Monthly Archives: November 2020

Religion and Faith – There’s a Difference! – Reblog

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Grace and the Believer's Freedom

A couple of years ago, I posted my most thorough expositions to date on the believer’s freedom under Grace; our freedom from legalism and others’ expectations. I wrote about others’ objections to those living under Grace, and the ‘Licence to Sin’ that some believers still go on about.

Lately, I have been in dialogue with friends who are still in fear; still wondering whether or not God is angry with them, and sadly not being able to see the all-encompassing, all-accomplishing nature of the total victory that Jesus won on the Cross.

And so, in order to bring to the fore once again the fulness of our freedom, as given us by God’s Grace, I would like to reblog those two pieces, one after the other. The first one, ‘Religion and Faith – There’s a Difference!’ I reproduce here; the second, ‘Licence to Sin’, I will post next time.


Religion and Faith – There’s a Difference!

A few days ago someone asked me the question, “Are you religious?” And without thinking, I said. “Yes” – then immediately qualified it by saying, “Well, actually, no – I’m a man of faith. There is a difference”.

Now, call me pedantic if you like. And I know what the lady meant when she asked me the question. But to me there is indeed a difference.

Religion is simply humans trying to ‘do something’ – anything! in order to be acceptable to whatever god(s) they believe in. It seems to be the default setting for that part of humanity who seek after the higher purpose, deeper meaning, the Life Essence of the universe, or even the Creator Himself – whatever they call ‘god’, they feel the need to do something. (In this piece, I am not including those who don’t seek after things like this).

So whatever it is, people try to ‘do’ stuff. This involves rituals, rules/laws, behaviour patterns, conformity to some formula told to people. This can happen with Christians, or indeed any ‘defined’ faith, or it can happen with people of no set belief system. I once found a Pagan altar in the local woods where people had performed certain ‘rituals’ and carved Runes (letters made of straight lines suitable for carving on stone or wood) on the altar. I can read Runes, and they said something like ‘we worship you earth mother’. And so, this is an example of Religion based on ‘doing’.

Faith, however, is different. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as, “…confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. For me, this means that I have confidence in Jesus alone, and an assurance in the complete and total efficacy of His finished work on the Cross (Jn 19:30). It’s not about me, what I ‘do’, but about what He has already ‘done’. I am already acceptable to God by Jesus’s finished work on the Cross, however that works. I say that ‘however it works’ because I am still plumbing the depths of just what Jesus did there, and it’s vaster and more thorough than I think anyone realises. God’s Grace is undeserved, unlimited, extravagant, and indeed completely unfair. In Grace, we really do get something for nothing. It’s free for the taking!

This is poles apart from the constant workload of Religion!

In Christ, we can ‘rest’ in His finished work, knowing there’s nothing more to do, indeed, nothing more we can do, to make our salvation more sure.

This is a different thing from St. Paul’s statement in Colossians 1:24 where he says, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” This, I believe, refers to the works and actions that proceed naturally, flowing from the life lived in the Spirit. What part of Christ’s afflictions were incomplete? Only that the death of Christ on the Cross does not cater for the ‘practical’ things that the Spirit-led person does; the ‘works’ that are the fruit of faith. So, things like feeding the poor, clothing the naked, that sort of thing. And this is what still needs to be done. And so, this Colossians passage does not mean that for some reason Christ’s work is not ‘finished’, or that it is lacking any efficacy for our acceptance before God. It doesn’t mean that at all.

Sadly, though, even Christians, for whom Jesus said ‘It is finished!’ and for whom St. Paul says that we have freedom from these Rules, can (and usually do) have Religious rule patterns and expectations of their adherents. This is tragic; every time I’ve seen someone propound the vast freedom and benefits of Grace-based faith, there’s been someone else come on and state his ‘cautionary’ case. ‘Be careful of Grace; you don’t know what you might be getting into’. ‘Don’t let Grace be a licence to sin’, and things like that. This is all just the thin end of the wedge for legalism – going back to those Rules again. There’s always something like, ‘Ah, but we have to be careful that we don’t…’, there’s always some cautionary tale. ‘Ah, but…’ in fact has no place in Grace! The Spirit-led life means that we don’t have to worry about Law any more! So many people are sitting on riches they don’t know they have.

This is why St Paul said in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Slavery to Rules. Slavery to Religion.

I personally find that, because I have to get into the Legalism mindset in order to discuss these issues with those still trapped in legalistic systems, I find that I too begin to think in the same way as they do. In some ways, I need to do that, so that a) I can listen to what they are saying, and b) so that I can base my discussions on what Scriptures they are using. And it’s quite stifling, actually. I often feel the need to take time out and recharge my ‘Grace batteries’. Despite my freedom from Law being revealed to me personally by Father, the tendency to slide back into legalism in order to get alongside those still trapped in there is always insidious and present, because I have to think in the same way as they do in order to identify with them. It’s like trying to rescue a drowning man. Maybe I should wait until they cease struggling….

Sadly, many religious people, those dependent on their own works, however disguised or unrealised, tend to view ‘freedom from Law’ with some suspicion. Just like they did in Jesus’s day. The people who were most often on his back about His ‘behaviour’ and that of His disciples (they were feasting and partying instead of fasting like ‘proper’ religious people do) were the religious authorities. And so, people like Rob Bell, Joseph Prince, Jeff Turner, Paul Ellis; Grace preachers like these are constantly denigrated by the religious authorities of this day. Believers are always warned off from their messages of freedom, hope and joy, precisely because the religious authorities want to maintain control[1]

. We can’t have believers realising their freedom, because we will lose control. Ok, so let’s ‘warn’ them about the ‘dangers’ of the ‘Grace Movement’ and use scare tactics like telling them that ‘Grace is a licence to sin’ and stuff like that. Actually it’s nothing of the sort; this is just used as a means of keeping people in their cages. Personally, as far as I am concerned they are wasting their time, such is the revelation of Grace I received nineteen years ago. For me, there is no going back into the cage. For others just learning the ways of Grace, my advice would be to trust the Holy Spirit within you. What He says, do (Jn 2:5). Ignore the Gatekeepers of heaven; they are actually nothing of the sort! Your freedom is yours; hold on to it!

Anyway, to sum up: Religion is always ‘do, do, do’ in order to be acceptable to God. Faith, for me, is ‘done, done, done’ and because of this I’m already acceptable to God. Wow!

“It is finished”, says the Lord!

 

 


The link to the original article is here

Footnotes

1 Actually, I am perhaps tarring some leaders with the same brush here – in the UK at least, most church leaders who have this kind of input into their members’ lives do so from a genuine desire to ensure that their members stay pure/clean/’sin-free’ or whatever. I understand that. But firstly, this is putting the cart before the horse; purity is more of a spiritual fruit than a spiritual task. It flows naturally from a life lived in the Spirit, and does not need to be either forced or policed. Secondly, this actually isn’t anyone’s job to do. It is not the job of Church leadership – or indeed any other person – to point out others’ ‘sins’. There are passages in the New Testament which might suggest that, and indeed St. Paul does give some ideas on how to deal with ‘badly-behaved’ church members, for the purpose of maintaining order in the church. But in our day this has been taken entirely out of context and also out of proportion; many people think that these Scriptures give them a licence to criticise and judge others. And this is simply not the case, from any of those Scriptures. Firstly, Jesus’s exhortation to ‘take the plank out of your own eye’ (Mt 7:1-5; Lk 6:41-42) is actually an exhortation to not point out others’ sin at all; secondly, the response of the person being criticised, if indeed any is required, is entirely between them and God. You might well point out someone else’s ‘sin’, but the response is up to them. You are not responsible to point out others’ ‘sins’; you are certainly not responsible for their actions or lack thereof in response to your criticism. Let’s not make any bones about it; you are actually judging and criticising others. Very rarely is it done ‘in love’!

(And how do you define ‘sin’ anyway; what is harmful for one person is not so for another)

20

Old Heads on Young Shoulders

I’m only 58, but I am already beginning to identify with a lot of what this anonymous writer puts in this piece, where he taks to a 70 – plus – year – old friend. The essay was shared to me by an online friend 😉


I asked one of my friends who has crossed 70 and is heading to 80-years of age what sort of changes he is feeling in himself? He sent me the following very interesting lines, which I would like to share with you.

1. After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children, my friends, now I have started loving myself.

2. I just realised that I am not Atlas. The world does not rest on my shoulders.

3. I now stopped haggling with vegetables and fruits vendors. A few pennies more is not going to burn a hole in my pocket but it might help the poor fellow pay better for his family or health needs.

4. I pay my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is working much harder and for longer hours for a living than me

5. I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already told that story many times. The story is for them not for me. The story makes them walk down the memory lane and relive the past.

6. I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.

7. I give compliments freely and generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the recipient but also for me.

8. I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.

9. I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.

10. I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat and neither am I in any race.

11. I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.

12. I have learned that it’s better to drop the ego than to break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, whereas with relationships I will never be alone.

13. I have learned to live each day as if it’s the last because one day it will be my last.

14. I am doing what makes me happy. I am responsible for my happiness, and I owe it to myself. Happiness is a choice. You can be happy at any time, just choose to be.

I decided to send this to all my friends. Why do we have to wait to be 70 or 80, why can’t we practice this at any stage and age?

 – author unknown, but I originally read it as shared on Mike Walsh’s blog here.


Header image shows the ‘spare heads’ of the android Kryten, from the popular science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf episode ‘DNA’, Red Dwarf Series IV Episode 2

10

It’s Your Story

Here’s a profound little piece from one of my online friends. Simply let it speak to you whatever it needs to:


It’s your story. You have to pass through the Gethsemane (place of crushing you to extract your pure essence) and endure the accusation of blasphemy as you are put on the cross by the religious establishment. They think they are killing you, but they are actually killing the false idol god of accusation. The one thief on the cross which hurls accusations and contempt.

Now as you grieve, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” the still small voice of Immanuel, God with us, within us, as us, speaks and says, “I’ve never left nor forsaken you. If you remember this then even here today, you shall be with me in paradise.”

This is the first day of creation as the spirit broods over the abyss you face and whispers “I am the light.”

Because of this your false accusing idol god is dead and entombed where it always belonged, but was foolishly carried around in a heavy graven coffin filled with lifeless dead stones of graven images of burdensome and inflexible rules which accuse you.

Now you are free as you hear the voice of the spirit within you and follow the mind of Christ reborn within you and are now baptized in the image of Christ seeing that all is love and love alone is the power of transformation.

 – R. I. Fiar, shared with his kind permission

10

The Lord’s Prayer, Extended Dance Mix…

Maybe you’ve heard of the Amplified version of the Bible. It’s a version where the meaning of each word is expanded in its context to aid in understanding – although it does make it a little difficult to listen to when it’s being read out loud 😉

Well, here’s a great version of what some call ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, ‘amplified’ in similar fashion by the superb Nadia Bolz-Weber:


Our Father, Our Mother, Our Holy Parent, The Source of All Being from whom we came and to whom we return, You who knows us better than we know ourselves. Jesus called you Abba and so shall we, even as we may have an ambiguous relationship with parenthood – Be to us our Holy Parent, the one who loves without condition.

Who art in heaven… Our Father who art in everything. Our Father who art in orphanages and neonatal units, and jail cells and luxury high-rises, who art in law offices and adult book stores, and in rooms alone with suicidal people. Our Father who art in the halls of Congress and the halls of tenements.

Hallowed be thy name. Holy is your name.  Ever since the beginning we have attributed our own sin and ego and wishful thinking and greed and malice and racism and ambition and manipulations of others to you and to your name – and yet your name remains holy. We print “In God we trust” on the US dollar and then worship that dollar and the power that dollar brings us, and yet still, your name remains holy.

Thy kingdom come… God, right now we beg you to bring more than just a small measure of heaven to earth because, if you haven’t noticed, we are in the middle of a global pandemic and millions are sick and dying, not to mention, the Earth is on fire. It’s a mess down here Lord, so we need your Kingdom to speed the hell up. We need wise leaders, and just systems and an extra dose of compassion for all of us.

Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Thy will and not ours be done. Forgive us when we use prayer as a self-help technique by which we can get all the cash and prizes we want out of your divine vending machine if we just kind of bug you to death through ceaseless prayer, because when it comes down to it, we know better. You are our Father whose name is holy and whose love is boundless and who wants, as our holy Parent, to hear our prayers.

Give us today our daily bread. Give us today our daily bread, our daily naan, our daily tortillas, our daily rice. Lord, give us real bread, even when we keep reaching for those literal and metaphorical Krispy Kremes. Give us the gift of enough-ness. May our response to perceived scarcity always be increased generosity for we are your children and from you we receive everything. Give us today our desire for the neighbor to be fed. Give us today a desire for a good that is held in common.

And forgive us our sins. As we forgive those who sin against us. Forgive us when we hate what you love. Forgive us when we would rather anesthetize ourselves than feel anything. Forgive us for how much we resent in others the same things we hate in ourselves Forgive us for the terrible things we think about our own bodies, bodies you have made in your image. Forgive us for thinking we know the hearts of our enemies.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Deliver us from the inclination that we too do not have evil in our hearts. Deliver us from religious and national exceptionalism. Deliver us from addiction and depression. Deliver us from self-loathing. Deliver us from self- righteousness. Deliver us from high fructose corn syrup. Deliver us from a complete lack of imagination about where you are in our lives and how you might already be showing up. Deliver us from complacency. Deliver us from Complicity.

As Jesus taught us, we are throwing this bag of prayers at your door. We are not asking nicely, Lord. We are your children and we are claiming your promises as our own today. Some of us are holding your feet to the fire, some of us don’t know if we believe in you, some of us are distracted and just going through the motions, some are desperately in love with you….but all of us are your children. Use these prayers to hammer us all into vessels that can accept the answer when it comes. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. 

And the children of God say, AMEN.

– Nadia Bolz-Weber

 

Here’s the link to the original article00

Secret Angel

My dear friend Sue is a fiery Welsh lass, who says it how it is and doesn’t pull her punches. She’d make a good Yorkshirewoman, in fact 😀

She’s also a gifted writer, with a tremendous sense of humour and sometimes quite a ‘coarse tongue’ which, to my mind, only adds to the hilarity in her writing.

Sue has quite a few tattoos[1], and I’ve seen a picture of the ones on her back: she has a pair of wings tattooed on there. Most impressive they looked too.

And Sue works in a local supermarket as a checkout operator, so of course she gets to meet loads of people of all ages in the course of her work. Yesterday, she shared a lovely story about a conversation she’d had with some of those people, and it really blessed me. So of course I had to share it here, with her kind permission.

Over to Sue:


So yesterday at work, I served an older couple who had their granddaughter with them, she was about 3-4 years old. She wanted to lift the items from their basket up to me but she took one look at me and hid behind her grandad in sheer terror (because unfortunately I have a face like a smacked arse when I’m not smiling).

So after doing the transaction I leaned down over the counter and, looking shiftily around, I loudly stage-whispered, “Hey! Do you want to see my wings? ‘Cos I have wings, I’m an angel you see. Wanna look?” Her face lit up, and she crept forward, nodding her head.

I turned around in my chair and said, “I can’t show you all of them because it’s my little secret, but here’s the bottom,” and I lifted the back of my polo shirt up, “and here’s the top,” and I pulled my collar down.

She gasped in delight when she saw them, and I stage-whispered, “Do you like them?” to which her grandma said, “Oh, aren’t they beautiful?” to her, and she vigorously nodded her head.

“You have to keep this a secret, just between us okay? You can’t tell anyone I’m a real angel, promise?” She nodded her little head, eyes still huge in wonder, big smile on her pretty face, and practically skipped out of the store.

Unfortunately the young chap who was on tills with me also saw, he obviously didn’t like what he saw though because he was kneeling on the floor, throwing up into the waste bin. I don’t know, everyone’s a bloody critic and you can’t please them all…


I love that story 😀

Grace and Peace to you

Footnotes

1 Including her own name, her husband’s name, and her son’s name, tattooed on her forearm in Elvish script – wow!
20

Picking Sides – Reblog

I think it’s important, in these days of political turmoil and on the day when the US Presidential election results start to come through, that we remind ourselves just Who our King is. And, therefore, Whose Kingdom we are a part of.

Here, then, is a piece I wrote about 18 months ago, which describes the believer’s position in God and why it is so important to remember it – because that is what maintains our attitude of freedom.

Please bear with the slight anachronism; when I wrote this piece, Mrs. Theresa May was Prime Minister of the UK, Trump was President of the USA, and they are mentioned as such in the essay.


Picking Sides

Recently, I have read quite a few things about the involvement of Christians in politics, and indeed the involvement of politics in Christianity. The current British Prime Minister, Mrs. Theresa May, has recently expressed how her Christian faith guides her politics; climate change protesters demonstrating on the streets of London have claimed Jesus’s allegiance in their cause; and as for the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, it is of course well known that the Evangelical Christian conservative right are completely behind him, and that, they claim, in a ‘Biblical’ sense too. There’s no point in me linking to references on these matters; these things are well-known and can be Googled if required.

Politics is a necessary fact of life, and indeed people have fought and died to make my country a democracy, and I will always be grateful for that. I really cherish my right, and my privilege, to have an influence – however small that might be – on the decision-making processes in my country. I value my ability to write to my Member of Parliament (MP) and express my views, in the hope that they will incorporate my ideas or whatever into their discussions and possibly in some small way influence the way things turn out. I do think it is extremely important to honour that privilege and to appreciate it. I don’t like how some groups, like, for example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs), declare themselves to be not a part of the world system and therefore do not take part in the democratic process. While I understand their position – as you will see below, and then some! – I do believe that we are a part of this world and we still need to live in it until our time is up. Therefore, it would be extremely silly to not take part in the influencing of Government policy, not least because if we good people don’t do it, then there are plenty of nasty people out there who are ready and willing to usurp the democratic process for their own ends. And that wouldn’t be pretty. Jesus came to bring abundant life, and our modern civilisation is an expression of that in that the standard of living nowadays is higher than it has ever been at any point in history, and what we call the ‘poverty line’ is much higher than it used to be. Granted, there will always be poor people (Mt 26:11) but still today’s standard of living is much better and it continues to improve.

All that having been said, Christians are still actually not ‘of the world’ (Jn 17:14). Whereas , as we have seen, some groups like the JWs would say that they remain neutral (and do not take part) in political systems at all, because they see their citizenship as being first and foremost in God’s Kingdom, I do believe that Christians[1] can indeed take part in ‘worldly’ politics in order to improve society. However, they can do this with their status as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven firmly in mind.

And that can mean a number of things. The first thing that springs to most people’s minds on this subject is that of course their Christian faith, morals and principles, which will of course differ from one Christian to another, will be used to inform and direct the political choices made by each individual. This is, I think, axiomatic, and forms the basis of all choices made at the ballot box.

But there is another angle beyond this one. As I have briefly described in a former article, I do feel that the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven also have a position that is above and beyond the considerations of mere worldly politics.

While the voting system is a granular, often binary choice – that is, you get to vote for one person or group out of a choice of two or more, and usually no more than about six or seven people or groups – everyone knows that the world’s problems are not normally simple binary, black-and-white issues. There are many shades of grey involved in most issues, if we are honest, and the asking of questions which allow only a simple binary (yes/no) answer is not really an honest way of looking at the issue. Especially when that question is intentionally polarising or designed to place the responder on one side of the fence or another. I find this to be disingenuous because the questioner is setting up his victim to be polemicised by the questioner and other readers. For instance, this one came up on one thread recently, seemingly one of these ‘innocent’ questions that is actually nothing of the sort because it’s designed to categorise the victim for either subsequent public grilling or subsequent full approval, depending on the answer (if that answer is presented as binary, as the question sets it up to be). Here it is:

“Can I ask, are you in favour of reducing our emissions to carbon neutral by 2025?”

You could answer ‘Yes’, and on the face of it that appears to be the easy option, but firstly, that implies that group approval of any further replies on the subject is dependent on your getting the first answer ‘right’ with that ‘yes’, and secondly, in order to gain said approval, if the victim actually believes ‘no’ (for whatever reason), then they would have to lie with a ‘Yes’ in order to be ‘allowed’ to participate further in the discussion, which would of course be further questions along the original line. In other words, leading questions. As always, these questioners take advantage of the general propensity of Christians to tell the truth, and sometimes, because of this, these a-holes deserve to be lied to, in my opinion.

Answering with a ‘no’ of course, is firstly against the general opinion that a) carbon emissions cause global warming, and b) global warming is bad. But in this case it was also against the general group agreement on those two points above. It’s like the question that sales people pose, “What, you mean you don’t want to save money?”, to which the obvious answer is also a leading answer because then the salesman has his foot in the door as it were. The correct answer to sales people like that is to crush the so-and-so’s foot in the door, because it shouldn’t be there anyway. Especially as my door has a ‘No Cold Callers’ sign on it 😉

To return to my original point, though, real life issues do not usually have a simple binary answer, or at least those answers would not be of much value. The case in the above example, about global warming, is that yes it’s a good idea to reduce global warming, but the issues are not quite simple enough to be expressed with simple binary answers. Now, while some people might relish the simplicity of binary answers, most of the time it’s far, far more straightforward, instead of being tied up in all this nonsense, to be free of all that and simply take Jesus’s example and to do what you see Father doing (Jn 5:19).

Some might think of this as a cop-out.

Well, firstly, I really don’t care if people think this; my thinking and decision-making processes are my own and I’ll run them how I like.

But, secondly, it’s not a cop-out because if Father asks me to perform a particular action in response to a particular need, then it’s action all the way. That’s how it works for me, anyway. I think that’s part of what Jesus meant when He said that apart from [Him] you can do nothing. If Father isn’t the main cause of my actions, then those actions are not worth doing because it’s not what He is calling. And that’s hardly a cop-out; instead it is divinely-inspired action which consumes you until the job is done. This is what it means to have Jesus as my King.

People accusing others of copping-out are simply annoyed because they haven’t been able to force their victims into the course of action that they wanted them to take.  Well, tough on them, I say. My freedom of action is my own, too, and it’s part of my freedom as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven to be free to take whatever action Father wants me to do, or to not do anything at all, and that all irrespective of others’ opinions and/or expectations. This is what it means to rest in Him; to be free to do or not to do as requested by Father. Falling in line with others’ expectations is not freedom; it is slavery to their opinions and their approval (Gal 1:10, Jn 12:43). So, exercise your right to be above the question, the situation, and the answers. But don’t tell them; just stay silent on the matter. There is no requirement for you to explain yourself to anyone else.

My thoughts on this, and indeed a decent summary of our position as believers with respect to being ‘above’ worldly politics, can be illustrated and indeed expanded with a real-life example. In this example, I explain the core of what I believe with regard to the privilege of the believer to be ‘above’ the mere black-and-white, binary thinking involved in many worldly affairs:

Last year, there was some kerfuffle over in the USA about some bloke being accused of yet another sexual assault on a woman. I have no opinion on the matter; I consider US news reporting – especially TV news reporting – to be some of the worst journalism in, well, the ‘free world’, at least. Because of that, I feel that I have insufficient data of any assured accuracy to form an opinion, which to be fair I wouldn’t express anyway because it’s nobody else’s business. I think that most other people had that same lack of reliable information too, but that didn’t stop me and a friend being blasted by people who thought our opinions should be identical to their own. My friend, an American man whom I have never met face-to-face, is a man who is far on in the faith and has an incredible spiritual maturity. He was accused of ‘taking sides’ on that matter, mainly because he can see both sides, just like Jesus can. His response, which I have mentioned in my blog before, went like this:

“I’m afraid my “middle of the road” stance is gonna get blasted by BOTH sides. You have to either believe everything that a potential victim says and demonize the alleged offender, making him unfit to serve our country in any capacity, or try and minimize what could be a serious crime and call their accusations “fake news”. And I’m not good with EITHER of those positions. I want to know the truth, but I don’t know if the truth can be ascertained in these circumstances. I want justice for [the person in question], but don’t know if justice means destroying a man’s career and possibly life over what COULD have been a stupid macho mistake or terrible misunderstanding. Can I trust a man to handle the law that has potentially hurt someone? Yes, under the right circumstances. But I’m not even clear on what those would be, but I want it to revolve around the truth, admission of any guilt, apologies, forgiveness and restitution. I really just want compassion and justice for all”

I wrote this to him:

“[My friend], I don’t see you as being ‘middle of the road’ at all. I see you as being above the road; being able to see what is going on – but not only not taking sides, but just being Jesus. Remember the theophany in Joshua 5? [Josh 5:13b-14 (KJV)] ‘Are you on our side, or the enemy?’ “No” was the answer. Not ‘Neither’, although that’s not far off, but ‘No’. ‘Neither’ involves the choice of taking neither side. ‘No’ indicates that the question is not germane. There is a detachment from sinking to the level of the human conflict and its ‘choosing sides’, or even choosing the middle road, and seeing it from God’s point of view instead. Any and every Christian has the right to sit in that position of ‘No’; it’s far above a simple refusal to take sides, it’s part of being who you are in Christ. There is neither requirement nor compulsion to declare or assume sides; you are not answerable to anyone because you are a spiritual man. And you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone either.”

His reply:

“Wow, thanks Anthony. I don’t know that that’s EXACTLY what I’m doing, but it sure is something I would aspire to. I am trying to see everyone’s point of view, to put myself in their shoes and think about what they would need and want. And, yeah, that’s why I can’t just pick a side. Argue for one side, and I’ll just end up telling you why the other side can’t be ignored or belittled. When it comes to perpetrators (or even alleged perpetrators) that becomes VERY difficult in this country [USA – Ed], even among the Christian population. Everyone seems to call out for their pound of flesh. I’m trying to see from the point of view of that flesh”

I finished off the exchange with this:

“And that was exactly what was in my mind when I wrote the comment. But as a man of peace, you naturally, well, maybe not always see both ‘sides’, but you at least are aware that both ‘sides’ exist and having that ability to put yourself in both sides’ shoes and try to see things from their point of view is about as Christlike as it gets. Unfortunately, those who cannot understand this see it as picking sides, merely because you express the fact that both sides have a point of view – but without making a value judgement on those points of view. So, you haven’t picked sides, but because you express attempted understanding of both sides, this makes you apparently complicit with both. But you and I both know that this is not the case at all, and this is why the spiritual man cannot be judged by anyone – because we see things from the spiritual point of view, not the worldly. Not that we are superior or anything, but we simply have a perspective that not everyone has”

This is the kind of wisdom that we learn from being close to Jesus and listening closely to His heart. It’s also the kind of freedom that we get when we are liberated from the slavery of others’ opinions and approval. In fact I would say that we cannot be free to do God’s will if we are still bound up with concerns about human approval. If we have to hesitate for any amount of time as we consider whether someone else will like what we are doing/not doing, then I would say that we are not free to make our own decisions about following Jesus’s voice. And the other thing is that this is a position that is arrived at through spiritual growth. Don’t expect others to understand it, because they may not have grown to that point yet themselves.[2]

And we must always be free to do what we see Father doing. This is my sole mantra in life: to do what I see Father doing. Anything else is superfluous.

So, if you feel that Father is doing in your life right now a work that involves some sort of political action, then that’s what you should go for, and go for it with all your heart. But don’t expect others to just leap in and join you – that’s their choice, and in the end, if they don’t see Father doing that in their lives, then it’s not something they should be doing either. And it’s not your job to persuade them otherwise, nor indeed to judge them. For as spiritual people, they are above your judgement – not in any ‘superior’ sense or in any way ‘better’ than you, but simply because your judgement – and that from anyone else for that matter – is irrelevant (1Cor2:15). Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master a man stands or falls, and he will stand. (Rom 14:4). And that passage in 1Cor2:15 especially applies when it is an unbeliever who is doing the judging, because they have no experience of the things of the Spirit and so also have no right to judge. They cannot understand the dimension of being in Christ, not yet at least.

And if you feel that what Father is doing with you at the moment is something else – whatever else! – then grab that with both hands and do that.

I appreciate this is a long essay, but let’s also take a look at what Jesus did in terms of compliance with people’s political demands. Basically He told them to go take a hike. Sometimes He explained Himself; sometimes He didn’t.

I mean, people around Jesus attempted several times to get Him to take a political stance. They wanted to make Him king by force (Jn 6:15); they tried to catch Him out by getting Him to stand either for or against Rome or the people when they asked Him about paying taxes (Mt 22:15-22; Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:19-26). Even his own mind, or the Devil, take it how you will, tried to get Him to take the political kingship directly by supernatural means, rather than walking the road to the Cross, during His ‘temptation’ in the desert (Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13).

But Jesus said that His Kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). Sure, Jesus carried out His ministry during a time of huge political, religious and Imperial turmoil, and the principles He taught and demonstrated were largely about how to treat one’s fellow man. And I have read many things by various authors which strongly suggest that Jesus was a revolutionary, a radical, and all kinds of things like Him being a sort of first-century Che Guevara. But I’m afraid I don’t agree that Jesus’s mission was political in nature. Instead, His mission was primarily about demonstrating the love of God to people, and how much God values people. Inseparably from that, and indeed as a natural progression from that, He also demonstrated that love for God could, and should, also go hand-in-hand with loving others. And yes, that will lead to political change, as we shall see below, but that wasn’t the main thrust of His ministry at all.

But He steadfastly refused to take up any political position or power, or indeed to get directly involved in political matters at all, because from a very early point in His life, He was about His Father’s business (Lk 2:49). And since He did not feel that His Father was telling Him to get involved in politics, He didn’t. In fact, He was actually so non-political that although He was accused (amongst other things) of sedition – a political offence – before Pilate, Pilate did not believe Him guilty in that matter (Lk 23:4; Jn 19:4). And you can be sure that if Pilate had thought Jesus any kind of threat in this regard, he would have found Him guilty without batting an eyelid. Politically, at least for the Romans, Jesus was no threat at all, at least that they could discern. Sure, He also sowed seeds in His followers which, it could be argued, led to the eventual downfall of the Roman Empire, but this was not for another 300 years or so, and if anything it was caused indirectly and not as a direct effect of His teachings in first-century Palestine. The Kingdom of God as inaugurated by Jesus did produce political change, but only really as a result of the changes in individuals’ lives as they came to appreciate the wider ramifications of the Kingdom of God.

No, Jesus’s method for navigating the minefields of other people’s politics, approval/disapproval, attempted influence and social and political pressure, was to seek only the approval of God. More specifically, in fact, He took this a stage further in that in addition to seeking the approval of God, He also sought the will of God. He specifically chose to do only what He saw the Father doing (Jn 5:19). In this way, He kept His focus on what He was supposed to be doing instead of being side-tracked into other things which, although they might well have been important, were not what God had got planned for Him at that time.

So, then, as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are free. We partake of the ‘glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Rom 8:21). Like the Angel of the Lord in Joshua 5:13-14 (KJV), we too are free to say ‘No’ (or its equivalent) in response to polarising questions. We are also free to not answer at all; something Jesus did frequently.

I want to reiterate clearly, also, that I am not saying that believers are in any way superior to other people. We are not above these things as if we are somehow exempt from, or immune to, worldly political things; far from it. But we are able to take the Heavenly viewpoint on any issue which, almost by definition, an unbeliever cannot do. And in fact many, if not most, believers also have not yet learned to use the Heavenly viewpoint when it comes to worldly issues; not just in politics, but in other fields as well. But it is your privilege to do so, and your right. You are a priest of the Most High God. You are called to imitate your Father in Heaven; to do the things you see Him doing.

Why burden yourself with anything less than that?


 

Footnotes

1 Jehovah’s Witnesses do indeed call themselves Christians. It is not my place to judge whether or not they are ‘proper’ Christians – whatever a ‘proper’ Christian is! – but I make the distinction here between Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christian denominations solely in order to differentiate for the purposes of my discussion.
2 I do not confine this to Christian believers, either. Most people can grow to this level of spiritual wisdom and maturity if they let themselves; it does not need to be ‘faith-related’. Most people are far more ‘spiritual’ than either they, or others, give them credit for. This is as distinct from the Heavenly point of view, which is similar to the ‘spiritual’ point of view, but is of course influenced by the precepts of the Kingdom of Heaven as well. I hope that makes sense.

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