With the current unrest in America, it seems good to repost an article from five years ago addressing the eerily similar death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer. If the response to the death of George Floyd is any indication racial tension has only increased in the last five years. Until we accept the Bible’s teachings about race, humanity and sin there will be no peace among men.
The one year anniversary of the shooting in Ferguson has just passed. In the twelve months since Michael Brown was shot, there have been numerous racially themed conflicts. Racial issues have been a regular theme of major news outlets. As a result, race is a topic on a lot of minds right now. The answers to racial tensions are not simple, but the Bible gives the sound foundation on which to develop a comprehensive response to racial conflicts. Whether it be an exchange of insults on a street corner or an exchange of gunfire in a crowded building the Bible gives the framework by which we can make sense of these difficult issues. One of the crucial Biblical teachings for a proper understanding of the races is what the Bible says about the origins of the races.
Race as we describe it is not something addressed often in the Bible. Most often Scriptures refers to nations, languages, tribes and cultures. In fact, the term “races” is a misnomer. Humanity is a single race with members possessing a variety of superficial differences, most easily seen in skin coloring and distinctive faical features. These variations are relatively minor and do not divide the peoples of the world into distinct races. The Biblical terminology is “kindred (tribe or family group), tongue (language group), people (community group) and nation (ethnic group)”. Though each group possesses clearly defined features, all are made up of descendants from Adam and Eve. Whether black, brown, white or yellow, all nations and peoples are members of the same family descended from the same parents.
If all humanity is one race that originated with Adam and Eve, where did the different ethnicities come from? The Bible offers a clear answer to the origins of the nations which are the source of the major “races” in the world today. The division of the peoples of the world is described in Genesis 10 and 11. Genesis 10 lists the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham and Japheth. This chapter has been called the “table of nations” because many of the people mentioned are the founders of the major nations of the world.
Genesis 11 tells of the Tower of Babel. At the Tower of Babel God punished mankind for its continued rebellion against Him. His punishment included the confusion of languages. Before Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Babel God miraculously caused different groups to speak different languages. The punishment at Babel also included the scattering of the people across the world. The individual language groups traveled from Babel to settle in lands across the Middle East and eventually the entire world. The family leaders mentioned in chapter 10 appear to reflect the language groups created by God at Babel. As groups spread out, married and reproduced, the distinctive characteristics of the parents became more pronounced. The unique languages and hardships faced by each people gropu resulted in the distinct culture and heritage of the various nations. From the tower of Babel and the resulting hardships came the formation of the ethnicities we see today.
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.”
Widespread restrictions against large gatherings have forced the closure of many churches and have made church attendance nearly impossible at this time. The government requests that churches not hold services have also generated much discussion about whether or not it is sinful for a Christian to miss church. On one side of the conversation are those who say it is always wrong to miss a church service and they refuse to cancel services no matter what. On the other side of the conversation are those who think church attendance is entirely optional and rarely, if ever, attend.
The first question to answer is if the Bible commands Christians to attend church. Yes it does, in the clearest possible terms. The words of Hebrews 10:25 carry the force of a command, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another.” This verse is a command to Christians to regularly attend church. The New Testament is also full of instructions that are dependent on faithful church attendance. Fundamentally, the New Testament word for church means an assembly. If Christians do not assemble together they are not a church.
Can Christians assemble online together? Hebrews 10:25 says Christians assemble together to exhort one another. Christians go to church to interact with other Christians. While online interaction can serve a useful role, it cannot replace the relationship that can only be developed face to face. Christians need the kind of relationship that sits across the table from you, shares a meal with you, looks you in the eye, holds your hand or gives you a hug.
Virtual church may supplement church attendance, or serve as a temporary substitute when circumstances make church attendance impossible. But listening to a sermon online, singing hymns with your family or watching a church service on television can never replace face to face church attendance. Only gathering with other believers as the body of Christ is “the assembling of yourselves together.
However, the Bible does not command perfect church attendance. The command of Hebrews 10:25 is that believers “not forsake” the assembling. Christians are not to be deserters from the assembly. When the church assembles Christians should be there, but missing a church service or two is not necessarily forsaking the assembling. The Christian’s desire and priority should be to gather with other believers. The Christian who disregards church attendance, only attends when it is convenient or always has an excuse for why they cannot attend this Sunday is breaking the command to not forsake the assembly. If you go to church and the regulars greet you with surprise, or someone hands you a visitors card, that is a pretty good hint you might be forsaking the assembly.
The Christian who misses a service because of illness or weather is not sinning. The church that cancels Sunday services for a week or two because of factors outside their control is not sinning. The church is God’s great gift to the Christian. It is a wonderful gathering of the members of the body of Christ who are joined together in Jesus to worship their Savior, to serve one another, to be encouraged in Christlikeness and to be equipped to take the hope of Jesus to the unsaved. Why would you not want to be a regular part of that?
Reports out of north Africa tell of a massive swarm of locusts that has been plaguing the region since December. Some news agencies have connected the swarm of locusts with Biblical prophecies of the return of Jesus. Thousands of acres of crop land in east Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, have been destroyed. Reports are now saying the swarm has reached the borders of China. This epic swarm is destroying crops and threatening the well-being of millions. It is an international catastrophe. Some preachers have said this swarm fulfills Biblical prophecy of tragic plagues that will hit the earth shortly before Jesus returns. Does it?
Locusts and plagues of locusts are a familiar theme in the Bible. A plague of locusts was one of the ten judgments of God upon Egypt when He brought the Israelites out of slavery. Locust swarms were a familiar sight to the Israelites during the entire Old Testament period. God warned Israel in the book of Deuteronomy that if they did not obey Him, their land flowing with milk and honey would be laid waste by droughts, disease, swarms of locusts and other pestilence. In Joel the totality of God’s judgment on Israel was prophesied to be like crop lands stripped bare by a swarm of locusts. The Bible also speaks of locusts to depict huge armies or other large groups of people. In the book of Nahum the Assyrian empire was compared to locusts. The prophet decreed that even if the Assyrians multiply themselves like locusts, they would all be destroyed.
The book of Revelation refers to locusts in its description of the series of judgments that will come on the earth during the Tribulation. A scene described in Revelation 9 is very dramatic. An angel sounds a trumpet and the bottomless pit was opened. Like a volcanic eruption, smoke filled the skies and blotted out the stars. A massive swarm like locusts came out of the smoke. However, the locusts described in Revelation 9 are not normal locusts. These are not crop eating insects. These are horrible beasts with the ability to sting men and cause terrible, prolonged pain.
The swarms of locusts in Africa and the Middle East are causing great harm, but they are not a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. The Bible never says plagues of crop eating insects will be a sign or precursor of the return of Jesus. The Bible teaches that the normal troubles of this world will continue and increase until the return of Jesus. In the final years before His Second Coming the entire earth will be shaken with terrible catastrophes unlike anything the world has seen since the flood of Noah. Droughts, earthquakes, forest fires, pandemics and insect swarms are terrible, but they are nothing compared to the truly terrifying calamities that will ravage the earth in the days to come. When God pours out His judgments on the earth, none will confuse them with natural disasters. In the meantime, we must live soberly, righteously and godly, looking for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:12-13)
Every year America sets aside the fourth Thursday of November as a day to give thanks to God. On that day many gather together with friends and family to express their thankfulness for the many blessings recieved during the previous year.
The pattern of Thanksgiving in the United States was set by the pilgrim fathers. They endured great hardship, suffered much loss of life and faced many difficulties. Yet they did not fail to pour out thanks to God for His provision. They model obedience to the command, “Giving thanks always for all things.” (Ephesians 5:20)
Christians today are still required by God to give thanks in the midst of difficult and sorrowful times. Many may consider their lives right now and say, “What do I have to give thanks for?” Some may look at the challenges facing the nation and wonder what cause America has for thanksgiving. With a little thought it soon becomes apparent that we have many things for which to be thankful. We have more than the daily provision of all needs and an of abundance physical blessings. (Philippians 4:19; James 1:17) We live in relative peace. Grocery stores overflow with an extravagant assortment of food. We have homes and warmth. We have our choice of clothing. We have a vehicle to quickly transport us long distances, often more than one. Many have a wide variety of toys and entertainment. We have the ability to read, count and think. We have the freedom to speak, assemble, pray, worship, protest and give thanks however we desire. We have much for which to be thankful.
Christians have the ultimate cause for thanksgiving. Every sin has been forgiven. Guilt and condemnation under the wrath of God has been removed. Our iniquities have been taken away by Christ and we are made righteous in Him. No matter how bad your life is, if you are a Christian, your rotten life is temporary, is still far better than the eternal suffering of hell you deserve and it will be replaced with eternal joy. Give thanks for your salvation!
The wonderful salvation of the Christian is abundant cause for rejoicing, but it is not the only reason to give thanks. Christians can give thanks because of the great promise that the abundant grace of God will be continually at work them. His grace abounds far more than sin (Romans 5:20) but also far more than need. (Ephesians 3:20) The grace of God is sufficient for all times and seasons. The grace of God is always working to do far beyond what we ask or even imagine. We can give thanks because God’s abundant grace is still overflowing.
The Bible also reveals a vast array of blessings and promises from God which are the Christian’s daily benefits. (Psalm 103:2) Your bank account may be empty and your future health may be doubtful, but God’s abundance is not diminished. For that we should always give thanks. Give thanks to God because He gives you many physical benefits and He gives you an infinite treatsure of spiritual blessings.
Kanye West has won 21 Grammy awards, 29 BET awards, 10 Billboard awards, 16 MTV awards and 140 other awards for his work in the music industry. He has sold over 21 million albums. Seven of his nine studio albums have gone platinum. Kanye is a hugely successful hip-hop artist. Recently he underwent a dramatic conversion to Christianity. The new message of Kanye is far different from the message that filled his music a few years ago. His latest album is entitled “Jesus is King.” He now sings of Jesus to thousands of people as he tours America hosting his Sunday Services.
Whenever a well known figure has a dramatic and public conversion many people, Christian and non-Christian, struggle to understand and respond. Some have accused Kanye of engaging in a huge publicity stunt. Others have said Kanye is using his Sunday Services to fuel album sales. Some Christians are concerned that Kanye’s conversion is not real and others wonder if church leaders should be promoting him so soon after his conversion.
Conversion happens in a moment. A person who calls upon Jesus for salvation is immediately taken out of the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of Jesus. Salvation is immediate, but the evidence of salvation is not. Some new believers find their life is dramatically transformed. They turn aside from all the things of their former life and make a clean break with the sins of their past. Most believers find the transformation of life is slow and gradual. We should not necessarily expect Kanye to show immediate victory over sins that have been a major part of his life for many years. What we should expect to see is a diligent effort to put away sin in his life.
The best evidence of salvation is long term continuance in the faith. In the parable of the soils, Jesus points out that some false professors spring up quickly and give early signs of growth before shriveling under the assaults from sin. Those who remain and bear fruit show they were truly saved. Only time and eternity will tell if Kanye’s profession is genuine. However, Kanye is not beyond redemption. No one should doubt Kanye’s salvation because of any terrible thing he has done in the past. The grace of God is far greater than any of Kanye’s sin. The blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin, even sins we may find particuarly offensive. If Kanye believes Jesus is God who died and rose again for his salvation, and if Kanye called out to Jesus for forgiveness of sin, then Kanye is saved.
The question that must asked and answered by Christians is if Kanye should be given the pulpit and platform of Christian churches so soon after his conversion. Kanye has his own platfrom from which he has long proclaimed his message, but should the church give him their’s. Kanye has clearly taken a leadership role in American Christianity. James 3:1 says that any one who is given the authority to teach the church is held to a greater accountability. Is it wise for any church to put a newborn Christian in a position where he will be accountable for what he teaches to thousands of Christians? Instead of giving him the pulpit, the church should be giving Kanye time and training to grow in doctrine, in faith and in Christlikeness.
The monthly pastor’s roundtable will be discussing further the question of Kanye on November 24. Tune in to 92.7 FM at 9:30 AM to hear the answers they give to this timely question.
Our nation has once again been stunned by outbursts of unthinkable violence. Acts of terrorism and mass shootings are happening far too frequently. Murder remains a regular feature on the evening news. Every time someone shoots up a church or unloads into a crowd Christians are confronted with the need to address these tragedies with compassion and thoughtfulness.
Christian love demands we show genuine concern for all affected by these awful crimes. Whether the victims be Christians in Syria, partiers in Paris or abortionists in Colorado, the Christian should respond with heartfelt compassion for all who suffer at the hands of others. At no time should the child of God act like a victim got what they deserved. Murder is despicable no matter the morals, character or wickedness of the person murdered. The wanton taking of a human life is always a horrible evil because every person is created in the image of God. To harm a person is to attack the image of God. Every murder is a direct affront to the dignity and glory created in every person by God. Christians must clearly denounce any murderous act as a horrible evil without attempting to justify, excuse or mitigate the wickedness of the attack.
Horrendous deeds remind us the corruption of sin has filled this world with evil. Even those who might be inclined to deny any moral absolutes are forced to admit mass shootings are a terrible evil. The Christian need not argue about whether the problem is caused by guns, mental illness, religion, lack of religion or the shooter’s upbringing. The Biblically informed believer can say with confidence that whatever the immediate contributing factors to individual acts of violence, the tragedy occurred because everyone is corrupted by sin. The present excess of violence, hatred and destruction shows that sin is all too real.
The problem of evil drives us to seek a solution. The Christian knows the only hope for mankind is Jesus. Gun control, mental health solutions and better education may be worthwhie goals, but they are unable to solve the problem of sin. Those with murder in their hearts will find a way to execute their desires. The heart is only transformed by Jesus. In Christ evil desires begin to be replaced with good. Only in Jesus does humanity find hope for genuine righteousness and an end to the evils of this world.
Above all else, the Christian must never forget that in the end God’s righteous kingdom will be victorious. Psalm 2 says, ” Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD . . . He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Wicked men will rage against God and man, but in the end Jesus will punish all evil and will establish His righteous kingdom.
Relativism is the philosophy that truth and morality are dependent upon the perspective of the individual. Absolutes that transcend time, culture, society or personal opinion do not exist. No one can rightly say the Christianity of Western Europe is right and the animism of central Africa is wrong, or vice versa. Relativism views truth and morals as products of their time. For example, according to relativism, the wrongness of homosexuality was just a product of Victorian and Puritanical cultures which sought to repress human sexuality.
According to relativism, truth and morality are determined by the individual, the culture, and the particular situation. What is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. Relativism is the foundation of the postmodern world view, and is one of the most dominant views of truth in America today. Because of relativism, all truth is negotiable. Even truths which were once strongly held by many people can now be set aside if they are deemed inconvenient, unpopular or unpalatable. According to relativism, all truth claims are to be tolerated and doubt is a virtue. The only real sins in relativism are being dogmatic, too certain or attempting to force a particular view of truth upon someone else.
Relativism is evident in the ancient fable of the blind men and the elephant. The different religions of the world are like three blind men trying to explain an elephant. The one at the front holds the trunk and declares an elephant is a thick, muscular cylinder able to move about in all directions and grasp things. The one at the back disagrees quite strongly. He feels the tail and decrees an elephant is a thin, rope like object which is able to move rapidly. The one in the middle says they are both wrong. He touches a leg and describes the elephant as a thick, strong, leathery pillar. All determined truth based upon their perspective. Each defined a part of truth, but none were entirely right.
Christianity does not dispute the inability of individuals to fully see and understand truth. A Biblical worldview affirms that perceptions of what is true and right are affected by the perspective of the individual. What makes Christianity unique, and contradictory to relativism, is the assertion that truth is absolute and is given by One outside humanity. Reality, truth, justice and oughtness are defined by One who is above mankind and human culture.
Sin has damaged man’s ability to understand and apply truth to life. But human inability to see truth does not lessen its truthfulness. The blind men of relativism are limited by their inability to see and comprehend the entire elephant, but the elephant is still an elephant. Their mis-definition does not change the reality of the elephant. If a sighted zookeeper described in full detail the true nature of an elephant, the blind men would be obligated to accept as true the expert testimony of one who knows. The rejection of the authoritative declaration of what is true for a limited, incomplete understanding is folly.