I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)
1. Once again, despite the welcome news that murders and down significantly in my country, this week the nation was sent reeling under the brazen attack by gunmen in two communities. At the end of the day…..
4 days ago – GUNMEN have continued to wreak havoc in Bog Walk, St Catherine, killingthree men, among them a 70-year-old, at Pine Apple Lane, …
4 days ago – Police investigators are now at the scene of a multiple shooting in Rockfort, East Kingston where eight people were shot late this evening.
2. News about Ebola continue to be of high interest to Jamaicans, especially after the deadly virus continues to surface in the USA. And the attendant new policy of automatic quarantine for 21 for anyone who has been in contact with an Ebola patient in West Africa is provoking a grand debate.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014. STORY HIGHLIGHTS … NY & NJ begin mandatory Ebola quarantine. Mayor: NYC prepared to handle Ebola.
3. Not a major news item but one which attracted my attention was a story about the treatment of LGBT persons in Jamaica, and the view of one of the persons who carried out the study, that Jamaica needs to move away from the moral argument, and focus on the human rights issue, if progress is to made on the behalf of the LGBT persons.
THE WORD OF GOD
In the midst of all these life changing events and advocacy about lifestyle changes, what Word of inspired word did the Lord send this week.
THE FIRST SET OF MESSAGES – sent by WhatsApp to a number of my contacts, were meant to encourage us to remain faithful to a Sovereign God who is good, very good, and who is with us always, in times of our deepest trials, once we trust in Him. Words of power and encouragement which would prove of great value to me personally as I eventually fell ill with Chick V this week. A mild attack, thank God. I could walk, but felt weak and lethargic, and only managed to attend church today by God’s grace and mercy.
Take courage ! It is I. Don’t be afraid
God’s sovereign power supervises everything that comes into our lives, no matter how threatening it appears. And He is – in His unchanging nature – very, very good – CHRIS TIEGREEN.
Did I not tell you that if you believed , you would see the glory of God. John 11:40….One of the foundational dynamics of the kingdom of God is this principle: faith, then sight. How often we reverse the order! Our natural inclination – and probably that of Mary in this passage as she mourns the death of her brother Lazarus – is to say we’ll believe when we see the glory of God. But throughout Jesus’ ministry, He’s emphatic that we have it backwards. We’ll see the glory of God when we believe.
THE SECOND SET OF MESSAGES – THREE IN ALL, SENT TO LEADERS IN MY COUNTRY AND ENTITLED ” LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOUR WHO IS DIFFERENT FROM YOU – ONLY IN CHRIST JESUS. WHICH ESSENTIAL WAS A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO A SUGGESTION THAT THE MORAL ARGUMENT , VIZ WHAT THE BIBLE STATES, SHOULD HAVE NO BEARING ON HOW WE TREAT OUR LBGT NEIGHBORS.
This message came in stages. First was a conversation on Nationwide News Network I heard this week, where a study carried out by a human rights activist, was the subject. The study looked into the abuses that LGBT persons had reportedly suffered at the hands of family, police, community and at the work place. And during that conversation, the point was made that, for progress to made in respect of reversing the alleged culture of abuse, Jamaica had to move away from the moral arguments and concentrate on the human rights aspect of the problem.
Secondly, as I thought about this potentially far reaching statement, I recalled a philosophical truth that I had read sometime ago, during my preparation for a Lecture given in 1995. The name of the book which emerged from that Lecture was, ” The Jamaican Society: Options for Renewal”. And during the introductory pages, I quoted Plato and Socrates who in their search for meaning in the universe concluded that ‘ a finite point has no meaning unless it has an infinite reference point’. It is very clear to those who studied history and philosophy that, the basis on which we advocate for human rights for all citizens, rests with the ‘infinite reference’ point that God created all men equal and in His own image – imago Dei.
Therefore, it is a very foolish person who would seek to divorce the moral argument from the human rights, in pursuit of a particular agenda – regardless of how compassionate and noble that agenda may be.
So the question arises, if we insist that the moral argument, that Homosexuality, and other sins – adultery, prostitution, pedophilia – is not part of God’s plan for His creation, but rather is a manifestation of the ‘brokenness of the human condition’ which began with the Fall in the Garden of Eden, what should be the Christian response to all of this.
Which question then was answered as I carried our my devotions while thinking about this issue.
As the Gospel reading for this Sunday in my church – we have a Lectionary so the lessons are pre-planned – is Matthew 22:34-40 NIV, in which the two great commandments are identified by Jesus in response to a question from a ‘ learned man”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments”.
The point here, as was made elsewhere in Scripture, is that one cannot claim to love God who we have never seen, and not love our neighbour who we see everyday. And all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, are the neighbors of the church. It is therefore a great travesty, for any child of God, to be guilty of abusing any one, least of all the poor and the vulnerable. It is also a great travesty for us to sit back and pretend that such matters do not concern us. It is also a great wrong to forget or conveniently ignore the good works which many Christian churches and Pastors engage in, behind the scenes, on the behalf of the poor and vulnerable in the society.
The great challenge for the society then, is not to attempt to move away from the moral argument, for nothing else has an infinite reference point, and such a policy decision if our law makers were ever to consider it, would ‘let out a genie which we could never control’, but rather seek to agree on which laws and regulations and cultural practices would better reflect our mandate to ‘ love our neighbour as yourself’.
At home recovering from a mild attack of Chik V – I can walk without pain – and so have some time to read and write. For all who have suffered, whether mildly or severely, on account of this terrible illness, if you have not contemplated the great existential question, ‘ what is man’, in utter awe of how such a small insect can cause such devastation in the life of an individual, then I would suggest that a profound lesson has escaped your notice.
It is in this context then that we need to continue to conversation about what ‘ belongs to God, and what belongs to Caesar’. For deep in that long contemplated question of life, lies the answer
to how we deal with people with an ‘ alternate lifestyle’. Or one that flies in the face of the Word of God, but has found favor with the people who make up their own laws, without reference to God of all Creation.
Just now, I read again the terrible story of Achan’s sin. He whose entire family, together with their animals, perished by stoning and burning, because he disobeyed the clear and explicit instructions of the God of Israel. And on account of whose sin, the anger of the Lord ‘burned against Israel’, and caused them to be routed by the enemy, until ‘atonement’ was made for that sin. And as I contemplated this awful scene, thoughts of the mercy of God, shown to the entire human race, in and through the Atoning death of Christ, flooded into my mind. And so after being chastened by God, Israel obeyed the Lord and found favor with Him once more. But after Joshua died, in the book that follows Joshua, Judges, we read these words which which have a timeless application.
” After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” Judges 2:10 NIV
Now Jamaica is far from being a theocratic state, as was the case of Israel in the time of Joshua. But nonetheless our parents and grandparents feared the Lord. And out of that single feature of the Jamaican life, flowed so much that was good. The discipline and good manners of our people, the love for neighbour and for community, the work ethic of our farmers, teachers, post office workers and other professionals, the sacrifice for children so that they have a better life, the respect for the elderly, the reverence for things of God, and a relatively crime free land.
Now fast forward to this era where people no longer fear the Lord, and are more willing to satisfy self than give to the Lord what belongs to Him – all glory honor praise and obedience.
So why then are we puzzled when thieves made off recently with the wheel chair of disabled person? A heinous crime yes, but that’s the price we pay for creating a ‘ new generation who neither know the Lord nor what he has done for Jamaica’. And the role of the media, our politicians and various aspects of civil society need to be placed under the spotlight as we seek to reverse this madness. The very same of madness that is causing so much pain in Bog Walk, and other small communities across our land. So forgetting about the moral argument and dealing only with the human rights issues of how we treat with our homosexual brothers and sisters! I think not.
THE FINAL ONE
I had no intention of reading C. S. Lewis’, the celebrated Christian Apologist, author and Philosopher, ‘ The Problem of Pain, but it was just there ‘staring at me’ in my library from yesterday. So I took it up and found this very revetting commentary, on, inter alia, religion and the moral argument – the genesis of the writing of this three part message.
” To ask whether the universe as we see it looks more like the work of a wise and good Creator or the work of chance, indifference malevolence, is to omit from the outset all the relevant factors in the religious problem.
Christianity is not the conclusion of a philosophical debate on the origins of the universe: it is a catastrophic historical event following on the long spiritual preparation of humanity which I have described. It is not a system into which we have to fit the awkward fact of pain; it is itself one of the awkward facts which have to be fitted into any system we make. In a sense, it creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think is a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving.
Why this assurance seems to me good, I have more or less indicated. It does not amount to logical compulsion. At every stage of religious development man may rebel, if not without violence to his own nature, yet without absurdity. He can close his spiritual eyes against the Numinous ( the first strand of religious development about which Lewis writes expansively – the inherent fear or dread of the uncanny, or spiritual world, that all humanity possesses) if he is prepared to part company with half of the great poets and prophets of his race, with his own childhood, with the richness and depth of uninhibited experience. He can regard the moral law ( the second strand) as an illusion, and so cut himself off from the common ground of humanity. He can refuse to identify the Numinous with the righteous – the third strand – and remain a barbarian, worshiping sexuality, or the dead, or the life-force or the future. But the cost is heavy.
And when we come to the last step of all – found only in Christianity – the historical Incarnation, the assurance is the strongest of all.”
So C. S. Lewis reserves particularly strong language for those who would reject the moral argument. And they can either reject it, and deal with the attendant ‘heavy cost’, or accept the truth. But what we, as children of the Resurrection, the dramatic climax of the historical Incarnation, will not do, is deny The Christ who lived and died so that the entire human race, may not worship other gods, but the True and ever Living God. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As only He can, with power rescue , our people from the terror being visited on them in Bog Walk and in Rockfort in east Kingston. And other communities across the land! All manifestations of the ‘heavy cost’ of a nation which has in large part rejected the moral law.
COMMENT: The one thing which courses through these messages is that a nation, an individual, and a world which elects to disobey the ‘moral law’ of loving our neighbour and loving God, will always ‘pay a heavy price’. This is the profound lesson which New Yorkers and indeed the entire USA are paying a ‘heavy price ‘ to learn; that ignoring the plight of poor helpless Liberians and others in West Africa, will only serve to increase the risk of Ebola coming more and more into homes in the USA and other developing countries. It is the same ‘heavy price’ that the Jamaican people are suffering in Bog Walk and elsewhere for ‘ ignoring the moral law’ to fear God. And so for New York and Jamaica, so will anyone who advocates the same for their country in pursuit of ‘human rights ‘ for any group, in the absence of a moral framework.
Another WhatsApp message for this week opens the ears and eyes of those who would listen and see, why the moral framework is such a vital part of human development
Finally, be strong in the Lord and on his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can you take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full arnor of God so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13 NIV
In this context then, in this Chik V ravaged and Ebola threatened land awash with the blood of poor and vulnerable in Bog Walk and Rockfort, recall the words of Jesus as recorded in John 10:10 as we contemplate the coming of the day of evil.
Comment: So here we have a worldview which offers two choices. The great shame and sadness is that so many, despite warnings, going back centuries, continue accept the thief with wide open arms, and perish. While Jesus the suffering Son of God opens His arms wide to accept those who would reject their right to themselves and follow Him. Why?
On account of Sin. Which Is the subject of the final message for this week ( many but all short and important and beneficial in some way if you persist).
Entitled – Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to many people – and the genesis of the mayhem in Bog Walk and Rockfort
One of the, ‘lost conversations’, of this post modern, or in less delicate language, ‘ah nuh nutten’ world, is the matter of sin. As I sought the Lord with a particular fervor whilst suffering from Chik V, last night, Oswald Chambers, whose devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest’, is reportedly one of the most widely read books after the Bible, offered some fresh insight. Insights which I would suggest ought to assist those who lead the country in its various spheres of national life, or are waiting in the wings, to a better understanding of the kind of challenges we face in Bog Walk and Rockfort today. And who knows where else tomorrow!