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Culture and Christianity XII:
'Turn the other cheek', Music, Oaths, 'Raka', Candor, Luxury, ISIS and Politics

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Question #1:

Hello!

It has been some time since I last wrote you, and while you probably don't remember, I was asking some hard questions about hell, because my wife was really struggling. Well, unfortunately my wife left me and declared we no longer share our beliefs, which was heartbreaking for many reasons. While that was the hardest thing I have experienced it radically altered my walk with God. For the better! I do not know by what grace (well, I guess I do) I turned to Him in the midst of my trial but I did, and I am forever grateful to Him. I did want to take this moment to thank you for your ministry and for your help with my questions. I do have another though.

I was speaking with someone about how we should conduct ourselves as Christians, and I came across something difficult for me to answer with clarity. I see that in 1 Peter 2:17-24, Matt 5:39-48, Rom 12:18-21, and Luke 6, we are encouraged to live very differently from the world, including things like the well-known turning the other cheek, but how far do we take this, or is there even a too far? Specifically, should Christian's let people walk all over them? Should we let people take advantage of us? The person I was speaking with said their mom had always taught them that if you let someone walk over you, they always will. So you should stand your ground and not let them mistreat you. Can this be reconciled with what Jesus, Peter, and Paul say in these passages?

I know I posed several questions in that paragraph, but I hope you see what I am asking. It is my heart to live as God desires, for I have found that it is the only way I can find true hope, joy, and peace. Anyways, as always, your answer is well appreciated! Thank you, and I hope God is continuing to move in your life!

Response #1:

It's good to hear from you again, my friend – although I am sorry to hear of the troubles you are going through. I will say that it is far from an uncommon thing for the Lord to graciously deliver believers who have set themselves to follow Him in the truth from any and all relationships which would catastrophically affect that good intention if continued. I know this from personal experience, as well as observation. I also know that it is sometimes a painful transition, but there is joy and liberation there too, and you seem to be experiencing both of these things. May the Lord grant you every comfort and every support in your good decision and in your continued walk closer to Him.

As to your new question(s), it is indeed a difficult one, and it is fair to say that the application of Christian truth to the various situations a believer finds him/herself in in this life is practically a sub-field of theology. I call this "peripateology", that is, the study of the Christian walk. For while it is certainly true that Christians should abstain from sin (personal sanctification) and should embrace spiritual growth (learning, applying, and ministering the Word of truth), there are many areas in life where we are forced to make "judgment calls" about what we should do and how we should behave. In other words, if scripture does not give precise guidance in a particular situation in which we find ourselves, or if it gives some general guidance (your examples), but does not go into detail about how precisely we might apply this guidance in each and every case, then what we have is not an instance of "yes/no", but of charting the best Christian course we can on the basis of wisdom, conscience, and the guidance of the Spirit. Circumstances will always be different, and since no two Christians are ever in the same place with these three "guiding stars", it can be the case that the "right answer" to virtually the same question may be different for a young believer from what it may be for a mature believer:

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Romans 14:1-4 NKJV

This is not "situation ethics", but a biblical recognition that when it comes to such "disputable matters", that is, matters where the Bible does not specifically delineate action "A" as sinful and action "B" as necessary, it is up to the individual believer in question to make the best "judgment call" he/she can. In such cases, a person should examine his/her motivations. If we as Christians have indeed decided to live our lives entirely for Jesus Christ, that is, to devote ourselves to the cause of growing up spiritually in the knowledge and wisdom of God's truth, to walk with our Lord Jesus in applying that truth to our lives and to passing whatever tests and to negotiating whatever tribulations come our way in that walk with Him, so that we may get to the point of ministering for Him the ministry to which He has called us, having prepared for it and entered into it and aggressively pursued it, then – as was certainly the case with the Lord who is our role model – everything else will be subordinated to those primary goals. In other words, the question of whether or not to "eat meat" or the equivalent (e.g., as in the passage above) may have a different answer depending upon precisely what point we are at in our Christian life on our march up the high road to Zion. If we are still figuring things out (as in Rom.14), we may still think that such things have spiritual significance; if, however, we are spiritually mature and are really giving Jesus our "all", then what we eat has no particular importance in the more important scheme of things. However, no one is perfect in their knowledge or walk or application, and we have to be honest with ourselves about what we are doing and why. Just as immature believers may wrongly criticize more mature ones for such applications they personally do not yet understand, so also it would be wrong of mature believers to fail to appreciate that their weaker brethren don't "get it" yet, and need to be protected from stumbling as a result. Moreover, for those who do "get it" (whatever the "it" may be in context), two things to avoid are 1) looking down the weak and/or setting a bad example for them (because if they see you do something they are not ready for, they may emulate you not out of conscience but out of an abandonment of standards), and 2) really using such freedom as a cloak to indulge in sensuality (Gal.5:13; 1Pet.2:16).

This is all about choice. Christians have, in truth, a very large amount of freedom to make decisions as to how best to use the life and resources and opportunities the Lord has given us to best please Him and carry out His will for our lives. It is wonderful – but it can be challenging to get it right (both in terms of good decision making and in terms of true motivation). In the past Age of Israel, things were much more constrained and the "rules" were much more strictly written. Freedom is better than such bondage (of the Law), but it is at least understandable, I suppose, that so many Christians and Christian organizations over the centuries have preferred bondage to freedom (because it makes things simpler), and have constructed detailed systems of behavior as a substitute for the Law (or in some cases have equally as foolishly resorted to trying to keep the Law). As repugnant to the Lord as such "legalism" is, "anti-nomianism", that is, doing whatever we want and proclaiming it "freedom in Christ", is equally so . . . whenever that "anything" is spiritually counterproductive or worse, genuinely sinful.

You ask specifically about "turning the other cheek" and whether or not we should let people "run over us". The first thing I would wish to point out is that a slap in the face is a slight, a minor offense of a personal nature. In our Lord's example, this is not something done to us by someone in authority (although there are other examples of this), and it not something which in any way seriously threatens our life or our health or even impinges in any significant way upon the manner in which we are living our lives. Our Lord tells us not to make an issue of this sort of thing, and even to accept a further slight if forthcoming. That is what we ought to do, ideally. But there are very many other situations and circumstances where mere rude, disrespectful and offensive behavior which is a "one off" or "two off" becomes much more than this. We are all human, and we have all given offense to other Christians from time to time, sometimes more than once over the same sorts of things; we would all wish, once we come to our senses and realize our offense, that we hadn't done it, and would also wish that our brother/sister would be "big enough" to forgive and forget. That is Christian love; that is "turning the other cheek". We want it for ourselves, and we should grant it to others too.

Does this mean that we are to allow anyone or everyone to do whatever they want to us whenever they want to and however they want to without resistance of any sort? As I said above, this is all about choice. We are certainly free to be overly gracious in enduring offenses from others, but we are not, for example, required to forgo self-defense where the lives and property of our loved ones and ourselves are at issue (nor is that a good idea!). We are also not required to forgo military means against a foreign aggressor (external threat) or legal means against an internal aggressor. And when it comes to personal relations and familial relationships, there is a difference between the sort of slight that almost anyone might give us from time to time (and which really amounts to nothing apart from our wounded pride and emotional reaction), and a pattern of aggressive behavior seeking to curtail our freedom and to take advantage of our Christian graciousness which can only be described as "bullying". As I have often had occasion to say, I find no scriptural mandate to suggest that Christians ought to make themselves available to be persistently and consistently bullied by those who would wish to take advantage of them. In other words, there is "a time for peace and a time for war" – and a time for every application, depending on the situation (Eccl.3:1-8).

It takes spiritual maturity to "get these things right" on a consistent basis, but some situations are complicated and may take a good deal of introspection and prayer before deciding upon the right course of action – and we will not always get it right. Again, if a Christian examines his/her motives, that is usually going to help. If we are truly protecting our freedom of action to live for Christ in doing something that some may take as contrary to "turn the other cheek", for example, then our action is proper and defensible – but that is a harder argument to make if we are really acting out of selfish motives, personal comfort, or mere pride. On the other hand, if we unreasonably enslave ourselves to the whims of others who are more than willing to take advantage of a foolish application of that passage and if as a result we suffer all manner of harm and loss of time, energy and resources as a result, we should take care not to be overly proud about "suffering for Jesus" when in fact we may only be allowing ourselves to be abused out of sick indulgence in a sort of twisted self-righteousness. The goal we are seeking and the best godly means to achieve it should be our main concerns. If we keep those in mind, we will seldom go far wrong. As is almost always the case, there is good middle-course here, between complete self-abnegation on the one hand wherein we offer ourselves up to all comers as door-mats, and absolutely prideful insistence on never allowing any offense to pass without resistance and retaliation. If we commit our way to our Lord in this, moreover, He will help us:

When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Proverbs 16:7 NASB

Here are some other links which discuss these issues (and do feel free to write me back about any of this):

Turning the Other Cheek: Christian Freedom and Responsibility

The Golden Rule, Spiritual Rebirth, and "I Never Knew You"

Christian Love, the Golden Rule, Christian Military Service and Self-Defense.

War, History, and Politics.

Should Christians ever consider getting a lawyer?

Culture and Christianity I

Culture and Christianity II

Culture and Christianity III

Culture and Christianity IV

Culture and Christianity V

Culture and Christianity VI

Culture and Christianity VII

Culture and Christianity VIII

Culture and Christianity IX

Culture and Christianity X

Culture and Christianity XI

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

The question raised by this week's post is this: What does "racha" mean in the original? How should I understand it as it relates to sin in thought vs. action? Example: I've had occasion to express my disappointment in the choices some drivers seem to make. (In a closed car, of course, but vocal none the less.) Old habits are hard to break and my mouth is one of my worst. To be fair, I've said the same things to myself when I've done something thoughtless or inappropriate but I doubt that makes a difference.

Thanks

Yours in Jesus Christ

Response #2:

As to racha, this is an Aramaic word from the Hebrew/Aramaic root meaning "empty", and seems to mean, literally, something like our "numbskull"; so "fool" is not a bad translation.

As to the theological implications, in my view our Lord is telling us here that any sin is a sin, that we are all guilty of sin, and that even those in His audience who thought they were sinlessly perfect – because they were following "the Law" (actually, a warped and highly selective false interpretation of it) – were in need of a Savior. Any sin is enough to condemn. As Adam and Eve found out. After all, what is so bad about eating a piece of fruit? That doesn't seem to be greedy or hateful or to harm anyone else in any way. But it was a violation of God's express Will. Any sin is a sin, and nobody who is being honest with themselves can believe that they have never uttered a foul word in/from their heart against another human being (so it's a wonderful example). Certainly no one who has ever driven an automobile in traffic! Your example is a great one. Driving a car in urban traffic is certainly a good way to "test out" one's control of one's mental / spiritual status – especially if running behind. I'm not sure what it is about driving, exactly, but it does seem to take away our inhibitions at the same time boosting our sense of privilege and "being wronged". I am reminded of a Disney cartoon I saw as a youngster about a mild-mannered "Goofy" who was nice as could be at home and became a demon the moment he got behind the wheel. Anyone who believes that they are "sinlessly perfect" should get into a car and try to get to work when running ten minutes late (and to get home from work trying to make an important event). It's a test that will demonstrate that said person does in fact have a sin nature, even if he/she is able to control it temporarily.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Dear Bob,

Thanks for the explanation. Apparently, that's exactly what I've said in some of those lapses of self control behind the wheel. It's the one thing I struggle with the most. I can maintain control in other circumstances, but the privacy of the car seems to change things. To be fair, I suspect other people have said the same thing about me on occasion.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #3:

It's true – driving is a real test of "mental attitude"; and what you say here is also very true: it's hard to drive in a way that will never antagonize anyone else – even if (and sometimes especially if) one is driving in a careful way!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Robert, I am writing because I think I might of offended one of the ladies in our Bible Study. Last Tues. one of the ladies was sharing she has friends that are into this religion that is a cult. I told her to be careful what she reads (the material her friends have based their belief on) as she could be attacked via spiritual warfare. This wk. everyone but me got an e-mail that she was not coming back. So I am sure I offended her. I did call and leave a message and I did e-mail her explaining what I meant. I thought maybe I should send a card and share have how sorry I was if I did offend her. Where is the fine line here? I feel we should not use such material to gain knowledge of different religions, but only Christian authors anointed by God to study and give us knowledge so we can witness to the truth. Any help on this subject? Thank you

Response #4:

I don't see any problem with what you said or did (as I understand the matter – clearly I was not there, so this is "third party advice"). It seems to me that if I as a believer out of love counsel a fellow believer who is dabbling in something dangerous to beware of the dangers, I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do. When to say such things and how and when and to whom are of course "judgment calls", but as believers in spiritual combat here in the devil's world we have to make the best "calls" we can from day to day. If we have acted out of love and in prudence, then after the fact second-guessing is pointless (certainly beyond a quick postmortem). Like you, I strive to be on good relations with all – and I find that to be biblical too (Rom.12:18). And, like you, I am pained when my good intentions and loving actions cause rifts. But the truth is divisive. Perhaps the person in question was more vulnerable than you imagined and needed this comment more than was obvious. If so, then despite the ill-feelings, you did her a very good service. If she responds positively, things will be better after the fact than they were before (cf. Matt.18:15). Keep the matter in prayer and leave the rest to the Lord.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi, Doc.

I'm reading a reply of yours in "The Dangers of Messianic Legalism IV" and you stated you watch Fox News. I used to be a political "centrist" with liberal leanings (as our modern system would describe them, anyhow) and even back then was blown away by the fact that particular networks tend to lie overtly. Obviously ALL human media is very tainted, but I found their self righteous, "make stuff up to confuse conservatives to anger" business horrendous and something that WILL fall right in line with the AC and his evil. I have since quit ALL politics (almost 2 years at this point; definitely part of my growth) but am wondering why you would watch that network, let alone any other with such obvious leaning (it's really craziness, if we're being honest). It perpetuated nearly ALL self righteous, evil behavior of my own crazy family, anyhow. I guess I'm concerned you or any other believer is causing ones self harm by exposure to so much evil. Do you still watch it? If so, may I ask why? I understand staying a foot to world happenings, it's commanded; but why from such a obviously Satan empowered network (Murdoch does many evil things). This is purely loving concern; I know your faith is greater than the pull of Fox, but doesn't it make it difficult to not get "het up" about nonsense?

In His Grace,

Response #5:

I do watch and enjoy Fox news. I watch all manner of news. CNN, BBC, PBS . . . even, shudder, MSNBC (much less frequently, I should add). I enjoy the news and consider it important to keep myself somewhat informed about what is going on in the world. Opinion shows are not as high on my list as news shows (we all have political opinions and but God is indifferent to them).

Politics are pointless. Getting involved in politics is, for a believer, an immense waste of time and usually turns into a massive stumbling block. I do not vote, and I try to separate my emotions from everything that is going on in this country politically. We all have opinions, but only God's opinion matters. For each and every controversy, there is only one true solution or answer: if we were a godly nation, and if the believers in this country were really following the Lord with all their hearts, growing spiritually, progressing with Jesus and helping others to do the same, then all the "problems" would evaporate overnight because the Lord would solve them for us. However, if that is not the case (and it is not), then no matter how hard we may try to solve our problems ourselves, we will only end up making them worse – and making ourselves worse. Things that are curses really because of our low spiritual state can never be removed by human effort, no matter how well-meant (from the left, right or center . . . or even in a non-partisan spirit). There are no political solutions. There are only divine solutions. So believers who dally with politics are not only hurting themselves but also the entire country, because only by doing their Christian duty can they contribute to the country's blessing.

In a few short years, Babylon will be entirely destroyed. Worrying about mundane political problems and blaming one side or another for them is, for a Christian, about the most pointless exercise I can imagine. Especially seeing as how without proper spiritual preparation, I fear that in short order even most believers in this country are going to end up being destroyed along with it (it's called the Great Apostasy; see the link).

Yours in the One who is the only solution, the only Way, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #6:

What is your opinion on ISIS? They are a group in Iraq and the Levant that has a lot of warpower and land and is proclaiming itself to be a new caliphate. This seems like really big news, although it seems to not be getting much coverage.

Response #6:

It does seem as if what we have here is another piece of the puzzle falling into place. Events during the Tribulation will develop at a lightning pace so far unprecedented in human history, so it really wouldn't be necessary to have any of details of the situations scripture describes in place until it begins. However, we do have something to calculate on. The southern alliance seems to be a messianic Muslim movement, and the breaking down of the old order of things would seem to be a necessity before the entire Muslim world from North Africa to Indonesia and from Chechnya to Tanzania unites enthusiastically under one flag. Doubtful that this is the group that will do it, however.

Yours in our dear Savior Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I hope all is well. I actually have a question on behalf of a friend. This person is having trouble with some verses in 1 Timothy 5, specifically verses 6-8. They are concerned because someone close to them is a widow who lives in luxury as described in vs 6 and is afraid they are damned to hell though they are a believer. I tried to reconcile this for them but the word 'dead' is throwing me off. I looked up the word which is thnesko (if I spelled that right, I got the word/definition from a Greek bible site) which the definition says both dead and is a metaphor for spiritual death. I'm just not sure how to reconcile this to them, I wanna say that she is in error to do so and is not going to hell for a luxurious lifestyle though she is a believer but this verse is rather confusing. Is there something I'm missing because I don't want to give them an incorrect answer? This leads me to vs 8 which talks about if a believer doesn't help out their family that they have forsaken the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. I take this to mean that it is an extortion to not act this way because it means you are behaving like an unbeliever. The commentary in one of my Bibles seems to say that such person is not a Christian (forsaken the faith) but I'm not sure. So if I could get your input on this, that would be great. Thanks,

Response #7:

Good to hear from you, my friend. It's an interesting question. Generally speaking, my preference would be to apply scripture to myself and allow others to do so for themselves. Naturally, if we are about to become involved with other people in some way, we will need to be mindful of their spiritual status (as in a business relationship, say), and if we are pastoring a church we will sometimes have to take care to make sure that there is no overt flouting of the truth by some to such a degree that it distracts and trips up the other members of the congregation – especially if this applies to an elder or other church officer. But believers should be very careful about evaluating other believers (Matt.7:1; Lk.6:37). Everyone's life and life experience is a bit different, so that even if we were "correct" in our assessment of another brother or sister 99% of the time, if we were to act on the other 1% incorrectly, we might bring serious judgment down on ourselves. If it is not a question of criminal conduct, we can pray for our brothers and sisters whom we may feel are acting amiss, but unless we are absolutely sure, we should take care to tread lightly in such things. It is true that "he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (Jas.5:20), but in my opinion of these matters such interventions should be handled with "kid gloves", because when we are looking at matters about which we necessarily have incomplete information it is just as easy to be wrong as it is to be right, and, on the other hand, such interventions will only be effective if the heart of the person in question is tending towards help in the first place. Caution is even more so indicated in examples such as the one you ask about where the stipulation from scripture is not particularly clear to most people.

In 1st Timothy chapter five, Paul is concerned with family matters, but family matters as they stood in the first century A.D. in the classical world. Also, "luxury" then is not the same necessarily as luxury today, so that how we define this word is very important to the question. The main point at issue is the role of the woman in that society. The woman was usually the one who managed the household, that is, took care of the accounts, managed the work of the house, made sure the slaves were fed and cared for properly, made sure that everything was attended to in a decent and orderly manner. She was the "C.O.O.", so to speak, even as the husband was the C.E.O. If the husband of a substantial household died, and the widow did not take her responsibilities seriously, that would effect not only herself but everyone else in the household. The fact that the woman here is able to live an excessive lifestyle after the death of her husband indicates that this is most likely the sort of situation we are talking about. Moreover, the Greek verb spatalao and related words means something rather substantially more negative than what "to live in luxury" indicates in English. The Greek version of the Old Testament, the LXX, uses this verb in the context of the behavior of Sodom:

"Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness (spatalao); neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit."
Ezekiel 16:49-50 NKJV

I have highlighted the portion of the English text which the LXX has rendered with spatalao; although the Greek does not follow the Hebrew precisely and it is from the Hebrew that the NKJV is taken, so this only gives an approximation; nevertheless, the entire context should give a clue as to what this verb means in terms of its connotations – something rather more than eating steak for supper and driving a late model automobile. The idea seems to be that the conspicuous consumption involved represents an attitude of heart which despises God and also those God has placed in this widow's care. So it is not the behavior that really is at issue (there is no spiritual dimension per se in eating steak versus eating beans), but the attitude of heart which is motivating the behavior and also the effects of the behavior on others. If it truly is a case of someone indulging the flesh to the disregard of the Lord and all things true on the one hand, and doing so despite the negative consequences for those under the person's care on the other, then the verse would apply.

What does it mean to be "dead" while living? It means to be spiritually fallen back from the Lord, perhaps not now an unbeliever (that would depend upon what is in the person's heart and whether faith has indeed entirely yet died), but at the very least this description involves reverting from a good Christian lifestyle to a worldly one that is headed back the "other way" from the good path so far traveled. This will be harder to hide and easier to discern, it seems to me, than judging merely from the cloths and accouterment the person in question is sporting.

One final factor to take into account here is that Paul's major concern with widows in this chapter involves their support by the local church. He is very much negatively disposed to the practice and only deigns to regulate it in this chapter because this is the church's choice, not his. Widows who are supported by the church for all that much more reason should adopt a frugal lifestyle (it's not their money), engage in the support activities which they have essentially contracted with the church to perform in return for said support, and should by no means behave in sort of an unseemly way. So here is one more good reason for a widow who has means (like the one in verse 6) to be careful about flaunting a luxurious lifestyle: it's a bad example to other women who might find themselves in a similar circumstance, and, given the support of some of these widows at Corinth, might have the potential to create all manner of mischief. So the "death while alive" is a spiritual one, but this probably means (or at least certainly includes the possibility of) being out of fellowship with the Lord through sin (cf. 1Jn.1:5-10), and "wandering" in the manner of the prodigal son (spiritual reversion, but not necessarily to the point of apostasy). As Paul says in the next verse: "these things command, that they may be blameless", meaning, there is room for improvement but he is not necessarily condemning such persons as lost. They need to put a lid on it, so to speak, and begin behaving in a modest way.

Finally, the word complex from which spatalao comes often has a salacious connotation, that is, not just eating too much, but living riotously, if not actually engaging in illicit sexual activity and debauchery through alcohol and other means, at least sailing very close to the wind there. So it would be very important, as mentioned, to carefully define terms before getting overly judgmental.

We find something similar in verse eight. Paul is trying to change behavior. "Having denied" or perhaps better here "having contradicted" one's faith means living at cross-purposes to what the person has professed as a follower of Christ.

In both instances, Paul is addressing Christians who need to "knock off" the excessively questionable behavior (v.6), and do what is right for their loved ones and dependents instead of ignoring them through to sate their own pleasures (v.8). Paul is acting as an apostle, addressing believers in love, and getting their attention with some very strong language – because the end of all such wrong behavior can indeed be either apostasy or the sin unto death (if let go to far).

Here is a link: Widows in 1st Timothy chapter 5

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Thanks again

To what extent should music be apart of church? I've been to a few churches where it seems that music has taken up over 90% of the service. Is song and praise a firm of worship to God?

Response #8:

Hello Friend,

You make an excellent point. While music has been a part of the worship of the Lord since at least time of the Exodus, and while it is present in the apostolic Church, it clearly used to play a minor supporting role, with ritual of the "teaching aid" sort predominating under the Law, and direct instruction in the truth being the primary reason for assembly after the coming of our Lord and later of the Spirit. Sadly, today in most churches when the music does stop, not much in the way edifying activity begins – even when the "message" starts: sermons whether traditional or contemporary nowadays rarely have any doctrinal "meat" which might contribute to growth, and what is "taught" is usually off-center from scripture, a little or a lot (see the link: "Sermonizing"). Here a couple of links where I address this issue:

Problems with Christian music

Negative effects of Christian music

More "problems"

Truth not music is true worship

Even more on Christian music

Overemphasis on music

Saul and Christian music

Angelic music

Yours in the dear Lord who bought us, Jesus Christ our Savior (and that is something worth singing about).

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hello Bob,

I do hope you had a blessed Christmas and that the new year will also be a blessing to you. I have been away in SA for 3 months now back in Canada and need to get stuck into my course work which has been largely neglected. While away I had a discussion with extended family about generational curses. Personally I believe that the shed blood of Christ has covered the sins, past present and future, of those who are believers, but my one family member presented a very strong argument for curses remaining on people who have been involved in cults such as freemasonry where certain oaths have been made. His point is that unless these oaths are renounced, the person is likely to be subjected to the curses associated with non adherence to the oaths? My take on it is that all sins should be confessed and repented of and if this is done, no possibility of curses falling on the generations following can be possible. Maybe I'm wrong? He argues from OT scriptures. Can you give me your thoughts on this?

Kind regards,

Response #9:

I'm with you. First, we are under the New Covenant, not the Old. While oaths made to the Lord may be binding (though Jesus told us not to make them, and I would argue that they are part of the Old Covenant economy and not appropriate today anymore than animal sacrifice), oaths to other people/organizations will only be binding to the extent that we feel honor-bound to keep them. Third, and most importantly, we all stumble, we all err, we all sin, and we all need forgiveness (e.g., Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:6-10) – which, blessedly, is available to all believers through the blood of Christ! 1st John is written to believers, and John not only tells us how to confess (and that we are liars if we claim not to sin), but also that we have Jesus as our Advocate should we fail (as all sometimes do; see the link: "1st John: Text and Interpretation"). God deals with us as individuals, and that was true even in the Old Testament. A look, for example, at David's family, before and after, is interesting in this regard, good and bad irrespective of bloodline: Amon raped his sister and was murdered by his brother; Solomon, the king of peace and symbolic of the Messiah, was the child of Bathsheba with whom David committed adultery and whose first husband he had murdered – and many kings, good and bad, came from that family.

The world is replete with Christians, quasi-Christians, and legalists of every stripe who only claim to be Christian and who wish to take away God's forgiveness. The devil is all for this, since once we buy into the lie that there is no forgiveness, we will be hors de combat as soon as we fail . . . and "all sin" (Rom.3:23). Blessedly for those of us who know the goodness, grace, love and mercy of the One who died for all sin – all of our sins and also all of those of every human being who ever has or will live – are not going to be fooled by such nonsense. We all make mistakes. Some of us have made really, really big ones. The proof of the pudding of real faith is to get up off the mat and start moving forward again after failure, confident of the forgiveness the Lord has promised us when we do repent and confess, even as we are stinging from the discipline and the consequences, and press on not looking back. It is spiritual cowardice (or worse) to sit on one's hands and pretend, and then to put it out that "I haven't sinned".

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1st John 1:10 NKJV

These are individual choices made by individuals . . . and this explains why we are individually rewarded or not at the judgment seat of Christ for what we personally have decided to do or not to do.

Please see the links:

Vows

More on the generational curse

The Third and Fourth Generational Curses

Breaking the Generational Curse?

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

I know I haven't emailed you in the longest but I just wanted to ask about this term "gay agenda" that I've been hearing a lot of people, mainly adults saying, and since I'm still growing and everything. Is there any point of using this statement? Because every time I see this along with other things that go against Christ, the focus is barely on the gospel, but in forcing the government to not support non-biblical practices and go back to the "good old Christian days" in America. This is normally followed by "we need to save America before it's too late" which doesn't sound biblical at all. They keep acting like we're in some race to save a bunch of people. But it's made clear that we don't save anyone, only lead people to Christ, and they decided whether to reject them or not. Doesn't the bible say things are going to get worse? So I don't know why everyone keeps panicking when they see these things and are rushing to get politicians to vote against it. My concern shouldn't be if it's passes but in not being a hypocrite of supporting something unbiblical when I claim that I'm following Christ, right? Because I'm sure that the things they are fighting for will eventually pass. I'm just concerned of not being those claiming to follow Christ while supporting things non biblical.

I do agree that they're trying to promote it, to show that there's nothing wrong with it because they don't want to know the truth, just like every other belief, which is why I wonder is there any point of placing "agenda" at every sinful practice. Isn't every belief system against Christ an agenda? Isn't it the devils agenda to lead people away from Christ? Do I have to say "agenda" to everything the people are trying to get the government to promote? I feel bothered by it and I'm wondering if it's because it's not even biblical. I feel peer pressured in the Christian community to say use that term.

And I also cant help but to wonder...do you say "agenda" to everything sinful the government is trying to promote?

Response #10:

Well done! I think the basic tenor of your thinking is sound, namely, that getting involved in political discussions and trying to tackle social and political issues is about the quickest way for Christian groups to dilute their spirituality, compromise their witness, and, generally speaking, become just another un-Christian interest group. People are saved "one person at a time". No one has ever been saved by a political movement. Christians have personal ministries; very few Christians, I am convinced, who have devoted their lives to political and social action movements, will have much to show for all their sweat at the judgment seat of Christ. If witnessing is the particular strength and call a given Christian has received, then by all means that Christian should make use of the talents and gifts Christ has given him/her and give the gospel wherever there is an opportunity (and we all, of course, have a responsibility to do this to some degree, though perhaps not as our primary focus of ministry: 1Cor.12:4-6). But a Christian should witness to another PERSON, that is, not to an American or a Russian or a South African, not to a feminist or a chauvinist, not to someone who is black or white, not to a Republican or a Democrat . . . but to a PERSON (cf. Rom.10:12; Gal.3:28; Col.3:11). Everyone in this world is here to choose, and everyone in this world has the opportunity to do so because Jesus Christ died for every single human being, bearing the sins of every single human being in His body on the cross. He didn't ask about sexuality or race or gender or nationality or politics or anything else: we all needed His blood to cover our sins. And just as all had to be cleansed by Christ to be saved, all have to come to Christ to receive that salvation He has provided. It is true that fear of having to change is no doubt at the heart of many who resist the gospel, but our job is not to worry about that, neither to coddle the fear nor to castigate the sin in question; our job is simply to give the gospel in the love of Christ.

So I think it is a mistake to get hung up on all the distinctions between human beings, real or imagined, natural or artificial, unavoidable or self-chosen, and either to inveigh against some such distinctions (as something that must be "changed" before salvation – people change afterwards) or go out of one's way to treat any such distinction with kid gloves (as something that might somehow give a person in that category special dispensation – Christ deals with everyone the same). We are all sinners, and deep in our hearts we all know this. Coming to Jesus Christ is an escape from sin, from death, from eternal judgment – because Christ died for us to deliver us from sin, open the way of eternal life, and offer us an eternal inheritance in the New Jerusalem in place of our otherwise unavoidable appointment with the lake of fire. This is true of all, and the way of salvation is open to all.

There is plenty of wickedness in the world, and to concentrate on one type of sin or abuse or false distinction or mode of oppression, national or international is to miss that truly "big picture". Since Christ died for everyone individually, the little picture really is the big picture: He saves us individually, and He wants His individual followers to give the gospel individually to individuals in the hopes that these will use their free will likewise to embrace salvation. Mass movements and political efforts of all kind, even if genuinely well-intentions, obscure at first and then tend to completely obliterate these truths, making issues of things which are not really issues at all in terms of the real issue at hand: "What think ye of Christ?".

I do understand the mind-set. Something sinful is embraced and proclaimed "good" in the popular culture; Christians, looking to do something exciting (since they are not doing what they should be doing, growing spiritually through the truth) are tempted to attack it as a result. But consider the fact that during the 1st century paganism, something abhorrent to God in every way and involving multifarious sinful behaviors of every kind, was not attacked in this way by the apostles. Instead, they gave the gospel to all, regardless of background, and many pagans were saved, turning away from their former manner of life to saving faith in Jesus Christ. It was not until the 4th century when Christianity became institutionalized that paganism was systematically attacked and destroyed – and it is questionable if any of its remaining adherents were saved in the process. What is clear is that this engagement with the forces of evil on their own terms, on Satan's battlefield, began the process of decline in the church-visible that resulted in Roman Catholicism et al. Christianity is a personal and an individual relationship with Jesus Christ. That is how we Christians should relate to all who are not yet believers as well, and stay away from the seductive lure of all things political or involving mass social action. Nothing good ever comes of it; it only wastes our time and effort, and can pull us down into the vortex of the world in so doing.

Here are some links on the topic which may be helpful:

The Role of Politics in Satan's World System

Political Action versus Biblical Christianity

What does the Bible say about War, History, and Politics?

Politics and Christianity

Should Christians ever oppose state authority?

Christians should steer clear of politics

Politics in an era of persecution

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Professor,

We have now exchanged a few messages with ____ and I hope and pray that he finds deliverance. It was at this time last year that in the midst of the the long lasting trial I was finding it more and more difficult not to ask the question "Why, God?" A question I now regret as all the provisions have been miraculously granted by our loving God. I still marvel at how things have changed. So I pray for him with belief.

As I indicated to you in my previous email, our communication with ____ has caused many questions to appear. These came through his description of circumstances and his plans to improve current very hard situation. On the one hand I wanted to show my support, on the other I didn't want to abandon prudence. I knew that my knowledge of his position is almost non-existent and I understand and completely agree with you on leaving the decisions to the individual concerned, yet I wasn't quite sure if it would have been a good idea not to express some of the doubts that arose in my heart. I recognised patterns which, based on my previous experiences, could indicate that some problems are present that ____ may or may not be detecting. Looking back I see I could have done better and I let ____ know about this also. My mistake there was not to accept that there is only so much that I will ever know and that  ____ will not be a person whose heart I will be able to see through and based on this decide the course of action, which is a principle that I've been applying to the degree that it's possible in situations of a similar sort. He should regain access to Internet soon and we will hopefully be able to maintain a regular contact.

In our Lord,

Response #11:

Hello my friend,

Thank you for this update. I am blessed by reading of your growing spiritual discernment, confidence, and common sense. I think all these things you have gone through have been for a purpose: to minister to others, one has to have faced the enemy fire personally first, and come through it with faith intact. And so you have! We all have to learn to "let go" of mistakes. Because we all make mistakes (and commit sins). If we couldn't let one or one type go, we would ever be mired in the past. Again, there are two extremes: 1) not being able to forget and move on; 2) not caring enough about misconduct or poor execution to change effectively to the glory of the Lord. You are finding that "sweet spot", and I know you will be able to help others do so all the more effectively in the future because of what you have gone through.

We don't know what the Lord is going to do nor when nor how, but we can have absolute confidence in His grace, His promises, and that He is working everything out together for good regardless of what it may seem like from our myopic little human perspective. We have to trust Him, even when everything we see and hear and feel seem to be telling us it's crazy to do so. Daniel had no grounds for confidence on the point of being thrown into the lions' den . . . except in the Lord – and that is the biggest and most powerful exception of them all, the one on which we have staked our eternal lives.

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
Daniel 6:23 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Things like cutting off your limbs or any part which causes you to sin ,how did people understand except them seeing way impossibly hard, and what about us ? It sounds like killing yourself for the kingdom.

Response #12:

It is not only not required or recommended, but it would not prevent sin. This is another wonderful example of our Lord putting something in a very stark way to make the point. Indeed, if a person really realizes what sin and death and judgment mean – as we all should – then we ought to be willing to do absolutely everything and anything necessary to avoid the lake of fire which results, including lopping off offending members which cause us to sin. However, we cannot atone for our past sins, and mutilating ourselves, as everyone knows, will do absolutely nothing to prevent future ones. So our situation is truly hopeless – absent God sending His Son to die for our sins and saving those who accept His work through faith with Jesus as their Substitute. This was a particularly necessary message for the legalistic generation of Jesus' day, the "this generation" which is said to abide until Christ's return. They were all about seeking to establish their own righteousness through the works of the Law, but anyone listening to this illustration of our Lord would realize immediately that there is nothing we can do ourselves to be saved . . . so we have to put our trust in Him instead. Please see the link: "Pluck our your eye?"

Question #13:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your response. It's really good advice. I know you've told me the same thing over and over. I was just venting. I get frustrated sometimes. It's hard to put your beliefs into practice. Especially when you're by yourself. I mean, of course I have you helping me. I also have the people at the church. I just don't feel really close with any of them. We never get a chance to talk. Which is why I have to come to you with all of my problems. We go to church 3 times a week, and we still don't communicate. If we're at church it's usually for a service. The pastor gets up front and preaches. We have a little 10 min break between sunday school and service. The pastor tells us to go across the aisle and shake hands. We might have a few minutes to talk before church. We might stay for a few minutes to talk after church. I'm just wondering what the original structure of church was supposed to be like. I feel like I'm not getting anything out of going to church. I knew I wasn't necessarily there for the teaching. If there's no fellowship though, why am I staying? I really don't know. Is it weird that I just like being in the presence of other Christians? I don't know. I just feel like we should be closer. You know me better than the people at my church. We go to church, but we never have time for each other. If it's teaching that I want, I could get that from online. You can sit at your house and watch a service. Coming to church though, is supposed to provide what you can't get from just going online. I feel like that's what's missing from my church. I would suspect not just my church, but other churches as well. I've been to a few, and they all have the same problem. I feel like teachings has been emphasized over all else. Which is why I have good doctrine, but I'm a pretty bad Christian. Do you know I took this test online about the tenants of the faith, and I only missed one question? I knew that I was going to miss the question to. It was about whether you could lose your salvation or not. I knew what they wanted me to put. It was a hard test too. Not just easy little answers. I've just been thinking about this. We have so many orthodox Christians, but it doesn't seem to make that much of a difference. Well, I guess I take that back about people being orthodox. That's just emphasized in some circles. There's a lot of talk about being fundamentalists at my church. I know the Calvinists are really big on their whatever you wanna call it. Baptists are also known for being hard line. A lot of good our theology has done us though. I don't want to speak for anyone else, so I'll just speak for myself. I know a little about the bible, but I'm no different from anyone else. I might be able to pass a test, but the part about actually being a Christian seems to stump me. I still don't know anything about Christlikeness. I still don't witness. I still avoid labeling myself as a Christian. I know all about the majesty of God, but I still do what I want to do. I wonder what you think about this. Let's say a person acts like a Christian. They are kind, humble, and self-sacrificing. They have all of the fruits of the spirit. But their theology doesn't line up. They may believe some unbiblical things. They're dedicated though. They live their face. Then let's say we have a person who has perfect doctrine. I know such a person probably doesn't exist, but still. Let's say they know it all. But they don't have anything to show for it. They hate the homeless. They hate sinners. They hate everyone who doesn't believe exactly as they do. They think is God going to come down, and rapture the Republican party. Who would you say is better out of the two? I really want to know. This is not a rhetorical question. Let's say, we have people who aren't even Christian. They may not even believe in God. They love people though. They don't look down on the lower class. They think every life is valuable. The gays, the brown people, the poor people, the people not in America. They don't wrap themselves in the American flag or the constitution or their bible and declare themselves good. Honestly, is either one of these two groups any closer to Christ? So why does it matter if I choose to associate with atheists over Christians? Does either one of them know about Christ? At least, If I hang out with atheists I come closer to living as God intended. That's a sad statement. The atheists look more Christ-like than the Christians. The Christians will rant and rave about homosexuality, abortion, their guns and their rights. They don't know anything about loving your neighbor though. I think that's what draws me to the liberal crowd. Sure, they're wrong about a lot of things. They aren't hypocrites though. I'm not saying you're like this. You're a good Christian. Honestly, you're one of few though. I probably know about 10 Christians. And I know a lot of people. They have Christian selected on their facebook. I just don't see it though. I'm including myself in this. I'm guilty of a lot of things. Sorry to write this long email. I think I just inadvertently explained my preference for leftists. Let me just say that I am not the only one. I know 3 Christian blogs that believe as I do. They're good people. They don't believe in homosexuality or anything like that. They're not liberals. I think they're pretty close to what a Christian should be.

Response #13:

You're very welcome. A lot of questions in this latest email! I'll do what I can – apologies in advance if I miss something.

I guess the first thing to emphasize is that it's all about Jesus Christ. It's not about how you or I feel, or what person X thinks about us or what we think about person X – and it doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with politics. It's all about the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made to atone for our sins that we might be resurrected and have eternal life with Him. In other words, it's all about love, true love, that is, the love of God.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned (Greek: "sold"), but have not love, it profits me nothing.
1st Corinthians 13:1 NKJV

Love is the ultimate virtue for believers. Interacting with faith and hope it forms the essential, proper matrix of our thinking and feeling, our motivation and all of our actions. We Christians love Jesus Christ more than life itself – or certainly should – so that really the only question we need to be asking is "what does Jesus want me to do?" Once we ask this question earnestly and without reservation, then the path ahead is very clear.

[Jesus] said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep."
John 21:17 NKJV

Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift, and our Lord means us to use that gift in service to the Body through some ministry which spreads His Word directly or indirectly ("feeding the sheep" or helping someone else do so). But in order to get to the place where we are ready to serve, we first have to have our faith hardened through testing, and in order to get to the place where we are ready to be put through the furnace of testing, we first need to grow up spiritually, and to grow up spiritually we need to learn as much of the truth of the Word as we can – and believe it. If we do all these things, not just peripherally but as the main purpose of our lives, we will not only end up doing "what Jesus wants me to do", but we will win great eternal rewards in the process. This is what life is all about. Everything else is noise and distraction. And there is plenty of the latter around, especially in our day.

As to hypotheticals, while the believer's life-task is thus clear (as illustrated above), the only reason unbelievers are here on earth is to believe or to refuse to do so; that is, regardless of race or language or color or sex or wealth or poverty or any other social or ethnic or geographic difference, every human being is known by God perfectly, is loved by God perfectly, and has had his/her sins completely atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ. God could with no effort at all, with a mere wave of His hand, cure all disease, end all strife, eliminate all poverty and disease. That, however, would not take away anyone's free will, and would not, in fact, bring anyone closer to salvation. Salvation is near to all, because Christ brought it near through His death on the cross, so that now the word of salvation is "in your mouth and in your heart", so that all anyone has to do, whether ultimately privileged or on the brink of ruin, is "confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, [and] you will be saved" (Rom.10:8-9 NKJV).

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:17-18 NKJV

No matter how "bad" a person is, if that person is a believer, that person is saved; no matter how "good" a person is, if that person is not a believer, that person is lost. For no sin is so "bad" that Christ did not die for it; and no human deed is so "good" that it could atone for the most insignificant sin.

It is true that "bad" behavior alienates a Christian from the Lord; but God deals with erring believers as sons and daughters, not as enemies (Heb.12:1ff). It is also true that God distinguishes between lawful behavior on the one hand and evil or lawless behavior on the other, so that it has always been better to be law-abiding than to flout all human authority (since that is established by God); but the best unbeliever is still an unbeliever, and, as the passage quoted above makes clear, only believers are saved.

This is far from unfair. Jesus died for all the sins of the "best" unbeliever; He paid an incredible price, one we may not ever fully appreciate, so that this "best" unbeliever could be saved. My question is, if this person is so "good", why does he/she not accept Jesus' sacrifice? What is it in this person's heart of heart that makes him/her so resistant to the Gift of Gifts so freely and lovingly given that he/she would rather spend eternity in the lake of fire rather than to accept it? In fact, no matter how "good" someone who is not a believer may appear to be and actually be in moral terms, in their heart of hearts they despise God, resent His authority, and prefer a universe without Him (or at least one in which they don't have to have anything to do with Him). Unbelievers share in common, no matter how well or ill they treat their fellow human beings, the fact that they want no part of God and are unwilling to part with the smallest bit of their free will, even to accept the Gift of Jesus Christ. It may not look this way to eyes of the world while we are in the world, but all these things will be revealed at the last judgment "in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel" (Rom.2:16 NKJV). In the end, unbelievers get what, in their arrogance, they desire the most: an eternity without God. The problem for them is that God is blessing and His absence is cursing, so that being apart from Him forever means a terrible fate of all cursing and no blessing, by definition. It means the lake of fire.

As to churches, I do understand that you are interested in fellowship. I think that is probably the number one reason Christians go to church (a close second to guilt and tradition). In my experience and observation, however, phony fellowship is of little value, whereas deep and meaningful Christian relationships built upon the truth of the Word of God, its mutual appreciation, and the genuine function of our gifts as we help each other in the Lord are so much superior to the former that a handful of the latter is worth a million "pretend" friendships. If I am "in church", and forced to say "hello!" and shake hands, it really means nothing (probably less than nothing), even if I do it a million times. But a genuine "hello" or a heartfelt clasping of hands with someone I really care about in Jesus, because we do share a mutual bond for the truth, will be worth more than a million phony exchanges, even if, life being what it is, we can only do it once or twice in a decade. Theoretically the "social church" provides an environment for the latter, and of course people who go to the same place for a long time do often get friendly with those who do the same. However, even comfortable familiarity is no match for the genuine Christian friendship that develops between people who really are putting Jesus Christ and the quest for His truth in the forefront:

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
1st Samuel 18:1 NKJV

Jonathan had heard David's divinely inspired words before David put his life in his hands and attacked Goliath (1Sam.17:45-47), and of course he saw David's courage in the Lord – which was similar to his own (cf. 1Sam.14:1ff). The best Christian friendships always exist between believers who both really do love the Lord with their whole heart, and that sort of love only develops over time from the process of spiritual growth, learning, believing and applying the truth of God's Word.

So when you say in your email, "I feel like teachings has been emphasized over all else", I suspect that the "teaching" you are referring to must be much more "preaching" than the sort of in-depth exposition of the Word of God and its truths that I would have in mind using that word. After all, from everything you have shared about your church experience, it seems to be pretty much of a conventional one, and it is beyond doubt that very few churches these days are doing any genuine teaching whatsoever.

Of course I am not there. If this really is a substantive teaching ministry with which you have joined fellowship, and if that teaching is true and powerful, then you have found a "pearl of great price". Let me hasten to say, however, that listening to the truth is not good enough. Nor will learning the truth do anything for you, as far as it goes. Properly motivated, I am sure an atheist could learn every single thing offered at Ichthys so as to pass a comprehensive exam with flying colors. But that wouldn't do such a person any good whatsoever, spiritually speaking. You see, you have to believe the truth for it to do you any good  (please see the links: "Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth", "Pursuing a Deeper Relationship with Jesus and Christian Epistemology", and "Faith Epistemology"). Only after you believe the truth are you in a position to take the next step and apply it to your Christian walk so as to grow, be tested and tempered, and then be made fit to help others do the same.

So the R/x is clear. Is a person an unbeliever? No matter how "good", the answer is to put one's faith in Christ for salvation (nothing else will do). Is a person an immature believer? No matter how "knowledgeable", the answer is to begin believing the truth and putting it into practice (nothing else will do). Genuine spiritual growth and the love for Christ which grows thereby is its own reward, but it also provides many other spiritual benefits, and the mutual friendship of like-minded "warriors for Christ" is often one of these. If a believer is not growing through no fault of his/her own – because he/she is not being properly fed – then the answer is to keep knocking, keep seeking, until one really does find that "pearl of great price", then give one's loyal attention to the truth said ministry is providing through thick and thin. In this approach there is the greatest benefit here and now, spiritually speaking, and for all eternity, with the gaining of rewards whose blessings at present we can scarcely comprehend.

If I may hazard an opinion, from our correspondence it seems that your "problem" is that you loath hypocrisy, and have little patience with anything which is "phony baloney" – even in respect to yourself. You are intolerant of the false, the superficial, and with compromise in general, and not just in regard to others but also in regard to yourself. To me, that is a great place to be . . . to begin with. Knowing what is wrong and what doesn't work, objectively and subjectively both, really is laudable because it speaks of a genuinely sincere heart that has not been hardened and has a very clear view of things. It's a great place to start.

Take the next step.

My advice: don't worry about anyone else. Set your eyes on Jesus Christ, and set yourself to following Him and His truth, come what may.

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus for whose good pleasure we still draw breath,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I got the job! We start training tomorrow. I’ll be working as soon as Monday possibly. Will you pray for me that everything works out? You know I’ve never had a job before? The hours are flexible but they said they' try to schedule work during the day so I would probably be home by 2pm on most days and I could take my classes in the evening. Or I could get a second job. You know I’ve been thinking of switching to welding? I hear it’s a good job. I don’t need a 4 year degree for it either. What do you think about that?

Thanks.

Response #14:

I'm thrilled to hear that you have gotten the job you wanted and that it is apparently a very suitable one with some opportunities for advancement.

Everyone has to make these sorts of decisions for him/herself, of course, but if you are finding success in college (4.0 GPA!), I wouldn't advise you to consider manual labor as career goal. Everything has its stresses and problems. Working is great, but it does take time and also energy. It's hard to study when you've put in a full day, so I hope you will be able to continue this part time and still have enough "in the tank" to do well in school. That really is "job one" until you finish your degree. You devoted a lot of time, effort, angst and expense to get back into that groove. I wouldn't do anything to overly endanger your good progress unless it's absolutely necessary.

I certainly will be remembering in my prayers in any case!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for answering my question. I'm glad I asked you about it. I just don't know how to explain what I have been going through. Things have just been tying up my Christian walk. I've been becoming more and more sympathetic to sinful movements. It's not just homosexuality. I'm two faced. I'm a hypocrite. Only in my heart though. I don't say one thing and do another. I don't do any of the things that the bible says is wrong. I don't go out to parties and whatnot. But deep down inside I wish I could go out and do all those things. I feel like I've been cheated. I've never been a wild person. I don't have a conversion story where I was doing all these things and then the Lord saved me from them. I know were not supposed to love the things of the world. I just do. What do you call a person who is good in actions, but not inside? I'm extremely bitter. I feel like I'm being kept from something. I know that's not the case. I don't know how to change though. I honestly don't know that I want to change. Does this sound strange?

Response #15:

Good to hear from you as always. I suppose it all boils down to the fact that there are two major groups of Christians, those who messed up when they were younger and are very sorry they did, and those who didn't and, like you, feel as if they missed out on something by being good. As a member of the former group, I can tell you that you definitely are missing out on something: a large and painful load of divine discipline that lasts many years and can still make a Christian cringe by remembering it well after the fact. The truth is, that this world is passing away, and there are no pleasures or entertainments or possessions or successes or anything else people strive for that can possible make up for the lake of fire, even if someone was able to achieve every single thing he/she set his/her heart on:

"For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"
Matthew 16:26a NKJV

And from the other point of view, the rewards a Christian earns in this life by following the course our Lord sets down will last forever (not just for a few minutes, hours, days, or years), and will be so far beyond "the whole world" that it is not even appropriate to make the comparison:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18 NKJV

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2nd Corinthians 4:17-18 NKJV

It is of course important to add that such rewards are given for spiritual growth, for spiritual progress in the Christian life in passing the tests that the Lord brings the way of the mature believer, and for helping fellow believers do the same through effective ministry – and that all of these things only happen through consistent, dedicated learning, believing, and applying the truths contained in the Bible. In other words, it's not by being "good" in the way the world thinks of it that a Christian earns rewards; being "good" in terms of living in a holy and sanctified way is a natural function of growing and progressing with Jesus Christ. If a Christian is only on defense, I can certainly see how that would get old, boring, and come to seem a poor bargain, when all of one's peers are our there whooping it up and seemingly suffering no visible ill-effects (indeed, they may seem to be doing better than we are in every way). Gaining and keeping the high-ground of the divine perspective requires spending quality time in personal Bible study and, particularly, learning from a good teaching ministry; it also requires that we believe the truth given us by the Spirit and make a point of applying it aggressively to what we see, hear and feel in this world. When and if we do these good things, being "good" will cease to be a drain and a drag, and we will become motivated to fight the real fight Jesus wants us to fight, and win the rewards that come to those Christians who do this as they should (see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church").

Whenever we develop a "bad attitude" of any kind; whenever we fall into mental attitude sin of any kind, and especially if it is a long term thing rather than a momentary lapse (there is a big difference between the two), then we need to realize that there is some flaw in our approach. Either we are not getting enough truth, or we are not believing what we have received, or we are not applying what have learned and believed with enough vigor. The high road to Zion gets steeper as we go, and the impediments get more numerous and tricky – because the evil one resists all who are truly trying to "live godly in Christ Jesus" (2Tim.3:12). If we find ourselves in the ditch, the worst thing we can do is become sullen about it, or curse our lot, or, heaven forbid, blame God. The best thing is to confess our sins, get back up on our feet, climb back on the good road, and get moving again, "forgetting what is behind" as Paul advises (Phil.3:13), and setting our sights on getting a "well done!" from the Lord we love more than life itself once this short life comes to a close.

In great hopes and expectations for your continued and continuing growth in our dear Savior, and in cheering you on as you are awarded the three crowns on that great day of days.

In Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I've been spending a lot of time on an internet site I enjoy it so much. You learn new things. You meet new people. It's very interactive. I am still picking up a lot of the ideas from there. Apart from the homosexuality and the abortion, they are almost entirely correct. The problem I am having is how to blend my beliefs with my Christianity. I've been hurting spiritually. I feel like I'm being torn in two. I know as a Christian we're not supposed to get involved in politics, and I totally agree. I don't want to put any label on myself besides Christian. I couldn't really call myself a liberal or conservative. Neither side would have me. I have some ideas that could be considered extremely conservative, and some ideas that could be considered extremely liberal. To be more specific, I identify with feminism. They're right, besides the things that I mentioned earlier. I don't feel like it goes against my Christianity. It's enlightened me on Christianity, if that makes sense. It's like I've taken the secular road to conclusions that Bible already upholds. That's not to say that there aren't any problems though. Social justice activism has made me more critical of everything, my faith included.

One of the questions that comes to mind is "Why is it that the people in power in the Bible are men?" I mean, most of the people God worked through were men. David, Moses, Solomon, the disciples. The women had background roles. Why couldn't he have chosen a woman to rule? Why not put a woman in power? It seems in the Bible it is a stigma for a woman to be powerful. I don't like the idea that the only role of women is to serve men. God said he made Eve to be a help to Adam. I think that's lowly. Adam was created with purpose. God intended to make him. Eve was created so the man that the Lord made would not be lonely, and so that he would be taken care of. The woman was an afterthought. Besides, she got pulled out of the rib of some guy. Adam was made by God himself. One thing that bothers me is in Judges. Can you explain the situation with the concubine? Why was there no moral judgement on that? Then at the end, what about the women being stolen for wives? Why was nothing said about that? I just don't like the position of women. I don't want to seem like I'm being belligerent. I just can't let this go. I know from experience that letting something fester is worse in the long run. It's tearing down my faith. I need to put this to rest. It just doesn't sit well with me. You know sometimes I think I would like to be married, but then I think about traditional marriage. The thought of being a housewife makes me want to burst into flames. I'm just not interested in performing gender. Performing gender is where we construct these ideas of what each gender is, and how they're supposed to act. Then we police each other into being what the ideal entails. For example: women shave their legs, boys don't cry, girls are supposed to be delicate, guys are supposed to be strong, girls play with dolls, boys play with trucks, women are emotional, men are rational. How much of these things are constructed? From the time we come out of the womb, we are subjected to gender ideas. If it's a girl, her room gets painted pink. If it's a boy, the room gets painted blue. Maybe that's why girls like the color pink. Because they're supposed to. They're conditioned to. Girls are inundated with images of princesses. They are told they need saving, protecting. When they get dolls, they are told through this that their purpose is having a family. That's why when I hear preachers say women have an innate desire for family, I'm skeptical. How much of this is created? If gender lines are so strong and unbreakable why does it take all this policing to enforce it? If a girl crosses the line, she's called a tomboy. If a boy crosses the line, he's called a sissy. I'm just wondering, what is gender exactly? Is it entirely biological? Is it the fact that God declared one would be male, and one would be female? What makes a woman a woman and what makes a man a man? Girls can be strong, they can be leaders, they can be providers. Men can be sensitive, they can be caregivers, they can be gentle. So what is it that makes them different? I've been thinking along the lines of, it's not that the sexes are so different. It's just that God designated one role for one, and one role for another. Like, they could both do the others job, but that's not the point. Kind of like God the father, and Jesus have different roles. Jesus isn't any lower, or less powerful. It's just that He has submitted to a different role. He doesn't do the same things as God the father. He has a different purpose. I still think gender is skewed in this day and age. We say, "this is masculine" and "this is feminine", when the Bible doesn't make that distinction. If a boy wants to play with a doll, he should be able to. I don't think that will make him gay. He'll grow up to have kids one day possibly. Guys are just as capable of being caring as girls. When a boy wants to play with a doll, that's a desire God put there. It's the instinct to care for your young. People would look down on a boy playing with a doll though. If a girl is confident or self-assured, it's seen as strange. She's an anomaly. Most girls are so conditioned to be weak and spineless. Not because it's their fault, but because they've been told women are supposed to be that way. Mentally, physically and emotionally. People associate femininity with weakness. "you throw like a girl, you run like a girl, stop crying like a girl." There's the assumption that women are weak. Is this what the Bible intended? What God intended? Or am I right that the world has got it all wrong? I'm not saying there is no gender. I'm just saying that the world has taken the concept of gender, what God has intended, and taken it running further than you can imagine.

I read a good quote online. It said "The violence we teach our sons in teaching them to Be Men is the same that keeps us up at night worrying about our daughters". I thought this statement was so profound because it's true. What we thinks makes a man a man and a woman a woman, we have all wrong. We've got it all wrong. What do you think though? Everywhere I have a question mark, can you give me an answer? These aren't rhetorical questions. I really want to understand. Sorry this is so long. I didn't realize I was writing so much.

Response #16:

Good to hear from you. Here is what I read in scripture:

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:27-28

Is there an advantage in this world in being male over female? No doubt. I think even generally fair-minded people (of both genders) fail to understand sufficiently that even in a society such as ours where woman have, arguably, more rights and opportunities than ever before in human history, there is still a double standard, especially where successful women, women in any sort of power, are concerned. I am sympathetic to that. I always try (and always teach others) to treat every single person as a human being for whom Christ died. That is the Christian standard, and we can only adopt it one Christian at a time. You know very well how I feel about political action – standing up for one's own rights is a somewhat different matter (though no one should be under any illusion that taking personal stands for "the right" in one's own case has costs and consequences – it isn't "fair" but it is a reality).

Blessedly, this is not how Christ or His true Church is. No single human being is prevented from being saved by gender or anything else: the only limits are the ones we put on ourselves. No single Christian is prevented from winning the top rewards our Lord offers for life success in spiritual growth, spiritual progress, and service to the Body of Christ: the only limits are the ones Christians put upon themselves. That is the important thing – objectively as well as in my opinion – where Christians are concerned. If we get distracted by injustice, personal or societal or global, and commit ourselves to political action as a result, that is a choice, one that in most cases is going to eat up our lives and make any serious spiritual growth impossible. It may be better than doing nothing with the time on earth Christ has given us – but it may also be worse (many who come to look to politics as a solution end up blaming God for the problems and then lose faith altogether – and that is decidedly worse).

So we can debate the Old Testament, our culture, the nature of men and women, the biblical reason for the differences in authority according to scripture – here in this blink of an eye called time – but none of these things are really what our Christian lives are all about. No one is saved for being male or lost for being female; no one will be rewarded in eternity for having been made masculine or kept from reward for having been created feminine. "Why did you make me this way?" is what the rebellious pot cries out; we who love Jesus more than life are just happy to belong to Him. We are here to serve Him – all of us . . . and to serve each other in service to Him, regardless of the gender of the servant or the one receiving service. That is the way of reward; that is the way to please Jesus Christ. Everything else is part of the devil's system of distraction.

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 17:6 NASB

This comment begins and ends the section Judges you ask about – it is hardly a ringing endorsement for anything that happened. Like Acts, Judges is a historical book (see the link), one which records what people actually did and said; it is not a prescriptive book which tells us what we should say and do. Indeed, these comments quoted above are added in case anyone missed that (seemingly obvious) fact. Much of the Law was put in place to restrain and regulate questionable behavior which was culturally ubiquitous in OT times (slavery is another good example of that). But we are of the New Covenant wherein there is "no male or female" because we are "all one in Jesus Christ".

We will all stand before the Lord on that great day and give a detailed account for all we thought and said and did in this life. None of us will have a perfect record, but the Lord has given us every opportunity to have much in the way of "gold, silver and precious stones" to lay before Him on that great day. Neither gender nor race nor nationality nor any other extraneous factor will have any weight in His perfect judgment – only what we did for Christ in this life will be of any import.

In anticipation of your victory and your crowning on that wonderful day to come.

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I have a question. When you say you don't get involved in politics, what does that mean? Does that just mean you don't state your political views? Does it mean that you just really aren't into politics? I'm just wondering. For the record, I do agree with not being involved in politics. How spiritually detrimental is it to follow politics though? For example, the past few nights I've been watching MSNBC. I knew of the shows, but I never paid them any attention. I just didn't care too much about politics. I figured those political shows were boring. I started watching the shows a few nights ago though, and I was pleasantly surprised. They were very entertaining, and dare I say enjoyable? I was flipping through channels at night and stopped on Jon Stewart, and ended up watching all of the political shows. I already have a favorite, it's Lawrence O' Donnel. He doesn't mince words. I like that about him. Of course, in one segment he all but called the story of Noah's Ark a fairy tale. In fact, he may have used those exact words. I was bothered by that. It was a bone, to say the least. I say all this to say, I can see how Christians get all swept in politics. I believe I'm a break from the crowd though, as I'm a Christian that comes down on the "liberal" side. That's not to say that my beliefs are liberal, or conservative, for that matter. It just means the "team" I cheer for is the left. I didn't vote, but I was happy when Barack Obama won. Not because of his politics, but because of what he represented. I was glad to see a black president. I was also glad to see the conservatives thwarted. I had no illusions about Barack Obama. I knew he was going to be just like every president before him. That's the difference between me and most conservatives. I knew Barack Obama was a man, and a sinful one at that. The right thought Mitt Romney would lead them to the promised land. I wanted Barack Obama to win just to spite them. You can probably tell that I do not care for conservatives. The left is all wrong about homosexuality, and abortion. I give them a pass though because they aren't the ones saying they're Christians. It doesn't bother me to see an atheist behaving like you would expect an unsaved person to act. Trying to get a single good thing out of a conservative Christian though, is like trying to squeeze water from a rock. So it's not that I'm liberal, I don't even agree with a lot of the things they say. I just hate conservatives so much. They behave so poorly they've left me no choice but to stand with the other side.

Response #17:

Good to hear from you. I'm keeping you and your mom in my prayers.

As to your question, first, my constant suggestion for Christians to stay out of politics is only well-meant advice on my part, not a scriptural mandate. Secondly, when I say "involved" I mean both emotionally involved (i.e., caring too much and coming to think that politics makes any difference – in fact, God is in control of all things), but more particularly functionally involved. I don't have any problem with any Christian being informed or keeping up with events, and of course we all have opinions. The difference is that a mature Christian ought not to let him/herself get too exercised about political developments precisely because we understand (or should) that if God blesses a nation it is blessed and if God curses a nation it is cursed – and the blessing or cursing is a result of the quality of the remnant of believers the nation contains (or lack thereof). So that if we wish to help our country we should set ourselves to be a blessing to it by growing spiritually (the "salt" principle), whereas if we forgo this to get involved in political action we will necessarily grow less and be less of a blessing to our country. Writ large (as it is in our Laodicean day; see the link), this can mean a lot of lost blessing and consequently a lot of relative hurt.

If things are going rotten in a country, it's inevitably a spiritual result. If, as Christians, we don't like "how things are going", we can blame only ourselves – or if we are personally doing all we can to be "salt" by growing in the Word, walking with Jesus, and helping others do the same through ministry, well, at least we have that consolation (and we know that the Lord is looking out for us and will continue to do so even if the whole nation comes to disaster: e.g., Jer.45:5). We also know as Christians who have the Word in our hearts that no political movement, party, candidate will ever or has ever "made a difference" for true good (good in God's eyes) except as a blessing given from God. That is to say, a Christian who spends 1,000 hours campaigning for candidate X or party Y in the cause of Z will not have anywhere near the actual positive effect as a believer who prays in the Spirit for five minutes for blessing on the country and its leadership.

What really concerns me about the spiritual welfare of our brothers and sisters, however, is that the mind-set necessary to give a lot of time, money and energy to politics is so contrary to a correct understanding of how God is controlling history and what our role here as believers truly is, that I cannot see how a believer can get deep into that process of politics and not compromise his/her spirituality – not just from wasting time and resources (bad enough) but by having his/her entire divine viewpoint corrupted by the process. It's really all about God. When we start thinking it's all about us, we start having major spiritual problems. That, by the way, is true of all things in this life, not just politics. Charity is great done for the right reasons; when we think we are changing things, we are going to have spiritual trouble. Working hard at a job or profession is great; when we begin to think that our own efforts are the main source of our success, we are going to have spiritual problems.

We are only still here after believing in Christ to be a witness for Him in this world; and we carry that witness out through growing, progressing, and producing for Him. When we develop other agendas, even seemingly well meaning ones (politics, charity, profession, etc.), which come to assume an importance in our hearts which they don't actually have according to God's truth, the result is spiritual setback instead of spiritual advance. I do understand that this is an unpopular view. There are many Christians who are gung-ho for politics; indeed, in my estimation it is the majority of those who put any emphasis on their "religion". True, Baptists and other evangelicals are mostly conservative; however, mainline old traditional Protestants are mostly liberals; Catholics and Jews tend to split fifty-fifty (in my estimate anyway). What they all have in common in my view is that they have made a bad bargain by emphasizing human effort over the will and the plan of God: I would rather have the least addition to my cache of eternal rewards than have all my "favorite candidates" win every time. That is because, in the end, the latter wouldn't change anything because the plan and the will of God can't be changed: He's not going to curse a nation because "the wrong person/party" wins, and He's not going to bless a nation because "the right person/party" wins (whoever these may be in our eyes). Of course it's actually the other way around. The Germans didn't suffer because they elected Hitler; Hitler was elected and they suffered because of where they were spiritually as a nation.

Following politics is like playing solitaire or reading a book; it can be an entertaining diversion (up to a point), but getting too excited about it – to the point of thinking it matters – is counterproductive to a good Christian life. Politics only "matters" if we let it, and then it will matter for ill and not for good – for our personal spirituality.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:20 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ the Lord over all Lords and the King over all Kings.

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your advice. It really helped. I've just been wondering what I should be doing as a Christian. I feel that sometimes there is overlap between politics and Christianity. One thing that I've been meaning to ask you about is the situation with Israel. I know that the Bible says special things about Israel. I used to believe wholeheartedly in supporting Israel. I heard the pastors saying the verse about blessing Israel, so I just took it for granted as the right thing to do. Lately though, I have experienced a complete 180. As I was hearing about the situation with the Palestinians, I started to feel more uneasy about my position. I know injustice when I see it. It felt weird for me, because it was the first time that what I believed as a Christian and what I felt was right morally seemed to diverge. That blessed nation, Israel, is committing genocide. No matter how they try to slice it. I am entirely against Israel as it is now. I don't believe the United States should be giving it money. More importantly, my conscience is clear about not supporting Israel. At first I was worried. I didn't see how my positions would blend. But then, another Christian had some good insights. It really cleared things up for me. I'd like to know what you believe though. Also, that link I showed you, what did you not like about it? Please keep praying for us, it's working.

Response #18:

I didn't receive any link, but as to your question, well, I haven't gotten phone calls lately from Sec. Kerry or Pres. Obama (or Netanyahu or Hamas or the UN for that matter). So, believe it or not, no one in power is asking my advice on what ought to be our national foreign policy in the Middle East. When it comes to the mechanics of these things, therefore, I have zero influence (so that in practical terms my opinions, such as they are, mean nothing). What I do have, however, is the day by day opportunity of growing closer to Jesus Christ through the Word of God, walking with Him, and helping others do the same. If I take advantage of this, I can expect a good report before the Lord on the great day of days – and wonderful eternal reward as well. That is really what I care about. The world is the world. Current events are interesting, but more so for me because the patterns of what is soon to come seem to be emerging if ever so slowly.

As far as what a Christian should do and believe on this, I think it is a mistake for any pastor to opine on politics. As I have pointed out before, Israel today is a secular state, not a state created by the Lord (as was ancient Israel), but by men. Still, it is very wise to avoid anything that even seems as if it might be related to anti-Semitism. But there is certainly no Christian responsibility to support the present day secular nation of Israel . . . or Hamas or the PLO or ____ . What the US does is also, in my view, not the main concern of those who really want to follow Jesus as "job one". Attempting to influencing policy is a political action and by definition will involve spiritual compromise in the long run, both on one's principles and also especially in the diminution of time, effort and focus which ought to be directed above and not below.

I do understand getting upset about pictures of gross violence. But it is also true that a little prayer is better than a whole lot of political action. Also, if we pray, even if we make a mistake in precisely what we pray for, God will still honor our prayers in doing what is really right and for the best (even if we might not understand it in the short, earthly run).

A little history is good to know too. Suffering – and suffering of innocents – is not exactly something new on earth (it's just that we who have it good often don't think about it until we see it on TV or YouTube et al.). I'm a WWII buff and I can tell you that the horrific suffering (and death) of tens and hundreds of millions during that bloody conflict is now largely something very few people even know about (or ever think about). More importantly, the suffering the whole planet is about to have to endure once the Tribulation begins (in a few short years) will make everything that has ever come before look as if it were nothing in comparison.

All this doesn't mean we shouldn't care. It does mean that we probably ought to consider in prudent humility that our opinions are not going to change the course of history, that God is working everything out perfectly, and that by trying to maintain our Christian focus we will be better able to present love to all parties in all places, even when that is difficult to do. That is also the best way to influence our nation for good (and from the divine viewpoint really the only way to do so).

I'm glad to hear that things are going well for you and your family and will continue with my prayers – thanks for yours as well!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Well, I sent the link in an email to you. It's a few emails back. It was from a website called Israelite Indeed. The title was called "Give us Barabbas", do you remember? You said, "As to your link, there is a great difference between a teaching ministry and an entertainment ministry – each of these is very obvious from merely a few minutes inspection. The former can be entertaining (to a point), but the latter is rarely of any value in teaching the truth (for the simple reason that a person who is more interested in audience reaction than in substance has things completely backward and anyone who is that mixed up is unlikely to know/believe much truth in the first place - and that is where most "ministries" are here in our Laodicean era)." Somehow, I got the feeling you didn't like it. That's why I asked you what problem you had with it. I don't feel that website is an entertainment ministry. Her beliefs are pretty far away from what most Christians believe. She's not concerned with audience reaction. I don't know if you read anything on the link, but most Christians would hate what she said. She's not going to win any popularity contests saying what she does. I think she's a breath of fresh air. I didn't know Christians like that existed. I figured I was alone in my thinking.

The thing is, I agree with you on most everything. I asked about your thoughts on the Israel/Palestine situation not because I think anyone in power is asking what you think. Obviously, what the average person thinks doesn't make much difference to them. I asked because you're someone whose opinion I respect. I know lots of people who are knowledgeable on the conflict that I could ask. I don't want to hear from lots of people though, I want to hear from a Christian. You're probably the most mature Christian that I know, and the most well-versed on the Bible. This isn't flattery, or me trying to give you kind words, it's the truth. Even if I didn't like you, which I don't sometimes, you'd still be the most impressive Christian I know. I watch MSNBC sometimes and laugh at conservatives, but when I'm ready to make up my mind about an issue I want a Christian perspective. That's why I send you lots of emails about "politics" even though you don't like them.

That's my main issue with you. It seems that you chalk everything up to politics. Race issues, gender issues, the Israel/Palestine conflict, it's all political to you. These things are much more personal for me. When I asked you about the Trayvon Martin conflict a while back, you basically said it was political. That's the thing. You can afford for issues dealing with race to just be "political". You're white. You don't have to concern yourself with race issues if you don't want to. Black people don't have that luxury. Basically, if you're anything other than white in this country you have to think about race issues. I said this many months ago, but I still remember because it bothers me. I told you that most White Christians don't care about Black Christians. You replied, "that hasn't been my experience." Of course it hasn't been your experience. You're not Black. You don't know how White Christians treat Black Christians.

You're perspective is not universal. I might be younger than you, but there are views I have access to that are inaccessible to you. You can never know what it is like to be Black, a woman or lower class. So, when I tell you something about my experience and you chalk it up to politics, it feels dismissive. I tell you these things, because I know you won't get it unless someone tells you. I tell you because I feel that as Christians we should carry one another's burdens. I believe that you are a genuine Christian, which is why I talk to you about these things. I figure if it matters to me and I'm your sister in Christ, then it should matter to you. When I asked you about your feelings on Trayvon Martin, it was because I wanted you to say something, anything so that I could at least know where you stood. Because I can't keep company with a person that doesn't believe Black life is worth protecting. I never did get a straight answer out of you. But I gave you the benefit of the doubt as a Christian. I decided to take it on your own merit that you had the right view, even if you didn't say it aloud. But with all of the White Christians spewing their hate though, what I really wanted was for you to speak up. I'm sure you realize that you are in a position of power with your ministry. You're white, you're a man, you have a thriving ministry, you're a professor, you're middle to upper-class, when you speak people are going to take you seriously. That's what privilege is. I wanted you to use your position to say something, anything that could lighten the load of your brothers and sisters. Instead, you basically gave some fluff answer. When you do that, it makes me feel less safe. It makes me feel that you can't be trusted. Not just with that situation, but other ones also. I told you very private things and you basically brushed it off. I never even told anyone about that in that much detail. I figured you were a person that could be trusted, and that this was a safe space. I don't know what I expected. Maybe a "sorry, that happened to you" or a little empathy. I don't think I expected to hear, well other people have it worse basically. What I want from you as a Christian, is for you to have a little empathy. You might be married to a woman, but you are not a woman. You might have a Black friend, but you are not, in fact, Black. So, when someone tells you something about what they've experienced, I'd like for you to listen. I'd for them to be not only heard, but believed. You should trust that they know more about their situation than you do.

I know you're wondering what all of this has to do with Palestine. I'm not Palestinian, but their cause resonates with me because I have empathy. I know what it's like to be oppressed. I know what it's like to have the media portray people who look like you in a negative light. As a Black person, I identify strongly with the Palestinian people. Their government hates them. Our government hates us. When the Trayvon Martin incident occurred, the Palestinian people stood with the Black community in solidarity. I saw a picture of a man holding a sign that read, "Palestinians stand with those who mourn Trayvon Martins' death. We know what it feels like to lose loved ones and to watch the murderers evade justice." I think that situation revealed who is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. So the Palestine/Israel issue is one that's very close to my heart. I see myself in those people. When I learned about the Holocaust, I told myself I would never stand by like the Germans and let an entire people suffer genocide. Then I realized that is exactly what is happening with the Palestinians, and I've been asleep. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I believe that. It's so clear to me. I couldn't stand by and say nothing while the Palestinians suffer. I felt terrible when you stood by and didn't say a word when Whites disparaged Blacks. I can't stand by and let my Christian brothers and sisters support Israel in its persecution of the Palestinians. If I did that, I wouldn't have a leg to stand on in calling you to the carpet in the way you've allowed you're less fortunate brothers and sisters to be shunned. You know, in Dr. King's letter, when he speaks about the white moderate, you immediately come to mind. That's extremely disappointing to me. You're supposed to be a representative to me of what a true Christian is supposed to look like, but I think I put too much on one person. I just felt like you were someone whom I could model myself after, but as time goes on it turns out your full of holes. I'm not saying you're a bad Christian. You're a better Christian than me, by far. I'm not angry, it's just like the ground fell out from under me. I don't think anyone can even come close to being a model of a Christian. I knew this in my head, and always believed it. It's another thing to learn that from experience, and believe it in your heart.

I'm sorry if this came out harsher than I intended. I didn't even know I was going to say all this. I have been wanting to say it for a long time though. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders now. Please don't feel attacked. Don't respond angrily, just take this with grace. You should feel happy that I am comfortable enough to tell you the truth. If I didn't believe you were a great Christian, and our relationship was worth the effort I wouldn't even bother. I fell out with a White Christian over something like this, and I haven't spoken to her since. I didn't feel our relationship as Christian sisters was worth saving. There was nothing redeeming in it. Certainly nothing that would outweigh the bad.

Response #19:

I appreciate your candor. I would definitely quibble with some of your characterizations of some of the things I have said to you, but since these were your impressions, what I will say here is probably more important than going back to rehash the past.

First, as it says in Proverbs, "Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy" (Prov.14:10 NIV). I certainly don't want to compare my life-experiences and tribulation with yours or characterize mine or yours as having greater or lesser spiritual worth or accomplishment. But it is true that we often never know what someone else has seen or suffered or had to deal with in life – which is your point, I think. Being a member of one race or another, one gender or the other, one nationality or another, one socio-economic tier, or another (etc.), may indeed give us a clue to some of the things person X has had to deal with in this life – or maybe not. It is also true that if person X and person Y are of the same race/gender/nationality/tier etc., nothing would be worse than pigeon-holing them both in the same slot, and we also cannot assume person Z, just because he/she does not belong to any (or enough) such categories that he/she has not (or is not) suffering tribulation. Some people hold up better than others under pressure and are less inclined to reveal what they have been through. That is often true of veterans who have been through hell (for example).

What all this says to me is that the biblical perspective as I understand it is correct, namely, that Christian love commands us to accept everyone in the Name of Jesus Christ, and to treat each person as an individual, doing our best not to give in to generalizations or stereotypes. There are stereotypes and generalizations about men and women, about rich and poor, and about every race and nationality I know of. To some extent these things are true: northern Europeans, for example, say about all Americans that "they are so outgoing and they seem so friendly, but it's really only superficial so that even though they say they care they really don't". Thinking of American tourists, I can see how they came to that generalization; I do also think that it has some value as a synopsis of our foreign policy over the last hundred years or so – inadequate depth of commitment, insufficient sticking power, always sounds great but the implementation is often callous. However, I would hope that this is not true of me or you, and I do not think it is. So anyone making use of that generalization to define us without knowing us would be treating us unfairly, not acting in love.

James tells us not to look down on the poor (Jas.2:1-13), and Paul tells us to treat people at the bottom as we would treat others (Rom.12:16). By application that certainly applies equally to different genders, races and nationalities. But what if I treat a poor person as "good" because he/she is poor? Not only will that open me up to abuse (because people are no more automatically good because they are poor than automatically bad because they are rich), but it will also be unfair (even if some of them will like that unfairness). Any poor person with a little self-respect would bristle at the idea of being treated in a discriminatory way, I would think, whether that leads to behavior which is either prejudicial or patronizing. Better to be treated as if one is being judged on one's own merits of character, I would think. But I do know that for those doing the evaluating (and we all evaluate each other all the time – as you are doing in your email), Christian love demands and commands fair and equal treatment without prejudice positive or negative; reversing the typical response might seem nice to some, but it is a subtle form of evil (as opposed to the opposite overt form of evil). If I as a man am in a position of authority and refuse to promote a woman who is the most qualified for a job, that it wrong; if I promote a woman over a man who is much more qualified because I am sensitive to wrongs done to women as a class I have wronged the man in question, but I have also patronized the woman – and in the long run that is not good for her, for me, or for my organization. Christian love overlooks all such things and deals with people as people, individually.

Political philosophy, on the other hand, is just the opposite. Political philosophy is the devil's jiu jitsu on the truth, inverting it into a lie and trying to make that seem not only right but also appealing – even though it is horribly wrong. Political philosophy is all about the ends justifying the means, or, put more bluntly, the false principle that two wrongs make a right. Now everyone understands that this is evil, but the brilliance of political philosophy is that it cloaks this obvious evil in emotion, rhetoric, group action and the excitement of media coverage.

As you know, I am neither defending or finding fault with the Gaza incursion – because I don't believe in political action and have no desire to waste my time trying to influence my own government let alone those of other nations. That does not mean that I am indifferent to the suffering there: my point to you last time was that it is not as if this is something unique. For example, while hundreds of children have been killed in Gaza and there is presently a hue and cry to do something about it, hundreds of thousands of children have been killed – and are still being killed – in Syria, yet there is almost no interest in that situation. Are the children in Gaza more worthy of sympathy than those in Syria? Of course not, but the former are on television wall-to-wall (the latter are not), and the former are much more useful for the political purposes of certain groups than are the latter. If CNN were broadcasting live shots of the horrors taking place every day in Syria, and ignoring Gaza, ask yourself, would there be the same hue and cry for latter over the former? Thousands of Christians are in concentration camps in China (a lesser number in North Korea and Vietnam), and no one loses a wink of sleep. Tens of thousands of Christians have been evicted from their homes in Mosul and have lost everything just this fortnight with thousands more reported slaughtered for their faith – but they are not on TV. If you are telling me that you are upset because of human suffering, I am only pointing out to you that you are more upset by one area of suffering than another and suggesting that you ask yourself, "why?".

So we are upset about suffering, death, violence, injustice, racism, sexism, oppression, the rich crushing the poor. There is a lot to be upset about in this world. It is the world. It is the devil's world. So what do we do about it? I hope you are still reading and paying attention here, because this is the most important part of this email. You have misunderstood my position on the problem with political action for believers. I am not dismissing any suffering or injustice. My job as someone who teaches the Word of God is to teach the truth, to prepare my brothers and sisters for the things they face in this awful world, and to protect them as best I can from the assaults of the evil one. Political crusades are of the devil. By their very nature they proclaim that there is no God, or else God is impotent, unfair, or doesn't know what He is doing – that is why "we have to do something". That is the mind-set of most of the unbelieving world (in their heart of hearts), but believers should never even let themselves get anywhere close to any such thought-pattern: "Stay away from anything that [even] looks [like] evil." (1Thes.5:22).

Why we would we imagine that we are going to be able to take fire into our bosom and not get burned? If we engage in political action, subtly accusing God of indifference or unrighteousness, it may not burn us immediately, but it will change our whole focus and approach to things. Now we are not living as individuals for Christ; now we are devoting ourselves to the movement (whatever movement we are talking about). We once made our own decisions before the Lord; now we are adapting our behavior and our thinking to that of the group and its cause. Neither of these things would be completely catastrophic if we were talking about Christian groups; but we are not even talking about believers here: "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character' " (1Cor.15:33). Political movements always start with high hopes and high ideals; they almost always end with violence, coercion and injustice – and even when they do not, they change those who devote themselves to them, never for good (e.g., Lk.16:13). That is not the propaganda, but that is the truth.

I do not mean to demean you in any way (nor do I think I have, certainly not in my heart). I do care about you, your spiritual growth and safety as a sister in Jesus Christ. I cannot know your trials and sufferings, and you cannot know mine. But we can treat each other in Christian love. No, this is not about race or gender, etc.; it is about the danger that becoming involved in political movements entails for any Christian. The best that can be said is that for certain Christians at certain times it perhaps did not cause them to completely lose faith and salvation – but it often does. It inevitably destroys their spirituality. That is because by abandoning our trust in the will of God and turning away from His will for our life to pursue "world-changing" instead, we have withdrawn our allegiance from Jesus Christ and have given it to the evil one instead.

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other."
Matthew 6:24 NKJV

We cannot change the world; only God can do that. If we stop trusting Him and do set out to change the world, only we will change (for the worse); the world will not change on account of what we do (except in special cases for the worse). If we do not understand that now, what will become of us once the Tribulation starts and the greatest deceiver of all time launches the greatest political deception of all time?

"For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?"
Luke 23:31 NKJV

In sincere Christian love,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for taking this in the right spirit. I knew you would. Sorry if you feel that I misrepresented some of the things you said. I know you didn't mean for anything to sound dismissive. I just figured you'd care to know how your words were being received. I went over your response carefully. It seems like you did the same thing I brought to your attention. I know I said a lot in my last email. I don't think you got my point. If you have time, it would really mean a lot if you would go over these links. I know it seems like a lot, but it's really not. I said more in my last email. Some of the links don't have a lot of content. You could look it over in a few minutes. Please read one, four, five and six asap. Honestly it won't even take you 10 minutes if that.

Response #20:

I hope you will consider that I have tried to be a good friend and counselor in Christian love in the Name of Jesus Christ, without prejudice or anything of the sort: I tell every Christian the straight truth as the Spirit and the Word lead me to it (in this case, warning against the very real dangers of political involvement). I am truly sorry if I have given offense in any way. That was certainly not my intention.

I read over your links. Very interesting. There is certainly truth here. I would never dream of saying that racism doesn't exist or that sexism doesn't exist (when it comes to the latter, I have more experience in dealing with the negative consequences of it than you will ever know).

My purpose in such conversations is not to interpret other people's experience (far from it), or to suggest that I understand what I have not experienced or that such things are not of great gravity.

My job before the Lord is as a Bible teacher, and I take my responsibilities seriously. However ill a person may treated on this earth by other people – and in the history of the world there has been much ill-treatment and much resultant suffering (my point from before) – I understand from scripture that 1) God treats us all the same; 2) God gives us all equal opportunity to be saved and to accomplish what He wants us to do in this life to earn rewards that glorify His Son; 3) whatever crosses we have to bear, and we all have opposition as those who belong to Jesus Christ, the important battles are the spiritual ones, not the political ones.

Most of the rich, empowered, self-assured, dismissive white people I know and know of are most likely going to hell – not because they are white or rich or have oppressed others but because they have no interest whatsoever in responding to the gospel.

Most of the people whom I know who are genuinely Christians are people of little power, mixed races, of both genders, mixed nationalities and backgrounds – and most of them are not wealthy or privileged. And most of them have seen (and are seeing) a good deal of suffering. For those who are men, their suffering is not in the realm of enduring sexism; for those who are white, their suffering is not in the realm of enduring racism. But all Christians suffer – at least those who are trying to live godly in Christ Jesus do. All suffering is painful to those who suffer it. If person A suffers differently from person B, that does not make the suffering of person A invalid – and it also does not make the suffering of person B invalid. As true Christians, A and B need to be loving one to another, not dismissive but supportive of their individual trials and tribulations, and to look out for the true absolute good of the other party.

On that note, if I am upset about a person suffering from a disease, devoting myself to trying to wipe out all disease may be seen as noble, but it will not happen (even if there are some success along the way), and if God wants me to put my emphasis somewhere else, then I am wasting my time. The same thing goes for poverty, ignorance, racism, sexism, oppression of all sorts. We have to ask ourselves, not "what do I think should be done?" but "what does the Lord want me to do?" When it comes to the things mentioned in this paragraph, some of them could be tackled more or less as an individual (researching to cure cancer, for example), but many of them require group action, which is political action. If the net result of sympathy, empathy, and understanding is political action, then the vessel is turned upside down and all the good will quickly flow out, because trying to change the devil's world always results in playing the devil's game. People have been trying to "make a better world" ever since Cain, and it just keeps getting worse and worse instead – and will become "worst" when antichrist, the ultimate social reformer, takes the helm in a few short years. Hitlerism resulted from perceived racial injustice; Stalinism resulted from perceived social injustice. Whether or not there was some legitimacy in the original notions (Germans unfairly oppressed by the victorious allies; Russians unfairly oppressed by scurrilous capitalists), the net result was the exploitation of those who put said people in power, and tens upon tens of millions dead with suffering unprecedented in the history of the world (if presently unappreciated today).

So to borrow a phrase from your links, it's not about the intent; it's about the end result. And I now enough from scripture to know that buying into political action is all about deifying intent regardless of result: "the ends justifies the means" . . . and in practical terms justifies the fact that the means will fall far short of the intent (or even end up being diametrically opposed to the original desire).  So I worry about the spiritual safety of any Christian who hearkens to the siren song of political action to cure injustice (or any sort). The fact of injustice does not guarantee that the means employed to correct it will be just. In fact, in the history of the world, it is more often than not precisely the opposite. But why should any Christian even be asking him/herself such a question? We know why we are here (or we should): not to right the world's wrongs – the devil is in control down here and he nourishes wrong in no small part to engender greater wrong in rectifying wrong. Why? Partly because that is one of the best ways historically to get Christians off the track (as in the Crusades, just for an example).

I do care about you and it has nothing to do with the externals – you are my sister in Christ, and I hope that you will continue to grow spiritually and flourish in Him. However hard a time you are having in this world, it's really all about the next world, not this one. We are looking to our reward, and we will all face opposition in earning it. The only question is whether or not we are willing to fight this fight the way our Lord wants us to fight it. It is hard, I realize, but fighting worldly fights is no easier – it just doesn't please the Lord (and results in loss not gain of eternal rewards).

Scripture tells me that what we have in common is more important than what separates us – because what we have in common is eternal, and what we share will last forever.

In hopes of your continued and continuing growth in the dear Lord Jesus who died for all your sins and mine.

Bob L.

 

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