Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas: God with Us

Warren Carter says the Gospel of Matthew was written to people on the margins. These were Jewish and Gentiles believers who were members of house churches in Antioch, Syria around 80/90 AD. After the destruction of the Temple and burning of Jerusalem, these believers faced estrangement and even persecution. Matthew's Gospel is a pastoral letter intended to encourage them in the faith. It opens with Jesus being called Immanuel, i.e. "God is with us." It closes with Jesus saying, "I am with you always." What comfort to know that when forsaken by friends and family, Jesus is with us!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a holiday that predates the founding of the United States. The Pilgrims gave thanks to God for surviving their first year in the new world. Thereafter, the settlers gave thanks yearly for a good harvest. It became more politicized in 1863, when President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day in an effort to promote unity between the northern and southern states. It became a federal holiday in 1941 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. People celebrate Thanksgiving today for various reasons. More often than not, it is viewed as a day to eat heartily, watch the Macy’s Day parade and/or innumerable football games, recognize the start of Christmas shopping season, and thank God for our nation. So, its meaning has changed over the years.

During New Testament times thanksgiving (small “s”) was an anti-imperial practice that recognized God, not Rome, as the source of supply. In a very real sense, prayer is a subversive action and a threat to every totalitarian government that seeks to control the lives of their citizens.

Christians worldwide should adopt Jesus’ prayer as our model: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, they kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread . . . .”

When Nations go to War

The church of Jesus Christ is larger than any one nation. It's members live in every country of the world and are called upon to represent the kingdom of God to those nations. Like an embassy that supports only the agenda of its homeland, so the church supports God's agenda alone and not a nationalistic agenda of the country where it is located.

When nations wreck havoc and engage in mass destruction, such actions serve the purposes of Satan, the god of this world.

Therefore, when one nation declares war against another nation, the church cannot support that action. Nor should it encourage its members to fight in the war, since that would involve Christians from one nation killing Christians from the opposing nation. The church must not place loyalty to a nation above loyalty to the kingdom of God.

What should the church do? First, call upon its governmental leaders to seek non-violent solutions. Second, if war is declared, it must state publicly and unequivocally that it opposes the war. Third, it should weep for the victims of war and minister to them and their families. Fourth, it should preach the gospel of the kingdom and call the nation to repent and submit to Jesus as Lord.

The church must demonstrate what it is like to live under the reign of God. In presenting an alternative path to peace, the church reflects in part what the rule of God will look like when the kingdom arrives in it's fulness.

When the church embraces the ethics of a nation, it loses it's prophetic voice and it's identity as an embassy of the kingdom within that nation. It becomes just another organization that supports nationalistic causes, rather than a vehicle that calls people to align with the kingdom of God.