Preparing for Good Friday

If you were to ask me what I think about Good Friday, I would say that Good Friday is the most outrageous event in human history.

At the center of the day is this event: The God, who created the cosmos that Stephen Hawkings admired, died at the hands of the people He created.
What a tragedy when creation does not recognize and even kills its own Creator.
“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:14-15a).

We know from our reality such saddening events as the following:
-Lupus and other autoimmune diseases are when the human body attacks itself.
-Civil wars are tragic because you have brother pitted against brother, or a government attacking its own citizens.
Perhaps we recognize the unimaginable moral ugliness and offensiveness of such events precisely because they ultimately point us to our failure to recognize our Creator, even to the point of killing Him.

Now what makes the death of Jesus, God the Son in the flesh, even more outrageous is that He willingly gave up His life on our behalf.  He knew that He would be killed by His own people and He gave His life up so that He could secure their reconciliation to Himself.

We humans are mere specks compared to God, and even more than that, we committed high treason against Him. For all intents and purposes, God could have left us alone since we were the party that broke off our agreement with Him.  We have forsaken the LORD, we have despised the Holy One of Israel, and we are utterly estranged from Him.

But God on His own initiative went to the trouble of securing the means of our forgiveness and reconciliation.

The significance of Good Friday would make headlines that you would not see any time soon:
-King dies for traitorous rebels.
-Husband dies for a wife that cheated on him.
-Father dies for a son that hated him and ran away from home.
-Man takes the place of someone on death row who was guilty of killing his family.

In essence: we have a holy God dying for sinful mankind.

Given that we have a Creator that gave His life up for our sake to bring us back to Him when we forfeited that right to His presence, how much more should leaders at every level of society use their authority in a manner that seeks the good of the people in their care even if it comes at their own expense.

World leaders such as Xi Jinping, Kim Jung-un, Bashar al-Assad, Putin, and Trump are all in a position of authority, and they have a moral responsibility to use that authority for the good of their people and of their neighbors.  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Wayne LaPierre are both people who have used their authority and influence in ways that have caused people a lot of harm and destruction.  They both propagated a narrative that has led to the deaths of innocent people. The police, military, and other law enforcement officers have a moral responsibility to exercise their authority in a responsible manner and not put to death innocent people even as they do what they can to bring guilty individuals to justice.

In our country, we hope our lawmakers would find sense in creating legislation that can bring justice and accountability to such things as immigration, gun safety, environmental issues, sexual identity, police brutality, abortion, opioids, Syrian refugees, and the like.  With a proper understanding of force of law, and doing our best to wield that authority properly, we have to do what we can to find common ground and put forth measures that will benefit us all.

Good Friday is also a picture of forgiveness.
Forgiveness builds bridges, but it is costly.

Note also that Jesus did not wait for us to apologize before He came and took the initiative to set out measures needed to secure our forgiveness and reconciliation. We were the guilty party and by all intents and purposes, we should have been the ones to ask God for forgiveness. God already secured the means of our reconciliation before we even asked for it.  How much more should we adopt the same gracious attitude towards one another?

Both sides, the right and the left, have to swallow their prides for forgiveness to happen.
The right have been called racists, fascists, and bigots and the left have been called “libtards,” snowflakes, and commies.  Both sides have members that are quick to demonize the others, but there are also those who do not dive into such extremes, and they are just not as vocal and public as the more outrageous, outspoken individuals.

This past presidential election has done a lot in dividing this country.  Perhaps it is time that we do what we can to heal the divide before it gets worse.  I would love to see more conversation happen between the two sides of this country.  I would like to see bridges built instead of burnt.

Both sides should not have to wait for the other side to apologize to start having a civil discourse about the things we need to do to help our country pursue justice and the public good.  Once one side calls the other side names, that just shuts the conversation down and we would not get anywhere productive. My proposal is to ask both sides to see the best in others even when they fail to give it back to you.

In other words, be gracious with your opponent.

Take some time to hear from the other side, and do not immediately shut their arguments down by calling it “bigoted” or “socialist”, but at least take some time to explain why you think such and such an argument is unsound and unhelpful.  Also it is far too easy to make a straw man of the other side, so at least actively look for the best arguments put forth by the other side and work with the people who have nuanced, thoughtful opinions instead of those who dive into an all or nothing mentality.

To conclude my thoughts:
-Good Friday is the most outrageous event in human history:
God became human and gave up His life on behalf of people who wanted nothing to do with Him.
Some implications for us:
-ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior so you can be reconciled to God
-if reconciled to God, you should now behave in a manner befitting of your renewed allegiance
Some things that Jesus modeled for us to imitate:
-authority is at its best when it seeks the good of others even at its own cost, so seek self-sacrificial leadership
-forgiveness is costly but it builds bridges and is proactive, seeking to respect others even before respect is received, so be gracious to your opponent for the sake of unity

A Gospel Informed Thought on Environmentalism

Say that we were a tenant living in an apartment.
We were found guilty of violating our lease.
The landlord has legal grounds to evict us before our lease has ended.
We are also horrible at keeping the apartment clean to the point that it is becoming a public health hazard to ourselves.
Which case takes priority?
Seeking forgiveness from the landlord or cleaning up our apartment?

If we were to try to clean up our apartment without seeking forgiveness from the landlord, we would be kicked out of our apartment once the landlord saw fit to do so.  We would be leaving our now clean apartment for another to inhabit, but we ourselves would be out of luck.

The priority should be to seek forgiveness from the landlord, not just on keeping the apartment clean. While we should devote some of our time to cleaning up our apartment, we should devote the rest of our time to getting back on good terms with our landlord so the apartment remains ours to keep.

Not only that, but the landlord would actually help us out once we’re back on good terms with him.  This landlord would go the extra distance and help us clean up our apartment.

  • God entrusted the earth to mankind to steward for His glory and for our benefit.
  • We have been terrible at taking care of it the best way we know how.
  • For all intents and purposes, He can evict us from the earth and start anew.
  • However He sent Jesus to be the means by which we can be forgiven of our violations of our lease.
  • Once we seek reconciliation with Him, the earth would remain ours and the world would be renewed starting with our moral transformation.

However much our science can help us manage our resources better (and they have), they still do not hold a candle to the possibilities that God has in store should we enlist His aid.  He currently is not legally bound to help all of us, since much of our neighbors still remain in a state of rebellion against Him.  They remain at war with God until they accept the peace treaty that is Christ Jesus.

So if you were to ask me why Christians prioritize the preaching of the gospel, it is because getting back on good terms with our landlord takes priority since He has legal rights to evict us from our planet for breaking our lease with Him.  He graciously provided a means by which we could be reconciled with Him and through a renewed legal contract, He would be legally obligated to help us with our problems, even as we do what we can to solve them on our own.  God is our greatest ally, why should we not do what we can to enlist His aid?

A Good Friday and Easter Sunday Meditation

What is Good Friday and Easter Sunday all about?

The God of the Bible is humanity’s rightful King.
All humans, no matter what background they come from, have rebelled against Him and forsaken Him.
We deserve eternal punishment for dishonoring a King of eternal glory.

There are many ways that we humans dishonor God, whether it be through misuse of authority (power-hungry leaders, police brutality, male abuse); our sexuality (finding our identities in something other than that prescribed by God), dishonoring others (racism, bullying, slander), injustice (calling guilty people innocent and calling innocent people guilty).

Good Friday: God the Son entered human history as Jesus of Nazareth to take the punishment that was reserved for us by dying on a cross for our sins:
“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)

Easter Sunday: Jesus rose from the dead, demonstrating His power over sin and death:
“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” (Romans 6:9-10)

God is our King and we are His subjects. We committed high treason against Him and deserve capital punishment for our crimes. But the Crown Prince Jesus came and took our punishment on our behalf and was raised from the dead. With His new life, He offers us rebels an opportunity to have our crimes pardoned and more than that, to be reconciled to our King and be elevated with the Crown Prince to a new status.

Jesus does not simply provide the means for our forgiveness, He also elevates us with Him to share His royal status.

If we accept Him as our risen Lord and Savior, we shall be united with Him in a death like his, and we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him (Romans 6:5-7). If then we agree to be reconciled to God in Christ Jesus, we must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).

Jesus is Lord because He is our reconciled, rightful King.
Jesus is Savior because He saved us from the penalty of our sins, namely death and separation from God.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday represent the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, historical events that have come to be the means through which humans can be reconciled to their Creator and begin a process of moral transformation that can bring blessings and renewal to the whole world. This inner transformation and reconciled relationship to God will begin to express themselves in the way that we interact with others.

Our identities will change, our laws will change, our culture will change, and our society will change for the better, and they’re at their optimal best when we humans, through Christ Jesus, are reconnected with the God from whom all justice and righteousness flow.

Redeeming our Sexuality

It is uncanny that Richard Baxter, a 17th century English Puritan preacher, could make arguments that could speak clearly and pointedly to our debate about our sexuality and transgender identities.

He did not need to consider genetics to make his arguments, but considered the issue from a Bible-saturated perspective.

He defines flesh as “the sensitive appetite itself,” which can manifest itself as sexual appetites and other thoughts and feelings that originate from the self.  The basic thrust of his argument is that God made us sexual beings, and so sexuality is a part of our humanity, but God gave us laws that govern the proper use of our sexuality.

“That Adam had an appetite to the forbidden fruit was not his sin; but that his will obeyed his appetite, and his mouth did eat. For the appetite and sensitive nature are of God, and are in nature antecedent to the law. God made us men before he gave us laws; and the law commandeth us not to alter ourselves from what he made us, or anything else which is naturally out of power. But it is the sin of the will and executive powers, to do that evil which consisteth in obeying an innocent appetite. The appetite is necessary, and not free; and therefore God doth not direct his commands or prohibitions to it directly, but to the reason and free-will.”

However, Richard goes on to argue that the appetite itself became corrupted since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden:

“But since man’s fall, the appetite itself is corrupted and become inordinate, that is, more impetuous, violent, and unruly than it was in the state of innocency, by the unhappy distempers that have befallen the body itself. For we find now by experience, that a man that useth himself to sweet and wholesome temperance, hath no such impetuous strivings of his appetite against his reason (if he be healthful) as those have that are either diseased, or used to obey their appetites.  And if use and health make so great alteration, we have cause to think that the depravation of nature by the fall did more”

Perhaps it is with this view of a corrupted nature that we should bear in mind when we read the apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans:

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27)

Men and women with same-sex attraction essentially have a corrupted appetite that has become inordinate, “that is, more impetuous, violent, and unruly than it was in the state of innocency, by the unhappy distempers that have befallen the body itself.”  In a sense, sexual immorality is simply our inherited sin nature expressing itself through our sexuality.

What I mean by “sin nature,” is that we humans have a proclivity towards thoughts, attitudes, and actions that run contrary to God’s moral expectations of us.  When God created us as sexual beings, He also gave us laws that govern the proper use of our sexuality for His glory.  However, our sin nature create a probabilistic obstacle against our perfect obedience to His laws.  We encounter difficulty in fulfilling His expectations, but that does not excuse us from that moral responsibility as we still remain rational, free agents.

Richard Baxter considers pre-emptively the objections that flesh-pleasers may have against the notion that pleasing their flesh is a sin:

Plea of flesh-pleasers.

Objection I: What hurt is it to God, or any one else, that I please my flesh? I will not believe that a thing so harmless will displease him.

Answer: Merely as it is pleasure, it hath no hurt in it: but as it is inordinate or immoderate pleasure; or as it is overloved, and preferred before God and your salvation; or as it is greater than your delight in God; or as it wants its proper end, and is loved merely for itself, and not used as a means to higher things; and as it is made a hinderance to the soul, and to spiritual pleasure, and the service of God; and as it is the brutish delight of an ungoverned, rebellious appetite, that mastereth reason, and is not under obedience to God. Though sin can do God no hurt, it can do you hurt, and it can do him wrong. I think I have showed you what hurt and poison is in it already. It is the very rebellion of corrupted nature; the turning of all things upside down; the taking down God, and heaven, and reason, and destroying the use of all the creatures, and setting up flesh-pleasing instead of all, and making a brute your god and governor. And do you ask what harm there is in this? So will your child do, when he desireth any play, or pleasure; and the sick, when they desire to please their appetite. But your father, and physician, and reason, and not brutish appetite, must be judge.

Objection II: But I feel it is natural to me, and therefore can be no sin.
Answer: 1. The inordinate, violent, unruly appetite is no otherwise natural to you, than as a leprosy is to a leprous generation. And will you love your disease, because it is natural? It is no otherwise natural, than it is to be malicious, and revengeful, and to disobey your governors, and abuse your neighbors; and yet I think they will not judge you innocent, for rebellion or abuse, because it is natural to you.
2. Though the appetite be natural, is not reason to rule it as natural to you? And is not the subjection of the appetite to reason natural? If it be not, you have lost the nature of man, and are metamorphosed into the nature of a beast. God gave you a higher nature to govern your appetite and lower nature: and though reason cannot take away your appetite, it can rule it, and keep you from fulfilling it, in any thing or measure that is unmeet.

Objection III: But it appeareth by the case of Eve, that the appetite was the same in innocency; therefore it is no sin.
Answer: You must not forget the difference between,
1. The appetite itself.
2. The violence and unruly disposition of the appetite.
3. And the actual obeying and pleasing of the appetite.
The first (the appetite itself) was in innocency, and is yet no sin. But the other two (the violence of it, and the obeying of it) were not in innocency, and are both sinful.

Objection IV: But why would God give innocent man an appetite that must be crossed by reason? And that desired that which reason must forbid?
Answer: The sensitive nature is in order of generation before the rational: and reason and God’s laws do not make sense to be no sense. You may as well ask, why God would make beasts, which must be restrained and ruled by men; and therefore have a desire to that which man must restrain them from? You do but ask, Why God made us men and not angels? Why he placed our souls in flesh? He oweth you no account of his creation. But you may see it is meet that obedience should have some trial by difficulties and opposition, before it have its commendation and reward. He gave you a body that was subject to the soul, as the horse unto the rider; and you should admire his wisdom, and thank him for the governing power of reason; and not murmur at him, because the horse will not go as well without the guidance of the rider, or because he maketh you not able to go as fast and as well on foot. So much for the sensualist’s objections.

With the objections sufficiently addressed, what solution remains for the flesh-pleaser?

Baxter provides the following solution:

“The first and grand direction against flesh-pleasing is, that you be sure, by a serious, living faith, to see the better things with God, and to be heartily taken up in minding, loving, seeking and securing them. All the other directions are but subservient to this. For certainly man’s soul will not be idle, being a living, active principle: and it is as certain, that it will not act but upon some end, or for some end. And there are no other ends to take us up, but either the things temporal or eternal. And therefore there is no true cure for a sensual love of temporal things, but to turn the heart to things eternal.

“And then think with yourselves, how fleshly pleasures and the only competitors with the everlasting pleasures; and that, if ever you lose them, it will be over-loving these transitory things; and that one half of your work for your salvation lieth in killing your affections to all below, that they may be alive to God alone.”

My hope and prayer for those individuals in the LGBTQ+ community would be that they would repent of their sin of putting their sexual identities in something other than what God prescribed for them.  The root issue behind their cause is a “sensual love of temporal things,” when they and everyone else ought to turn to things of eternity.  Instead of killing their inordinate desires, they give in to them to their own harm and destruction.

Thankfully Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, that all who might believe in Him as Lord and Savior, might die to sin and live to righteousness.  Likewise, our neighbors in the LGBTQ+ community need to kill their affections to all below, that they may be alive to God alone, and they can only do this if they place their trust in Jesus.  Once they do, they would receive the help of the Spirit in their war against their fleshly pleasures for the sake of everlasting pleasures in God’s presence.

In the end, what Christians desire of the members of the LGBTQ+ community and every other person guilty of sexual immorality is that they trade a transient pleasure for a superior everlasting one in Christ Jesus.  They can begin to enjoy that pleasure when they start to obey God with their sexuality.

To summarize:
-Our desires were once innocent, but since our original parents’ disobedience, we have inherited a predisposition to rebel against God.
-One of the ways our rebellious nature manifests itself is through our sexuality and how we define our identity with it.
-We are still morally accountable to express our sexuality in a manner that honors God, and we are expected to restrain contrary desires with the use of our reason and free-will.
-More than just restraining contrary desires, we should be killing them for the sake of pursuing a better, everlasting pleasure in our common Creator.
-However, we have all failed to honor God with our sexuality, and we deserve eternal punishment for dishonoring a God of eternal worth.  Thankfully, Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead, so that if we trust in Him as Lord and Savior, we too may die to sin and live to righteousness by the help of the Spirit.
-We now seek to trade the transient pleasures of the flesh for the fullness of joy in our Creator’s presence and invite others to join us in doing the same.

How the Gospel Informs Public Policy

The God of the Bible made us in His own image.
Being made in His image, we are dependent creatures made for the purpose of honoring, loving, and glorifying Him.
Our relationship is that of a subject to a king, or a citizen to a government:
“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 13:7).

There’s just one problem: we have all disobeyed our rightful King, forsaken Him, broken our covenant/agreement with Him, committed adultery against Him with idols.

One of the ways we dishonor God is by dishonoring the image of God in one another.  We express this rebellion in many ways and it shows up in the issues that concern us: immigration, gun laws, police brutality, racism, sexuality, gender equality, abortion, drugs, Syria, Russia, North Korea, China, etc.

For all intents and purposes, God has the right to punish us all befitting the measure of our deeds.

“But rebels and sinners shall be broken together,
and those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed.”
(Isaiah 1:28)

There’s a sense in which our sins are their own punishment, which is the case when a country suffers from bad leadership:

“Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow’s cause does not come to them.”
(Isaiah 1:23)

When law enforcement is perverted where laws are lax as in the case of gun violence (insufficient regulation of access), or laws are present but poorly enforced (poorly enforced background check), the people suffer.

If social ills come from sin, and sin is our main problem where we are estranged from God, what hope do we have of solving our collective dilemma?

Thankfully, our rightful King offered us rebels a peace treaty through which we could be reconciled to Him and begin to enjoy the blessings He has available for us. As a general rule, people prosper when we model our thoughts and behaviors after God’s character of justice, love, mercy, and grace.

How are we to be reconciled? Repentance.  What is repentance?  It is dropping your arms of rebellion, asking the LORD for forgiveness and then performing acts consistent with that attitude of penitence, or “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance” as the Bible calls it (Matthew 3:8).

The LORD himself says:
“If you return, O Israel, declares the LORD, to me you should return.
If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver,
and if you swear, “As the LORD lives,” in truth, in justice, and in righteousness,
then nations shall bless themselves in him,
and in him shall they glory.” (Jeremiah 4:1-2)

In another place, “fruit in keeping with repentance” would look like the following:

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.”
(Isaiah 2:2)

Thus from a biblical perspective, the social ills that plague our society ultimately stem from a failure to give God the honor that He is due.  It is in the fear of Him, that our good works are done well and bless others and ourselves.

In our present time, “Return to Me,” and “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean” ultimately means that we are to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

If we are to “remove the evil of our deeds before His eyes,” that simply means that after being reconciled to our King through Jesus, we now live a life consistent with our renewed allegiance to our rightful King, a life which expresses itself through the way we interact with one another, including the laws that we make to promote the public good and pursue justice.

It is mysterious, but our Creator chooses to express Himself as three distinct centers of consciousness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God the Son entered human history as Jesus of Nazareth to suffer the punishment that we humans deserve for dishonoring Him and one another.

It is said in Isaiah 53:4-6 of Jesus:

“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned – every one – to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Jesus had to die on the cross on Good Friday and rise from the dead on Easter Sunday to be the historical means by which we rebels could be reconciled to the King we so grievously betrayed.  The eternal worth of His person was the only sufficient means by which our eternal debt of sin could be paid.  He is the only appointed means by which our sins are washed away, and through which we can come before God the Father.

If we pray to Jesus to ask Him to be our Lord and Savior, asking Him for the forgiveness of our sins, then we will be reconciled to Him.  Being reconciled to Him, we enter a formal covenantal relationship with Him, whereby He agrees to be our mediator between the Father and ourselves, and we agree to be His people living a life consistent with allegiance to Him, and Jesus sends us the Spirit to aid us in our lives.

With reconciliation to God and enablement by the Spirit, we are better equipped and motivated to seek laws and public policies that promote the good of our neighbor, not just in our own country but for those in other nations as well.

I would argue that public policies are at their best when they are in alignment with God’s character, and this occurs well when people are reconciled to God in Christ Jesus and living a life consistent with that renewed allegiance.

Jesus is the most important person through which this outcome of public good can happen, because it is through Him and in Him that we are connected to God, and the abundant joys and blessings inherent in God can begin to flow into us and through us out into the rest of the world.  Such a sequence of events fulfills the promise, “If you swear, “As the LORD lives,” in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory,” a statement which echoes and fulfills the Abrahamic promise: “In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

So I implore you, dear reader, be reconciled to God. For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Christ, we might become the righteousness of God.  That same righteousness manifests itself in good works done for the glory of God and includes, seeks, and creates the happiness of ourselves and of our neighbors.

On Civil Disobedience

Image result for civil disobedience

Civil Rights

What are civil rights?

One working definition would be that civil rights are an expansive and significant set of rights that are designed to protect individuals from unfair treatment; they are the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment (and to be free from unfair treatment or discrimination) in a number of settings — including education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and more — and based on certain legally-protected characteristics.

In a sense, civil rights are the concrete legal expression of the abstract moral concept that humans have certain inalienable rights to be treated with respect and dignity.

Human Rights

The next question would be “Where do human rights come from?”

There are three possible answers to this question (per Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz):
-human rights come from God. God has created us and endowed us with certain inalienable rights
-human rights are based on “natural law.” People have rights because nature dictates that they should.
-human rights are created by us.  It is in the interest of societies to grant people rights.

There are problems with the latter two choices.
-The natural world is ruled by violence and predation, and so nature does not seem to be the best basis for looking for fundamental laws that protect the weak of society.
-If human rights are created by us, then logically, rights that are granted by the majority can just as easily be taken away.

If human rights come from God, then we have a reliable foundation for human freedom and dignity.  The foundation transcends time and culture because it is ultimately rooted in God’s unchanging value.

Human Dignity

We intuitively believe that humans have an intrinsic worth that deserves protection.  The Bible explicitly declares that we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

Here is my reasoning process:
-God is eternally worthy and deserves to be honored.
-Humans are made in the image of God.
-Therefore humans have a derivative value that deserves protection.

It would follow therefore that to honor God properly, you would have to love your neighbor.

Perhaps this reasoning is behind why Jesus stated “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:27-40).

Thus we have a conception of human rights that should translate into civil rights that are ultimately held accountable by God Himself.

Human Laws and God’s Laws

In other words, all human laws are to be subservient to the laws of God, to promote the obedience of them with constituents, and never to be either contrary to them, nor co-ordinate, or independent of them; but are to be treated just as the bylaws of corporations are in respect to the laws and will of the sovereign power, which have all their life and power therefrom.

There is just one problem: the translation from human rights to civil rights does not always come so smoothly.  In other words, laws do not always reflect this universal standard of human rights.

Why do we fail?

Laws are rules that govern human behavior.  They act as an extension of governmental authority, and this authority ultimately comes from God and thus should be used for God.  However in our attempt to make good laws to promote the public good, a society will run into mistakes.  Paul once said, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).”  Paul’s statement underlies how we humans have an imperfect impression of God’s perfect justice, but that does not mean the problem is with the standard but instead our problem lies with our failure to meet that standard well.  The failure of human laws to conform to God’s laws comes as a function of our finiteness and fallen state.

As a function of our fallen state, societies may deny certain members human rights because they have legislation that actively persecute them (Fugitive Slave Clause in the Constitution), or they lack any legislation that protects them (when the 13th, 14th, 15th amendments did not exist yet), or the legislation does exist but it is poorly enforced (Jim Crow laws served to undermine the rights protected by the 13th to 15th amendments).

Laws are ideas codified into text and enforced in society

We live in a world where ideas can be free-floating and not bound to any standard.
But we then have to examine whether these ideas conform to a moral standard or not.
Laws are when abstract ideas take concrete expression in society, and therefore we have a moral obligation to consider whether a particular concept would promote the public good and honor God and neighbor.

When we are examining laws, we have to examine the idea, concept, or premise being promoted.
For example what idea is better: regulated access to guns or indiscriminate, unlimited access to guns?  If we are using public good as a standard, we should quickly come to the conclusion that regulated access to guns would be morally superior as this position would protect the public from the irresponsible misuse of guns.

Thus you can have an idea or concept which, if codified into law, contradicts the standard of universal human rights (the right to safety in this case).

Likewise with the Fugitive Slave Clause, the lack of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, or Jim Crow laws; the essential idea behind these legislation is the failure to recognize members of the public as fellow human beings that deserve protection.  The idea that African Americans do not deserve civil rights stands in stark contrast to the fact that they have inalienable human rights by virtue of being made in the image of God like any other member of the human race.

All of this is to say that human laws do not stand on their own, but are ultimately held accountable to a greater standard of God’s justice.  It is precisely because that we are able to make and remove laws that we run into the problem that our laws do not always conform to God’s laws.

Civil Disobedience

Being made in the image of God, we have some sense of God’s laws, and we ought to strive to make laws that conform to those standards.  However in our process of doing so, we will run into problems where our laws do not conform perfectly to those God-given rights, and we need to point those discrepancies out and seek to rectify them.

This is where civil disobedience comes into play.

Authority and laws are not independent entities; they are meant to be subservient to God.
All authority comes from God, and therefore should be used for God and not against Him.
Therefore when God gives authority to government, it should not be used in a manner that contradicts Him.

Citizens should only obey government inasmuch as the authority remains obedient to God. If that authority is used in a manner that goes against God, then the contradiction needs to be exposed and rectified. In the meanwhile, citizens have a moral obligation to disobey laws that contradict God’s character.

Richard Baxter said it this way: “No human power is at all to be obeyed against God: for they have no power, but what they receive from God; and all that is from him, is for him. He giveth no power against himself; he is the first efficient, the chief dirigent, and ultimate final cause of all. It is no act of authority, but resistance of his authority, which contradicteth his law, and is against him.  All human laws are subservient to his laws, and not co-ordinate, much less superior.  Therefore they are ipso facto null, or have no obligation, which are against him: yet is not the office itself null, when it is in some things thus abused; nor the magistrate’s power null, as to other things.”

Christians should not obey the government, when obedience would mean disobeying a command of God. This is indicated by several passages showing approval of disobedience to governments. For example, when commanded not to preach the gospel, Peter says, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Another example is found in Daniel 3:13–27, where Nebuchadnezzar commanded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to worship the golden statue; they stood firm against the king: “we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan. 3:18). God rescued them from the fiery furnace, thus confirming his approval of their stand (Dan. 3:19–30). Other examples of obeying God through disobedience to civil governments include the Egyptian midwives (Ex. 1:17, 21), Esther (Est. 4:16); Daniel (Dan. 6:10); and the wise men (Matt. 2:8, 12).

Thus disobedience is not always bad; only in reference to God’s authority is it condemned. Sin has its own authority and so does Satan but obeying them over God’s authority would be wrong.

Lord Jesus once said you cannot serve two masters.  He pointed out that there is trade-off.  Obeying one master means disobeying the other.  So if you had to disobey, then let it be with respect to evil.

The role of protests

Protests are appropriate because they signal to the government that something needs to change.
-Rosa Parks protested against segregation which violated the individual right to equal treatment
-Japanese internment camps violated the individual right of Japanese Americans to freedom from incarceration for the sake of public safety, but this violation was unwarranted as they were all innocent.
-Student walk outs protest the right to nearly unlimited access to guns which came at expense of school safety.

All of the above have in common a legislative environment that contradicted God’s laws.
People should challenge human laws that stand against a person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, rights that are ultimately an expression of God’s character.

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in the civil rights movement.  Whether expressed in a sit-in at lunch counters, a freedom ride into Mississippi, a peaceful protest in Albany, Georgia, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, these are outgrowths of Thoreau’s insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice.

The one universal constant for a human being, who is made in God’s image, ought to be obedience to the God who created the creature.

Evil must be resisted and no moral man should patiently adjust to injustice.

Jesus Christ

Jesus was once asked: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
He answered, “Which one of you has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:10-12).

Jesus points out that the Pharisee’s laws stood in contradiction to the universal principle of doing good for your neighbor. He is appealing to a higher standard than the concept that the Pharisees held.  Laws defined as rules that govern human behavior are not always good.  It depends on how the rules are defined.  They can be defined properly or improperly, depending on how they promote the good of your neighbor.

In another instance, Jesus said: “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7: 9-13)

Here Jesus points out that the tradition that the Pharisees held in such high esteem contradicted God’s law enshrined in the Ten Commandments.  Therefore we see that when human laws contradict God’s laws, then the human law must give way to God.


Even in the Exodus account, Moses tells Pharoah: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:1-2)

Even a pagan ruler, with all his authority, is not exempt from accountability to the God of Israel.  This is because Pharaoh is also made in the image of God just as much as Moses is.  When Pharaoh held Israel in captivity, he did so in contradiction to God’s command that he let them go.  Pharaoh tries to deny his accountability to God, but his stubborn refusal does not exempt him from the reality of his accountability.  He still remains accountable to God whether or not he believes in God’s authority.  His lack of belief in God’s authority does not negate God’s authority.  Pharaoh’s failure to submit to God led to severe consequences for him and his country.

Thus all authority given to government, even pagan ones, must be held accountable to God.


God’s authority is an absolute standard.
Human authority is a derivative of God’s authority and thus will always remain accountable to God.
Therefore it stands to reason that human authority should strive to conform to God’s standards as much as possible.

When human authority, expressed through laws, fails to conform to God’s standards, citizens (especially Christians) have a moral obligation to pursue civil disobedience for the greater purpose of obedience to God.
We also hope and pray that government would change their mind to rectify their error and thus bear fruit in keeping with repentance by removing legislation that harm the public and replace them with legislation that promote the public good.

The Problem with Egalitarianism

Per the premise of civil rights: Americans generally seek the political and social freedom and equality of all citizens, including male and female.

Implicit in the idea of civil rights is this idea of egalitarianism. While it is true that men and women are equal in terms of competencies, I feel that our society has emphasized equality to such an extreme extent that we have lost sight of the distinction between male and female.

In the relationship between male and female, we should seek equality with respect to some factors, but not to the extent that we obliterate the distinction between male and female. Absolutizing equality in this way ruins the music that can be had between two different instruments or the painting that can be made from two different colors.

God made man male and female to be appreciated in their proper roles and relationship to one another. Perhaps the answer to male abuse is not to obliterate the distinction between male and female in an attempt to equalize them, but to hold males accountable to their God-ordained roles as males.

In this article (, Piper argues that males have a peculiar divine design to show a special care, protection, and honor to women because of their maleness.

Maybe it is time that we bring this biblical definition back into vogue, instead of going along with the cultural current of egalitarianism.

Slavery in the Bible

Image result for slavery

Food for thought:

Slavery has been around in human history for a long time, and even here in America, we did not get rid of the ‘peculiar institution’ until 1864 with the addition of our 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.

We see slavery during Abraham’s time (Gen 12:16), and Abraham had to rescue his nephew Lot from slavery (Gen 14:12).  Joseph was sold into slavery (Gen 37:28). Moses worked in a time when his whole people were enslaved by the Egyptians (Exodus 1: 13-14).  Even when Israel became an empire, they were eventually separated into two kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah to the south, with each one being taken into captivity by the Assyrian and the Babylonians respectively (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 25:11).
Even in the New Testament, the times of the Roman Empire, slavery was still alive and well, which is why Paul addresses bondservants in his letters, because that was the sociocultural-historical context of the time.

So from at least Abraham’s time in about 2000 BC to America’s emancipation of slaves around 1864 AD, we have nearly a 4000 year history of slavery.  With that in mind, why would the Bible not talk about slavery, since it is a prevalent institution that was so ingrained into the social fabric of human society in both the ancient world and the modern world?  If the Bible did not talk about the issue at all, I would be suspect of its ability to address historical realities.  If God wrote humanity a book in our very particular universe, that book would naturally have to deal with the historical realities of slavery since it existed for much of our history.  If that same book did not talk about slavery, it would be out of touch with our painful reality of sin, misery, and death.  The Bible cannot offer a solution if it does not even address the problem first.

Sometimes I hear why didn’t God just outlaw slavery during the times of Moses?  Well, perhaps, God was treating slavery like cancer.  When you are treating someone with cancer, those cancerous cells are still very much a part of the individual as the normal cells.  So the question becomes, how do you treat someone with an affliction that has become intimately connected to the host without killing the host?  It would be one thing if the cancerous cells localized to an easily resectable portion of the body, but in the case I am discussing, it is as if the cancerous cells have effectively spread throughout the body.  You end up with a situation where killing the cancer would kill the person because the two have become so connected to one another.  Slavery became so intwined into human society, that destroying it would come at a heavy price.  Consider how America itself erupted into a civil war over the issue (an oversimplification, but still serves my point).

Actually now that I think about it, perhaps the reason why slavery has been mostly done away in our modern times, is because of the power of the gospel to transform hearts.  Going along with my cancer analogy, if the ancient world is a patient whose cancer diffused throughout the body, then the modern world is a patient whose cancer then became more localized and thus more easily resectable because the gospel transformed some of the cancerous cells into healthy ones.  So instead of having an entire society engrained into the cultural framework of slavery, you only had a section of society supporting it, which was the case for America.

But before the gospel arrived with its ability to transform hearts, God gave regulatory laws about slavery to the Israelites through Moses (Exodus 21:7-11).  If you cannot get rid of a cancer that has spread throughout a body, the next best thing to do would be to regulate the cancer so it does not spread any further than it already has and to limit its ability to damage the host.  Perhaps this is what God had in mind when He gave laws regarding slavery through Moses.

Even when the apostle Paul writes to slaves to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5), he is essentially encouraging them to make the best of the social structure that they find themselves in.  Also the instructions to slaves is supported by the instruction to masters to stop their threatening to slaves, in light of the fact that they are accountable to Christ (Ephesians 6:9).  Again, if the institution of slavery is not challenged outright, the next best thing is to regulate the institution to minimize the probabilities of abuse from both parties.  This approach is in stark contrast to a slave rebellion, like the one Spartacus led, where you have a large loss of lives of both slaves and masters.  Generally speaking, God seeks the preservation of life, not their perishing.

Then I sometimes hear that since the Bible talks about slavery, then I should not listen to it.  The problem with this statement is that it sounds like “Since the Constitution had clauses regarding slavery, then I should not listen to it.”  Why do Americans still hold true to the Constitution, in spite of its use in supporting slavery?  One key word: authority.  The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution establishes that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  Now authority, on its own terms, is morally neutral.  What matters more is how is it used.

Authority is a good organizing principle to have.  We can build a safe, stable society when authority is used to promote the public good.  The phrase, “law and order,” captures this sentiment well.  Even when authority is abused for malicious purposes, you would not find many advocating for pure anarchy.  The answer to bad authority is not so much to get rid of all authority, but to reform and correct the bad authority so it becomes good authority.  This is precisely the approach that the Constitution used.

The Constitution once had the Three-Fifths Clause and the Fugitive Slave Clause codified into its text, but we removed those clauses with the addition of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.  Thus when the Constitution exercised authority in a wrongful manner, we did not abolish the Constitution, but we reformed it to better align itself with moral good.

Likewise, the Bible is an authoritative text.  It discussed slavery in the historical contexts that the institution was found in.  For those cultural instances of slavery, the Bible exercises its authority to regulate the excessive abuses that could happen from the institution, until a more opportune time when people would no longer demand the institution.

Looking at slavery from an economic perspective, it follows the laws of supply and demand.  If you want to effectively get rid of the institution, you would have to challenge the demand for the product.  Part of that demand comes from a failure to see your neighbor as a fellow human being.  That’s where the gospel works the best.  You challenge the institution not from the outside in with a law that outlaws it or a slave rebellion, but from the inside out, where both the slave and the master see each other as fellow humans.  This ability to see the humanity in one another is the moral strength behind the abolition movement in America.

Thus we can see that the Bible exercises its authority regarding slavery in a manner that actually promotes liberation and accountability.  If it is able to exercise its authority in this way, we can trust its ability to do the same for other moral instructions.  Also even if the Bible was found to have mistakes much like the Constitution had, why would we disregard it entirely?  Even if it was a purely human product, does not the Bible still offer much timeless wisdom for our world?

To conclude my thoughts:
-the Bible discusses slavery since it was a historical human reality for at least 4000 years; if it did not, that is a long period of time for a topic to be silent on.
-perhaps God did not outlaw slavery in the ancient world outright because that would be like trying to cure someone who had a cancer that diffused throughout the body; killing the cancer would kill the person.
-the next best thing for God to do would be to regulate slavery so excessive abuses from both slaves and masters are minimized and to promote the gospel which encourages both parties to see each other as fellow human beings
-to challenge slavery, you need to challenge the demand portion of a supply-demand curve, and part of the demand behind slavery comes from a failure to recognize the humanity of your neighbor, and the gospel challenges this presupposition
-letting the gospel transform hearts creates a greater threshold of individuals who are willing to challenge slavery and acts like a therapy where a diffuse cancer becomes a more localized and subsequently more easily resectable tumor.
-the Bible is an authoritative text much like the Constitution is, and if we are willing to obey the Constitution even when it exercised authority regarding slavery wrongly, how much more should we obey the Bible when it exercises its authority for good.


The Avatar from a Biblical Perspective.

This is one of my favorite scenes from The Legend of Korra.

Mythos have a powerful effect to capture our imagination. C. S. Lewis once remarked, “In the enjoyment of a great myth, we come nearest to experiencing as a concrete what can otherwise be understood only as an abstraction.”

From a biblical perspective, I considered Raava as akin to the Holy Spirit for the believer. They both guide their partners in a conflict that has deep consequences.  The Spirit, in particular, guides the believer to wage a spiritual warfare for the heart and soul of our neighbors.  A war that dates back to before humanity’s origins if we are to believe that Satan rebelled against God in a time before humanity was made, and subsequently incited our original parents to join him in the Garden of Eden.

Vaatu states: “I lived ten thousand lifetimes before the first of your kind crawled out of the mud. It was I who broke through the divide that separated the plane of Spirits from the material world.”

Vaatu reminds me of Satan, an old adversarial spirit who has been around even before humanity’s origins.  As a fallen angel, he would surpass humans in both intellect and power, and although not God, he has been with humanity long enough to know how we work.  Satan did not keep to his proper bounds as an angel before God, and somehow his rebellion spread to the material world where we humans live.

Vaatu goes on to say: “To hate me is to give me breath. To fight me is to give me strength.”

Now when it comes to our warfare with our flesh, sin, the world, and Satan, the rules of our engagement are not quite the same as what Vaatu states.  We should hate Satan and fight Satan, but not with the conventional tools that the world offers.  We cannot be lackadaisical about our war with sin, but actively seek its death.

Now we do not have awesome bending abilities like the protagonist Wan does, but we have other tools at our disposal in our spiritual warfare against our flesh, sin, the world, and Satan.

The Word of God (Bible) is the Sword of the Spirit.
Prayer is radioing the commander in chief for support.
Churches are bases where believers are meant to support one another in this fight.
Pastors and other biblical teachers help equip the saints to fight the good fight well.

Next, I love Wan’s dedication to seeing the fight through. Even when Raava warns him that continuing to depend on her aid will kill him, Wan still insists that he sees this fight through even if it costs him his life.  His self-sacrificial attitude emulates Christ in that respect.  There is always something powerful in being willing to pursue the greater good even at the cost of your own life.

Similar to the death and resurrection motif in the Bible, just when you think Vaatu will win, Wan and Raava pull off a synchronization that turns the tide of the battle to their favor.  The night is always darkest before the dawn.

Satan killed Christ, the long awaited prophesied Savior of mankind who would release us from Satan’s bondage.  One would think that all hope would be lost and that we would be stuck in our sin and misery forever, but thanks be to God, the Spirit raised Christ from the dead, conquering sin and the grave (Romans 8:11).

I greatly admired the synchronization that Wan and Raava achieve near the end of this video.  The synchronization makes me wonder how believers would be like if we were better in tune with the Spirit who dwells within us.  Our ministry would probably be as fruitful as the early Christians depicted in the Book of Acts.

Finally, the role that the Avatar plays in acting as the bridge between the spiritual and material world reminds me a lot of how Christ acts as the appointed mediator between God and man.  Even in his own humanity, Jesus acts as the bridge between the spiritual and material world as his incarnation essentially represents the intersection between the two worlds.


Doing right for right’s sake?

Image result for oasis

Food for thought:

If all humans are made in the image of God,
then humans are dependent creatures made for a purpose, namely:
to love and serve our Maker, and to be happy in his love and glory forever.

Even justice is not an independent entity, but best finds its definition in reference to God’s unchanging character. Although the cultural expressions of justice may change from time to time, at root, the principle of justice essentially remains the same.

Doing right for right’s sake is necessary but not sufficient for doing good to others.
After all, what makes something the right thing to do? It is usually something we take for granted.
In a sense, doing the right thing has its own intrinsic reward, but I would propose that the meaning becomes richer and more complete when the action is done in reference to honoring God.

This would be a proper understanding since “righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalm 89:14)

Doing the right thing is not something that is meant to stand alone, but rather, it should become subservient to something greater than itself. Good works are fingers that are meant to point observers beyond themselves to something greater.

“When an atheist performs an act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that god commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. And look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right.”

Although what the atheist does is honorable, it is incomplete. Good works done without reference to God is giving a thirsty traveler a cup of water when you can point them towards an oasis instead.

If atheists do right for right’s sake,
then Christians do what’s right for God’s sake; because the Bible teaches us to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), which would be consistent with the postulate that we humans are made in God’s image and thus are meant to honor/glorify him with our lives.

How is God glorified when we do things for His sake?
When we do what God says is right, we end up enjoying Him more.
We enjoy Him more because God delights to reveal more of himself to the generous than to the stingy. (Acts 20:35)
When God is desired as a treasure in this way, He is glorified and honored.
To be motivated to do right by the desire for more of God glorifies God.

Also the joy that is found in doing good to others is meant to escalate to a greater joy to be found in fellowship with God.

If we were to do good deeds for others with no reference to God, this would contradict the very purpose for which our life was made and ultimately falls short of the joy that can be had.

Not only does trying to do right for right’s sake dishonor God, it doesn’t show love to others.
People don’t experience it as love.

But why would they experience the good we do for them as love, if we are seeking our greater joy in God?
Part of the greater joy we seek in God, by doing them good, is the inclusion of them in our joy.
Our joy in God would be expanded by their joy in God.
We are wooing them into our greater joy, and desiring that they become part of it.

Doing right for right’s sake does not have this effect.
For instance, suppose you visit an older lady who just had a heart attack.
She says to you, “Oh, you did not have to come visit me.”
An atheist would say: “I know, but it was my duty to come. It was the right thing to do for its own sake. So I came.”
A Christian would say: “I know, but it always makes me happier in God to bring some encouragement to you, and lift you up into what the Lord has promised.”

My pursuit of more joy in God by doing good to her, and wanting her to be part of it, is what genuine love is.

To conclude my thoughts:
Doing the right thing for right’s sake
-dishonors God, and thus contradicts the purpose of our lives
-dishonors neighbor, because it falls short of the greater joy to be had in God’s fellowship.

To rephrase it more positively:
Doing the right thing for God’s sake:
-honors God, and thus fulfills the purpose of our lives
-honors neighbor, because we draw them into a mutual enjoyable experience of fellowship with our common Creator.