Most Christians, and those who live in "Christian societies" are familiar with the ten commandments. Don't steal, don't murder, don't covet, etcetera. But the ten commandments are just a small representation of the Bible's laws. You may not know that the Old Testament actually contains over 600 laws for the people of God to follow. In the New Testament, Jesus does us a favor and condenses all of the laws to two: love God and love your neighbor (Mt. 22:34-40). If we simply do those two things, then we'll never break any of the other 600 commandments. If we loved others, how could we murder them? If we loved, how could we covet what another has instead of being happy for them? If we loved God, how could we choose to avoid Him by not gathering together with other Christians to worship Him? Love is absolutely central to the Bible and to followers of Christ. In fact, Jesus tells us that it is a Christian's love which will distinguish them as a true follower of God (Jn. 13:35).
Ice age upon catastrophic ice age of selection
And only one result has trickled in
The house wins, oh, the house always wins
If evil were a lesser breed than justice after all these years
The righteous would have freed the world of sin
The house wins, oh, the house always wins
You don't have to be alone to be lonely
You might as well give in
You don't have to be sick to be dying
You might as well give in
You don't have to have lost to be lost
Oh, give in
"*Jean Claude! *Fran!" I yelled through the cold, morning air. I was yelling because my voice needed to travel through the haze from the still smoldering campfires and all the way through the slats in the small, wooden shanty to the seven occupants who resided inside. Without a door on the shack and with only blankets for windows, I didn't need to yell all that loudly for them to hear me. But my voice was the "doorbell" to make my presence known, and I wanted to ensure that I was heard. I didn't want any of my future visits to end up like my first, unannounced visit, when *Sam, Jean Claude's older brother, took me into the shack while the rest of the family were all still huddled in the same bed trying to keep warm.
The story of "The Prodigal Son" is a seemingly familiar story for most of us. However, as our men's group goes through this story again, guided by Tim Keller's book, "The Prodigal God," I am finding it more beautiful and convicting than ever before. In the first place, simply reading this story in Romanian has illuminated the passage. In our culture, the notion of "prodigal" has always (at least in my mind) meant "wayward." A prodigal is someone who has lost their way. However, in Romanian, the story is of the "wasteful" son. That makes sense, as the son wasted the love of his family and his full inheritance on that which was fleeting and meaningless.
This revised understanding of the meaning of "prodigal" opens up Keller's book title as well, as we understand that Keller wants to clue us in to the "wastefulness" of God. At first this notion perhaps comes across as blasphemous. But as Keller expounds on the story of the Prodigal Son, highlighting Christ's audience, Christ's character, and the overly generous love of the father, it becomes clear that God is "wasteful" in his love, at least in the eyes of the world. The Pharisees couldn't understand how Jesus wasted his love and attention on the sinners and tax collectors. Such a message is just as important for us today, as we likewise horde the love and forgiveness of God which we believe we have obtained through our merit, refusing to dispense any of it to those who we perceive to be less than us.
Our world is fed two narratives when it comes to democracies - either you vote and uphold patriotism, honor, duty, and morality, or you abstain from voting and refuse to participate in the world in any meaningful way. While I will acknowledge that many who abstain from voting likely do so because they are either lazy or uninformed, I believe there may often be a good rationale for Christians to abstain. I want to provide a few of the reasons which stand out most to me, and provide you with a few other resources to ponder if you decide to consider this option further.
Imagine that time travel has been discovered and you have the opportunity to travel anywhere in history you'd like. Being a Christian, there is nothing more you desire than to go back and be there for the most influential moment in the history of the universe, the trial and crucifixion of our savior Jesus Christ. As you enter history, you slip into the crowd standing before Pilate and hear the offer Pilate is making to free one prisoner to the crowd. Being a part of the crowd, you can choose to free Jesus, the innocent, Barabbas the murderer, or a thief. You know your Bible and understand that Jesus has no hope of being freed. The crowd wants his blood too badly. But maybe, just maybe you and those who traveled back with you could influence the result between the thief and Barabbas. Maybe you could have the thief freed instead of the murderer. While you might not be able to save Jesus, you may at least be able to lessen the injustice that occurs in this situation. So do you vote to free Jesus, the innocent man, though your vote will have no influence, and allow a murderer to walk free? Or do you vote to mitigate a greater evil by voting for the lesser evil which has a chance of winning, though it would mean failing to support justice for the innocent?
I am a product of America. I've been trained to be a good citizen of the American Kingdom. I've been supportive of upholding the Constitution and founding documents. I've been patriotic. I've taken on my responsibility to vote in every presidential election for which I've been eligible. But during the last election cycle I realized that while I had been well-trained and indoctrinated in kingdom ethics by my country and community, I hadn't been all that well trained in certain Kingdom ethics by my spiritual community, particularly as it pertained to politics. Growing up, I was always told who to vote for or what issues to vote for by my spiritual community, yet I was never taught to evaluate that decision making process. I was to be like a questioning Berean when it came to the scriptures, but not when it came to political parties and issues. This is probably because the moral answer was always so simple in the political sphere. The Republican party is the only party which has a chance of winning and which doesn't support the great moral evil of abortion. The Republican party obviously deserves my unquestioning vote. On top of that, the Republican party has become so tied to the Religious Right - a huge demographic - that they'll give my Christian community more power and influence. With the Republican party, conservative Christians have the greatest chance of making America godly, or at least the greatest chance of staving off the impending moral decay by holding back God's judgment on our nation through the legislating of morality. So I voted Republican for the first three elections of my life - quite literally without thinking twice.
A few weeks ago, our youth group played an interesting game called "Courageous or Stupid." The leader provided a number of scenarios and the kids had to discern whether the action was courageous, or stupid, as the name of the game implies. Give it a try.
- Walking into a fire
- Jumping into freezing water in the middle of winter
- Running across a busy highway
Is it wrong to take the lives of a couple million innocent people to save several billion innocent lives? Is it ever morally justified to take the life of one innocent person to save many lives? What about lying? Is it ever ok to lie in order to save lives? If you were hiding Jews in 1943 Nazi Germany, would it be moral to lie in order to save innocent lives? The question of morality isn't nearly as cut and dry as we often like to think. While most instances of right and wrong seem fairly apparent, there is a large field of gray that also seems to exist.
One of the most famous conundrum scenarios in ethics is called the Trolley Car thought experiment. Individuals are told a hypothetical situation in which a trolley car is headed towards imminent doom, off a broken track or something like that. There is a very large man standing nearby. You know that if you push the man in the way of the trolley car, he will die, but the car will be held up enough to come to a stop and save the many lives in the car. What is the moral choice? Does saving the lives of many legitimize the immorality of taking one innocent life? What if the fat man weren't innocent. What if you had him in police custody after catching him in the middle of committing a murder. Would it be ok to push a guilty man in front of the car to save lives?There are all sorts of iterations to this problem, some of which you can find here.
For a much expanded version of the case for nonviolence in podcast form, check out the Fourth Way Podcast.
1. Introduction: My journey to pacifism
2. Biblical Teaching: A foundation for pacifism using scripture
3. Biblical Examples: Examples of explicit non-violence in the face of aggression from the Bible and Apostles
4. Early Church Teaching: Quotes from the early church fathers about their beliefs on war, soldiering, vengeance, violence, punishment, etc
5. Real Life Examples: Examples of non-violence, its implementation, and effect
6. Pacifism Applied: Explores what the process and action of pacifism look like
7. Evaluating the Christian Alternative to Pacifism: A look at a Just War theory of morally using violence as a Christian and asking how it isn't even more idealistic than pacifism
8. Pacifism Quotes to Ponder: A reflection on non-violence and violence from those who journeyed through persecution
9. Counter-Rebuttals: Rebutting the greatest criticisms leveled at a pacifistic position
10. Questions for Just-War Adherents : Returning difficult questions to Just War adherents about their ideology
*13. Addendums - Additional arguments and ideas I'm putting here until I reformat the site or figure out where I can include them.
*14. My Poetry - Poetry I've written in trying to work through various issues of the Kingdom, including nonviolence.
*15. My Book - While the book isn't specifically about pacifism, it deals with the consequentialist (ends justify the means) morality which my culture taught me that prevented me from living as Christ desires, which includes a nonviolent life. I think this inculcated morality is what must be addressed before many can hear Christ's words. I'm happy to share this document for free as well, just contact me.
The full, original article (not updated with more recent editions) can be downloaded in PDF format below:
*The views and ideas on this site are in no way affiliated with any organization, business, or individuals we are a part of or work with. They're also not theological certainties. They're simply thinking out loud, on issues and difficulties as I process things.