So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Imago Dei, Part Three

            Now we’re going to get painfully practical. We know that every human being is made in God’s image/likeness. What does that mean in our daily lives?
            Well, since this is a political blog, I’m going to apply it to politics. To get there, let’s take a closer look at Jesus’s words in Matt. 5:21-22:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

            I’m not at this point going to delve into the question of whether a Christian can lose his salvation by hating someone or by calling someone “Raca” or “fool.”  If you want to hear what I believe about eternal security (which I do affirm), then you can read about it hereNo, right now I’m going to be dealing with ethics (what does God want from us) more than soteriology (the in’s and out’s of our salvation). The relevant words I’d like to focus on today are “fool” and “Raca.” They deserve a closer look.
            First, what about “fool”? Is this condemnation categorical? That is, am I sinning against Christ every time I say that someone is acting a fool or is being foolish? Once again, context is key: Paul called the Galatians “foolish.” So I think there’s something deeper here than just a condemnation of calling someone a fool.
            The clue is found in the other word: “Raca.” What is that? According to the NIV text notes, it’s an Aramaic term of contempt, literally “empty head.” The closest rough equivalent is “idiot” (which, in fact, is exactly how the NLT translates it).
            That’s what we need to focus on: contempt. It means you treat another person—who’s made in God’s image—as something worthy only of derision.
            That’s how to understand Paul’s use of the term in his letter to the Galatians. He was reaching out to them, trying to reason them away from a falling away from grace. They were listening to false teachers who were perverting and subverting the Good News about Jesus. But he wasn't contemptuous of them. It was the exact opposite: He loved them with all his heart, and his harsh words were like those of a parent who looks up and sees her toddler wandering into the street in the path of a car.
            You see, the main thing is attitude more than the exact verbiage used. I could go my entire life never calling anyone a “fool,” and I’m pretty safe from the danger of calling someone “Raca.” But that’d be missing the point entirely. What about the terms of contempt which are common today? Does my speech about/to someone reflect the fact that that person is created in God’s image?
            This understanding covers a host of political speech, doesn’t it? No matter what position someone holds, no matter what their lifestyle, my speech must never hold them in contempt.
            Let’s get back to the question about yesterday: What if someone is doing something worthy of contempt? Well, first and foremost I’m not their Judge. Second, I should still respond to that situation/person in the light of the truth about the Imago Dei.
            You see, although we’re created in God’s image, that image has been marred and distorted by sin. It’s as if Da Vinci put his finishing touches on the Mona Lisa, stepped back with a smile of accomplishment, and then had to watch someone take a knife to his masterpiece.  If you tried to put the slashed pieces back together, you could still tell something of the beauty of this incredible work, but it’s nothing like he created it to be.
            Our first parents sinned, and thus invited sin into the world. This wrecked every aspect of creation in this world. We’re affected by sin in our bodies and in our souls. It affects all our institutions: You’ve never seen a family, a government, a business, a church, or any human institution that wasn’t affected by sin to some degree and in some fashion.
            So when we see a person who’s supposedly worthy of contempt, instead of responding with contempt, we should respond with mourning and hope and outreach. We mourn that the image of our Creator has been so marred by sin, just as we’d mourn alongside Da Vinci as he strove to patch back together his masterpiece after it’d been torn and ripped by that knife-wielder. This is a supreme work of art that’s been damaged. And so I weep.
            But I also respond with hope. This side of the Great Divide, no one is irredeemable. The worst abortion “rights” advocate can be brought back. The Divine Artist hasn’t given up on his Masterpiece who stands before you, and neither should you.
            And that leads to outreach. The Da Vinci illustration falls short (as all illustrations must), since the torn Mona Lisa has nothing to do with whether or not it’s going to be made whole again or not. In this case, the Work of Art has to consciously respond to the Artist’s attempted reclamation, and as his representatives we can be his hands.
            What does this have to do with politics, or how can we apply this in the political realm? Well, I’ve made it pretty clear that I believe in the movement known as political conservatism, and I believe that it’s far more compatible with the Scriptures than political liberalism (or Leftism, or Progressivism). But I freely acknowledge that the Bible is clearer on some political issues than on others. Take abortion for example. There’s no way I can see a Christian not being pro-life, and to my knowledge there aren’t many Christians—who take the Bible seriously--who wouldn’t be. But there are other issues, like taxes or capital punishment or war/peace, in which I don’t think it’s an issue of obedience or disobedience so much as rightly interpreting the Scriptures. Let me quote myself from the above header of the blog: “[On these types of issues] I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and ‘for the least of these,’ but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.”
            What we’ve learned about the Imago Dei applies to all my speech towards those who disagree with me. If what I’ve said above applies to an abortion advocate or an atheist or a sexually promiscuous person or someone else who blatantly defies God, then how much more should it apply towards people who disagree with me on items of lesser importance? How much more should it apply to my speech towards siblings in Christ who disagree with me on relatively minor political issues?
            That’s why you’ll never see any real mockery of Leftists on this site. I’ll call them out when they set off my “bogus stuff” meter, but I’m not going to treat them with contempt. When I think they’re wrong in their interpretation of Scripture, I’ll point that out publically. But I won’t name names for the purposes of insulting them. And of course that means no name-calling.
            My speech towards them must be gracious (literally “full of grace”), and even when we part company on an issue on which I’m really passionate, I’m going to respond to them with courtesy and respect for the Image they bear. My Savior expects nothing less from me, and by his power I intend to do it. 
            On the next post I intend to delve a little deeper into some more esoteric ramifications of this issue. 

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