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Monday Morning Humor

May 04, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Happy Star Wars Day.

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Imperfection and Initiative in the Christian Life

May 01, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Will Christians ever completely obey God in this life? Absolutely not. So then we shouldn’t work hard to grow in holiness or exhort others to do the same? Again, the answer is no. The admission of imperfection does not have to be the enemy of endeavor. We can keep trying even if we know we will never fully succeed.

Here’s how John Calvin puts it:

I do not insist that the moral life of a Christian man breathe nothing but the very gospel, yet this ought to be desired, and we must strive toward it. But I do not so strictly demand evangelical perfection that I would not acknowledge as a Christian one who has not yet attained it. For thus all would be excluded from the church, since no one is found who is not far removed from it, while many have advanced a little toward it whom it would nevertheless be unjust to cast away.

Makes sense. We are not going to be perfect. In fact, we are all light years away from the holiness of God. But Calvin’s not finished.

What then? Let that target be set before our eyes at which we are earnestly to aim. Let that goal be appointed toward which we should strive and struggle. For it is not lawful for you to divide things with God in such a manner that you undertake part of those things which are enjoined upon you by his Word but omit part, according to your own judgment. For in the first place, he everywhere commends integrity as the chief part of worshiping him [Gen. 17:1; Ps. 41:12; etc.]. By this word he means a sincere simplicity of mind, free from guile and feigning, the opposite of a double heart. It is as if it were said that the beginning of right living is spiritual, where the inner feeling of the mind is unfeignedly dedicated to God for the cultivation of holiness and righteousness.

So what’s the bottom line?

Let each one of us, then, proceed according to the measure of his puny capacity and set out upon the journey we have begun. No one shall set out so inauspiciously as not daily to make some headway, though it be slight. Therefore, let us not cease so to act that we may make some unceasing progress in the way of the Lord. And let us not despair at the slightness of our success; for even though attainment may not correspond to desire, when today outstrips yesterday the effort is not lost. Only let us look toward our mark with sincere simplicity and aspire to our goal; not fondly flattering ourselves, nor excusing our own evil deeds, but with continuous effort striving toward this end: that we may surpass ourselves in goodness until we attain to goodness itself. It is this, indeed, which through the whole course of life we seek and follow. But we shall attain it only when we have cast off the weakness of the body, and are received into full fellowship with him. (Institutes III.vii.5)

As is often the case, our forefathers knew a thing or two about good doctrine and sound practice. Calvin strikes the right balance between realism and effort, between trusting and trying, between accepting imperfection without excusing iniquity. We would do well to listen to the likes of Calvin as we seek to understand and apply a  wise, Reformed, and biblical approach to sanctification.

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Hymns We Should Sing More Often: Rejoice, the Lord Is King

Apr 29, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

This is part of an intermittent series I’ve called “Hymns We Should Sing More Often.” The aim is to remind us (or introduce for the first time) excellent hymns that are probably not included in most church’s musical canon. A few hymns–like Holy, Holy, Holy or Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing—are familiar to many congregations and get sung in conferences and other large gatherings. Unfortunately, for a growing number of churches, there are no hymnals in the pews (or on the chairs), and consequently there is little opportunity to draw from the deep well of Christian hymnody. Most of the hymns in this series are not unfamiliar, just underutilized. I hope you will enjoy learning about these hymns as much as I have and enjoy singing them even more.

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The two most important figures in eighteenth century hymnody were Isaac Watts (1674-1748) and the writer of this hymn, Charles Wesley (1707-1788). Charles, who with his older brother John (1703-1791) started the Methodist movement, wrote more 6500 hymns during his lifetime. We still sing many of Wesley’s hymns, including “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”, and “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.”

Charles Wesley wrote the text to “Rejoice, the Lord is King” (1744) for Easter and Ascension Sundays. Originally the hymn had six stanzas, five of which are included in the Trinity Hymnal. The text rejoices in the kingship of Christ who rules over all. The refrain–“Lift up your hearts, lift up your voice. Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!”–is a combination of two elements: the sursum corda (“Lift up your hearts”) which is a millennia old Latin prayer said before Communion and the joyful exclamation of Philippians 4:4 (“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.”).

The tune comes from John Darwall (1731-1789), an English vicar and an amateur musician. This tune, first published in 1770 as a setting for Psalm 148, is the only Darwall tune still in common use.

Rejoice, the Lord is king! Your Lord and king adore;
Mortals give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns, the God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains He took His seat above;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o’er earth and Heav’n,
The keys of death and hell are to our Jesus giv’n;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He sits at God’s right hand till all His foes submit,
And bow to His command, and fall beneath His feet:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope! Jesus the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up to their eternal home.
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

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Why Not Gay Marriage?

Apr 28, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in DeBoer v. Snyder, it’s worth asking the question: Is there any reason a decent, rational, non-bigoted American might oppose same-sex marriage? Just as important: Are there any decent, rational, non-bigoted Americans who are willing to consider why other Americans might have plausible reasons for opposing same-sex marriage? This blog post is my way of saying “yes” to the first question and “let’s hope so” to the second.

I’m a pastor, and my main concern is with the church—what she believes, what she celebrates, and what she proclaims. I don’t expect the world to be the church (and I pray that the church does not become the world). And yet, no one who lives in the world (that’s all of us) and no one who cares about the wellbeing of those in the world (that too should cover almost all of us) can be indifferent about marriage. With everything that may divide us, proponents on both sides of this debate can at least recognize that something truly significant is at stake in this debate.

I’m concerned that many younger Christians—ironically, often those passionate about societal transformation and social justice—do not see the connection between a traditional view of marriage and human flourishing. Many Christians are keen to resurrect the old pro-choice mantra touted by some Catholic politicians: personally opposed, but publicly none of my business. I want Christians (who are, after all, the main readers of this blog) to see why this issue matters and why—if and when same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land—the integrity of the family will be weakened and the freedom of the church will be threatened.

I know this is an increasingly unpopular line of reasoning, even for those who are inclined to accept the Bible’s teaching about marriage. Perhaps you agree with the traditional exegetical conclusions and believe that homosexual behavior is biblically unacceptable. And yet, you wonder what’s wrong with supporting same-sex marriage as a legal and political right. After all, we don’t have laws against gossip or adultery or the worship of false gods. Even if I don’t agree with it, shouldn’t those who identify as gay and lesbian still have the same freedom I have to get married?

That’s a good question, but before we try to answer it we need to be sure we are talking about the same thing. Let’s think about what is not at stake in the debate over gay marriage.

  • The state is not threatening to criminalize homosexual behavior. Since the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), same-sex intimacy has been legal in all fifty states.
  • The state is not going to prohibit gays and lesbians from committing themselves to each other in public ceremonies or religious celebrations.
  • The state is not going to legislate whether two adults can live together, profess love for one another, or express their commitment in erotic ways.

The issue is not about controlling “what people can do in their bedrooms” or “who they can love.” The issue is about what sort of union the state will recognize as marriage. Any legal system which distinguishes marriage from other kinds of relationships and associations will inevitably exclude many kinds of unions in its definition. The state denies marriage licenses to sexual threesomes. It denies marriage licenses to eight year-olds. There are almost an infinite number of friendship and kinship combinations which the state does not recognize as marriage. The state doesn’t tell us who we can be friends with or who we can live with. You can have one friend or three friends or a hundred. You can live with your sister, your mother, your grandfather, your dog, or three buddies from work. But these relationships—no matter how special—have not been given the designation “marriage” by the church or by the state. The state’s refusal to recognize these relationships as marital relationships does not keep us from pursuing them, enjoying them, or counting them as significant.

Marriage: What’s the Big Deal?

In the traditional view, marriage is the union of a man and a woman. That’s what marriage is, before the state confers any benefits on it. Marriage, in the traditional view, is a pre-political institution. The state doesn’t determine what defines marriage; it only recognizes marriage and privileges it in certain ways. It is a sad irony that those who support gay marriage on libertarian grounds are actually ceding to the state a vast amount of heretofore unknown power. No longer is marriage treated as a pre-political entity which exists independent of the state. Now the state defines marriage and authorizes its existence. Does the state have the right, let alone the competency, to construct and define our most essential relationships?

We must consider why the state has bothered to recognize marriage in the first place. What’s the big deal about marriage? Why not let people have whatever relationships they choose and call them whatever they want? Why go to the trouble of sanctioning a specific relationship and giving it a unique legal standing? The reason is that the state has an interest in promoting the familial arrangement whereby a mother and a father raise the children which came from their union. The state has been in the marriage business for the common good and for the well-being of the society it is supposed to protect. Kids do better with a mom and a dad. Communities do better when husbands and wives stay together. Hundreds of studies confirm both of these statements (though we all can think of individual exceptions, I’m sure). Gay marriage assumes that marriage is re-definable and the moving parts replaceable.

By recognizing gay unions as marriage, just like the husband-wife relationship we’ve always called marriage, the state is engaging in (or at least codifying) a massive re-engineering of our social life. It assumes the indistinguishability of gender in parenting, the relative unimportance of procreation in marriage, and the near infinite flexibility as to what sorts of structures and habits lead to human flourishing.

But What about Equal Rights?

How can I say another human being doesn’t have the same right I have to get married? That hardly seems fair. It’s true: the right to marry is fundamental. But to equate the previous sentence with a right to same-sex marriage begs the question. It assumes that same-sex partnerships actually constitute a marriage. Having the right to marry is not the same as having a right to the state’s validation that each and every sexual relationship is marriage. The issue is not whether to expand the number of persons eligible to participate in marriage, but whether the state will publically declare, privilege, and codify a different way of defining marriage altogether. Or to use a different example, the pacifist has a right to join the army, but he does not have the right to insist that the army create a non-violent branch of the military for him to join.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex partnerships publicly validates these relationships as bona fide marriage. That’s why the state sanction is so critical to gay marriage proponents and so disconcerting to those with traditional views. The establishment of gay “marriage” enshrines in law a faulty view of marriage, one that says marriage is essentially a demonstration of commitment sexually expressed. In the traditional view, marriage was ordered to the child, which is why the state had a vested interest in regulating and supporting it. Under the new morality, marriage is oriented to the emotional bond of the couple. The slogan may say “keep the government out of my bedroom,” as if personal choice and privacy were the salient issues, but same-sex marriage advocates are not asking for something private. They want public recognition. I don’t doubt that for most gay couples the longing for marriage is sincere, heartfelt, and without a desire to harm anyone else’s marriage. And yet, same-sex unions cannot be accepted as marriage without devaluing all marriages, because the only way to embrace same-sex partnerships as marriage is by changing what marriage means altogether.

Enough Is Enough?

So why not call a truce on the culture war and let the world define marriage its way and the church define marriage its way? You may think to yourself: maybe if Christians were more tolerant of other definitions of marriage we wouldn’t be in this mess. The problem is that the push for the acceptance of same-sex marriage has been predicated upon the supposed bigotry of those who hold a traditional view. The equal signs on cars and all over social media are making a moral argument: those who oppose same-sex marriage are unfair, uncivil, unsocial, undemocratic, un-American, and possibly even inhumane. If Christians lose the cultural debate on homosexuality, we will lose much more than we think. David S. Crawford is right:

The tolerance that really is proffered is provisional and contingent, tailored to accommodate what is conceived as a significant but shrinking segment of society that holds a publically unacceptable private bigotry. Where over time it emerges that this bigotry has not in fact disappeared, more aggressive measures will be needed, which will include explicit legal and educational components, as well as simple ostracism.

We must not be naïve. The legitimization of same-sex marriage will mean the de-legitimization of those who dare to disagree. The sexual revolution has been no great respecter of civil and religious liberties. Sadly, we may discover that there is nothing quite so intolerant as tolerance.

Does this mean the church should expect doom and gloom? That depends. For conservative Christians the ascendancy of same-sex marriage will likely mean marginalization, name calling, or worse. But that’s to be expected. Jesus promises no better than he himself received (John 15:18-25). The church is sometimes the most vibrant, the most articulate, and the most holy when the world presses down on her the hardest.

But not always—sometimes when the world wants to press us into its mold we jump right in and get comfy. I care about the decisions of the Supreme Court and the laws our politicians put in place. But what’s much more important to me—because I believe it’s more crucial to the spread of the gospel, the growth of the church, and the honor of Christ—is what happens in our local congregations, our mission agencies, our denominations, our parachurch organizations, and in our educational institutions. I fear that Christians are losing the stomach for principled disagreement and the critical mind for careful reasoning. Look past the talking points. Read up on the issues. Don’t buy every slogan and don’t own every insult. The challenge before the church is to convince ourselves as much as anyone that believing the Bible does not make us bigots, just as reflecting the times does not make us relevant.

This blog has been adapted from Appendix 1 in What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

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Monday Morning Humor

Apr 27, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

An oldie but a goodie.

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Three Cheers for Bill and Hillary Clinton

Apr 24, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

What is marriage? Back in 2004, Senator Hillary Clinton gave a pretty good definition. To be fair, the larger context was her speaking against the idea of a federal marriage amendment, but in the course of her speech she resolutely defended the notion that marriage is between a man and a woman.

I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage, to believe in the hard work and challenge of marriage. So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they become adults.

She later sounded quite conservative in warning about the consequences of what we might call non-traditional family situations.

We could stand on this floor for hours talking about the importance of marriage, the significance of the role of marriage in not only bringing children into the world but enabling them to be successful citizens in the world. How many of us have struggled for years to deal with the consequences of illegitimacy, of out-of-wedlock births, of divorce, of the kinds of anomie and disassociation that too many children experienced because of that.

Mrs. Clinton even defended the rights of the states to define marriage as they see fit.

The States, which have always defined and enforced the laws of marriage, are taking action. Thirty-eight States–maybe it is up to 40 now–already have laws banning same-sex marriage. Voters in at least eight States are considering amendments to their constitutions reserving marriage to unions between a man and a woman. But the sponsors argue that we have to act with a Federal constitutional amendment because the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution will eventually force States, if there are any left, that do not wish to recognize same-sex marriages to do so. That is not the way I read the case law. With all due respect, the way I read the case law is that the full faith and credit clause has never been interpreted to mean that every State must recognize every marriage performed in every other State.

Several years earlier, President Bill Clinton waxed eloquent about the significance of liberty of conscience as he he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties, religious freedom. Usually the signing of legislation by a President is a ministerial act, often a quiet ending to a turbulent legislative process. Today this event assumes a more majestic quality because of our ability together to affirm the historic role that people of faith have played in the history of this country and the constitutional protections those who profess and express their faith have always demanded and cherished.

As Clinton explained, he was eager to sign the legislation so that the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith might be reversed and a better standard established for protecting the free exercise of religion.

The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom, that which originally sparked the development of the full range of the Bill of Rights. Our Founders cared a lot about religion. And one of the reasons they worked so hard to get the first amendment into the Bill of Rights at the head of the class is that they well understood what could happen to this country, how both religion and Government could be perverted if there were not some space created and some protection provided. They knew that religion helps to give our people the character without which a democracy cannot survive. They knew that there needed to be a space of freedom between Government and people of faith that otherwise Government might usurp…

What this law basically says is that the Government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion. This judgment is shared by the people of the United States as well as by the Congress. We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.

Clinton argued that there was an unhealthy “climate in this country” in which people were embarrassed to admit their actions were motivated “by their faith” and by “what they discern to be. . . . the will of God.”  After observing that “the most central institution of our society, the family, has been under assault for 30 years” the President implored his audience that it was “high time we had an open and honest reaffirmation of the role of American citizens of faith.” Religion, as he saw it, belonged in the public square and the free exercise of religion deserved the strongest protections under the law.

We are a people of faith. We have been so secure in that faith that we have enshrined in our Constitution protection for people who profess no faith. And good for us for doing so. That is what the first amendment is all about. But let us never believe that the freedom of religion imposes on any of us some responsibility to run from our convictions. Let us instead respect one another’s faiths, fight to the death to preserve the right of every American to practice whatever convictions he or she has, but bring our values back to the table of American discourse to heal our troubled land.

So to summarize from the speeches made by Senator Clinton and President Clinton:

  • Marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.
  • Marriage is a foundational institution because it exists for the raising of children.
  • The presence of illegitimacy, out-of-wedlock births, and divorce negatively affect our children.
  • The states have a right to define marriage as they see fit and recognize marriage according to their definition.
  • The Government should be held to a very high level of proof before interfering with someone’s free exercise of religion.
  • We can never be too diligent in protecting religious liberty.
  • Religious believers not be ashamed to admit that their actions may be motivated by faith and by their understanding of God’s will.
  • We need more religion in the public square, not less.
  • We should respect other people’s faith (or lack thereof), but without running from our own convictions.
  • We should fight to the death to preserve the right of every American to practice his or her convictions.

Three cheers for the Clintons–of 1993 and 2004! Are there any Democrats or Republicans or college presidents or members of the mainstream media who would dare to say the same things today? It is sobering to think that the wisdom of two millennia (which Hillary Clinton affirmed) and the Constitutional protections of two centuries (in which Bill Clinton exulted) can be cast aside as backward and bigoted just two decades later. The insanity of our time is to think that everyone else was crazy before Our Time. Maybe we have something to learn from history. Maybe there are things to learn from the past. Or maybe we are smarter and nobler than all those who have come before, including, as a prime example, the less enlightened version of our former selves.

 

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Hymns We Should Sing More Often: Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul

Apr 22, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

This is part of an intermittent series I’ve called “Hymns We Should Sing More Often.” The aim is to remind us (or introduce for the first time) excellent hymns that are probably not included in most church’s musical canon. A few hymns–like Holy, Holy, Holy or Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing—are familiar to many congregations and get sung in conferences and other large gatherings. Unfortunately, for a growing number of churches, there are no hymnals in the pews (or on the chairs), and consequently there is little opportunity to draw from the deep well of Christian hymnody. Most of the hymns in this series are not unfamiliar, just underutilized. I hope you will enjoy learning about these hymns as much as I have and enjoy singing them even more.

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The book of Psalms has always been at the heart of Christian worship. From temple worship in the Old Testament and the over 200 psalm citations or allusions in the New Testament, through the early church, monastic orders, and Reformation psalters, all the way to contemporary psalm settings, Christians have always sung the psalms. Terry L. Johnson says, “There is a wholeness to the psalms as designed by their divine author that addresses the whole of human life. There is a realism as well, teaching the positive and negative sides of spiritual experience: the light and the dark, the delightful and the degrading, the victorious and the defeating, the hopeful and the discouraging.”

Psalm 146, from which this hymn, Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul, is taken, highlights the delightful and hopeful side of spiritual experience: God is to be praised because he is utterly trustworthy, faithful, powerful, compassionate, and just. The psalm begins and ends with “Hallelu Yah!” “Praise Jehovah!” The main body of the psalm encourages us to fully trust the Lord as almighty Creator, deliverer of the oppressed, provider for the needy, and protector of the weak. We have been teaching our kids this Psalm in family worship over the course of the last couple months.

The versification of this psalm is slightly modified from the 1912 Psalter. The tune–a strong, stirring, singable melody– is the majestic RIPLEY, composed by Lowell Mason in 1839.

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah, O my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises of my God through all my days.
Put no confidence in princes, nor for help on man depend;
he shall die, to dust returning, and his purposes shall end.

Happy is the man that chooses Israel’s God to be his aid;
he is blesses whose hope of blessing on the Lord his God is stayed.
Heav’n and earth the Lord created, seas and all that they contain;
he delivers from oppression, righteousness he will maintain.

Food he daily gives the hungry, sets the mourning pris’ner free,
raises those bowed down with anguish, makes the sightless eye to see.
Well Jehovah loves the righteous, and the stranger he befriends,
helps the fatherless and widow, judgment on the wicked sends.

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah, O set my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises of my God through all my days.
Over all God reigns forever, through all ages he is King;
unto him, your God, O Zion, joyful hallelujahs sing.

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The God of Justice Hates False Reports

Apr 21, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

This post is not about any one thing in particular. And at the same time, it is about a great many things that take place on the internet. Here’s the Bible passage I want us to reflect on for a few minutes:

“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit” (Exodus 23:1-3).

I see at least four prohibitions in these verses.

1. Do not spread false reports. Obviously, this means we should not lie about other people or tell tales we know to be untrue. But it also means we should be careful not to spread false reports even if we honestly thought they were true. It is terrible thing to ruin someone’s reputation. Doing so by an honest mistake may make us feel better about ourselves, but it does nothing to help the rest of the world feel better about the person they now despise. Unintentional sins are still sins. Of course, we all make mistakes. We may later find out that the report we spread was not the truth we thought it to be. But in those unfortunate cases, will we make the announcement that we aired as widespread as the initial dissemination of the error? Take twenty minutes some evening and watch the ESPN Film Judging Jewel. It will make you think twice before you jump to conclusions and pass along reports you really know nothing about.

2. Do not be a malicious witness. Even if your think the person you are attacking is a right awful nasty oaf, the ends do not justify the means. There are a great number of indignant truth-tellers–and just as many weeping prophets for the weak and wounded–who would do well to consider whether their real passion is to spite, to malign, to seek vengeance, to devour and destroy more than it is to seek the things that make for unity, purity, and peace. How many “champions of the truth” and “champions for the marginalized” have won their lofty titles by take-downs more than uplift?

3. Do not assume the majority is always right. God warns us against siding with the many just because they are many. What do you do when everyone knows that the athlete is on performance enhancing drugs, the politician is a crook, the pastor is a bully, the celebrity is an addict, the friend is a fake, and the business owner is a bigot? Well, if you don’t actually know the details, then the best course of action is probably to keep your mouth shut. Go watch Pride and Prejudice (the really long version your wife wants you to see) and think about the character Mr. Darcy. People are not always what they seem–often for the worse, but sometimes for the better. It’s easy to assume the worst about those on the “other side.” We instinctively just know that Hillary is a loser or Ted Cruz is a jerk. We are sure that the negative information we just saw tweeted about the cop must be true, because we know better than to trust cops. We don’t hesitate to pass along the latest scoop about the shooting victim’s past, because we’ve already sized up those kind of people. Too many of us have sides drawn up nice and neat. We have a mental list of bad guys and good guys. We read the events of the day with a powerful narrative already in place. But the majority is not always right, least of all the majority of “what everyone knows” according to the maze of our minds.

4. Do not assume the little guy is always right. God also warns us against siding with the poor just because they’re poor. Your version of cosmic justice is no excuse for perpetuating a local injustice. This is where the Age of Internet Outrage makes things unbelievably difficult. Here’s the scene that plays itself out over and over: It is alleged that Powerful Person/Organization/Institution A has done something terrible to Oppressed Person/Organization/Institution B. The charges sound really bad. If true, they demand cries of anger and recrimination. But what if it is not yet clear that the alleged crimes or offenses took place? What if there is another side to the story that has not been heard? What if–as in the case of the charges against UVA–the real story is no real story at all? Doesn’t wisdom dictate caution and patience? But of course, caution and patience in such situations are often pilloried as siding with the powerful or adding to the victim’s pain. And thus we are forced to decry alleged criminals lest we be deemed guilty of supporting the crimes themselves. To be sure, the preferential treatment of the powerful is despicable. But that does not make the preferential treatment of the poor any less dishonorable.

Please, please, please, let us be more careful with our words. Let our blogs be based on knowledge and our tweets be founded on facts. Let us be among the last to speak our minds if we are not one of the first to know the truth. Let us not confuse a social media scroll with actual research. Hearing a report is not the same as the right to speak.

Every blogger, every tweeter, every Christian in this digital age would do well to pray through the Heidelberg Catechism’s explanation of the ninth commandment:

God’s will is that I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone without a hearing or without a just cause. Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are devices the devil himself uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense anger. I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it. And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name. (Q/A 112)

Sounds right to me. Sounds a lot like the Law of Moses in Exodus 23. Sounds like Jesus too. Lord help us show the world a better way.

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Monday Morning Humor

Apr 20, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Matthew McConaughey watches the new Star Wars trailer. Priceless.

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Don’t Be Scared off From Reading the Puritans

Apr 17, 2015 | Jason Helopoulos

Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

Many are scared off from reading the Puritans thinking they are too difficult to read. Others hear the echoes of an overzealous and inaccurate college professor’s lectures on the Puritans or Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter warning them away. I want to encourage you to read the Puritans. Banner of Truth has done a great service through its Puritan Paperbacks series making their works accessible and readable. These works are not too difficult to read, except for the effect they have upon the soul. The lectures of your college professor and Hawthorne’s portrayal are inaccurate, they rob the Puritans of their heart.

I have been leading my small group through one of these works, The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. It is a Christian classic for a reason. If you haven’t read it, buy a copy and reward your soul. Sibbes, a Puritan of the late 16th and early 17th century, teases out the prophecy in Isaiah 42:1-3 regarding Christ, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment into truth.”

Let me give you a few selected quotes from Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed and see if you can prevent your heart from being moved and your soul from being gripped?

  • What a support to our faith is this, that God the Father, the party offended by our sins, is so well pleased with the work of redemption! And what a comfort is this, that, seeing God’s love rests on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well pleased with us, if we be in Christ!
  • He is a physician good at all diseases, especially at the binding up of a broken heart.
  • The lion of the tribe of Judah will only tear in pieces those ‘that will not have him rule over them’ (Luke 19:14). He will not show his strength against those who prostrate themselves before him.
  • Christ’s way is first to wound, then to heal. No sound, whole soul shall ever into heaven.
  • …there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us…It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things.
  • …let all know that none are fitter for comfort than those that think themselves furthest off. Men, for the most part, are not lost enough in their own feeling for a Savior. A holy despair in ourselves is the ground of true hope.
  • Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto.
  • Grace, though little in quantity, is much in vigor and worth.
  • Nothing in the world is of so good use as the least grain of grace.
  • It would be a good contest amongst Christians, one to labor to give no offence, and the other to labor to take none. The best men are sever to themselves, tender over others.
  • Truth fears nothing so much as concealment, and desires nothing so much as clearly to be laid open to the view of all. When it is most unadorned, it is most lovely and powerful.
  • We must not judge ourselves always according to feeling…Life in the winter is hid in the root.
  • Without Christ’s Spirit the soul is in confusion, without beauty and form, as all things were in the chaos before the creation. The whole soul is out of joint till it be set right again by him whose office is to ‘restore all things.’
  • Grace conquers us first, and we, by it, conquer all else; whether corruptions within us, or temptations from outside us.

Read the Puritans. They aren’t quite as hard to read as they have been portrayed and they aren’t quite as scary either. In fact, they are good for the mind, the heart, and the soul.

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