Friday, October 17, 2014

The Tragic Misunderstanding

General Stone was a very heroic man who had served his country and his family. His son John, from early on, seemed to be everything his father was not: utterly narcissistic, self-destructive and self-absorbed. John's lifestyle for years was drunkenness followed by drug binges until at a fairly young age he found himself with complete liver failure and in need of blood transfusions.

Faced with death, John felt he needed to repair his relationship with the general. His father not only forgave his son, but gave him his own perfect liver and his blood which saved his son's life. Of course, the gift killed General Stone. John was utterly thankful for his father's sacrifice of the gift of his own life.

His heartbroken mother told John that his father loved him and didn't condemn him but that he should go and do not drink and take drugs any more.

This irritated John. Why was mom always trying to interfere with his relationship with His dad? He showed his mother the legal medical form in which his dad signed over his liver and blood to his son.

"I am the legal recipient of my dad's gift. Look." He held out the paper to his mother for her perusal, "There is no judgment on me, no strings attached, no expectation of personal growth or change in behavior. Dad knew what I did and gave me his liver and blood unconditionally."

Mother looked worried. To her, it seemed he was being rather cavalier about her husband's life and supreme sacrifice for him and his sins. 

"But John! That gift wasn't carte blanche to continue living a life of drunkenness and drug use!" 

"Any attempt on my part," began John confidently, "to now merit dad's gift by some type of good behavior would, in fact, annul his unmerited, free gift! Dad would be furious if I now tried to earn his gift back. Dad doesn't want me to pay him back! That would make his gift a vulgarity—like it would be my 'salary' for my actions from here on out."

For a few second the woman looked at her son in shock, unable to speak.

"Uh…b…but," she finally stuttered, "but if you just go out and waste this precious gift? Is that why dad gave you his own life? So that you could go on taking drugs and living in continual drunkenness?"

"Did I say that? Did you hear those words come out of my mouth? Who said I was going to waste it? You misrepresenting what I am saying! I am just saying that dad's gift never in any way implied that I was supposed to get better and stop drinking or doing drugs."

The mother's expression did not change. 

"Dad knew I needed this liver to survive. Yes, I lived badly, but come on! There was zero reason for him to give it to anyone living a healthy life. So therefore it is because I was wicked that he gave it to me! 

"But don't you want to at least try and be better? For dad?"

"Try?" John huffed with exasperation, "Are you saying, mother, that I must merit my father's gift? You really don't get it." He sighed with impatience and began again with more control, "Dad wouldn't want me to try and live better. It should come easily now and it would make to no benefit it I worked to now prove I am worthy of the gift. If I work to be good now, then I am trying to pay off my dad for his gift. I already have dad's liver. His heroism is in me and that is enough to make me a hero no matter what I do."

Now the mother was utterly confused. "But what kind of son are you that you would neglect so great a salvation from your father!"

"How dare you suggest that my father wants me to work at being righteous on my own without him!"

"Of course not! You have your dad's blood flowing through you and me to help you? Why would you suggest you are on your own?Where does love fit in all of this, son? Don't you love your father even more now and aren't you more thankful to him for his gift?"

"Of course!" Now John was thinking his mother was just stupid. "But dad's gift was written in forensic, academic language rather than  love. This was a legal agreement between dad and me and truly mother, it is best if you stay out. I had a personal relationship with dad and I knew him as well…. no, obviously even better than you. I 'got' dad. Evidently, you didn't."

"What's the difference if the contract was one of love or legal? This is your dad! And he expected that you would grow up and change your life if he gave his life for you!"

"I am not saying I am going out and drinking and doing drugs anymore. I probably won't. But it won't be because dad gave me a gift expecting it," John shrugged.

Mrs. Stone took a deep breath. "I am speaking practically and you are speaking subtle theoretical differences in his meaning. Both roads end up in exactly the same place? You not ruining your life. Why did you put me through all this psycho-babble!"

"It is not psycho-babble, mom. If you think I was supposed to earn his liver and blood by my behavior….then you didn't know my dad. In fact I don't think you were ever even married to dad. I will have nothing more to do with you for you are saying false things about my father. In fact I think you are a whore—a whore of Babylon."

Mrs. Stone was stunned by that verbal blow.

John, in general, cleaned up his life and no longer took drugs or drank heavily. But he never forgave nor reconciled with his mother. He felt that even though he did sober up, he would never, ever allow into his thoughts that he had struggled to do it. He could never trust his mother, in fact, he claimed to have exposed her as a fake because her attitude about behaving. Works and good behavior to merit Dad's gift was her thing.

And of course, that was never the mother's intent. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I am including the full context of Luke 11: 49-51, which is the topic of this post:
Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk overthem are unaware of it." One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, "Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too." But He said, "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets
and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.'
 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering." When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.

What hit me this morning as I read those words was a great big question mark. Why would God, who said that a son should not be punished for the sins of his father, say such a thing? God would not contradict Himself, so there must be something here I am not seeing. Israel's Pharisees, scribes and lawyers must be culpable themselves, in some way, of the death of the prophets since the beginning of mankind. And Abel's murder occurred millennia before the nation of Israel! How is this possible that Christ could charge the entire generation of Israelites with the slaughter of the prophets that began in Genesis and culminated with the death of Zechariah more than five hundred years before?

And also notice that the entire generation is blamed, not just the leadership. The Lord is giving judgement on a corporate crime. When Jerusalem was sacked (in that generation) Christ's judgment was enforced. 

Wow. Gives one pause. 

My thoughts are going in this direction, but I am surely open to being wrong. I think it is possible that in the beginning, Israel was less culpable for her idolatry. For she had been a slave among the heathens for four hundred years. As the centuries past, despite being sent prophet after prophet warning Israel to repent and turn from her sin, their corporate hearts became calloused and finally hardened against God. It was a slow rot and with willful stubbornness, Israel ignored the Torah and the warnings. Their generation had become utterly indifferent and unresponsive to the call of God. Love of self had replaced love of God or their fellow man. 

The demons who enticed Cain to kill Abel, were growing stronger with each generation that accepted them. Those same demons enticed the murders of all the prophets that God sent. And those sons of Satan were present and accepted by many of Israel. When Christ appeared, it was made clear who corporate Israel had chosen and it was not God. Thus this made Israel fully liable because they could see and understand their history. Notice that our Lord specifically said they had built the tombs of the prophets to honor them--so they understood that the prophets were martyred. Yet they refused to stop the martyrdom. 

So, I was reminded this morning that corporate judgment does happen. Be careful what group to whom you give your loyalty. And that the sins of that group can literally pile up over generations. Be repentant as a group! Change your ways and be righteous as a people of God.

We today who have not just the history of Israel's rejection of the prophets but the history of Christ and His Church before us, Christians today will be even more culpable of wrong for we see so clearly what it is and how much it cost to destroy sin. As it is recorded in Hebrews 2:3, "How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Adventists Women's Ordination and Unity

I sat in the pew of an Episcopal Church one Sunday morning some years back, when a bishop of local renown came in to do clean up with very disturbed parishioners. He had recently 

returned from a conference where the Episcopal Church had voted to begin ordaining homosexual clergy. The members were on the verge of splitting over the decision.

I was visiting,  observing with some interest. In the bishop's homily, he stressed that at this critical time in the church the most important thing was for everyone to stay calm and remained unified. It was the dark forces that were trying to split the church. He urged that this issue was not important enough to cause disunity. He  gently shamed and humorously mocked the listeners who were not on board for homosexual clergy. It was subtle, but those paying attention noticed how he claimed his side as Biblical and "after all" we all want to be like Jesus: being accepting, loving, non-judgmental, eating with sinners.

What was most remarkable was his admonishment to the crowd to persevere with the church no matter what, even if you vehemently believe what the bishops did was against God.

"It is vital that we stay unified."

Internally, I chuckled with amusement. 

Stay unified? Of course this is going to split the church.

Americanism is seeped with the idea of individual religious freedom. How can a Episcopalian bishop, born from the family of the Anglican Church who broke with the Catholic Church, seriously suggest that if one has a moral disagreement with one's church that unity should prevail over personal conscience?

Yesterday, I heard a similar argument coming out of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There was recently a committee of church leaders discussing what the church should do about women's ordination. 

"It's not a big deal if a woman is ordained, don't make it an issue that you will break with the church." 

Don't be naive. Of course this issue is going to split the church. Look at history, people have left their church and started a new one over a lot less.

"Women's ordination is not a given doctrine like the Sabbath. Let's not forget what is important here."

These types of comments have come from many a mouth, about many a theological dispute, in various denominations and it simply means that the person thinks they know what is important in God's eyes better than others.

Some people have viewed indulgences as so sinful that it was worth breaking with the church. Others the sacrifice of the mass, or baby baptism, or racism, or what day you rest on. For some Adventists to say that women's ordination should not be important to other Seventh-day Adventists is betraying a great deal of arrogance and is a stealthy swipe against their neighbor's conscience.

I have watched a little of the SDA reactions and the responses mirror those of all
denominations in the throws of theological battles. There is a call for unity as if unity were all of a sudden important for their church. As if unity were a priority for Protestants.

Does a Seventh-day Adventist that is convicted the Bible clearly forbids a woman to be ordained submit their conscience to the church? That is not a popular mindset among Protestants. It is interesting to watch yet another church reach out and use unity to intimidate or at the least pressure people to remain in their denomination. Especially when they use the authority of their leaders in such a Catholic way. "We know best, your reading of scripture is wrong. Have faith in your church's leadership."

If a Christian promotes unity above personal conscience as ultimate authority, then he needs to go back and be a Catholic. Protestants have a hard time swallowing the unity plea when their denomination was founded upon a series of splits over these types of issues.

Protestants need to rethink the importance of unity. What is a grave enough matter to split the body of Christ? When is it more important for a house to stay undivided? Time we look into this before a crisis.

There was a house built upon a rock and the rains came and the house stood. There was a house built upon thousands of tiny little broken up rocks. And when the rains came, the house fell.