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

A Biblical Theology of the Black-White “Wealth Gap”

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Much is being said today about the so-called wealth gap that purportedly exists among black households and white households in America.

I say purportedly not to deny that such a divide exists – it does – but to highlight that the very term wealth gap is inherently misleading, as it assumes that such imparity is innately unfair – if not immoral – and, as such, should be redressed under the nirvanic pursuit of “income equality”.

The publication The Economist defines income equality as:

the ratio of the share of national income going to the richest 20 percent of households in a country to the share of the poorest 20 percent.

When speaking of the wealth gap strictly in terms of numbers the data are indisputable.

But therein lies the rub.

A study on income inequality conducted by Pew Research found that:

From 2010 to 2013, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households increased from $138,600 to $141,900, or by 2.4%. Meanwhile, the median wealth of non-Hispanic black households fell 33.7%, from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013. 

On the surface, these numbers appear to paint a rather disadvantageous and inequitable picture in and of themselves. Nevertheless, in today’s politically-correct, hyper-sensitive society, context is more important now than ever.

This is especially true considering that the default milieu in which matters of wealth acquisition and distribution are debated – in terms of race as opposed to socio-economic class – is that any “gaps” that do exist are solely the result of institutional and structural injustices committed by white people against black people.

Notwithstanding the above-referenced data from Pew, the truth is the black-white wealth gap should not be viewed strictly in terms of dollars and cents.

True, there are any number of quantifiable reasons for why such disparities exist, but that they exist does not suffice as a sufficient argument that they should not exist.

In other words, that there is disparity does not necessarily mean there is inequality.

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There is a fundamental problem with using “inequality” to describe the income disparity between black and white households.

The word inequality intrinsically conveys that the wealth “gap” is a problem to be remedied simply because there is a gap, and that the acquisition of wealth is the only solution to mitigate that disparity under the subjective premise that income inequality is patently “unfair”.

But to assert that income inequality is somehow unfair is to place oneself in the throes of a philosophical dilemma. For to argue that anything is “unfair” is, by definition, to introduce into the conversation the question of morality.

Consequently, one is forced to consider by what or whose standard of morality should income inequality be deemed unfair. Hence, what began as a circular discourse rooted in subjectivity and ambiguity has morphed into a theological exercise on the level of untying the Gordian Knot.

“When people look at questions of income and the disparity, they’re not looking for causes. They’re looking for blame. And those are not the same things.” – Thomas Sowell, from an interview with World magazine, 12/30/2014

A highly popular television sitcom The Jeffersons ran on the CBS network for 11 seasons (from 1975 to 1985).

The Jeffersons followed the lives of George and Louise Jefferson, an African-American couple who relocated from the poverty of Queens, NY to Manhattan, as a result of the success of George’s dry-cleaning business chain.

The theme song from The Jeffersons was titled Movin’ On Up, the lyrics of which celebrate the fact that the rambunctious George, and his beloved wife Louise, had finally achieved their dream.

In other words, they had conquered the wealth gap.

Well,, we’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta’ tryin’
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby
There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Well, we’re movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

“The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all.” – Proverbs 22:2 (NASB)

Please understand that I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with an individual endeavoring to achieve the “American Dream” and acquiring their own “piece of the pie”.

But when those pursuits are engaged in solely under the pretense of “income inequality”, a philosophy predicated on pitting the haves of the world against the have-nots, then perhaps the time has come for a re-evaluation of motives (James 4:1-3).

“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.” – Proverbs 23:4 (NASB)

A major fallacy of the black-white wealth gap is it assumes a cause (e.g. systemic racism) without regard to other factors that might contribute to it.

A case in point is a report published by Demos, progressive public policy organization, which found that:

  • 42 percent of African Americans report using their credit cards for basic living expenses like rent, mortgage payments, groceries, utilities, or insurance because they do not have enough money in their checking or savings accounts.
  • African Americans carry an average credit card balance of $5,784.
  • Just 66% of African American households report having a credit score of 620 or above, compared to 85 percent of white households.  
  • 50 percent of indebted African American households who incurred expenses related to sending a child to college report that it contributed to their current credit card debt.
  • 71 percent of African American middle-income households had been called by bill collectors as a result of their debt, compared to 50 percent of white middle-income households.

What no one is talking about concerning the black-white wealth divide is the role human behavior plays in helping facilitate that gap.

It is a universal truth that when, in our self-centered efforts to “move on up” in life, we choose to violate the principles of God’s Word, we should expect certain outcomes as a result.

Scripture is clear on matters of:

This is not to suggest or infer that the black-white wealth gap is attributable solely to a collective disregard for biblical principles on the part of black Americans.

Not at all.

I am not naive to the reality that not all black Americans – nor Americans in general – are believers in Jesus Christ and submit their lives to the spiritual disciplines set forth in His Word.

To be sure, not even we who are believers in consistently abide by His precepts (Luke 6:46).

Nevertheless, the reality is personal responsibility is a major factor in the black-white wealth gap being what it is. It would be disingenuous, to say the least, to suggest that socio-economic factors alone (e.g. unemployment, racism) are at fault in creating this imbalance.

“The measure of our success cannot be defined by what we accomplish here on earth; it has already been defined by the fact that we are in Christ.” – Dr. Ian Duguid, from the January 2017 issue of TableTalk Magazine, p.13

It may not be politically correct to say this, but the truth is not everyone is destined to achieve the American Dream.

The sovereignty of God is such that, ultimately, it is He who determines to what degree we experience success in this world, whether material or otherwise (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 20:4; 118:23-25;  Deuteronomy 8:18; Romans 9:14-16). With this (God’s sovereignty) in mind, as followers of Christ, contentment should be our goal not closing the wealth gap (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

This is not to suggest that one should not aspire to improve their socio-economic station, but that they should do so with the larger picture in mind – eternity.

For, indeed, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, and forfeit their soul (Mark 8:36)?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit:
huffingtonpost.com

Related:
Thomas Sowell on the Root Causes of Income Equality – World

The ‘Hidden’ Theology of ‘Hidden Figures’


“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.” – Psalm 115:1 (NASB)

The critically-acclaimed 20th Century Fox film Hidden Figures tells the story of the gifted mathematician Katherine Johnson who, along with Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, played key roles (to say the least) in NASA‘s endeavor to launch astronaut John Glenn into space.

As someone who has had an interest in history since my earliest childhood, I can appreciate the significance of films like Hidden Figures in that they help to educate and inform us about aspects of American history that were previously unknown (or little known) to the masses.

A case in point is yours truly, who readily admits to having absolutely no idea who Katherine Johnson was prior seeing the movie trailer for Hidden Figures while watching television one weekend afternoon.

And though I now count myself among the millions of Americans who, by virtue of the Hidden Figures film, have come to greatly admire Katherine Johnson for her invaluable contributions – to America and the world – particularly considering the degree of racial and gender animus she was required to endure, my esteem for her, and her colleagues, is not based solely in the fact that they accomplished what they did as women who are black.

Having said that, I am not at all naive to the likelihood that the ethnicity of these women served as a primary impetus for why the film Hidden Figures was made or the book written.

Given the cultural and societal implications of what these women accomplished in the Jim Crow 1960s, when racial segregation was openly practiced at workplaces like NASA, it is both logical and natural that ethnicity and gender would be considerations when reflecting on what is unarguably an incredibly unique story.

NASA’s own website provides a glimpse into the kind of work environment the women of Hidden Figures would have encountered:

The first African-American “computers” did the same work as their white counterparts, but in a period when segregation was policy across the South and in the U.S. armed services, they also encountered segregated dining and bathroom facilities, along with barriers to other professional jobs. One woman, for example, recounted being hired to work in the chemistry division, but ended up reassigned to the West Computers because African-Americans were not employed for her original position. Computing sections became more integrated after the first several years. Katherine Johnson, who joined the West Computers in 1953, only spent a few weeks there. Then assigned to work with Henry Pearson in the Flight Research Division, Johnson went on to join the Space Task Force in 1958 where she calculated trajectories for Alan Shepherd and John Glenn’s space flights. 

So, yes, I fully comprehend the racial, social, and cultural ramifications of what Johnson, Vaughn, and Jackson accomplished.

I get that.

In fact, I have no doubt that the film Hidden Figures will serve – and is already serving – to encourage and inspire many young people, regardless of ethnicity or gender, to pursue their own dreams of a STEM-related career (perhaps even at NASA).

But to whatever extent the film Hidden Figures may serve as a catalyst for such admirable pursuits – be it to one person or one million – the impetus for such desires should not be that these gifted individuals are black and female.

As laudable as their accomplishments are, what Mss. Johnson, Vaughn, and Jackson achieved should resonate with us not as beacons to highlight what those who are of a particular ethnicity or gender are capable of in and of themselves, but to shine a light upon a sovereign God who created us with the unique biological and physical attributes we each possess and, likewise, endows us with the various talents and gifts we employ in our daily lives (James 1:17).

“God is actively involved in bringing about the worldly success of His people and leveraging that success for His purposes.” – Nate Shurden, “Worldly Success”, as published in the January 2017 issue of TableTalk Magazine, p. 7

In titling this blog post The ‘Hidden’ Theology of Hidden Figures, I am in no way suggesting that there exists an underlying Davinci Code-type message to be deciphered by watching the film, but to proffer that our accomplishments in this life, however significant or insignificant, should point us always to God and never to ourselves.

Notwithstanding the well-intentioned and much-appreciated objective of films like Hidden Figures in raising our awareness of the achievements of women like Katherine Johnson – if for no other reason than that her accomplishments are so incredibly unique – the greater story is of the God who created Katherine Johnson to possess her unique talents, and who foreordained that she would employ them in making the monumental impact on the world that she did.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me, you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

As we appreciate women like Katherine Johnson, and the encumbrances she, and others along with her, were forced to endure and overcome, namely racism and sexism, obstacles that are inherently anathema to the biblical doctrine of imago Dei, we must not lose sight of the fact that the discernible characteristics that make us who we are as human beings – such as ethnicity, sex, gifts, and talents – are determined and imparted by a sovereign God for the purpose of bringing glory to Himself (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23-24).

It is not that Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson accomplished what they did as black women “computers” at NASA that makes Hidden Figures story so noteworthy, but that God, who created them black and female (Acts 17:26) chose, in His sovereign grace, to imbue them with the requisite talents and gifts which He, in His divine omniscience, knew they each would need for such a time as theirs.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credits:
pressenza.com
spaceflightinsider.com
kuow.org

Socialized Medicine and the Sovereignty of God


I recently came across the story of Anita and Wolf Gottschalk, an elderly Canadian couple who are being forced to live in separate care facilities due to a backlog in the Canada healthcare system.

The Gottschalks, who are in their 80s, have been married 62 years.

The situation in which the Gottschalks find themselves is regrettable to say the least.

After more than six decades of marriage, that this couple should have to live even one day of what remains of their earthly lives under such circumstances, is a devastating commentary on what can happen when government gets involved in the business of providing healthcare services, particularly to those who are the most vulnerable among us.

But that is what socialized medicine does.

It decimates people’s lives by putting them at the mercy of subjective decisions made by government bureaucrats; men and women who have no vested interest in the individuals being adversely impacted by their decisions. And yet government-sponsored “universal healthcare” is exactly what many in the United States want for themselves.

Or so they think.

The American equivalent of the Canada Health Act, the law that governs health insurance programs in Canada, is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (more commonly referred to as Obamacare).

I distinctly recall President Barack Obama commenting on the glorious benefits of government-sponsored universal healthcare. It was during a speech in Strongsville, Ohio in 2010, that the President boastfully declared:

…for Americans who get their insurance through the workplace…a lot of those folks…your employer, it’s estimated, will see premiums fall by as much as 3,000 percent, which means they can give you a raise.

Needless to say, such lofty prognostications have yet to come to fruition – and most likely never will.

Why?

Because that’s not how socialized medicine is designed to work.

The irony of so-called “universal” healthcare is that it is the nature for anything based in socialism to benefit only the privileged few, not the disadvantaged many.

History is replete with examples of this.

But we are still beguiled by this other fairy tale: that a large group of liberal-minded reformers, not pretending to be a class, not seizing the power but creeping into it, not smashing the state but bending it to their will, can take charge of the economy and approximate a free and equal society. – Max Eastman, Reflections on the Failures of Socialism, as published by The Mises Institute, March 1955

As insurance premiums continue to skyrocket – the exact opposite of what President Obama promised would happen – individual choice continues to decline as more insurance providers make the business decision to withdraw from the unprofitable program.

Playing on the fears of people being unable to financially withstand a worst-case healthcare scenario, Obamacare was peddled to America’s citizens under the guise that it could do what only God alone can: keep us and our loved ones ones healthy and alive.

See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. – Deuteronomy 32:39 (NASB)

It has been six years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law; and many Americans are just now beginning to realize it is not the panacea it was made out to be.

The only reward most Obamacare enrollees have to show for their misplaced hopes is higher premiums and deductibles, less freedom of choice, and – Surprise! – a Form 1095-A from their friendly IRS informing them of the ‘shared responsibility’ payment they now owe.

Sadly, evangelical Christians are as much to blame as anyone that Obamacare is now the law of the land, having bought into the fallacy that it is the role of government to ensure that all of our needs, and even most of our wants, are met. But nowhere in the Scriptures does God transfer the responsibility of caring for one another from the Church to the State (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Leviticus 19:33-34; James 1:27).

Christians must be discerning enough to understand that the State always takes more than it gives – always.

That the State gives anything to any of us is not because it is inherently benevolent, but because it is empowered to take by force from one individual to benefit another. There is nothing the State gives without demanding something of equal or greater sacrifice in return; and that something is usually to accede to it more of our individual freedoms.

Unfortunately, the Gottschalks are learning this the hard way (as will many Americans, I’m afraid).

As Christians we should never exchange our God-given freedoms for the mirage of government-sponsored security. We must remember that though government does exist “as a minister of God for our good” (Romans 13:4a), it is God alone who is sovereign over the affairs of our lives.

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. – Psalm 115:3 (NASB)

Though it may be the prudent thing to do for most of us, still the reality is having health insurance is not efficacious in extending our existence in this world.

That you have head-to-toe coverage with Aetna or Humana or Cigna, or any other insurer for that matter, is not what is keeping your heart beating as you read this blog post.

My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 64 as he was sitting on the toilet in the master bathroom of his home. My mother came home from work and found his lifeless body slumped over the bathtub.

My father had health insurance coverage.

My point is that even in matters of life and death, the trust we place in a promissory government must never exceed the confidence we place in a providential God (Psalm 146:3-4).

Never.

For it is the God who keeps His promises who also keeps you and me (Matthew 6:31-34).

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Reflections on the 4th of July From a Black Christian Conservative

https://i1.wp.com/www.famlii.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/African-American-Siblings-Hugging-at-fourth-of-july.jpgImage credit: famlii.com


“…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.”
Acts 17:26 (NASB)

I distinctly remember celebrating Independence Day as a young boy growing up in the Dixie Hills housing projects on the west side of Atlanta. For black families in the 1970s, especially children, the 4th of July was, in many ways, a lot like Christmas Day.

It was a celebration, not only of the birth of America as a nation but also of family, friends, and God, whom we always credited with providing us the opportunity to live in a free nation as the United States.

Poor But Proud

Despite the material poverty experienced by the majority of black families in the Dixie Hills community, and in others like it, we never lost sight of the significance of having the God-ordained privilege of living in a nation where people are free.

That our financial station in life was not on par with other families we knew, never negatively influenced or affected the high view of America that had been imparted to us by our parents (both of whom had only a high school education).

The elation of celebrating Independence Day was a constant reality for myself and my two siblings as my mom, whose birthday was also on the 4th of July, would accompany us on the Number 3 bus (we didn’t own a car) to the West End Mall where she would let us shop for new red-white-and-blue “patriotic” clothes to wear.

Poor as we were, to us Independence Day wasn’t just another “holiday” that afforded us a day out of school or that our parents didn’t have to work (though oftentimes they did). It was an occasion that everyone celebrated because we were Americans who were proud of America. Whatever apparel her few spare dollars could afford – be it a new t-shirt, a pair of jeans, a new pair of Converse®  sneakers (which we called “tennis shoes”) – my mother would buy for us.

And then there were the picnics at Washington Park.

Ribs, chicken, potato salad, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and all the Big-K (Kroger grocery store brand) soda you could consume. Not to mention the requisite Soul Train line dance that would ultimately – and hilariously – break out after everyone had had their fill of food.

Indeed, the 4th of July truly was a celebration for most black families. The level of excitement my brother, sister, and I had at celebrating the 4th of July was as high as that of any child on Christmas Eve night.

But, as I said, that was then.

The Inevitable Assertion

These days it seems there is hardly anything of any redemptive value about America.

It is as if all anyone wants to do is complain about what it is like to live here. Depending on who you ask, everything about America wreaks of racism – and any other “ism” you might care to invent.

Think about it.

In 2016 America, it is now considered “racist” to:

  • fly the American flag anywhere
  • be supportive of the military
  • cite or recite the United States Constitution
  • quote any of the Founding Fathers (because “they were all slaveholders”)
  • claim to be a Christian or even go to church
  • pray at any public school event
  • recite the Pledge of Allegiance

All of the above are things I was not only encouraged to do as a child, but was expected to do as a citizen of this country.

Undoubtedly, there will be those who will read this post who, as opposed to taking the time to digest my comments in context, will instead choose to resort to such knee-jerk responses as, “But racism still exists!” (as if I don’t already know that.)

Though this commentary is not about whether or not racism exists in America (or anywhere else), my response to that is, of course racism exists in America – Duh?! – and in every other nation on the face of the globe. During my lifetime, I probably have read more on the subject of slavery, particularly in America, than on any other subject with the exception of biblical theology.

Why?

Because there is a direct relationship between the enslavement of one person who is created in the image of God by another person who likewise is created in the image of God, and our innate condition as sinful human beings.

Racism exists because racism is sin; and since all people are sinners (Genesis 8:21; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23), it stands to reason that all racists are sinners (though not all sinners are racist).

It is time we realize that racism will continue to be a reality in America, and the world, as long as sin continues to be a reality in the hearts of people like you and me. In that regard, America is no different than any other nation on earth, because every nation is populated by sinners.

Why so many today want to isolate America as if it were an exclusively racist nation is beyond me. Take a census of any nation’s population and that is exactly the number of sinners it has.

The only remedy for racism in America – or in any nation for that matter – is the gospel of Jesus Christ. For only the gospel, working through the power of the Spirit of God, can transform the sinful hearts of those who inhabit it (Exodus 22:21; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 1:16: 1 John 3:16-17; 1 John 4:7; 20).

Tell Them I’m Not Home

America has a tarnished history. Absolutely, it does. You will get no argument from me there.

Then, again, tarnishing things is what sinners do.

Because sinners are themselves tarnished (Ephesians 2:1-3).

As Christians who live in America, we must be ever-mindful that our identity is found only in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27-28) and that America is not our home.

With this reality in mind, any displays of “patriotism”, for lack of a better word, must be offset by the understanding that our true home is in heaven, the only place where perfect justice and righteousness dwells.

“And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of the Lord has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” – Revelation 21:23-27 (NASB)

That said, notwithstanding its history of slavery, and other abuses of humanity that have occurred and that continue to occur (e.g. abortion), I consider myself blessed by God to live in this nation.

As imperfect as America is, and imperfect as it undoubtedly will remain, to have been born and raised in this nation, despite the material possessions my family never had or the opportunities with which we were never presented, is nothing short of an act of grace on the part of a sovereign God who, in His wisdom and omniscience, could have chosen otherwise for me.

I am thankful He did not (Acts 17:26).

Examine Yourself

If I had to do it all over again, there is nothing about my experience as a black American that I would change.

Not one thing.

As a Christian, I realize that I am expected to live in this nation as an alien and a stranger. As such, I fully understand and accept that this country owes me nothing. Nothing at all. Likewise, I have no such expectations of it.

Contrary to what the media often depicts, I am not some angry black man looking for evidence of racism wherever I can find it, just so I can use it against this nation for my own personal benefit.

It stands to reason that situations of injustice, unfairness, and inequality will occur in a world and nation that continues to experience the devastating effects of the fall of mankind into sin (Genesis 3). Even so, there are many more instances in this nation in which justice, fairness, and equality win out.

“Be glad that you are free. Free to change your mind. Free to go most anywhere, anytime. Be glad that your are free. There’s many a man who’s not. Be glad for what you have, baby, what you got.” – Prince, Free, from the album 1999.

So, yes, I will continue to fly my American flag, support our nation’s military, study the Constitution, quote the Founding Fathers, boldly declare that I am Christian, attend church on a regular basis, pray openly and audibly at public school events, and proudly recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

All of this with the full understanding that I am looking forward to a far better country than this one (Hebrews 11:16), where I will be free to celebrate my “independence” from sin and enjoy forever the bountiful wonders of eternal life that have been graciously afforded me by the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 5:6-8).

Heaven can be your home, too, if you know Christ as your Savior and Lord (1 John 5:11-12).

Do you?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Darrell

Related:

Should Christians Be Patriotic? – Interview with John Piper (Desiring God)
The Home of the Brave – Jon Bloom (Desiring God)
Citizens of Heaven – Keith Mathison (Ligonier Ministries)
Thoughts on Christian Patriotism – Reformation 21
What Is True Liberty? – Gene Edward Veith (Ligonier Ministries)
Be Thankful For America, But Do Not Rest Your Hope In Her – Fred Greco

Why American Christianity Needs to Die

Image credit: daveburchett.com


The Obama administration has issued what amounts to a dictatorial fiat, mandating that all public schools allow transgendered students access to the bathroom that aligns with their chosen gender identity. It is just the latest in a series of policies advanced by President Obama that are deliberately designed to deconstruct biological, physiological, familial, and societal boundaries that date back millennia.

This is all being done, of course, under the guise of “non-discrimination”, a rationale which, theoretically, could lead to the sanctioning of almost every kind of behavior imaginable. When it is deemed legally permissible to merely pick and choose one’s gender, on what basis then could an individual be denied any “identity election” they might arbitrarily choose for themselves? This new edict from the Obama administration opens the door to any number of nonsensical possibilities. It is the classic Pandora’s Box scenario.

Think about it.

If the only thing a transgendered person need do is “identify” as, that is, simply declare themselves to be male or female, then, what prohibits me, for example, from “identifying” as a car or a tree or a peregrine falcon, and subsequently staking claim to all the benefits and privileges associated with such a declaration? To deny me these “rights” is to place yourself in the precarious position of having to make a case for why I am in fact not the thing which I profess to be. The only way you could possibly succeed at such an endeavor, is by leveraging objective truth as the basis of your argument for why I am not a car, a tree, or a peregrine falcon. And the only objective truth that exists in this world is that which is found in the Word of God (John 17:17).

To refute this is to paint yourself into an ideological corner.

Try as you might, you cannot deny the utter absurdity of the aforementioned examples. And why are they so absurd? Because, in our heart we know that God created us male and female (Genesis 1:27), and that He has imparted to each of us an innate awareness of the truth of that reality. Sure, we can pass laws that say otherwise, as if a piece of paper signed by the President of the United States could somehow carry more weight than the empirical biological and scientific evidence staring us right in the face. But man-made laws do nothing to alter the immutable truths spoken to us by God in His Word (Psalm 119:89).

“I note that some whom I greatly love and esteem, who are, in my judgment, among the very choicest of God’s people, nevertheless, travel most of the way to heaven by night.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

And where is the church in all this? It is a legitimate question. After all, we Christians are as much to blame as anyone that we are even talking about this issue of transgendered bathrooms in public schools. It is the church that helped elect Barack Obama to the White House – twice – but who willingly ignored his egregiously unbiblical worldview, having been allured by the empty promises of government perquisites like “free” healthcare. It is the church that continues to embrace the attractions of a sinful world, exchanging the truth about our God-ordained societal boundaries for a lie that for decades now has been incessantly perpetrated under the facade of “equality”.

Where is the church? Your guess is as good as mine. Probably curled up in a hole somewhere, waiting for God to “fix” all this with a series of lightning bolts from heaven. The reason we’re even talking about this matter of transgender bathrooms in public schools, is because the church in America is fat, lazy, apathetic, and all but dead. We are a Sunday-morning-only kind of church, cliquish in our interactions with the world around us, not wanting  to get our hands dirty with matters that presumably “don’t concern us”, content to remain ignorant of the fact that the gospel applies universally to every facet of our lives – including government (Romans 13:1-7).

The church in America is becoming increasingly selective about the things we profess to be righteously indignant.

Black Christians don’t see transgender bathrooms in public schools as a problem because it has nothing to do with their sacred cow of “social justice”. Conversely, white Christians are silent because it doesn’t involve people being forced onto their knees in chains along a coastline in the Middle East and beheaded for refusing to renounce their faith. So, what do we do? Nothing. That’s what. Absolutely nothing. Instead of being actively involved in shaping the cultural landscape in which we live, we repeatedly elect ungodly men and women to govern us, hoping that they will approve of those things which God has clearly forbidden, in a naively futile attempt to assuage our conscience of the guilt associated with the sinful acts in which we can now legally, if not biblically, indulge ourselves.

As a result, look at the mess we are in. But, then, we’ve always been in a mess, haven’t we? This is nothing new. It’s been this way since the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve decided to violate the boundaries that God, in His unmerited grace and mercy, lovingly established for their own good (Genesis 3:1-22). The church in America has become so arrogant that it has forgotten why and for whom it exists. It has developed the collective temerity to actually believe that its purpose in this world is to serve itself and its own selfish ends. As a result, the gospel has largely been rendered impotent toward impacting the world around us.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”Revelation 3:15-16

What is the church if not a body of convicted believers whose hearts have been genuinely transformed by the supernatural power of the gospel, to be a bastion of righteousness in a world where the pursuit of unrighteousness seems a daily enterprise?

The truth, however, is that to a very great extent Christians in America – believers like you and me – no longer believe the gospel. And because we no longer believe the gospel, we do not live the gospel. And because we do not live the gospel, we no longer see a need to preach the gospel. We do not preach the gospel because we no longer believe the gospel has the power to change lives (Romans 1:16). The effect of which, of course, is a society that continues to dictate to the church how it must function and operate as opposed to the other way around.

And the church today seems all too happy to acquiesce to these demands. It is this kind of spectator-only, watch-the-world-from-the-sidelines, all-I-do-is-pray-about-it type of Christianity that needs to die.

And the sooner it does the better.

“They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.”Ezekiel 33:31  (NASB)

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
What the Transgender Bathroom Debate Means for You – Russell Moore
Sexual Devolution – Albert Mohler (video)
It’s Not About Bathrooms, It’s About Christianity – The Liberty Conservative
The Transgender Straw The Broke the Camel’s Back: It’s Time to Declare Independence from Public Schools – National Review
How the Trans-Agenda Seeks to Redefine Everyone – The Federalist
Obama Doesn’t Care What You Think: Obey or You Will Be Punished – Christian Post
Obama Declares War on Parents who Oppose Sexual Perversion – Charisma

How Political Idolatry Distorts Our Spiritual Priorities

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 28:19 (NASB)

Image credit: pinterest.com


For many Christians, politics has a way of inverting the context (orthodoxy) and application (orthopraxy) of the words Christ spoke in Matthew 28:19.

As followers of Christ we are commanded to make disciples of all nations.

We are not commanded to make nations of those we disciple.

This is an important distinction to make.

The manner in which we understand and administer what is commonly referred to as the “Great Commission,” an admonition which the Church has traditionally applied exclusively in terms of its missiological efforts to take the gospel to some of the remotest parts of the globe, actually should influence how each of us operates every day right where we are.

Christ’s command to “make disciples” was never intended to be limited to taking the Gospel only to people who reside in “deepest, darkest Africa” (though we tend to view it only in that myopic context.)

The truth is it is an all-encompassing command that should influence every sphere of our earthly existence.

“Although all that God made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), it wasn’t complete. God delegated the development of his good creation to His image-bearers. This development includes not simply the earth itself, but also the vast array of cultural possibilities that God built into the natural order, including family, science, commerce, technology, government, and the arts.” – C.J. Mahaney, Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World

Scripture teaches that the concept of government originated with God (Romans 13:1-7.)

With this in mind, it stands to reason that the people of God should have a voice in how they are governed, and by whom. Nevertheless, the question remains: to what end and by what means should Christians undertake this endeavor?

The answer depends primarily on whether our view of the world is Christ-centered or not.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:1-3 (NASB)

We who profess the name of Jesus Christ are Kingdom-builders.

We are not nation-builders.

The difference, in my humble opinion, is that kingdom-builders view everything that relates to life in this world – everything – through the paradigm of eternity (1 John 2:17.)

Kingdom-builders understand that this “world system” – the ideals, philosophies, ethics, and principles that regulate the society in which we live – is merely temporal. They comprehend that to place any confidence in this system, or in the individuals who devise and implement its attributes, is to be spiritually near-sighted (Psalm 146:3.)

“It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not wish to govern their fellowmen.” – George MacDonald

Conversely, nation-builders view the systems of this world as a means to a more present-day end; a kind of heaven on earth, if you will, where goodness, fairness, and justice are universal practices.

Their political philosophy rests in the hope that by electing the “right” people to office (“right” being code for “Christians”), our nation will somehow experience a divine impartation of God’s favor and consequently, an age of healing of the ills that affect it.

Not that nation-builder Christians envision a perfect nation, mind you.

Just a more righteous one (Psalm 33:12.)

And though that may be an admirable pursuit, it is this “poli-theistic” (not ‘polytheistic’) mindset that leads many Christians to argue with and demean one another over which candidate is most qualified to bring this political mirage to fruition.

But this kind of thinking is not new.

There were those in Jesus’ day who held to a similar view, believing mistakenly that the mission and purpose of the long-awaited Messiah (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; 52:13-53:12) was to usher in a new earthly empire.

Which is to say – a political one.

“In his  [Jesus’] world, “kingdom” language was political. Jesus’ hearers knew about other kingdoms—the kingdom of Herod and the kingdom of Rome (as Rome referred to itself in eastern parts of “the empire.”) The kingdom of God had to be something different from those kingdoms.” – Marcus J. Borg, Jesus and Politics blog

Please do not misunderstand.

None of what I have opined thus far is meant to infer or imply that nation-building Christians are desirous of a theocratic America.

That is not at all what I am saying.

If the Gospel of Jesus Christ is unambiguous about anything, it is that neither personal (2 Corinthians 3:2-3) nor national (Ezekiel 11:19-20) righteousness is achieved by adopting or adhering to a fixed set of rules and laws.

“If Jesus’ disciples are those who have received the life and fellowship of the Kingdom, and if this life is in fact an anticipation of the eschatological Kingdom, then it follows that one of the main tasks of the Church is to display in this present evil age the life and fellowship of the Age to come. While the Church in this age will never attain perfection, it must nevertheless display the life of the perfect order, the eschatological Kingdom of God.” – George Ladd

The point I am making is that world systems, political or otherwise, will never be the means through which national righteousness is achieved.

In fact, I would argue such a thing should never be our goal.

And to whatever extent national righteousness is ever a pursuit, it is realized only by transforming hearts and minds not through political strategies and tactics.

“Jesus refused to have His disciples fight with swords and military power, because He was not attempting to establish an earthly kingdom like the Roman Empire or the various other nations in the history of the world. Earthly kingdoms are established by armies and military power, but Jesus’ kingdom would be established by the power of the Gospel changing people’s hearts, bringing people to trust in Him and obey Him.” – Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, p. 27

The current political climate in America is such that Christians seem to be placing more  faith in the erecting of a wall than in the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom (Matthew 6:21.) But no wall, regardless how high, wide, or long, can provide the eternal security that the shed blood of Christ offers to those who place their faith and trust in Him.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39 (NASB)

Christians should indeed be concerned about the character and integrity of the men and women we help elect to political office (Psalm 72:1-2; Proverbs 29:4.)

I say that as a Christian who is politically active.

Nevertheless, the fact is, elections are not salvific.

We must be mindful that any political or governmental structure that is composed of inherently sinful human beings will itself be inherently sinful (Ecclesiastes 5:8; Romans 3:23.) As such, our trust in these institutions and individuals must be guarded (Psalm 118:8-9.)

Christians are to be Kingdom-builders not nation-builders.

The goal is disciples not delegates.

For America, or any nation for that matter, to seek salvation in anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ is idolatry.

No politician or elected official, regardless how charismatic, can bring about the kind of righteousness we so desperately long for.

Only the Gospel can do that.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 3:20 (NASB)

Humbly in Christ and for His glory alone (Soli Deo Gloria),

Darrell

Related:

The Futility of Political Change – Grace to You