by Jefferis Kent Peterson
The Scholar's Corner
One of the most frightening scriptures is when Jesus said, "....whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven," (Matthew 10:33, RSV). Out of fear for one's own life, it is possible for Christians to deny the Lord. We have not faced persecution in this country like Christians in other nations, but it may come to that here. And are we prepared for it? Would the majority of the Church in the United States be willing to face death for the sake of Jesus? I tend to doubt it. For we have, in a multitude of small ways, denied the Lord for much less. We don't open our mouths and admit we are Christians in the workplace. When a co-worker swears or tells an off color joke, we may also swear and laugh to disguise our real feelings. We tend to go along with the crowd to "fit in." When we know that abortion is wrong or that homosexuality is still sin, we may not open our mouths in public to stand for what is right. We would rather be though of as compassionate by our co-workers than endure the criticism that may come if we stand up for truth.
Such acts of cowardice may be understandable. Many people actually do live in fear of what others think. But there is an act of denying Jesus that has no excuse. It is done in private, where no one can see you. You don't have to tell anyone about it. In fact, it is such a private matter, it is considered impolite for anyone to ask you about it. And if you deny the Lord there, you have no excuse whatsoever. It is called voting! Sadly, in the darkness of the voting booth, countless Christians pull the lever to pad their own pockets, and by their vote they deny the Lord.
Unique among the nations for its time, God gave the people of the United States the privilege of governing themselves. He entrusted them with the right and responsibility of self rule. To other peoples he gave kings or tyrants to rule over them, but in us He saw a potential for spiritual maturity that was worthy of freedom from oppressive forms of government. But such self government requires a moral populace. John Adams, in his first year as vice-president under George Washington said: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral a religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."
If we will not restrain ourselves, then God may give us a government which will restrain us against our will through force! Those who are lawless in morals cannot rule themselves through laws of their own making. And we are fast approaching the decline of the rule of law. To prevent that, we need to pray first, repent of our selfishness, and then vote in agreement with God's righteous principles. But most of us don't even do that much to see righteousness established in our land!
Only 50% of conservative Christians even bother to vote in a Presidential Election. Twenty three percent don't even register. James Dobson wrote, "At a recent primary here in Colorado, a pro-abortion candidate defeated a pro-life person by a margin of only 27 votes. A state attorney in Florida who had consistently done battle with pornographers lost by 54 votes. The members even of a small church in each district could have reversed these decisions by simply showing up at the polls." When, we the Church, do not fulfill our duties and responsibilities, do we have any right to blame the world for the way it is? We are refusing to exercise the responsibilities of the privileges of democracy through our apathy and abdication. God has given us this right and we have squandered it for a lack of care. How much worse is it now that we use those privileges not to advance the cause of Christ but to satisfy our lusts and greed:
In ancient days, the pagans worshipped false gods of the harvest. They thought that if they sacrificed their own children on the altars, then they would get a better crop. Like them, we vote for those who promote abortion in exchange for more government programs that will pander to our every whim and desire for more. We have lost the spirit of self-sacrifice and self-restraint. O Christians, we are without excuse when we sacrifice our principles and our conscience for the sake of money in our pockets! We are sacrificing more than our vote, we are denying the Lord who bought us. We are saying, in effect, that God isn't big enough to take care of our needs, but the government is. The State has become our God. And we ignore the cries of the weakest of God's children in order to secure a pension. Can you face the Lord with your vote and tell him that you knew it was right? Will you blame the world for its evils, when you did not do the little that you could to stem the tide?
If we fail God in such a small matter as the vote, how shall we stand for Him when real persecution comes?
1994 by Jefferis Kent Peterson, I
First Published in KeyStone Unity Press and Pennsylvania Reporter (Christian Coalition of PA) in May, 1994
The Founder's of this nation raised the battle cry for liberty with the words oft repeated, "We have no king but Jesus!" But our contemporaries have abandoned our historical quest for freedom with a cry of a different sort, "We'll have any king who will give us health care!" Just as Esau traded away his birthright for a bowl full of porridge to appease his temporary hunger, so we are in danger of trading away our heritage of liberty for the temporal security of cradle to grave health care.
Esau was judged by God for caring so little about the privileges of being the first born son in the family (Genesis 25). Traditionally, the first born son held a position of great honor and was in line to inherit double the portion of earthly goods that the remaining children received. But Esau was so concerned about feeding his stomach that he was willing to cast it all away for the sake of a simple meal. So he sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of mush. And God rejected Esau because of his unworthy choices.
In our nation, we have surrendered our trust in God as our provider, and we now we look to the State to take care of us. We want to live in a world that has no risks and where our needs are always met. We are willing to surrender our liberty for security, and because we have turned to the State in such dependency, we are willing to change our allegiance from Almighty God to a human government which promises to meet our every need.
But the life of faith and trust in God has risks. God demands our dependence upon him. And because of that risky dependence upon God, we are to look to him alone to meet our needs through prayer and by faith. Jesus told his followers not to worry about food our clothing, because "the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. " (Matthew 6:31-32). Yet rather than trust ourselves to the uncertain nature of God, we would rather take refuge in a government program that promises us the security of daily bread.
But there is a price for such allegiance. The price is slavery. Oh, no matter that the health program will eventually sap 15% or more of our income in new taxes to fully cover the program. And no matter that every state will be forced to provide abortion on demand. No matter that the Federal Government will overturn state laws and undermine the people's right to govern themselves. "Just give us health care and we will serve you all our days!" The dream of liberty which The Founders found so dear is now being sold on the auction block of fear and insecurity to the politician who will make the highest bid of promises to satisfy our cravings. And our response is, "Give us leeks and onions. Give us meat. Give us those things we crave, and we will be your slaves." We will willing trade away our freedom to a government which promises to keep our bellies full.
Merrill Lynch just did a tax study called Saving the American Dream which found that unfunded government programs like future Social Security and medical payments will eventually increase the tax rate to 82% on individual income if we continue with present mandates. How high a price are we willing to pay for our present bowl of porridge? If we do not rise up and resist the tempting but poisonous pill of federal programs, we will indeed place upon this generation a burden it cannot bear. And the freedoms we so cherished will be lost in the maze of federal regulation. Our freedom may still be there somewhere, but no one will know how to bring it out of the dank labyrinth of government bureaucracy for its light to shine again upon the citizens of the land.
1994 Jefferis Kent Peterson
Permission is hereby granted for non-commercial reproduction in whole or in part, without alteration and with proper citation as to source and author.
Jan 1994 by Jefferis Kent Peterson
As we see the day of Christ approaching, we also see a countervailing force in the world seeking to disrupt the Kingdom of God. One barometer of the devil's resistance to the plan and purposes of God is racial and ethnic animosity. Jesus said that in the latter days, "nation (ethnic group) will rise up against nation (ethnic group)..." And if we look around the world, even in our own country, we see a rising tide of racial strife. The hope of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, which was to produce an end to poverty and create equal opportunity for all, has collapsed under its own weight on the unstable economic base of the United States. Just as Communism failed to produce a utopian society, we too are finding the limits of our government's ability to solve to human problems such as drugs, poverty, and murder. We are finally facing the truth that these problems are as deeply spiritual as they are material.
Racial hatred and fear are as natural to the human condition as is sin. But in the United States, we are substituting a New Age anthropology, which believes in the basic goodness of human beings, for a biblical one. We believe that if we can just "educate" someone right, that prejudice, racism, drugs, and unwanted pregnancies will disappear. But the Bible says that sin is the natural state of "Man," and these problems will not disappear without a revival of the Spirit of God. Unrestrained by the countervailing force of the Holy Spirit, racism and hatred are as natural to humanity as are lust and greed. And we are seeing all these forces of hatred and ethnic strife rearing their ugly heads anew in spite of all our "education." It is not just happening here in the United States, but these same forces are ripping apart the fragile peace of the world, just as Jesus said.
It is the challenge of the Church to provide an alternative to this sea of hatred. If we are going to shine forth in the darkness, we need to show the world how different the Kingdom of God is from this world and its ways. If we can reveal true unity in spite of ethnic and racial differences, we can appeal to liberals and conservatives alike who are hungering to see some ideals manifest in the earth. But the government cannot do this; no law can enforce it among us; only true unity born of the Holy Spirit can overcome the natural prejudice of "Man" and cause love to reign supreme. I submit, this call to racial harmony is the challenge to the Church for the 1990's. And the Bible has the pattern for the Church to follow:
In ancient Israel, there was a low wall, called the Soreg, around the Temple, beyond which no Gentile could pass upon pain of death. Paul called it a "dividing wall." It was a wall that kept the nations out of the Holy Place. Although Isaiah declared that the Temple would be a place of prayer for all nations and that all nations would come to the light of God in Zion (Is. 56:7; 60:1), the Gentiles still had to worship God from afar. They could not get too close to the presence of the Lord because, according to the Law, the Gentiles were unclean. God had called Israel to be a light to the Gentiles; to be an example, separate and set apart. But a misinterpretation of this special calling of the Jews encouraged a racial pride and prejudice that created a spiritual division between the races as well as a natural and physical one. Hatred and mistrust, envy and racism were the outcomes of this division. This is the reason that Paul called the Soreg, "a dividing wall of hostility,"
But don't you know, God had an answer for this problem, and his name is Jesus! Paul said, "but you Gentiles who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us (Jew and Gentile) both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility... that he might create in himself one new humanity in the place of two... thereby bringing the hostility to an end," (Ephesians 2:14-16) God created the Church to be that model of reconciliation for the world. The Church is to be that model of unity in fellowship, worship, and prayer. Now if there is to be any division, it is to be between the people of God and the people of the world. There, a natural animosity exists, because those who hate Christ and his government will hate his people as well. But we cannot help that.
However, what a crime it is for us who claim the Name of Christ to resurrect that dividing wall of hostility between us in the Church on the basis of race, culture, class, skin color, or ethnic heritage! How sinful to deny by our actions that we are one in Jesus! If the world's divisions become part of the Church, how can we offer any testimony to the world? How can we offer the desperate world any hope? If Jesus said the world will know us by our love for one another, and we fail to love one another in a practical way; then how will the world know there is a Savior! The Church is called to be an example of the Kingdom of God in distinction to the strife of this world. And if we fail to be an example, then we give no witness worth believing and Christ becomes irrelevant to this age; for he has no solutions to the world's problems. Jesus may be God's answer to man's prejudice and fear, one new man in the place of two; but if his truth does not have any affect on the way we treat each other, why should anyone believe us? We have made a lie out of the Good News of God and we make a mockery of the Kingdom.
But we can fulfill God's plan. We can come together. I have seen it happen. I have seen churches strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Anywhere people will truly submit themselves to the Holy Spirit, God will deal with their fear, their hatred, and their pride. I have seen it in city churches and suburban churches. It is possible. But it is happening on such a small scale while our society is being torn apart. Too much of the Church is denying the call of God or is finding an excuse for its prejudice and fear. Beloved, it must not be so. We can fulfill the call of God to love each other in deed and in truth.
But how do we love one another? Do we pretend that the races don't exist and that everyone is one color? No! By all means, no! For that denies the beauty of our diversity. We are to appreciate the God given differences in race and culture as expressions of the divine character. We can have unity in the midst of our diversity. And only in that diversity can true love be shown. There is a message spray painted on a school parking lot in my neighborhood that sums up the danger of racial or cultural blindness. It says, "conformity corrodes the soul; equality sets us free." This is the truth. Somewhere, somehow, we need to be a witness to the beauty of God. That beauty is revealed in a Pentecost that unites all the nations of the earth in One people without destroying what makes them unique.
My friends, what this world desperately needs to see is the love of God truly shown among us in our love for one another. If we can walk in this love for each other, we can reach the world. If we fail in it; God may pass us by for another generation who will truly listen to His call.
by Jefferis Kent Peterson
First Published in Love Express 86: May 1994
It has been said that we are raising a generation of children who cannot read, but truthfully, the move away from classic western literature and towards contemporary fantasy in the classroom is stripping this generation of an ability to think. It saps them of their ability to think ethically because they are not taught to think of others but of themselves. Classic literature, from writers like Bacon, Dickens, Shakespeare, Melville, and Hawthorne, has always centered around the drama of individuals faced with making moral choices in the midst of troubling circumstances. The play, Hamlet, is the epitome of this genre of literature because it portrays a human being as a mixture of motives, both good and evil. The whole play deals with Hamlet's struggle to choose between his passions. And as a result, we see in Shakespeare's play an accurate reflection of the struggles we all face.
In contrast, many teachers in the public school system rely heavily on works of fantasy, witchcraft, myth, and thrillers of one sort or another because "it keeps the kids attention." The common theme of these books is that you can use of force or magical powers to get what you want out of life. Rather than show the realistic wrestling of a person trying to overcome a selfish desire for revenge, for example, the books simplistically paint the bad guys as so totally evil that the use of force is always justified in accomplishing one's personal goals. Human beings are usually portrayed as one dimensional, either good or bad, like cardboard cut outs on the stage. The people provide scenery around which the action can take place, but there is very little development of character. And issues of morality are often avoided. No inner struggle or wrenching conflict is portrayed. Life seems to be so simple and easy that the children are not prepared by that type of literature to deal with real conflict situations where one's own desires are denied.
Classic literature however is more faithful to a biblical view of humanity. No one on earth is good, but we have all sinned. We all struggle against selfishness. We all are a mixture of motives, both good and evil, and the human drama is a wrestling match between our two natures. Therefore, classic literature has depth of character because it portrays the complexity of the human condition. And by using classic literature in the classroom, we can show how moral choices have certain consequences in life. We can use moral failures and successes portrayed in literature to teach our children how to restrain their own inner selfish impulses for the benefit of others. The classics can be a type of boot camp for the moral decision making process.
Modern humanistic philosophy, in contrast to the biblical world view, does not believe that humanity is basically evil, but basically good. It does not believe humanity is sinful. So, rather than teach people how to restrain their behavior, this philosophy concentrates on how to have children get their inner "needs" for affirmation and approval met through education. The fantasy literature that reflects this philosophy now is a major influence in many schools. The problem with a steady diet of this type of literature is that it does not teach a child to distinguish between his own impulses and right and wrong. Without guidelines in social morality, the child is left to decide for himself right and wrong based upon what he feels like inside. The phrase "you do what you think is right," is the operative principle of humanistic morality. This values clarification model is used in health, sex ed., drug awareness, and through literature it invades every other area of education. But what happens to a generation that likes drugs because it feels good or is willing to kill because someone makes them feel bad?
As a generation of children is inundated with this world view, they gradually lose their ability to think ethically, make moral decisions, or restrain their behavior. Instead of being taught to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others, they are taught to think selfishly. As a result, many of today's youth see other people as an obstacle to obtaining their desires; so, if they see a jacket or sneakers they like, they are willing to kill for it and take what they want. They have no self-restraint. They have not been taught it. Many of those teenagers arrested for murder now define justifiable homicide as "he got in my face," or "he made fun of me." They show no remorse nor do they show any concern that murder might not be the right thing to do. The concentration is on "me, my wants, and what makes me feel good."
Our educational system, by denying a biblical view of the human condition, and by replacing it with a modern liberal view, is perpetuating the inability of our youth to distinguish between fantasy and reality, right and wrong. We do not train them to ask themselves, "Should I do this or not? Is it right?" We only train them to ask "What do I want to do?"
Our culture was created on the biblical model and used the law as the necessary means of restraining the behavior of those who would not restrain themselves. But the Founders knew that democracy would only work if the people were individually moral and self-controlled. John Adams, in his first year as vice-president under George Washington said: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."
As we abandon our biblical foundations and refuse to face the nature of sin in humanity, we lose our ability to govern ourselves. A return to classic literature alone would not reverse the tide, but if society were to reject the humanistic and liberal view of humanity and recognize the need to teach our children self-restraint, then the classics could aid our instruction. For our culture to acknowledge that human beings can be evil and do evil things, they would also have to acknowledge a need for a Savior to forgive them for the evil they do. But that is the last thing modern liberals want to do. So the consequence of our rejection of biblical truth about humanity is selfishness which leads to the blood-letting now so common on our streets. There is indeed a consequence for every choice we make. And morals have an effect upon us whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
Jefferis Kent Peterson
The Scholar's Corner
Permission is hereby granted for non-commercial reproduction in whole or in part, without alteration and with proper citation as to source and author.