Green Leaf Press Quarterly Newsletter, August, 2009
"Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;" (I Peter 3:15, NRSV) In that vein, I try to suggest answers for some of the questions that may be on people’s minds. Thus, the following:
All human beings are inevitably moral creatures, because they have been created in the image of God. Our moral insight is 20/20 when it comes to the sins and faults of others, however clouded it may be in respect to ourselves. Indeed, our skills in defending and excusing our sins and our faults are only exceeded by our precision in zeroing in on the moral failures of others. Note how morally offended we are when at a football game a referee misses an obvious call or throws a flag for a violation that did not occur! When someone treats us with disrespect, we immediately know that person has violated the moral law. When someone runs a red light, and barely misses hitting us in an intersection, we don’t have to reflect on whether that was right or wrong. We immediately know it is wrong. These responses are ingrained in us. Indeed, they are involuntary. We are able to distinguish between right and wrong because we are the creatures of a moral God. It is because of this capacity, that the Bible urges us to pray for those in public service. Even if some governors or legislators, and other public servants, may not believe in God or the Bible—they still have a keen moral awareness given to them, because they were created in the image of God. First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. (I Timothy 2:1,2)
The apostle Paul emphasizes the accuracy of our judicial sentiment in Romans, chapter 2: Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge are doing the very same things. (2:1) Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? (2:3) When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; (2:14,15b)
The judgment of which the inspired Paul speaks in Romans, chapter 2, is from a different perspective than Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:1, Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. In these passages both Jesus and Paul are speaking of the ingrained, God-given, judicial sentiment. But Paul is speaking of the deeply rooted involuntary aspect of such moral recognition, while Jesus speaks of our volitional response in condemning others. Those who take the Lord’s name in vain, in pronouncing condemnation on another person, are examples of an extreme violation of the teaching of Jesus. The same is true of those, who by whatever means, seek to punish those they have deemed to have committed a wrongful act. Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:9)
We must recognize here that we are dealing with the individual’s reckoning with right and wrong. We must, of course, in this life have judicial processes to deal with serious wrongdoing in various levels of government and even in our churches. Nor should we undermine the authority of parents over their children following the guidelines of scripture. For example, And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) There is a distinction here, and it is not always easy to see—but Jesus is warning us not to proceed from our awareness of moral wrongs to thoughts or words of condemnation. If we know of a brother or sister in Christ engaged in sin, our responsibility is to exhort and encourage them and even rebuke them in righteousness, but not to condemn them. Condemnation and judgment is the business of God. Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews 3:12,13)
That moral law, of which all are aware, is an important factor in our witness for Jesus Christ. Our moral natures regrettably can be distorted and twisted in our attitudes and actions. Most of the wars that have been fought have been initiated because one side thought itself morally superior to the other. [In a relatively few cases, this may have been an accurate assessment.] Almost every bill that is passed by a house of Congress or a state legislature is argued on a moral basis; not simply because it is desirable, but because it is morally imperative. We are moral creatures. We need to remember that the source of our moral nature is our Creator/God!
So when we have opportunity to speak with friends or acquaintances, we can gently ask some questions:
1. Do you understand that we are moral creatures, capable of making judgments regarding right and wrong?
2. Do you think that others should be punished for their misdeeds?
3. Do you recognize that you have broken the moral law of which all are aware?
4. Do you understand that we need to be forgiven by God?
5. Do you understand that God has provided for our forgiveness through his Son, Jesus Christ?
We are pleased that my new book, Why Are These Presbyterian Churches Growing (The Story of Fifteen Dynamic Presbyterian Churches) was officially released as of 27 July 2009. I believe that it has a message that can be especially helpful to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and to the individual churches. We are going to do our best to let others know about this book. Please pray for us that we will be wise in this ministry. You and many others should be receiving our new catalog in the next two weeks.
Foster H. Shannon, President
Green Leaf Press, Inc., P.O. Box 880, Alhambra, CA 91802-0880 Phone: (626) 281-7221 FAX:323-221-4334
Board of Directors:Robert Curtis, Jean Haserot, Eric Hoey, Al Soo Hoo, Bibiana Soo Hoo, Dean Rowley, Foster Shannon, Janis Shannon, Darrel Sager, Jim Stockl, John Van Genderen, Matthew Welde
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