Tag Archives: Christians

Is Christianity ‘Woke’?

To be ‘woke’ is to be aware of the social and racial injustices in our society. To be ‘woke’ also implies that one will support certain activist movements in their efforts to bring about positive changes to the institutions, organizations and traditions that are apparently guilty of perpetuating systemic injustice, even if that means replacing the system from top to bottom.

Jesus had a clear message about social activism. He described his followers as those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite strangers in, give clothes to the naked, attend to the sick and visit those in prison (Matthew 25:34-36).

Jesus practiced what he preached. He demonstrated compassion for people in need. He healed the sick. He fed the five thousand. Jesus made people’s lives better.

But Jesus also told his disciples that the poor will always be with us (John 12:8). Poverty will never be eradicated in this age, according to the Lord. Isn’t that a bit pessimistic? Perhaps, but he spoke those words nearly two thousand years ago and the poor are still among us.

Social activists have been promising for generations that they will erase poverty and hardship. They have all the answers, so they say. Yet, by their own admission, things are worse. After all their efforts to bring about positive social change, they still condemn our society as if zero progress has been made. Aren’t they condemning their own efforts?

Back to Jesus. How do we reconcile his concern for the poor on the one hand, and his pessimistic outlook on the other hand? His prediction about perpetual poverty is not an excuse for inaction. Jesus acted. Yet Jesus knows that our world is broken because of rebellion against God. Social injustice and human need are only part of the sad results.

Jesus was not paralyzed by his realism. He knew that godly love inspires us to help those in need, despite the thorny conditions of society. According to Jesus, we don’t have to wait for radical institutional change to do something positive in the lives of those who have needs.

After Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand, a group decided to make him king, by force if necessary. Jesus declined. He withdrew from them (John 6:15). Why? Think of the people he could’ve helped as king! He could have enacted some real positive social change in the broken institutions and governments of his day!

Instead of seeking political power to make positive social change through the mechanisms of government, Jesus helped people in person, one-on-one, face-to-face. Jesus ‘rolled up his shirtsleeves’ and ‘got his hands dirty’ doing the vital work of helping real people with real problems. He didn’t use up his time and resources blaming the leaders by protesting in the streets.

Jesus knew that political power and institutional change do not always result in real help for those who have real needs. The struggle for power is endless, both to acquire it and to protect it. Today’s emancipator frequently becomes tomorrow’s oppressor. Even the best leaders often create programs and policies that are abused by their successors, or they simply become ineffective due to constantly evolving circumstances.

Jesus focused his time and effort not on acquiring political influence, but on helping people.

The help Jesus offered was not limited to physical needs. Jesus knew that people also have spiritual needs. We are spiritual beings with longings for the invisible and eternal realities.

Jesus healed those who have physical ailments, but he also brought healing for spiritual illness. He brought freedom not just from the chains of oppression and slavery in this fading world, but he brought freedom for eternity in the presence of Almighty God.

Social activists often reduce the human experience to a struggle between classes in ‘the here and now.’ Various groups fight for limited power and resources. Someone must make sure things are equal. They nominate themselves. Helping people with eternal issues is not part of their program.

Jesus was spiritually awake. He recognized the inherent weaknesses in human governments and social systems. He also realized the need to save and strengthen the spirit in addition to the body. He acted.

Like Jesus, Christians must be awake to both the physical and spiritual needs of people. In addition, believers must be aware of the limits that keep worldly organizations from solving our deepest problems. As Christ’s disciples, we can bless people now and bear fruit for eternity.

Our success does not depend on gaining and maintaining political power or influence. Our success depends on our faithfulness to the mission Jesus has given us, a mission that he promises to empower by the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. Let’s be awake and act like Jesus.

May our Lord fill us with both compassion and discernment, awareness and action,

Brother Richard Foster

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Comparing the Crusades to Terrorism

Certain voices in our society keep emphasizing that Islam is a religion of peace and Christianity has a history of violence. Apparently the current violent Muslim terrorists do not represent Islam, so they say, but violent Crusaders from a thousand years ago do represent Christianity.

We are being asked to compare the most peaceful and loving Muslims with the most violent and hateful Christians. Is that not an admission that it is difficult to make Islam look peaceful and difficult to make Christianity look violent? In other words, plenty of recent evidence shows the violent tendencies of Islam but one must go back a thousand years to find evidence of such violence among Christians.

The Crusades were a period of war between Roman Catholic Europeans and Islamic Middle Easterners. The conflict is dated to almost a thousand years ago, but that is not the beginning of the story, any more than World War II started with America dropping atom bombs on Japan. It would be unfair to ignore the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in telling the story of the Second World War and it is unfair to mention the Crusades without telling the rest of the story.

Militant Muslims marched across North Africa, into Eastern Europe and Spain for more than 400 years before Europeans finally roused themselves and stopped their advances. The idea that evil hard-hearted Christian Crusaders suddenly butchered innocent and unsuspecting Muslims without any provocation is a myth. The Muslims were aggressors and both sides fought to win.

We can all agree that there are those who misrepresent Islam and Christianity. We should also agree that it is unfair to judge a group by those who are poor examples of the group’s true beliefs. What better way to determine a group’s true beliefs than to look at the founder’s life and teachings?

After being rejected by the Jews, Muhammad cut off the heads of some 700 Jewish men and took their women and children as spoils of war. After being rejected by the Jewish and Roman leaders, Jesus told his follower Peter to put down his sword and then he went voluntarily to a shameful, painful and undeserved execution on a Roman cross.

Violent Muslims are following the example of Muhammad. Violent Christians are rejecting the example of Jesus. But there is more to this story, too. Jesus was not waging a holy war or jihad. Jesus came to give his life as a ransom in order to save lost sinners. His kingdom, Jesus said, was not of this world. His followers are not guaranteed power in this age, but eternal life in the age to come.

Here is part of the problem. Those who are skeptical about heaven and hell tend to see all religions as equally unnecessary and dangerous. Why argue or fight about a God that does not exist? Instead, the non-religious seek a secular state and a secular world that will supposedly get beyond all the violence caused by passionate religious convictions.

But secularists do not subject their own belief system to the same standards which they frequently apply to religion. We need not go back a thousand years to find horrifying violence among atheists. Within the last one hundred years atheists controlled a state that perpetrated violence against its own citizens on a scale that makes violent religionists look like beginners. The atrocities of Communism somehow get a pass in the judgment day against religion. Is that right?

The fact is, violence is a human problem, not a religious problem. In the days of Noah, the famous ark-builder, the Bible tells us that the earth was full of violence. Noah, however, was different. He was a preacher of righteousness. But the people rejected him and his message. They took no serious interest in his giant boat.

God waited patiently in the time of Noah. But a day came when the door of the ark was closed and the rains of judgment arrived. The flood waters rose and only those few who were on the ark survived. The majority was wrong.

Jesus told his listeners that the last days will be like the time of Noah. The comparison between the Crusades and terrorism makes one very important point: humanity has not changed. We are not evolving into a more peaceful and benevolent race. If anything, we seem to be discovering even more appalling ways of killing.

But Jesus also meant that another day is coming like that day when the door closed on the ark. People were trying to ignore the day of God’s judgment and in doing so they also ignored God’s provision for salvation. God always leaves a door open for those who wish to experience salvation instead of judgment.

Jesus predicted that wars and rumors of wars will continue unabated in this age. Secular humanists assure us that humanity can evolve and do away with the horrors of war. Humanists continue to be wrong and Jesus continues to be right. Based on the historical evidence, we would be wise to find the door to God’s ark, the way to his salvation.

Instead of comparing ourselves to one another, we should compare ourselves to Jesus, God’s ultimate standard. In so doing, we will all realize our need for salvation. The good news is this: Jesus is not only the standard which we cannot meet, he is the Savior whom we do not deserve. Because of God’s grace, we can find true peace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church, February 2015

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