Archive for 2009

War and Peace- Christian Perspectives

"War is one of the constants of history, and has not diminished with civilization or democracy.  In the last 3,421 years of recorded history, only 268 have seen no war."  -Will and Ariel Durant in The Lessons of History (1968)

 

In our Stellar Bible Study this fall, we took an extended look at Christian Perspectives on War and Peace. There have been differing views in the history of the Church when it comes to war and peace. Here is a quick overview. 

 

The predominant view of the early church was pacifism; i.e., Christians were not permitted to wage war or even serve in the Roman army. Early Christian leaders argued that the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount (e.g., "love your enemies"; "turn the other cheek") and Christ's own example ("When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate." 1 Peter 2:23a) prohibited Christians from bearing arms.  In addition, because Roman soldiers had to swear allegiance to Caesar, to worship Roman gods, and to engage in cruel acts such as crucifixion, Christians were admonished not to serve in the military. Today, Mennonites, Quakers, and the Amish still embrace pacifism.

 

A turning point in the history of the Christian faith occurred in the 4th century A. D. when Constantine became the first Roman emperor to endorse Christianity. Given this seismic change in the Roman government, church leader St. Augustine taught that Christians could engage in a "just war". He developed a number of specific criteria for determining when it was permissible to go to war. For example, the war must be waged for defensive purposes, not for revenge, greed, or power. The war must be a last resort. It must be authorized by the duly constituted public authority. The war must also be waged "justly". For example, unnecessary killing should be avoided. Civilians, wounded soldiers and prisoners must be protected and treated humanely. Just war theory is the predominant view among Catholics and Protestants today.

 

In A.D.1095, Pope Urban II authorized the first of approximately nine Crusades-"holy wars"-to retake Jerusalem and oust the Muslims. Acts of mass slaughter occurred during the Crusades. The first Crusaders, upon re-taking Jerusalem, killed virtually every Jew and Muslim, including women and children, in the city. Such actions were clearly inconsistent with the idea of waging war justly. In our Stellar Study, we concluded, as have most Christians today, that "holy war"-a religiously motivated war to eliminate mass groups of people, including non-combatants-is entirely inconsistent with the teachings of Christ and the New Testament.

 

In recent years, just peacemaking has gained traction as a focus for Christians.  Instead of asking should we fight or not, we should first ask how we can foster peace. To be sure, peacemaking efforts may fail, and one may then have to determine whether to fight or not, but, as Christians, we should first be peacemakers. Thus, in the schematic (left), all Christians should be within the boundaries of the triangle. Some Christians may lean toward pacifism, others toward just war theory, but all of us should be near the top of the triangle seeking to promote peace. 

 

As Christians, our views regarding war and peace should first be shaped by our relationship with and supreme allegiance to the Prince of Peace. We should never glorify war, even a just one. Instead, we should remember that His blessing is upon the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). So let us pray for, work for, and long for the day when the nations will beat their swords into ploughshares and will train for war no more. (Isaiah 2:4). May it be so-soon.

 

 

 David Rogers

 

Published on December 18, 2009 at 3:59 pm | | 0 Comments

New humanity

 

New Humanity

Here there is no Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.   -Apostle Paul, Colossians 3:11

 

It was true in Paul's day. It is true today. Differences can so quickly become divisions, even in the body of Christ. Those differences can be national or racial-Jew or Gentile.  They can be unimportant religious differences-circumcised or uncircumcised. Cultural differences can divide-barbarians, who could not speak the Greek language, and Scythians, a particularly uncultured group from what is now southern Russia, exemplified cultural differences in the early church. Then there are socioeconomic differences-slave or free. In today's context, Paul might have written, "Here there is no American or Chinese, black or white, Baptist or Methodist, educated or uneducated, rich or poor..."

As Paul wrote to believers in Colossae, he urged them to set their hearts and minds on heavenly things (Col. 3:1-2). They were not to view life from an earthly perspective for, as believers, "Christ is all and is in all." In other words, Christians have a double unity that transcends all earthly differences. There is a horizontal unity for the Spirit of Christ is now "in all" believers, binding them together. Believers also have a vertical unity, for Christ is "all". Christ is the living Lord, seated at the right hand of the Father, to whom believers have pledged their ultimate loyalty. This loyalty transcends all earthly differences and shapes everything that we are and do. Jesus is the centerpiece of our lives. As Mother Teresa said, "Jesus is everything."

In this passage, Paul is contending, I submit, that there is a new humanity, a new ethnic group called Christians-bound together not by race or national identity or socioeconomic status, but by Christ.  

As a follower of Christ who views life through a heavenly lens, how should I primarily identify myself?  For example, what is my true nationality? Not American or Mexican or Chinese, but Christian. My race? Not white or black, but Christian. My primary religious identity? Not Baptist or Methodist, but Christian. My political party? Not Republican or Democrat or Independent, but the Jesus party. My occupation? Not a plumber or a teacher, but a disciple who serves Christ. My home? Not South Carolina, but heaven.

You see, the Apostle Paul did not ultimately sacrifice his life for a nation or a particular racial group or a denomination or a political party or an economic system. He gave his life in the service of Him whose name is above every name-the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the world looks at us, whose flag do they see us flying at the top of our flagpole? If it is not the flag of Christ, then it is time for some rearranging. Until that rearranging occurs, the body of Christ will never be what Christ intended it to be. This lesson is important for Christians in America, particularly for those of us who live in the South.

So let us always remember: "To live is Christ." Everything else, yes everything else, is secondary.

-David <><

 

Published on October 12, 2009 at 9:41 am | | 0 Comments


Genuine Faith

Joshua's Way is in its 10th year of existence. When we were just beginning this ministry, a leader of another non-profit organization with whom I consulted advised that JW could not be both a teaching ministry and a mercy ministry.  He believed that the demands and requirements would be too great to do both. In some respects he was right. It is indeed challenging to structure a ministry "to teach and to do".  On the other hand, what good is teaching if we ignore the repeated admonitions of Scripture to put our faith into action and, in particular, to help the  needy among us? Here are just a few samples:

  • If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:17
  • Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58:6-7
  • The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Proverbs 29:7
  • He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. Proverbs 19:17
  • Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. Ezekiel 16:49

Then consider the compelling words of Christ in Matthew 25:31-46. His teaching here ought to make us both tremble at our lack of concern for the needy and, at the same time, motivate us to action. For you see, Jesus reminds us that, when He  returns, there will be an unerring separation of all humanity. Some will be sheep who inherit eternal life. Others will be goats who do not. The sheep are those who responded in  this life to the needy around them-for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat;...I was in prison and you came to Me. The goats are those who failed to respond. 

Now, remember, we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone. But if our faith is genuine, if indeed Christ is our Lord, our actions (including how we treat the poor around us)  will show it.  See Matthew 7:21 and James 2:17.   

Am I a sheep or a goat?  Am I helping the needy or not?  How we answer is important-now and forevermore. 

-David <><

 

Published on August 5, 2009 at 2:37 pm | | 0 Comments

No vile thing

"I will walk in my house with blameless heart.  I will set before my eyes no vile thing."  --King David (Psalms 101:2b-3a)

 

Our homes should be havens from the world's influence.  Nothing that enters our homes--TV, internet, CD's, DVD's, books, magazines, conversations--should be vile in God's eyes.  Nothing that enters our homes should entice our hearts or minds to be anything but blameless before God.  To this end, we should carefully screen and, if need be, eliminate harmful influences.  Such an approach in this world will be viewed by many as unrealistic, backwards, reactionary, foolish.  But our preeminent concern is not what the world thinks.  Our concern is what our holy God--who sees and knows all--thinks.

houses and one with lights

Published on July 13, 2009 at 2:29 pm | | 0 Comments

Our stories


Our stories really only make sense when they are connected to the Grand Story--to God's Story.  The bits and pieces of our stories can seem frantic, disjointed, even meaningless when disconnected from the Grand Story.   But when our own individual threads are sewn into the Grand Story, they make a beautiful tapestry--dark threads and all.  We must learn to see our individual stories through His eyes.

Our story blog weaving

Published on June 1, 2009 at 10:58 am | | 0 Comments

 

Early morning in Pawe

 

First Light Ethiopia

It was quiet. The sun had not yet risen. I climbed from my bed, dressed quickly, and then walked out into the hospital compound. Only Mulu, our cook, was already up and at work, preparing breakfast that was yet a few hours from being served. I walked slowly down the dirt road through the hospital grounds, enjoying the cool breeze, the early stirrings of the small birds, and the remote solitude. 

As I exited the hospital gate, I emerged into the small, rural village of Pawe, Ethiopia, located in the Benishangul-Gumuz region-the western part of the country bordering Sudan. A few early morning residents were walking along the dirt road. Several looked inquisitively and nodded politely.  They were not used to seeing a white man in their village. A few children called out, "Ferenj"-foreigner--to which I replied with a nod and a "dehna nachu?"-how are you?

As I walked, I prayed for Pawe-the people, the work JW is doing there, and for change in this place where there is so much darkness-literally and figuratively. 

Literally, during the 3 days that we were in Pawe, we had no power, except for 1-2 hours each day when the hospital generator was turned on. We ate by candlelight each evening. We showered and prepared for bed using our flashlights. Figuratively, there is also much darkness in Pawe. One of every 5 children dies before the age of 5. There is no ready source of pure drinking water. The hospital does not have enough equipment or supplies. Nursing students in the nearby nursing school have no textbooks. There is much spiritual darkness as well. 

Among the four, small evangelical churches in Pawe, there are no pastors. Elders provide oversight at each church, but there is not a shepherd for each flock.

The challenges are so great in Pawe that they can overwhelm, causing one to  wonder if our feeble efforts can really make any difference.

It was at that moment, as I was thinking these thoughts, that the early rays of dawn began to filter through the trees, invading the dark spaces around the mud huts, sending streaks of light down the dirt roads.  Within minutes, the darkness was gone. The light had come. 

As the light surrounded me, I was reminded that the Light of Christ has already come into the world. The darkness has been defeated. There is no place on earth where the darkness is so dark that it cannot be overcome with the Light of Christ.  

As I turned to go back to the hospital compound, I prayed that the Light would overcome the darkness of Pawe and that I would be a faithful bearer of that Light.  -David


I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness-  Jesus

Sunrise Ethiopia

 

 

Published on April 20, 2009 at 6:19 pm | | 0 Comments

 

The Disciple's Way

The way to live and believe in 2009

I vow to live a life of love and holiness for God's glory and the advancement of His kingdom.

I pledge to live in obedience to God's holy Word, the Bible.

I know that there is only one true God who exists eternally in three persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and will live each day conscious of His faithful presence. 

I thank God the Father for sending His Son to save me from my sins.

I commit my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, God's only Son, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  I know that He suffered for me during the reign of Pontius Pilate, that He was crucified, died, and was then buried.  On the third day, He miraculously rose from the dead, conquering death.  He ascended into heaven and sits at the Father's right hand.  He will one day come to judge the living and the dead.

I am filled with the Holy Spirit who regenerated me and enabled me to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith.  In the Spirit's power, I serve Christ.

I know that all who follow Christ as Lord and seek to advance His kingdom are my brothers and sisters.

I believe that all human beings are sinners by nature and by choice.  By faith alone in the Lord Christ alone are people saved from their sins and inherit eternal life.  All true believers in the Lord shall live forever in God's glorious presence.  Those who die apart from Christ shall be forever separated from Him.

I thank God that I will one day be resurrected from the dead with a body that is spiritual, glorious, powerful, and imperishable.

Hallelujah!

 

 

Published on January 2, 2009 at 3:58 pm | | 0 Comments

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