Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Of statues and kneeling...

The following is taken from a sermon I preached a few Wednesday nights ago to our church.  At the encouragement of some of our church members who found it helpful I have decided to post it to my blog.  I tried to edit it down while still including the Scripture references in full for ease of study.  Comments (even disagreeing ones) are welcome, but keep them civil, Biblical, and clean or they will be removed.

Much has been made in the news media of late concerning the Confederate statues in Dallas.  If you watch the news to see the protests and demonstrations it is clear that opinions run hot on both sides of the issue.  Being Christians doesn’t exempt us from having opinions and feelings on these things as well.  Obviously we are not OF the world in this or any other sense but we are IN the world.

In truth, the Christian opinion ought to be able to be the one that is readily sought by reasonable people BECAUSE it should always be the one that can be counted on to be founded upon and informed by rightly
interpreted Scripture.   Because we still battle our sinful flesh this is not always the case of course, but all things being perfect that is how it SHOULD be. But things aren’t that way and so we must endeavor to hold a Christian view on these matters and many many others.

I do not intend to tell you to be in favor of the statue removal any more than I intend to make a case for leaving them in place.  I do want you to help you separate yourself from either side of the history and instead look at the over-arching issue Biblically. 

Is there any problem inherently with these statues being in place?  Are they offensive?  Is their removal an attempt to re-write history?  I would say every one of those questions can be answered with a yes and a no depending on who you talk to about it.  Let’s get above the ground on the issue for a minute... try to see the forest in spite of the trees so to speak... What are some questions the Christian should ask themselves as they pray and study and come to a conclusion on this or any other issue in this world?

I’m going to suggest 3 and frankly, these can be used to help you make all sorts of decisions about everything from statues, to kneeling during anthems, to where you live, what car you drive, what job you chase after, etc...

1.) Does whatever view I choose help me glorify God and make Christ known?

1 Corinthians 10:31 - [31] So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (ESV)

I think that has to be the starting question... I think it simply must be the starting point for the Christian on making any decision.  I don’t care if it is deciding how you feel about this or whom to vote for or what food to order at dinner tomorrow night...   Does it help me glorify God or not?  This has to be where the Christian starts because, as Paul says Galatians 6, our boast is Christ.  So in whatever we are doing we want to highlight the superiority and excellencies and majesty of Christ! 
I cannot begin my reasoning based on my experiences... my experiences aren’t invalid and irrelevant, but they cannot be the starting point or driving force behind my worldview on ANY issue... why is that?

Jeremiah 17:9 - [9] The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (ESV)

Proverbs 3:5-8 - [5] Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. [6] In all your ways acknowledge him,...

Look at the blessed result we find when we do this...

...and he will make straight your paths. [7] Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. [8] It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (ESV)

I can’t begin with or let my experiences drive my views BECAUSE my experiences are driven by my memories... I’ll give you a silly example... I won’t eat at Chipotle... why?  Because I once ate at one and I bit into a piece of chicken that was cold and still raw on the inside, as a result I was very sick for a day or so.  Now, my experience with that gives me a terrible feeling when I think of eating there again... I can’t do it.  I understand that that is a silly and trite example but that principle carries over into other more weighty matters too doesn’t it?

Doesn’t Matthew 6 point me to that same conclusion?  Matthew 6:33 - [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)

That’s a DIFFERENT question than, ‘how do I FEEL about it?’  Not seek first how I feel about something and decide based on that criterion. If you start with your emotions on the subject you are in severe danger of making an unbiblical choice.  I may feel a certain way about many things, but in Christ my emotions and my mind are to be in subjection to the Spirit’s guidance.  That’s the way that Christians are brought together in one accord concerning these things.  That’s how we are lead to know how to truly love one another... we submit to the same Holy Spirit.  He’s doing the same basic work of sanctification in all of us.

2.) How does my view help/hinder me from sharing the Gospel?

Paul said, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 - [19] For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. [20] To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. [21] To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. [22] To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. [23] I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (ESV)

What did Paul mean by that?  To win Jews did he affirm ceremonial sacrifice as a propitiatory practice?  No.  He certainly confronted error and those who sought to distort the Gospel.  But He approached his ministry from the standpoint of what would help him best lost his fellow man. How could he best show them Christ?  Put yourself in proximity of a statue real quick.  You are a person who thinks they should be torn down.  They’re offensive... they are symbols of racism... the whole deal... you think they need to go.  So you go to exercise your 1st amendment rights and protest them... peacefully... the violent on both sides are an obviously sinful issue.  But you are doing it peacefully... just expressing your view... and once the rally concludes you are headed to your car and you strike up a conversation with someone who disagrees with you but they were there and they saw your behavior on display or your viewpoint on display... how will sharing the Gospel with them be affected by what you did there? That’s what Paul has in mind... in things that don’t pertain to Gospel clarity I am to put others first so that I gain an audience with that person to hopefully win them to Christ... do you see?  So if I go to Japan... and I am in a community that says... you need to wear this certain type of robe or it is culturally offensive to the people... well I’m not bound by any world law to do it... but if I am bound to the law of love as a Christian and I desire to win them... I’ll put on the robe. The flip side of that... you’re there demonstrating because you want the statues left alone... and you behave peacefully... when you leave... how will the view you hold affect witnessing to the lost person who disagrees?

You may be inclined to say, ‘well my view there shouldn’t bother them... that’s not about the Gospel...’ maybe it shouldn’t... but that isn’t the question we should ask... the question we ask is... is my particular view on this social issue a hill worth killing my witness to the lost in the other camp on?  Is it worth it to die, metaphorically, for this issue if it means my Christian witness will be damaged elsewhere. “Well that group doesn’t understand!” that’s a possibility... but that still isn’t your starting point as a Christian... How can I put myself last and others first? How can I model Christ to the lost?  No lost person is going to come to you and ask for the reason for the hope that lies within you because you demonstrated for or against a statue... but they just might if you responded to that and other issues in accordance with the love Christ has shown you.

3.) How does my conduct affect the “weaker brother” from Romans 14?

Let’s think about this... there are Christians lining up on both sides of the issue.   For whichever opinion on the issue is wrong... ok... whichever one is the wrong view... and I know a Christian who holds that wrong view... how can I reach them and love them as my “weaker brother,” as Romans 14 talks about, how can I reason with them and bring them to both affirm whatever is right and more importantly how can I help them grow in Christ?

In 1520 Martin Luther wrote a treatise called "The Freedom of the Christian." He began it with this paradox: A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

Then he explained:

“These two theses seem to contradict each other . . . [But] both are Paul's own statements, who says in 1 Corinthians 9:19, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all," and in Romans 13:8, "Owe no one anything, except to love one another." Love, by its very nature, is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved.”

Galatians 5:13, "You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."

Use your liberty to love by serving. That's what Paul says he is doing here in verse 19: "Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave [or servant] to all." That's what Paul—and Jesus—mean by love.  Is it sinful to want the statues down?  Maybe, but not necessarily...  Is it sinful to want them to stay up?  Maybe, it could be, but not necessarily.

In your Christian freedom, but for love's sake, you try to overcome unnecessary, alienating differences that cut you off from unbelievers.  All the while you keep a vigilant watch over your heart to see if you are in the law of Christ.  Christ died to set us free. Free from the wrath of God, and free from the loveless limits of the law. Free for love and eternal life.  Are we using our freedom to make this good news plain? Or are we so culturally minded or are we so worldly that unbelievers don't know we have something radically different to offer than anything this world offers?  O may the Lord grant us to use our freedom to become the servants of all, that we might by all means save some! Examine yourself to see whether you are becoming more like Christ in your worldview or more like the world...

I’m not telling you to feel any certain way on this issue... you want the statues left alone?  Fine, make that case from Scriptural reasoning.  You want them removed?  Fine, make that case from scriptural reasoning. If you can’t do that, you need to take a long hard look at what you believe and why?

Personally, if it means giving me an avenue in to reach a lost person, I say take them down and quick!  At some point, the Christian has to decide that they are Christian first and that loving others is what God has called us to do.  In the eternal scheme of things, is a statue argument worth it?  In my estimation, I would say emphatically no.

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