In the aftermath of every mass shooting a phenomenon called the “blame game” very quickly becomes the issue in almost all the media coverage. Some quickly move to assign blame to the police departments. Others try to place the blame on society as a whole, on the parents of the accused, or on the generation during which the accused grew up. In our therapeutic culture we are rushing to argue that a stigma against mentally ill persons drives some to heinous acts of violence, and thus the stigma is to blame. Still others try to blame guns, grades, or any number of other factors—anything and anyone but the murderer himself.
Whatever became of the term “evil”? Why are we so afraid of using it to describe people and their actions? The Bible uses it continually because it has no illusions about the “goodness of mankind.” Unlike our society in general, which always accepts the old adage that “everyone is basically good at heart,” the Bible says this: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The knowledge of “good and evil” was the first thing Adam and Eve obtained when they disobeyed God and committed the first sin. So good were they in their knowledge of evil that when their offspring began to increase in number God made an assessment of where they were spiritually and concluded that “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5). This was the assessment, of course, that produced the world-wide flood.
As our culture moves continually away from God, the Bible and Truth we will see more and more of this nonsense that tries to replace “sin” and “evil,” with words like “sickness” and “dysfunctionality.” Paul warned his young disciple Timothy about the days in which we are living, in which people will always be “learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7). He cautioned him to “turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” (I Timothy 6:20).
If you ask a Christian “What do you think God wants most from us?” you may hear “He wants us to be good,” or “He wants us to pray,” or “He wants us to help people.” You should expect these answers, but they are all wrong. They are off by about three degrees. If you begin a journey and you are three degrees off your bearings you will soon be a mile off, and, in a few days, hundreds of miles off. The correct answer is always this: God wants us to love Him. That’s what matters most. And in pursuit of loving God we need to toss overboard whatever may distract us to drift off course.
Christianity is complex. Sin comes easily. Those of us who have lived some years as followers of Christ are probably not going to stumble into a life of crime. We are probably not going to wake up one day and choose to reject God and become angry atheists. However, we do need to be afraid of drift and distraction.
Morality is not the point, either. When it becomes the point you will become corrupt. The Pharisees were moral, the most moral people around. Yet Jesus reserved His most scathing words for them. Morality will not save you from hell; it will not ever make you a better person. It may, however, make life miserable for those around you.. It is only a means to a much greater end.
I want my kids to behave well and I want your kids to behave well. But if we teach them only morality they will become cold legalists. I propose that we as parents, teachers, and children’s workers check our bearings and work to lead our kids to love God first—an informed, well-thought-out and defensible love for God. Considering the character of God, a response of love is the only reasonable one.
If you agree with me then you should be asking something along the lines of “Okay, so how do I do this? How do I love God more?” Even, “How do I help my kids love God more?” These are exactly the questions to ask. Work on some answers yourself. Ask wise people around you. Read Scripture with just those questions in mind and you will be surprised at how much material you will find, because, after all, that is what God’s Word was written to help you understand. Love is the only motive for a life of ministry.
Adapted from “Morality Is Not the Point,” by Dave Carl
In a small Texas town by the name of Mt. Vernon, Drummond’s Bar began construction of a new building to increase their business. The local Baptist church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers. Their members turned out in droves to drive this “house of sinful indulgence” from their midst through prayer. Work on the bar progressed right up till the week before opening when lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground.
The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means. The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building’s destruction in its reply to the court.
As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but it appears from the paperwork that we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not.”
(As a matter of application here, how many of us truly believe that God can change situations in life when we pray for those changes to take place? If we truly believe that, then we should be seeing all of our members crowding into our church whenever we have prayer gatherings. Perhaps there is more truth than poetry to this story!)
In view of the fact that the University of Alabama just won the NCAA College Football Championship with a second string, mostly untested, quarterback after falling behind 13-0 at halftime, you might enjoy this true story about another quarterback who did the same thing for the Dallas Cowboys.
Motivational speaker Billy Zeoli once spoke of the importance of being ready in life. He defined being ready as “the right person in the right place at the right time with the right thing to do and say, and then doing it and saying it.” He was once on the sidelines with the Dallas Cowboys for a playoff game. The Cowboys were trailing by 15 points going into the last two minutes. Coach Tom Landry turned to a young untested quarterback by the name of Roger Staubach and said, “Roger, go in!” Roger said, ’I’m ready.” And he was. In the next fifty-seven seconds he led Dallas to two touchdowns and a field goal. Dallas won the playoff game because this young man, fresh out of the Navy, was ready.
We often speak of “windows” in life; that is, a short time of opportunity during which a given action will be successful and after which any action is useless. The older I get, the more I see this principle in my relationship with the Lord. Why is it so many people seem to accomplish so much while others do practically nothing in life? I am convinced that God has no favorites. He only uses those who are ready. I am not necessarily talking great world-shaking accomplishments here, but everyday words and acts that influence people.
Most of us are not ready because we are too wrapped up in ourselves to notice the needs of others. God attempts to draw us out of ourselves so that we can prepare for that time when we are called to go to the aid of another. For Christians, the biggest tragedy of life is in having our hands too full of our own concerns so often that the people God sends to us come back without being touched. Ministry is everywhere and its broad boundaries necessitate the involvement of everyone. How sad it is that so few of us are ready when God says, “Roger, go in!” Hope to see you this Sunday as our church family prepares for ministry.
What does the person on the street associate with the word ”evangelist”? “Fanatic,” “pontificating,” and “fascist” were some responses in a survey. George Barna, author and pollster, also found out that “credibility” and “relevance” were two of the top needs of evangelists in North America. We may rightly argue that the average person on the street has no idea what an evangelist does except to preach at people and get himself into moral or financial trouble. But the truth of the matter is that the image of Bible-believing people and churches suffer under such inaccurate stereotyping.
What are we to do? We can’t just gripe and complain that it’s all so unfair. Actually, this kind of thing has been going on for thousands of years. Peter instructed the early Christians to always be prepared to give an answer when asked concerning the hope that they had. That it is not always a sympathetic audience that was asking the questions is clear from his added comments: “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (I Peter 3:16).
I believe it is more important to heed his remarks about how we are to conduct ourselves than it is to identify with the issues our spiritual ancestors had to face. Too many Christians are returning insult with insult and that does nothing but confirm how “mean-spirited” others already think we are. It is time we begin to understand just how different is our call. This is not about fairness and media accuracy. It is about battling Satan on his own turf. The opportunities God give us in all of this are about demonstrating love, kindness and forgiveness. It is about answering suspicion and hate with love. Where we cannot influence people with reason and Scripture we can reach them with attitude and conduct. Our responsibility is to be genuine and sincere believers in everything that happens. God’s responsibility is to take those gentle seeds we sow and penetrate the hardened soil so that they will take root and grow. Let’s pray that the Church—and all elements within it—never stoops to become just another “pressure group.” In every age we have always done our best work when we simply follow the loving attitude of the humble Galilean.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship