No Answers Here

Along the Way @ (1)

Gentle Reader,

The Middle East refugee crisis is one of the great humanitarian disasters of our time. There is no doubt about that. Large numbers of people flee horrific scenes of violence. They run fast and far from an ideological conflict that has been raging for centuries, but now threatens to boil over into a total war that could engulf the world. Allegiances shift. The reasons for fighting don’t always make sense to those of us living in the West. Politicians vacillate and babble. Everyone has an opinion as to what should be done.

I don’t.

I don’t have the answers.

First, it’s stupid of anyone to think that he’s got the magic bullet that will solve all the problems in the Middle East. Have all the meetings you want, but the hostility, stretching back to Isaac and Ishmael, is not going to stop this side of eternity. Second, it’s ignorant to believe that the Islamic State is not a legitimate form of Islam. No, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all Muslims support the Islamic State. But members of the IS do not practice eisegesis. They do not read into the Qur’anic texts ideas and concepts that are not already there. (See this excellent article for an in-depth exploration). If we are going to attempt to address this problem at all, we had better do it from an informed place.

But even then, what should our response be?

I am a pacifist. Have been since I was a young teenager. I believe that the Lord convicted me on this due to my own slow-burning but ultimately very bad temper and the fact that I have to work hard to control it. There’s no way that I can make the call to spread the Gospel blend with violence of any kind, physical or verbal. I don’t question the faith of people who see things differently and I would never be disrespectful to anyone in the military. (My parents raised me better than that and my uncles, all members of the armed forces or police officers, would rake me over the coals). This is simply where I fall.

As such, I don’t believe that sending troops to the region will do any good in the long term, especially since the battles waged across desert sands are theological in nature. This is about Islam. About the domination of a particular interpretation and practice of that religion. No amount of intervention on our part is going to change that. I don’t see the sense in American men and women putting their boots on the ground to take part in a little-understood, unending conflict that grows bloodier by the day.

So you might conclude that I would be on the side of those who call for the government to throw open wide the doors for any refugees who wish to come here.

Not necessarily.

Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than seeing children suffer because of the selfish actions of the adults in their lives. I hate to think of them trying to sleep with the ring of gunfire in their ears. The image of mothers scrounging for food for their little ones makes me sick. Elderly people shouldn’t have to live in war zones. A large part of me says, “Let them come. Let them come.”

Another part of me realizes that human beings are sinful. Islam allows for kitman, meaning that a Muslim may make ambiguous statements and pay mere lip-service to authority while maintaining personal opposition. She may say one thing and do another. Like it or not, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a member of the IS would use kitman to pose as a refugee in order to enter the United States. (Whether or not that’s an appropriate application of the concept is outside my realm of knowledge. I’ll leave that debate to the experts).

Still another part knows that a sizable minority who flee the terror are my brothers and sisters in the Lord. The persecution they suffer for their faith is real, despite protests to the contrary. I can’t turn a blind eye to beheadings and crucifixions. I want to rise up and shield them from such barbarous evil.

I can hear your objections. “You’re spreading religious hatred!” “You’re prejudiced!” “You’re hateful!”

Not at all. I don’t for a second believe that all of the refugees, or even a majority of them, are terrorists in disguise. I don’t think that every Muslim is a liar. I don’t think that we need to fear these people.

I do think that we need both compassion and wisdom. There’s a reason that Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). We can’t have one without the other and navigate this life successfully.

I don’t know what our response should be, either nationally or as Christians. This is not as cut-and-dried as some on either side of the debate would have it be. At the national level, we face debt crisis after debt crisis; it’s unreasonable to think that we can, given the current economic make-up, financially support an unchecked flood of humanity. It’s not wrong to wonder why other Muslim-majority nations aren’t more accepting of Muslim refugees. At the faith level, yes, we are called to stand for the oppressed and care for the widow and the orphan. We are also told to be watchful and eschew willful ignorance. We can’t and shouldn’t ignore the problem and hope it goes away, but all of these elements need to be taken into consideration before attempting to implement any solution.

Whatever side any of us lands on, we must acknowledge that one thing we absolutely must not do is lob figurative grenades at each other as we wrestle with these issues. Christians screaming at each other and calling each other’s faith into question does nothing. We can be members of the one Body and have different opinions on how to respond to this. As my pastor shared last week:

I remember a time, especially as Christians, when an issue such as the Syrian refugee crisis confronted us, and our first reaction was to pray about it. We sought the Lord individually or even collectively in our faith communities and asked, “God, what would you have me/us do?” I remember a time when we would seek the leading and the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit and respond in obedience and absolutely no one had to know. We didn’t have to come up with a creative meme, Tweet or Facebook status – we simply responded in obedience to how God was leading us…not solely with our emotions. Furthermore, if your willingness to obey resulted in you having a different opinion about a particular issue than someone else, that was okay – you could function in humility in a relationship with people of varying opinions because you might be supporting a cause that was diametrically opposed to your neighbor’s value system, but they were none the wiser because you simply lived your life in quiet obedience to what you sensed God wanted you to do. How I miss that time! I wonder if it can be reclaimed?

– Mark McWhorter, Rambling Thoughts as I Get Old

Let us reclaim that spirit of unity in diversity.

Let it begin with me.

My journey to faith. (15)

P.S. – Since I know someone is going to bring it up, I’m neither a supporter or a member of either the Republican Party or the Democrat Party. Both disgust me in equal measure.

Five Minute Friday (I’m Late…Again): Hope

Jesus at the center of it allJesus at (2)

Gentle Reader,

I don’t know what it is about Thursday evenings all of sudden, but I can’t seem to get in on the Twitter action.

It might be because I can tell that I’m heading into another season of hating the internet and all things technological.

The Luddite in me struggles.

Linking up (very late) with Kate and the crew. We: hope.


I’m feeling cantankerous.

And weary.

I’m so tired of all this pseudo-intellectual, pretentious nonsense that passes itself off as wisdom and knowledge these days. Tired of bad doctrine like open theism being so casually embraced by the Church. Tired of this bill calling for the removal of the words “husband” and “wife” from federal documents. (‘Cause we’re all just so stupid and discriminatory and people are special snowflakes and that’s SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than addressing things like unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, systemic racism, human trafficking, education, soaring federal deficit, equal pay for women, the lack of proper support and care for veterans….) Tired of people who just absolutely refuse to think through to the logical conclusion of anything. Tired of living in a post-modern word that rejects metanarrative and concrete word meaning – until that doesn’t work and then suddenly language matters, but only in the way deemed appropriate and necessary by those who would seek to redefine words.

It all makes me very cranky.

In the midst of the crank, what fascinates me is how so much of this, both within the Church and without, is emotion-driven. “I don’t like the way you/that makes me feel, so you/that are/is the enemy and must be destroyed.” There is no rational reasoning. There is no agreeing to disagree and live in peace. There must be total acquiescence and silencing.

Furthermore, the louder the screams, the more defensive and hot-headed a person gets, the more insecure they are. If you really believe what you believe about something, anything, another person disagreeing with you or having a different viewpoint isn’t going to send you into a tailspin. Confidence in a position means that you don’t have to have everyone on your side. The squashing of dissent is a sign of fear and a desire to control.

And that is why I am so glad that my hope is in Christ. He never says to sue the government or scream at your neighbor or redefine/censor language or pitch a big, fat, stinking fit when someone disagrees. He says, “Look to Me. Follow Me.” Whether anyone else does or not is irrelevant. Because it’s not about forcing an agenda on anyone. It’s not about feelings.

It’s all about Him.


My journey to faith. (15)

Marriage is What Drives Us Apart Today

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

I’ll just get right down to it.

I do not plan to revisit this in future posts. This is not going to become a theme. However, since I have long placed my words on the public buffet table, there’s really no way to avoid the topic. Before we get any further along, allow me to quote John MacArthur, who I don’t agree with on many points of doctrine, but who expresses it best when he says:

Marriage is not the ultimate battleground, and our enemies are not the men and women who seek to destroy it (2 Corinthians 10:4). The battleground is the Gospel. Be careful not to replace patience, love, and prayer with bitterness, hatred, and politics.

So here we go.

I’m not going to go protest at a gay wedding. I’m not going to refuse to associate with gay people. I wouldn’t shun a gay couple if they moved in next door. I don’t feel the need to bring up the topics of gay marriage or homosexuality in every conversation, Facebook comment or blog post. I’m not going to seek out gay people so I can shout at them. These actions are not only pointless, they are caricatures of what it means to be a Christian.

I’ll keep behaving as I have behaved all along, thanks.

But none of that requires that I say that gay marriage is blessed by God. I’m not going to say that He “created” same-sex unions anymore than He “created” heterosexual promiscuity, the point being that He does not call us to continue living in what He defines as sin. Yes, God loves us as we are and He sent Christ to save us while we were still sinners. Praise Him for that! But that love? It is transformative. It does not say, “Oh, you just go ahead and keep doing what you want.”

The fact that I believe marriage is a God-designed institution made for one man and one woman doesn’t make me a bigot. It doesn’t make me hateful. It doesn’t mean I think I’m better than other people. It doesn’t make me sick or twisted.

All my stance on this issue means is that I am striving to be consistent in my doctrine.

My denomination has issued a statement affirming that which is laid out in our manual of practice. We also stand with the National Association of Evangelicals:

Statement from the Board of General Superintendents, Church of the Nazarene –

Societies across the globe are engaged in conversations to redefine marriage. Media debates, election-day balloting, and governmental court rulings have provided the platform for this redefinition. We believe a biblical view of marriage involves a monogamous, covenantal relationship between a man and a woman. Jesus said, “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6 NIV).

Today the United States Supreme Court, in the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. We remind our people that while the civil law of yet another country has changed, divine truth has not changed. We will learn how this civil definition functions within the context of our constitutional and religious freedoms. Our commitment to the orthodox biblical Christian faith remains the same. We continue to call Nazarenes around the world to a life of holiness, characterized by holy love and expressed through the most rigorous and consistent lifestyle of sexual purity. We further call our people to a generosity and graciousness of spirit that extends kindness to those who do not share our belief. We pray that God will help us be examples of His truth in a world that needs to see God’s love demonstrated in word and deed more than ever.

Statement from the National Association of Evangelicals –

God designed marriage for humanity. As first described in Genesis and later affirmed by Jesus, marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. This lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship brings children into the world and thus sustains the stewardship of the earth. Biblical marriage —­­ marked by faithfulness, sacrificial love and joy — displays the relationship between God and his people.

While commentators, politicians and judges may revise their understanding of marriage in response to shifting societal trends, followers of Jesus should embrace his clear vision of marriage found in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.

In its role as a moral teacher, the law now misleads Americans about the true nature of marriage. Evangelicals and other followers of the Bible have a heightened opportunity to demonstrate the attractiveness of loving Christian marriages and families. Evangelicals should renew their commitment to the sacrificial love and covenantal faithfulness to which Jesus calls all husbands and wives.

As witnesses to the truth, evangelicals should be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage. Those who continue to embrace biblical teaching on marriage will increasingly appeal to the First Amendment protection not just for abstract belief, but for the practice of their faith. The National Association of Evangelicals calls on Congress to enact laws, on the president to implement policies, and on the courts to render judgments that uphold the freedom and human rights of all Americans.

More –

In the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) regrets the court’s shift away from the historic understanding of marriage, but recognizes that the truth about marriage has not changed.

“At the beginning of the Bible, God defined marriage. In the New Testament, Jesus described marriage. Neither asked the Supreme Court for a new definition or description,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president.

The NAE today released a statement about marriage in light of the court’s redefinition, which says in part:

Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.

Anderson said, “As evangelicals, we look to the Bible — not the courts — for guidance on life. Marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. May this court decision be a clarion call to American evangelicals to proclaim and exhibit the good news about biblical marriage.”

The NAE recognizes that governments at times adopt policies that do not align with biblical values. However, those policies should not require those who follow the clear teachings of the Bible to change their beliefs or practices.

Anderson said, “As we respect a legal ruling with which we do not agree, we ask others to respect our faith and practices even when they disagree with us.”

The NAE calls on evangelicals to be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage and to also advocate for liberty for all who desire to live out their faith. The NAE calls on Congress to enact laws, on the president to implement policies, and on the courts to render judgments that uphold the freedom and human rights of all Americans.

I look to God for direction in all things. His word tells me that the faith has always been counter-cultural. Following Christ has always meant being out of step with the world at large. He defines what is right and what is wrong and will never be knocked off of His throne. It does not matter how governments rule on this or other positions. God is supreme. With this in mind, I will continue to learn to navigate life with both sobriety and joy, confident in my position as a daughter of the King. I will strive to treat everyone I come into contact with as a person, a human being, an image-bearer – whether they agree with me or not.

Nothing else needs to be said.

My journey to faith. (15)