January 2, Monday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

Devotional Thought for Today

Introduction (1): Whose Politics? Which Morality?

Proverbs 18:2

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

2When it comes to the beliefs of our fellow human beings and even those who “claim to live in Christ” (1 Jn. 2:6), we can be greatly perplexed at the diversity of opinion—how is it that people, many of whom are educated and of goodwill, can believe so vastly different things about the nature of reality?

This incredulousness was certainly evident during the recent presidential election. Many of even the same families and faiths came to adopt two radically different positions concerning visions of the moral and political good during the election, very roughly categorized as liberal and conservative.

For liberals, they saw a hard-working, honorable, and capable candidate in Hilary Clinton who was ready to pave the way for women to break the glass ceiling of a patriarchal rooftop and continue Obama’s struggle for a more just society. Trump was the incarnation of Satan: unethical, unqualified, and, most importantly, a bigoted normalizer of the triune unpardonable sin of our time in the threefold manner of racism, sexism, and homophobia. “How could anyone, much less a follower of Jesus, vote for a man who talks about minorities with such disrespect? How can we vote for a man who knows so little and lies so much?” they asked out loud. Support for Clinton was support for justice over injustice, plain and simple.

For many conservatives, they perceived Clinton to be the epitome of corruption who would force Christians to accede to the unjust mandates of social justice activists in the arenas of abortion, homosexuality, and religion: they wondered, “How can Christians support someone who so blatantly defies God in her advocacy for same-sex marriage and abortion? How can we back someone who so dangerously threatens our religious liberty? How can we vote for a person so corrupt and full of deceit?” Many conservatives saw hope in Trump for a revitalized economic future. Others voted for him as a buffer to what they perceived to be a greater evil, namely the felt threat of liberalism to the ideals of morality, freedom, and true religion.  Supporting Trump was akin to U.S. support of Stalin during World War II against the Axis powers—not ideal, but necessary to defeat the bigger threat.

This is truly an American age of polarization, of radically different conceptions of the good. One person’s idea of marriage equality is what another would call the degradation of public morality. One man’s religious freedom is another’s religious bigotry.  One woman’s reproductive rights are another’s genocide of children.

The problem of fundamental disagreement is a profound one, and I can only offer some cursory thoughts as to finding a way through. Christians must carefully evaluate their own philosophy and competing philosophies, always measuring them against “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).  Christians must earnestly seek wisdom to discern the various visions of ethics, politics, and justice (James 1:5, 3:17-8). And, perhaps most importantly, Christians must be willing to respectfully listen to others and truly attempt to understand where others come from, even while humbly disagreeing (Lk. 9:54-5)—if the Golden Rule applies to the political realm as well, then I think it would demand nothing less.

So, join with me this month as we examine several election-related issues that, if handled without the “Radical-Middle” (both/and) and adequate knowledge and compassion, threaten to compromise our prophetic (i.e., theocentric, nonpartisan) witness to the unbelieving world.

Prayer: Father, this morning, I’m amazed at Your grace once again, for I’m truly blessed.  As Christ exhorted us to love You with our minds as well, motivate and strengthen me to study the issues according to your truth, and then embody that truth in how I live by the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 1

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Lunch Break Study

James 1:19: Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

Read Lev. 10:16-20 (ESV): Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, 17 ‘Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? 18 Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.’ 19 And Aaron said to Moses, ‘Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, and yet such things as these have happened to me!* If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the Lord have approved?’ 20 And when Moses heard that, he approved.

*Aaron’s two sons died earlier that day for disobeying God’s explicit command (Lev. 10:1-2).

Questions to Consider

  1. Why was Moses so quick to get angry with his brother Aaron?
  2. What calmed Moses down, that is, becoming “satisfied” (NIV) with Aaron’s reason for not complying with what he was told to do?
  3. Application: The quickest way to end any dialogue these days is to label your “opponents,” who are merely articulating their views, with some belittling and insulting terms. Do you think everyone who disagrees with your position deserves such treatment?  Ultimately, what does that say about us, in terms of who we are and how much we really know about things?

Notes

  1. Moses knew that Aaron failed to comply with what he was told to do, but Moses didn’t consider why it could’ve happened that way; in other words, he didn’t truly listen but was quick to speak and become angry.
  2. After hearing Aaron out, Moses understood that Aaron was mourning for his two sons who had died earlier that day as God’s judgment against them; in other words, Aaron was in no mood to eat.
  3. I understand why people of the world would behave a certain way, but when followers of Christ do the same, it means that they have been influenced more by the media and academia than God’s Word. It suggests that what they know lacks both depth and breadth because quickly labeling someone (“hater,” “bleeding-heart liberal”)—which torpedoes any rational conversation—suggests that they have run out of cogent things to say.

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Evening Reflection

2bPaul told Timothy, Pastor of the church in Ephesus: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).   This wasn’t an easy thing to do, since Paul was referring to the Roman Emperor Nero—a madman who murdered his own mother Agrippina to secure his power.  The President-elect Trump certainly has done foolish things, but matricide isn’t one of them.  If the early Christians could pray for Nero, we should also pray for Trump (as well as Mike Pence).  Would you pray that they would become humble people who would take God’s Word seriously and govern our country with His wisdom and compassion?

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