For reasons best left in the past, I visited the High School Principals office on many occasions as a teenager. On Mr. Freeman’s office wall was a plaque that said “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig”. That bit of country wisdom comes to mind often when I am dealing with people who have no interest in rational dialogue. That is true of all subject matter.
It happens occasionally that I engage in an online dialogue with self-proclaimed atheists that start out with intelligence. It doesn’t take long for the atheist to start name calling and drag the conversation from intellectual to fruitless, emotionally charged ridicule.
To be fair the same thing happens sometimes with self-righteous Christians. Scripture is twisted and distorted to tear down the other person. Once a pastor told me that I am ambitious, and I agreed. He then proceeded to “instruct” me that all ambition is sinful. Using verses that talk about SELFISH ambitions this pastor was making a case that I am not qualified to lead a church because of ambition! Think about that! Sadly that is one of several examples I can recite about the same pastor. When a person seeks to control another person they will use whatever means possible to do just that. It is easy to find people that try to control what other people believe through manipulation and angry arguments.
Whatever happened to the gospel of peace? Why are so many people angry and abusive on both sides of the Christian message? Why does it sound so empty to say read the Bible and pray? Am I worshipping a god of my own design? These are the questions I have been contemplating for quite some time now.
History has shown that society has always struggled with identifying and understanding God. Throughout all of written history societies have created their own sense of God. There has always been those who oppose the idea of one true God. The United States of America was founded on the belief in a creator God. Try to twist history all you want but the truth is the founders of this nation used their understanding of God to create the foundations this country was formed on. However, their beliefs in God included some misguided ideology. For instance, slavery was considered acceptable in that culture. Views on women were not what we consider acceptable today. Not all of American history is pleasant. Even so the United States of America, including its laws and military, were founded on a deep-seated belief in one true God. Unfortunately we have drifted far from those beliefs in our politics and schools.
Church attendance for the most part has become a tradition. Something to be done on Sunday morning if we don’t have other interests to attend to. A common complaint is the gospel message has been watered down to make room for new cultural beliefs. Let’s face the facts that we have trained our church leaders to do that. We want to be entertained rather than enter into worship. As a preacher I have experienced first hand how the same people saying “amen” will turn away from sound doctrine when their views are challenged. It’s quite acceptable to preach against sin in general but when it gets specific some Christians want to challenge the message.
Here is a short list of some uncomfortable truths;
- Being lazy at work is the equivalent of stealing from your employer.
- Drunkenness in all forms, including marijuana, is sinful.
- Any sexual behavior outside of God’s design for man and woman within the boundaries of marriage is sexual sin.
- Show respect for governing authority. Dishonoring those in authority goes against scripture.
- God wants ALL of our worship. Not to be shared with our worship of idols such as cellphones and social media.
Preach against any of these things while using scripture in proper context and the preacher will receive some backlash. It may even include church members threatening to have the Pastor removed from office. As a result some Pastors steer away from subjects deemed controversial. Soon enough he/she becomes a trained puppet.
Unfortunately many Christians fall into the same thinking Peter had in the garden. They will try to defend their beliefs violently and ineffectively. Jesus is still saying put away the sword. The way to defend our faith is through love and peace not through destructive device. Some will not listen to the gospel message no matter how it is presented. Christians should continuously seek after the living God. Constantly challenge personal thinking and see if it aligns with ALL of the Bible. It is not our job to tell others how to live. A Christians responsibility is first to their own relationship with God. If others are interested in learning from you they will, if not don’t waste your time.
To live out the truths of the gospel message requires a disciplined life. It is not an easy path. It is not negotiable with the desires of the flesh or views of a society. The Gospel message is unchanging, powerful, and eternal. Accept it or reject it but it will not change the truth that Jesus Christ died for all of our sin.
Rev. Burt Schwab