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His Master's Voice
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Written by: C. W. Booth

Saturday, December 04, 2010

“It Takes Two to Fight”

Modern folk sayings are not always wise. They are not always biblical or premised by observable truth. Such is the case with the folk expression, “It takes two to fight.”

In world history a single hate-filled person can declare war or unprovoked genocide on a people or nation merely because they are a different ethnicity. In the corporate world a greedy executive can impose ungodly abuse on workers he never met simply for the cause of power and money. Times too numerous to detail here are the news accounts of a school bully seeking out younger anonymous faces from the crowd upon whom to launch vicious beatings or initiate internet humiliation campaigns for no better reason than to build an illicit power base.

Often the only “two” persons required in a fight are the selfish provocateur and an unsuspecting victim. Merely because two persons were involved in the fight does not mean that both were culpable or that the victim could have in any way foreseen or prevented the attack.

We do a great disservice and injustice to victims of irrational hatred and to the recipients of violence when we tell them “Well, it takes two, you know.” That expression is not from the Bible, and it fails the smell test. Moreover, world history, the victims of home invasions, and the kids who are daily assaulted on the school bus by the relentless bully will deny that this expression has a factual basis.

Sometimes, just sometimes, there is only one person at fault in a dispute. And sometimes there is only one illicit aggressor in a fight. Justice demands we dig for the truth in such matters and lay blame at the feet of each guilty party and release the innocent from further prosecution. That is biblical. Closing our eyes and declaring all sides to be equally culpable in every dispute is laziness and a perversion of justice.

Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted. (Habakkuk 1:3-4)

'Thus says the LORD, "Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)

"You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:19-20)

"But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness, and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period-- if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully--he is righteous and will surely live," declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 18:5-9)

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

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This essay was originally posted as a blog. As such it was open to public comments. Comments that advanced the dialogue or understanding of the content of the blog are included below.

Booth Offered This Response to a Comment from the Public (the public comment is not here reprinted)

Regarding the words and actions of Jesus, we can observe that when He was verbally attacked during His ministry He often defended Himself and the honor of His disciples with words. When physically threatened, He fled. But He told His disciples to carry swords and money purses when He was no longer with them. At His final trial He opted not to defend Himself, or allow others to do so (He could have summoned a world-burning array of angels to His defense), but He allowed Himself to be wrongly executed for our benefit.

Turning the other cheek is about insults. We are to be more gracious than to take offense at hurtful insults and insulting actions like a slap on the face. But we are to actively pursue justice, defend the helpless and innocent, and defend the gospel verbally. Sometimes defending the innocent physically will cost us our lives.

There is much theology to be explored in this regard, but this is an appropriate overview of those deeper topics.

The Lord, as described in the Old Testament, required much of Israel, but pacifism was not one of those requirements. The Lord even made provision for lethal self-defense in the OT Law. The second coming of the Lord also does not portray Him as a pacifist. Finally, one must deal seriously with Jesus' command to carry a sword and purse while He is away (I am not a fan of spiritualizing away commands or allegorizing "sword" into "Bible," especially since the Bible and the Gospels were not yet complete). Why did the Lord permit Peter to carry a sword? And why in the upper room did the Twelve have 2 swords? And, of course, the government is to bear the sword, meaning that Christians who are in government service will have to bear the sword--does that violate pacifism? Just some random thoughts.

Booth Offered the Following Response to Another Comment from the Public (the public comment is not here reprinted)

I checked back but did not see any update from you.

Regarding your concern that the earliest "provocateurs" in the region of Palestine were the Israelites, I am afraid that such a concern is not historically or spiritually grounded. God (not the Israelites) deeded the land of Palestine to Abraham and his children. When Abraham's children moved into the land, they populated it, and did so without using arms. God, not the Israelites, ousted the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.

When Jacob's family had to leave Palestine due to the famine they did not sign the land over to squatters. They left as full owners of the land and returned 400 years later, as a nation to their own land. They returned to their homeland which had been deeded to them by God and settled by Abraham. Sadly, even their own kindred, Abraham's own illegitimate descendants, tried to run them off the land instead of welcoming them back from out of slavery. That they had to clear the land of hostile squatters is sad, but it was their land, deeded them by God. Those who are running off squatters can not truly be called "provocateurs."






Friday, December 24, 2010

Blame the Parents If a Child Sins -- Ho, Ho, Ho

Well, it is Christmas Eve. Time for families to gather, tempers to flare, nerves to be irritated, and conflicts to erupt. While thinking of these less-than-glad tidings, I have also been thinking about parent-child relationships.

Many, if not all, of the books I have read recently on parent-child relationships indicate that having an unsaved and overtly sinful child is the fault of the parents. Either the parents lacked some kind of psychological tool kit by which to properly socialize and behavior-ize their child, or, the parents were slightly unbalanced in the delicate love-discipline mix.

Regarding the psychological tool kit theory, forget about it. Depending on your theory of origins, humanity has been around for some 10,000 to 20,000 to 60,000 years. Judaism and Christianity have described God’s expectations on child-rearing for between 2000 to 3500 years. Only in the last 100 years has any notion of psychological tool kits been invented. Therefore, it is absurd to think good God-pleasing parenting is in any way dependent on a psychological tool kit.

The love-discipline balance theory states that if either love (with overly limited punishments) or disciplines (with too little affection) is enacted slightly out of proportion to the other, then the outcome is a sinful child. It is the parents’ fault for not divining the indefinable volume and measure of affection or punishment and not reading the child’s secret mind and heart to analyze what adjustments must be made incident-by-incident. Any minor miscalculation is what “causes” the child to be sinful or even unsaved.

It is true that the Bible demands compassionate and loving parenting along with the administration of disciplines and even corporeal punishments. Yet, the Bible does not provide the instrument or guideline by which anyone can read the hidden heart of a child so as to adjust the mix. Rather, the parent is only told to do what is holy and just in each circumstance, not to clairvoyantly read the youth’s mind and increase or reduce the amount of affection applied. Every sin is to be justly addressed with each discipline applied with kindness and affection.

Scripture indicates that God was the parent of Adam and Eve. They had the advantage of having had the perfect parent and having had no sin nature. They still sinned and fell from grace, needing God to reach out and save them. One of their own children even became a murderer.

Throughout human history the most godly persons often had the most ungodly and lost children. Many of David’s children were terrible. Solomon was David’s best kid and he was into all kinds of hedonism and sexual perversions, ultimately embracing the idolatry of his unbelieving wives near the end of his life. In Jesus’ fictional parable of the Prodigal Son, the righteous father figure who symbolized God was depicted as having two sinful sons in need of repentance and spiritual reconciliation. Godly parents (such as patriarchs of the faith, prophets, and priests) do rear sinful children.

In the Old Testament minor children were to be controlled and compelled to act civilly, even if they were unbelievers. Corporeal punishment was to be applied to rebellious children so as to control them, though that would not necessarily bring them to salvation. In the New Testament the same expectations were placed upon parents. Minor children are to be kept constrained and under control, even if they never do believe. In the Mosaic Law, out-of-control children as they became adults could be executed by the local elders for being criminally unruly, profane, and casting curses on their parents. God does expect parents to keep the outward behavior of minor children under control. Yet, the inward heart change always belongs to God alone.

It is true, we parents are imperfect and sinful. We make purposeful as well as unintentional mistakes in raising our kids. Yet, whether a child is ultimately saved (or not) remains God’s sole domain. He alone selects, calls, convicts, regenerates the repentant, and indwells those He has saved. Parents cannot do this.

I wonder if sometimes we expect parents to be gods who can save their own children. Perhaps the role of being a parent who must train, raise, nurture, and control children is already sufficiently difficult without adding to them the condemnation of being judged negligent if their children have not yet come to Christ?

Merry Christmas to all parents, whether your children have been saved yet or not!






Friday, December 31, 2010

Only Three Classes of Humans

In the New Testament there are really only three classifications of humans. These three classes are derived from 1 Corinthians 5:11. They are: true believers in Christ, the unsaved, and the “so-called” believers.

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)

It should be evident that true believers in Christ are those sinners who have placed their faith in Jesus for their eternal salvation. They are still sinners, but have come to recognize their helplessness in saving themselves and have sincerely repented. Repentance involves confession of sins and changing one’s mind and heart so as to be motivated to abandon those sins.

Equally evident are the unbelievers. They are the ones who have never heard of Jesus, or having heard have decided not yet to repent; thus they remain in their lost state. They may or may not know they are still unsaved.

Less evident are the “so-called” believers. These are people who profess salvation in Christ but live like the unsaved. They have no godly remorse for their ongoing obvious sinfulness. They blatantly sin and do not repent. They may regret getting caught by others in their sins, but they lack personal shame when alone with God.

Interestingly, God does not consider the unsaved to be a problem for the true believer. They may live, work, and socialize together. In this manner some of the unsaved will find Christ via their friendship with true believers.

However, God forbids the saved to associate with the “so-called” believers. God considers them to be dangerous to the health of the church. They are pretenders and imposters of the faith who are the ones that introduce heresies secretly, sow discord, and incite philosophical divisions. They lead astray the righteous as they generate factions.

There are several parables of Jesus where He states that the church on earth will always consist of wheat (believers) and tares (the unsaved), marketable fish (believers) and unusable fish (the unsaved), sheep (believers) and goats (the unsaved). This is as it must be and the unsaved are not to be ejected from the church for fear of harming the faith of new believers. But, the “so-called” Christian who remains immoral and unrepentant in conduct, is to identified and removed from church fellowship.

With my own eyes I have seen the eternal spiritual damage that can be wreaked by treating “so-called” brethren as if they were believers. Naming Christ as Savior must be accompanied by a life of ongoing repentance and remorse over sins as they occur. Where there is no repentance for public sin, neither can there forgiveness and therefore there should be no fellowship.

I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person (1 Corinthians 5:11a)

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This essay was originally posted as a blog and was open to public comments. Below is a response Booth made to one such public comment.

Booth’s response to comment

You are correct. It is not easy, nor should it be done lightly. Similarly, it should not be discarded.

I have seen shunning done (without following Matthew 18) just so a person could retain his individual hold and power base over others. I have also seen 1 Corinthians 5:11 and Matthew 18 put aside entirely in a mistaken notion of "love." Both extremes resulted in spiritual disaster for some.

The point you make, that Matthew 18 must be followed, is well taken. There are wolves, false prophets, and immoral "so-called" brethren among us that ought to identified and corrected.


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