Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: hypocrisy

Radical thinking from an archbishop

Liberty of thought is an impregnable fortress that no human power can force. Violence can never convince, it only makes hypocrites. When kings take it upon themselves to direct in matters of religion, instead of protecting it, they bring it into bondage. You should, therefore, grant to all a legal toleration. Not as approving everything indifferently, but as tolerating with patience what God tolerates. Endeavour in a proper manner to restore such as are misled, but never by any measures but those of gentle and benevolent persuasion.

– François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon

[Fénelon, Roman Catholic archbishop of Cambrai, addressed these words to a prince some 300 years ago. No wonder he was out of favour with Louis XIV, king of France, and with the Pope.]

Mission statement for writers

I confess that I am quite cynical about the term “mission statement.” In my experience in the business world, a mission statement is an exercise in public relations where management attempts to come down on the right side of every hot button issue of the day. Creating a mission statement has generally been an exercise in creative writing, not a serious attempt to redefine the values that will guide corporate decisions in the future.

Neverthtypewriter-584696_1280eless, when I attended the recent Christian writers workshop and listened to Janice Dick advocate that writers create a mission statement for their work something clicked in my mind. Jan has published four books of historical fiction and I think she might just know something that hadn’t occurred to me before.

Creating a mission statement will help a writer clarify his thinking, decide just what his goal is, and direct his activities towards that goal. If a writer works in different formats and genres the mission statement will probably need to be tweaked and fine-tuned for each project. Here are the five questions that Jan suggested to help us create our mission statement (with my additions in brackets).

1. What do I do? (Am I a historian? a business writer? a story teller? an apologist? a fiction writer? a devotional writer? a doctrinal writer? etc., etc.)

2. How do I do it? (How much research is needed? Where do I get my inspiration?)

3. What is the value of what I do?

4. Who am I doing it for? (Is my target audience children? teens? young adults? seniors? believers? seekers? skeptics? mothers? teachers? etc. etc.)

5. What do I believe and why? (My faith does not need to be on display in every word that I write, but a lack of integrity will make my writing weak and ineffective.)

What does the Bible mean to you?

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In the 2011 census, 67% of Canadians identified themselves as Christians. A statistic that is somewhat older and probably outdated says that 25% of Canadians attend church once a week. The latest survey gives a glimpse of the rot at the base of our Christianity: 5% of Canadians read the Bible daily, 11% once a week, 14% once a month. 55% have never opened a Bible in their life.

The fact that 67% self-identified as Christians indicates that they still see some value in the historic teachings of the faith — even though they might not have much of an idea what they are. Do you suppose there would be a way of getting them intrigued about the roots of that heritage? Who is going to do it? Obviously, the majority of church-going people are not Bible readers.

Here are some questions for those of us who say we read the Bible every day:

– Have you ever read a passage in the Bible and realized it was a personal message for your immediate situation?

– Do you pray for understanding when you read the Bible?

* Does a verse from the Bible ever come to your mind when you find yourself in a difficult situation?

– Have you ever read the Bible all the way through? Are there parts of the Bible that you have never read?

– Do you sometimes take time to study a particular event, or teaching, or promise so that you can understand it more fully?

– Do you talk about what you have read with your family? your Christian friends? your non-Christian friends?

If I am reading the Bible and I am suddenly struck about how this is just what brother George needs to hear, I am probably not getting much personal benefit from my Bible reading. Neither is brother George, even presuming that he is in need of help. If brother George truly needs help, then I should be praying for direction on how to talk to him as a brother without sounding superior. Perhaps I should pray to know how to encourage him to talk.

People around us need to read the Bible and believe what it says. Let’s not be one of those self-righteous religious people that have given the Bible and Christianity a bad name.The people around us have a pretty keen nose for the slightest whiff of hypocrisy. How do we avoid having that odour attach itself to us? Well, that might mean taking the Bible seriously enough to make major changes to our lifestyle if it is not 100% compatible with the teachings of the Word.

When we find inspiration in the Bible for our personal life, it is much more likely that we will inspire others to look in the same Book for answers to their needs.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild

GENTLE Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child,
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to Thee:

Fain I would to Thee be brought,
Dearest God, forbid it not:
Give me, dearest God, a place,
In the kingdom of thy grace.

-Charles Wesley

The words of the song give us an appealing description of our Lord and Saviour. There is a snare in the way, however, if the way we define gentle, meek and mild comes to resemble wimpiness. If we think that we are following “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” when we shrink back from openly confessing our faith in Him, we have fallen into the snare.

What picture do the gospels give of this gentle and meek Jesus? It is recorded in John chapter eight that the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been captured in the very act of adultery and told Him that the law of Moses said she should be stoned. Jesus did not argue, He simply said “Very well then, whichever of you has no sin may cast the first stone.” Then He stooped down and wrote in the dust. We may safely assume that He was not playing tic-tac-toe or drawing funny faces. It appears that He wrote things that made each of them feel very uncomfortable and they decided one by one that they had urgent business elsewhere.

In chapter nine Jesus encounters a man who was born blind. In other instances He simply spoke a word to heal the blind or raise the dead. Here He spits on the ground, takes the mud, smears it on the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Why such an elaborate procedure in this one instance? The Bible does not say, but from the context it appears that Jesus considered this a teachable moment, an opportunity to reveal the hardness of the Pharisee’s hearts. It was the Sabbath day and Jesus’ method of healing on this occasion involved work on His part and on the part of the man healed. The blind man appears to have had his eyes opened in more ways than one. He was excommunicated from the synagogue for working on the Sabbath and was not greatly troubled by it, because he had found the Son of God.

In His visit with the Samaritan woman in John chapter four, Jesus flouts the rules of proper Jewish etiquette. It was not considered proper to visit alone with a woman, nor to ask a woman for a drink. The fault was compounded by the fact that Samaritans were considered to be unclean from birth. Yet Jesus sat there at the well engaging in a banter with this woman that gently led into the revelation of the woman’s marital status. We are tempted to pause here and pass a moral judgement on this woman. Remember, though, that the Samaritans had the Pentateuch and the law of Moses, which made no provision for a woman to divorce her husband. We are not told what fault, or whim, caused her to be rejected and divorced by five men. Nor do we need to know, it was a common practice, both among the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus’ statement that “he whom thou now hast is not thy husband” is somewhat enigmatic. It may mean nothing more than that she was espoused to a sixth man, but not yet married.

The disciples were astonished to find Jesus sitting and visiting with this Samaritan woman. No doubt they were even more ill at ease when Jesus decided to enter this Samaritan town, accept the hospitality of Samaritans, eat Samaritan food and teach the way of salvation to Samaritans. These were the “fields white unto harvest” that the disciples were unable to see at first, due to their Jewish prejudices.

In all these examples we see Jesus as genuinely meek and mild, yet His conduct can in no way be described as wimpy. In other circumstances, we observe that Jesus was nowhere near so gentle with those he saw to be hypocrites. Even in those circumstances, he did not fly into fits of rage, or make baseless accusations. He just bluntly spoke the truth.

All these examples lead me to conclude that if it is my custom as a professing believer to go to great pains to avoid any danger of confrontation for what I believe, I cannot truly claim to be a follower of Jesus.

The inconvenient Jesus

Jesus was the enemy of formalism and legalism, the one who castigated the religious leaders of His day for their hypocrisy.  He was the friend of the poor, the oppressed, the outcasts and the sinners.  We like to believe that no matter what others may think of us, Jesus is our unconditional friend.

That isn’t far off the mark, but when we go to a funeral and hear that our dear departed uncle is now in heaven, all his sorrows are over, while we never noticed that our dear departed took any interest in preparing for heaven, then we begin to wonder if the picture has not gotten skewed.

Jesus’ own words are difficult (impossible) to reconcile with the picture of a Jesus who welcomes everyone to heaven, even if they never showed any desire to go there.  Things like: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me,”and even:  “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus had strange ideas of what it meant to be blessed: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

The meaning of these verses is that if heaven is not more important to us than all our earthly pride and possessions, even our own family, we are never going to make it there.  These, and many other of the hard sayings of Jesus are an inconvenient obstacle to those who wish to believe in a Jesus who will accept them on their own terms.

Things do not work that way in real life; we must accept Jesus on His terms.  That includes repentance, self-denial and for many people may include rejection by friends and family and even physical danger, persecution and death.

There was no easy way out for Jesus when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” and: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

He suffered the agony of the cross, blood poured from His wounds and His side.  He did not go through this to make life on earth easier for us, but to make eternal life in heaven possible for us.  Our way to heaven must also involve submission to the will of the Father, a willingness to forsake the thoughts and things that are highly esteemed by those around us and to bear the shame and reproach of the cross.

There are no short cuts, no easier pathway for someone who claims a special illumination.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and His way is the narrow way.  If we want to be in heaven with Jesus, that way is the only way.  This is still good news.  Heaven will be worth it all and there will be no one there who did not really want to be there.

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