How should Christians respond to police brutality?

Protests and riots are taking place in cities all across America. Thousands are protesting in the aftermath of the death of a Minnesota man at the hands of a police officer. This event has once again brought the issue of police brutality to national attention. I have intentionally avoided researching the specifics of the events in Minnesota. Nothining I say here is intended to justify or condemn George Floyd or any involved in his death. Regardless of the facts of this particular situation police brutality is an unavoidable reality. How should the child of God respond when any government official abuses his authority?

Excessive force must always be condemned. Force is often required in the enforcement of law. Not all force is wrong. Romans 13 says that God has given governing bodies the sword to use against evil doers. The violence of the sword is intended by God to restrain evil. However, force that exceeds the demands of the situation, force that exceeds the requirements of justice or force that is driven by hatred must be condemned.

Even though some officers of the law act violently or murderously the Christian must always treat all governing authorities with respect. Peaceful protests are not necessarily unchristian, but violent uprisings always are. 1 Peter 2:17 says simply, “Honor all men. Honor the king.” No matter what the actions or abuses of officers of the law, they must always be treated respectfully.

Christians may be wise to call for changes to laws so harsher measures will be meted out against officers who abuse their power. The Bible teaches that those who have greater authority are held to a higher standard. In Scripture, authority always brings greater accountability. A Christian is not unreasonable to seek to influence our justice system to impose greater accountability upon those who have greater authority.

The Christian should speak up on behalf of the innocent and the powerless. Psalm 82 calls for the defense of the fatherless and widows and for justice for the afflicted. If the powers of the state are being used to persecute the innocent, then the Christian should do everything legally possible to halt such abuse of power. The Christian, British statesmen who brought the English slave trade to an end is an excellent example of Christians using all legal means to bring about justice for the afflicted.

Be careful responding to events like the death in Minnesota. Information is always limited. The temptation is to see a video and think the clip tells the whole story, but there is always more. No news report is able to give all the information. No cell phone video or body camera can tell the entire story. Be careful to not jump to conclusions or to assume what cannot be known. Proverbs 18:13 says it is “folly and shame” to answer a matter before giving it a full hearing. A fool reaches a full conclusion on half-information. A Christian must not condemn or acquit a person without first gaining a deep, first hand knowledge of the situation.

The Christian must always remember that those who govern are God’s servants appointed by Him for the terrorizing of evil. Whether the government be tyrannical or democratic, just or unjust, each one who serves to uphold the law is a servant of God for our good. Never forget that. Pray for the government. Consider the unrest of the day and pray “for all that are in authority; that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

Is it right for a Christian to disobey the government?

Diethrich Bonhoeffer was a young pastor in Germany when Adolf Hitler rose to power. Bonhoeffer believed it was his duty to oppose Hitler. He actively sought the overthrow of the Hitler regime, was implicated in a plot to assassinate Hitler and was eventually put to death for his role in the conspiracy against the Fuhrer. Were his actions against the ruler of Germany Biblical?

The mandates of our state and federal government is nothing like the tyranny or atrocities of Hitler, yet many people today are questioning the legitimacy of the orders imposed in response to the Coronavirus. Lawsuits have been filed and protests have been organized. How should a Christian respond to laws they disagree with or believe to be unconstitutional? This article is not concerned with whether the measures taken are wise, safe or helpful. The question is when a Christian genuinely believes a law to be wrong, hurtful or unconstitutional, how should he respond.

The Biblical answer is much more plain than many would like to admit. The New Testament leaves no doubt that Christians are required to obey the government and every law handed down by that government. 1 Peter 2:13-14 says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

The words of the New Testament were written to Christians living under the dictatorial rule of some of the worst rulers history has ever know. The Caesar’s were incompetent, insane, indifferent or corrupt. The entire system of the Roman government was incredibly corrupt. Officials were willing to issue any edict they thought would promote their own wealth and power. Often the only time the power of local rulers was questioned by Rome was if the officials incompetence or greed diminished Rome’s revenue or caused so much hardship that the subjugated people began to protest Roman rule. Despite the wickedness and injustice of Roman rule the apostles instructed Christian’s to obey all the capricious, malicious, excessive, petty or ridiculous laws handed down by their rulers.

The situation in America is complicated by the fact that we are a nation whose government is, “Of the people, by the people, for the people.” We are under the rule of elected governors, legislatures, judges and president. We are also under the rule of the constitution. What is a Christian to do when he believes a law to be unconstitutional? As Americans we have every legal right to protest laws, but the dissenting Christian must still obey the law even while protesting a law he believes to be illegal. The laws of the land provide means to address illegalities, but the commands of the Bible do not permit the Christian to disobey laws with which he does not agree.

The only exception is when the government orders something which would cause the Christian to disobey the clear commands of God. During the spread of the Coronavirus many states forbade all gatherings, including church services. Yet, the Bible clearly commands Christians to not forsake the assembling together with other believers. Many churches continued to gather despite the prohibitions because the laws of the land contradicted God’s commands. When obedience to the law would cause a Christian to disobey a clear command of the Bible then the Christian is obligated to obey the higher law- God’s command. (Acts 5:29)

In summary, the Christian must obey every law, even those which seem unconstitutional. He may use every legal means available to protest the law or see it repealed, but as long as the law is in force it needs to be obeyed. The only law the Christian is not bound to obey are those laws which oppose the clear commands of God.

What can I do about regrets from my past?

Most Christians look back on their lives and feel regret or shame for things they have done. Those who were saved later in life often feel this guilt more significantly. They consider their life before salvation and wish the past could have been different. Broken relationships, hurts caused, missed opportunities or consequences that continue until this day fill hearts with sadness. The memories of the past hurt.

Many attempt to forget the past, but some things cannot be forgotten. What should Christians do when they look with regret and heartache at the sins of their past? The answer is not to avoid thinking about them, but to learn to think correctly about them.

Sin is a terrible thing, and its consequences are horrible. Sin plunged the world into thousands of years of suffering, disease, despair and death. Sin separates every person from God. Yet, God in His overwhelming grace, forgives every sin of every one who asks Him for salvation. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20) The greatness of God’s forgiveness is better seen in light of the terribleness of sin. For those who think sin is no big deal, the forgiveness of sin is not that big of a deal either. Those who feel the weight of their sin, are better able to feel the magnitude of God’s grace. The old hymn says the grace of God is “greater than all our sin.” No matter what terrible things have been done, God’s grace is greater. Let your past sin remind you of the present grace of God.

Though the memory of sin remains, and sometimes the earthly consequences remain, never forget your guilt is gone. The guilty feelings may remain, but God holds you guiltless. He has forgiven all your sin. The promise of God is, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) Why should we allow ourselves to constantly think about that which God promises to remember no more? Every sin you have ever committed is completely forgiven by God. When you remember the sins of your past, remember they have all been cast into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:9) Praise the Lord!

Be careful to not become mired in feelings of guilt because of your past sin. In “The Pilgrims Progress” John Bunyan told of a man who was weighed down by the guilt of his sin. For a little while he was mired down in a slough, the Slough of Despond. His guilt threatened to drown him in despair. Only the kind help of a faithful man of God brought him out of the swamp. Do not let the remembrance of sin drive you to despair. Let sins past remind you to worship your God for His overwhelming grace. Never forget that where sin abounds grace does much more abound.

As you feel the sorrow of your sin, take comfort. God promises you, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) God comforts those who have repented and sought His forgiveness. He comforts you with the promise your sins are washed away. All guilt is gone, forever.

Why did John the Baptist baptize?

Baptism is a practice familiar to many people today, but it was unknown to the Old Testament Israelites. When John the Baptist began to baptize, he did something different from anything practiced by Jews in Old Testament times. Under the law of Moses the Israelites had regular ritual cleansings, like hand washings and foot washings, but the law gave no instruction for ceremonial bathing or for rituals involving immersion of the entire body.

The Old Testament is silent about baptism, but history gives some insight into when baptism began to first be practiced in Israel. Apparently, the Jews in the time period between the completion of the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus began to engage in immersion as a form of ceremonial cleansing. This ritual bathing is still practiced by some Jews today as a rite of purification. John the Baptist was not the first to baptize. He appears to have taken the practice and administered it as a sign of repentance among the Israelites.

In Matthew 3 John preached a message of coming judgment. The nation of Israel had been through times of judgment before. The last Divine judgment cut them off as a self-governing nation. From the beginning of the Babylonian captivity all Jews were subjects of other nations. First they were subject to Babylon, then Persia, Greece and finally Rome. Israel suffered six hundred years of subjugation because of their disobedience to God. John’s warning of impending judgment affected many hearts. Those who believed the warning repented of their sin and were baptized. “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” (Acts 19:4)

John’s baptism was not Christian baptism. John did not baptize those who confessed Jesus as their Savior. John baptized those who were looking forward to the coming Messiah. Jesus is the promised Messiah, but when John’s ministry began very few people in Israel knew this fact. John preached that the Messiah was coming, but did not point Jesus out as the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” until Jesus began his public ministry. John’s baptism was given in preparation to receive the Messiah.

John’s baptism was also directly related to his ministry as the forerunner of Christ. John’s baptism was a picture that pointed the Jews to the greater work Christ would do for those who believe. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11)

John’s baptism did not bring salvation to anyone. It was a sign of repentance and of readiness to receive the coming Savior. John’s baptism also provided an important transition to the practice of baptism in the church. The baptism administered by John the Baptist was a forerunner of Christian baptism that today testifies of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for our sin. The baptism of John the Baptist was a testimony of readiness to receive the Messiah. Christian baptism is a testimony of having received Jesus

Did Jesus promise to answer every prayer?

“If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:14 seems like a very straightforward promise. Anything you ask for, Jesus will do. Did Jesus give a blanket promise to do everything that people pray for? Any one who has done much praying knows we do not always get what we ask God to give. Does God not keep His promises or is there something else in John 14:14 that shapes the nature of the promise?

The overlooked phrase is one of the most important of the verse. Jesus said if you pray “In my name.” That is much more than ending prayer with, “In Jesus name we pray. Amen.” Doing anything in the name of someone means acting as an official representative of that person. John MacArthur says that praying in Jesus name is asking for things that are consistent with who He is and asking for what Jesus would want. In other words, praying in Jesus’ name is praying selflessly for the will of God. Jesus will not answer the adulterer’s prayer for another partner. The person praying selfishly for a brand new sports car is not promised to have his prayers answered.

The book of 1 John spends a lot of time discussing certain key aspects from the Upper Room discourse, including John 14. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” The book of 1 John says the condition of answered prayer is asking according to the will of Jesus. Praying in Jesus’ name is asking in earnest desire for His will to be accomplished. It is not saying, “God I really want this, but if it’s not your will I really wish you would make it your will.” Asking in Jesus name genuinely desires the accomplishment of His will. It is saying, “God I would like this, but what I really want is your will to be done, your kingdom to be increased and your glory to be revealed.” When we pray this way, we know He will give us what we ask for. The remarkable testimony of those who have learned to pray this way is that when we learn to ask for what God wants then we find God is incredibly generous to His people.

This does not mean we cannot pray for things that we do not know if they are His will. We can ask or healing, a job, a spouse and many other things that we cannot know for certain if we are praying according to the will of God. In those situations where we do not know the will of God, we pray making our desires known and also knowingly submitting our desires to the will of God. We bow before God to ask His favor. We specify what we would like to receive of Him while confessing that we trust Him to do what is right and best. We confess we trust God if it is something different than what we requested. The promise of God is we will have what is good for us and what is in accord with the character and plan of God.

This principle of praying in Jesus’ name finds its Old Testament parallel in Psalm 37:4, Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

Does Hebrews teach that flagrant sin can never be forgiven?

Can a Christian lose his salvation? This question has long troubled and divided believers. Thousands of pages have been written to give an answer to this burning question. One of the major battlegrounds in this debate is the meaning of various key verses in the book of Hebrews. For example, Hebrews 10:26 says, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Does this mean that if someone knowingly sins they lose their salvation and can never enter heaven?

Hebrews quotes the Old Testament over 30 times and makes many more references to people, events and rituals found in the Old Testament. The book of Hebrews was written to Jews who had a broad knowledge of the Old Testament. The modern Christian needs a similar broad understanding of the Old Testament to better understand the book Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:26 points back to the absence in the Mosaic law of any sacrifice for intentional and willful sins. Numbers 15:30-31 says, “But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.” The Old Testament did not permit a person to plan to sin on Saturday and ask forgiveness on Sunday.

The book of Hebrews was written as a warning to those in the church on the verge of abandoning their profession of faith. The Jewish Christians faced intense persecution because they turned to Christianity. Some buckled under the pressure and turned away from their profession of faith. Hebrews encouraged the wavering believers to remain faithful to Jesus because He is far better than the Judaism they were returning to. There is no salvation in Judaism. Jesus is the only way of salvation. Those who rejected Jesus for their cultural traditions and familial religion were not saved.

Despite the absence of sacrifice for willful sin in the Old Testament, the grace of God was and is greater than sin. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he sinned willfully and presumptuously. Does this mean he was never forgiven? In Psalm 51 David was confident God would forgive Him He acknowledged his guilt before God. He understood no sacrifice was available for his sin. However, David did not despair he would never be forgiven. He cried out to God confident He would forgive. He prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psam 51:7) David’s words in Psalm 51 stand today as a Divine promise for all sinners, even those who willfully and rebelliously continue in sin. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) Those who repent of their sin and cry out to God for salvation will be saved.

Hebrews never teaches that salvation can be lost. The entire book emphasizes that Jesus alone is the fully sufficient Savior. He saves to the uttermost. (Hebrews 7:25) Those saved by Jesus can never exceed the limits of His grace. Hebrews not only teaches that Jesus secures the believer’s salvation, He also secures the believer in salvation. Hebrews 10:39 confidently asserts,“We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Those who believe to salvation will not draw back, fall away or turn aside. Those who rejected Jesus for Judaism did not lose their salvation, they turned aside from a profession that was not genuine. Those who are genuinely saved will not cast Jesus aside nor be cast aside by Him.