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Let Justice RollThe week started out so well. Monday was the Fourth of July. It was supposed to be a fun-filled holiday weekend of celebrating our freedom. But things went rapidly downhill from there. Just after midnight on Tuesday, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police responding to a call shot and killed Alton Sterling, an African-American man. Two different bystanders uploaded video footage of the event, and it went quickly went viral online, sparking outrage and grief as people saw for themselves what happened. Mr. Sterling was shot while officers held him pinned to the ground. Many observers saw it as a blatant miscarriage of justice and an abuse of police power.

But before we could wrap our minds around what had happened, before the investigation was even close to being completed, the very next day another African-American man, Philando Castile, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. This time there was no video of the actual shooting. But Mr. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, somehow had the presence of mind to take out her phone and start live-streaming the aftermath. As her boyfriend’s body slumped over in the car seat, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds, you can hear her cry out, “Please don’t tell me this, Lord. Please, Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.” Later on, in maybe the most heartbreaking scene of the video, Ms. Reynolds is sitting in a squad car along with her four-year-old daughter, who was there at the time of the shooting. She begins sobbing, “I can’t believe they did this,” and her daughter—her four-year-old child—comforts her, “It’s OK, I’m right here with you.”

This is gut-wrenching stuff. As I’ve watched the reactions unfold on Facebook over the last few days, I’ve been reminded how different life in America is for my black friends than it is for me. I saw my friends wondering, “Will I be next? Will my son be next?” I saw them talk about driving five miles under the speed limit in the right lane, praying that they won’t be next. I saw them grieving and mourning for two men that they never met, but felt a kinship with on a level I can’t really understand because I’ve never walked in their shoes, I’ve never lived in their skin. I enjoy privileges that they never have simply because, by accident of birth, my skin has less melanin than theirs. And I have to tell you, I’m angry. I’m heartbroken. I’m distraught, on their behalf. I stand in solidarity with them, wondering when our great nation will finally live up to its lofty ideals that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Because it’s not just these two shootings. It’s the cumulative effect of so many other shootings, the cumulative impact of a thousand different forms of inequality, the cumulative weight of injustice that our black brothers and sisters have borne ever since they first bore burdens for their slave masters. It’s the racism that is so deeply ingrained into our culture that many of us don’t even think about it, don’t even realize it’s there—unless we happen to be the victims of it.


“It’s… the cumulative weight of injustice that our black brothers and sisters have borne ever since they first bore burdens for their slave masters.”


Let me say it clearly, because it needs to be said: America is a great country; in fact, it may be the greatest country in the world. But it is far from perfect. In 2016, racism is still a reality. Injustice is still a reality. Now, maybe you’re skeptical about that. For many years I wasn’t even aware of these issues. I enjoyed the privilege of ignorance. I didn’t have to be aware of racism and injustice because they didn’t affect me. But many of my fellow citizens do not enjoy that privilege. Maybe some of us are still in the process of learning about these issues. Now is the time for listening to the experience of others—listen before you speak.

But as I was thinking about these things over the last few days, tragedy struck yet again, Thursday night in Dallas, Texas. There was a protest organized to call for justice for the two men who were killed by police in the previous days. The protest itself was peaceful. But as it was concluding, a gunman armed with a high-powered rifle opened fire on the police officers who were there escorting the protesters. And suddenly downtown Dallas turned into something that resembled a warzone. Dozens of officers were involved in an hours-long manhunt for the shooter. They exchanged gunfire with him for nearly an hour before finally detonating a remote-controlled bomb to neutralize him without further endangering the lives of the police.

The final tally was two civilians wounded, seven officers wounded, and five officers killed. (Some were from the Dallas police, others from the transit authority.) The shooter, who was himself a black man, was upset about the recent killings of black men by police. He said he wanted to kill white people and specifically white police officers. Sadly he succeeded. Police officers around the nation are reeling from this devastating attack. No doubt the fear for their lives and safety that they experience every time they don the uniform has dramatically increased in the wake of the deadliest day for police officers since 9/11.

And let’s be absolutely clear about this: no matter what happened on Tuesday, no matter what happened on Wednesday, nothing justifies the killing of innocent people, whether they wear a uniform or not. And just so there’s no doubt about this, our black brothers and sisters would agree. I’ve seen the same people who were mourning the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile also mourning the loss of these five officers: Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. These men had families, people who loved them. Those people are heartbroken right now; their lives have been shattered. And our entire nation has been rocked these tragedies.

I’m reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

As I’ve pondered what to say about these senseless and horrific acts of violence, I’ve been at a loss. What can you say? There are no words that make any of this better. There are no words that can make sense of madness. But if there’s one thing that these tragic events remind us of, it’s that this world does not operate according to God’s standard of justice and righteousness. This world is governed by sin and evil. And God rises up in judgment against it.

What should be our response, then, as His followers? We cannot sit idly by and say nothing. Silence in the face of great injustice is unacceptable. In the past God raised up prophets to speak to His people during times of distress. And while I don’t think that any of us personally claim the gift of prophecy, collectively as God’s church we must raise our prophetic voice and speak truth in our times.


“We cannot sit idly by and say nothing…. collectively as God’s church we must raise our prophetic voice and speak truth in our times.”


Perhaps the Old Testament prophets can serve as a guide for the message we might deliver to our troubled world. But in order to deliver the message, we must first hear it ourselves. The prophets spoke to God’s people. May they speak to God’s people even today.

The prophet Amos was called by God to carry a special message of warning to Israel: repent of your wicked ways, or judgment will come. It must have seemed a preposterous message to the people of Israel. At the time, the kingdom was powerful and prosperous. The people lived in self-indulgent luxury. They were certainly not thinking about calamity and destruction. Perhaps we might draw a parallel to our own times. Many people today live in blissful, comfortable ignorance, unaware of how quickly disaster can strike. But just as in Amos’ day, they need a prophetic voice to rouse them from their slumber.

Amos did not hesitate to call the sins of Israel by their right name.

This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire upon Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.” This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines.” (Amos 2:4-8)

Amos calls them to repent, to seek the Lord before it is too late.

Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire; it will devour, and Bethel will have no one to quench it…. Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. (Amos 5:6, 14)

But then God has a stern warning message that, at first glance, might seem a bit strange to us.

Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (Amos 5:18-20)

Why is woe pronounced on those who long for the day of the Lord? Aren’t we supposed to look forward to that day? Don’t we long for it, especially when we’re faced with the suffering and evil of this world? Aren’t we encouraged by the thought that Jesus is coming back soon? So what’s the deal? The next few verses answer the question.

“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:21-24)

God is fed up with self-righteous religiosity that pretends to be pious while tolerating sin. If He were speaking today, He might say, “I can’t stand your church services. I don’t want your offerings. I do not accept your prayers. I’m not listening to your hymn-singing.” That is God’s rebuke to us when we take His name upon ourselves, calling ourselves Christians, but failing to uphold His standard of justice and righteousness. As Jesus once warned, the people who call Him “Lord, Lord,” but do not do what He says are in for a rude awakening on the day of the Lord, when they will hear God say, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23).

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

You might recognize that verse. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted it in his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” In that same speech he proclaimed, “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

But freedom cannot ring until justice rolls. So let justice roll! And let God’s church be at the forefront of the movement proclaiming righteousness and justice for all those who do not yet have it. Why? Because our God is leading that movement—“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed” (Psalm 103:6).


“But freedom cannot ring until justice rolls. So let justice roll!”


At this point some of you are thinking, “I’m not sure about all of this. I’m uncomfortable with getting involved in politics. That’s not the church’s place.” It is true that the church should never become a political organization. Bad things happen when it does, history shows. And yet we have no problem as Christians raising our voices in the public sphere to decry abortion, or to oppose the redefinition of marriage. Why is it acceptable to speak out on those issues, which we believe to be of great moral importance, and yet we cannot speak out about the racial divide in our country, about the tensions between law enforcement and the communities they are supposed to protect, about the injustices that disproportionately impact minority communities?

If we do not speak out about the moral issues facing our society, we have lost our prophetic voice. “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).

The church need not become entangled with partisan politics in order to be a prophetic voice to our society. We need only stand for what is right and true, upholding our standard, our only rule of faith and practice—the Bible. And the Bible tells us—“let justice roll!”


“The church need not become entangled with partisan politics in order to be a prophetic voice to our society.”


We could go to so many other passages of Scripture with this same message, this same call to uphold justice and righteousness. Psalm 89:14 says that these are the very foundation of God’s throne. We could spend many fruitful hours plumbing the depths of God’s Word learning what those concepts of justice and righteousness mean—doing what is right, doing what is in accordance with the character of God. If you’re looking for a topic for personal Bible study, that would be a good one.

But let us not end with proclamations and studies. Let us be motivated into action. Justice must roll on like a mighty river; righteousness must flow like a never-failing stream. That’s an action, not merely a sentiment. A river doesn’t just sit there waiting for something to happen; it rolls on, the power of its current carrying along all that falls into its path. And so it must be with us.

I’d like to suggest some concrete action steps that we can take in the wake of these deadly shootings. These are ways that we can raise our prophetic voice in this time of need. But first I want to clarify two issues that our society is facing right now.

First, we need to own up to the fact that there is racial injustice on a systemic level in our nation. Consider these statistics: black Americans are two and half times more likely than white Americans to be fatally shot by the police. Even more alarming, unarmed black Americans are five times more likely than white Americans to be fatally shot by police. (And despite what you may have heard, no, we cannot pin these disparities on crime rate. Read this article for more details.)

Second, we also need to recognize that blaming all police officers for the actions of a few is irresponsible. We don’t want to inadvertently send a message of hatred for law enforcement. They risk and sometimes even sacrifice their lives to protect others. If we want to effectively address the problem of police brutality, then we should support police officers who are doing their jobs well.

So understand this: we should support police, and we should also support victims of police injustice. These are not mutually exclusive ideas. Currently in our country some are advancing a narrative that says if you support protest movements against police brutality, you are therefore anti-police and are actually contributing to violence against police. This is a false narrative and should be firmly rejected. We should also reject any narrative that suggests supporting the police means one condones police injustice. Again, support for the police and support for victims of injustice are not mutually exclusive ideas. With that in mind, here are some action steps to take.


“We should support police, and we should also support victims of police injustice. These are not mutually exclusive ideas.”


First (and right now I’m speaking primarily to my fellow white Christians), now is the time to join together in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters. Let them know that you care about them, that the issues which matter to them matter to you, that when they mourn you mourn. Let us join together in unity to stand for justice, to stand against violence—all violence, whether it is unnecessary violence against black Americans, or unjustifiable violence against police officers.

Second, consider writing a letter of encouragement to your local police department. Right now they’re most likely on edge from the events in Dallas. They need to know that we support them—that we’re pro-justice, not anti-police. Write them a letter or send them an email and tell them that. Tell them you’re praying for them, that you’re asking God to protect them as they serve your community. They have a hard job, and right now they’re feeling like they’re under attack. The need our support now more than ever.

You might even consider asking to meet with your local police chief to talk about these issues. Here are two questions you might ask (I’m indebted to my friends, and fellow pastors, Jeremiah Sepolen and David Hamstra, for these suggestions). Ask your local authorities what you can do to help build a positive relationship between police and the people in the communities they serve. And ask what they are doing to prevent unnecessary officer-involved shootings of persons of color.

Lastly, use your influence to work for positive change. You may not think you have much influence. But everyone has family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. We can all start a positive dialog about these issues. Let’s not bury our heads in the sand and pretend that if we don’t talk about the problem it doesn’t exist. Let’s have an open and honest dialog about the problems our society is facing, and how we might remedy them. Change starts with us.

And all of us have the power of our vote. Now, I’m not going to tell you who or what to vote for, because that is up to your conscience. But I will encourage you to consider the issue of civil rights when you vote. Vote for leaders who are going to help make our communities, our states, and our country a better place, leaders who will lead positive change.

In all of these actions, we must constantly be in prayer. As Christians we believe that prayer is essential. Pray for all those who have recently lost loved ones. Pray for the victims of injustice. Pray for police officers and their families. In and of itself, though, prayer is not a concrete action; that’s why I didn’t list it as an action step. Sometimes we use prayer as an excuse not to do anything. We hear about terrible tragedies, and we say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.” Let’s do more than just think and pray. Let’s act, with the gumption of the Holy Spirit.

Friends, now is the time to stand up with all of the courage and conviction our Christian faith gives us. Stand up for what is right. Stand up for what is true. Stand up for the oppressed. Let us not grow weary in doing good. Stand up, and let justice roll!



This blog is an adaptation of a sermon I preached on July 9, 2016. You can view a video of it on my sermon page.




Hungry JesusPonder with me, if you will, the frequently quoted but rarely practiced words of Jesus in Matthew 25:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (vv. 35, 36)

The problems of human suffering that Jesus highlights in this passage have always existed, but nonetheless it is striking how relevant His words are to our own society and time. We live in a world where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer—and if you’re an American, you’re among the richer, no matter how poor you may feel. Elsewhere around the world, people are literally dying for lack of the basic necessities of life: food, clean water, shelter. Numerous humanitarian crises threaten the lives and safety of men, women, and children on a daily basis. Earthquakes in Nepal. War refugees in Syria. Ebola in West Africa. Drought in Central America. And what are we, the citizens of this most favored nation, this “Christian” nation, doing about it?

Most of the time, we’re unaware of these crises because we’re too focused on our own problems. And to be fair, our nation does face challenges, though I would argue that on the whole we’re much better off than many others around the world. But our track record of dealing with our own problems suggests that even if we were aware of the suffering of others, we might not be first in line to help.

We accuse our own poor of being lazy and selfish. We claim that they’re just waiting for their next government check because they’d rather live on welfare than put in the hard work to improve their situation. We think it’s a crisis when a water shortage leads to brown lawns. We have no idea what it’s like to lack access to clean drinking water. We fight political battles over healthcare laws and resent the fact that our tax dollars are being used to fund someone else’s health insurance. We live in the most incarcerated nation in the world, and despite damning evidence that our criminal justice system is anything but just, particularly for minorities, we still insist that we need to get tougher on crime—in other words, give more power to a system that is already abusing the power that it has.

What malady ails us that we fail to see the suffering of others, and if we do see it, to blame others for their own problems? It is a lack of empathy for the other, those who are different from us, who have walked paths we do not know, who have suffered tragedies we can only imagine. We call Jesus our Savior and Lord, but we fail to see others as His brothers and sisters, the least of these though they may be. Jesus said the other is our neighbor and is deserving of our help. But we prefer to divide the world into us and them, with them being the other, the ones we don’t recognize as our neighbor.

Since Jesus indicates that there is a connection between our admittance to heaven and our response to the other, to the least of these, I wonder how we, the citizens of the greatest nation in the world, will be received when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. I pray that we will not hear Him say…

For I was hungry, but you told me to get a job instead of expecting a handout. I was thirsty, but you were too busy checking the sprinklers on your lawn. I was a stranger, but you told me to go back to my own country. I was naked, but you were filling your closet with designer clothes. I was sick, but you told me that healthcare is a privilege, not a right. I was in prison, but you left me there to rot because you think I deserve it. I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did not do for Me.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 are a rebuke to us when we disregard the needs of the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, the minority, the abused, the sick—anyone who is among the least of these. But let us not shrink away from the rebuke, “because the Lord disciplines those he loves” (Heb. 12:5). Accept the discipline, and repent. Learn to see others through Jesus’ eyes. And do for them as if you were doing it for Jesus Himself.

A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon human beings, whom Christ has esteemed of such value as to give Himself for them; a religion that would lead us to be careless of human needs, sufferings, or rights, is a spurious religion. In slighting the claims of the poor, the suffering, and the sinful, we are proving ourselves traitors to Christ. It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world. The name of the Lord is blasphemed because of these things…

Search heaven and earth, and there is no truth revealed more powerful than that which is made manifest in works of mercy to those who need our sympathy and aid. This is the truth as it is in Jesus. When those who profess the name of Christ shall practice the principles of the golden rule, the same power will attend the gospel as in apostolic times.  (Ellen White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 137)

New sermon page!

I’ve added a new page to my blog: Sermons. It contains YouTube videos of a few of the sermons I’ve preached, including some from a ten-night series on Daniel that I wrote and preached in September 2014. I’ll add new videos to the page as they become available. Check them out and share with others. I pray they will be a blessing.

131107-D-VO565-021Recently Bill Cosby has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Multiple women (19 at this point) have come forward and accused him of drugging them, assaulting them, or even raping them. The media have been in a frenzy over the accusations. This has led to what can only be described as a horrific debate in our society. Should we believe Bill Cosby, who has denied the accusations? Or should we believe the women who have accused him?

The reason this debate is so horrific is because many people, when they hear accusations of rape, immediately rush to the defense of the accused and suggest that the accuser might be making it all up. This is especially true when beloved celebrities are accused of rape. We find it hard to believe that Bill Cosby, America’s wise-cracking, sweater-wearing dad, could be capable of such terrible crimes. We have idolized an imaginary figure (Cosby’s public persona) and have conflated it with the real person, who is very human and thus capable of evil. Such is the nature of celebrity culture in America. Perhaps I’ll write more on that in a future blog.

The issue that presently concerns me is how our society places an impossible burden of proof on victims of sexual assault. If a lone victim comes forward, we doubt her[1] credibility. After all, if the accused man was really a rapist, wouldn’t there be more victims coming forward? But if multiple women come forward they don’t fare any better. Numerous alternative explanations are offered for the rape accusations. Maybe the sex was consensual but she had regrets afterward. Maybe they had a romantic relationship that soured, and now she’s seeking revenge. Maybe she’s trying to get attention and win her 15 seconds of fame. Maybe she’s after money. Of course, no logical reason is given for why multiple women would all accuse the same man of doing the same thing to them.[2]

Even if women come forward at the time of the assault, they are often doubted. They don’t earn fame and fortune. They earn shame and scorn. They’re accused of being sluts, attention whores, vindictive ex-lovers bent on revenge. This is why many victims of assault and abuse do not come forward. And then, in a cruel twist of irony, if they do find the courage to come forward years after the assault, we raise an incredulous eyebrow and ask, “If this really happened, why didn’t she say something at the time?”

This is the impossible burden of proof our society places on victims of sexual assault and abuse. Many times no evidence offered by the victim is enough to convince us that a rape occurred. There’s always a preferred alternative explanation. The very nature of sexual assault makes it a private affair. No witnesses are available to corroborate the victim’s story except for the abuser, and he’s certainly not going to incriminate himself. In fact, he has likely arranged the situation in such a way that no one is able or willing to support the victim. He has isolated her so that if she does come forward, she will receive the response our society is all too willing to give: blame the victim.

Contrast this with the approach that God commanded the Israelites to take when dealing with accusations of rape:[3]

But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the girl; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders his neighbor, for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her. (Deut. 22:25-27)

What is significant here is that the accused rapist was to be found guilty and even sentenced to death based only on the testimony of his lone accuser. Normally a person facing the death penalty had to be convicted by at least two witnesses (see Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15).

The principle is exceedingly clear: when a woman says she has been raped, believe her. Rather than resorting to increasingly implausible alternative scenarios that let the rapist off the hook while leaving his victim doubly traumatized (first by him, and then by society), take her accusation seriously.

Now, I know that someone is going to raise the issue of “innocent until proven guilty,” a cornerstone of our legal system. I am not repudiating that principle here. Our legal system works much differently than ancient Israel’s, and we have methods of evidence and investigation that were unavailable to them. I am not suggesting that we should rush to judgment in the other extreme. But I am saying that we, especially as Christians, should listen seriously when a woman says she has been raped and apply a reasonable standard of proof instead of an impossible one.

A study conducted by David Lisak on an American university campus found that over a ten-year period only 8 out of 136 cases of reported sexual assault were false. That’s 5.9%. Overall they estimate that only 2% to 10% of sexual assault accusations are false. That means when a woman says she has been raped, it’s very unlikely that she’s making it up and very likely that she’s telling the truth. Yet our society responds in just the opposite way. We act as though it’s likelier that she’s lying than telling the truth.

This data is especially troubling when we consider how many sexual assaults go unreported. If we were to compare the number of false accusations with the number of actual assaults, it would be an even tinier percentage. False accusations of sexual assault are indeed a problem, but they are not nearly as widespread as the epidemic of sexual assault that plagues our society. We need to stop acting as though false accusations are a bigger problem than rape itself.

As Christians who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we must take a stand with the oppressed and downtrodden. That includes the victims of rape and sexual assault. No more victim blaming and shaming. No more defending the abuser. While we should never rush to judgment, we should rush to the aid of victims who come forward with stories of abuse. Listen to them. Believe them. Take a stand with them. Maybe we can begin to change the stigma that our society places on victims of sexual assault and remove the impossible burden of proof from their shoulders.

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3, 4)




[1] I realize that not all victims of sexual assault are female, and not all perpetrators are male. However, that is the situation in many cases, including this one, so for simplicity’s sake I refer to victims as female and abusers as male.

[2] Cosby’s accusers all have remarkably similar stories, despite the fact that they have come forward individually. One would have to believe that there is a massive conspiracy to destroy Cosby, and that all of these women have colluded together to get their stories straight. Such a belief defies logic and common sense.

[3] The Old Testament’s teachings on rape are sometimes misunderstood and thus vilified, but notice here that even compared to our modern society this standard of proof is exceedingly progressive.

Jesus ContemplativeFerguson, Missouri. A police officer shoots and kills an unarmed man. The city erupts in protests and riots. The police respond with surprising force and cruelty. The media breathlessly reports on every little twist and turn in the case. Opinions fly back and forth in a heated discussion across America. The investigation continues for several months. The grand jury finally reaches its decision, and then comes the announcement: no charges will be brought against Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown.

Some call it justice. Some call it injustice. Often it seems that people take sides based on which eyewitnesses they choose to believe are telling the truth. The facts are difficult to discern, and this side of heaven we will never see true justice delivered.

Ferguson should serve as a reminder for us that this world is broken, that we are broken, that justice here is often elusive and fleeting, and that nothing but the parousia of Jesus can set things right. It was promised of Him: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory” (Matt. 12:20).

Justice has not yet been led to victory. We, in our brokenness, have perverted justice. Many who took sides with Officer Wilson have acted as though the death of a young man is somehow a good thing. Many who took sides with Michael Brown have acted as though wanton destruction is somehow an acceptable response to the tragedy of his death.

God sees it differently. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (Gen. 6:5, 6). None of what happened in Ferguson makes God happy. The evil in this world, in men’s hearts, fills His heart with sorrow.

When Jesus lived on earth, He experienced the sting of death when His friend Lazarus died. He responded by weeping (John 11:35). I can’t imagine that His response is any different today when He sees the suffering and death that His children experience all around the world, every single day. How His heart must break for the horrible consequences of sin.

Jesus weeps for Ferguson. He weeps with the family of a young man whose life was cut short by needless violence. He weeps with another family whose lives have also been forever changed by the choices that were made on that fateful day in August. He weeps over the blind rage, hatred, and senseless destruction that have followed in the wake of the shooting, instigated by angry protesters, exacerbated by overzealous police officers, and fomented nationwide by ideologues on both sides looking to score political points. And he weeps over each one of us who allows this story to water the root of bitterness in our hearts till it springs up into hatred toward our fellow man.

Jesus is not celebrating the triumph of justice today, because there is no triumph of justice. There will be no triumph of justice until death itself has been defeated. Until that day let us join together and do all within our power to work for peace, justice, and mercy. Let us resist the forces of anger, hatred, and violence. And let us also mourn the pain and suffering that death causes, for as followers of Jesus we ought to weep just as He wept (1 John 2:6).

DeceptionAheadThere seems to be a fair number of Christians who are hooked on conspiracy theories. The secret government plot behind 9/11. The Jesuit conspiracy to pervert modern Bible translations. The mass mind control techniques being used by pop stars in their concerts and music videos. A multitude of excellent blogs have already been written on this subject. Like this one, for example, that analyzes why conspiracy theories don’t hold up to careful scrutiny in the light of history (it’s actually a two-part series). Or this one, which is an impassioned appeal from a fellow young pastor to stop focusing on fearful speculation and instead focus on Jesus. Or this one, which emphasizes that our job as Christians is to shine light into the darkness, not to delve into the darkness trying to ferret out all its secrets. I highly recommend reading all of these pieces; they’re not that long. It will take less time to read these blogs than it will to research a new conspiracy theory.

This is a somewhat dangerous subject to blog on. Some people may be defensive about it. Also, I may risk repeating what someone else has already said more eloquently. But I humbly undertake this risk to highlight a very grave end-time threat that I see in conspiracy theories.

End-Time Deception

Remember the warning Jesus gave to His disciples: “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible” (Matt. 24:24). Jesus was talking about the events that led up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and also the final events that will precede the second coming. His disciples certainly saw this fulfilled in their day. Numerous false teachers and false messiahs arose and led many Jews astray. Not only that, they led people into rebellion against the Roman authorities, and thus to their deaths.

The deception in the last days will be even more deadly. Satan, the enemy of God and His people, will try to lead people astray from God’s truth and thus to their eternal destruction. In Revelation we find that Satan (the dragon) works through earthly powers (the beasts) to deceive the whole world (Rev. 13:14). Everyone who does not follow God ends up following the beast—and the beast ends up in the lake of fire (Rev. 13:8; 19:20). Clearly it is extremely important to be aware of the last-day deception and to avoid it.

And actually, that’s the reason why some Christians are so interested in conspiracy theories. Uncovering the enemy’s schemes is a way to defend ourselves against them. It gives us confidence that we will not be deceived. If we know what the deception is, we won’t fall for it!

Truth, Deception, and the Elect of God

But notice again what Jesus warned: “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.” Jesus didn’t say that only the unenlightened “sheeple” of the world would be at risk. He specifically warned that the elect, those who know and follow the truth, would be deceived if it were possible. In other words, the deception will be so overwhelming that even godly people are at risk of falling for it.

How can this be? Deception is, by definition, tricking people into believing something is true when it really isn’t. If you knew that you were being deceived, you wouldn’t be deceived! That’s redundant, but I’m trying to make a point: In order for the elect to be at risk of being deceived, the deception must come in a form that they are likely to believe.

Let me give a couple examples of things that would not deceive the elect. If a crude and profane rapper boasts of being like God, you’re not going to think he’s spiritually uplifting and start listening to his music. If a popular movie tells a well-known Bible story, but conveys a very different version of the story than what’s actually in the Bible, you’re not going to fall for it. These are not things that seem true to the elect.

But you know what might seem true to the elect?  The idea that there is a small, secretive group of people behind popular movies and music who are trying to brainwash the general population and control their minds. The reason that seems true is because there is an element of truth to it. Ultimately Satan is working behind the scenes to deceive people, and he will use any means available to promote error, even music and movies. But is he working through a secretive cabal of world leaders who are bent on coalescing the reprogrammed masses into a New World Order? That’s what some conspiracy theorists would have you believe. Despite a lack of tangible evidence, they pull together tantalizing clues to weave a tangled web of associations to support their theory. And some Christians believe it’s all true.

The Danger of Conspiracy Theories

If the last-day deception will come in a form that the elect are likely to believe, then conspiracy theories are a good example of how that deception will work. I’m not saying that conspiracy theories are the last-day deception, only that they work on similar principles, and they could potentially lead to last-day deception.

One of the most disturbing aspects of conspiracy theories is that even when they are based on demonstrably false information, Christians will still believe the overall theory because the conclusion fits with their worldview. It seems that the specific details don’t matter if they like the big picture. It’s the opposite of missing the forest for the trees; they can’t see that the trees are fake because they’re too busy admiring the picture-perfect landscape. An example of this is the conspiracy theory that the translators of the NIV intentionally removed verses from the Bible in order to undermine vital theological truths, like the deity of Christ. Walter Veith, a prominent conspiracy theorist in the Adventist church, makes the outlandish claim that “up to 60,000” words have been removed from the NIV. The New Testament has about 180,000 words. One could easily compare the NIV with the KJV and quickly confirm that the NIV is not, in fact, missing the equivalent of one-third of the New Testament.

Another claim Veith makes is that all references to Jesus as Lord have been removed from the NIV. That’s a serious charge, and if true would be a grave threat to the very foundation of Christianity. But even a cursory examination of the New Testament will prove this to be false. There are plenty of references in the NIV to Jesus being Lord. It took me a few seconds of searching my computer Bible program to locate one of the most obvious: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

My purpose here is not to belittle Walter Veith. Many people say he is a wonderful man, and I’ve heard that his work on creation is outstanding. However, the conspiracy theories he promotes are not only fallacious, but spiritually dangerous. If a theory is based on numerous “facts” that can easily be disproved, it’s not much of a theory. And if this theory claims to give people spiritual enlightenment but is based on myths and rumors, those who believe it are at risk of actually going deeper into darkness. Why should we trust the conclusion to be true if the premise is false?

But many people do trust the conclusion, and this is why I believe that conspiracy theories are so dangerous. They seem to cause us to momentarily turn off the critical reasoning powers of our brains and believe that something is true when it isn’t. Maybe we want to believe it because it makes us feel like we’ve outwitted the devil. We know there will be deceptions in the last days. Is it that far-fetched to imagine that Satan might try to deceive people with a faulty Bible translation? No, not really. But if such a deception were a reality, we should be able to establish it by verified evidence and sound reasoning instead of demonstrably false claims and preposterous leaps of logic.

Loving the Truth

The apostle Paul wrote: “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2, emphasis supplied). The way to promote the truth is—are you ready for this—to simply tell the truth. I know, what a novel concept! But sadly it has become a novel concept for many people. They have become so caught up in the twisted world of conspiracy theories that they can no longer discern truth from fiction. Some of these people could have been described as the elect at one time. They are deeply religious people who love God’s truth and are zealous to defend it. But somehow they got off track. They followed the siren song of conspiracy theories, and little by little it has led them away from the safety and security found in God’s Word toward a dangerous combination of speculation, deceit, and rumor-mongering.

If we can’t tell truth from fiction when it comes to conspiracy theories, how will we be able to discern the last great deception that will threaten even the elect? Will we actually be among the elect if we don’t cultivate a love for the truth? Paul warns that the last-day deception ends in destruction specifically because those who are deceived refuse to love the truth and so be saved (1 Thess. 2:9-12). In other words, they become deceived through their own choice; they choose error instead of truth. It’s especially important to cultivate a love for the truth now, while it is relatively easy to distinguish truth from error. If instead we are cultivating a love of conspiracy theories that are based even partially on error, we are placing ourselves in serious jeopardy of falling for the last-day deception.

Truth is not merely a set of facts. It is not a collection of special, secret knowledge that only those with insight into the inner workings of the devil’s schemes are privileged to understand. Such a view is actually unbiblical. It is a new form of an ancient heresy called gnosticism (my friend David Hamstra calls it “occult epistemology”). The Bible teaches that truth is a Person. Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). If we want to be a part of God’s elect people who avoid the end-time deception, then we need to stay close to Jesus. Spend more time getting to know Him, and less time researching conspiracy theories. I promise you there is infinitely more value in being with Jesus than in trying to discern the next great deception. If you know the Truth, then you won’t fall for the deception.

So here’s my challenge to you. The next time you encounter a conspiracy theory and are tempted to follow it down the rabbit hole, stop and pray. Then pick up your Bible and read the promises of Jesus: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27, 28). No one can deceive you if  you are following Jesus. Listen to His voice, not to speculative and untrustworthy conspiracy theories. Let Jesus worry about thwarting the devil’s deceptions. Make sure you know and are following the truth, and you will be eternally safe.



Matthew With Kieran

Matthew Shallenberger pastors in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. He and his wife have two little boys and two hyper dogs. Matthew believes that tin foil is best used for cooking purposes, not hat-making.

The views expressed in this blog are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference or the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Hand on LaptopThis is a blog I originally posted on Facebook on August 27, 2012. This is a lead-in to a new blog I’ll be writing soon. Hope you enjoy!

Everyone loves a good story. People have been telling each other stories for thousands of years. Not all stories are true. Of course, some weren’t meant to be and everyone knows it. However, in other cases people don’t know a story isn’t true and they pass it along as if it were. This is one of the chief ways rumors get started. In the internet age, rumors and urban legends spread faster than chickenpox at a daycare. All it takes is a few seconds on Facebook, and someone can start a rumor that eventually millions of people will hear.

With the incredible volume of information that is passed around the internet, it can sometimes be difficult to tell which stories are true and which ones are phony baloney. Some people (I happen to be one of them) are natural skeptics and are suspicious of almost everything they hear or read, especially when it comes via the internet. The old saying, “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see,” has never been truer than in the internet age.

To help further the cause of truth, here’s a helpful little guide for testing the veracity of stories that you read on the internet, whether they pop up in your email inbox, your Facebook news feed, or somewhere else.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

This rule applies to many things in life—credit card offers, sweepstakes winnings, weight loss pills, etc. If the events in a story seem just a bit too fortuitous, or if the story leads perfectly into a pithy punch line, then your baloney detector should be sounding the alarm. Granted, an amazing story isn’t guaranteed to be false, because amazing things really do happen in this crazy life. But more often than not, if it’s hard to believe, it’s because you shouldn’t believe it.

If it’s typed in all caps, it automatically loses credibility.

I don’t know why, but it seems that quite a few made-up stories come in all caps. Maybe the person who first started passing around the tall tale thought that putting it in all caps would help boost its credibility. You know, kind of like adding “This is a true story!” to the end of a story that most definitely isn’t true. Whatever the case (no pun intended), be suspicious of email or Facebook stories typed in all caps. Chances are they did not come from a reliable or authoritative source. Also, typing in all caps is considered very poor netiquette (internet etiquette, for the uninitiated). It’s like shouting. Do you believe people more when they shout at you? Likewise, be on the alert when people shout at you in all caps.

If it involves donations for every “Like,” “Share,” or “Forward,” it’s almost certainly bogus.

There are voluminous numbers of these going around. Usually they follow a form that goes something like this: “Poor little Jimmy (usually an adorable baby or small child) has cancer and will die without treatment. Facebook has promised to donate $1 to his medical care for every like/share this picture/post gets.” I’m not sure how these things started. It might be something as simple (and disgusting) as a very needy netizen who desperately wanted more Facebook likes, so she made up a story that would prey on people’s emotions and sent it out into the webosphere. A few seconds of critical thinking should help you determine why these posts are bogus. First, Facebook is going to limit their donations to a dying child based on how many likes a picture gets? That’s twisted. Talk about bad PR! But it’s not even a picture that Facebook has posted. It’s someone else’s picture. Why would they donate money because someone’s random picture gets likes? Why wouldn’t they try to raise the funds through a more official forum, say, a Facebook announcement sent directly to your inbox, accompanied by a press release, and so on? I could go on, but I think you get the point. This is one of the most obvious fakes, and I am continually amazed that people fall for it. Look, I realize that these posts are accompanied by a real tearjerker of a story. That’s why they work. But just remember to use your critical thinking skills and not only your emotions, and you’ll have all the tools you need to sniff out the baloney.

If it doesn’t cite a source, it’s probably made up.

Every now and again I see Facebook posts and email forwards where wild claims are made without any substantiation whatsoever. Often these are politically-oriented posts, with accusations directed at certain politicians or political parties (e.g., “Mitt Romney said he was too important to go to Vietnam!”). Or it might be a clever quote, speech, or letter attributed to some well-known person (e.g., “General David Petraeus calls out President Obama!”). But if there is no source included, be suspicious that the information you’re reading might not be reliable. If this is a legitimate story, why not include the source from which it came?

If it does cite a source but doesn’t include specific information or a link, it’s probably made up.

Of course, just because it does include a source doesn’t mean it’s true. Sometimes the source is vague; other times it’s misattributed (e.g., the story might claim to come from a New York Times article, but lacks specific information about the date and page number). Also, in this day and age, where almost everything is on the internet, it’s very poor form not to include an internet link, so if there’s no link be at least a little skeptical of the source. Of course, if you have reason to doubt, you can do the research yourself…

If you think a story is suspicious, Google it.

One thing that really bothers me about bogus internet stories is how quickly people pass them along without taking a few minutes to verify the story. If you’re going to share something with the world through Facebook, email, or any other venue, take responsibility and make sure you’re sharing truth and not lies. Yes, I know; re-sharing internet stories is incredibly easy, and when the story you’ve just read really hits a nerve it’s oh so tempting to just hit that “Share” button and let everyone know how you feel. But please, for the sake of your friends, and the sake of the truth, become a fact-checker. Google is a great place to start; you can find information on pretty much anything in a matter of seconds with a simple internet search. For dealing specifically with fact-checking, sites like and are indispensible tools. For fact-checking political statements, and are great resources. Don’t become both a victim and a vendor of internet urban legends just because you were too lazy to fact check.

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a solid starting place if you want to be a good internet skeptic (and everyone should be an internet skeptic). Share your own tips for improving your baloney detector in the comments. And remember: before you share a lie, verify.


Here are a couple of outstanding blogs along similar lines that some friends of mine have written. Enjoy!

Bruno Mars’ Masonic Baby Haircut and 5 Ways to STOP Misinformation on the Internet

ALS Challenge and the Age of Aquarius

SwordI have a confession. Often when I am reading the Bible and I come across a particularly powerful passage, I immediately think of the people I know who need to read it. In fact, I suspect that sometimes I find a passage so compelling because it reminds me of other people’s problems, their wrong attitudes and actions. Now, I don’t intentionally read the Bible looking for ammunition against others. But it’s easy for me to see the relevance of certain passages to real-life problems.

But I’m not ashamed to make that confession for two reasons. First, I know that most of you do the same thing when you read the Bible, so I have plenty of company. And second, it’s not always wrong to read a passage of Scripture and apply it to someone else’s situation. Sometimes that’s a necessary and helpful response. But we’ll get to that later. Right now I want to focus on the first reason.

Be honest—you do this, too. You read the Bible and think of all the people who need to hear what you’ve just read. Maybe you even think of passive-aggressive ways you could covertly tell them—say, a Facebook status update. This method even has its own term: vaguebooking, posting an ambiguous status update designed to elicit sympathetic response from friends but also conceal the real reason behind the post. That way if the person you’re directing it at confronts you, you can claim it wasn’t about them personally. It’s a digital deniable op.

The problem with reading the Bible this way is that it short-circuits the true purpose of God’s word. Scripture was not given to us so we could use it to bludgeon others when they screw up. It was given to convict us personally of our sin so that we can right our own wrongs first. Jesus was dealing with this very issue in Matthew 7 when He taught us not to judge others. Before I go picking at the speck in my brother’s eye, I first must remove the plank in my own eye. The Spirit who inspired the Scriptures is the one who convicts us of sin, and conviction is always personal.

Paul called the word of God the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). But he didn’t mean we should use it to cut each other. He meant we should use it to fend off Satan when he attacks us. It’s not nearly as fun to apply Scripture to my own sins as it is to point fingers at someone else. I don’t usually like feeling convicted. It’s an uncomfortable feeling because it calls me to change, and none of us really like change. Not personally, anyway; I’m more than happy to point out where others need to change. Perhaps that’s why we turn the sword against each other. When we feel the cut, we shrink back from the discomfort and attempt to direct it toward others. Have you ever noticed that the faults we most often criticize in others are the ones with which we struggle the most?

In Hebrews, the author describes the sword this way: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). The Bible must always first and foremost convict me personally—my thoughts, my attitudes, my heart. Only after it has cut me to the heart can I understand what it means and then apply it to others. If I don’t let it cut me first, I have no right to cut others with it. There is a time and a place to use Scripture to encourage, comfort, and even rebuke others. But I cannot rightly do that unless I have applied the Bible to myself first. The next time you read a verse and start thinking about who needs to hear it, listen to it yourself. You may be surprised by how relevant it is to your life.

Christ Is Risen!

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This past weekend we celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the most important event in earth’s history. Jesus made it possible for us to be saved from sin and death through His own sacrificial death. Often when we talk about salvation, we focus on the cross. That is a very important part of the plan of salvation. But the resurrection is equally important. Without it the entire Christian religion is meaningless. Check out what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Some people like to say that if there was no resurrection, no heaven, no eternal reward for following Jesus, they would still be Christians because it’s still worth it. Christianity has made their lives better, so even if it all turns out to be a fairy tale, they wouldn’t change a thing. The temporary benefits of Christianity are enough.

Nonsense. If there is no resurrection, no heaven, no eternity with Jesus, then Christianity is worthless. Actually, it’s worse than worthless, because it gives us a false hope for a better future that will never come. It tells us to believe in a God who is powerless to defeat sin and death. What kind of faith is that? How does false hope make life better? It’s a pitiful way to live. We might as well pursue what little enjoyment we can get out of this life, because this is it. Later in the chapter Paul says, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1 Cor. 15:32).

The only reason that Christianity has any meaning or power to make our lives better is because Jesus is alive! “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20-22).

Christ is risen! He has defeated sin and death! And the same power that brought Him forth from the grave is the same power that works in our lives to break the chains of sin and to give us hope for a better future when death will finally be destroyed forever.

Jesus’ power is still the same today; it has not diminished in the slightest. We can claim His promise and receive that power in our lives. This isn’t just a once-a-year commitment that we make after we’ve experienced a stirring Easter church service or witnessed a powerful Passion Play. The real challenge is to live every day in the resurrection power of Jesus. Jesus really is alive. Are you?

Before you read Part 4 of this series, it’s really important to understand the context for what I’m about to say. If you haven’t read the entire series, at least read Part 3 first (I promise it’s short).

Jesus Cleansing the Temple 4

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There’s another application of these ideas that might hit a little closer to home for some of us. Please understand that I don’t write this in a critical or condemnatory spirit. Rather, I write from a pastor’s heart. I long to see Jesus’ church reclaim His mission—seeking and saving the lost.

But I worry that the modern church has reversed Jesus’ methodology. We are gentle and accommodating to well-churched people, and we worry tremendously about offending them. (If you’ve ever been on a church board or nominating committee you know what I’m talking about.) But we seem to give little thought to how we might be offending those who are not so firmly established in the church. When new people come to our churches, many of them feel immediately that they are not good enough to meet our standards. They don’t look like us, smell like us, talk like us, and they certainly don’t live like us. And sadly our attitude toward them communicates that until they do become like us, they won’t be accepted.

One especially egregious example is our treatment of young people, even young people already in the church, unfortunately. They come to church dressed “inappropriately,” and some self-appointed church guardian scolds them (anonymous letters seem to be a popular tactic). They sing special music and the beat is a little too strong, so they’re reminded to be more “reverent” next time (as if they’re going to want to sing again after being shamed the first time). When they speak up and share their ideas, we often ignore them. If we bother to listen at all we may tell them that they lack the wisdom and experience to comment intelligently on the important matters of the church—not necessarily in those words, but the message is clear: “leave it to the adults, kids.”

The well-churched folks who do this kind of thing may be well-meaning, but good intentions are not enough. Sadly they are misrepresenting the gospel. No one is good enough for God’s grace, not even church folks. You may be a tithe-paying, Sabbath-keeping, vegan-eating Seventh-day Adventist, but none of that qualifies you to receive God’s grace. But like the Pharisees, when spiritual pride creeps in we imagine ourselves better than others. We may not say it openly, but our self-righteousness is obvious to others.

Please don’t think I’m being judgmental of judgmental people. I’m not any better than they are. I’m just as bad as they are, and I need Jesus just as much as they do. But part of being the body of Christ means that we hold each other accountable. There are times when we must take a stand and say enough is enough. We need to stop letting spiritual pride hinder others from coming to Jesus.

Now, I know someone may be thinking: “But what about our standards? Who will uphold them? Who will guard the church from creeping compromise?” The answer is simple—Jesus. He’s the one who protects His bride, the church. What are we so afraid of? Are we worried that if we let our guard down, we’ll come to church some morning to find that the sinners outnumber the saints? If that happens, praise the Lord! Our mission on this earth is not to preserve a holy country club where only platinum-level church members are allowed. Our mission is to join with Jesus in seeking and saving the lost. It’s messy business that requires a lot of patience and gentleness in dealing with very imperfect people. Remember how Jesus showed you gentleness, then go and do thou likewise.

It takes a lot of wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to know when to be gentle, and when to firmly rebuke. The example Jesus gave us is a great place to start. Be gentle with the wandering soul looking for hope, love, and salvation. Be firm with the self-righteous saint hindering others from finding those things. This blog series is not intended to be a manual on who to offend and who not to offend. I don’t pretend to know the answer for every situation. But I think it’s high time the church had a conversation about all of this. Share your thoughts in the comments.