Sunday, October 4, 2015


A couple of Eastern European nations have been charged with showing “favoritism” for only wanting to take in Christian refugees. This of course raises an important question about the nature of Christian love - should it show favoritism? Or instead, should it treat everyone equally?

However, it is clear that Christian love discriminates. Let’s just look at a few examples:

  • AS CHRIST AFFIRMED, WE HAVE A SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS OUR PARENTS: Matthew 15:4  For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’”
  • WE ALSO HAVE A SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY: 1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

  • HUSBANDS SHOULD DISCRIMINATE IN FAVOR OF THEIR OWN WIVES: Ephesians 5:28-30 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
It has even been argued that the best way to love our children is to first love our wives. We can also infer that the best way to love our neighbors is by first loving our wives and children. If this is so, favoritism is understandable.

While the husband is supposed to favor his own wife, it is also true that Christ favors His own bride – the Church. If He favors His own people, why shouldn’t we!

    • Matthew 12:48-50 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
    • Matthew 25:40 “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
  • TRUE BENEVOLENCE MUST BEGIN IN THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH: Galatians 6:10  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t love those outside of the Body of Christ. Instead, we are commanded by Christ to love our neighbor. And the church has been faithful over the centuries to this calling. Professor of Sociology Robert Woodberry performed extensive research on missions:

  • “Woodberry already had historical proof that missionaries had educated women and the poor, promoted widespread printing, let nationalistic movements that empowered ordinary citizens, and fueled other key elements of democracy. (Christianity Today, Jan/Feb 2014, 38)
Woodberry states:

  • “Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in non-governmental associations.” (39)
Nevertheless, showing favoritism is not only rational but is also biblical. Jesus showed favoritism for His brethren, and so must we!

  • By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 John 3:16-17)
In fact, according to Jesus, we must love one another, because the world will not:

  • “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you… If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:12, 18-19)
Love must start at home, especially for the Christian refugees who are fleeing for their lives. Nevertheless, we must still love the people of this world, but we must do this with wisdom. It is one thing for me to personally take a risk by extending myself to a dangerous but needy person – a potential jihadist. However, it is entirely another thing to coerce my neighbor to take such a risk. This is now what is being required of us Americans by our government by taking in tens of thousands of Muslim refugees.

The Center for Security Policy poll recently found that:

  • Muslims, a majority (51%) agreed that “Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.”  When that question was put to the broader U.S. population, the overwhelming majority held that shariah should not displace the U.S. Constitution (86% to 2%). …
  • A quarter of the Muslims polled believed that, “It is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed.”
  • A full 25% of those polled agreed that “violence against Americans here in the United States can be justified as part of the global jihad.
It is in love that we discriminate, even within the church where we exercise excommunication (Matthew 18:15-20) and other forms of tough love:

  • For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)
This kind of tough love is necessary for everyone so they do not lapse into idleness. In light of the Islamic teaching to take over the world to impose an Islamic Caliphate, placing everyone under Sharia Law, Christian love must also be a tough love. It should seek a stable, permanent, and peaceful solution for those Muslims genuinely in need, perhaps by assisting Muslim nations to take them in. In these nations, they would be able to live according to Sharia. Based on the above survey, Christian love is duty- bound to protect the innocent from the great numbers of Muslims who are committed to  violence to get their way.

Perhaps the best thing for those in need is a demonstration of how we Christians love one another. Jesus taught that the world would recognize that we are disciples of the Savior by our love for one another:

  • A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

It is often our failures to demonstrate this kind of love that keeps people away from the church. Daniel-Rops was a professor of history in Chambéry, then in Amiens and finally in Paris. Although brought up as a Catholic, he became an agnostic by the 1920s. Why? According to Wikipedia:

  • When he considered the misery and social injustice around him, and the apparent indifference of Christians to those they called their brothers, he questioned whether Christianity was any longer a living force in the world.
Perhaps this is why Jesus prayed:

  • “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23)
At the basis of evangelism is discipleship – our endeavoring to love one another. When the world sees this, they will perceive the reality of Christ in the midst of His Church and perhaps believe. What better gift can we bequeath to the world!

How do we love our brethren? By praying for and reaching out to those in need in particular ways, especially at this time of overwhelming crisis

Let us pray for all refugees but especially for our brethren, as Jesus did:

  • I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you [Father] have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:9)
Jesus also prayed for those who were not His brethren, but He favored the brethren. We too must!

We are those who must love the entire world, even in the face of their hatred of us. It is therefore essential that we support one another. Strangely, Christians castigate other Christians for showing such favoritism. Lord, help us!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Meaningful Conversation Depends upon Sincere Caring

 There are many things that work against the social connectedness, available through conversation. Sherry Turkle identifies “shared solitude” as one way to recover it:

·       Shared solitude grounds us. It can bring us back to ourselves and others. For Thoreau, walking was a kind of shared solitude, a way to “shake off the village” and find himself, sometimes in the company of others… these days we have a new kind of village to shake off. It is most likely to be our digital village, with its demands for performance and speed and self-disclosure. (“Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age”)

But even for Thoreau, the woods often weren’t enough. Turkle admits that:

·       Even Thoreau became distracted. He got upset that when waling in the woods, he would sometimes find himself caught up in a work problem. He said… “The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is – I am out of my senses… What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods.”

For me, a walk in the woods by itself is not enough to get my mind off the pressures of life. I can only leave my concerns behind if I know that I am engaged in something that transcends my concerns. Only prayer can do this. Only when I place these worries into the hands of the only One who can resolve them, can I feel freed-up enough to enjoy the woods.

Nevertheless, Turkle concludes:

·       Even if Thoreau’s mind did sometimes travel to work or village, he accomplished a great deal on those walks… These days, we take many walks in which we don’t look at what is around us, not at the scenery, not at our companions.

She recommends that through “shared solitude”:

·       We can practice getting closer to ourselves and other people.

Although I agree with Turkle about the need for solitude and reflection, reflection alone does not seem to be the answer. Hitler had reflected seriously in writing Mein Kampf. However, his reflections were not founded on the right presuppositions – a love for all humanity. Consequently, his whole thought life had been perverted.

Why is it that we have so much trouble with this four-letter word called “love?” Our fears and desires control us. How then do we break free from their grasp? By knowing that there is an omnipotent God who loves us and will take care of us better than we can, and for all eternity!


If the virtuous life and morality are not based on God, they must be based on something else. Here are the only other conceivable choices:

MORALITY BASED UPON OBJECTIVE MORAL LAW. In the same way that we have to conform to gravity and not jump off buildings, we have to also conform to moral law so that we do not injure ourselves or others. However, it does not seem that the concept of an objective moral law is sustainable without the concept of God:

  1. The analogy doesn’t hold up. We can easily bypass the effects of gravity by boarding a plane or even by bungee jumping. Why then shouldn’t we also do an end-run around the moral laws? In contrast to gravity, moral law would require an Enforcer.
  1. There are no sufficient reasons to adhere to an impersonal moral law. If our conscience bothers us, we can simply take a drug or go live in a culture where our aberrant behavior is acceptable.
  1. Even if an impersonal moral law is adequate, we would then have to explain where this intricately fine-tuned law came from and why it is universal and immutable in this universe of molecules-in-motion. We would also have to explain why we experience it in the way we do with guilt and shame, as if we had violated more than an impersonal law. 
MORALITY BASED ON PRAGMATISM – THE BENEFITS. If morality is not justified by higher principles, then it can only be justified by lower ones – how living the virtuous life beneficially impacts us. We live virtuously because of the psychological and physical payoffs. However, this rationale is clearly inadequate. If pragmatism is the bottom line – the ultimate reason for our choices – then pragmatism can also justify all forms of non-virtuous behavior. Lying to get a promotion will yield positive results for years.

Many believe in God for strictly personal reasons. However, it is also rational to believe in God. Even some atheists will admit morality fails without God:

Arthur Leff, atheist, Duke School of Law, admitted:

  • “The so-called death of God wasn’t just His funeral, but was the elimination of any coherent ethical or legal system…As it stands now, everything is up for grabs…Napalming babies is bad, starving the poor wicked, buying and selling people is depraved—but, ‘Sez who?’ God help us.”
The atheist Max Hocutt similarly acknowledged:

  • “To me (the non-existence of God) means that there is no absolute morality, that moralities are sets of social conventions devised by humans to satisfy their needs…If there were a morality written up in the sky somewhere but no God to enforce it, I see no good reason why anyone should pay it any heed.” (Understanding the Times)
And eventually, they won’t!

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Virtue based upon false belief can only be temporary. In his Meditations, Roman emperor and stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, wrote:

·       "It is peculiar to man to love even those who do wrong. And this happens, if when they do wrong it occurs to you that they are fellow humans and that they do wrong through ignorance and unintentionally, and that soon both of you will die; and above all, that the wrongdoer has done you no harm, for he has not made your ruling faculty worse than it was before."

While it is true that people often harm out of “ignorance and unintentionally,” it is exaggerated and unsubstantiated to claim that they always act in this manner. If virtue depends upon our holding a benign impression of the motives of the wrongdoer, virtue will be short-lived.

Furthermore, if our virtuous behavior depends on an assessment “that the wrongdoer has done you no harm, for he has not made your ruling faculty worse than it was before," virtue lacks an adequate rationale. Why? Aurelius needlessly makes light of the effects of victimization, which can be traumatic, even life attenuating.

While I appreciate Aurelius’ desire to treat even the worst evildoer with kindness, his rationale, based on the minimization of evil, cannot support that weight of our losses, grieving, and gnawing desire for justice.

Let us not minimize loss and evil. Instead, let us see it for what it truly is, and yet forgive. But how? Only by knowing that an omnipotent God will dry our every tear in an eternity of love! Also, by knowing that, without His mercy, we could have performed even greater cruelties.

How can I be Confident that I am in God’s Will?

 We are tormented by the doubt that we do not know if we have made the right decision and that we are in the will of God. I certainly had been. However, learning more about God has freed me from this doubt.

First of all, He promises to guide us:

  • A man's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way? (Proverbs 20:24)
He guides us through our understanding:

  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
If we are going in the wrong direction, He reveals this to us:

  • Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:15-16) 
However, unconfessed sin will place a barrier between ourselves and God. And what if we fail to perceive His guidance or His voice? No matter! Our God is so great that He is able to lead us infallibly, whether we hear Him or not:

  • Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16)
  • In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Prov. 16:9)
This is beyond our understanding – how it is that we are responsible for our lives, and yet God is even more responsible. Nevertheless, this combination is thoroughly biblical:

  • The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (Proverbs 21:1)
The king is responsible for his freewill choices even as the Lord guides him to do what He has ordained.

This means that our Lord is able to guide His enemies to do just what He wants them to do. (And yet, they are fully responsible!) He certainly did that with the kings He brought against Israel. And if He can do that with pagans, He certainly can guide those who want His guidance. Therefore, we can cast all of our fears and concerns upon Him. He’s got a plan for our lives and will fulfill it:

  • For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Even when we make sinful decisions, He is still able to bring good out of them, even though they might bring painful chastening:

  • And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
In Him, we are safe and can confidently place our minds on our God:

  • “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:33-34)
Entrust your concerns to our Lord!