Sell Your Cloak to Buy a Sword

Radically Christian: Luke 22:36 Re-Examined: Sell Your Cloak to Buy a Sword

As soon as they finished the discussion about the swords, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed and where a group of armed soldiers came to arrest Him. When the apostles saw that Jesus was about to be arrested, they asked, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (vs 49). Without waiting for an answer, an apostle drew a sword and blood was spilled.

The servant of the high priest had his ear cut off and he was standing there bleeding. Jesus intervened, saying, “‘No more of this!‘ And he touched his ear and healed him” (vs. 51). Read those words of Jesus again, “No more of this.” No more fighting. No more bloodshed. In Matthew’s account, Jesus makes a more general statement, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword”(Matthew 26:52).

Then Jesus asked the leaders of the Jews an important question, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?” (vs. 52). In other words, you’ve come out here with weapons as if I was some sort of violent criminal.

The swords had served their purpose. For those who chose to see Jesus as a criminal leader, a couple of swords amongst twelve men was enough for them to say, “See! He’s a criminal.” But those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, know Jesus was not a man of violence nor a criminal. He was the One healing the pain caused by violence, saying, “No more of this.”

This is a challenging passage, but it’s pretty clear in the context that Jesus is not condoning violence in any way. To use this passage to justify violence ignores the context entirely.

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Stones

The Morning Drive: Stones

The leaders bring her to Jesus and remind Him of the Law of Moses and the command to stone those guilty of adultery. They want to know what Jesus thinks should be done. They are trying to place Him in a moral, ethical, spiritual, and legal juxtaposition.  Would Jesus agree with the Law of Moses or would He speak against the Law? Would Jesus show compassion to the sinful woman or would He condemn her based on their accusations?

You remember Jesus’ reply in John 8:7, “Let him who without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Wow! He cuts to the heart of the issue. He cuts to the heart of the leaders. His statement cuts to the heart of those who read His words even today. They get the point. They drop their stones and walk away. Jesus turns to the woman and refuses to condemn her, even though as the Son of God He has that right, but instead tells her, “Go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11).

The challenge is for us all. How much are we willing to intercept stones rather than throw stones?

Prosperity Gospel at the Top

Huffington Post: Trump Spiritual Advisor Wants You To Send Her Up To 1 Month’s Pay Or Face ‘Consequences’

I hesitate to post this since it almost guarantees some kind of partisan reaction, but I have to admit that I never thought the prosperity gospel would wind up being so big. To me, Jesus’s words are clear — your physical blessings have little to no correlation with your spiritual health.

Paula White, a prosperity gospel preacher with close ties to President Donald Trump, is calling on followers to send her donations of up to one month’s salary. Those who don’t pay up could face “consequences” from God as he demands the dough as a “first fruits” offering.

“The reason is God lays claim to all firsts,” White wrote on her website. “So when you keep for yourself something that belongs to God you are desecrating what is to be consecrated to God.”

In this case, the “firsts” are money, which “supernaturally unlocks amazing opportunity, blessing, favor and divine order for your life.”

There is so much scripturally wrong with these few sentences, I’m not sure where to begin.  Let’s start with the fact that we live in the New Testament, not the Old — which is where the offering of the first-fruits belongs. Then there’s the fact that early church leaders like the apostle Paul would reject contributions from Christians at times so that his ministry would not be an undue burden upon them. And yes, Christians are commanded to give “as they have purposed in their hearts” to their home congregations for the work of the Lord — but not for a payoff of some sort.

The dangerous part about this is the trend of trickle-down theology that seems to happen when a false doctrine takes too firm a hold among religious political figures. Shades of premillennialism infect church doctrine as a direct result of those teachings permeating conservative foreign policy rhetoric. Heaven help us if prosperity gospel teachings begin to infect the church.

Slavery, the Civil War, and Why It Still Matters

Radically Christian: Slavery, the Civil War, and Why It Still Matters to Me

I hear people say, “We can’t judge the actions of people 150 years ago by today’s standards.” I would say I’m judging American slavery not by today’s standards, but by the standard of Scripture. Most of these men not only claimed to be Christians but used Scripture to defend their cruelty and their perception of white supremacy.

They kept their neighbors in chains. They beat them and raped them. It wasn’t as though it had never occurred to any of them that this behavior might be wrong. There were thousands advocating not only for abolition but also for racial equality. We act as if racial equality is a modern concept. It’s not. It’s a biblical concept.

If we can’t be honest with ourselves about the sins of the past, then we can never help our brothers and sisters affected by those sins to heal. You or I may never own slaves; we may never beat a person because of the color of their skin; but if we idolize or lionize those who did, then we are guilty of perpetuating their sin.

What U.S. Christians Miss About North — and South — Korea

Sojourners: What U.S. Christians Miss About North — and South — Korea

Sitting on the 28th floor of the Lotte Hotel World in downtown Seoul having breakfast with a long-time ecumenical friend from Korea, I asked him what the churches in his country were thinking about the present crisis. He immediately responded, “We’re asking, ‘What are the churches in America thinking?’”

•••

Two realities here in South Korea seem unknown or underappreciated in the U.S. First is the fact that the Korean War has not ended. There’s no treaty, and no permanently recognized peace — only an agreement 60 years ago to cease actual hostilities. Traveling through layers of security to Panmunjom, where the armistice was signed, and where North Korean and U. N. forces (mostly South Korean) still wordlessly face one another, brings home this truth. Formally, there is no peace.

Second, for some Koreans, reunification is an earnest hope. In the U.S. we simply assume there are two countries — North Korea and South Korea, end of story. But countless times here I’ve heard prayers and hopes for reunification, some time, in some way. And those prayers come from Christian communities across South Korea. It’s hard to answer how reunification would be peaceably achieved, but that doesn’t diminish hope. Being here, I’m reminded that Korea has been one culture, with one people, and one land for most of its history. The DMZ is an artificial demarcation, similar to the former divisions of Germany and of Vietnam.

We Christians should be careful about hurrying to shed blood through war. While the actions of Kim Jong-un may be unjustifiable, we should all remember the sheer number of innocent souls that will simply be counted as “collateral damage” should we allow his posturing to abandon the Prince of Peace.

3 Reasons to Fast

Wes McAdams: 3 Reasons Christians Need to Be Fasting

I’ve written about fasting before, so it’s nice to see another Christian writer touch on the subject in a practical and accessible way. Especially after a season usually given to excess, it’s good to consider denying self.

I realize the subject of fasting is not a popular thing to talk about, but that is exactly why we need to discuss it. Few biblical practices are neglected in the church today like fasting. Here are three reasons why we all need to be fasting.

  1. We need to fast because we need to be devoted to prayer.
  2. We need to fast because we need to consider what we are truly hungry for.
  3. We need to fast because we believe in restoring New Testament Christianity.