Proud of Being White?

AWHMI followed a link to a Facebook page called, “American White History Month.” On it, I found a slogan with which I, though about as white as one can be, cannot agree. With it, however, I found a true statement, which I will quote first, “Never apologize for being white.”

I’ve done many things during my sixty-eight years for which I could indeed apologize, but why would I apologize for being what God made me? That would be like apologizing for being male, or human. Though males and whites, indeed, all humans, do despicable things, we don’t do them because we are a particular sex or color; we do them because we are sinful.

The second slogan on that page proclaims far more than its creators realize. “Proud of our race and heritage,” seems dangerously close to taking credit for God’s creative work. We didn’t choose to be born white, and of European heritage, so how can we be proud of that? We can certainly be glad of it, and thankful for it, just as people of color can be glad and thankful for who they are. Following, are Bible passages that deal with pride and its consequences:

Ephesians 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21

1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

1 Timothy 4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Pride in something, and gratitude for it, are antithetical, if at once, one takes credit for it, and gives credit for it. So, which will it be? The passages above, and many more, command gratitude, but never does God’s Word tell us to take pride in what he gave us; even though we may have worked hard for something, or even invented it, we didn’t create it. Such pride is most certainly one form of evil.

As for our heritage, we are a nation born of Christian principles, and that, according to our Constitution’s Establishment Clause, is where our national Christianity ends. As Premier Obama said, America was never a Christian nation. Fact is, we can take pride in no nation governed by fallen human beings, as everything they do is based in sin, even if it seems noble. But we can, and must, remain thankful for it.

Happiness for Today

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.
(Proverbs 29:18 NASB)

Dry as cardboard? That’s how a lot of Christians view Scripture passages that deal with things like the law and prophesy.

“I’m into relevant Bible passages,” they say, or at least think. “What’s the law got to do with me? I’m a New Testament believer, so I’m under grace, not law.”

That’s a valid question—for anyone who jealously grasps their ignorance of God’s Word.

Confession time … I’m one of those jealous graspers, fighting to let go of my passionately defended ignorance. It’s one of the sins I keep repenting of, and God is gradually drawing me out of it. When I talk to him in glory, I’m going to say, “With all due respect, Lord, why did you take so long in changing me?” (Have you ever noticed that when people say, “With all due respect …,” they’re being disrespectful?)

So, why is Proverbs 29:18 so relevant? Let’s “rightly divide” it and find out.

First, as great as the New American Standard Version is, the word they translated as vision means volumes more than simply seeing. It’s more of a supernatural sight, like prophesy. “But prophesy was closed with the New Testament writers.” In one sense that’s true; predictive prophesy was closed, but interpretive prophesy is as important now as ever before.

The passage says, “the people.” Do you think that means the old timey, Bible people? Not so. They are us, you and me, and anyone who claims the name of Jesus. Yes, it was originally written to God’s people Israel, but now we are God’s people, grafted in to the Root of Jesse, so we can’t just pass off such wisdom as irrelevant to us.

Now, to the word, “unrestrained.”The unregenerate people of the world simply love being unrestrained. Tragically, many in the church feel the same way. When “the people are unrestrained,” anarchy prevails. We in the church obey—more or less—the rules accepted by the church tradition we’re following. But does that mean we aren’t spiritually unrestrained, or undisciplined? Another confession time: That’s me, or the me I don’t want to be. I praise God for working on that issue, painful as it seems at times.

The word “happy” isn’t what you feel when your team wins the Superbowl, or you get a promotion at work. We often see and hear it expressed as, blessing or blessed. It’s that special kind of happiness that God gives us when we obey him, especially when it’s to our own hurt. It’s the happiness that lasts beyond the moment, that’s deeper than just an emotion. It’s our temporal reward, with eternal benefit.

Of course, “he who keeps the law” includes everyone, not simply guys. That clarification shouldn’t be necessary, but out of deference to our sensitive sisters in the Lord I thought it best to include it.

Now, let’s look into, “keeps the law.” The word translated keeps is way more than simple obedience; to us it means prizing the law as something precious, laying it up and protecting it within our hearts, meditating on it, heeding it, and then obeying it out of love, not obligation.

And what is “the law?” Entire libraries deal with that thorny subject, so I’ll not even attempt to treat it in a scholarly, exhaustive way. To New Testament believers, the law is simply God’s will for us. No, the Ten Commandments aren’t the Ten Suggestions. To us, they can be considered ten categories of spiritual fruit. We will bear such fruit because we are reconciled to God and love him because he first loved us, and sent his Son to live as a man, facing all the problems and temptations that we face, including torture and death for not compromising what he believed. Too often, we think of the Ten Commandments as necessary rules we must obey to be saved. In fact, just the opposite is true; we obey them because we’ve been reborn in Christ’s Spirit. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.(2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

Jesus touched on the true meaning of the law with his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, chapters five through seven. That homily is way more than the beatitudes, which teach us volumes by themselves. Jesus saw that the Mosaic Law had not had the effect on God’s people that he had intended. That was especially evident in the religious leaders(then and now), who prided themselves on obeying every jot and tittle. As Jesus said, they “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel,” because vain pride, and the ambition it fosters, cause most sin. Just look to our first parents, and Lucifer, the angel of light, for examples of that.

Out of this passage come his preaching on salt and light, not the kind of salt that we sprinkle too liberally on our food, nor the kind of prideful light that Lucifer shed. Jesus said, You are the light of the world. A city situated on a mountain cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14 LITV) Remember John 1:9? Jesus was the true light, and since his resurrection, we are the light of the world. What a privilege! What an awesome responsibility! Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.(Matthew 5:16 KJV)

As for the law, Jesus said, Do not think that I came to annul the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to annul, but to fulfill.(Matthew 5:17 LITV) Some of today’s church seem to think God’s law doesn’t apply to them, abut others insist that we must obey the dietary and Sabbath rules; the same two extremes that Satan used against the first-century church. There is nothing new under the Sun. Much of Apostle Paul’s writings to the churches dealt with those two heresies. The deception works just as well now as it did then.

Then Jesus preached on what the law really means. You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.(Matthew 5:21-22 ESV)

Now that’s a huge pill to swallow, is it not? But an even bigger pill is, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.(Matthew 5:27-28 ESV)

Were it not for the grace we have through Jesus’ blood, we’d have no hope of the true happiness that we get from union with God. And that was Jesus’ message throughout his ministry. If we don’t understand and believe that, we’ve completely missed both the happiness he has for us here, and the heaven-bound boat. The only alternative is the pit. I don’t know about you, but I’m hanging on to my ticket to glory.

Superficial Healing vs. Revival

Today’s daily reading included Jeremiah 8:11 “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”

Here is one of the foundational human faults: We trivialize sin, the “wound of my people,” accepting superficial sorrow as repentance, rather than truly grieving because we’ve grieved the Holy Spirit of God(Ephesians 4:30). We count on “Eternal Security” as our pass-key to the Pearly Gates, rather than truly repenting of our sin. We interpret the warm feeling of emotional worship as peace with God, when we harbor unrepented sin. And we accept lack of conflict as peace, when we cling to hatred, bitterness, and the whole range of socially acceptable sins. The “we” of which I speak is Christ’s church.

And we wonder why there is no revival.

In medicine, superficial healing is a serious danger after surgery to remove tumors and cysts. It leaves a void under apparently healed flesh that can fester, and become more of a problem than the original issue. The church is even more adept at glossing over the cancer of sin. We accept the Sunday smiles and handshakes as a statement that all’s well. In corporate prayer, we lift up Aunt Minnie’s gall bladder or Cousin Ray’s bunions to God for healing, and never mention our family or personal struggles that could, if left untreated, cause disastrous consequences. Out of pride, we refuse to “air our dirty laundry” before the brethren, while exactly that sort of reticence erects the fragile bubble of apparent well-being that we refuse to burst. Lie builds upon lie, providing grist for the rumor-mill. Hurt builds upon hurt, until families dissolve and factions crash the church into pieces.

And we wonder why there is no revival.

God’s church, each Christ-follower, you and I, need to quit manufacturing our own counterfeit peace, and submit to God’s conviction that grows ever more quiet the longer we suppress it. How long will God suffer our stiff-necked pride? How long before he allows true persecution to winnow the chaff from the fruitful seed. As the “B” movie thug said, “Look, we can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way.”

Yes! Pray for revival, but then we must steel ourselves for the hard climb, through conviction, through repentance, through humiliation, to true, Spirit-filled honesty and love. We must learn to support one another without sideways glances and raised eyebrows. We must learn to accept one another, even when their sin-struggle repulses us. We need to tear off the scabs from personal wounds until the deep healing is complete, bearing the pain with the same stubborn resolve that used to conceal those wounds.

Only when we, through God’s Holy Spirit, persevere until our sin-wounds completely heal, will we receive the true peace that passes understanding. Only then, will we see revival.

Not coincidentally, I’m sure, the New Testament reading included Colossians 3:1-17  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The passage from Jeremiah tells us what to do, while that from Colossians tells us what it looks like. Sermons based on this passage abound, but it deserves a seriously prayerful reading and study. Apostle Paul wrote similar entreaties to all the churches, so we know these principles are crucial to healthy Body life.

Why, then, do we keep ignoring them? Why do we attentively listen while thinking John, or Mary would profit from them? Not a single one of us has mastered Christ-likeness! Yes, we like Christ, but that’s not the same, is it?! If we love him we will keep his commandments(John 14:15). That’s called obedience, brethren. If we’re serious about revival, we’ll study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15).

I could type till my fingers fall off, but I can’t convict you of your failings. Let God’s Holy Spirit convict you, and then, ACT ON IT!