Saturday, 9 August 2014

Back to the Gospel 3: Gouging out our eyes!

I will begin with two scripture quotes.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.” And,
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.” 

2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.”
But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”
The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”
When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.
When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. 

1Samuel 11:1-6
A word of explanation is needed about the latter passage. Why did Nahash want to gouge out the right eye in particular? Well, according to commentators, the fighting men would carry their weapons with their right hand and their shield in their left. They would then look over the shield with their right eye. So effectively, by removing the right eye, they were rendering the people of the city powerless, unable to fight effectively in battle.
The relationship between government and church is complex and beyond the scope of this post, but I want to put a few points to you.

  1. We are to respect those in political power, pay our taxes and realise that they are put in place under God's ultimate authority (Romans 13, Acts 23:5)
  2. Having said that, government (if it ever did) no longer seeks the Lord for direction and guidance. The main political ideologies are humanistic.
  3. We are not yet suffering active state persecution of the church, as some countries are, but there is a large degree of low level opposition to the gospel.

  4. Government will happily tolerate and even financially support churches and Christian organisations that do good works, particularly if it fits with their agenda. But they will rarely support the preaching of the gospel.

Point 4 doesn't worry me. We do not live in a theocracy! And even in Old Testament Israel, prophets often lived on the edges of society, either earning their own living or relying on sympathetic supporters to feed and accommodate them. Jesus himself had 'nowhere to rest his head'. As a Christian, I want liberty (1Timothy 2:1-4), but I don't want a subsidy (Genesis 23:1-16).
I've seen it so many times. Churches and para-church organisations fall over themselves to get a grant, a subsidy or a service level agreement. It happens like this:
  • Some enthusiastic Christians set up a successful project. It combines caring for physical needs with sharing the gospel.
It succeeds spectacularly!

  • Either (a) it runs short of money, (b) they want it to expand or (c) a government agency becomes interested.
  • They apply for funding.
  • There is a clause in the contract which says that they cannot preach an effective gospel message.
  • They get lots of money!

  • It loses its effectiveness!

In other words.. Nahash has gouged our eyes out!
Let me quote from 'Revolution in World Missions'.
As much as we want to see hundreds and thousands of new missionaries go into all the dark places, if they don’t know what they are there to do, the result will be fatal. We must send soldiers into battle with the right weapons and understanding of the enemy’s tactics. If we intend to answer man’s greatest problem—his separation from the eternal God—with rice handouts, then we are throwing a drowning man a board instead of helping him out of the water. A spiritual battle fought with spiritual weapons will produce eternal victories. This is why we insist upon restoring a right balance to Gospel outreach. The accent must first and always be on evangelism and discipleship.
 P 109

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