Which Kingdom Are We Focused On?

I agree fully that [abortion and homosexual rights] are important moral issues which Christians must address. But when I went through the New Testament I could find very little related to either one. Both practices existed then, in a different and more egregious form. Roman citizen did not rely principally on abortion for birth control. The women bore their babies, then abandoned them by the side of the road for wild animals or vultures. Likewise, Romans and Greeks also practiced a form of same-gender sex; older men commonly used young boys as their sex slaves, in pederasty.

Thus in Jesus’ and Paul’s day both these moral issues asserted themselves in ways that today would be criminal in any civilized country on earth. No country allows a person to kill a full-term, delivered baby. No country legally permits sex with children. Jesus and Paul doubtless knew of these deplorable practices. And yet Jesus said nothing about either one, and Paul made only a few references to cross-gender sex. Both concentrated not on the pagan kingdom around them but on the alternative kingdom of God.

For this reason, I wonder about the enormous energy being devoted these days to restoring morality to the United States. Are we concentrating more on the kingdom of this world than on the kingdom that is not of this world? The public image of the evangelical church today is practically defined by an emphasis on two issues that Jesus did not even mention. How will we feel if historians of the future look back on the evangelical church of the 1990s and declare, “They fought bravely on the moral fronts of abortion and homosexual rights,” while at the same time reporting that we did little to fulfill the Great Commission, and we did little to spread the aroma of grace in the world? – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?

Are We Gate Crashing Hell

It could have been my sister in Orlando that night, shot and killed. It could have been my son’s best friend. My God; it could have been me; in the words of the early church martyr: “There but for the grace of God go I“.

It wasn’t me. It wasn’t you. But it was so many. Not one life. Not five or ten or twenty. Forty-nine lives were taken that day, in a horrific tragedy, by one single, hateful man. Forty-nine. Forty-nine life stories and love stories. Forty-nine sons or daughters or brothers or sisters or friends.

The place they were in might have made it easier to distance ourselves — some of us — from their plight and their tragedy. “A gay nightclub.” I would have never been in such a place. By God’s grace, you might add.

I think it was C. T. Studd who succinctly stated, “Some people want to live within the sound of mission bells, but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of Hell.”

I was sleeping when the shooting occurred, but how deep was that sleep? How have I been lulled to sleep by church bells rather than stirred to life by the plight of the lost, the hateful and the hated? Someone filled with ideologies of hate and justice and wrath stormed that nightclub to shoot and destroy. Did anyone, I wonder, enter that nightclub in a spirit of love and mercy, to speak truth into the lives of those who had gone astray?

Or maybe not a nightclub. Maybe a classroom. Maybe a living room. Maybe a front porch. Or an abortion clinic. Or a church. The broken, the lost, the misled and the straying are everywhere. Are we looking for them? Are we seeking them out and speaking love and truth and mercy into their lives? Or have we already judged them in our minds? Both victim and perpetrator?

I was grieved at the news of the shooting. I have been more grieved, though, at the reactions of many Christians, those who are using the tragedy to push their own agenda. I have seen Facebook posts decrying current presidents and potential presidents, paragraphs filled with hateful and ugly statements. I have seen more moderate posts about the need to maintain our rights as Americans … and I ask myself, is this what Jesus would be promoting? Was it Jesus who promised rights? Or was it He who promised that those who suffer with Him would also rule with Him? Who promised that the one who carries the cross will bear the crown? Who said we might not have a place to lay our heads at night, but that we will have a home in His presence for eternity?

And we are using a tragedy where scores of human beings — scores of us — were shot and killed or wounded; we are using it to proclaim our rights and secure our position and defend ourselves against those who stand in other positions. Are we not called to open our arms and lives and speak truth in mercy and love? Are we not called to lift up the Cross of Christ, not the First or Second or 14th Amendment or the Bill of Rights?

What is our focus? Reaching the lost and searching? Or living a life of comfort and ease?

I have had to search my heart in light of this horrific incident and the varied responses I have seen across social media. I pray that we who are believers in the life-giving power of the risen Christ will all do the same. What are we here for? We who know Christ as Savior? We have assurance of eternal life; why did Christ not carry us home to be with him as soon as we were “saved”?

Because we have a calling. A commission. A commandment. Spread the Gospel of Jesus to all in every country, in every place.

Not spread the message of our rights, whether they are waxing or waning. But to keep our eyes fixed on Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith. And to enable others to also fix their eyes on Him.

May we crash the gates of hell by not fearing to run a mission there, rather than hiding in our houses or churches, promoting rights that were never given us by God. May we promote Him, whom to know is life eternal.

Leaving Judgment for the True Judge

Jesus came to found a new kind of kingdom that could coexist in Jerusalem and also spread into Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. In a parable, he warned that those farmers who concentrate on pulling up weeds (his image for “sons of the evil one”) may destroy the wheat along with the weeds. Leave matters of judgment to the one true Judge, Jesus advised.

The apostle Paul had much to say about the immorality of individual church members but little to say about the immorality of pagan Rome. He rarely railed against the abuses in Rome — slavery, idolatry, violent games, political oppression, greed — even though such abuses surely offended Christians of that day as much as our deteriorating society offends Christians today. – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?

What Happens When Religion is Confused with Politics?

I see the confusion of politics and religion as one of the greatest barriers to grace. C. S. Lewis observed that almost all crimes of Christian history have come about when religion is confused with politics. Politics, which always runs by the rules of ungrace, allures us to trade away grace for power, a temptation the church has often been unable to resist.

Those of us who live under the strict separation of church and state may not fully appreciate how historically rare that arrangement is … Baptists, Puritans, Quakers, and other splinter groups had made the long voyage to America in hopes of finding a place that did separate church and state, for they had all been victims of state-sponsored religious persecution. When the church joined with the state, it tended to wield power rather than dispense grace. – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?

Was Jesus a Politician?

The Gospel of Jesus was not primarily a political platform. In all the talk of voting blocs and culture wars, the message of grace — the main distinction Christians have to offer — tends to fall aside. It is difficult, if not impossible, to communicate the message of grace from the corridors of power.

The church is becoming more and more politicized, and as society unravels I hear calls that we emphasize mercy less and morality more. Stigmatize homosexuals, shame unwed mothers, persecute immigrants, harass the homeless, punish lawbreakers — I get the sense from some Christians that if we simply pass enough harsh laws in Washington, we can turn our country around. One prominent spiritual leader insists, “The only way to have a genuine spiritual revival is to have legislative reform.” Could he have that backwards? – Philip Yancey