As I watch the national and international news play out on my computer screen day after day, I think it’s important to stay connected to God’s Word. I believe that it is God’s revelation of himself and that as the written word, it also affirms the Living Word, Jesus Christ, as the way, the truth, the life.
I consider myself to be an evangelical Christian. I believe that that term has been severely distorted by some who have been trying to use it for personal gain, advancement, and political manipulation. The word “evangelical” derives from the Greek word euangelion which simply means “good news.” By definition, evangelical Christians are ones who should be proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to those around them. Although this term has been hijacked, I personally believe that it’s better to try to redeem the term than continue to allow others to distort it.
Days ago, I wrote about my growth and understanding of the protests in our country. You can read that here. Regardless of my growth and understanding in regards to these protests, I still believe that it’s a tragedy what is happening amidst the looting, destruction, and violence in our country. While I understand the outrage being expressed by many over the senseless murder of George Floyd and far too many African Americans, there are many businesses that have been built by innocent people that are being destroyed as some of the crowds move beyond protest to destruction.
St. John’s Church, an historic Episcopal church attended by presidents for hundreds of years, was damaged by fire and graffiti. The fact that a church would be damaged during all this was tragic and disheartening. While some may consider it to be collateral damage for the greater good of these protests and the awareness of the deeper pandemic of racism in our country, it’s still disappointing.
Recently, there was news that the President of the United States cleared a crowd during protests to make his way in front of St. John’s Church to have his photo taken with a Bible. The news headlines have been plentiful with reports and opinions of many people’s thoughts about not only the photo op but the means used to attain that photo op.
I’ve been going through the Book of Acts with a few men from my church. Although I’ve read it many times before, I am constantly amazed at how the Bible speaks to me in a clear and fresh way every time that I read it. Regardless of the number of times I may have read a certain passage, God’s Word continues to be what it says, “living and active.”
When I saw this recent story develop in the media, I was reminded of an account in Acts 8 of a sorcerer who wanted to use the power of the Holy Spirit for personal gain.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
Simon the sorcerer had seen the impact when Peter and the other apostles had laid their hands on people. Great signs and miracles were the result and having been a man who had used this sort of thing to his benefit in the past, he saw the potential for personal gain from what Peter and the apostles had to offer.
But Peter would have none of that. As Peter says in verse 21, “…your heart is not right before God.” There was nothing wrong with Simon’s desire for this power, it’s just that he didn’t want that power for the right reason. He didn’t want to bring glory to God, he wanted it for his own selfish gain, which was why Peter chastised him.
I don’t believe that God is a prop. We don’t conveniently pull him out when it suits our own personal gain or benefit. We don’t stick him in our back pocket or shove him back in a lamp like a genie, waiting again to rub that lamp until the time comes for us to seek for our next wish to be granted.
We are all imperfect people, we fall short, that’s why we need a savior. The Bible tells us that we all fall short of the glory of God. We make mistakes. At what point do our repeated mistakes move from forgivable miscues to inexcusable and blatant disobedience. While God forgives, repentance is a turning away from our wrongdoing, not a constant repeat of the things we’ve confessed. Grace is free, but in the words of the Apostle Paul, we don’t continue our disobedient acts just so that grace may abound.
My heart is heavy with the tragedy of what has happened in our country. I am grieved over the racism that is continually denied by so many. To me, it’s hard to deny the pandemic of racism based on what we are seeing with the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and others. I am angered and saddened by those who also seem to be seeking to inflame and divide rather than unite and seek healing.
I believe that the only way we can experience true peace is through Jesus Christ. I get that not everyone believes that, but that’s my conviction and I hold unswervingly to that. I also expect that anyone who claims that will follow through with their actions and their lives, moving beyond simple and cheap gimmicks that suit them for the moment. God is not a prop and I think that it’s time that those of us who claim that he is who he says he is stop using him as such and begin to demonstrate that the Good News we claim and proclaim goes beyond photo ops to real life change and peace that passes all understanding.