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1 Peter and Christian Mistreatment

Radically Christian: How Christians Respond to Mistreatment: What I Noticed When I Read 1 Peter

The vast majority of this book deals with how Christians should respond when they suffer mistreatment. Modern readers, especially those in the United States, seem to have a very difficult time taking these commands seriously. We try to insert our own caveats, creating excuses for why we shouldn’t have to obey the instructions Peter gives to his audience.

There are no caveats. There is no nuance. No matter what sort of mistreatment a Christian is suffering, Peter tells them to respond the way Jesus responded, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” That is the simple and undeniable message of 1 Peter, do not respond in kind to those who revile and mistreat you.

But it even goes beyond just not retaliating. Peter writes, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Peter tells his audience to “bless” (speak and do good to) those who do evil to them. Why should we be surprised 1 Peter is a book about doing good to persecutors and not responding violently to those who mistreat us? The entire New Testament preaches this message without fail.

This is the message of the cross. This is how Christians are to join with Jesus in overcoming evil: when we are mistreated we bless those who do evil to us, hate us, revile us, and even kill us. I admit, this isn’t very American. It certainly isn’t John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. It’s Jesus. This is what it looks like to follow Jesus.

Fasting Out Loud

Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts: We’re Fasting Today

Today we’re having a time of prayer and fasting as a congregation.

Gasp! He broke the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule about fasting!

Isn’t it about time we got over that? Yes, Jesus said not to tell anyone when you are fasting. He also, in the same chapter and the same context, told us to only pray in a closet. Ever seen that commandment violated? To be honest, I’ve rarely seen that one followed!

Have you ever let your left hand know what your right hand was doing when you were giving? Did that invalidate your generosity?

If we don’t talk about fasting (in the right way), we’ll never learn about fasting. And to be honest, we’ll rarely practice fasting.

Observing Religious Holidays

Radically Christian: Is It Wrong to Celebrate Religious Days Like Christmas and Easter?

I have to admit, Brother McAdams has changed my mind on a couple of things with this article. It’s well worth a read.

Some might say, “But aren’t we supposed to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every Sunday and not just one Sunday a year?” I would agree with that. I believe we have rightly inferred from Scripture and history that early Christians met on Sundays because Jesus was raised on Sunday. However, an annual celebration of Jesus’ resurrection no more negates the weekly celebration any more than a wedding anniversary negates a husband telling his wife, “I love you” daily. They are not mutually exclusive. You can celebrate the resurrection of Jesus weekly AND you can celebrate the resurrection annually.

Others may quote Paul’s words from Galatians 4:10-11, “You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” However, Paul is not arguing it is inherently wrong for someone to observe special days any more than he is arguing it is inherently wrong for a male to be circumcised. He was admonishing the Galatians because they were being convinced that keeping the Law of Moses (including feast days, kosher diet, and circumcision) was necessary to be part of God’s covenant people. If someone tries to convince you that you must observe Passover or Sabbath in order to be right with God, they are violating this passage.

Discernment & Hope

Borrowed Light: What if The Foundation of Discernment is Hope and Not Suspicion?

This post really has me thinking.

I’m talking about foundations here. Starting points. I’m convinced that we’ve gotten this wrong and because of it the gift of discernment has now become synonymous with the “gift” of being a jerk. True discernment will spot error. And it’ll call error out. But that’s not the intention of the search.

Think of it this way. Hope-fueled discernment is like a guy with a metal detector out in a field because he has heard reports of a buried treasure. He’s profoundly hopeful. Not skeptical. He wants to find the treasure. And so he keeps digging. All those places where he checked and didn’t find the treasure he is going to call them out. He’ll put flags there so people know treasure isn’t to be found here. Each “miss” is marked with sorrow but tinged with hope. So he keeps on swinging that detector in the hopes of finding treasure.

That’s quite different than the guy who has heard a report of a treasure in a field but he wants to prove all the idiots wrong.

Who We Are Instead

Wineskins: Who We Are Instead

Let us remember that the Church is the alternative to all the political divisiveness and partisan politics.  It is above the fray of mudslinging.  Christ gives His Church a distinct role to shine our light and point to Jesus.  The Church speaks to earthly powers, not for them.  We speak for God.  God’s power and God’s Word are the final authority and therefore, are superior to anything or anyone.

Instead, may we remember who we are instead:  Christians.  We are the bedraggled underdogs of the world in which God has given the Kingdom to.  We are ambassadors of a higher ethic, an alternative one. When we stoop down to nationalism and partisan politics, we divide Christ. Scripture is clear on this:  dividing the Body is a sin. We can do better. We can dialogue better.  We can love one another, even if we disagree. We must.  For if we do not, it is my fear, that we will continue to speed toward irrelevancy in an already doubting culture. Even worse, my fear is that we will repeat atrocities of the past.

Link: Many Churchgoers Want Sunday Morning Segregated

Link: Many Churchgoers Want Sunday Morning Segregated … by Politics

More than half (57%) of Protestant churchgoers under 50 say they prefer to go to church with people who share their political views. And few adult Protestant churchgoers say they attend services with people of a different political persuasion.
Those are among the findings in a new report on churchgoing and politics from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
“Like many places in America, churches are divided by politics,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “And churchgoers under 50 seem to want it that way.”

Bob Smietana for Christianity Today

While the findings are less dire than the headline leads you to believe, I can personally attest to feeling unwelcome in a congregation because of politics. The ironic part is that my main efforts concentrate on removing politics from influencing our Christian walks, but to those heavily invested in worldly politics, their removal feels like a political agenda in and of itself.

I can’t help but think of the challenges faced in the church in Corinth as outlined in 1 Corinthians 1:11–13:

For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by members of Chloe’s household, that there is rivalry among you. What I am saying is this: Each of you says, “I’m with Paul,” or “I’m with Apollos,” or “I’m with Cephas,” or “I’m with Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was it Paul who was crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul’s name?

Paul says the only name that matters is Christ’s. We should not align ourselves with other factions or individuals that threaten to overtake our hearts. If we create divisions among ourselves over politics, then we’re not better than the church in Corinth. (Granted, we should be honest about when political voices draw us away from Christ in action or in attitude.)

Fortunately, we have the same remedy today: love. Our Christian love should overcome all secular differences. It should erase divisions, but this requires self-sacrifice. I need to be willing to sacrifice voicing my opinion on secular topics. I need to be willing to accept that someone can feel differently than me without vilifying them. I need to focus on our common faith above all so that no worldly matters may divide us.

Link: The Manger and the Inn

The Presbyterian Outlook: The Manger and the Inn: A Middle Eastern View of the Birth Story of Jesus

Is the entire village of Bethlehem so hardhearted that no home is open to a woman about to give birth? Indeed, the “late-night arrival myth” slurs all the inhabitants of Bethlehem, not just the mythological innkeeper! In short, our Western tradition has, across the years, invented details that do not fit our Middle Eastern world as a real story about real people in a real village.

Some interpreters in the modern period consider the entire collection of birth stories as a free intervention by Luke or his sources with little if any history at its core. But, as noted, the material is Palestinian in character. Therefore, Middle Eastern culture must be the starting point of the interpreter, history or no history.

Would it not be unacceptable in any culture for a man with a pregnant wife to reject the hospitality of his wife’s family and opt for a stable as a delivery room? So how are the particularities of the text to be understood?

•••

In his ministry, we know of Jesus that “the common people heard him gladly.” That same simple welcome is reflected in Bethlehem in the story of his birth.

If the story is seen in this light, the “mean old innkeeper” evaporates, along with his non-existent inn. “No room at the inn” will no longer be adequate for the Christmas sermon. The cold, drafty stable becomes a warm, cozy peasant home which the shepherds find fully adequate, for they go home praising God for all that they had heard and seen (2:20). If they had found the family in a stable, they would have taken them at once to their own homes!

So the inn and the innkeeper evaporate. Yet much is gained. The Incarnation itself becomes more authentic — Jesus was born in and into a simple peasant home as any other village boy. The shepherds, outcasts from their society, were given a sign indicating this simplicity. They thereby discover that this Messiah comes welcoming the poor and the marginalized.

This article contains some interesting information worthy of our consideration when we study the birth of Christ. Understanding Biblical accounts in the context of the time and culture in which they transpired is critical to our being able to apply these accounts to our own spiritual lives.

Link: When White Nationalist Christians Redefined Their Neighbors

Sojourners: When White Nationalist Christians Redefined Their Neighbors

What stands out about Kittel’s speech is his attempt to embrace Nazi politics while rising above what he believes to be exaggerated rhetoric. He dismisses the possibility of systemic violence against Jews. Instead, Kittel argues for an ethical white Christian nationalism in which Jews assume a guest-status and German Christians pursue an ethno-national ideal that he believes is sanctioned by God.

Lately, I have been asking myself the following question: How can sincere Christians embrace white nationalism? My question stems less from surprise and more from a desire to understand the mechanics. In church circles and in seminary, I heard about Barth, Bonhoeffer, and those who resisted. But I rarely heard about the majority of white Christians who supported a demagogue whose rhetoric had violent consequences.

•••

For these nationalist Christians, preserving and purifying German culture was about protecting God’s creation of distinct cultural boundaries. They believed that Christians were to help others, but not in such a way that diminished what they deemed to be the cultural integrity of their particular nation. As Hossenfelder put it, “We are conscious of Christian duty toward and love for the helpless, but we also demand that the people be protected from those who are inept and inferior.”

The rhetoric German Christian nationalists used to describe Jews and outsiders oscillated. For example, a group of pastors in the town of Oberhausen wrote: “Are we then rejecting the transnational mission of Christianity? Not at all. We respect the religious and ecclesiastical individuality of other nations, but we believe that German Christianity is the religion that is ideally suited for Germans.” In some instances, it sounds as though there is room for all cultures to be respected as long as certain boundaries are not trespassed. Nevertheless, the same group of pastors say, “The Jews are the elements of decay in our Volk, therefore we stand against them in an uncompromising struggle. The Jews are our misfortune.”

It’s a white nationalist sleight of hand. The logic goes something like this: “We’re not against other cultures. We’re against other cultures invading and mixing with our culture. So, we need to protect our culture which is great [and superior to other cultures].”

The number of times we read about God wanting His people to look kindly upon the suffering, the sojourner, the marginalized is almost innumerable. In both testaments, God wants us to show mercy to others the way He shows mercy to us — without thought or recompense, without asking whether or not they “deserve” help, without reservation. When we see people hurting and in need, no matter the number, our response should reflect hearts softened by God’s mercy, not hearts hardened by fear.

Link: An American Missionary in Honduras.

America Magazine: I was an American missionary in Honduras. I witnessed firsthand the violence they endure.

Yet violence does not issue warnings, and it will not take into consideration sincerely held beliefs. I had just returned from teaching my English class for the day when I learned that one of our volunteers and our executive director, who was visiting from the States, had been attacked on the beach next to our property. Maybe 200 yards from the house, our sanctuary, they had been held with machetes to their necks, and the volunteer, one of my best friends, was raped. “We know where you are from,” their attackers had said when they let them go. “Tell anyone and we come back and kill you and all the children.”

After going to the hospital and giving her testimony to the police, my beloved friend spent the night surrounded by the rest of us on the floor, several of us with machetes by our sides and all of us unable to sleep. In the morning, she was evacuated out of the country, and the rest of us were offered the option by our board of directors to leave as well. Suddenly the cursed choice to flee this country that so many of our Honduran neighbors had been forced to make became my own. The men responsible had still not been caught, and our already limited community of volunteers was quickly dwindling as many admitted they no longer felt safe enough to continue working. The next day the rest of us left as well.

•••

The weapons that plague their streets came from us. The corruption that infests their governments is a direct result of the coups and instability our country has consistently directed or condoned for over a century. Before Banana Republic was a chic clothing store, it was a dismissive term for a country made entirely dependent on a more powerful economy outside its borders. It was merely an updated version of colonialism, and the original victim was Honduras.

Poverty and violence, the causes of these caravans, are diseases we infected these countries with. Getting mad at the migrants is like the conquistadors and white frontiersmen wondering why the Native Americans they found were always getting so sick.

Those of us who live north of the Mexican border have to learn just how intertwined our lands are and why our neighbors to the south still hear gunshots at night. I have fled from one side to the other myself and watched in vain as those I care about try to follow. But being born in paradise is no reason to condemn those still stuck in hell.

The number of times we read about God wanting His people to look kindly upon the suffering, the sojourner, the marginalized is almost innumerable. In both testaments, God wants us to show mercy to others the way He shows mercy to us — without thought or recompense, without asking whether or not they “deserve” help, without reservation. When we see people hurting and in need, no matter the number, our response should reflect hearts softened by God’s mercy, not hearts hardened by fear.

Link: Judgment Days

The Washington Post: Judgment Days

She was 67, a Sunday school teacher who said this was the only way to understand how Christians like her supported Trump.

“Obama was acting at the behest of the Islāmic nation,” she began one afternoon when she was getting her nails done with her friend Linda. She was referring to allegations that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, not a Christian — allegations that are false. “He carried a Koran and it was not for literary purposes. If you look at it, the number of Christians is decreasing, the number of Muslims has grown. We allowed them to come in.”

“Obama woke a sleeping nation,” said Linda.

“He woke a sleeping Christian nation,” Sheila corrected.

Linda nodded. It wasn’t just Muslims that posed a threat, she said, but all kinds of immigrants coming into the country.

“Unpapered people,” Sheila said, adding that she had seen them in the county emergency room and they got treated before her. “And then the Americans are not served.”

Love thy neighbor, she said, meant “love thy American neighbor.”

Welcome the stranger, she said, meant the “legal immigrant stranger.”

“The Bible says, ‘If you do this to the least of these, you do it to me,’ ” Sheila said, quoting Jesus. “But the least of these are Americans, not the ones crossing the border.”

•••

[The preacher] was at the end of his sermon. If he was going to say anything about Trump, or presidents, or politicians, or how having a Christian character was important for the leader of the United States, now was the time. His Bible was open. He was preaching without notes.

He looked out at all the faces of people who felt threatened and despised in a changing America, who thought Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were sent by Satan to destroy them, and that Donald Trump was sent by God to protect them, and who could always count on Clay Crum to remind them of what they all believed to be the true meaning of Jesus Christ — that he died to forgive all of their sins, to save them from death and secure their salvation in a place that was 15,000 miles wide, full of gardens, appliances, and a floor of stars.

Not now, he decided. Not yet. He closed his Bible. He had one last thing to say to them before the sermon was over.

There are a number of understandable and problematic quotes and attitudes throughout this article. What really sticks out to me is how we can so easily let lies and fears direct our actions. Thinking that President Obama or Secretary Clinton have been sent to destroy Christianity is irrational — especially when one of them grew up in the Methodist church and the other was baptized at a congregation bearing the name Church of Christ. It’s irrational to think President Trump is any more pleasing to God just because he panders to Christian uncertainty while continuing to conduct himself in such an ungodly way.

But even if all these things were true — even if President Obama was a Muslim, even if Secretary Clinton wanted to destroy Christians, even if there were some vast conspiracy against us — the last thing we should do is compromise with sin for a sense of security and safety. The last thing we should do is retaliate. The last thing we should do is embrace hate and discrimination. Those are in direct opposition with the message and example of Christ and His apostles.

When fear, hatred, and self-preservation motivate our actions, we’re on the wrong side of the Bible.