim Crow (Free PDF booklet from the American Civil Rights Union)

Image Credits:
Top image: npr.org
Center image: nbcnews.com
Bottom image: commdiginews.com

 

Why a Hillary Clinton Victory ‘Might’ Have Been Better For The Evangelical Church

Image credit: thedailybeast.com


I was hoping Hillary Clinton would win.

Before you jump to conclusions, allow me to explain.

Creatures of Habit

From the standpoint of our respective socio-political worldviews, the former Secretary of State and I could not be more diametrically opposed to one another.

Hillary Clinton’s self-professed admiration for eugenicist Margaret Sanger, founder of The Negro Project – the precursor to what is today Planned Parenthood – augmented with her unabashed support of same-sex marriage, or what progressives like Clinton prefer to call “marriage equality”, are but two examples of where she and I part ideological ways.

Nevertheless, that Donald Trump is now President-elect of the United States has left me feeling somewhat disappointed.

I say this not because of what a Trump presidency might portend for America in terms of domestic and foreign policy, but because of what it might mean in terms of the spiritual mindset and mission of the evangelical church.

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” – Psalm 118:8 (NASB)

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, it has been widely reported that President-elect Trump received upwards of 81 percent support from evangelicals, whereas Hillary Clinton received only 16 percent.

That President-elect Trump can boast that 8 out of every 10 professing evangelicals voted for him may be good news for Trump, however, I would caution against Christians presuming that the same can be said for the Church.

I say this because, historically, we evangelicals have exhibited a rather unique penchant for letting our political guard down, particularly when a supposed “conservative Christian” is occupying the White House.

Taking comfort in this we tend to morph into what I call “La-Z-Boy mode”, assuming that because “our” candidate won that “our work here is done” (as the saying goes).

Accordingly, as if by rote, we assume the position.

We lean back, put our spiritual feet up, and rest in the “blessed assurance” that because the person we voted for is “one of us”, there is no real need for vigilance on our part in holding them accountable to any degree.

“Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” – Psalm 146:3 (NASB)

None of this is to infer or imply that the future of the Church in America, or Christianity in general for that matter, rests in the hands of either President-elect Trump or ours as individual evangelicals.

Nor is it to suggest that President-elect Trump is anti-Church, anti-Christian, or anti-religious freedom.

Not at all.

Waiting to Exhale? 

As followers of Christ, we serve a sovereign God who has promised to build His church despite any worldly or other-worldly forces that might endeavor to oppose it (Psalm 135:6; Daniel 4:35Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 6:12).

In other words, it is an eternally settled issue that the church of God will continue to grow and flourish, as it has for over 2,000 years, regardless who is in power whether nationally or globally.

Nonetheless, after eight years of an administration which, by any objective measure, has not been a friend of Christians, I am somewhat concerned that many evangelicals will view the election of Donald Trump as their “waiting to exhale” moment, if you will, believing we can finally relax now that Barack Obama will soon be out of office.

It is this concern that makes me wonder if it would not have been better for the evangelical Church if Hillary Clinton had won and not Donald Trump.

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” – Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NASB)

With all due respect, for evangelicals to assume simply by virtue that Donald Trump was elected president and not Hillary Clinton, that the political climate will automatically be more favorable for Christians is to be spiritually naive.

Because although a Clinton administration would undoubtedly have been just as adversarial to the evangelical church as has been the Obama administration, if not more so, it nonetheless might have served as impetus to keep Christians on their toes, or better, on their knees.

“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” – Isaiah 2:22 (NASB)

The nature of politics is that it has a way of subtly convincing people that a promise made is tantamount to a promise kept.

A very tangible example of this is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare, and the boastful assurances made by President Obama, among other prominent Democrats, that it would save American households of dollars in healthcare costs but, in reality, has resulted in financial hardship for millions of families who find themselves unable to afford the skyrocketing premiums.

At first glance, the election of Donald Trump as our nation’s 45th president may seem a cause for rejoicing to many evangelicals; a long-awaited answer to prayer after nearly a decade of overt hostility from an administration whose view of Christianity, to say the least, has been less than favorable.

But that is no excuse for Christians to view Trump’s election as some political laurel upon which we can now rest.

“Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” – John Adams

If nothing else, what should keep evangelicals grounded against being overly exuberant that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton is that, biblically speaking, he is no less a sinner than she is (Romans 3:23).

Though a multi-billionaire with a track record as a deal making power-broker, as President-elect, Donald Trump now has access to more power than even he could ever have imagined.

With this in mind, President-elect Trump will need our prayers perhaps more than even he realizes (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Conclusion

That a Trump victory might result in many evangelicals becoming passive about matters of significance to the Church is why I had hoped Hillary Clinton would win.

For perhaps then, with an ideological antagonist in the White House instead of an ally, Christians might be more attentive to how those who attain to such positions of power are susceptible to the the temptations and attractions awaiting them, not to mention the potential impacts to the Church when those allurements are yielded to in an ungodly way.

“O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” – Psalm 60:11 (NASB)

If you have read this far, I trust by now you realize that this blog post is not a post-election endorsement of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Quite the contrary.

It is a loving yet cautionary admonition to my fellow evangelical brothers and sisters that now is not the time to relax simply because “our” candidate won.

Evangelicals have been in this position before, you know, with “our people” in charge at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

The next four years will prove whether we have learned from the lessons of the past, not the least of which is to never look to the one who occupies the Oval Office above the One who put him – or her – there.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

So, You Want ‘Social Justice’? Be Careful What You Ask For


When it comes to the matter of social justice context is key.

I say this because when one examines closely the current national discourse on this issue, it becomes abundantly clear that significantly more emphasis is placed on the justice aspect than on the social.

This kind of partitioned accentuation, I believe, is the result of our acceptance of a collective assumption that a community wherein justice is consistently and indiscriminately applied to each individual is the ideal societal construct.

It is an ethos that is especially evident relative to the biblical principle of reaping and sowing (Galatians 6:7), particularly with regard to one’s actions and decisions that might prove harmful or detrimental to others.

But this mindset, in my estimation, raises a fundamental question:

What is justice?

The Definition of Justice

In his book The Gospel for Real Life, the late Jerry Bridges defines justice as: “rendering to everyone according to one’s due. Justice means we get exactly what we deserve – nothing more, nothing less (p.43).”

I consider Bridges’ definition of justice to be a very good one, as it is applicable regardless if the issue of social justice is being deliberated within the context of sociology or theology.

Even so, I am also of the opinion that this definition raises a sobering conundrum, one which, perhaps, not many of us have seriously considered.

The Nature of Justice

When we think of justice, and its broader applications and implications to society as a whole (social justice), we must understand that what we are dealing with is not merely a matter of description (as in Bridge’s definition) but of prescription as well.

Justice is innately retributive.

Its primary purpose is to chasten not to correct, to reprove not to reform, to be a voice for righteousness where unrighteousness is present.

Justice makes absolute demands that must be complied with absolutely.

To fall short of these rigid and inflexible standards, even to the most infinitesimal degree, is to bring into question the integrity of the individual or entity being relied upon to satiate that which justice demands.

Namely, as Bridges stated, that “we get exactly what we deserve – nothing more, nothing less.”

The Duality of Justice

It is this punitory aspect of justice that serves as the impetus for why people who are convicted of crimes, particularly those that warrant significant time in prison, and worse, endeavor to seek out the most competent legal counsel they can find in an effort to ameliorate the exacting discipline they know awaits them.

They comprehend fully that justice, by its very nature, is inherently unmerciful, and that it is uncompromising in its insistence that they – the guilty – pay the “due” penalty for offenses committed against their fellow human beings.

This awareness highlights an almost paradoxical duality in that it is because justice is so fixed and unyielding that those who are victimized zealously pursue its retaliatory remedies, while those who victimize try just as resolutely to avoid them.

The Divine Origins of Justice

The concept that recompense be made when a law is transgressed originated not with mankind but with God.

We are first introduced to this divine dogma in the Garden of Eden where the relationship between precept and penalty, the two fundamental elements of any just and equitable law, are presented by God to Adam in the most unambiguous of terms:

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat [precept], for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die [penalty].” – Genesis 2:16-17 (NASB)

Contrary to what many in today’s pluralistic and universalistic society believe, the truth is we are not innately predisposed to do good to one another but just the opposite (Genesis 8:21b; Jeremiah 17:9).

It is because of our congenital predisposition to sin against one another that we have laws to begin with, the insistent penalties of which are designed to influence decisions we make to act or not on the innately sinful inclinations that arise in our hearts toward each other.

And therein lies the rub for you and me as it relates to the concept of social justice.

The Demands of Justice

In his exceptional work The Existence and Attributes of God, Puritan theologian Stephen Charnock declares that, “the justice of God is so essential to Him, as that sin could not be pardoned without satisfaction (p. 517).

Charnock’s theology of God is important to note, for to understand that justice is so inexorable to the nature and character of God is the beginning of understanding why justice matters to us who are created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

Justice is as indivisible an attribute of a society composed of those who bear the image of God as it is of God Himself.

Nevertheless, in our search for justice, the universal problem you and I face is that though, even in our fallenness, we reflect the image of God, we are not God.

“When the human mind is focused upon the ineffable purity of God and His unchanging righteousness, it appears to fallen creatures that He no longer smiles—but frowns upon His works. That easy, peaceable disposition—so pleasing to our hearts, so soothing when we feel the stirrings of conscience—in which we contemplate God while considering His goodness alone, gives place to far sterner aspects, and we are made to tremble when He is also seen as an offended Ruler and Judge.” – A.W. Pink, The Justice of God

In our insistence that justice be exacted against those who offend us, we often want to exempt ourselves from that same standard.

When it is we who are facing the rigid and inflexible demands of justice, whether it be for a traffic violation or murder, what we want in that moment is not justice but mercy. But justice is necessitated by an innately holy and righteous God who requires that sin be atoned for.

All sin.

You see, social justice, by definition, is a standard of precept and penalty that is applied equally and absolutely to every person within a given society.

Every person.

In every situation.

Without exception.

Regardless of circumstances.

That truly is social justice.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Justice that is not indiscriminately and objectively applied to everyone is not justice.

If our personal definition of social justice is one that is influenced to any extent by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic standing, or any other conceivable variable, then, what we really desire is not social justice but selective justice.

Remember, social (or societal) justice is that standard of justice that is equally and absolutely applicable to all, so that everyone – without exception or regard to circumstances – receives “exactly what he or she deserves”.

With this in mind, the question we must ask ourselves is:

Is this the kind of social justice we really want?

Conclusion

What I have said in this post is neither to suggest nor imply that lawlessness, regardless the offender, should go unpunished.

Quite the contrary.

I have gone to great lengths in an attempt to exposit biblically on why the concept of justice is essential to any civilized society, namely, because we all are sinners by nature (Romans 3:23).

Nevertheless, that we, as professed followers of Jesus Christ, would be so biased in our hearts as to have our thirst for justice ignited by anything other than that one who, like ourselves, bears the image of God has been unjustly treated, is to commit as egregious a sin as the one who carried out the injustice in the first place.

“All of us have failed miserably to obey God’s Law. We disobeyed in Adam, and we have every day of our lives disobeyed in our own persons. Therefore all of us stand condemned before God’s Law, fully liable to its curse and punishment. But just as Jesus fully obeyed God’s Law in our place, so He suffered its full penalty in our place. In the same way that Adam was our representative in the garden, so Christ was our representative on the cross. He bore the full brunt of God’s justice that we should have borne. He received the full punishment we should have received. Through His representative union with us, Jesus assumed our obligation to perfectly obey the Law of God and obeyed it to the letter. Through that same union Jesus assumed our liability for not obeying the Law and paid that liability to the utmost. He fully and completely satisfied the justice of God on our behalf as our substitute.” – Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life: Justice Satisfied, pp. 44-45

Social justice is unbiased justice.

It is justice that is grounded in the equitable application of God’s objective standard of how we are to live with and relate to one another (Genesis 1:27; Romans 1:19; Romans 3:23).

If the justice we demand is tainted in any way by such characteristics as race or ethnicity, then, I exhort you, my brother and sister in Christ, to search our heart because it is not justice we want but vengeance.

The danger of harboring such an ungodly heart-attitude, is that the standard of justice we apply to others will likewise be applied to us (Matthew 7:1-5).

Call to Action

In our efforts to advance the cause of social justice, we must be ever-mindful that the idea of justice is rooted first and foremost in a holy and righteous God in whom justice is an essential aspect of His nature and character.

Our pursuit of justice should be based solely in the truth that each of us is created in His image and not on the basis of any external attribute or characteristic – such as race or ethnicity – which, by His sovereign will, He determined to bestow upon us (Acts 17:26).

When we truly understand the justice of God, the satisfaction of which mandated the death of His own Son (John 3:16), we might think twice before demanding justice for offenses committed against us by others.

For it is in the atoning death of Christ on the cross that God demonstrates Himself to be the ultimate Social Justice Warrior, by exacting upon His sinless Son the justice that you and I rightfully deserve.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

On Black Lives Matter and the Question No One Seems to be Asking (But Should)


Many questions have been raised – and continue to be – about the movement known as Black Lives Matter and its pursuit of social justice.

But the question no one seems to be asking is one which, in my humble opinion, is the most fundamental of all:

What does it actually mean that black lives “matter” and why should it matter to me?

It is a question that is important to consider because to assert that “black lives matter” (or “all lives matter” if you prefer), is to apply the universal assumption that human life in general is inherently valuable if for no other reason than that it is human life.

But what is it about human life that elevates it to this particular level of appreciation and esteem?

Against whose standard of measure is valuable defined? Is that standard objective or subjective? If objective, then, by what authority are we obligated to acknowledge said standard? And if subjective, who then determines when, if, or how this standard of worth changes and to what degree?

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!” – Psalm 8:3-5 (NASB)

As mantras go, “blacklivesmatter” might make for a good hashtag on social media, but there is more to it than that.

Much more.

For to declare that a thing “matters” – whether it be a human life or a set of collection of antique jewelry – is to ascribe to that thing a degree of significance or worth that is grounded in a preconceived idea of what it means for something to “matter”.

“Man is an exception, whatever else he is. If he is not the image of God, then he is a disease of the dust.” – G.K. Chesterton

Ask anyone you know if a certain person or thing is of any importance to them and not only will you receive a definitive answer but, more than likely, they will give you the reason why as well (whether the answer is yes or no).

And it is the why of this proposition that “black lives matter” that no one seems to be talking about.

I live in a suburb of Atlanta where it is not unusual to see deer roaming about this time of year. Mornings are dark longer now, so I’m more alert than usual when driving into work, as deer have a tendency to dart into the road as if out of nowhere.

Every now and then, not often, I’ll notice a deer carcass lying on the side of the road. In that moment, I may spend a second or two in compassionate contemplation about the events that ultimately led to the animal’s demise.

Questions such as: How was it killed? Did it endure much suffering before it died? What was it doing so close to the road in the first place?

You know, thoughts like that.

But what I do not spend time contemplating is whether I should pull my car over to see if the deer can be revived by performing CPR. I do not think to dial 911 to request an ambulance so that the remnants of the deer can be transported to the county morgue and autopsied. Nor do I bother to contact the animal’s next of kin so that funeral arrangements can be made.

No, the most attention that poor deer will get from me is a passing glance as I continue on my way into the office.

Why?

It’s simple, really.

The deer didn’t “matter” to me.

Not because it wasn’t my deer, mind you, but because it was a deer.

Now, before you go reporting me to PETA or accusing me of being some insensitive, animal-hating conservative nut job, please understand that the previous illustration is neither to suggest, infer, nor imply that animals do not matter.

They do.

In fact, you may be surprised to learn just how much Scripture has to say about how we are to treat animals as the creations of God they are.

For example:

“Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest…” – Exodus 23:12a (NASB)

There are other texts that come to mind as well (Deuteronomy 25:4; Proverbs 12:10; Luke 12:6).

But though it is true that animals are created by God, they are not created in the image of God (imago Dei). Among the myriad creations formed by the hand of God, only human beings can lay claim to this unique distinction (Genesis 1:27).

Which brings us back to the original question, doesn’t it?

“If we ever deny our unique status in creation as God’s only image-bearers, we will soon begin to depreciate the value of human life, will tend to see humans as merely a higher form of animal, and will begin to treat others as such. We will also lose much of our sense of meaning in life.” – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, p. 450

You see, the truth, when all is said and done, is that you cannot arbitrarily assert that black lives matter without also offering an apologetic as to why. For to declare, as if in a vacuum, that black lives have significance is of no real profit unless the argument is posited within the context of objective truth.

Otherwise, the discourse is reduced to nothing more than subjective opinions and ad hominem conjecture, the result of which is tantamount to running on a philosophical treadmill as the dialogue becomes so circular and unproductive, that it just goes on and on and on getting no one anywhere.

“Christianity is a philosophy – though not a rationalistic one because we have not worked it out beginning from ourselves. Rather, God has told us the answers. In this sense it is the true philosophy, for it gives right answers to man’s philosophic and intellectual questions.” – Francis Schaeffer (as cited in Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, pp. 241-242)

Any conversation about the value of human life, whether it be with regard to social injustice, abortion, or child slavery, must start with God and with His objective construct of why human life matters.

That the issue of the significance of human life is deemed by many to be worthy of protest in its various and sundry forms, is only because God, who is the Author of all life, has attributed significance to it.

“Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.” – Psalm 100:3a (NASB)

It is the same today as it was thousands of years ago, when God declared holy the ground on which Moses stood as he encountered the glory of God at the burning bush (Exodus 3:5).

Only God could declare sacred and hallowed [קֹדֶשׁ] something as useless and expendable as the dirt that Moses’ worn out sandals had come in contact with in that one extraordinary moment.

Conclusion

Human life matters because, in our humanity, we bear the image of the One who gives life to each of us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

That we, as human beings, are of a particular race, ethnicity, or nationality is of no significance given that even those aspects of our earthly existence are sovereignly ordained by God, so neither you nor I have anything to boast of in ourselves (Acts 17:26).

Not our race.

Not our ethnicity.

Not our individual socio-cultural experiences.

Nothing.

“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – Galatians 6:14 (NASB)

The question of why black lives matter is indivisible from the annunciation that black lives matter.

It is an attestation that demands an apologetic because, at its core, it is an existential inquiry that invariably points us to God and to His righteous standard of how mankind should relate both to Himself and to one another (Exodus 20:1-17; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 5:38-48John 13:34-35).

With this in mind, as followers of the God of all life, we must be prepared to respond to subjective philosophical hashtags with the objective biblical hermeneutic that mankind is not, as Chesterton stated, merely a “disease of the dust”.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell