“Faith Lessons” by Ray Vander Laan: Lachish and God’s Wrath, Part 2

* How can God’s people make a truly significant difference in the culture of this country?

* One teacher suggested: We should get with the other churches in town (not just Churches of Christ) and combine our efforts to do good works, getting into the lives of the poor and needy, changing this community. We may not be able to change the nation all at once, but we can change our community if all the churches work in concert, rather than going it alone and competing with each other.

* Is he right?* As we consider the righteous of our political parties, ponder these observations —

— U.S. and European farm subsidies provide welfare to big business while leaving the poorest in the world in deep poverty by allowing U.S. corporate farmers to under-price third-world farmers, keeping them from working their way out of poverty. In fact, the way a poor nation begins to work out of poverty is through export of farm products, and yet U.S. and European farm subsidies keep the poorest nations from competing. http://endpovertyblog.org/taxonomy/term/289

http://www.carnegieendowment.org/events/index.cfm?fa=eventDetail&id=1017&&prog=zgp&proj=zted

Ironically, rather than encouraging poor nations to work their way into self-sufficiency, we subsidize our own farmers so that they can’t, and then send free food and money to the poor nations, turning them into beggars — all at huge cost to the taxpayers. Both parties support these policies.

What would be the Christian position on these questions?

Why isn’t the Christian position the government’s position?

— Until the adoption of the recent trade treaty with Peru, the U.S. had refused to impose “fair trade” requirements on its trading partners, insisting, for example, that the workers making the goods the U.S. buys be paid a fair wage (not as much as US workers make but more than $1.00 per day).

For a sense of the attitude of the US churches, see this fascinating blog post and the resulting comments, dealing with fair trade chocolate.

By the way, the excellent book Freedomnomics, by a conservative economist, describes a study of fair trade coffee. In England, coffee shops began selling fair trade coffee at substantially higher prices. The coffee producers in Central America were paid a fair wage — $1.00 an hour, as I recall (my book is lost in a box somewhere) — and many coffee shop patrons were willing to pay more to assure a fair wage to Central American workers.

But the economist found that the impact of paying a fair wage on the cost of coffee to the shops was less than a penny a cup! When he revealed that finding in a news story, the shops were shamed into selling fair trade coffee at the same price as regular coffee — hugely increasing the market for fair trade coffee and bringing dignified wages to many more Central Americans at no cost to the public. (Compare that one to US farm policy!)

And yet the author of the blog linked above, a devout and thoughtful Christian, shows how we think. He instinctively rejected the idea of fair trade chocolate as unimportant to the practice of Christianity. We spend millions a year to Central America sending teens and others to build houses and dig wells, subsidizing them as charity cases. But when the idea of seeing that they are paid a fair wage is broached, we scoff. It’s not really consistent thinking, is it? If you were a Central American coffee worker or chocolate worker, would you rather have a U.S. build you a house or have your employer pay you a wage high enough to let you support your family? 

— My thinking is probably a little obscure, so let me explain. My theory is that we American Christians get our values more from the political parties than the Bible. And we conservatives (I usually vote Republican and will not vote for a pro-choice candidate) tend to get our values from the RNC, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News.

Therefore, we are deaf and blind to issues that affect millions on which we should be screaming. We instinctively sneer at fair trade policies and products, thinking they are “Democrat” and liberal. We favor farm policies that starve the same people we send missionaries and teen mission trips to. We have been consumed by a culture that defines the issues in ways designed to give power to one party or the other, while ignoring God’s issues.

Just so, the Democrats have been told that to help the poor, they have to hold their noses and allow the mass murder of the unborn. And many Christians do just that.

Both parties are capable of great evil and the church has no business being a part of or cheerleader for either.

Rather, as one of our teachers suggested, I think we need to (a) get out of politics, (b) get busy helping the needy, just as Jesus told us to do, (c) a retrain ourselves to see the great issues of our time from Jesus’ perspective, not the Republican or Democrat perspective, and (d) unite with other churches to help the needy and advocate for them.

But I don’t think we ignore politics. Rather, we hold our nation’s leaders accountable to God’s will — not just one the issues they like to talk about: all of God’s will.

Finally, we resist the temptation to do our Christianity through the government. Again — it’s too inexpensive and too easy. We are called to help the poor — not to vote to help the poor. The political side can never replace Christians being Jesus to a lost and hurting world.

And if we do that, maybe we’ll avoid being the next Lachish.

* What is the most likely way that God would allow the U.S. to fall as Lachish fell?

I think the answer is just around the corner — by allowing the Christian culture to become a minority culture. I think we’ll be conquered from within — if we don’t get busy being Jesus to the world.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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7 Responses to “Faith Lessons” by Ray Vander Laan: Lachish and God’s Wrath, Part 2

  1. joe the plumber says:

    How can you combine efforts for good works with Calvinists who teach that God condemns innocent infants to hell? Some mother who recently lost her child will be thrown into despair by them, and there we will be as partakers of their evil deeds! Much better to follow James' (of was it John?) teaching and not even bid such pernicious heretics god-speed.

  2. george the taxi guy says:

    "Rather, we hold our nation’s leaders accountable to God’s will"

    Where's this in the Bible, exactly? The powers that be were ordained by God, right? Ordained by God for us to correct or ordained by God to correct us? Romans presents the opposite view from you. If the powers that be have a direct mandate from God, let them answer to it. But Scripture never tells me to go get in their face and force them to. Not that I wouldn't love to, but I really can't. The whole thing is a pipe-dream. Little ants pretending they have control over the giant. You can't control the giant. Where was Paul in the Roman empire trying to stop them from using crucifixion? Where was Peter lobbying the Emperor to feed the poor? The church was not a political party. But now all we can hear from liberals is that the church should be a policial party to change this world. That's because they don't beleive in hell and don't beleive in the gospel either. Everything is about this world to them. They are Jews claiming to be Christians.

  3. Nick Gill says:

    Paul was trying to stop them from using crucifixion WITH LOVE. By SHAMING them into changing their ways. By pouring burning coals on their heads.

    George, you are dead wrong about Scripture on this one. When people travel around a country saying that someone other than the lord of that country is really the lord, that is confronting the powers.

    The prophets of old confronted the rulers of their countries.
    John the Baptist confronted his ruler for his sin.
    Jesus stood before Pilate and allowed himself to be proclaimed king.

    One might say, "All we ever hear from conservatives is, 'The sooner we burn up this world, the sooner God'll have to beam us up to heaven!'"

  4. george the taxi guy says:

    But we can't burn up this world, because it is reserved for his fire not ours. And no, none of what you said is accurate, at least not when being compared to what is being urged here. Jesus did not go seek Pilate out to get in his face. Rather, he was brought before Pilate by enemies who put him on trial. The same again goes for Paul before Felix and Agrippa. And most likely Herod was told that his marriage was unlawful when he came out to John's baptism. John is the most iffy in the list, but Jesus and Paul certainly didn't storm into the halls of secular power demanding that they be more environment friendly and go green.

  5. Jay Guin says:

    GTTG.

    I refer you first to the Old Testament, when God's prophets routinely entered the courts of kings and proclaimed God's will — and often God's disapproval.

    I grant that we aren't prophets in the same sense today, but we have the word of God from his prophets. Paul and Isaiah are no longer alive, but their words are.

    Second, I refer you to the First Century meaning of some familiar terms.

    "Jesus is Lord" contradicted the oath to Caesar that "Caesar is lord." You see, "Lord" was commonly used as we would use "king." The confession of Rom 10:9 that "Jesus is Lord" flatly contradicted the pledge Caesar required of his people.

    Similarly, "good news" was the phrase used to announce the ascension of a new ruler as Caesar. Thus, declaring the "good news" of Jesus was also a direct challenge to the pretensions of Caesar.

    Of course, the Christians were commanded to be obedient to civil authority, but they also advocated a revolutionary creed (in the most literal sense) that they were citizens of heaven (rather than Rome) and that the true good news is that Jesus is Lord — not Caesar.

    I say "revolutionary" not in the sense of rebellion but in the sense of refusing to yield to the claims of Caesar to have power separate from that given by God. In other words, we submit to civil authority but we don't accord civil authority the privileges of God or his Son. We worship and find salvation only in God. Jesus is the only Messiah. No one else is the answer to society's problems.

    We consider only Jesus Lord. We obey the laws of the US because God commands it — not because Congress does. After all, Congress can only kill us — and Jesus has overcome even that.

    Rom 13 does not at all contradict this reading. Paul was reasoning from several OT passages to similar effect. Nathan wasn't in rebellion when he charged David with sin, nor was Jeremiah or the other prophets. They were honoring God rather than man — a principle that is always higher than Rom 13.

    We can certainly speak truth to power and not violate Rom 13. Nor do we have to kiss the ring of power. Rather, we are only instructed to submit — if not inconsistent with the will of God. Even kings and congresses must yield to God.

    Finally: if we don't speak God's will to the government, who will?

    And: Nathan was an ant to David, but he summoned up his courage and announced God's will. He succeeded. Jeremiah did the same and wound up in prison (like John). Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal and yet failed to change the nation. Nonetheless, they all refused to stand by silently while God was disobeyed.

    Oh, and Jesus of Nazareth preached a gospel the powers hated, and he died for his trouble. They thought he was an ant and they had no problem putting him in a grave. They just couldn't keep him there.

    Jesus didn't change the Pharisees, not many of them. He just changed the world. When God is on our side, we may still die when we speak truth to power, but God will see that we are vindicated in the end. And when it suits his will, even one man can change the direction of a nation. Nathan did.

  6. Jay Guin says:

    Joe the Plumber,

    Regarding Calvinists, you may be interested in Alexander Campbell's thoughts on them. Campbell was brilliant, well-educated, and had strong opinions. He knew what he believed. But he refused to make Calvinism a test of fellowship —

    Every such person is a disciple in the fullest sense of the word, the moment he has believed this one fact [that Jesus is the Christ], upon the above evidence, and has submitted to the above mentioned institution [of baptism]; and whether he believes the five points condemned, or the five points approved by the synod of Dort, is not so much as to be asked of him; whether he holds any of the views of the Calvinists or Arminians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, or Quakers, is never once to be asked of such persons, in order to admission into the Christian community, called the church. The only doubt that can reasonably arise upon these points, is, whether this one fact, in its nature and necessary results, can suffice to the salvation of the soul, and whether the open avowal of it, in the overt act of baptism, can be a sufficient recommendation of the person, so professing, to the confidence and love of the brotherhood.

    “Foundation of Christian Union,” The Christian System (2d edition 1839), p. 129. Campbell personally rejected the “five points approved by the synod of Dort” (made famous by the TULIP acronym that defines the essence of Calvinism), but he denied that such “opinions,” as he called them, had anything to do with salvation.

  7. joetheplumber says:

    Cambell was wrong (as usual). One cannot be saved while teaching that God is a monster who condemns infants to hell for another man's sin, and that is all that Calvinism is. Calvinism is the doctrine of the sons of Satan who find some sick joy in attacking God's character and making God out to be more immoral that Satan. Really, they worship Satan calling him "God" and making Jesus out to be the Son of Satan and somehow co-evil with him. It IS a salvation issue. No Calvinist can be saved, unless their god (Satan) can save! But Satan obviously cannot save, so Calvinists have no hope.

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