November 16, 2017
Today on the blog: gun battles, spiritual battles, and how a pastor reacts when someone claims he’s fighting a spiritual battle that’s actually just a battle of ego. Should be lots of fun…
This week’s hot take: human beings are desperately sinful.
A couple of weeks ago at Parkland I talked about the fact that there’s a spiritual battle raging all around us—one that’s been raging since the beginning of time, and one that will continue to rage until the moment Jesus returns.
And sometimes I wish it weren’t so easy to find examples of what that battle looks like.
Two weeks ago, a gunman opened fire in a church in Texas, killing 26, the youngest only five years old. And on Tuesday, a man in northern California went on a killing spree in which he attempted to gain access to the elementary school. Four people were killed, which is a miracle in itself, and all but two of the victims (killed and wounded) were chosen at random.
Meanwhile, allegations continue to pour in detailing stories of sexual harassment and assault. Major Hollywood stars, politicians, restaurant owners, journalists, and many others are talking about the terrible ways that they’ve been taken advantage of, mostly as young and naïve kids afraid of a far more powerful abuser.
I understand that our perception of the state of society is heavily influenced by the decisions made in the media with respect to coverage, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s time to move into that bunker you have stocked with canned goods and the Left Behind books. I don’t think things are getting worse, or are as bad as they’ve ever been, or anything like that, because human sin has always been terrible.
But I have to tell you, dear reader, that every time I’m confronted with human sin, my resolve to be a man of God’s kingdom is increased. There is one solution to the problem of human sin, and that is the good news of the gospel of Jesus.
And then someone comes along and makes the good news sound like it’s part of the problem.
This week, Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore was accused of some pretty heinous sexual misconduct that I won’t describe here. Instead of being willing to engage the accusations, Moore is turning this whole thing into an us-versus-them fight about the attack on Christian values and principles.
Here’s what Moore tweeted in a series of four tweets: “We are in the midst of a spiritual battle with those who want to silence our message. The forces of evil will lie, cheat, steal—even inflict physical harm—if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me. I believe you and I have a duty to stand up and fight back against the forces of evil waging an all-out war on our conservative values! Our nation is at a crossroads right now—both spiritually and politically. Our children and grandchildren’s futures are on the line. So rest assured—I will NEVER GIVE UP the fight!”
It gets worse.
In an interview last week, one Alabama state official said, “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became the parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a bit unusual.”
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to push an otherwise reasonable pastor to the point where he’s considering taking a trip to Alabama with a braided whip, there’s your answer. That or just finding the biggest Bible I can and hitting people over the head in Jesus’ name. I can’t really decide between the two.
I know, I know: that’s not helpful. But thanks for letting me get it out of my system. The question that I’m trying to get my head around is what my response should be, and you might be wondering the same thing.
That’s where smarter people than me need to be brought into the debate. Ed Stetzer, for instance. If you’re not familiar with him, take a moment to look at his blog on Christianity Today, because it’s worth a read.
Stetzer summed up my feelings nicely: “A lot of people are wondering, ‘What do these crazy Christians believe?’ and [the state official’s comments] just fed into a narrative. Somebody’s just gotta say, ‘This is not what we believe.’”
Very well, I accept.
THIS IS NOT WHAT WE BELIEVE.
To be clear, Jesus doesn’t need us to act as his PR team. But when the credibility of the gospel message is coming under attack, it’s time to stop trying to be nice to our alleged brothers and sisters and realize that sometimes the spiritual battle comes from what you think is the inside of the camp.
Any narrative that attempts to make human beings the centre of the story—whether that’s through the cult-leader type who runs roughshod over his followers or a claim that an attack on a person’s ego is some kind of spiritual warfare—is unbiblical.
Even if this story was completely fabricated (and, for the record, I don’t believe it is), turning it into an attack on Christianity itself is hyperbolic. I think it’s maybe a good idea to talk to people who experience actual persecution for their faith in places like Pakistan, Sudan, and China before putting one’s martyr hat on.
No matter how hard Satan tries, he will not destroy the church, period. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. The victory over sin has been fought and won, and our Saviour will have the last word.
Roy Moore isn’t the hero of the story. “Conservative Christian values” aren’t the hero of the story. You’re not the hero of the story. I’m not the hero of the story.
Jesus is the hero of the story.
Our job, at least as far as I see it, isn’t to fight against the people who are misusing the gospel. Our job is to present the true gospel as often as we can to as many people as we can. And in a strange way, the misuse of the gospel gives us exactly that opportunity.
Truth will prevail. Let’s present it with confidence and assurance, knowing that we serve the risen King.
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