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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
Looking for a church in the Omaha area? Come check out ours on Sunday mornings at 11!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Does Jesus accept everyone?

Recently, I had a guest on my shuttle (I drive for a hotel) and she noticed I was reading What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza, a defense of Christianity. She told me that she had problems with much of what she saw in Christianity today because she has always heard that "Jesus loved and accepted everyone". Instead, she sees a church today that expects certain behavior and excludes certain lifestyles. Her implied charge was that today's Christians are not following in the footsteps and teaching of Jesus and, while she was fine with Christ, she couldn't get on board with Christianity.

This is not an unusual argument, but it is based on caricature of Jesus that is proven false after even a brief reading of the Gospels. I replied that, yes, Jesus did hang out with tax collectors and sinners. He did forgive the woman caught in adultery. He did draw criticism from the religious leaders of that day for the type of people He hung out with. Jesus loved everyone but Jesus accepted no one living an unchanged life. The rich, young ruler is a perfect example of this, as Jesus saw that his heart had not changed and brought this to the surface in asking of him something he would not give up. Jesus loved everyone but Jesus (as the church today) expected certain behavior and called people away from certain lifestyles. Jesus did not say to the woman caught in adultery, "Your sins are forgiven, go and keep living just as you have been".

Don't let an argument like this derail you in sharing the true Christ. Jesus loved everyone, but not everyone loved Him more than themselves. Jesus accepted everyone that followed Him, but following Jesus meant more than just walking behind Him. Following Jesus meant obeying His teachings and turning away from certain things. While Jesus loves everyone, certain changes in lifestyle and behavior are expected (even demanded) from the true followers.

My Moral Resolve

Today's blog will not likely be a long one, but I wanted to relay a short story that I haven't been able to shake from my mind. I have heard both John MacArthur and Ravi Zacharias tell it, so forgive me if it is not new to you.

A story is told of a very wealthy man who, during a flight, sees a
beautiful woman who arrests his attention. He strikes up a conversation with her and, as the plane is nearing its final approach, he propositions her for five million dollars. She accepts and joins him in a cab back to his hotel.

On the drive, he turns to her and says, "I feel that five million dollars is too much, how does five hundred sound?"
"Five hundred dollars?!!" she cries. "What sort of woman do you think I am?!"
To which he replies, "We've already established that. Now we're just haggling over the price."

Now perhaps I am overly introspective, but I am quite convicted at this story and how much I see myself in that woman. I have my moral standards and stances, but would I abandon some of them for a price? Mind you, I am not talking about gray areas of morality or white lies here. Of course I wouldn't murder anyone or prostitute myself, but why is there a hesitation when I consider lying or stealing? And what does that say of my moral resolve if some of my moral stances are for sale?

This tells me a lot about myself, my fallenness, and how poor my grasp is of the holiness of God. Lying and stealing is as contrary to the nature of God as murder. And for any follower of Christ to be more inclined towards some of these behaviors is only to highlight the residual effect of how bent humankind still is. Of course, murder has greater earthly consequences than lying, but both are an affront to the holiness of God.

I pray that we all, as Christ-followers, may establish what sort of people we are, so that it never comes to haggling over the price.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thoughts on Capital Punishment

What follows is a letter to the editor printed in the Omaha World Herald and my response printed a couple days later. Certainly the issue cannot be satisfactorily covered in 200 words or less, but I did what I could. Enjoy!

Killing Breeds Killing
An Associated Press story in the Jan. 6 World-Herald discussed the financial benefits of banning the death penalty. But, of course, death-penalty advocates will just say that we should do away with the appeals.
The argument I prefer to make is about setting an example. For instance, a father who smokes has difficulty preventing his children from smoking because he has weakened his own authority on the issue by setting a poor example.
When the government says killing is against the law, except when it does it, the government weakens its own authority with this hypocrisy.
This is why homicide rates can go up during times of war. The atmosphere created in a country at war is inherently more tolerant of killing, just as the atmosphere created by a country with the death penalty is inherently more tolerant of killing. Perhaps this explains the high homicide rate in some states.
When the country stoops to the level of a criminal, it elevates crime to the level of normalcy. There can be no compassionate conservatism in such an atmosphere. A moral government demonstrates moral leadership by example.
Andrew White, Shelton, Neb.

Depends on Authority
A letter from Andrew W. printed on Sunday entitled "Killing breeds killing" stated that any government who uses the death penalty as a punishment for murder "weakens its own authority with this hypocrisy". Is it also hypocrisy for a country to have a prison system and yet consider kidnapping a crime?
White used the illustration of a father who smokes and the difficulty he would have in preventing such behavior in his kids (and his hypocrisy in trying). However, this analogy really only serves to cloud the issue around two differing acts.
Keeping the parent-child imagery, a better analogy would be that of a mother telling her son he cannot punish his sister when he is angry or feels mistreated because he does not have the authority. If he tries to spank her or send her to her room (either out of anger or revenge), he is in the wrong and is deserving of punishment himself. The mother has parental authority to do things the son cannot.
Talking of murder and the death penalty as two identical actions serves only to blur the difference between taking a life for selfish reasons and taking a life as punishment under the proper authority.
Jared Totten, Omaha, Neb.