(The months of January and February, I am dedicating my personal study to current and historical views concerning the conflict of kingdoms that Christians wrestle with at all times, but seem to be crystalizing in trend of current culture. Any one post can lead to mis-understanding and a mis-application. Also, there are unanswerable questions because much of this is applied through principles based on personal situations where there are often multiple responses allowed. My main goal is to flesh this out personally, and possibly inspire others to wrestle and prepare for future situations)
How Christians need to respond as critics and opposition rises in our culture is one of the great struggles and questions of our day. Our collective, bold, gospel oriented responses at this very fragile moment is crucial.
We have to be praying for God' Spirit to empower us to guide us and His Word to give us wisdom. And we will need to be ready to encourage and support one another if a storm sweeps through.
This is not a time for fear... this is an exciting time to point to our Savior.
Strange and turbulent times indeed.
Strange and turbulent times indeed.
A few years ago, I read a series of replies to an article by a college student who wrote about a living a life of faith and loving others who see the world in differing lights. I was super impressed with his tone and approach.
The comments.... were not so kind.... the attack of the elites came in a full frontal force of mockery and criticism.
The author of the article was accused of everything.... the general opinion (not all) was that he was racist, homophobic, oppressive, intolerant, uneducated, and hypocritical.
This correlates with a lot of what we are hearing on college campuses nationwide where traditional speech is being blocked, shouted down...even to the point of violence.
I wish I had time to fully explore how Francis Schaeffer accurately predicted this in his writings before his death in the early 80's.
One of his main points included a prediction that there will be a rise of elites who fill the vacuum left when a society abandons absolutes. (How Should We Then Live? pg. 224).
There always seems to be a group of individuals who honestly believe that they care more and know more and so should control our lives. They take away our freedom for our own good.
Jesus Himself had to deal with elites .......
MARK 12:18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
This account in Mark 12 is on Wednesday of the last week of Jesus’ life. The conspiracy that will lead to His arrest and crucifixion is growing. This chapter gives us snapshots of the conspirator’s tactics and attacks.
The Parable of the Tenants (vs. 1-11) provides the backdrop that people attacking God’s servants and killing them is a sad and consistent testimony of man.
He has already avoided the trap of the Pharisees and some of Herod’s representatives who wanted to paint him as a rebel against Rome (‘Render to Caesar’ vs. 13-17) and now he finds Himself confronted by the Sadducees.
In my personal reading, I think it is easy to mischaracterize these ‘sects’ of Judaism and it is a mistake to lump them all together under one umbrella of faith.
PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES- The Elites of Biblical Times
Pharisees were everywhere. In the 400 year period between the Old Testament and New, the Pharisees grew in prestige and power. They roamed the streets, oppressing the people to follow all the mechanized dictates of their law. They had corrupted the Word of God by adding layer and layer of rules and regulations.
They used their teaching to indoctrinate the masses that God was pleased by their rule keeping. And as all religions of works do- created a spiritual class system of ‘compare and compete’. Pharisees were numerous, influential, and extremely proud and protective of their practices.
The Sadducees were a minority. They were less visible, confining their sect to the Temple. They were strict constructionists… not accepting any text of authority beyond the five Books of Moses. They were the elites and in their aristocratic circles had found an ally in Rome.
Even though they were a minority, early historians comment that they were the most vile and ruthless in fear and oppression. Pharisees were pragmatic and needed to get the participation of the people- Sadducees had the corner on the truth and did not care if anyone else followed- they had Roman firepower if they needed it.
Sadducees were most noted for their rejection of a resurrection because they could not find firm evidence for it in the Pentateuch AND they found the Pharisee’s fanciful speculation about it rather ridiculous.
THE CONFRONTATION WITH THE CHRIST
It looks like the Sadducees are trying to kill two birds with one stone- take advantage of the Pharisee’s blunder (vs. 13-17 Questions “Render to Ceasar”) and show both Jesus and the Pharisees as ignorant of the true Word of Moses.
Paul wrote in I Corinthians: “we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.”
Intellectual elites tend to be engulfed in arrogance.
Jesus’ response to their theoretical situation completely flies in the face of their self supposed superiority.
“Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” and again at the end of the passage, “You are quite wrong”.
To pile on, Jesus goes to Moses himself, to prove His assertion:
And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.
He uses their own proof text to destroy a hallmark of their twisted theology.
C.S. Lewis has the famous quote in his book, The Great Divorce,:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell chose it.”
As I walk the aisles of any bookstore, I see rows and rows of writers who in arrogance proclaim that either God is not there or He is not needed. They are modern day Sadducees who deny the resurrection and use their proof text of reason.
The antithesis to this is to cry out to God for a heart of humility, a yielded spirit, and a will that is open to His rule.
And I fear those who clinch their fist- bow up and live according to the facts as they see them. Men are not omniscient enough to be that sure.
Now... one last reality... this adversarial wind of secular critics is not going away anytime soon.
And I doubt you will ever WIN any arguments.
The key is to follow the Lord's lead, love people, speak truth in love, and hope you win people in time.
Continue to challenge yourself to avoid the traps of intellectual elitism. Those who enter the kingdom of God do so in childlike trust and humility.
- Don’t use your dogma to dominate others. This doesn’t mean you can’t take hard stands, but reason with others, winsomely persuade opposition, and diligently pray for those who resist. Hard to do on the internet.... take time with people.
- Those who are MOST wrong are those who see no possibility of being wrong.
- There are absolutes- even Jesus says the words, ‘You are wrong’.
- That is the beauty of the gospel message- it is not about those who are right, it takes care of the humble sinners who are wrong.
Final Point: Do we ever confront?
I have always been impressed that Paul confronted Peter- to his face, and in the presence of others.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.  And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.  But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11–14 ESV)
He was a brother to Peter- earlier in the letter he said this:
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. (Galatians 1:18 ESV)
So there are times we HAVE to stand and speak up... it takes wisdom and courage... so we need to do it carefully and prayerfully.
When we speak the truth in love... it isn't always going to be well received and it isn't always going to be voted by the elites as 'kind'- you have to truly pray for love that conquers even misunderstanding.
And the cruelest part of this is that the 'popular vote'- the woke capitalists, the media totalitarians, the identity politics crowd, the hypocritical academic intellectuals.. all will stand up and say that we are the fools.. and you have to be willing to love them and pray for them in the face of their venom.
Can you do it? That's what Jesus did.....
We don't retreat... we lead with the gospel of grace.