Christianity 201

October 11, 2020

Not What is “Fair” But What is “Right”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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There is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:11)

When I go back to writers we’ve used before, I can always tell by what I wrote in the introduction whether a blogger we discovered particularly impressed me. To return to find they stopped writing always drives me to find “just one more” article that I can share here. This is from Annie Birkelo at the blog Eyes Wide Open and is the final article which appeared in March, 2018. It’s longer than the excerpt here so I encourage you to click the title which follows now and read it in full on her site.

Lines

“Fair is not always equal ~ Equal is not always Fair.” This came out of my mouth on practically a weekly basis when I was raising my children. I find these days, as I go through hard situations with other adults, this is something I think, and sometimes, even say, far more frequently than I did back then.

We are raised these days to think that everyone is entitled. We are conditioned to think that everyone should get the same things, and if we aren’t, that something is wrong. But the thing about it is ~ life is conditional. People are in different places, walking out different circumstances, and need different things when it comes to what is best for them. And if you look at the Bible as a whole, this is how Jesus healed, taught, and walked.

Jesus was a rebel in His day. He still is! But not for the sake of being one – and not because He is on a rampage to show how great He is ~ calling everybody out and putting everyone in their place was not the motivation, although that had to happen in order to stand for what is right in God’s eyes. He was and is seen as a rebel simply because doing things the way that God intends is ALWAYS going to buck the system of man. Period.

Like so many others, there is another verse in the Bible that I find keeps getting twisted, used, distorted, for selfish gain. “There is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:11)  In this section of scripture, we are told that no matter who we are, Jew or Gentile, God will not consider that which is outward when He makes his final judgements. Our outward appearance won’t matter. Our cultural or religious advantages, titles, and other things -not gonna help us out a whole lot. None of the outward things will give us a leg up when it comes to how God sees us.

God looks for what we do with what we know in our hearts to be true about Him. He looks on the inside. And He even goes beyond OUR hearts, and looks for whether we have accepted Christ Jesus into our hearts as Savior and Lord.  It may not seem “fair”, but we are all given a choice – in that way, it really is. We often tend to forget about that fact.

In this way, there will be a division – make no mistake about it, friends. Some will choose not to accept Jesus and the salvation He has freely offered us and rely solely upon their own good deeds or outward appearance and take their chances. Some will go through the motions, looking all bright and shiny on the outside, but not giving a hoot about what is there on the inside. Regardless, we stand no chance if we don’t accept Christ as our Savior so we can be seen as spotless in the eyes of the Lord.

And as we walk this earth, if we are true followers after Christ, we are going to have to become rebels too. The hard part is to do this when it is appropriate, without tossing the rest of scripture out the window, without sinning as we do what is right, and relying upon Him for help, rather than ourselves. God help us all.

So. We are to do what is right, and that doesn’t always seem “fair.” We are to stand for Jesus, and that can seem unbalanced at times (not equal). In some ways, the concept of fairness and equality can often seem evil to me now – it’s become so distorted.

I know this, because as a young child, living in the flesh and totally self-centered, I found myself always saying “that’s not fair” when I didn’t get what I wanted. Now, I find myself saying “that doesn’t seem RIGHT” a lot more.

Go ahead – don’t be afraid of the crashing judgment people will bring down upon your head for doing it.  Just say it with me: “That doesn’t seem RIGHT.” …

continue reading as Jesus applies this to the woman caught in John 8

June 14, 2020

Racism: When You Lose Your Privilege

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Years ago a popular Christian magazine, The Wittenburg Door (deliberately misspelled with a ‘u’ instead of an ‘e’) decided to conduct an experiment involving the magazine itself.

The entire issue was reproduced from hastily photocopied draft copies. As readers opened their mail, they saw a note saying they could have printed more ‘good’ copies from the completed magazine, but the full print run they had done had already been sent out to other subscribers.

Of course, there were no ‘good’ copies. Everyone received the same issue with the same note, and people were irate. A 1986 article in the South Florida Sun Sentinel explains:

An avalanche of outraged mail followed that issue, [Mike] Yaconelli chortles. “They took the bait. A lot of them ranted about how they didn’t want second best. They found out what it means to be discriminated against.”

Oh yes, I forgot to mention: It was a special themed issue on racism.

We can say that we’re wanting to see a world with a level playing field, but where inequities exist, we are often comfortable with that, provided we’re the ones on the upper tier.

This 6-minute video from The Bible Project shows how humans care so much about equality and justice:

This is part of the crisis in the Book of Jonah. The prophet is fairly certain his message will be rejected, since the Ninevites are described mostly in terms of their depravity. When fishy circumstances result in him having to deliver his prophetic word, he realizes his worst case when they actually accept.

In terms of Justice, their deliverance from destruction puts them and himself on a level playing field, but he’s not happy with that outcome because he doesn’t view them as worthy, or as equal, and would have been happier with their destruction.

It’s interesting to see the description of the Ninevites:

NIV.Jonah.4v11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left…

That’s quite a description. Most translations follow that pattern. But we also see:

  • innocent children (GNT)
  • people in spiritual darkness (LB/NLT)
  • childlike (Message)
  • do not know right from wrong (NET/Message)

Given that description, the texts from The Bible Project video tell us to:

NIV.Prov 31v8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

NIV.Jer.22v3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

NIV.Ps.146v7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

We do this out of our response to what God has done for us. The video notes that

God’s response to humanity’s legacy of injustice is to give us a gift, the life of Jesus. He did righteousness and justice and yet he died on behalf of the guilty. But then God declared Jesus to be the righteous one when he rose from the dead. And so now Jesus offer his life to the guilty so they too can be declared righteous before God, not because of anything they’ve done but because of what Jesus did for them.




For more on the subject of racism as it applies to the U.S. in particular, you might want to check out this 17-minute video history lesson by Phil Vischer which is introduced at this link.

September 26, 2014

Justice, Equality, Fairness and Jesus

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:38 pm
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NRSV Matthew 20:8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 

In first introducing today’s writer last year, I explained that some blogs consist of pastors’ sermon notes written for churches that use the Lectionary as a guide to preaching. In these churches, the Evangelical concept of a sermon series in completely foreign; instead there are three or four prescribed readings for each Sunday, usually consisting an Old Testament reading, a Psalm , a selection from the gospels, and an excerpt from an Epistle.  (These vary somewhat by tradition and some denominations send out an amended version to their ministers.)  The pastor then chooses one of the texts to form the basis of the weekend sermon.

That’s the case with the blog ForeWords written by Rich Brown.  Click the title below to read at source and discover more Lectionary based sermons.

Live the Gospel

Parable of the LaborersHeritage Day (Community of Christ)
Ordinary Time (Proper 20)
Exodus 16:2–15; Psalm 105:1–6, 37–45; Philippians 1:21–30; Matthew 20:1–16

Those of us who’ve lived our entire lives in countries where justice, equality under the law, and fairness are considered the bedrock of society tend to forget that the kingdom of God preached by Jesus is not a reflection of the world we’ve created. But then, neither are our democratically oriented cultures necessarily an imitation of the heavenly kingdom. And that’s one of the reasons why so many of us may have a tough time with Jesus’ parable at the beginning of Matthew chapter 20.

If we were to hear about a comparable tale here in the 21st century our first response might well be that those vineyard workers sure needed a strong union seeking a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement. It is, after all, patently unfair that those workers toiling all day in the field–no doubt under a hot Judean sun–got the same amount of pay as the ones brought to the fields in late afternoon who had worked only an hour or two. Matthew recounts that this is not just a 21st-century concern:

“Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’” –Matt. 20:10-12 NRSV

Parables, it must always be remembered, are not literal storytelling; they are stories told to get across greater, deeper truths. And so this isn’t a story about unfair working conditions. Certainly in our own day–as in Jesus’ time–workers are exploited. We Christians should be in the forefront of those seeking an end to such abuse. This story/parable is about something quite different. It’s about the kingdom of God, which is based on grace not fairness.

The landowner in the parable (presumably a stand-in for God) made it clear that he set the rules and established the relationship with the workers. In kingdom-of-God terms, this is not a contractual arrangement; it is instead a covenant:

“Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” –vs. 13-16

Many of us Christians have an unfortunate tendency to think that God loves us more than all the rest of humanity–or at least that God places us at the front of the line for eternal blessings because we’re followers of Jesus. But we must remember that we’re not the first to be “chosen” by God. That belongs to the literal descendants of Abraham and Sarah: the Jews. Yes, that covenant is still in force. Check out what the apostle Paul has to say about that topic in Romans chapter 11.

With that in mind, then, who might those late-afternoon workers in God’s vineyard be: why, that would be us Christians. An uncomfortable thought perhaps for many of us. And it might be even more squirm-inducing if we Christians are actually the mid-day workers who were added. If that’s the case, then God may well be planning to add even more to the divine fold. But, but, but…we might protest. How unfair of God to invite those we casually term “unbelievers” (or heathens or any number of other less complimentary terms) into God’s presence. Once more: it’s not about fairness, it’s all about grace.

God, being the generous Creator God is, was, and always will be, can expand the boundaries of the so-called “chosen” for whatever reason God so desires. Among other things, that puts to shame our “Christian” tendency to point judgmental fingers at others, deciding on our own who’s in and who’s out, who’s saved and who’s damned. In fact, this could just change everything.


I really loved the idea in the 2nd last paragraph that perhaps many of us are the mid-day workers — or even late day workers — in the story. Think for a moment; how might that fit individually or corporately?