xiAs I was speaking with the pastor of my sending church this week, he told me about  another missionary from our church who was facing religious liberty challenges in her part of the harvest field, China. Many Christian workers from the West have had to make the hard decision whether to remain in their ministries there or make other plans due to increasing persecution.

Maybe you haven’t heard of the word “sinicize” (it was new to me.) According to reports, President Xi Jinping announced last spring his new five-year initiative to sinicize all religions, especially by forcing allegiance to Communism. Persecution of Christians, including imprisonment, is on the rise and house churches are being threatened.

But here’s the sentence that caught my eye in this article that details the situation: “Experts say the new wave of persecution comes as the country undergoes a religious revival.” The very definition of a paradox, but it has happened many times before.

The shell of Communism is crumbling and in its place we’re seeing huge numbers of people coming to Christ. Just as the first-century church blossomed during persecution, China is experiencing the same thing over the past several years. While religious liberty is being tightened and even rejected by the government there, the gospel is taking off.

The Bible encourages followers of Christ to get along with their civil governments and model cooperative citizenship as long as obedience to the Lord is the priority. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, we’re commanded to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Peter wrote the same idea.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”  1 Peter 2:13-17

We should be grateful for the measure of religious freedom we have in America and should speak up for the God-given (not man-given) right to freely worship for all people and all faiths. We should pray for our brothers and sisters in China and elsewhere who are being denied these rights. But we should never get the idea that the gospel cannot go forward unless it is unshackled from government regulation. It will go where God ordains it to go, regardless of the godliness or godlessness of any given governmental system. He decides – not man, not Satan, not Xi Jinping – only God.

Keep in mind as you read this final verse that it quotes a brutal tyrant who ruled Babylon and had severely mistreated the nation of Israel. God dealt with Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and narcissism by sending him into a season of insanity and taking him off the throne. When he was finally restored, he was praising God and his words apply to China right now:

All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”   Daniel 4:35

GospelVMoralismPick a news story from this week. A strange and unprecedented presidential campaign? Disagreement over a possible Clinton indictment? The murder of policemen in Dallas? Police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis? The threat of terrorism here and overseas? Twisted analysis of our problems by our leaders – those who should know how to fix problems?  These issues and a hundred more vie for our attention each day, uniting most Americans to agree on this: we need change.

For some reason, we think the problems of this summer are the worst in history. But our current state just continues the path men have followed for millennia with the same core problem that we’ve always had. But lately, people are talking about change more than before. There seems to be a lot of us thinking that we could do better. We can. But we have to know what kind of change is really needed.

If the apostle Paul could speak to America and America’s leaders today, his message would be the same as the one he had for King Agrippa in Acts 26. And since Paul can’t speak to Americans today, those who follow Christ have to be the ones to speak. So, what did he say?

  1. He told his story – Quoting Jesus, Paul related, “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,” (Acts 26:16). Paul had a great testimony of coming to faith in Christ and if you have been changed by the power of Jesus, then you have a story you can tell, too. Nobody can refute your story, so tell it and give glory to God.
  2. He made the gospel clear – Again remembering Christ’s words calling him to minister, “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). This should be the heart of our message to the world – the gospel of Christ is the only power that can truly change hearts through forgiveness and sanctification. No other plan or shortcut will work.
  3. When he was commanded, he obeyed“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision…” (Acts 26:19). None of this matters if the Church won’t obey.
  4. He presented true change – Obeying God’s call he “declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” (Acts 26:20) Here’s where lives head in the right direction, families and communities heal, then nations are strengthened. Deeds that flow from repentance. Hearts, then behavior, changed by the gospel.

If the Church prays only for better behavior in our world, if we are content merely with better laws and less immorality, we have missed Paul’s message from Christ. Moralism never solves what the gospel does. As we pray for our broken nation and increasingly godless society led by many blind guides, a prayer for the spread and reception of the gospel is our only true hope. And the only way that hope becomes a reality is if individual Christians share it with individuals who don’t follow Christ yet.

Agrippa thought Paul was crazy, by the way, and didn’t believe the message. But the root of our world’s problems (and the solution) remains unchanged 2100 years later.

pulpitLast week, five Houston area pastors were told by the courts to produce sermons and other communication that referenced HERO (the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance). This law protects, among other things, the right of any man or woman to use whatever public restroom they want, depending on which gender they identify with. The mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, a lesbian herself, tweeted “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game…” This brings up several thoughts here at Rotunda Reflections, since this has caused such a firestorm of criticism by many in the religious community.

Annise Parker Mayor of Houston

Annise Parker
Mayor of Houston

1)  The first thought was, “When (not if) this happens in Maryland, what will be the response of pastors and churches?” The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill last March (the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014) guaranteeing the same rights to transgenders. The governor signed it into law in May. California is the only other state with such a law on the books.

2)  Any fair-thinking person, liberal or conservative, should be able to see the unconstitutional nature of this subpoena of sermons. By the way, the original subpoenas were amended to demand the pastors produce speeches instead of sermons. This was surely due to the public outcry over the clear violation of the pastors’ first amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion. And isn’t a pastoral “speech” just a sermon anyway?

3)  Christians began immediately opining what they thought the pastors should do. It’s still early, but if Houston moves forward with the demand for these sermons (which are public anyway), those who follow Christ will have to come to terms at some point with what they believe – the dilemma of this issue may be in our backyard next. I’ve seen some believers say the pastors should comply and be grateful their sermons will be read. Others say defiance is the way to go. It’s not a cut-and-dried answer since the Scriptures give us both ideas relating to interfacing with government. Romans 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13 speak of submission to governing authorities. Also, 1 Timothy 2:1, 2 point us toward an attitude of quietness and peacefulness regarding government relationships. But there are also examples of civil disobedience that clearly show there are times to refuse obeying government’s demands. The three Jewish youths disobeyed Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:12), Daniel prayed when it was forbidden by Darius’ decree (Daniel 6:7-10), and Peter and John kept preaching when they were commanded to stop (Acts 4:18, 19). So, which is it? Quietly submit or defy authority?

I would lean toward the latter, but not necessarily because of the examples above. Each of these examples were fairly extreme and don’t have a direct parallel to the Houston case. But for American Christians under the rights and privileges of the constitution, there seems to be a biblical precedent to stand up here. Paul, on several occasions, appealed to his status as a Roman citizen when his freedoms were threatened. And freedom of religion is such a basic right of those in our nation, it would be wrong to quietly let that right erode in small increments (because it won’t happen in one big reversal). Just as Paul reminded rulers of his rights and forced leaders to acknowledge them, we have a biblical and constitutional responsibility now and for generations to come to refuse our government’s inappropriate erasing of those rights.

The other part of this equation is that there may be consequences to pay for refusing the demands of government. Will we see the day that pastors are fined or jailed for preaching against homosexuality and same-sex marriage? I pray not. Even those who champion the homosexual agenda in America should fight against forcing anybody to think and act only as the government tells them to. Our core values and freedoms are at stake now. Let’s prayerfully move forward with a desire to submit, but be ready to challenge if that’s what we’re called to do.

So, if my sermons were subpoenaed, I would definitely pray hard, prepared to refuse Caesar’s overreaching and suffer whatever consequences might come.

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)  supreme court building

The normal stance of the believer toward his government in New Testament teaching is submission and obedience. There are times, though, when conscience overrides the dictates of human law. We saw that recently when the founders and owners of Hobby Lobby and some other businesses echoed the apostles’ words from Acts chapter five.

Anytime the Supreme Court passes down a 5-4 vote on any issue, the resulting voices are predictably divisive. Reading comments on social media or replies to blog entries and opinion pieces show the stark, sharp differences we have in America on certain social issues. When Monday’s decision came down in favor of Hobby Lobby’s rejection of supplying certain (but not all) forms of hobby lobbycontraception for employees, the differing worldviews of our culture came to a head once more. Here at Rotunda Reflections, the decision is considered a God-honoring victory for religious freedom, something dear to the hearts of many Americans. Without getting into the specifics of the abortion debate, which has been done many times before here and on other blog sites, let’s just say that when the court wisely upholds our right to live out our faith in good conscience, the principles of freedom (granted by God, not government) are also upheld.

We will be celebrating America’s birthday this week and for me, at least, this will be a new reminder to be thankful to be in America. It’s a land with an amazing constitution which guarantees the right to worship as we choose, not just in cloisters hidden from the world around us, as some who oppose us would prefer, but to be lived out in our daily lives with “the free exercise thereof”. How long this freedom will be allowed is in some doubt. But for those who hold this freedom of faith dear, we should prepare to stand for it, keep praying for it, and resolve to fight for it. Paul himself appealed to the authorities for his freedom based on his rights as a Roman citizen. While we prioritize the gospel as our main message to the world, there is nothing unbiblical or inappropriate in firmly seeking to preserve our religious rights and freedoms.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

When Charles Dickens began his famous novel “A Tale of Two Cities”, he was comparing London and Paris. It’s interesting, though, that his words so appropriately describe two politicians found in the pages of the New Testament. Both were rulers. Both sought to hear the Word of God. Both responded to the Word when they heard it from Paul. And they both teach us lessons as we share the same Scriptures.

THE RESPONSE MAY BE ACCEPTANCE

Acts 13:6, 7, 12 –  When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. . .Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Sergius Paulus was the governor of Cyprus when Saul (later renamed Paul) and Barnabas began their first missionary journey. Paphos was the capital of the island and the novelty of Paul’s message reached the ears of Sergius. This passage says he sought to hear the Word of God, which Saul was happy to deliver.

The encouraging lesson here is that there are times that God’s Word will penetrate the hearts of leaders and this is a result for which we should all pray. Dickens’ “epoch of belief” was realized here in first-century Cyprus.

THE RESPONSE MAY BE ALARM

Acts 24:24, 25   After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 

Felix (procurator of Judea) and Drusilla didn’t have the purest of relationships. She was married to someone else when she started seeing Felix, then Felix abducted Drusilla to take her as a wife, even though she wasn’t divorced or a widow.

With these two as his audience, what topics does Paul cover from Scripture? Was it time for some soft acceptance of this couple’s strange marriage – who was Paul to judge if they were right or wrong? No – Paul spoke to them about being righteous and having self-control and that everyone will give an account to God at the end of their lives when there will be judgment. Felix responded to this teaching with unbelief and fear.

There will be times when people will respond to the Bible like Felix, running from God. Even anger toward hearing the Word is a form of showing fear – fear of facing what has been heard and being accountable for sin. Prepare to lose popularity with some people when you tell them the truth from God’s Word.

IMPLICATIONS FOR US

The implications from these two accounts are stark and clear. Paul’s example of steadfastly teaching the Scriptures should motivate us to depend on the power of the truth of God’s Word and share it with others consistently.

Also, we must realize that the message may be accepted or rejected, but we are not in control of the results. This reality should keep us in humble reliance on the moving of God’s Spirit in the hearts of leaders who come under the truth of the Bible.

But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” Acts 18:12-15

Politicians have mishandled and misunderstood Scripture for millennia. The problem in the verses above arose as Paul ministered in Corinth, sharing the truth of God’s Word (apparently with great success), to the consternation of the local Jewish leaders. When they complained to Gallio, the governor of the district, he responded as many human leaders have down through the centuries. Namely, saying the message of this man is just words, nothing more.

gwen moore

Rep.Gwen Moore

Fast-forward to last weekend when Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to deliver a one minute address regarding the possible government shutdown. Her first sentence was an admonishment taken from Galations 6:7, but with a revision. She started by saying, “Mr. Speaker, ‘Be not deceived, the people are not mocked.'” When political leaders throw around biblical quotes with their own spin and rewording,they show that their attitude toward these sacred words are the same as any other words – words that exist for the purpose of making their political point. It cheapens the Word of God and relegates His Word on a level with all others. Now Rep. Moore may have a point that the decisions made in Washington might have repercussions later when the people have their say in the next election, but can she not find another way to drive that home other than perverting a serious verse of Scripture?

Paul before Gallio

Paul before Gallio

The seriousness of this verse is that it is God who will not be mocked, because He is the ultimate Judge in all things. He is the one to whom we are all accountable. If leaders are concerned mostly for what the people can do to them, then their fear is wildly misplaced. Also, she left out the end of the verse – “for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (ESV)  God knows and keeps track of the millions of ways humans mock Him. One of those ways is not to take His Word seriously. Gallio did it. Today’s leaders do it still.

This serves as a reminder to us again to pray for these leaders, that they will be shaped by God’s Word rather than abuse it to obtain a favorable political outcome. Before you surf to another site, will you stop for a moment to pray for your local, state and federal leaders and for their worldview to be changed so they can clearly see God as He has revealed Himself?

good and evilSeveral days ago, after the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing were hunted down, I shared these verses as a Facebook status:

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.    Romans 13:2-4

One comment a friend made under the status wondered what happens when the government and people of a nation call evil good and good evil. It’s the natural question that is begged when we read these verses. Things clearly do not always play out as they should.

The reason I shared the verses that day was because there had been a criminal act committed and as the suspects were being chased, more criminal acts were layered on top. The governing authorities had to use deadly force to deal with the suspects, killing one and severely injuring another who was eventually arrested. This was an example of God-granted governmental authority to “bear the sword” to bring judgment to those who do wrong. Simple as that. We should be grateful for law enforcement officials who carry weapons, sometimes actually using them to maintain safety and peace for our society to operate as it should.

But what about laws and leaders that do not reward good behavior, but elevate evil as something that is right? The verses from Romans 13 paint a picture of civil government as it ought to be, not as it always will be. In this passage, Paul calls on all to submit to governments, since they are God’s servants for our good. This is written by a man who lived under Roman as well as Jewish rulership in the first century, which would ultimately give him a death sentence for spreading the gospel of Christ. Not all decisions by government will fulfill God’s intended role of upholding right and punishing evil. After all, governments are composed of humans. Sinful humans who are in need of God’s wisdom and guidance. Wisdom and guidance that are often rejected.

A glaring example of this is from today’s headlines – President Obama’s speech this morning at Planned Parenthood’s 75th anniversary gala. Our government in America has sanctioned the destruction of millions of lives, many snuffed out by this organization. Not only do we have laws that allow this killing of innocent life, but we pay for it – our tax dollars funded Planned Parenthood with $542,000,000 in 2012 (that’s $61,836 an hour 24/7/365). Not only do we fund it but our president proudly promotes the mission of Planned Parenthood, which performs 320,000 abortions a year, by giving a speech of appreciation and encouragement to continue the job.

The bombing at the Boston Marathon displayed sin, evil, the intentional taking of innocent human life and a despicable devaluing of personhood. These very words may even show up in media reports as they describe the atrocity and follow-up on the victims’ stories. But what we won’t hear are the same words used to describe the work of Planned Parenthood and other abortion doctors who deserve to be characterized the exact same way. And we’ll never hear a follow-up on the victims.

What are we to do and how do we look at Romans 13? Prayer for the spiritual awakening of our leaders and nation is always the first step (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We should also pray for, work for and vote for people who know what good really is and what evil really is. Government cannot and will not carry out true justice until we have leaders who can tell the difference.

This is the third installment in a series to encourage followers of Christ to rightly divide the Word of truth when using biblical support for policy statements.  The example we’re analyzing is the National Association of Evangelicals’ 2009 Immigration Statement.

Last time we considered the questionable use of historical migration examples from the Bible to apply to current immigration patterns.  In the same paragraph (citing biblical examples of people going to other countries), we find the following sentence:  “Peter referred to the recipients of his first letter as “aliens” and “strangers,” perhaps suggesting that they were exiles within the Roman Empire.”

This reference is found in verses such as 1 Peter 1:1  and 2:11.   Here is the wording of these two verses from the New American Standard Bible:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen(1 Peter 1:1) 

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

We can clearly see that from the first verse the believers were scattered.  There’s no question, so we don’t have to say “perhaps” like the NAE statement.  Constable says “Davids estimated that when Peter wrote this epistle about one million Jews lived in Palestine and two to four million lived outside it.” (1)   But does that tell us what “aliens” means?  No.

The end of that verse says they are “chosen”, a spiritual concept.  The second verse (2:11) is another reference to the inner, spiritual reality of being an “alien”.  In fact, the whole letter (especially the beginning verses of chapter 2) shouts out how believers should behave in and respond to a world that is hostile to them, not because of their ethnic roots or national origin, but because of their spiritual identity.

Maybe a parallel thought that Paul wrote gives us more direction:

“…remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world… So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,”  (Ephesians 2:12, 19)

This uses “stranger” and “alien” in the reverse sense.  Those who aren’t in Christ are spiritually exiled from Him.  The Ephesians were there at one time, but not when they got this letter.  Another Pauline hint to the meaning of “alien” is from his letter to the Philippians:

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 3:20)

When these words (aliens and strangers) are used in New Testament epistles, the idea of citizenship is overwhelmingly spiritual, not earthly.  The context of Peter strongly relates to the believers’ new heavenly citizenship, not where they happened to find themselves after the diaspora.  In fact, his aim in the letter is to ready the church for suffering.  As new immigrants, should they have demanded better treatment from the governments of Pontus, Galatia, et al?  That doesn’t seem to be Peter’s advice at all.

How interesting, though, that even though his readers were living outside of Palestine, he reminds them to obey human authorities and submit.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.  Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.  Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Next installment:  “Immigration and Romans 13”

_____________________________________

(1) Tom Constable. (2003; 2003). Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (1 Pe 1:1). Galaxie Software.

angry manHave you been watching the news the past few days? I have, and I’m seeing some irate Americans out there at these town hall meetings. I suppose we can expect more of the same through the summer break for Congress, but what are we to make of such outbursts? If you agree with the tirade of the protester, do you smile a bit, vicariously living through them to express what you wish you could? Does your heart share in the anger and silently cheer them on?

I received a good quote from a friend today. He related these words from Vance Havner: “We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.”

What provides the combustion, the energy, the explosion? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).  Take part in the rantings against your government if you want, in the privacy of your living room or out at your local TEA party.  You’ve got the right to do that as an American, but before you do, consider this:  You are exchanging the true power to change this world for an inferior, pathetic method.

It’s the difference between the H bomb and a firecracker.  It’s internal versus outward change.  It’s lasting versus superficial change.  Eternal versus temporal.  Your anger may be assuaged by winning some key seats in the next election, but you and I know what’s going to happen – those seats will be lost again sometime. 

Also consider that if you are a follower of Christ, you don’t have the luxury of deciding how you will impact your world.  You’ve been given your commission:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you...” (Matthew 28:19, 20).  If the church would just focus there, even to our elected officials, we would be following Christ’s mandate.

Consider one last thing.  Our anger does not bring about eternally beneficial results: “This you know, my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20).

Did Jesus get mad?  Sure.  Did Paul get outraged?  No question.  Did Peter disobey his rulers?  Yes.  But why?  Righteous indignation is borne from a desire to see God magnified and made known.  In all biblical examples of righteous anger, the motivation is always centered on God and following His mandate to teach His truth to all nations.  Is that the motivation of angry American Christians today?

Christianity is meant to be counter-cultural, but we Christians in America are blending in pretty well when it comes to our political involvement.  Havner was right.  Criticism and conformity will not only fail in changing our world,  they will keep us distracted from the very power we’ve been given to make that change.

If we’re going to get hot under the collar, we’d better have the right reason behind it.

jimmy carterAn article by former president Jimmy Carter earlier this month in a British newspaper again confirms the need to pray for our leaders in government and importance of fidelity to the Scriptures.  In the article, Carter resigns from the Southern Baptist Convention, something he has done several times in the past dating back to 2000.  It’s a curious recurring action since no individual can hold membership in the SBC, but he resigns every few years anyway.

Carter’s main beef right now is the SBC’s statement on gender roles and his arguments reveal a view of the Bible that naturally leads to his conclusions.  He begins the piece by quoting first from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2) which ensures all rights and freedoms regardless of status.  Then he quotes Galatians 3:28 which says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  

For Carter, and many others who share his view, these truths are incompatible with defining separate roles for men and women.  Any other verses from Paul’s writings that clarify the definition of gender roles in the church or home are not to be rigidly followed or taken as authoritative.   According to Carter, “quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. . . was in conflict with my belief – confirmed in the holy scriptures – that we are all equal in the eyes of God.” (Click here for the full column)

The point of this post is not to discuss the domestic or ministerial role of women, but to defend Paul’s writings as the inspired Word of God which do not present an inconsistency here.  Letting God speak for Himself through the Bible allows one to see the complementary nature of different passages which are completely reconcilable with one another.

In thinking of the Paphos Paradigm, the government official, Sergius Paulus, was amazed at the teaching of the Lord through Paul and believed (Acts 13:12).  Jimmy Carter does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, along with many others in our world.  For this reason the church should take seriously the responsibility to pray for the spiritual eyes of leaders to be opened to the authority of God’s Word and to be active in making this teaching available in the political sphere (1 Timothy 4:1-4).

Jesus’ mandate to His Church in Matthew 28 is to teach others to observe all He commands through His Word, not to hold the Scriptures to the standards of our human reason.