Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity. — Albert Camus
As our politicians bickers over the solution to the problems facing the American healthcare system, Christians have lost sight of real compassion.
The image I created for this post is based on Hugo SandovalI’s impressionist painting of “The Prodigal.” Cut from the heart of Jesus’ story of true compassion is the medical caduceus. What does this image symbolize? The following parable tells the story in words.
A Crowd gathers around the broken form of a Young Man lying motionless on the roadside. Moments before, the Young Man was riding his bike down the street, when suddenly struck by a car. Dazed and confused, the Crowd looked around for someone to offer direction on what they should do.
A Doctor came to the scene. He quickly ran to the Young Man’s side, bent down and began searching through his pockets. When the Doctor could not find an insurance card, he quietly moved away and said, “I cannot help this man.”
As the crowd became angry, a successful trial Lawyer came to the scene. Upon seeing the man bleeding to death, and hearing the story of the Doctor who refused to help, the Lawyer became angry. She decried this great injustice saying, “no one in America shouod be refused medical care just because he cannot pay.” The Lawyer quickly bent down beside the Young Man bleeding on the ground. She put her business card in the man’s pocket and said, “when you get well, come and see me. I will be sure to represent you in a big-money lawsuit against that Doctor, the Hospital, and the Insurance companies.”
Growing more angry, the Crowd began to grumble and complain, “what is wrong with this country!?”
A wealthy US Senator whose office was close to the scene came into the crowd. Seeing the Young Man bleeding to death on the ground, he cried out, “why has no one helped this man?!” The crowd reported the story of the Doctor and the Lawyer. The Senator knew something must be done quickly to save this man’s life. He jumped into action. He climbed onto a nearby soapbox and gave an impassioned speech to the enraged Crowd. ”We need change! We must pass a law to help this man who does not have healthcare! There are many Rich People in this country who have enough money to help this man. Come with me and we will pass a Law that will force these Rich People and Big Companies to pay for this man’s healthcare!”
The crowds loved the words of compassion spoken by the wealthy-Senator, made signs in support of his speech and followed after him to help pass a Law.
Before the Crowds could leave, a well-known Pastor jumped into the middle of the ruckus and condemned the immorality of the Senator’s proposed Law. The Pastor used his great influence and spoke passionately from the Bible to rally a counter-protest against the Senator and his Law.
The TV cameras soon arrived to film the scene. The nicely-dressed Anchorwoman knelt gently beside the injured man. She held a microphone to the dying man’s mouth and asked for a statement decrying the evils of the American healthcare system. Unable to speak or sign a press release, the Anchorwoman moved on to interview the Senator, the Doctor, the Pastor and the Crowd.
Crowds passed by the scene; each chanting support for their chosen cause. The cameras followed. The Young Man was left alone, bleeding to death on the roadside.
Soon, an Elderly Man came to the scene. He bent down, and forced his aging fingers to bandage the wounds. The Elderly Man had no money of his own so he sold his car to help pay for the Young Man’s medical care.”
Which of these people; the Doctor, the Lawyer, the Senator, the Pastor, the Crowds or the Elderly-Man reflect true compassion?
Which of these people offered a real solution to the dying man?
Which of these people are you?
Read more of my article on Faith & Politics @ TheFaithNews.com
With each election cycle, my frustration with my Christian brothers and sisters who put their hope in politics, American-Democracy, and Laws above personal responsibility to Christ continues to grow. In thinking about the place of religion in politics, I am reminded of the Pharisees with whom Jesus regularly contended.
The Pharisees put hope in their interpretation of the Torah (Law) of Moses. They sought to purify Israel through obedience to the Law. Religious-Republicans have their share of “Pharisees” who are trying to make America righteousness through political activism. And before the Religious Left gets too excited, you Obama supporters are not any better. Do you really think that passing Laws to force Social Justice somehow makes your politicized-faith superior?
Both Republican and Democratic brands of religious zealots present two sides of the same Pharisaical coin. But today, there is a third group that I fear is responding to this plight in exactly the wrong way. In this press release from the Christian Newswire, Bishop Janice Fountaine and Dr. Ralph Martino have vowed to create a new “Christian” political party that will, in their words,
illuminate the Christian voice and bring clarity to the Christian agenda to influence America, impact the world and increase the kingdom.
Their press release goes on to outline their agenda as follows:
The misrepresentation of the biblical teachings and principles to which we profess as Christians, prevent us from continuing to support either the Democratic or the Republican Party candidates.
As the Party of No Compromise, the New Independent Christian Party intends to influence the outcome of American elections and uphold the Godly principles by which America was built and by which Christians believe, live and exist.
My concern is that the effort to create a “Christian” political party demonstrates a gross ignorance of why Government exists. No political party represents 100% the Kingdom of God and the minute someone tries to turn the Christian Faith into another political party, they demolish the foundation for our Faith.
Now please hear me on this; I am not saying that we Christians should remove ourselves from participation in the political system. As I said in last weeks column, “We, as Christians, should be active in voting our faith, but politics should not be our passion.” So, yes, we must vote. BUT… regardless of who you and I vote for, we must remember that politics will never usher in the Kingdom of God because that is the mission of the Church empowered by the Spirit.
Maybe a revised version of Jesus’ warnings to the Pharisees will break though the confusion. Here is the “More Than Cake” Translation of Matthew 23:12–28—Paraphrased for Politics in America.
“Woe to you, Religious-Zealots, hypocrites! For you have used politics to shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”
“Woe to you, Religious-Zealots, hypocrites! For you send your military across sea and land to convert others to your brand of American Democracy, and when someone becomes a disciple of democracy, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears to follow Jesus, it is not enough, but if anyone swears to pass laws to enforce your morality, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the laws of the United States of America or the God who has promised to transform our hearts?”
“Woe to you, Religious-Zealots, hypocrites! For you pay your taxes and pass laws to force others to do good, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the Gospel of Jesus: justice and mercy and faithfulness.”
“Woe to you, Religious-Zealots, hypocrites! For you form Political Action Committees, Third party movements, and spend your money to pass Referendums, but this will only clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but on the inside the people of America are still guilty of greed, lust, and self-indulgence. You blind Religious-Zealots! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate by presenting the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and raised to new life—only then can the outside be made clean.”
“Woe to you, Religious-Zealots, hypocrites! For you are like the Washington monument, which outwardly appears beautiful, but in truth it only pays tribute to a dead man. You are like the Constitution itself, whose words are beautiful, but in truth it is but the words of Men written on dead trees. These cannot raise the lost to life eternal. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Out of respect to the authorities over us, Christians must participate in the political process by voting our conscience, but to put our energy into creating a political “alternative” is folly. Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could create the “New Independent Christian Party.” Jesus died and established his Church so that we could make disciples.. not political converts. The Gospel is demonstrated not by flexing our political muscle, but by opening hearts to God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.
This article was adapted from my 2012 column. Read more of my article on Faith & Politics @ TheFaithNews.com
I am in the middle of leading a masters course at Southern California Seminary titled, “Christian Ethics and Leadership”. To open our week one discussion, I asked each student to answer the question “Why is Living the Christian Ethic Important?”.. but I asked them to answer in the context of the following scenario.
Imagine you were talking to a young Christian who is facing a moral dilemma at work. They tell you that they just want to “follow their heart” because ethics do not matter as long as ones heart is in the right place.
How would you explain to them that accepting and living a Christian ethics is important?
The students had some spectacular insights and engaged in some very good dialogue, but I wanted to share the answer of one of my students with my readers here on More Than Cake. Here is Kathlena’s very personal answer to the question.
Christian ethics are important because they lay the foundation and scaffolding for our choices and behavior. In the text, Christian Ethics in Plain Language, Kerby Anderson states that: “The reason so few people act like Christians is that they do not think like Christians. Behavior results from our values and beliefs. Thinking biblically about the issues of life should ultimately result in living biblically in society.”
When each of us is in a situation where a moral decision must be made, it is crucial to have something other than our heart to be our determining guide. I say this not only because the Bible clearly states in Jeremiah that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)” but because personal experience has taught me just how deceptive it can be when it appeals to the sinful nature. I remember dating guys in college who I thought were wonderful guys, only to realize later what creeps they were. When I would break up with them, I would see the faults and asked my friends “Why didn’t you tell me that they were like this?” Only to get the response of “We tried, but you refused to see it!” When we see the end result (warped due to our humanity) as being something “good”,we find ways to justify our actions to achieve that. We will use manipulation, deceit, wiles, half-truths, whatever it takes to get the result we want, when more often than not, the result we achieve is nothing like what we thought it would be.
Case in point.
In college I was friends with a Christian who had a non-Christian roommate named Mike. While his roommate had told me clearly that Mike was not a Christian, my conversations with him had revealed that he was raised Catholic. My “heart” told me that was really close, and it would only take a little bit to bring him into the fold, as he had a “Christianese” type background. So we began dating, with my plan to surround him with so many Christians that he would have no choice but to surrender his heart. Less than a year later, he was highly involved with our Christian club, and had told me that he had become a Christian. I was thrilled as my plan had worked. We started talking about the future, and I was excited because my plan to meet and marry a Christian man was working. He was involved, went to church, had good morals, etc. and then he joined a fraternity! Within 6 months, the devotion to Christianity had changed course, and that devotion had been given to the pledge class. Excuses were given that he couldn’t go to “X” because he HAD to attend a pledge class event. After our 2nd year of dating it was apparent that there was no passion, no growth, and no submission to obedience to the Lord, and yet, our relationship was deeper, and the temptation to make it permanent increased. I was stuck in a position of loving and contemplating marriage to a man who was not walking with, nor having any desire to be walking with the Lord. When we finally sat down and talked about it, I found out that he “became a Christian because he loved me and knew it was important to me.” Not the dream that I had envisioned. The Lord gave me the strength to break up with him, and while we have remained acquaintances over the years, it is abundantly clear that no conversion had ever taken place. My heart had been deceived by my own desires, and while those desires were honorable, they blinded me from the truth. I learned then at I must measure things by something other than my heart.
That is where the Christian ethic comes into place. It isn’t something that is flexible. It doesn’t change as the culture changes, and it isn’t vague. Many times we don’t like to see how black and white it truly is, because it goes against our sinful nature. We want to believe that even in the black and white, there must be an element of gray that will allow us to fudge on that one little thing that will allow everything else to come into play.
We often forget that God sees it all. He sees the situation that you are in, the choices that must be made, the outcome of each choice made rightly, as well as poorly. We aren’t calling the shots. We don’t know how any choice we make will come out 100%, but we can hold to the truths of scripture. David prayed “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10 NIV)” because he knew only God was capable of purifying the heart.
Psalm 119 states: “The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees. Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart. Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law.” (Psalm 119:64-70 NIV)
The author clearly understood that there was a distinct relationship between knowing the Word of God, and following the Word of God, when one faced decisions. If we can grasp the concept of doing what is right, even if the only benefit that we see is in our obedience to Christ, then we are right where the Lord wants us: trusting and relying solely on Him, and not ourselves, or others. Whether it is a work, relationship, or legal issue (or other) we cannot “follow our hearts, instead, we must look past everything else and hold up the thing we need to act on, in relationship to scripture. The Bible often uses the illustration of a plumb line to show God’s standards of righteousness. This is a building device that uses the earth’s gravity to show if a wall is out of alignment, so that corrections can be made before the integrity of the structure is compromised. So it is with the Christian ethic. If we use ANYTHING other than God’s plumb line (His Word) to define what is right or wrong, it can compromise our integrity as a Christian, and ultimately destroy our influence and testimony to the world.
Like it or not, the world uses a tough standard in judging Christians. If two politicians are caught in the same compromising situations, and one claims to be a Christian, he is going to be judged as a hypocrite, and anything he says in the future will be held against his former compromise. However, the other politician will be granted more grace, because he is not being held to anything other than other people’s personal ethics. We are called to be holy, different, set apart. The only way we can do that is to show the world that we have the integrity to follow the ethics outlined by the God we claim to serve. It may be a small compromise, but as stated earlier, the smallest compromise could have the greatest effect down the road where only God sees the true outcome.
Football provides one interesting microcosm of life. There comes a point in a game when you know it is over. There is still time on the clock, there are plays yet to be called, but the scoreboard lets you know–the winer and loser is obvious. This is the time when it is most fun, to watch the players. I always laugh when a team is down by 30 points and some guy on the losing team makes a great tackle. He stands up, pounds his chest, and starts trash talking about how great a play he made. Meanwhile, the player from the winning team who just got tackled picks himself up off the turf, smiles, and points to the scoreboard because even though he lost on that play, he knows the game is already won. When you know the game is won, the hard hits don’t hurt so much. But when you know the game is lost, even the small hits hurt worse.
As a church planter, I have felt the thrill of victory when, for example, we baptized 11 people. I have also felt the agony of defeat as I have watched people embrace the Gospel and then turn away from both Jesus and fellowship with our Church-Family. So in the midst of trial, how can you and I gain perspective on defeat without losing our sanity?
I believe that Romans chapter 5 teaches that the perspective we seek in daily life comes through a right relationship with Jesus–the Savior of our soul.
Romans 5:1-11 is presented by Paul in a Chiastic structure.
Chiasm is way of presenting information so that the emphasis is on the middle of the statement. In this case, Paul’s opening thought A is a mirror of his closing thought A’. His connecting though B is a mirror of his connecting thought B’. Paul’s focal point, C and its mirror C’, provides the answer to our dilemma regarding the battles we face in life.
A Right Relationship Produce Peace
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Faith heals our brokenness and puts us at rest with God. He is no longer our enemy, but our comfort in Christ Jesus.
B Right Relationship Produce Privilege
2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
We stand in grace and boast in the promise that one day we will experience the fullness of God’s glorious presence.
C Right Relationship Produce Power
3a And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations [external stresses]…
The Jews boasted in the Law. The Gentiles boasted in their wisdom. The Christian boasts because we have won the war through our introduction to God, so we do not fear the battles.
As an engineer, I learned that stress, in is a good thing. If all stress were removed, the building would fall part. If the stress is in the wrong place or too great, the building will fall apart. If the stress is put in the right place and with the right design the building will stand. With the power of Christ, stress, just like in a building, will become our strength.
C’ Power is Provided through Right Relationship
3b …knowing that tribulation [stress] brings about perseverance [endurance];
4 and perseverance, proven character [scientific evidence];
and proven character, hope [anticipation];
5 and hope [anticipation] does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
B’ Privilege is Provided through Right Relationship
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
A’ Peace is Provided through Right Relationship
10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
What will today bring you? The thrill of victory? The agony of defeat? Will you find peace in the midst of the battle?
For God’s disciples, theere are no “Four Happy Hops to Hope”. There is simply stress, endurance, evidence, and anticipation… all fulfilled in the relationship with YHWH—and with church—that you cultivate each day by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.
The idea of being zealous (passionate) is nothing new. The Bible is full of example of zelotry (passion).
- Simeon and Levi took zealous vengeance by killing the men of Shechem for the rape of their sister Dinah (Gen 34:1–31).
- Elijah was “zealous for the Lord” in killing the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs 18:36–40; 19:10–18.
- King Jehu slaughtered all who worshipped Baal (2 Kgs 10:16–27).
- And King Josiah rooted out idolatry from the land (2 Kgs 22:1–23:30).
- Paul the apostle identified himself as a former zealot who persecuted Christians to death on behalf of the traditions of the forefathers (Gal 1:13–14; Phil 3:6; cf. Acts 22:3 and Rom 10:1–4).
- In the NT, there were 4 main religious groups; Pharisees, Saducees, Essenes, and Zelots. It was the Zelots who believed that any cooperation with the Government was a violation of the first commandment to not have any false gods.
Being zealous, either for Government or against it, is nothing new. In America, I think we are blessed by God with the right to vote. We, as Christians, should be active in voting our faith, but politics should not be our passion. Our zeal, should really be for something far more important. Here are a few thoughts from some key passages in the Bible that relate to politics and passion.
Be Zealous for Good Works
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,
Be Zealous for the Gospel
Using political power to force others to do “good things” is not the same as doing good works. Our passion should be to help those in need and in so doing we demonstrate the kindness of God.
When they had brought them, they stood them 1before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and 1yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 “The God of our fathers braised up Jesus, 1whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a 2cross. 31 “He is the one whom God exalted 1to His right hand as a 2bPrince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Be Zealous for Mercy
Sometimes we are forced to disobey the authorities for the sake of the Gospel. Our passion for Jesus sometimes runs counter to the desires of politicians and in these times we must let our passions rule.
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs 1according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
Be Zealous for Spiritual Battle
How sad when our Christian faith is defined by the foolish controversies that ensnare politicians. Regardless of the political system over us; Democracy, Socialism, or Fascism, our passion for mercy should rise above it all.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
In a Republican-Democracy, we have the blessing of voting our conscience. In obedience to the authorities over us, we should participate in the system. But our enemy is not the Republicans or the Democrats. Our enemy is not Roe v. Wade, Nationalized Healthcare, Gay Marriage, or the Military. Our enemy is the spiritual powers that seek to destroy us and hinder the Gospel.
Read more of my article on Faith & Politics @ TheFaithNews.com