George Floyd and Martin Luther King

I want to write about George Floyd, because hearing about him on Twitter really got to me. Police say he was a forgery suspect – not a crime that carries the death penalty, yet George (a black man) was arrested and pinned to the ground by a white officer, heard to say he couldn’t breathe before he lost consciousness and subsequently died. I’m white myself, but I think this sort of behaviour is a disgrace. I had a similar feeling when I went to the apartheid museum in Cape Town and saw a bench labelled: “For Europeans only”. I’m deeply ashamed. It actually prompted me to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. who had a dream that his children would be judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. He had that dream in 1963 and at times like this, it seems no closer to coming to fruition.

Surely we don’t have to sit back and feel powerless. There must be something we can do to make a difference, which doesn’t have to involve taking to the streets or damaging property. As Christians, we can spur one another on towards love and good deeds, and we can pray the famous words of Jesus: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. What’s that like – God’s kingdom coming? At the moment, God’s kingdom is ruled by Jesus Christ. We only have to examine His life on earth to see what God’s kingdom looks like: Blind eyes opened; diseases cured; the greatest of its subjects glad to serve; right living; peace; joy; love for God and others. As the church, Jesus is our Head and we’re His body – members of God’s family. Paul said a message of reconciliation had been committed to him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). He implored people to be reconciled to God because in the end, that’s what God wants: For everyone to be in His family, so they too can have the blessings of His kingdom. “God is being patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He wants everyone to change their ways and stop sinning” (2 Peter 3:9).

All the positive qualities we see in Jesus, we can pray for ourselves: Not just one day when we get to heaven, but on earth as it is in heaven. Eventually every one of Jesus’ enemies will be destroyed, even death. After this, God will take overall charge (1 Corinthians 15:22-28), and He’ll live with His people in the new heaven and the new earth. What an amazing place that will be. Can you imagine walking around in complete safety? Everyone eager to help each other? Nothing corrupt or impure even allowed through the door? No such thing as white supremacy. Martin Luther King’s dream realised: Little black boys and little black girls joining hands with little white boys and little white girls, as he put it. Makes me want to be there, seeing it all play out, and when I pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, that’s what I’m praying for.

A Bible Gateway Recommendation

I thought I’d write a post today, as it’s Sunday, because I’d really like to recommend Bible Gateway’s Worship and Word devotional. Set up as a resource during the lockdown, you get an Email in your inbox every Sunday morning with the lyrics to a hymn and the Bible-verses it’s based on. I enjoyed today’s, which was “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”, because I knew the chorus but didn’t realise how good some of the verses were! The lyrics are usually what draw me to a song, more than how it sounds or whether a person can sing.

Are there any resources you’ve found helpful at this time? Feel free to comment and pass them on.

Most Confusing Verse in the Bible

I think 1 Timothy 2:15 is the most confusing verse in the whole Bible, particularly if you’re like me – a woman with no biological children. It’s the conclusion of a passage about men and women in the church, and here’s what it says: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:14-15). What is that all about? Surely salvation doesn’t come with the condition that you procreate. I don’t think it does, because Paul states clearly in another of his letters: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). That’s how you’re saved: By a belief that God raised Christ from the dead and confession of that faith, so what’s childbearing got to do with it? I wondered if Paul was talking about being a spiritual mother – sharing truths and being an example to the next generation, but it says childbearing, not child-rearing.

Then there’s the second part of the verse: “If they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control”. Who are they: Is it they – the women who bear the children, or they – the children themselves? Is Paul telling women: Your children (whose choices you can’t control) need to keep following God, otherwise you’re out? I discounted that straightaway. Imagine the fear and anxiety that could cause any mother! I really don’t think God would want that. John says God’s commands are not burdensome and Jesus Himself tells us His burden is light, so ‘They’ must mean Christian women. We’re to continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. That makes sense. There’s plenty in the Bible encouraging us to continue in the hope held out for us in the gospel and hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, but it still doesn’t answer the childbearing question.

One thing’s for sure: I can’t dismiss it. Paul tells us that: “All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and for showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live” (2 Timothy 3:16), so it must be there for a reason. The author of “1 and 2 Timothy for You” shed some light on this for me. In the verse before, we’re reminded of the garden of Eden, where the serpent deceived Eve. Having eaten the forbidden fruit, she offered some to Adam. Because he went against what God had told him, sin came into the world. Eve was deceived and sin (or transgression) was the result, but her childbearing eventually brought about salvation. One of Eve’s descendants, Jesus Christ, would die to take away the sin of the world. It was part of Eve’s purpose to have offspring so that we could be saved. Not every woman has to give birth to a child, but our salvation comes through the birth of a child, and we’ll be saved if we continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

That left me feeling much more peaceful and if you’ve been confused about the verse, like I have, I hope you feel the same.

“The Medium is the Message”

That’s a quote by someone I hadn’t heard of – a man called Marshall McLuhan. He was a Canadian philosopher, who predicted the Internet about thirty years before it was invented. He examined the effect media has on us and wrote in a book published in 1964: “The medium is the message”. In other words, you could say: “Life is precious”, but if you wrote that on the side of a gun or an atomic bomb, the message would lose its meaning because of the way it was put across.

This could just as easily apply to you and me. If you like, our life is the medium. People are watching us, like they would watch a character in a TV-show. We can give any message we like, but if our lives don’t back it up, it won’t carry any weight. I could say: “As a follower of Jesus, I’m not afraid of anything”, but put me in a room with a dog and you’ll know that’s not true. A more honest thing to say would be: “I know Jesus can help me when I’m afraid, and as one of His followers, I wish I loved all of God’s creation like He does”.

James confronts a problem when he writes: “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:10). He’s effectively saying: The medium is the message. You’re meant to be living like Christ. People are watching you, and Paul explains it this way: “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). As Christians, yes, we should live primarily to please God; but in a sense, it does matter what people think of us because we’re representing Christ to them. Our lives are preaching His message, so how we live is important. Sometimes I feel terribly inadequate. I see the ways I’m unlike Him and feel such a pale representation of who He is, but we’re not the best judges of ourselves. Sometimes we can forget how far we’ve come, and we don’t see ourselves the way God sees us. What I’m trying to say is, don’t be discouraged. Jesus said: “You are the light of the world”. Let your light shine out to those around you.