What it Means to be Human Part 7

     We Are Not Perfect But We Are Unique

We are not well served by those in Christian ministry or academics who want to change traditional Biblical interpretations in order to accommodate current social standards. The Gospel is not served by an attitude that we must “go along” in order to “get along” with this world. The missionary and apostle Paul would not be remembered if he had said to everyone on Mars Hill, “Here is another god to add to your collection”. We do not need improved theology. We need an improved attitude that reflects a Christ like spirit. We need an attitude the Holy Spirit can use to bring salvation and a restored, God created, humanity to the lost in this world.

What it means to be human can best be seen in Jesus Christ. The more our lives reflect His spirit and actions the more human we become.

This essay is not intended to reflect academic standards of attribution of all ideas expressed.

Brief Biographical:  Morris E. Vickers.

Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religion, California Baptist University. Riverside, CA.

Master of Divinity Degree, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Fort Worth, TX

Doctor of Ministry Degree, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Now Palmer Theological, Philadelphia, PA.).

50 Plus Years. Minister of Christian Education, Pastor, Associational Missions Director (Arundel Baptist Assn. Maryland).

30 Plus Years. Owner, Financial Security Advisors, Inc. A registered investment advisor.

What it Means to be Human Part 6

    Responding to Our Challenges

How are we to respond to our challenges related to homosexuality, same gender marriage, and religious liberty? These are not philosophical issues. They are issues real to people. That is the beginning point: As Christians we treat our conversations and actions with others and about others with respect. Being respectful of others does not mean agreeing with their ideas or lifestyles.

Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice not a God created or blessed gender condition. Several passages in Scripture disapprove of homosexuality (Gen. 19:1-13; Judges 19:22; Lev. 18:21-22; Lev. 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:8-10) There are no verses in the Bible that approve of it. We should not voluntarily provide encouragement enabling it any more than we would buy an alcoholic a drink, drive a bank robber to a bank, give an obese person fattening food, or fail to be critical of adulterous behavior. Being an enabler is not the loving thing to do. The person engaging in any of these, and other destructive behaviors still deserves respect in our attitudes and actions. A follow up to our well used quote in John 3:16 is found by reading John 3:17; “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him”

Our role in the world is not to pronounce judgement on others but to relate to persons in a manner that will give us an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus as the Christ through whom they can begin to regain their full humanity.

Same gender marriage is a natural result from the acceptance of homosexuality. We are not only individuals we are social creatures. It is a natural desire to want emotionally satisfying relationships with other humans. “Marriage” is a civil designation. Civil authorities recognize marriages performed by clergy as legally valid. The process of having a legally recognized relationship called marriage begins with securing a license from civil authority, making certain promises before a recognized official, and returning the properly signed license to the civil authority.

The Christian concern needs to address “God blessed unions”. Ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as His representatives, need to keep their participation within Scriptural bounds. Biblically blessed unions are commitments between a male and female made to God and each other. They are lifetime commitments of love for each other and God.

In the United States issues of homosexuality and same gender rights involve religious liberty issues. Behaviors previously permissible by voluntary choice of conscience are now made mandatory with interpretation and enforcement administered by local, state or federal authority.

One recent example of this involved a family bakery declining to bake a cake for a same gender wedding. The husband and wife owners were, by reports, cordial and respectful of the homosexual couple. The respect was not reciprocated and resulted in them being heavily fined to the point of losing the business. It is a reminder that while we are called upon to be respectful of those who oppose us the respect may not be returned. Instead it may result in hostility and persecution.

In addition to this story involving religious liberty it also points to a concern for fundamental American values. An integral part of our economic free enterprise system is in question. Much progress has been made in our past by enterprising individuals “building a better mousetrap”. Progress in transportation, communication, and medicine are examples of someone having or improving on an idea in existence at the time.  The American enterprise answer to a group not being served by an existing baker is to start their own bakery! Or, do business with and tell your friends about another baker who will make your kind of cake. Economic advancement requires individual liberty.

The clerk of a county court in Kentucky is a different story. Because of her Christian convictions she refuses to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. She refuses to sign her name on a certificate and issue it. The state of Kentucky and the county she serves as clerk accepts the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court recognizing homosexual marriages as valid. She is a sworn officer of the county. In this situation she is an employee of a civil jurisdiction. Her name is entered on a documents, not as an individual, but as a representative of the civil authority that is her employer. As long as the employer is not asking her to commit a civil crime she should either fulfill her elected responsibility or resign her position. She needs to respect her employer. Being a media martyr will serve no useful purpose. As a private citizen she can follow her religious conviction and have nothing to do with homosexual marriages. Except she will still need to go fish and pay taxes to the civil government.

Leaves All Statues Where They Are

             LEAVE ALL STATUES WHERE THEY ARE

As published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Sept. 19, 2017.

The current fury regarding Confederate statues fails to consider the rationale for having memorials. Statues are memorials not just representations of individuals. They are one kind of memorial. Other forms take the shape of walls, buildings, bridges, public facilities, and even military hardware.

As the name indicates, memorials are memories. They are reminders of history. They are visual representations of past accomplishments and failures. Of times when we, as a national entity, were united and when we experienced division of opinion and commitment.

The World War Two memorial in Washington, D.C. reminds us of why 400,000 citizens lost their lives and multiple numbers more suffered in other ways.  We do not celebrate their deaths but we honor them for benefitting our lives by their sacrifice.  Also in our nations’ capital is another memorial. It is a reminder of the loss of 56,000 young Americans in a war that was controversial and divisive. Americans demonstrated against participation, some leaving the country to avoid being drafted. Years later even the erection of the Vietnam Wall was criticized and opposed. Reading the names on that wall is a more recent painful reminder of the cost of physical combat.

Memorials do not approve or disapprove of past events and the people involved in them. They tell us what has been, hopefully so we will not make the same mistakes but also can be guided by our better decisions. After all, that is a value of preserving history.

Memorials do not tell the whole story of an event or of an individual. They are snapshots not a lifelong motion picture. Events are seldom simple and uncomplicated in how they begin, develop, and conclude. Life is messy. We are complex living growing organisms. We are not easily caricatured stick figures incapable of change.

For example, the day signatories showed up in Philadelphia and signed a Declaration of Independence was preceded by years of pain, suffering, debate, and obstacles. We see the picture of men around a table but we do not see what it took individually for them to be there. Some were there who wanted the document to express freedom of all slaves. Some were there as slave owners. Should we erase from the picture those who were slave owners? Should we erase those who compromised their principles in order to have a document acceptable to all who were to sign?

How perfect a life must an individual live in order to justify having their likeness preserved? Is history best served by having pictures, statues, writings on a wall and other monuments only of people with whom we agree?  In a multicultural society such as ours who should decide what is an acceptable memorial to be publicly honored?

For the betterment of the future let’s leave all statues, and other memorials, where they are. Losing memorials means losing history and what we can learn from it.

What it Means to be Human Part 5

In the World but Not of the World

Having two citizenships gets complicated. This is especially true when one is a civil citizenship whose standards are based on a constantly contentious changing moral code and the other a spiritual loyalty based on the unchanging Word of God. Jesus knew this difficulty living both as a human and as of divine origin. Roman political and military dominance, a culture greatly reflecting Greek philosophy and a Jewish theological mandate kept life unsettled.

The question was: On any issue what does the Roman authority approve of or disapprove? What does Greek thinking endorse or discourage? What is good or evil according to Jewish law?  Three arenas of authority: Political, Moral, and Religious. Try satisfying all of them with one answer to any question. How Jesus managed should be instructive for us.

Decision criteria:

To whom should priority be given: God, Government or Culture?

Is it possible to satisfy more than one?

What attitude should we convey to all parties?

An example: Tax time has arrived and Jesus is asked if it is lawful to pay the government. Jesus sends Peter to catch a fish in whose mouth is a coin with an inscription on it. Jesus asked whose the inscription is. The answer is “Caesar”. He replies, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God’s”

It is not to imply that Jesus approves of Caesar or how all the tax money will be spent. Jesus does not call for withholding a portion as a demonstration of protest with government policies. Jesus is not responsible for the misuse of tax dollars. His ministry purpose is more important than a diversion of attention to civil tax policy. What is most important, Jesus keeps as most important. His priority is to bring the salvation of God to all people.

The greater the number of people in a society who reflect a kingdom view the greater can be the influence on the moral standards in civil life. If we don’t like the moral decline of the country the answer is for us to be more intentional in leading more people to a saving knowledge of Jesus. His most important thing is ours also. Is it possible a substantial number of people will take offense at having a kingdom view reflected in moral standards? Absolutely Yes! After all, we are still in the world, just not living according to the attitudes and behavior of this world.

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