The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Category: Politics (page 1 of 11)

Jeroboam and the Lure of Political Power

The Story of Jeroboam

Jeroboam is one of the Bible’s incredibly tragic characters. He was a man who God granted an amazing opportunity, and he squandered it away. 

Jeroboam’s story begins with King Solomon, who himself was a tragic character: a man who was given wisdom, power, and great wealth by God, but who turned away from God and began to worship other gods (1 Kings 11.1-8). Because of this, God ultimately determines to divide the kingdom of Israel in the days of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Rehoboam remains king over two tribes in the south (creating the Southern Kingdom of Judah), while Jeroboam is established as king over the remaining ten tribes (creating the Northern Kingdom of Israel).

The story is absolutely clear that God, in His grace, has offered a covenant agreement to Jeroboam: God will bless him, make him king over Israel, and give Him all that he desires if he will listen to God’s commands and walk in His ways like David did. And moreover, God promises to build Jeroboam a house or a dynasty like He did for David. 

Jeroboam’s rise to power was the work of God’s providential hand, and Jeroboam knew this. And yet, as soon as he sits down on the throne, Jeroboam’s thinking seems to shift from providential to pragmatic: the question Jeroboam asks himself is, “What do I need to do to stay in power?” 

Ironically, Jeroboam already had the answer—God had told him he simply needed to listen to God’s commands and walk in His ways as David did, but Jeroboam ignores that answer and pursues his own plans instead.

After some initial efforts to fortify some of his cities, Jeroboam makes his big mistake. He reasons that if the citizens of the Northern Kingdom return to the Jerusalem Temple (in the Southern Kingdom) to offer sacrifices as they are supposed to, it will draw their hearts back to Rehoboam king of Judah, and then they won’t want to follow Jeroboam anymore, and will overthrow him and return to Rehoboam and Judah. So Jeroboam gets what he thinks is a brilliant idea, and he makes two golden calves; he sets one up in Dan and another in Bethel, representing the northern and southern borders of the territory of the Northern Kingdom.

Scholars debate whether Jeroboam is trying to get the Israelites to worship another god by doing this, or, rather, if he is simply introducing an innovation in the way in which they worship Jehovah/Yahweh. I tend to think it is the latter, but calves are so closely related with Canaanite pagan religion that it is hard to be sure.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter. Even if Jeroboam was not setting up worship of a new god (and thus not violating the first commandment),  he was still guilty of creating an image to serve as a symbol of God (which violates the second commandment). So at the very least, he perverted the worship of the true God. Jeroboam’s disregard for the religious statues that God had set up did not stop there, as he also created alternate worship sites on high places at Dan and Bethel, put in place non-Levitical priests, and instituted his own feast day. These actions broke God’s commandments, and also revealed Jeroboam’s feelings that civil matters were more important than religious conviction.

Jeroboam has not been on the throne for long, but already he has dramatically departed from God’s instruction to walk in all His ways as David did. Instead, Jeroboam seems to have forgotten Who placed him on the throne in the first place, and rather than obey the real Power behind the throne, takes matters into his own hands to secure his position by his own power.

In 1 Kings 13, a prophet comes from God and condemns what Jeroboam has done, also predicting that judgment will come upon him because of it:

O altar, altar, thus says the LORD: “Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.” And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the LORD has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.’”

(1 Kings 13.2-3)

Not surprisingly, Jeroboam isn’t a big fan of this message and stretches out his hand: “Seize him!” But as soon as this happens, his hand “dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself” (1 Kings 13.4). Ironically, in this very act, Jeroboam actually gives credibility to the prophecy—clearly, there is some power behind it because Jeroboam’s hand shrivels up, and furthermore, the altar was torn down as the prophecy said. Jeroboam asks the prophet to entreat God for him that his hand might be restored, and the prophet does so, and Jeroboam is healed.

Jeroboam is probably grateful to the man of God for his healing, and invites him to dine with him, but the prophet refuses because God had commanded him to return directly after his mission was completed. It is possible that dining with the king would have made the prophet appear to approve of the religious apostasy that Jeroboam was promoting.

Here, the narrative takes leave of Jeroboam and follows the young prophet and his strange interaction with an old prophet from Bethel. Since our focus is on Jeroboam we won’t dwell on this, but it is a tragic story of the young prophet from Judah being deceived by the older prophet from Israel, disobeying God, and dying as a result. This may seem like strange information to include in an extended narrative on the reign of Jeroboam, but it reinforces the idea that God expects to be obeyed, and severe consequences fall upon those who refuse to do so.

Regardless of this cautionary tale, 1 Kings 13 ends by saying:

After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.

(1 Kings 13.33-34)

So this story also shows us that Jeroboam remains unrepentant—he is determined to continue his disobedience to God. 

The rest of Jeroboam’s reign isn’t very happy. His son grows sick, and when he enquires of a prophet of God to determine if his sone will recover, he learns that not only will his son die, but because Jeroboam had incited the wrath of heaven by leading the Northern Kingdom into idolatry instead of being faithful to the covenant God had offered him, judgment had been pronounced not just on Jeroboam, but on every male from his house—the line of Jeroboam will be wiped out.

We also know that he was a man of war, and that he warred constantly with Rehoboam, and also fought against Rehoboam’s son, Abijam/Abijah and was defeated by him (2 Chronicles 13) and never recovered the level of power he had previously had. 

And that is basically what we know about Jeroboam.

Sacrificing Principle for Political Gain

Jeroboam is one of the truly tragic characters of Scripture. His legacy is that he is the man who “made Israel to sin”—this lamentable epitaph is mentioned over 20 times in Scripture, and his sinfulness really summarizes the entire period of the Divided Kingdom. I think there are a lot of things we can learn from the sad story of Jeroboam, but I want to focus on just one that I believe is particularly relevant for a lot of people today.

Jeroboam’s blessing, security, and power rested in his obedience to God. Instead of trusting in God, however, he chose to do the pragmatic thing. He made religious changes for political reasons, thinking that this would ensure his longevity as king. Instead, it led to the downfall of his kingdom. Jeroboam’s power and position rested on his faithfulness, not his politics. 

If there is a lesson that I think American Christians need to hear in 2019—a time of rampant political division and rabid political devotion—it might be this one: political power is not the means by which Christians are called to change the world. 

As most of my readers know, I am a part of Churches of Christ, which find historical roots in the American Restoration Movement. Our heritage has an interesting and diverse relationship with politics. Some Restorationist voices were highly involved in politics: Alexander Campbell, one of the key early leaders in the movement, served as a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1829-30. James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States, was a Restoration Movement preacher. 

Others had a much different view of politics. David Lipscomb, the longtime Gospel Advocate editor and a major leader in Churches of Christ in the decades following the Civil War, was avowedly apolitical. He was a pacifist who didn’t think Christians should serve in the military or even vote. J.N. Armstrong, the first President of Harding College, was strongly influenced by Lipscomb and had similar views.

 

I take this brief historical detour as a way of saying that I think that, in the spirit of Romans 14, the Christian’s relationship to politics is one of those areas where we are to do our best to follow the teachings and ethics of Jesus and be careful not to judge the scruples of others. 

Having said that, when it comes to politics, let us never sacrifice principle for political expediency.

In the crisis of the moment, it might seem like a good thing to do, but as Jeroboam learned, it never pays off. I think Jeroboam’s disobedience was largely motivated by fear—he was afraid of what would happen if he let the people go to Judah to worship, so out of his fear, he made a politically expedient decision. 

We live in an environment where political fervor always seems to be at a fever pitch. If we aren’t focused on a current or coming election, we are enamored with the latest political scandal or partisan feud.

In the last Presidential election, I heard a lot of fear from Christians (regardless of their political views) about what was going to happen. Speaking for myself (again, in the spirit of Romans 14, I am not placing judgment on those who disagree), I found myself unable to vote for either major party candidate. Both candidates had been in the public eye for a long time, and I knew plenty about the kind of people they were and the sort of character they had, and I didn’t feel like I could vote for either one. What really bothered me, though, was how often I was told or read from other Christians who supported one candidate or the other (because I got this from both sides of the aisle), that I basically needed to ignore my principles and vote for the “lesser of two evils” (whoever that may have been depending on the person I was talking to at the time), with the implication being that if I didn’t, our next President would likely bring about the end of the world.

You know, I don’t care who you vote for, but it does bother me:

  • When Christians encourage others to choose the lesser evil…because we aren’t supposed to choose evil in greater or lesser varieties!
  • When Christians encourage others to ignore their principles…because we aren’t supposed to ignore our principles!
  • When Christians suggest that the future hinges upon some human ruler…because God is the one who is in charge! When Pharaoh ruled the world, God freed His people from Egypt! When Nebuchadnezzar ruled the world, God saved three Hebrew teenagers from a fiery death! When Nero ruled the world, God orchestrated the greatest growth in the history of the church!

It is up to you to choose what your relationship with politics will be, and in my personal opinion, our political voice is an opportunity that we have to glorify God. However, let us never make the mistake of thinking that political power is the means by which Christians are called to change the world, or that it is acceptable for us to sacrifice our principles for the sake of political expediency.

The lure of political power is strong, and it can easily deceive us into thinking that the ends justify the means. But as Jeroboam learned, they do not. 

Reading in 2018

It’s that time of year again, when people talk about their reading from the previous year and the best books they read. As someone who (a) tries to thoughtfully reflect on things and (b) obsessively keeps lists of things, I always enjoy reading lists from other people and sharing my own.

Here is my own list from 2018:

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling
  2. Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan
  3. Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, by N.T. Wright
  4. Martin Luther: Selections from his Writings, edited by John Dillenberger*
  5. The Marburg Colloquy, edited by Hermann Sasse
  6. The Knowledge of God the Creator (from Institutes of the Christian Religion), by John Calvin
  7. The Necessity of Reforming the Church, by John Calvin
  8. The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, translated by Anthony Mottola*
  9. The Racovian Catechism*
  10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
  11. The Reasonableness of Christianity, by John Locke
  12. A Discourse of Miracles, by John Locke
  13. Proposals to Correct Conditions in the Church in Pia Desideria, by Philip Jacob Spener
  14. Decision Points, by George W. Bush
  15. Divorce, by John R.W. Stott
  16. Afro-American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, edited by Milton C. Sernett*
  17. Woman in the Pulpit, by Frances Willard*
  18. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling
  19. Jesus: A Study of the Life of Christ, by Shane Robinson
  20. The Five Books of Moses & The Former Prophets, by Bibliotheca
  21. The Making of George Washington, by William H. Wilbur
  22. Creating a Lead Small Culture: Make Your Church a Place Where Kids Belong, by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, and Elle Campbell
  23. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling
  24. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser
  25. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
  26. The Story of Christianity, Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day, by Justo L. Gonzalez
  27. The Faith of the Presidents, by Anne Schraff
  28. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible, by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien
  29. The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia, by Tim Tzouliadis
  30. The Latter Prophets, by Bibliotheca
  31. Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America, by Michael Wear
  32. Havana Bay, by Martin Cruz Smith
  33. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  34. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
  35. A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology, by J. Richard Middleton
  36. The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace: God’s Antidotes for Division within the Churches of Christ, by Jay Guin
  37. Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman?, by Eleanor Updale
  38. The Perilous Road, by William O. Steele
  39. History and Background of the Institutional Controversy, by Steve Wolfgang
  40. Crispin: the Cross of Lead, by Avi
  41. The Ghost Hollow Mystery, by Page Carter
  42. Letters To The Church, by Francis Chan
  43. The Writings, by Bibliotheca
  44. Significant Others: Understanding Our Non-Christian Neighbors, by Monte Cox
  45. Alexander Campbell, Apostle of Truth, by William Blake
  46. The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place, by Andy Crouch
  47. The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis
  48. How To Be A Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide To Flawless Spiritual Living, by The Babylon Bee
  49. Priceless, by Jeremy Myers
  50. The Apocrypha, by Bibliotheca
  51. The New Testament, by Bibliotheca
  52. A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard
  53. Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of Churches of Christ, by C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes
  54. Traces of the Kingdom, by Keith Sisman

A few observations before I talk about my favorite books of the year:

  • My reading total increased from 52 books in 2017 to 54 books in 2017. And this included a couple of very large volumes of 650-800 pages. I see other people who read 100 books or more a year, but at this stage of my life, it seems that somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 is my limit.
  • I enjoyed my reading in 2018 more than in 2017.
  • There were two big disappointments in my reading this past year. The first was the Bibliotheca series, which I used to do my daily Bible reading in 2018. There was a lot of fanfare about this translation when it came out, and indeed, it has many admirable qualities: an elegant typeface, beautiful binding, and a page layout that should lend itself to readability. However, the translation itself was wooden and awkward, and I simply did not enjoy it at all. Also, Traces of the Kingdom was a book that I had looked forward to for a few years, but I really struggled with it. Although the author puts you in touch with some extraordinarily rare primary sources that are hundreds of years old, the writing is poor, and much of the logic and argumentation is stretched. It was a disappointment.

My favorite books from 2018.

Regarding my Top 10 books for the year, here are some brief thoughts on those (presented in order of when I read them, not ranked 1-10):

  • Beneath a Scarlet Skyby Mark Sullivan: This is a novel, based on a true story, set in WWII Italy. It is a gripping tale of a teenage boy seeking to navigate the warring factions of Nazis, Mussolini’s Fascists, Allied forces, resistance fighters, partisans, and the Catholic church. It is a gripping tale and compelling read. Fans of All The Light We Cannot See will appreciate this book, which is better.
  • Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Senseby N.T. Wright: N.T. Wright is the preeminent living Christian thinker, and this is his basic presentation of the Christian faith (it has been called the Mere Christianity for modern times). In my opinion, nothing that Wright writes is truly “simple,” so, despite his intentions, I can’t say that this is the easiest read for the average Christian, but it is a great book.
  • The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bibleby Michael S. Heiser: Heiser makes the basic claim that modern believers do not read/hear the Bible in the way that ancient believers did, who believed in a robust array of spiritual beings who operate “unseen” and greatly influence the lives that we experience. This becomes the prevailing paradigm for how he interprets Scripture, and especially if you are not familiar with the biblical motif of the Divine Council, much of what he says will shock you. Ultimately, I think Heiser draws some conclusions that are not warranted, but on the whole, I think he makes a very compelling case. This book has been somewhat of a game-changer for me.
  • The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russiaby Tim Tzouliadis: During the Great Depression, thousands of down-on-their-luck Americans were lured to Stalinist Russia with the promise of work and prosperity available to all in the Communist Utopia. Within a few short years, they (along with millions of others) would be killed in the Stalinist purges and, adding to the tragedy, they were largely abandoned by the US government. Not to get too political in a brief book review, but in an era when I increasingly witness many people (especially those generally around my age or younger) pay lip service to the idea that socialism and even communism are benign or even preferable politico-economic systems, this was an important read for me. When it came to murdering people, Stalin made Hitler look like an amateur, and I don’t say that lightly.
  • A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatologyby J. Richard Middleton: Middleton argues that the Biblical text teaches that God will redeem and restore His creation and will dwell with His people for eternity on a New Heaven and New Earth. This is not some form of premillennialism, but neither is it the popular notion of the Christian hope being getting to escape from this earth and “go to heaven when we die.” This interpretation will be challenging for some, but I am convinced that this perspective is fundamentally correct, and Middleton’s treatment of it is excellent.
  • Letters To The Churchby Francis Chan: This was a convicting read for me. Chan is a Restorationist’s Restorationist, and this book basically encourages Christians to thoughtfully return to the model of the church as described in the pages of Scripture. Simply put, there are some basic ways of “doing church” that really need to be evaluated and, quite possibly, jettisoned. This book left me uneasy in a good way.
  • Significant Others: Understanding Our Non-Christian Neighbors, by Monte Cox: Dr. Cox was one of my favorite teachers at Harding, and this book is basically a written version of his “Living World Religions” class (one of my favorite classes). It is a helpful overview of various world religions, and would make an excellent resource for a Bible class.
  • The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Placeby Andy Crouch: Technolgy is increasingly present in our lives, and for all of its positive benefits, there are negative side effects as well. Crouch offers some helpful (and at times, extreme) perspective on how families should treat technology and strive to create home environments that cultivate wisdom and courage.
  • The Great Divorceby C.S. Lewis: I’m not sure that I have ever read something by Lewis that I didn’t like, but this is one of my favorites. Lewis’ allegorical take on hell is, in my opinion, both brilliant and helpful.
  • A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard: I had really not read/heard much from Dr. King before, other than his “I Have a Dream” speech or snippets of quotations from other sources, and that was a mistake, because King’s speeches evidence not only beautiful eloquence, but also profound theological insight. I plan to do additional reading from (and on) Dr. King in the future.

That was my reading for 2018. For comparison’s sake if you are interested, you can see my reading lists from previous years:

As always, I have a bunch of books lined out to read in 2019, and am already in the midst of two good ones right now.

What are some of the best books you read this past year?

*Books that I did not read in their entirety, but read significant portions of.

Book Review: Reclaiming Hope

Over the summer, I read Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America. Wear directed faith outreach for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and was one of the youngest White House staffers in modern American history. In addition to that, he is a pro-life, evangelical Christian.

In some ways, Wear is representative of a lot of young evangelicals who, though not traditionally supporters of the Democratic party, found Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign very appealing with its emphasis on hope, change, and bipartisan cooperation.

I never voted for President Obama and have written before of profound disagreements I have with him. Having said that, I have respected his devotion to his family and the way that he conducted himself while in office, and I was interested in hearing an insider’s take on the Obama presidency (and especially from an insider who operates from a belief system at least somewhat similar to my own).

In many ways, Reclaiming Hope is a memoir of Wear’s time of service for President Obama. Wear clearly has deep admiration for Obama, and this shines through so clearly that, after the first few chapters, I was afraid the whole book was going to be nothing more than an extended argument for how great Obama was.

But it wasn’t that. After beginning by emphasizing policies and accomplishments of the Obama administration of which Wear was very proud, he reflects on the things he found to be very frustrating. These frustrations include the change in tone of the Democratic party that he witnessed between 2008-2012, his cynicism over Obama’s change in policy regarding gay marriage, and ultimately, what he regarded as the great failure of Obama’s presidency: rather than bringing about  change in Washington and bipartisan cooperation, it only furthered the partisan divide that plagues our nation.

Wear concludes the book on a high note, strongly emphasizing that, from a Christian perspective, hope is not to be found in any political system or figure but in the working of a God who wants justice in His world. 

Here are a few good quotations:

“Politics is causing great spiritual harm and a big reason for that is people are going to politics to have their inner needs met. Politics does a poor job of meeting inner needs, but politicians will suggest they can do so if it will get them votes.” (xxix)

“In 2009, our diversity demanded we accept that there will be voices we disagree with in public spaces. In 2013, diversity required us to dispel dissent. In 2009, we had true pluralism and the big American tent. In 2012, at the Democratic convention, we had a pretense of including and magnanimity for political gain. In 2013, with our last four years in hand and the “weight of history on our side” that pretense went out the window. Now the Democratic Party was about consolidation.” (188)

“When our little hopes are disappointed, we find ourselves situated between the harshness of despair and the daunting, unusual existence of real hope.” (192)

“The arc of the moral universe does not bend toward justice because of a political program or the unassailable motives of humans, but because of a God who wills justice.” (197)

“There is indeed an arc to the moral universe, but it is not a matter of humanity progressing toward justice; rather, it is the God of justice who is moving toward us.” (197)

“People who place their hope in politics are idealists who then become cynics.” (205)

Somewhat startling to me considering Wear’s narrative throughout the book (and his own political disillusionment that he describes) was his chastisement toward Americans who feel represented by neither party and thus, become independents. Wear argues that being an independent is to “check out of the system” and forfeits one’s ability to be an influence (210-211).  I reject this notion, however: supporting a party that does not represent your values in hopes that that party will influence the system according to your values is logically absurd, and speaking for myself, I expect my future political involvement to remain somewhat tepid.

Regardless, I enjoyed Wear’s book: it gave me a look behind the scenes of an historical presidency, helped me to see other perspectives, and provided a strong reminder that all people of faith need to hear: the hope for our world lies not in politics, but in the God who created all things and holds all things together.

Security, Compassion, & Immigration: Seeking a Biblical Response to a Complex Issue

I have read a lot the past few days regarding the recent executive order limiting immigration from certain locations, and the response and fallout following that order. Some of what I have read has been thoughtful and helpful, some has been hysterical and, in my view, has added little of value to the conversation, and some has been decidedly un-Christian.

What I have not seen is an attempt to look at what the Bible teaches on this issue in a way that seeks to be faithful to the context(s) of Scripture and also acknowledges the complexities and nuances of the situation. That task is a tall order, but is what I will seek to do in this space. By nature of the limitations of a blog post, I will not be able to address every relevant Scripture; by the nature of my limitations as a thinker and biblical scholar, I will not be able to perfectly make my case. Regardless, I hope you will give me a fair hearing.

Preliminary Considerations

There are multiple factors which make it difficult to directly apply biblical passages to today’s situation, and before looking at specific verses, I think we should begin by addressing some of those issues.

(1) Biblical Israel is not the equivalent of the United States of America. We will look at some passages that tell Israel how to treat immigrants—sojourners, foreigners—in their midst, but before applying those passages wholesale to our current context, we would do well to remember that the nation of Israel was God’s chosen people, a theocracy established by Him to be His representatives on the earth. Contrary to this, the US is not a theocracy, and it is not God’s chosen nation. That distinction lies with the Renewed Israel, the Church.

This doesn’t mean that we can learn nothing from these scriptures—on the contrary, they show God’s heart for sojourners and immigrants—but we would do well to recognize and honor the differences in our contexts.

(2) Governments are not individual Christians. This point is related to the previous one, but basically, once we realize that “God’s people” today are represented by the church, we also do well to acknowledge that there is a difference between how disciples of Christ are instructed to live individually in their interactions with others and the duties and responsibilities that governments have to protect their citizens. To put it in other terms, the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to disciples, not to governments.

This doesn’t mean it is inappropriate for Kingdom principles to influence government policy, or that it is inappropriate for Christians to wish that the correlation between the two was higher; it does mean that we should recognize that, biblically, governments have God-given assignments of what they are to accomplish, and sometimes those assignments are in tension with behaviors that individual Christians are encouraged to do or forbidden from doing.*

(3) Biblical texts are written in specific contexts…and contexts change. All that I mean by this is that we need to exercise care and caution when we directly apply biblical texts to our lives. Later, I will discuss Romans 13, which is an incredibly important text for this discussion. However, it is interesting to note that Paul portrays government very positively in Romans 13, which makes sense because he is writing in a time of relative peace when Christians are not being oppressed. One gets a very different (biblical) perspective on government in the Book of Revelation, where John clearly portrays the Roman Empire as being in league with Satan. In addition to the fact that Paul and John are writing with different purposes, in John’s time, the government is much more hostile to believers than it was when Paul wrote Romans. The context has changed.

This doesn’t mean that Romans 13 does not apply or has no implication on our lives today; it does mean that we should realize that Scripture speaks differently about government depending on the context, and we shouldn’t take Romans 13 to apply to every single instance of governmental authority for all time.

Relevant Biblical Texts

With all of the above considerations in mind, there are a variety of biblical texts that I believe have some bearing on this entire discussion. As mentioned above, this is not an exhaustive list, but is hopefully enough to provide a representative sampling.

Governmental Authority–There are multiple texts which represent the government’s job to protect its citizens and establish order.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

(Romans 13.1-7)

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

(1 Peter 2.13-17)

There are several general principles that we can glean from these texts: God delegates authority to human governments, He expects governments to protect their citizens and punish wrongdoers, and He expects Christians to submit to their governments and honor their leaders.

Relevant to the issue at hand, it does seem that, biblically, it is appropriate for governments to protect their citizens from harm, and to have concern for their own citizens first, before extending concern for others (and if that seems harsh, recall that governments are not Christians, and are not called to live as individual Christians are).

Compassion—There are a multitude of texts which encourage people of faith to be compassionate to others; I will use two famous passages to be representative of this idea.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(Matthew 25.31-46)

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

(Luke 10.25-37)

The first of these selections is the famous “Least of These” text, where Jesus indicates that the way in which we treat those who are downtrodden corresponds to the way we treat Him: If we show mercy and compassion to the least of these, we show mercy and compassion to Jesus. If we neglect the least of these, we neglect Jesus. In context, it seems that the least of these refers specifically to other believers, but based on other sections of Scripture, I see no problem with generally applying these verses to the least of these in our world.

These verses are addressed to individual believers, not governments, and have far-ranging implications: Christians should be people who care about those who are downtrodden or oppressed in some way: those who are poor, hungry, sick, imprisoned, persecuted for their faith, disabled, the unborn, and yes, immigrants too. We should be concerned about all of these people, because the way we act toward them directly correlates to our relationship with Christ, and the way He will act toward us in the Day of Judgment.

Similarly, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we have an example of radical mercy and compassion, with the clear implication that everyone qualifies as our “neighbor” and thus, deserves our assistance.

So, regardless of government policy one way or the other, I do believe there are certain attitudes that Christians should convey toward the least of these (including immigrants), people whom Jesus clearly considers to be our neighbors. And once people like this are in our midst, there is a clear mandate for the way in which we should treat them.

Also, it is worth mentioning that there is some risk involved in showing compassion as Jesus calls us to: we may be inconvenienced, or get taken advantaged of, or even find ourselves in dangerous situations. But none of this seems to alter the command that Jesus gives us.

Sojourners–This is perhaps a subset of the last section, but there are many biblical texts which implore God’s people to take care of the foreigners or sojourners in their midst. I will share several of these because they are short, and also because I think they are often overlooked or unknown by believers.

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

(Exodus 22.21)

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

(Leviticus 19.33-34)

“He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

(Deuteronomy 10.18)

“‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”

(Deuteronomy 27.19)

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers…”

(Jeremiah 7.5-7)

“You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.”

(Ezekiel 47.22)

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

(Zechariah 7.9-10)

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”

(Malachi 3.5)

Keeping in mind all that we have already said about honoring biblical context and not equating the nation of Israel with the United States, isn’t it interesting how much emphasis is placed upon caring for sojourners in the Old Testament? They are frequently grouped along with the poor, widows, and orphans—basically a repeat of the “least of these” idea.

This special concern for sojourners/immigrants/foreigners occurs despite the fact that God is concerned about His people remaining their ethnic and religious identity: even in a society where God limited things like racial intermarriage, He still goes out of His way to mandate concern for foreigners.

And He provides a rationale for this as well: the people of Israel themselves had been sojourners in the Land of Egypt (where they were not well-treated); how dare they mistreat foreigners within their own midst? As Americans, most of us have ancestors who came to this country from other places, so this is reasoning that we should easily be able to follow. And as Christians, we are sojourners and exiles in this present world (1 Peter 2.11), which should provide us with an extra level of understanding for others with similar status.

Prayer for Leaders–This point is a simple one, but the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

(1 Timothy 2.1-2)

I don’t think that praying for leaders precludes Christian citizens from also engaging in courses of action like contacting representatives and protesting and using their political voice through voting. Furthermore, I don’t want to assume that the people who are protesting the loudest are not also praying, but I just want to offer this reminder: praying for our leaders is a biblical command, and it should be our first (and most frequent) response in difficult times.

I believe this is the most powerful “weapon” at our disposal when it comes to influencing policy for good, and yet, how often is it neglected or even openly disregarded and mocked (and sometimes by believers!)? I confess that just this morning, as I contemplated writing this post, it struck me at how little I had prayed for our nation’s leaders and the entire situation, and I stopped right then to do just that.

Gracious Interaction–As this variety of texts has illustrated, I do think this is an issue with some complexities and nuances, and sometimes, loving Christians who genuinely care for other people and want to do what’s best might come to different conclusions. When that happens, the way we interact with one another is very important.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

(Ephesians 4.15-16)

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

(Colossians 4.5-6)

The first of these texts occurs in the context of a discussion on unity in the Body of Christ, while the second refers to the way in which believers are to speak with “outsiders.” The key idea here is that we are to be extremely careful of the way we speak to and interact with others. We “should speak the truth in love”, and our speech should be “gracious, seasoned with salt.”

I think these two different sayings represent the same idea: it is possible to feel passionate about something, and even be right, but to present that idea in such a way that you become wrong. When we engage in discussion over this (or any) topic, it is paramount that we treat one another with grace, and that we present our own views with love and respect.

So, for example, it is neither helpful, nor Christian, to assume that if someone disagrees with me by supporting the Executive Order, he/she must not care about refugees. Similarly, it is neither helpful, nor Christian, to assume that if someone disagrees with me by opposing the Executive Order, he/she must not care about protecting their own family.

Dangerous Attitudes

With all of the discussion and biblical passages in mind, there are some attitudes which I have witnessed (from Christians) that I believe are spiritually dangerous, and must be opposed:

  • Attitudes that are driven by fear are inherently un-Christian. We are not called to be people of fear, but people of boldness who absolutely rely on our Heavenly Father to protect us. The argument, “If we let these immigrants enter into our country there may be terrorists in their midst who want to harm us” is a worldly argument. It is not a Christian one. It is an argument that I understand, and honestly, sympathize with, but the part of me that wants to make that argument is the worldly part of me, not the part of me that seeks to be a disciple of Jesus and live according to the principles He has established.
  • Attitudes with an “America first” mentality may be good (even necessary) national policy, but they are not Christian attitudes. Biblical teaching on the Body of Christ and the household of faith make it clear that, as a Christian, I have more in common with a Syrian Christian who speaks a different language than I do and whom I have never met than with my secular neighbor who lives just down the street. The Kingdom of God is universal, and it is to this Kingdom that I owe my primary allegiance.
  • Attitudes that display a lack of concern to those who are oppressed and suffering in foreign countries are un-Christian. To be clear, you can support President Trump’s policy and still be concerned for those affected by it, but I have also witnessed people say things such as, “We have too many of our own people and problems to worry about before we focus on others.” This is not a Christian attitude. All people matter to God, and thus, all people deserve our concern.
  • Attitudes that judge the motives of others are not Christian. It is beyond our ability to know the motives of others, and certainly beyond our job description to judge those motives. We should be charitable towards people with whom we disagree, and not assume that they are evil for disagreeing with us.
  • Attitudes that conflate the nation of Israel and/or the church with the United States of America are biblically uninformed and also do not reflect a Christian perspective. The US is not the Kingdom of God, and should not be expected to behave as if it is. There is nothing wrong (in my opinion) with seeking to influence American policy with Kingdom values, but expecting the US to reflect the policies of Ancient Israel or the behavioral requirements of individual Christians reflects confused and possibly disingenuous thinking.
  • Attitudes that perpetuate untruth are not Christian. Sometimes people repeat falsehood out of ignorance rather than malevolence, but still, truth is hindered when this happens. It seems to me that both sides are guilty of this: calling the Executive Order a “Muslim ban” does not seem fully honest, when it actually restricts people of multiple religious backgrounds from only a select number of (predominately Muslim) countries. There are non-Muslims who have been affected, and there are Muslim countries that have not been affected. On the other hand, claims that President Trump’s Executive Order mirror earlier policy made by President Obama also seem to be untrue, as there are significant differences between the two.

Concluding Thoughts

At this point, I have spilt a lot of digital ink discussing this issue without telling you what to think, or even telling you what I think, but neither of those things has really been my purpose. Instead, I have been trying to address Christians, and get them to reflect on a variety of things:

  • This is a complex issue, made so by some preliminary considerations related to applying biblical texts to our own situation, and also by what the Bible teaches concerning the role of governments, and the role we play as individual believers (and the tension that may exist between those two things).
  • We must be careful in the way we discuss these sorts of topics, and make sure to speak the truth in love and season our speech with grace.
  • There are a variety of dangerous spiritual attitudes that Christians can be guilty of. When we recognize them in our own thinking, we should seek to eliminate them, and when we see them portrayed by Christian brothers and sisters, we should (lovingly) seek to correct them.

As for my own thoughts, I appreciate the desire of President Trump to keep American citizens safe, but considering that we already have an extensive vetting process in place for refugees which has seemingly worked well to prevent terror attacks,  I feel the Executive Order was unnecessary. Besides, in my own life, I feel that I would rather err on the side of compassion, and that is a Kingdom value that I would be happy to see influence American policy.


*To use an example of this principle that I think all people will agree with and understand: if a drunk driver severely injures or kills someone I care about, it is appropriate and necessary for governments to execute justice and punish criminals. It is inappropriate for me, as an individual Christian, to take justice into my own hands and retaliate for the criminal act.

After the Election: A Plea for Christians

So there’s an election tomorrow; you may have heard something about it. Actually, if you’re like most people, you have probably heard so much about it that you don’t want to read another word. And I understand that—I actually wrote a good blog post about the election a few weeks ago (at least, thought it was good), but I didn’t even publish it, because who needed to read yet another person’s opinion about what the right thing to do in this election is?

So I want to be clear: this post is not about the election. It is a plea for Christians on what I think we should do moving forward, after the election is over and the dust has settled. Related to that, I am not a political scientist, or a lobbyist, or a pundit, so I am not going to presume to give you my opinion on a host of political topics. I am, however, a minister and a student of the Bible, and so I will frame this post from a biblical and moral perspective.

Elections can sometimes deceive us into thinking that we are making a real difference in the world with the way we vote, or that a Presidential election is of the utmost importance. But I want to push back on that a bit: from a Christian perspective, we are called to do a lot more than just vote, and we should have higher priorities than who the President of the United States is.

To Trump Supporters

People chose to support Donald Trump for a variety of reasons, but to those Christians who did so ultimately because you are vehemently opposed to abortion and couldn’t bring yourself to support Hillary Clinton (who is not only pro-choice but seems to be shockingly comfortable with virtually any abortion under any condition): I get where you’re coming from. Abortion is one of the great evils of American history; it is genocide against our own children. I absolutely abhor it.

But here’s the important thing that I really want you to hear: if you truly are opposed to abortion, please don’t think that simply by voting for Donald Trump (or any political candidate) that you are somehow doing your part to stop it.

If Christians are serious about opposing abortion (and we should be) it’s time to put our money (or time) where our mouth (or vote) is:

  • Adoption: The issue of abortion is part of a larger issue of children not being desired, and thus, is intrinsically related to the issue of adoption. My wife and I went through an embryo adoption process, and for me personally, my strong feelings about abortion were what convicted me about this being my calling to do more than just cast a vote. Adoption is a long, strenuous, and expensive process, but the reality is that there are children out there who need homes, and Christians are called to meet that need!
  • Support Others’ Adoptions: For a variety of reasons, it is simply not feasible for all Christians to adopt. But it is feasible for all Christians to support the adoptions of others! This can be done by making direct donations to families you know who are adopting (after all, it is expensive), by volunteering respite care or occasional babysitting to families with adoptive children, or by donating to adoption agencies directly to help defray some of the costs for adopting families (of particular interest for many of my readers, here is an adoption agency affiliated with Churches of Christ). P.S. If you are reading this and are in the process of adopting right now, if you will contact me I will be happy to share information on how people can make donations in support of your adoption.
  • Support Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Many times, abortions happen because young single women are frightened and feel like they have no other options. Crisis pregnancy centers help to educate and provide other options, generally free of charge. In Northwest Arkansas, Loving Choices is one of these centers, and you can support their great work by volunteering or making financial contributions.
  • Support Maternity Homes: Also called homes for unwed mothers, these groups work to provide a safe environment for girls under the age of 18 and help them plan for their futures. Compassion House is a maternity home in Northwest Arkansas, and can also be supported through volunteering or donations.

I think it is appropriate to use your political voice to oppose the heinous practice of abortion, but the reality is  that in our current political climate, this by itself accomplishes very little. Christians, we must do more! By no means is this an exhaustive list, but these are some practical ways in which Christians can do more than just vote.

To Hillary Supporters

People chose to support Hillary Clinton for a variety of reasons, but to those Christians who did so ultimately because you were so scandalized by the sorts of things Donald Trump said about immigrants, certain ethnic groups and (especially) women, and couldn’t bring yourself to vote for a person who could say such deplorable things: I get where you’re coming from. We have significant problems with xenophobia, racism, and the objectification of women in our society, and these are things that Christians must fight against.

But here’s the important thing that I really want you to hear: if you truly are opposed to xenophobia, racism, or the objectification of women, please don’t think that simply by voting for Hillary Clinton (or any political candidate) that you are somehow doing your part to stop those things.

If Christians are serious about opposing xenophobia/racism/objectifying women (and we should be) it’s time we actually stood up to fight against these things:

  • Xenophobia: The melting pot nature of the United States is an early and somewhat unique characteristic of our country. I believe it to be one of our great strengths, and in some ways even a small foretaste of what heaven will be like, a great multitude “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7.9). To the degree that you have immigrants in your community, make an effort to be in contact with and get to know them. Patronize their businesses. And be quick to speak against comments or jokes which denigrate immigrants (especially if they are made by other Christians).
  • Racism: In many ways, this is a related issue but is in some ways more deep-seated because of the long history of race-based slavery in the United States. I am not naive enough to suggest that I know the perfect solution to this problem, but at the very least, it has to begin with us getting to know people of different races and respecting them enough to listen to their experiences, try to empathize, and admit that perhaps we genuinely don’t know what it is like to be a person of color. And of course, be quick to speak against racist comments or jokes (especially if they are made by other Christians).
  • The Objectification of Women: This is undoubtedly a rampant problem, but in many ways is the natural result of the hyper-sexualized society in which we live where pornography (overwhelmingly depicting women, for male consumption) is readily available on the internet, satellite TV, and the sexting apps of middle schoolers. I do not know how to halt the massive momentum of this cultural problem in any way other than calling out and then refusing to support any activity, language, or form of entertainment that treats women as objects. This means no longer pretending that stars like Beyonce are somehow good role models for young girls when they treat women as objects in the lyrics they write and themselves as objects in the way they perform. It means punishing our sons if and when we hear them speak of women in disrespectful ways. It means informing our daughters and their dance team coaches that they will not participate in routines which call for teenage girls to dance in sexually-suggestive ways for audiences of adults at football and basketball games. And it means the constant re-affirmation to all the women in our lives that we love and value them because of the character they possess and the image of God that they bear rather than for their purely external characteristics.

I think it is appropriate to use your political voice to oppose a man who has said so many deplorable things, but Christians, if you really want our culture to be free from evils like xenophobia, racism, and the objectification of women, you have to do more than simply cast a ballot.

To Third Party Supporters

People chose to support Third Party candidates, or not vote at all, for a variety of reasons, but to those Christians who did so because they could not in good conscience bring themselves to vote for either Trump or Hillary due to the significant character deficiencies of both: I get where you’re coming from. In fact, I am you. I was appalled by the character of both candidates, and truly could not distinguish in my own mind who was worse.

Having spilt a lot of digital ink addressing those who supported Trump and Hillary, I want to address this audience as well, but self-critique is always a challenge. I think what I want to say is this: if you are disappointed in the moral condition of a nation that could produce these two people as the primary candidates for President, please don’t think that simply by not voting for either that you are somehow doing your part to improve it.

If Christians are serious about living in a society where character—morality, compassion, integrity, etc.—are valued, we have to begin by looking at ourselves. Are we living as salt and light in the world (Matthew 5.13-16)? Are we living in close enough proximity to the world that we can actually make an impact and at the same time distinct enough from the world that we can actually make a difference? If we are not in the world, we can’t influence it for good; if we’re just like the world, we also can’t influence it for good.

Unless and until Christians take seriously their calling to live as salt and light in the world, there is little hope for better circumstances or an improved moral condition.

To All of Us

This political season has been rough. Thankfully, it is almost over. Moving forward, in addition to what I’ve said above, there are a few important ideas that I think we should remember:

(1) Politics should not disrupt the unity of brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not saying that politics are unimportant, but they are not of the utmost importance. Although there is always room for respectful discussion and disagreement, it does God’s kingdom a great disservice when Christians wage wars with one another over political views, because the world notices the way we treat one another. Moving forward, we must repent of this behavior, and actively seek reconciliation in relationships that were damaged because of our opposing views in this election.

(2) We should be gentle in our judgments of others related to their political views. Since politics are not of the utmost importance, we need to be very careful about the judgments we pronounce on one another for the way we vote. Statements such as “You can’t be a Christian and vote for ______________” are inappropriate. It is God who separates the wheat from the tares, not us (Matthew 13.24-30). Furthermore, a lot of people genuinely felt that there was no good choice in this election, but that they had to choose someone. Moving forward, we must repent of this behavior, and be gentle in our judgments of others. I don’t want to be judged harshly for the decisions I made that I prayed and agonized over and struggled to determine the proper course of action, so I shouldn’t judge others harshly in similar circumstances.

(3) We should remember—always—that our citizenship lies in another sort of Kingdom, in which Jesus always sits on the throne. It is fine for us to express care and concern for the country in which we live (after all, Jesus did!), but sometimes we get overly worked up in political seasons and reveal that we sometimes forget that this world is not our home and that God is sovereign, regardless of what happens in our elections or to our country. Moving forward, we must repent of this behavior, and proclaim Jesus as King and ourselves as His subjects, before all else, no matter what.

Christians: after the election, this is my plea to you.


*This post takes for granted that Christian readers will acknowledge the inherent wickedness of practices like abortion, xenophobia, racism, the objectification of women, and the smug passing of judgement on one another. All of these are, inherently, dehumanizing actions, and for those who bear the image of God and are called to see Jesus in one another, are completely unacceptable.

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