A Scathing, but Christlike, Rebuke

A bumper sticker asked the provocative question, “Who would Jesus bomb?” From his other ones this rhetorical question was supposed to evoke the thought, “If Jesus wouldn’t bomb anyone, why do we engage in war?”

But was this really a rhetorical question? What is the correct Christian response to a rooftop sniper? Certainly we should help the injured and comfort the grieving but, as the body count grows, it becomes clear that the Mother Teresa approach is not appropriate in all circumstances.

Rather than ask, “Who would Jesus bomb?” ask, “Who did Jesus bomb—who did he most tenaciously fight and most scathingly rake over the coals?” Matthew 23 contains a heavy concentration of the rebukes Jesus gave to the religious leaders. In summary He said, “However you want to appear before God and man, you are the exact opposite.” Making godly disciples? You make proselytes twice the son of perdition you are! Generous? You devour widows’ houses! Wise leaders? You are blind fools! Meticulously following the law? You neglect the weightier matters! Ceremonially clean? You are whitewashed tombs with dead bones; a source of uncleanness!

The rebukes build to a crescendo: A friend of God? You kill His prophets! You have a special place reserved in heaven? Christ not only condemns them to Hell, He gives them an express ticket to the hottest part! It is hard to imagine how Christ could have used more offensive language.

In our fellowship group I asked the question, “Were this not Christ speaking, what more would this speaker have had to say before you concluded that he was ‘consumed with hatred?’” There was no reply. A righteous rebuke can look a lot like hatred.

Before someone says it’s only Christ’s prerogative to rebuke, Christ’s actions were bracketed by those of John the Baptist before His death and Stephen after. They likewise condemned the religious leaders. But many Christians may have problems with both of these examples.

While John the Baptist condemned the Scribes and Pharisees, he also violated what many Christians almost consider to be the “Biblical mandated” separation of church and state by rebuking King Herod, a civil ruler, for having his brother’s wife and this rebuke led to his execution. And, while there was a vibrant Christian church when Stephen was tried, Stephen did not rebuke Christian leaders but only the non-Christian Sanhedrin. We now have to come up with a reason for Christians somehow losing both the right and the responsibility to rebuke non-Christian leaders.

But even more troubling, instead of sticking to just “proclaiming the gospel,” both John and Stephen were willing to pay with their lives for their rebukes thereby ending their earthly ministries. They apparently viewed publicly rebuking evil to cripple its power over people as an essential component of their calling and more important than the years of service they could have provided had they held their fire.

If we are to emulate these examples of Jesus and these early followers in their rebukes we need to resolve both the correct method as well as the targets. I believe that the method He would have us use would be the same way you would handle a person standing on your foot in a crowded bus. First a gentle request assuming it was done in error but, if this did not produce results, the request would become more strident as the offender was told his actions would not be tolerated if turned out to be a case of aggravated, first-degree foot-crushing.

But who would He rebuke? The way Christ dealt with people depended on how close they were to two opposite poles on the spectrum; whether they were just sinners or whether they were leading others to sin. To the former He gave compassion, to the latter He gave both barrels; particularly to those in a powerful position to spread their cancer.

But these two approaches are really the same: You cannot love sinners without opposing those who would lead them into sin. I believe He would rebuke those who by teaching, example or action were leading others to sin. Further He would not pummel some (such as errant Christian leaders) but give others a pass since doing so would only shift the evildoing to others. He would instead treat all the same whether they derived their leadership positions from politics, sports or media or from religion of any flavor. When He even told one of his beloved disciples, “Get thee behind me Satan!” it’s pretty clear He didn’t play favorites.

However, before anyone tries following this example they need to carefully consider the latter part of Matthew 5:22, “Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” The word “fool” that Christ uses here is the same Greek word that He uses when He condemns with “blind fools.” John the Baptist, Jesus and Stephen were not in danger of the fire of hell because they were exclusively exercising righteous judgment. Make absolutely certain it is God rather than you who is offended. James 1: 20 notes, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

Matthew 18:6 states “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” If a rebuke curbs a person’s power to cause one of these little ones to stumble, even if the person hates your interference, you are helping remove a millstone from his neck. Christians need to accept the responsibility to administer appropriate rebukes regardless of the cost.

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Why Gays are Winning

In 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a known gathering place for homosexuals in Greenwich Village. Rather than submitting to police the gays rioted. This resistance marked the beginning of the gay rights movement that has turned our world upside down.

How was this originally tiny handful of gays able to garner so much influence in just a few short decades while myriad millions of Christians have not? The difference, they—unlike us—assumed personal responsibility for the world around them.

If Christians assume personal responsibility for the direction of our nation we will transform the culture. If we instead abdicate this responsibility we will be relegated to the dustbin of irrelevance.

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Where is Our Culture Headed?

We can perhaps recognize the forces that brought our culture to where it is but we often have more difficulty perceiving where our cultural trajectory is taking us. Where are we headed?

1. While I have had low expectations for where we are going, even I have been stunned by recent developments. Although gay marriage has not been definitively established nationally, we are now talking about a “bathroom bill” that would allow those who “identify” as a member of the opposite sex use their bathrooms and locker rooms. We are talking about a bill that would make it an ethics violation to counsel a minor away from a same-sex attraction even if he requested such counseling. Something that has blown me over is the ban on “proselytizing” in the military. A recent cover of Time announced that America’s next civil rights frontier would be over the transgender issue.

Upon reflection, recent developments should not have been surprising. When one side scores a series of victories and the other defeats, the victorious side is encouraged and presses for more while the defeated side slinks away from the fight. Many Christians are becoming terrified at trying to resist our cultural forces and are fabricating “spiritual” reasons for not being involved. A string of defeats increases the size and frequency of subsequent defeats and unless we rise above them to turn things around things are going to get a lot worse very quickly.

2. The following national consensus is building about homosexuality:

  • Gays are born that way
  • It is impossible to leave homosexuality and it is very harmful to try
  • Allowing gay marriage alleviates any remaining moral objections to homosexual sex

As this solidifies into the orthodox view, those who don’t accept it will be called “haters.” Get used to this term. You will be called a “hater” to your face. Don’t waste your breath on your inane drivel about, “love the sinner and hate the sin” because people see the person and gay behavior as so entwined that you can’t hate one without the other. You are a hater. “And who are you to declare an activity as “sin” when our culture has declared it is not? The only way you can reach this hypocritical conclusion is by cherry-picking Bible verses and deliberately misinterpreting the clear message of the gospel—the worst kind of bigotry masquerading as religion. You are a hater.”

As a “hater” everything you say and do is discredited. It will be easier to get a prospect to attend a church that practices ritual animal sacrifices than a church that preaches “hate”. You will shortly find out how society deals with haters. As a sneak preview, read this article you filthy Juden.

The only way to stop being considered a hater is to abandon your “silly superstitious” beliefs about sex and sin and to stop associating with haters.

3. You will hear more phrases like, “Sure I believe in religious freedom but that doesn’t give you the right to violate the law.” Such statements will be made sincerely and emphatically and as if they were coherent.

But wait. What does freedom of religion mean? It means you have a constitutionally protected freedom. Any law or interpretation of a law that violates a constitutionally protected freedom is unconstitutional. So yes, freedom of religion specifically means that you have a constitutional right to violate any unconstitutional law or ruling.

Freedom of religion is intended to ensure that a person does not have to choose between obeying the government and obeying the laws of their god or gods. Hobby Lobby and others stand before the US Supreme Court arguing that it violates the company owners’ religious convictions to provide the “Plan B” abortifacient coverage for employees. The administration argues that company owners forfeited their religious freedom when they formed a company.

The most common defense at the Nuremberg trials was that an accused was, “just following orders.” This defense was rejected on the basis that the accused was accountable to a “higher law.” The current administration feels that government law trumps higher law and, it would seem, feels that the justifications given by the Nuremberg defendants was adequate.

Freedom of religion is almost gone and will disappear completely. Get used to it. Expect to hear more about, “freedom of worship” which only allows a person to do what they want in the private confines of a church but does not allow them to work out their religious beliefs in everyday life. As this freedom evaporates expect all other freedoms to fade as well.

4. Freedom of religion will be replaced by a far more important value: Freedom of sex. This freedom ensures that a person can enter into any kind of sexual activity with any one or any thing without sanctions or even disapproval. Celebrate our tolerance and open-mindedness!

Because of the great damage done by indoctrinating gays into the straight lifestyle it will be necessary for public schools to help prepubescent children explore their “sexual identity,” possibly with the help of “sexual guides.” Perhaps by this method the last sexual taboo, pedophilia, will fall. As a parent you do not have the right to restrict your child’s sexual options. And why should you have the right to speak against your minor child receiving a “medically necessary” sex-change operation?

5. What should your reaction be to this dystopian prediction of the future? Absolute outrage—we must join with others, stand, and fight! If you stand, you don’t know who will stand with you. You do not know the outcome of any battle before it is joined. Many battles have been determined by something as mundane as the weather.

When you go to war you do not allocate resources based on how much you feel like contributing. Rather you allocate resources based on what is needed to win particularly in light of the consequences of defeat.

If we lose we will not have to directly “deny Christ” but something far worse. We will have to deny that there is such a thing as sin as well as a savior that needs to be and is “the spotless Son of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

6. But then the sun is still shining and the birds are still singing. These things have not yet come to pass and such a change in direction would require a large adjustment and a large amount of resources. Surely God would not allow such things to come upon us. Perhaps if we do a happy dance we can put these thoughts behind us. Maybe whatever Christians are left twenty years from now will be charitable and will not curse us for wasting the remaining time and opportunities we had to turn things around.

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