Faith, Love, and Culture – A Time to Reflect

Where is your heart on the following cultural items currently dividing our nation?

  • Abortion.
  • Gender identity
  • The LGBT agenda
  • Immigration and borders
  • Socialism v. Capitalism
  • Free Speech v. Political Correctness (1st Amendment)
  • President Trump’s impeachment
  • Marriage rights
  • Gun Rights (2nd Amendment)

Which of these items caused your heart to beat faster or a roll of your eyes? Which ones triggered compassion, mercy, peace, or forgiveness?  Which ones brought up anger and frustration? Or, did you simply not care about any of them?  Odds are that you had a physiological reaction one way or another to each one of these questions.

As you consider each question – can you think of any scriptures to support your perspective, opinion, or thoughts?  Do you look into your heart in search of the right direction, do you believe your scriptural support to be clear and concise for your positions on each question?  What do you believe to be God’s thoughts on them? Can you talk about each one of these with anyone – believer or non-believer – and maintain your composure in love and grace?

As we walk the journey towards protecting what each one of us believes is right and just for our national heritage as well as participating in the process of protecting our religious liberties, our path swaggers between our cultural and scriptural truths.   Not only do we have a treasure in Scripture, our Declaration of Independence and our US Constitution, our largest treasure exists within our heart. The result of our political, religious, and moral crises we face today, if you believe we have one, is that both the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake – no matter your political philosophy or biblical theology.

As we consider the ramifications and scale of this crisis, it is easy to blur the lines as we compromise our faith with societal pressures and cultural worldviews with our opinions and biases. This is a condition of where our heart gate meshes with our thought gate, or worse, where our thoughts blur the truth of our hearts. For example:

  1. We have Christians that refer to Democrats as “Demoncrats”.  When this happens, we are grouping ALL democrats together and this is neither fair nor Christ-like; creating an opportunity for offense and blocking an opportunity to share the Gospel. Conservatives were uncomfortable when they were referred to as “deplorables”.
  2. We have Christians who inherently interpret scripture to support an argument versus proper application of scripture towards “life”, which is not healthy. I am of the opinion that Dave Barton of Wallbuilders and Jim Denison of the Denison Forum are two wonderful examples of those who do a fantastic job of blending scripture with American history and current cultural issues. Proper blending of the gospel message with American culture is paramount and distinctive of The Gospel of Christ.
  3. Many Christians spread inaccurate propaganda, or fake news, across social media inciting others to move along their echo chamber or harming the testimonies of others.  It is bad enough that fake news of a non Christian flavor are doing this. 
  4. Christians prefer bumper sticker quotes to careful nuanced reading of the Bible. We hate complexity and prefer the easy-to-quote lines that work well for mugs, Facebook posts, and arguments.
 

Nonetheless, despite our duty to be Christ-like and loving, we should also remain guarded and never betray the truth itself by indulging in misguided beliefs as if they are true, just for the sake of pleasing other people. In 2 Cor Ch 6, Paul is telling us that Christians should not unite with non-Christians in any [spiritual enterprise or relationship] that would be harmful to our own Christian testimonies. Nor should we engage in any activity or learning that can compromise our faith or that of anyone else (this does not mean that we disengage from cultural discourse). It is not a matter of trying to remain pure, but when the Gospel  is rightly taught it has the power of the living God to save lives. If we allow and permit the truth to be distorted, we are then accomplices in leading people astray from the path of salvation. That’s why Paul gave the warning to Timothy that we see in 1 Tim 4:16 where he tells him to watch himself in his teachings, by doing so he will be saving both himself and his hearers a lot of problems.

John 15:12. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you

When discussing politics and culture, some may tend to present it differently than the Bible does, this is when Christians can run the danger of compromising their faith.  When this happens, the Holy Spirit will speak up and convict you, to which we should step back and review our actions, our words, and more importantly, our heart.  This is why scripture warns us to “guard our heart”.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil (Proverbs 4:23-27).

In the Old Testament the word “heart” is used more than 800 times, but more than 200 times it deals with one’s thought life, emotions, the wellsprings of life, those things that motivate and mold us (Proverbs 23:7). In a complex society increasingly skeptical about claims related to absolute truth and indisputable facts, it’s increasingly hard to use the Bible to support anything without coming across as biased and prejudiced.

Jesus came to save sinners—all kinds. As the church, this truth should define the way we interact with others that have opposing points of view as people, as we communicate to them: God loves us all. We should not let our politics define us. Instead, we should first communicate that “We love you”, and we want to talk with you with a spirit of grace.

Another risk is when Church followers argue with other Church followers of different faith traditions and all those who are on their own unique spiritual journey. The challenge of any discussion (or debate) about culture, even when Scripture is applied, or as a Christian, is the muddlement of fact interpretation.  We should never disparage the rights of anyone to openly discuss or debate issues. But, what we should do, before making an argument about anything, is ensure our comments and our facts are correct. Else, our credibility is shot (pun not intended) right from the start.

We can see an example of scripture selection and interpretation in Deut 23:1 and in Isaiah 56.

  1. Deut 23:1.  “No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.”
  2. In Isaiah 56, God welcomes eunuchs.
 

In Deut we read that an emasculated man cannot enter the assembly of the Lord while in Isaiah 56 we read that God welcomes eunuchs.  Which one is correct?  Both scriptures must be placed into context, to which I would encourage you to study both and draw your own conclusion. If we came together with our answers, most of us would not be surprised if we don’t have the same conclusions. Why? Because, as humans, we are operating under different theologies: truth theology (Word study and revelation knowledge) and testimony theology (life experiences, background, demographics). All theologies and doctrines are flawed to some degree due to our human nature, but that doesn’t change the truth that is within our hearts.

This impacts our interpretation of Scripture as it applies to whom we vote for, which policies we support, whether we are progressive or not, and how hard we will argue a point with others.  We are all reading the same bible and the same scripture we but still come to differing conclusions. Every Christian denomination, theological sect, and faith-based political platform asserts their ‘biblical’ status and this can be confusing.

Luke 6:27-28  But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

We may not all have the same answers to the questions Jesus asked and prompted, but they must be asked; and perhaps it is our conversation about them together that could help heal a broken nation. In another one of his letters, Paul talks about the pride that comes from religion and an obsession to be better than others as an example of idolatry, where we prioritize our desires over the Creator’s design (Galatians 4:8–9).

Paul’s concern for the Galatians was that before they knew God, they were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. “So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?

But if the term ‘biblical’ means justifying something based on verses and ideas that are found within the Bible, then almost everything can legitimately claim to be ‘Bible-based,’ because the Bible can be used to rationalize and support almost any idea or agenda. If you are looking for verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to liberate or honor women, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to wage war, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to promote peace, you will find them. If you are looking for an outdated, irrelevant ancient text, you will find it. If you are looking for truth, believe me, you will find it.

This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the Lord within Scripture is not what does it say? But what am I looking for? I suspect Jesus knew this when he said, “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the medication.

“What is the most Christlike way?” is a goal Christians should always be pursuing. The subtle difference from ‘biblical’ to ‘Christlike’ has radical connotations. Because instead of being centered upon the text, we’re now centering our faith on the person of Christ, which is what the Bible was intended for in the first place.

The semantics are important to understand because the different terms present two completely contrasting ideas. One is based on textual interpretations and opinions, while the other is founded upon the words and actions of the living savior of the world. If you’re a Christian, you should always err on the side of Jesus. But if we’re not careful, it’s easy to idolize the Bible while simultaneously ignoring the very message of Christ.

1 Peter 4:10. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

If our sinful nature had totally died upon regeneration, there would be no need for sanctification, because we would already have it.  This is why the secret of sanctification is to develop in our hearts a growing intensity of desire to please God, to be obedient to Christ. That’s why we are called to fill our minds with the Word of God that we may know more of the love of God, the majesty of God, and the excellence of Christ.
 

But no Christian in this world achieves 100% consistent desire to obey God only. There is a powerful desire left over from the fallen nature.  Romans Chapter 7 concludes with Paul’s acute awareness of the sinful side of his nature, which serves as strong evidence that he is saved, for the Holy Spirit operates in the believer to quicken his awareness of sin. When it comes to opinions about politics and culture, this can be a challenge. Perhaps this is why too many Christians have walked away from cultural debate. The good news is that we can learn.

There comes a time when it is appropriate to stop, rest, reflect, and ponder. You can meditate on what has been accomplished, what still requires doing, and, more importantly, spend some time in quiet, away from the noise. The pleadings of the Holy Spirit will tug at the heart strings if you are thinking incorrectly or improperly focused.
 

In the lead up to the 2020 election we’re being told that our primary choice is between different candidates and political parties. I believe the real choice is something deeper and more urgent. I believe the real choice is between the politics of Jesus and anti-Christ politics.

There seems to be a clear choice, a real and stark choice, going on in this country between the politics of Jesus and anti-Christ politics. I believe that the fear of the other, the hatred of the other, and violence against the other are the core of anti-Christ politics. And the love of the other, calling the other your neighbor, is at the heart of the politics of Jesus.

Jesus said eight different times, “Be not afraid …” Anti-Christ politics says, “Be afraid. I’m going to make you more afraid.” Jesus says that leadership is about service. Anti-Christ politics says it’s about wealth and power — it’s about winning and losing. Jesus says that we should not be lazy. Anti-Christ politics wants to take from those that work and redistribute to the lazy.  Jesus politics tells the church to take care of the sick. Anti-Christ politics says that healing is the responsibility of government. The Bible says we are all made in the image of God, but anti-Christ politics says, “No, some people are more valuable than other people.”

Jesus politics says that we, the people, need to be stewards of the resources He has given us. Anti-Christ politics says that the government knows more than us about our needs.  Jesus politics says to follow the Lord in all of our endeavors. Anti-Christ politics says that God is not necessary, man can take care of business. In Jesus politics, how we treat the “least of these” is the test of our politics.

1 Tim 5:8. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

 

Perhaps when we realize where our politics reside in our hearts, we’ll cease being a Pharisaic teacher of the law and we’ll become a gospel witness. We’ll start loving our neighbors as people made in the image of God and feeling compassion for them in their weakness. We will see in the face of every sinner a reflection of the corruption that afflicts our own hearts, the fruit of the rebellion we have participated in. Then we may see the truth of our culture and how only God can truly revive our nation. Utopia on earth is not possible until Jesus returns. Until then, we are in a spiritual war for our nation, the Leviathan of the Old Testament has reared his ugly head.

Mere political activism (as important as that is) won’t defeat our demons alone. The moral, religious, and political battles between our angels and our demons have become the “spiritual warfare” of our time, using the language of the Apostle Paul.

People often say they just believe the Bible and do what it says. This is never true! Everyone who reads the Bible makes priority decisions about which scripture to give more weight to. We make the judgement that certain verses, or certain voices within scripture, have higher authority than others. That is, if we rely on the Bible at all.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:10-14 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,”, it is very encouraging and empowering. It sounds like a down payment on all our hopes and dreams… unless we read the full context. Then we see that Paul is most likely saying that Christ can strengthen us to bear up under terrible, painful circumstances—like being imprisoned for your faith. That’s a great promise, but one not quite so many people hope to need.

Love one another, but let’s do it in truth. Let’s love each other enough that we are able to leave a legacy for our children that continues to allow them the freedom to choose, the freedom to speak, the freedom to defend themselves, and the freedom to live their worth. Most of all, let’s love our children enough to leave them with the freedom to worship and the freedom to praise God. That, my friends, is a faith worth fighting for.  If we are not careful, we will lose the “legal” right to do all things.

 

References:

https://marcalanschelske.com/use-the-bible-wrong/, accessed 25 Sep 2019

https://sojo.net/articles/not-everything-biblical-christlike, accessed 25 Sep 2019

https://sojo.net/articles/anti-christ-politics-vs-politics-jesus, accessed 25 Sep 2019

https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/daily-article/nfl-player-fined-for-wearing-man-of-god-headband-the-key-to-transformative-courage/, accessed 7 Oct 2019

https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/how-to-guard-your-heart.html, accessed 8 Oct 2019

http://www.crivoice.org/twotheology.html, accessed 8 Oct 2019