Jun 23 2019 What is the Prime Directive for the Church Regarding Social, Cultural, and Political Issues?
23rd June 2019
We are going back to the end of last week... We’ll do that often in this series…
They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.
The Christians were creating an alternative community that had nonconformist approaches to common social problems and that imparted to its participants a powerful sense of individual and group identity.
Lord, You have made us aliens and strangers in this world – as we have a different homeland that is not of this world. We look for a time when we enter that land- to be home with You forever. Thank You that You love us – You long for us – our attention, worship, and love, that You might pour out Your love, grace and mercy upon us. Open up our hearts. In Jesus’ Name.
When you see the word SOJOURNERS – or strangers – I have some practical things to share today – but I might have 5 minutes of Bible Geek moments at the end, setting up next time.
Think of the word, IMMIGRANT. That is what this is talking about in many ways. And what he is saying here – and this is a hard thing for us who live in America – to think of ourselves as immigrants in the land of our birth. As Americans, we are very patriotic – proud of our country and we feel blessed to live in a land of freedom and blessing – but even though all of that is true, we are to view ourselves as immigrants in this country.
Paul addresses a very similar thought:
Phil. 3: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;
Roman citizenship was even more prized than ours – either you were born into it, or you pay into it – or you serve for an extended period of time by fighting Rome’s wars.
In 42 BC, Philippi was a decisive battle site for the Roman civil war – and the city was left in ruins – and about 10 years later, Octavian resettled it with ex-Roman soldiers – giving citizenship and land. These are people who won their citizenship at great cost to themselves – and they were proud and patriotic and loved that they were Roman citizens – and Paul is saying – you who fought for this citizenship – that is not your true citizenship – now that you’ve come to Christ.
Paul would say the same thing to us. Yes, we are to be good American citizens, but that is not where we belong – we are first citizens of heavens.
“The Christians were creating an alternative community that had nonconformist approaches to common social problems and that imparted to its participants a powerful sense of individual and group identity.”
So as we look at the practical hands-on stuff – what was going on in the times of the apostles were issues that are going on today. They dealt with real issues.
Practical – IN the world but not OF the world.
First – to be in and not of – we need to learn to live in 2 communities – and we must live in our local community – the place you work, go to school, etc. – but we must live in that community as members of another community – which we would call the church. It is to be markedly different than your local community. Jesus said – what makes that community different is our love.
The question we need to ask – in our world, when the outside world looks at the Christian world – do they think – WOW! They love one another!???
Surveys would say, No – not exactly!
Rick Warren said that – for the most part – and surveys show this – Christians are known for what they are against.
We don’t blame them – the outside world. That is not how it works, that is the reality of how we are viewed. And it will take a lot for us to become known by how we love one another. In the church, people see that – we really love one another – and we all know people who have had bad experiences – I’m sure you’ve never been the cause of that! Right?! I have, at times.
We need to address social issues in a non-conformist way – to be involved in our social structures – our social systems – but not OFvolved – I know that is not a word.
Let’s take cultural/social/political issues – I will look at a couple. Political and cultural are often mixed in our world. In our relationship – as Christians to society and government – where we think they are CAUSING immorality.
What is the Jesus way of doing it? There are two precursors. First – we need to make sure it is an issue of evil and immorality and not an issue of partisanship! It is easy to take our partisanship and make it an issue of immorality. Both sides will say this and that is immoral – not just two sides, but maybe 8 sides.
I’ll quote Star Trek here – Our prime directive is not to change the government or society – our prime directive is to create an alternative community called the church that witnesses to Jesus Christ in this world.
We can, and will, at times, transform some aspects of society and the political world- but only to some extent. Because, when the church has tried to do it to a significant extend, first, history shows it fails, - and second – instead of the society becoming Christian – the church becomes part of the world. History shows that.
I won’t go into the history now.
We are – and I’ll read this here – are to vote and get engaged in political and social issues, but not in the way that the two parties do it. In some ways – I could say – watch what the two parties do – and DON’T do it like that – and you’ll be okay!
Let’s take the issue of immigration – it swings elections – we have terms like ILLEGALS and UNDOCUMENTED – but when you go to the BIBLE – you will find that what goes on in both parties looks nothing like what the Bible talks about and what our attitudes should be – how should aliens and foreigners be treated? We are to be nonconformists who look at things differently. Why would we use the methods of the world under the powers of the evil one to accomplish God’s work? That makes no sense at all.
Here is another issue – and I am not getting political here – just bringing up issues –
Abortion. Now, I believe abortion is immoral. I believe the Bible teaches that. IN the first century – there was the Didache – the second generation of church leaders – after the apostles – took the writings of the apostles and wrote letters and books – commentaries on what the apostles wrote – and this went out through the churches.
They would take the gospel of John – and talk about how to apply it to the church.
Many thought the Didache should have gone into the canon – and many thought they were. The Didache speaks against abortion very clearly – so for the history of the church, the church has been against abortion –
Even in the Old Testament – the Bible condemned baby sacrifice. I know that there are extraordinary circumstances – life of the mother and so forth – where we need to be considerate and thoughtful.
We have very close friends who had an abortion – became Christians – and lived following it as Christians – and at times, they have told us – the rhetoric of the church – these people are broken by what they did – and the rhetoric of the church has deeply wounded them. And there are so many people who have been deeply wounded by our church.
Our son and daughter-in-law are very concerned about the topic of abortion – she is involved in the political realm – but they also have single, teenage moms live with them until they have the baby.
People protest for so many things – and anyone can do that! But not everyone can do the other.
I think the best way to engage – read the sermon on the Mount – especially the sections on loving your enemy – and then do that politically.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the person who is in charge of one party would say – Bless the leader of the other party! That would be silly! But Jesus was silly – Speak well of your enemy – there is no workaround in that. It is something we must do.
Another way to be IN and not OF the world – Christians are great at this – creating alternative systems and structures – Christian radio, Christian movies, etc.
Christian schools and homeschooling have met an important need in the faith community - and many have chosen that for personal conviction – and that is wonderful and great – but those who have chosen that – need to engage their family in the world in some other structure. Maybe in youth sports – or whatever – but we are to be fully engaged IN the world, and the world’s system – for MISSION. We can have alternatives for different reasons – but it is never okay to isolate ourselves from the world.
Dave Brunelle was telling me how sometimes it is hard to be IN the world as a pastor. You don’t often go to where the world is! Some go to Starbucks – but I think that is to be cool more than anything else. But Dave is a Harley rider – and there is this thing – when a Harley rider – drives by another – they make a motion with their hand.
One day Dave was riding his Harley and made the motion – and he stopped, and they got to talking. They all have beards – the guys – hopefully not the gals – and they stopped – and he got invited to an event – and there is a lot of four-letter Harley language at this event – and no one asks him what he does – and that is the worst, because, you know, eventually they will.
Eventually the guy asked – what do you do? I’m a pastor! Bleeping GREAT! Bleep Bleep pastor! Great!
In the world and not of it.
For next time – I’m going to set up the next theme
Divine Space and Human Space. This is my creativity...
We see this in Genesis – God separates the two – some things belong in one or the other – but there is a third space – where they intersect. And this third space is the Garden of Eden – that is where God and humanity met together.
And then there was no more Garden – so God created the Tabernacle – and only a few were allowed in that tent.
Eventually – there was the Temple – but again, it was limited. These spaces only foreshadow the Incarnation – where God and humanity come together fully. It was God’s plan from before time – not to be with us in the Garden like Adam and Eve were – but with Jesus coming and reconciling us to Him.
There is the church – You are the temple of God, Paul says – you are embodying heaven and earth coming together.
We will look at these two spaces – and sometimes the wrong space invades the other.
The FALL – there are 3 major falls in Genesis:
First – humanity enters the divine:
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.“ (2)
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (6)
There are different opinions of what this means – but it means that divine space inappropriately entered human space.
The third time this happens – Babel – We think it is just about building a skyscraper – but it is more than that:
4 Then they said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise we will be scattered across the face of the entire earth.“ (11)
Again – what they are doing – trying to enter divine space inappropriately – and it ends in judgment. What we will look at in a couple weeks – how we are entering divine space inappropriately.