Thursday, September 27, 2007

Would Jesus Recognize His Church?

Judges 17:6 (New International Version)
6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

I wish I'd heard more of the interview, but it was a tantalizing clip that I heard on the fly from one place to another and I couldn't stick around to hear the end. It was on CBC radio--an American soldier speaking of interrogating a prisoner in Iraq. He described the man; tall and slim of frame, with long feet and toes, and long fingers.

The prisoner made no argument against the things he was accused of but he asked the soldier a question; "Are you a Christian?"

"Yes," said the soldier.

"You are not following the teachings of Jesus, to love your enemies and turn the other cheek," the prisoner replied.

The hours the soldier spent talking to this man, changed his perspective.

My point is not to comment on the war; the issues are complex. But the prisoner's question cannot be ignored as a challenge to all who call themselves by the name of Christ. Are we Christians?...Then how should we act?

This morning I read Judges 17, the story of a man named Micah who lived during a period of moral failure and idolatry in Israel. The religion Micah practised was hardly recognizable as the religion of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge Micah and his clan.

I felt challenged to measure my integrity to my faith. If I base my beliefs on God's Word I have need of his transforming.

Come Lord Jesus, into my life in greater power and purity. Transform my mind so that I love the things you love and hate the things you hate.

Romans 12:2 (New International Version)
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

7 comments:

Poppy said...

Dear Bel(Q)- Today Jacob, my son, came home and told me he won't be allowed to wear a beloved possession of his-a unique necklace given to him by,well,you.It's in the shape of a large nail,silver,hung on a black leather cord.It's beautiful and he has never taken it off since he received it.He loves it.When his French teacher said he shouldn't wear it he became upset and defensive-I think he may have even tried to use a "religious emblem" plea in the same vain as ceremonial swords and turbans! The next day he tucked it in his shirt but the teacher asked what was under it.He lied and said nothing was under his shirt. She investigated and demanded the necklace be handed over. She also called me.I explained what it symbolized to him(us) but she was firm that it could be viewed as a weapon.I pointed out that a sharp pencil or pen could be used in that manner and in fact used better because the nail is around his neck and would have to be removed first before being brandished.I spoke gently and tried not to be argumentative,just factual.She didn't budge and in the end I agreed that school policy must be adhered to but I did comment on how sad that a young Christian boy's witness had to be attacked like this. I then thought about what Jesus would do.The next morning I talked to my son.I asked him what he had said to the teacher and what he thought about the whole thing. He was angry and thought it was stupid. I told him what I thought: that when Jesus went to that cross and was pinned with the real nails 2000 years ago, he went wordlessly. That if an unbeliever wore that necklace or a cross or any other Christian symbol, that it would have no meaning whatsoever, because it's not the symbol it's the relationship it symbolizes that is important. And that Jesus wants us to submit to authority-that's God's way-His will is best carried out His way. And that I would like Jacob to apologise to his teacher for lying to her and being willful. And tell her the reason he is sorry is because the One he wears the necklace to remind him of would want him to do all these things. Jacob agreed. He's going to talk to her on Monday. Even out of sight, that necklace is going to be used for the Lord's purposes.And the reason why is simple-the God of Jacob;)gave us a model to emulate.His word shows us His ways and how to walk in them.And when we do the Lord's will will be done.I'm so thankful to God for illuminating the wisdom of His ways to my son.As for my son, I'm so proud of him!Poppy

Poppy said...

Dear Bel(Q)- Today Jacob, my son, came home and told me he won't be allowed to wear a beloved possession of his-a unique necklace given to him by,well,you.It's in the shape of a large nail,silver,hung on a black leather cord.It's beautiful and he has never taken it off since he received it.He loves it.When his French teacher said he shouldn't wear it he became upset and defensive-I think he may have even tried to use a "religious emblem" plea in the same vain as ceremonial swords and turbans! The next day he tucked it in his shirt but the teacher asked what was under it.He lied and said nothing was under his shirt. She investigated and demanded the necklace be handed over. She also called me.I explained what it symbolized to him(us) but she was firm that it could be viewed as a weapon.I pointed out that a sharp pencil or pen could be used in that manner and in fact used better because the nail is around his neck and would have to be removed first before being brandished.I spoke gently and tried not to be argumentative,just factual.She didn't budge and in the end I agreed that school policy must be adhered to but I did comment on how sad that a young Christian boy's witness had to be attacked like this. I then thought about what Jesus would do.The next morning I talked to my son.I asked him what he had said to the teacher and what he thought about the whole thing. He was angry and thought it was stupid. I told him what I thought: that when Jesus went to that cross and was pinned with the real nails 2000 years ago, he went wordlessly. That if an unbeliever wore that necklace or a cross or any other Christian symbol, that it would have no meaning whatsoever, because it's not the symbol it's the relationship it symbolizes that is important. And that Jesus wants us to submit to authority-that's God's way-His will is best carried out His way. And that I would like Jacob to apologise to his teacher for lying to her and being willful. And tell her the reason he is sorry is because the One he wears the necklace to remind him of would want him to do all these things. Jacob agreed. He's going to talk to her on Monday. Even out of sight, that necklace is going to be used for the Lord's purposes.And the reason why is simple-the God of Jacob;)gave us a model to emulate.His word shows us His ways and how to walk in them.And when we do the Lord's will will be done.I'm so thankful to God for illuminating the wisdom of His ways to my son.As for my son, I'm so proud of him!Poppy

Dave Hingsburger said...

Questions like the one asked of the soldier are such difficult questions. Am I doing the right things when I pay taxes to a government that does things that I do not agree ... I don't know but I pay the taxes. Am I to honour my mother and my father ... who feel that faith is silly ... or my heart, which tells me that God is real? I think it's good to question, but I'm old enough to understand that questions don't always have answers.

What was on the necklace? I'm guessing a nail, is that right?

Belinda said...

Yes, Dave, the emblem was a rugged (not real), nail, square cut. It symbolizes the type of nail that would have been used in the crucifixion of Christ, but it's a surprise that it was considered a potential weapon.

I read Poppy's comment on the fly this morning and didn't have time to think or respond--or even know how to respond.

I'm proud of Jacob for working it through with his mom's wisdom and a heart to follow the One whom the nail was a reminder of. That's much more important than wearing the necklace.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Hi, Belinda, I've been thinking about this issue a lot since I read it. I think I have to respectfully disagree with the approach chosen. I think there is a time to teach children to stand firm with what they believe and not capitulate easily. It seems here, to me at least, that this is overt discrimination against the Christian faith. The 'weapon' issue is a red herring and the teacher knows it, I will bet on that. Just like I'm careful not to teach people with disabilities to be over-compliant, I wouldn't want to teach any child to simply give up something he loves and believes in. I'm afraid that in the giving up of the nail, in what he may see as lack of support for his wishes and desires, he may end up losing something more important. I know, I know, I'm not a parent ... but even still, it might have been better to stand beside him as he stood for himself, than ask him to apologize and give in.

Belinda said...

I too, struggled with this and I appreciate so much all that you say. I agree with it.

I know that the emotions that surfaced; the smuggling in of the offending necklace, and lying about it, and my urge to intimidate the teacher, were wrong, but I do take seriously your point about holding on to an important principle and not caving in so easily.

Maybe we do need to take this further. I was afraid you'd point that out. Yikes--I leave for England on Friday.

Thanks for caring and lending your brilliant brain and sense of what is important to this issue.

Dave Hingsburger said...

I get the issue with the lying and the smuggling in, I also get the normal but not so moral urge to intimidate the teacher ... an apology for the lying is probably in order. But the rest of it smacks of outright prejudice to me. You know I'm what's considered a 'liberal' Christian but even so I hold dearly to my right to my faith, my right to my symbols and my right to be public. I see nothing wrong with wearing the nail. It is no more dangerous than a pen - I still think the 'weapon' angle is a red herring.

But, ultimately, the decision about going forward really belongs to the young man. I think he needs to know that he will have support if he choses to fight this battle and that if he choses not to he will still have the respect of those who care.

Me, I have trouble with ... 'it's your decision' ... when I know the decision I'd make. But ultimately it was his nail, it's his faith and therefore it's his decision.

At least in my eyes.