“Ghandi and Christianity”

October 22, 2016

Richard Attenborough directed the film Ghandi which won eight Oscars in 1983 and launched the career of Ben Kingsley. It is a powerful film which tells the story of Mohandas Ghandi who through his nonviolent civil disobedience broke Britain’s colonial rule of India. Ghandi admired Jesus Christ and was especially fond of the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, Ghandi lived his life as a Hindu and never became a Christian. At the time of the movie, Philip Yancey wrote “Ghandi and Christianity” which pointed out that part of Ghandi’s reluctance was due to the kind of lives he saw among those who professed Christ.1

Inconsistencies. As a law student in Britain, Ghandi became exposed to the Bible and to those who professed to be Christians. After many Sunday sermons, he complained of uninspiring sermons and a congregation who “appeared rather to be worldly-minded, people going to church for recreation and in conformity to custom.”

Prejudice. Attenborough’s movie tells of Ghandi’s experience in South Africa. He was among supposedly Christian people, but he found discrimination. He was thrown off trains and excluded from hotels and restaurants, because as he put it, he was considered “a coloured man.” E. Stanley Jones is quoted by Yancey as saying, “Racialism has many sins to bear, but perhaps its worst sin was the obscuring of Christ in an hour when one of the greatest souls born of a woman was making his decisions.”

Reflecting Christ. Ghandi’s bad experiences only serve to underscore the importance of Paul’s words: “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3, ESV). Paul is using the image of a letter of recommendation. A letter of recommendation introduces and commends someone by telling of his or her character and qualifications. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are “Christ’s letter.” They are a letter of recommendation for Jesus Christ. Their lives are introducing others to Jesus. Their lives are speaking volumes about who Jesus is.

Christians should live lives “worthy of their calling.” We should conduct ourselves so that we are an accurate letter of Christ for the world to read even though we are not perfect. We may be the only “letter” that some may see, and we may be the “letter” that influences their decision. Let us be conscious of our function as letters of recommendation. Ghandi’s life reminds me that this has at times been done poorly. Let us rise to the task and reflect Christ in our lives.

1Christianity Today (April 8, 1983):16.

The Bible and Archeology

October 18, 2016

Archaeology reminds us that the Bible speaks of real people, places, and events. Admittedly, archaeology does not interest everyone, and some aspects of archaeology may be tedious. I suspect that I don’t want to be the person who moves dirt away from an ancient artifact with a small brush. But I am thankful for the people who do such research. Many of the results of archaeology are exciting for the student of the Bible and are helpful in a number of ways.

Archaeology has helped us understand ancient customs and the background to certain passages. The Nuzi tables, for example, contain marriage contracts which obligate a childless wife to give her husband a female servant who would bear children for her. This doesn’t make the practice moral, by the way, but it helps us to better understand the actions of Sarah in giving Hagar to Abraham (Genesis 16:1 ff.) and of Rachel in giving Bilhah to Jacob (Genesis 30:1-3). They weren’t dreaming this up on their own but were following the established customs of the times.

Translation. The meaning of the Hebrew word pim was unknown in 1611. The KJV translator conjectured from the context of 1 Samuel 13:21 that it meant “file.” The KJV reads, “Yet they had a file for the mattocks ….” Archaeologists have found small weight stones in Palestine with the word pim on them. The name of the weight was evidently the expression of the price for sharpening plowshares, making a pim about 2/3 of a shekel. The ESV has “and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks” (1 Samuel 13:21, ESV). They also provide a footnote indicating that “two thirds of a shekel” is the translation of pim.

Defense. The criticism of alleged inaccuracies in scripture have been refuted by certain discoveries. For example, the Hittites were unknown outside the Old Testament, and many thought this was a case of historical error in scripture until the discovery of the Hittite city of Hattusas. Before the ivory finds in Samaria, some skepticism was expressed over the phrase “houses of ivory” in Amos 3:15. We now know that ivories were used either to adorn the walls as paneling or were inlaid in furniture. “Houses of ivory” were houses decorated with ivory not built out of ivory.

Archeology has limits. Grant Osborne notes the fragmentary nature of material remains, “Yamauchi estimates that being supremely optimistic we could have one-tenth of the material in existence, six-tenths of that surveyed, one-fiftieth of that excavated, one-tenth of that examined, and one-half of that published. This means that we have only .006 percent of the evidence.”1 So gaps in knowledge from archaeology should not surprise us. But the information we do have reinforce the reality of the biblical world.

1Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, 159

“You Should Have Been Aborted!”

October 7, 2016

Life Chain is a protest against abortion. On the first Sunday of October, participants stand on the sidewalk of a major street holding signs with messages against abortion but also for forgiveness. Participants are to be silent. It is to be a time of reflection and prayer. Life Chain began in 1987 and went national in 1991. I’ve participated many times through the years.
In our community, we have many people driving by honking their horns in support. This year we also had a few obscenities thrown our way, but the most intriguing negative response was this. Someone shouted at us, “You should have been aborted!”

It certainly felt like a curse – a situationally appropriate “pox on you.” It certainly didn’t sound like it came from this person’s happy place. But isn’t the remark a bit of a two-edged sword. If saying this to pro-life demonstrators is a kind of curse, isn’t performing or having an abortion an actual curse on the unborn?

Did this remark make me want to throw down my sign and run away? Absolutely not! I wasn’t standing there holding a sign because I thought everyone agreed with me. And in this there is a lesson for us about all of Christian faith. There will always be opposition. Paul wrote:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (Philippians 1:27–30, NASB)

Paul is describing conduct that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. That conduct consists of (1) standing firm in one spirit, (2) striving together for the faith with one mind, and (3) not being alarmed by your opponents. Not being alarmed doesn’t mean that the opponents can’t hurt you. Paul is in prison when he writes this, and he even ponders whether he will die or not (see Philippians 1:19-26).

So what does it mean to not be alarmed or frightened? It may be helpful to define another word. To intimidate is to use fear to make someone do what you want them to do. The person who is not intimidated may feel the fear directed at them, but he or she will not change what is believed, what is said, or what is done. There will always be opposition to truth. The lesson we must all learn is to not be intimidated by the oppositions words or deeds.


September 30, 2016

I like computers, but one of their less desirable traits is the ability to generate tons of supposedly “personalized” mail. It’s still junk mail. We received at the church an envelope on which was printed:


No doubt we were on a mailing list comprised mainly of businesses for which the addressee of President/Owner was more appropriate, but with that title staring me in the face, I couldn’t help but think of some analogies.

In a sense, we do have a “President/Owner,” although the more familiar and biblical terms are “Lord” and “head of the church” (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23). He is in fact the sole owner. No stocks were sold; no share-holders were invited to participate in the financing. He alone gave his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). That should say something about the kind of allegiance we owe him.

He has even give us inter-office memos and memorandums to follow. (We call them the New Testament.) He has set up an organization to provide proper training of his people. (“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11–12, ESV). And he has even been known to threaten closing down a “branch office” when it failed to live up to the task. (“I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” Revelation 2:5, ESV).

We are conditioned to give due respect to presidents, urgent memos, job training, and the like. When we turn from the world of business to the church, let us not lose reverence for our Lord, urgency for his word, dedication to his training and mission, and respect for his warnings. He is after all our “President/Owner.”

It’s A Small World

September 23, 2016

Have you ever met a perfect stranger and after a bit of conversation find out that you have a mutual acquaintance? Or, maybe in the conversation you find out that someone you know knows someone they know.

Social psychologist Stanley Milgram did a study on such coincidental meetings. He selected a group of people at random. He gave each of them a document to be sent to another person chosen at random from across the country. The instructions were that they were to mail the document to someone they knew that had the greatest chance of knowing the target individual. That person was to follow the same instructions until the document reached the randomly selected target individual. How many such mailings do you think it would take to reach the target? It only took from 2 to 10, with 5 being the most common number.

John Allen Paulos in his book, Innumeracy, suggests that there is a 1 in 100 chance when we meet a stranger that we will have a common acquaintance. But there is a 99 in 100 chance that we will be linked to one another by a chain of only two intermediates.

It’s a small world. We are linked to one another more closely that we may realize. We need to remember the teaching of Jesus:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46–48, ESV)

May we show kindness to all we meet. May we demonstrate the love of the Father in all aspects of our life.

Who knows what may come of a chance encounter? We may find connections that we never dreamed of. But more importantly, we may be that person’s connection to hearing about Jesus.

Let us not be afraid to share our faith. After all, it’s a small world.

Are You Connected?

September 16, 2016

Psychiatrist, Dr Edward M. Hallowell, in his book Connect, argues that we all need connectedness to live more fulfilling and healthier lives. Connectedness is more than just human contact. It is to feel a part of something larger than yourself. It’s feeling close to another person or group. It’s feeling welcomed and understood.

To connect to other people is not just emotionally desirable—it affects us physically. He cites the Alameda County Study by Dr. Berkman. She and her team surveyed people between the ages of 30 to 69 to determine how they were connected or not connected. The group was followed over a period of nine years. Isolated people were found to be three times more likely to die in that nine-year period than those with stronger social ties. The statistical advantage of living longer was evidenced in every age group. Even those with poor health at the beginning of the study or whose life style posed greater health risks lived longer if they had strong social ties.

Being connected gives meaning in life. It provides emotional resources in times of crisis and the physical benefits noted in the Alameda County Study. Yet modern life often frustrates these important relationships. Hallowell comments: “But many things get in the way of people reaping these benefits, stumbling blocks like too many daily obligations, or shyness, or time, or fear.”

This research shouldn’t surprise the reader of the Bible. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” which resulted in the creation of woman and the family. Through history, God has also desired a people to worship and serve Him—the families of the patriarchs, the assembly of Israel, and now the church of Christ. Hallowell certainly argues that connectedness can be found in many different ways, and he is primarily dealing with emotional and physical health benefits. But it is obvious that the church provides this connectedness with its emotional and physical benefits, plus a spiritual benefit.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19–25, ESV)

The stumbling blocks to connectedness in general can also be stumbling blocks to connectedness in the assembly—“too many daily obligations, or shyness, or time, or fear.” For emotional, physical, and spiritual health, we need one another. Are you connected?

Bruises, Sores, and Raw Wounds

September 2, 2016

As Isaiah looked around at the people of his day, he saw a generation that was trusting in self not God. They were rebellious, abandoning God, and even despising him. While outwardly religious, they continued in an evil lifestyle. The result was a mass of hurting people. He addresses them as “a people laden with iniquity” (Isaiah 1:4).

Why will you still be struck down?
Why will you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.

From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up
or softened with oil. (Isaiah 1:5–6, ESV)

Isaiah experienced the distress of trying to warn people who were going the wrong way. Immorality has a way of leading to pain and brokenness. How often his pleas seemingly fell on deaf ears!

Isaiah described the people of his day as “people who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). That has a very modern ring to it. While people declare that they decide what is right and wrong, violations of God’s moral will continue to result in brokenness.

But Isaiah also had hope. Though we may mess up our lives until we are like a wounded person there is still hope for us with God.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, ESV)

The message rings out loud and clear: without God there is brokenness, with him there is healing. When we find ourselves wounded and bruised by our own willfulness — sitting in the mess we have created, let us run to the Father just as the prodigal son did. May we find that in him there is forgiveness and healing.