Monday, September 13, 2010

The Florida pastor's legacy

"Aren't you glad that idiot in Florida cancelled his plan to burn the Koran?"

The lady at the bus stop didn't even know me, much less Terry Jones, yet this seemed a fitting conversation opener for a Sunday morning. Personally, I've been training my tongue not to call people names -- especially not a fellowservant -- no matter how much I disagree with them, so it was hard to set myself in agreement with her calling the pastor an idiot. Yet -- hey, let's be honest -- it was hard to disagree.

But while it's easy to dismiss Terry Jones' 9/11 stunt as simply someone getting his Warholian 15 minutes so he can now be differentiated from the guy in Monty Python's Flying Circus, it's also possible to look past it and see where God is involved. Has he not -- wittingly or unwittingly -- been used by God? The response from other Christian leaders has been pretty consistent: this is not the God we serve, and this is not the way to go about witnessing Christ. Even our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, uncharacteristically spoke of his own faith, saying "my Jesus is a God of tolerance". In the process, I believe this is helping the Body of Christ get re-focused on what we're called to be, and that calling is not to go around hating people of other faiths -- no matter how holy or righteous the reason.

I dealt with this in a previous posting back when Pastor Jones' plan was first announced, and pointed out that declaring what we hate -- no matter how much we think God hates it -- is not what we are called to do. We could also consider this:

"Though I fervently declare my loathing for the things God hates and have not Love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
"And though I know every word of God's Old Testament Law; and march in protests and rail against abortion, Muslims, homos and even my country's President if his agenda doesn't suit me; and have not Love, I am nothing.
"And though I dare police to cart me off to jail* because I ought to obey the laws of God rather than the laws of man, and have not Love, it profiteth me nothing."

It comes down to this: the moment we put on Christ -- to use another of Paul's expressions -- we're supposed to behave differently, think differently, live differently than we did BC. No matter how much darkness rises up in the world, our Light is supposed to overpower it -- and if we can't do it with our Light, then there's something wrong with the connection.

Paul writes, "in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men" (I Cor. 14:20). We are supposed to be totally unschooled and inexperienced in malicious behaviour: but when it comes to understanding of the Word of God and our commandments from Jesus (WDJTUTD?), we have to be mature, adept, perfect.

Jesus told us that in the last days, we'd be called on to defend our faith, and that's something we do every time we witness Christ to others (Matt. 10:19). If the Holy Spirit is to give us the words we need when we need them and the Holy Spirit is the spirit of Love, could He possibly instruct us to burn another faith's holy book or otherwise act hatefully towards them?

If we use the Terry Jones experience as a stone on which to whet our almost-blunted purpose, then we see God at work, after all. God has used people in much more loathsome ways to get His Will accomplished: Calvary comes to mind.

*Some years ago, a friend of mine and his wife were planning to take part in an anti-abortion rally, where the protesters planned to challenge a court order preventing them from getting within a certain distance of an abortion clinic. On the day of the rally, my friend and his wife were praying, and the Lord told them, "don't go". So they didn't. Turned out, some people were arrested and charged with criminal contempt of court. Not long after that, my friend and his wife were called overseas as missionaries -- and they couldn't have obtained their passports if they'd been arrested at that rally and come out of it with a criminal record. Their ministry work has touched countless lives over the past 20 years, but who knows if they would have done anything if they'd been disobedient that day?

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