I have been told that the Bible endorses slavery and that it allows a master to beat a slave nearly to death. This statement did not come from someone who actually reads the Bible beyond a verse out of context from time to time. So I wanted to take a look.
I started with the Christian Scriptures (the teachings of Jesus and letters of the Apostles). There are at least five passages that came to light.
1 Corinthians 7:20-24
1 Peter 2:18-21
These passages are directed toward anyone that is already a slave (doulos)[a]δου̂λος when they began to follow Christ. There is no passage that suggests a Christian should own a slave.
These Bible passages do indicate that a slave should be sincerely submissive to their master (kurios)[b]κύριος working as unto the Lord, whether a master is gentle or unreasonable [c]σκολιός – skolios.
It is important to note that slaves are encouraged to obtain their freedom if possible. Furthermore, the Scriptures instruct followers of Christ to live as slaves to Christ only and not to become a slave to men. This reveals that Paul and Peter were writing about those that enter servitude voluntarily.
Sometimes a noun can have a broad spectrum of meaning or interpretation. If you send me to the garage to bring you a “tool,” I will look to see if you are driving a nail or removing a bolt, since “tool” can mean hammer or screwdriver or wrench and so on.
Most Christians are familiar with the Greek word doulos[d]δου̂λος that can indicate many things on the spectrum including slavery, servanthood, debtor and so on.
It is unfair to read the New Testament only through the lens of the American Civil War and our struggle to abolish slavery and emancipate slaves. Paul was writing about First Century citizens who owed a debt and were voluntarily committed to repay that debt as a doulos/servant/slave.
Since I accept the Christian Scriptures as the most important commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, I reject the proposition that the Bible teaches the acceptance of slavery as it was practiced by Americans. When someone makes the blanket statement that the Bible endorses slavery and allows slaves to be beaten nearly to death by their masters, I must conclude that the statement is made from an uninformed position.
I plan to address statements on slavery from the Hebrew Scriptures in another article.
“If jealousy is a deadly sin, isn’t God sinful, since He is a jealous God?”
Premise One: God is a Jealous God.
Nahum 1: 2 tells us, “A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; the LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies.” [a]Scripture quotations are from The New American Standard Bible: 1995 (The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA)
This is verified in Exodus 20:5. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me…”
Premise One is verified. God is a jealous God.
Premise: Jealousy is a deadly sin.
What are the seven “deadly sins?” They are also listed as the capital or cardinal sins. They are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.
Some confusion enters our argument as envy is considered as a synonym for jealousy. A valid argument must have clearly defined terms.
In the New Testament, jealousy and envy come from very different words.[b]jealousy is ζη̂λος and envy is φθόνος Jealousy is similar to zealous. Envy is “the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others”[c]W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 204. In this argument, jealousy is not interchangeable with envy. Even mere humans can be jealous without sin, as in the practice of loyalty between one husband and one wife in marriage.
A holy God can display a holy zeal without sin, so the argument fails.[d]“…unfaithfulness would result in judgment since the LORD … is a jealous God (cf. 4:24; 5:9; 32:16, 21). This means He is zealous to protect what belongs to Him alone. Jealousy in this … Continue reading
Divine jealousy should also be defined as a zealous intolerance of God’s enemies. There is only one true God. To demand that He must tolerate other gods is nonsense. When sin desires to rule our lives, God tells us that He alone serves as Lord and King and Master. Those who say that God’s jealousy is sinful are simply saying that His intolerance of sin is sinful. That is plainly an absurd and self-contradictory statement. The argument fails again.
Premise Two fails. Envy, not jealousy, is one of the cardinal sins.
There is also some further vagueness in the argument, in that Premise One is based upon Old Testament scripture and Premise Two is based upon New Testament scripture. In order to clarify the conclusion, we will concede that the eternal unchanging God is just as zealous in the New as He is in the Old. We do not have a contradiction of two different gods: a vengeful God of the Hebrews bible versus the loving God of the Christian bible.
Secret Hidden Premises Fail
However, we need to notice something about those Old Testament passages. In order to create a contradiction, it was necessary to limit the context of both passages in Nahum 1 and Exodus 20.
Look at the fuller reading of Nahum 1.
2 A jealous and avenging God is the LORD;
The LORD is avenging and wrathful.
The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries,
And He reserves wrath for His enemies.
3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.
Then look at the fuller reading of Exodus 20.
5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,
6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Now we need to understand the reason for leaving out “slow to anger” and “showing lovingkindness to thousands” in these scriptures. They were left out because the argument presumes that God is not good. The argument against God’s goodness is based upon Scripture that indicates that God is good and patient and loving and kind!
If God is independently good, as so many people say that He is, then there is another false statement secretly hidden in the assumed presumption. The person making the argument may feel that God is evil, but this argument does nothing to prove this unspoken belief. It is a matter of faith. The argument fails again because of a presumption that is not proven by the argument.
Faith in a bad god is very different than proving the nonexistence of all gods.
If God is omnipotent, He has the power to destroy His enemies.
If God is good, He will demonstrate absolute justice in distribution of His wrath. No innocent party will ever be harmed as a result of God’s wrath.
The conclusion is simple. Do not be the enemy of God.
Because of His great love, God offers forgiveness and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. God is so good that He offers reconciliation even to His enemies. You cannot deny the goodness of God. Don’t refuse the love of God.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.[e]New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 2 Co 5:17–21.
“…unfaithfulness would result in judgment since the LORD … is a jealous God (cf. 4:24; 5:9; 32:16, 21). This means He is zealous to protect what belongs to Him alone. Jealousy in this sense is ethically right. Jealousy in the sense of envy for another’s possessions or privileges is, of course, wrong. [Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 275.]
One of my neighbors recently posted her advice for everyone to live without religion.
Here is what she posted:
“Religions are myths. Love yourself and be kind. My inspiring thought for today is that we only can judge ourselves. There were no brutal blood sacrifices needed to make you whole. You’re a whole person just as you are. Live in that freeing truth. You are not the chief of sinners, but youve (sic) made mistakes, easily corrected. Live lawfully, kindly, and lovingly. You don’t need a book to tell you right from wrong. You are good. You are worthy. Live in the light of secular peace.”
Let’s find some common ground.
Her statement must be understood in Christian terms.
Kindness is encouraged by the Christian Scriptures and the Christian God (the One that was brutalized and sacrificed his blood).
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another [a]Colossians 3:12
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [b]Galatians 5:22-23
Judging yourself is a Christian principle.
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup… But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.[c]1 Corinthians 11:28,31
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. [d]Romans 2:1
Ineffectual blood sacrifices are rejected by God.
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. [e]Isaiah 1:11
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me. [f]Jeremiah 6:20
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; [g]Amos 5:22
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. [h]Psalm 51:16,17
Truth as a source of freedom is a beloved citation from the words of Jesus.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” [i]John 8:31-32
Living lawfully is a Christian principle.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.[j]1 Peter 4:15,16
The Bible clearly states that we all have made mistakes.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,[k]Romans 3:23
God does tell us to live in the light.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [l]John 8:12
…I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. [m]Acts 26:17-18
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. [n]Philippians 2:14-16
At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. [o]1st John 2:8-11
Finally, Scripture teaches that religion is myth.
“THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ ” [p]Matthew 15:8-9
O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. [q]1 Timothy 6:20-21
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. [r]2 Corinthians 11:13-15
All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. [s]John 10:8-10
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [t]John 14:6
Only Jesus saves.
No religion can save us. Church membership cannot save us. Only the person Jesus can save us. So let’s not focus on making up more human rules and philosophies and imposing them on others.
Words must have meanings.
Without the words of Jesus and the Scriptures, I would have no reference point from which to understand the all-religion-is-myth (ARM) statement. She uses Christian language such as “chief of sinners” and other phrases.
In an atheism-based universe, everything is amoral matter. Loving and hating would be morally equal values to a bunch of molecules.
The ARM statement absolutely endorses everyone doing what they feel is right. The definitions of good, kind, and lawful are all subject to human judgment or conscience and societal norms.
Imagine a society where everyone has always done whatever each independent person feels is right. History has recorded some of the atrocities performed when self-guided atheistic leaders were in authority. Even Christianity has a tarnished record because of what happens when the Church follows human will.
Imagine the history of the world if Judeo-Christian cultures never existed and pagan or atheistic cultures had prevailed and if societal norms had not been shaped by any of the followers of Jesus. Thank God for Christian stuff like rule of law, education, medicine, liberty and human rights.
Can I be a Christian without Christ?
The ARM statement wants all the fundamental behaviors of Christianity (love, peace, kindness, lawfulness, justice, selflessness, et cetera) without Christ. This is a backwards compliment to Christians, a nod that we are following the right way when we follow the principles of Scripture. It’s like saying, “We want to be like you, but we don’t want your bloody Jesus.”
The ARM statement unfortunately overlooks the facts, stuff like history and geography. Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth are all real places that still exist for examination. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are well-documented by eye-witnesses in an abundance of manuscripts in existence today. Anyone can say that Jesus was a mythological character, but they do so against the facts and evidence. They call him a myth as an act of faith and emotion, not as a result of unbiased investigation.
It’s a trap!
The author of the original ARM statement was shocked by the reaction of Christians. They didn’t like what she wrote. They let her know that they didn’t like it.
One of the Christians went too far and threatened to pray for her, so our atheist writer responded, “I don’t understand why I’m being persecuted for my lack of faith this way. 1st Amendment!” (Because, as we all know, the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America [u]FIRST AMENDMENT: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the … Continue reading is the one that protects your right to express disapproval toward religion and prevents rebuttal from the target of your criticism. )
The writer intentionally posted on the hot topic of religion in order for religious readers to respond. She knew before she posted that people would disagree with her with strong emotions.
The writer intentionally used words that oppose the Christian God, “Brutal blood sacrifices” is a verbal assault against the Gospel and the Atonement.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [v]Romans 5:8
The writer placed the bait for Christians. She hoped they would be unkind so that she could justify her attack on their God. What religion tolerates this type of hateful defamation of their God? Well, Christianity does, because our God said, “Love your enemies.” So she was safe from house-burning or tar-and-feathering because she singled out the precious blood of Jesus.
My conclusion is that Christians should respond as Jesus said to respond.
Don’t take the bait and get caught in the trap. Any rebuttal, even an offer to love and pray for someone, will be interpreted as unkind, actually as un-Christlike.
You can’t win this argument with an argument. I don’t know anyone that was angrily squabbled into the Kingdom of God. The best witness is always kind, patient, peaceful, gentle, faithful, selfless, and loving.
I remember that God loves me. And if God can be gracious toward me, He also loves this angry atheist. We need to behave toward this person as she is a person loved by God.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” [w]Matthew 5:43-45
FIRST AMENDMENT: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Bishop Kenneth Edward Untener penned a homily for John Cardinal Dearden, Archbishop of Detroit, to deliver on the occasion of the Mass for Deceased Priests, October 25, 1979. This poetic reflection, “We are Prophets of a Future Not Our Own,” was taken from Untener’s text of Cardinal Dearden’s message.
As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero,[a]On 24 March 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero delivered a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s … Continue reading
On 24 March 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero delivered a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. Later, that evening, Romero celebrated Mass at a small chapel at Hospital de la Divina Providencia (Divine Providence Hospital), a church-run hospital specializing in oncology and care for the terminally ill. Romero finished his sermon, stepped away from the lectern, and took a few steps to stand at the center of the altar. A gunman emerged from a red automobile that had stopped in front of the chapel and fired at the bishop. Romero was struck in the heart, and the vehicle sped off.
Was the Leviticus meme written by someone completely ignorant about the Bible? …or was this anti-Christian meme written by someone who deliberately wanted to change the real meaning of the Scripture?
Here is an example of the Leviticus meme:
Leviticus 21 contains no reference to God’s hatred of anyone.
Leviticus 21 does not refer to the Church.
Leviticus 21 does not forbid persons with handicaps from attending or ministering in Church.
Leviticus 21 does not apply to everyone. It applies only to a few specific members of the family of Levi. The name of Levi is in our name for the book: Leviticus.
Leviticus 21 applies only to priests with specific duties connected to the holy sanctuary of the Tabernacle or Temple.
Leviticus 21 does not forbid Levitical priests from serving the Lord in every other way. It only limits the function of those who would serve the holy Temple.
Leviticus 21 does not place any moral or spiritual judgment upon those Levitical priests with blemishes or handicaps. This was a case of ritual or ceremonial imperfection. It does not indicate that physical blemishes or handicaps are sinful.
This meme deliberately uses an archaic English translation of Leviticus 21 so that the language seems offensive to modern readers.
God never intended that the requirements of Leviticus would be applied to the Church. Those who expect Christians to obey the requirements of the Law are not living in God’s grace.
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.,, I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:15,16,21
“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:4
Jesus Christ fulfilled all the requirements of the Levitical priesthood to minister in the true heavenly Temple. He became the Great High Priest.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Hebrews 4:14
“If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.” Hebrews 7:11,12
The perfection of Jesus Christ makes every believer a priest, eliminating the need for the Levitical priesthood altogether. This priesthood of believers places value upon everyone regardless of physical blemish or handicap.
“Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’” Luke 14:12-14
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Stop listening to false narratives about God’s Word. Seek the Truth.
Jargon is a specialized vocabulary that is distinctive to a specific group.
Jargon creates an impressive image.
If you want to sound like an expert, use the distinctive vocabulary that is specific to that field of knowledge. Knowledge of the correct use of jargon can make you seem like an authority in a given field, regardless of whether or not you have any actual in-depth knowledge of that field.
Jargon provides a tool to create a stronger internal identity.[a]Jargon can function as branding. And sometimes branding becomes jargon, as in Kleenex and Coke.
Each of your social groups creates their own vernacular or vocabulary. Within one group, jargon aids in communicating longer ideas in shorter buzzwords. Outside that group, jargon negatively affects effective communication.
Jargon, like any new language, can be difficult to grasp.
Jargon tends to exclude those who don’t get it.
An increased level of jargon results in increased isolation of a group. The use of elitist language that only privileged insiders can understand creates an exclusionary environment that is hostile towards outsiders. Inside jokes are deliberately pretentious and purposefully exclude others from understanding. Jargon may be utilized in order to make others feel uninformed, out-of-touch, ignorant.
Jargon can create distrust.
Listeners may feel that you are hiding something from them when you choose to not speak plainly in concrete terms. Jargon is a verbal disguise. Jargon is a language of concealment because it prevents disclosure of a clear definition. It is natural to distrust a person who avoids providing a clear definition of their terms.
Your church should be careful when speaking jargon.
Recognize words that are jargon, how much of your communication is jargon, and how jargon affects people that are not part of your inner circle.
Use a limited amount of jargon to strengthen internal bonds of identification within your congregation. If your church has too much jargon, trim it. Use easily identifiable phrases rather than witty fad names to brand everything.
Provide clear definitions of jargon. Post definitions where they can be accessed by people that need them. Remember that abbreviations and acronyms are jargon.
Communicate intentionally and clearly at all times. If jargon is hindering good communication, quit using it. Don’t alienate people that you don’t intend to alienate.
Ephesians 4:29 asks us to speak words that build up others, giving grace to others.
Colossians 4:6 tells us to let our speech always be gracious.
Titus 2:7 tells us to have sound speech that cannot be condemned.
1st Peter 4:11 tells us to speak as the oracles of God.
I recently read a paragraph written by Martha Gelhorn and published in a compilation of her writings from the 1930s to the 1980s titled “The View From the Ground.” Gelhorn had a 60-year career as a war correspondent, journalist, novelist, and was a companion and wife of Ernest Hemmingway.
People often say with pride, “I’m not interested in politics.” They might as well say, “I’m not interested in my standard of living, my health, my job, my rights, my freedoms, my future or any future.” Politics is the business of governing and nobody can escape being governed, for better or worse. In the few fortunate societies where voting is free and honest, most people take the weird view that politics is a horse race–you bet on a winner or loser every so often, if you can bestir yourself; but politics is not a personal concern. Politics is everything–from clean drinking water through the preservation of forests, whales, British Leyland to nuclear weapons and the disposal thereof. If we mean to keep any control over our world and lives, we must be interested in politics.
As a follower of Jesus, I would like to adapt and supplement her statement.
I have heard Christians smugly say, “I am neutral about politics.” They might as well say, “I am neutral about social injustice, world peace, the future of our children, freedom of religion, and the advancement of the Gospel.”
There is nothing especially spiritual about refusing to participate in culture and society and government. Holy love demands that we care about the abuse of our neighbor, that we unselfishly care about the welfare of others.
On earth in this dispensation we do not live in a theocracy. Men govern men.
Government is a necessary evil because men can be evil. First, if there is no rule of law, evil will flourish unchecked. Then, when we do necessarily establish human governments, we are obligated to engage in limiting evil men that hope to gain control… not just at home, but also where our neighbors live.
Followers of Christ were not instructed to isolate themselves. We ought to be people that make a difference, people that challenge society where it fails to love your neighbor as yourself, people that engage with both grace and diligence, people that live in the world without being contaminated by it.
Abstinence from politics is not Christ-like. It is selfish, smug and arrogant.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Should Christians pledge loyalty to anyone but Christ?
Jesus said not to make oaths.
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill yourvows to the Lord.’But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. z
How would this commandment apply to the following important oaths? Should Christians make oaths in some situations but not in others?
Marriage Vows. Should a Christian husband pledge to be true and faithful to his wife until they are parted by death? The Bible does not contain any record of marriage vows, yet it honors marriage.
Oath in Court. Should a Christian swear to tell the truth in court? The Bible tells us not to take a brother to court, but it does not forbid giving testimony in court. Most of us are familiar with the scenario when a witness places his right hand on a copy of the Bible to say, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The Bible is no longer required for this swearing in, but a refusal to take the oath is considered contempt of court.
Oath of Office. Should Christians make an oath to fulfill their duties when they are elected and employed by government? The Bible does not address the required oath of office taken by those elected to government positions, such as the oath of office for the U. S. Senate.
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a millenarian restorationist nontrinitarian movement labeled as Christian despite their unorthodox beliefs based upon a peculiar translation of the New Testament, teach that a Christian should not vote or seek election, “they remain resolutely neutral with regard to the political affairs of the nations.”* This politically neutral stance has been adopted by a number of mainstream Christian pastors and churches in America. JWs also believe that bowing down to a flag or saluting it, often in conjunction with an anthem, is a religious act that ascribes salvation, not to God, but to the State or to its leaders.*
Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America. Should Christians from other nations take an oath to become citizens of the USA?
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Take Oaths Seriously
Jesus spoke against taking false oaths or taking oaths lightly. It should not be necessary to swear by any other power in order to convince someone of the value of your word. Your integrity and honesty will speak for you.
All Oaths are Subordinate to Faithfulness to God
Christians in the United States have enjoyed a constitutionally fundamental freedom of religion since 1791. The Declaration of Independence attributes our inalienable rights to the Creator along with the necessity for government to have the consent of the governed. This consent of the governed is solemn enough to deserve an oath. This is not an oath that supersedes our loyalty to God but an oath that is subordinate to our faithfulness to God.
The New Testament Encourages Respect Toward Civil Government
Is it appropriate for Christians to show disrespect in the name of Christ? We are not at liberty to ignore Romans chapter 13.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.For rulers are not a cause of fear for [d]good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
1st Timothy chapter 2 indicates that Christians have a duty to support their specific secular government with prayer.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
1st Peter chapter 2 makes it clear that honoring a human government is not a betrayal toward God and is recommended to demonstrate true Christian character within this world.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
The US government is not the kingdom of God. It is not the Church of Jesus Christ. It is a civil government established and maintained through human effort. Where there is liberty for men, there will be liberty for some to abuse that human law for sinful objectives. Somehow, God’s sovereignty is higher and greater than all this. God is higher and greater than the US government, yet he asks his followers to be respectful and honor human government.
Christians Should Be Cautious About Their Political Identification
Refusing to salute the flag is political activism. The greater question is, “Should Christians join this type of movement?” Christians should be cautious about identifying themselves with opinions that are expressed by the enemies of Jesus Christ and that clearly go against Scripture, God’s higher authority. Christians have been observed wearing scarves that identify them with solidarity of militant organizations that have set a goal of the death and destruction of all Jews. Consider your ways. Don’t just follow fads without thinking.
Celebrate Your Liberty to Disagree With The USA In The USA
Why is this political action only recommended in America? Because we see the absurdity of asking Christians of other nations to respect the flag of their own nation. Within the USA, you can speak against the government, this is your safe place to rant or pour out your emotional opinion. Nobody will storm your home, jail your children, or behead you for your dissident opinion. Thank God for your liberty to do so here. (Kinda makes me want to salute the Red, White, and Blue right now…)
If God wanted to forgive sinners, why didn’t He just forgive them and declare it done?
I think the question implies a few other questions. Why couldn’t God simply forgive anyone who sins without all the gory bloodshed? Doesn’t God have enough forgiveness in His heart? Is He not powerful enough to do good without doing evil first? Is God so malevolent to demand the death of His own Son? Does God just enjoy punishing others so much? The was-Jesus’-death-necessary question (WJDN?) points a finger at the motives of God and the nature of God.
Was Jesus’ Death Necessary?
1. WJDN? is not an objective question.
First, we need to be honest and admit that this is not an objective query. It proceeds from assumptions that indicate the anticipated answer. The questioner has a bias and inserts his agenda into the question. The questioner may not want you to examine his assumptions. He may be leading you to his conclusion: if there is a god, he is bad.
I ask you to keep an open mind, examine some of the premises of the question, maintain an open mind about the nature of God, and reach your own conclusion.
2. The premises under WJDN? may or may not be accurate.
To me, the apparent premise is: a person that intentionally kills his own son is an evil person. I agree with that. [a]However, I do not apply human measurements of good or evil to God, the Giver and Taker of Life. That might be a good topic for another day. However, that truth is not the only plank in this platform. Don’t the best illusions need an element of truth to make them credible?
In the question, there are some inaccurate assumptions that we need to consider:
Sin is only in the angry mind of an offended God.
God is unwilling to simply forgive sin. [b]Saying “I’m sorry” does not reverse the effects of an offending action.
Sin is how God feels about my freedom.
My sin is a small thing.
Punishment of sin is an act of vengeance.
Sin is God’s problem, not mine.
God is a selfish tyrant.
I do not need God to tell me how to live.
Here are some accurate counter-assumptions that will help us understand the question:
Sin is in me, not in the mind of God.
God is willing to forgive sin AND to cleanse me.
Sin is how I feel about God.
Sin separates me from God, so it becomes the greatest problem that I will ever face.
God is not vengeful; rather He is willing to go to great lengths to remove sin from my life.
Sin is my problem.
God is generous and compassionate.
I need God’s intervention in my life.
Now, let’s use these true premises to move toward an understanding of the question.
God is willing to forgive sin.
A person too weak to save himself could not force Almighty God to do something against His will. Therefore, if God were unwilling to forgive you, He would never accept any sacrifice for your sins.
In fact, the Scriptures indicate that God collaborated in the ultimate plan of salvation before Jesus was born in Israel where He was crucified. (Revelation 13:8; Hebrews 2:10; John 1:29)
God is actually a loving Being with a tendency toward grace and forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s idea.
Sin is human nature.[c]Being forgiven does not remove the source of sin.
We humans are inextricably tangled up in a sinful nature. Sin is not external to us. It is in us. We may be tempted to sin from the outside, but the decision is actually made on the inside. (Jeremiah 17:9,10)
Sin is not insignificant because it separates me from God. God’s presence is life and light while sin is death and darkness. Separation from God is so utterly horrible that Jesus was willing to die. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” [d]John 14:6
If I am sinful in nature (and I am), God’s plan of forgiveness would need to involve removing the root cause of my sinful behavior, not only the removing of the penalty of sin.
As a human father, I would forgive my child for not mowing the lawn if the mower was broken. Then, I would take steps to get that broken mower working again. That’s probable not an accurate analogy but I think it helps understanding a little anyway.
God can’t just look the other way and let his children continue to rebel and spread wickedness everywhere. God needs to offer a solution the real problem. God needs to provide a way to transform a sinful, rebellious human nature into a righteous, lovingly-obedient holy nature.
…and that is the message of the New Testament: we can be miraculously transformed by God through the death of Jesus Christ. [e]…and just accepting my sinful old self for who I am is not sufficient when God knows a way to change human nature.
Why couldn’t God just decree that we are holy?
Isn’t God strong enough just to declare that no one would disobey Him? If God wants everyone to be holy, why didn’t He make us that way, instead of causing us to be born with a sinful nature into a sinful world?
I can only think of two ways to accomplish this. One, God is strong enough to force us. Two, God removes our ability to sin.
The problem is that God is love. [f]Romans 5:8 It isn’t loving if someone is forced to love. God is not love if everyone is forced to obey God against their own will. We need to choose to obey God because we love God. This means that we must be born into an environment where each of us can actually choose to reject God if we so desire.
If God were an Vengeful Tyrant, perhaps Jesus’ death would have been needless.
If God had created a race of soul-less zombies to carry out His will, perhaps Jesus’ death would have been pointless.
However, we live in the real world. Sin is in us. We need a miracle. God provides the necessary miracle of transformation through Jesus Christ, [g]Romans 6:5-7 and furthermore, God offers the abiding presence of His Holy Spirit so that we can produce ongoing spiritual fruit.
Was Jesus’ death necessary?
Based upon the gravity of sin and the true nature of a holy and loving God that includes a plan for the transformation of my sinful nature… yes.