Ask Father Paul 120209

Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible

Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are some that I’ve gotten over the years and for this column.

Dear Father Paul: Should Christians be involved in social issues and causes ... including marching in demonstrations and carrying signs? — Greg

Dear Greg: This is a hugely controversial question in the Christian community. On the one hand many Christians look at social injustice issues and say, “As a Christian I can’t remain silent, I’ve got to do something.” So they march, carry signs, put bumper stickers on their cars and send money to the “causes” they support. On the other hand, equally devout Christians take Jesus’ statement in John 18, “... my kingdom is not of this world, ...” to mean that we are in a “spiritual battle” only, so they will not become involved in any “worldly” effort to change society or the culture in which we live. Which is right?

It’s a given that Christians must be good citizens. Romans 13:1 tells us that. Christians are to pay our taxes, serve on juries, serve in the military, obey the law (except those that directly conflict with the revealed Word of God, the Bible), and pray for our leaders.

The life of Jesus himself gives us part of the answer. In spite of the fact that he lived in an unjust, corrupt society with more “wrongs” than we have even today, Jesus never once called for political change, even by peaceful means. He did not try to “capture the culture” or lead a social movement or a revolution. Instead, he came to establish a new, godly spiritual order on earth, not to make the old order more moral through social and governmental reform. He came to change men’s hearts, knowing that any lasting rule of righteousness must begin with men’s hearts being changed first. Then, and only then, would godly and lasting social reform happen.

Having said that, I strongly feel that Christians (when led by their consciences and the Holy Spirit), should, take a stand, yes, even a public stand for godly righteousness. I’m thinking here of issues like the abortion question.

Can Christians then picket, campaign, organize and lobby? Yes, of course ... but we must keep in mind the ultimate and most important goal ... to win a lost and dying world to Christ. Let’s not kid ourselves. Only then will we see real, lasting and godly change.

Dear Father Paul: I’m a nineteen-year-old Christian whose church attendance has (to be honest) become spotty at best. I’ve got so much going on, what with college, and a part-time job, that you just wouldn’t believe it. I still live at home with mom and dad and they are constantly giving me grief over it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy church, but if I could just take the next three years off from going, I know that when I graduate and get my own place I’d start going again.. Can you give me a little ammunition to use for right now? — Bill (not my real name)

Dear Bill: Sorry, you emailed the wrong preacher. There are several really good reasons why I can’t help you with “ammunition.”

First, as a young adult, you are now formulating habits and behaviors that you very likely will carry out for the rest of your life. Habits are very ... very hard to change once established. In short, once you get out of the habit of doing something, even something good, something you enjoy, like going to church, it is extremely difficult to pick it up again at a future date, even if you want to. In short, if you stop going to church now, you likely won’t be going when you are 25, 40 or 60.

Second, going to church, for a true Christian is not optional, it’s a command. If we say that we love Jesus, we will also love “his church.” That means showing up. The early believers set a standard for us to follow ... “they devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread (holy communion) and to prayer.” The writer of Hebrews tells us also, in Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another (when we are meeting together) ...” Church is the place where believers are taught the faith until they become “mature” in the faith. It’s the place where we worship God as he commands that we do regularly ... where we encourage one another ... where we give and receive love ... and, where we give and receive kindness and help in time of trouble.

Christians are to live and function as “a body,” and when one part of the body is missing, the body can’t function as intended.

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Submitted by atctemp on Thu, 12/10/2009 - 8:08pm.

I would say to the young man, Bill, that when and if you find some real believers, you may enjoy meeting with them. On the other hand, if all you can find are people who tell you, “attending church is a command,” I think I would stay away, and start learning what is actually in the Bible.
“Let us not give up meeting,” is an encouragement, not a command. The early believers were a good standard, if you want to meet every single day and live as a common property commune like they giddily did where the quote comes from, at the end of Acts 2. Or, if you want to try to force people to become Jews and be circumcised, like Paul described some of the early church in Galatians.
A church, or rather, the church, is people who are born again through faith, not a club, organization, or a location. They can meet wherever and whenever they want, even in non-masonry buildings! Hopefully, they will talk about the teachings of the apostles, like the little known truths found in Romans and Galatians:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,
Stand firm, then, and do not allow yourself to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Christ is the end of the law, we have died to the law, no one is justified by the law, but we are justified by faith in Christ, and his accomplishments.
Real Christians will talk of the truths from Hebrews: by calling this covenant new, he has made the old one obsolete, their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more, and where these sins
have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins:
No more sacrifice, and no more asking for forgiveness.
Finally, knowing these truths can fill you with God's love, and give you a supply of love, to begin passing love along to others.
Loving others, and faith, are the only two commandments in biblical Christianity- 1 John 3:23
Quite a different picture, isn't it, from the “you better show up and tithe” folks?
(By the way, tithing was Jewish, but tithing was never taught to Christians in the scriptures, only in “churches.”)

The Wedge's picture
Submitted by The Wedge on Thu, 12/10/2009 - 8:53pm.

So the Holy Trinty- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not want the church supported nor people to assemble together? The fellowship of church is akin to the yoke of slavery? Are you willing to state unequivically that the new testament does not touch on giving, on fellowship, on providing money for the church? Please go on record with that as I am curious. I do agree that tithing by name is not mentioned in the New Testament. But to say that God does not want us to give cheerfully to the church I believe that that stament is false teaching. And I curious about the statement that faith and love is all that is needed, no need to ask for forgiveness when we continue to sin. Interesting thoughts

Submitted by atctemp on Fri, 12/11/2009 - 12:59am.

Hi Wedge,
Please don't take my passion for meanness, I don't intend any, it's just that truth needs telling. My main theme is to let us define church as the Bible uses the word, not as modern tradition and word usage has hijacked it. Therefore, first, I did not say your first sentence. When most people, and now you, use that word church, they mean the organized, God oriented, club, staff, building and activities that they attend regularly. The club, the sincere professional staff, the building, and the activities need "support"
and "providing money." The actual church, as the word is used in the Bible, is the born again people of the world. They don't need supporting with money unless they are helpless. If people are the actual born again people, by faith in the biblical gospel, they should get together, encourage one another, study the apostles' teaching out of the word, and pray. This does not have to happen in a specially designed, dedicated, climate controlled building, with a professional staff, so it does not necessarily have to be a "support" heavy activity. Example: As Father Paul came close to quoting but stopped too soon, the early believers met in homes. This is the choice of the local group (club). Let each group meet their expenses as they have chosen to create them. It does not cost money to tell your neighbor the gospel of Jesus Christ. By the way, I say the words group and club because not all the attenders are born again people (the church), in some groups perhaps very few or none.
Second, the yoke of slavery is a description the apostle Paul (not me) gave to the Law of Moses, in the letter to the Galatians. Not many realize what the New covenant letters teach about the law. Paul called it a "ministry that brought death," and "that condemns men."
(2 Cor 3:7-9, but read through v16) Also, go back to my first comment and look up those quotes in Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews.
My complaint was about making attending church into a kind of law. It is like a forced apology, or mandatory "I love you."
Third, yes the New covenant scripture encourages fellowship and encouragement throughout- I am fellowshipping (albeit in a limited form) with you and devoting us to the apostle's teaching, now! As far as giving, the scripture I am familiar with, on giving, is about giving for the poor. I am not aware of scripture mandating giving for buildings and professional staff. The famous "cheerful giver" in 2 Corinthians 9:7 is about giving to poor brothers, see v12.
Paul did say if you are taught the word, you should share all good things with the teacher. I am not convinced that means keeping a building open and staffed six days a week. I am sure you can see the flexibility in this statement. A group of dirt farming primitives in the Amazon are converted, and begin meeting together. Are they going to "give money cheerfully to the church?" They are the church. They don't have a currency. They give the teacher a fish, and a piece of fruit.
The statement of the two commandments of Christianity is not my statement, it is the apostle John's, from 1 John 3:23-24. Also see
John 3:1-18, John 6:29, John 15:17, and Colossians 1:27.
Thank you for your curiosity and attention, it means a lot to me. I hope you take the next part very seriously, it has transformed my life.
On forgiveness, Christians believe and yet they don't. They say Christ died for their sins, but they act like it didn't work. They say Jesus paid for their sins, but they act like the check was no good. They say Jesus satisfied God in their place, but they act like God is plenty touchy and mad. See, the cross was real payment for my sins and yours. His death was in my place and it worked. Jesus took over possession and blame, in God's eyes, for sins. They were judged, the verdict was guilty, the penalty was death, and Jesus took it. Jesus proclaimed "It is finished," and it was. No sins were left unpunished. So how many of our sins were included in that transaction? All of them. Now the scripture, our available truth, says,
Christ died for sins once for all- 1 Peter 3:18
He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code..
Col 2:13,14
I write to you dear children, because your sins have been forgiven
on account of his name 1 John 2:12
After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven. Hebrews 1:3
God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. 2 Corinthians 5:19
Also, if we gain His righteousness one time through faith, we are not gaining it through our actions. See Romans and see Hebrews 9 and 10.
So, traditions teach asking God for forgiveness. The Lord's prayer was given to Jews, before the foundation of Christianity was laid. It was a prayer looking toward the cross coming in the future. The scripture, however, teaches that God's plan, and His son's mission, were successful. Our response to our own sin could be, "I'm
sorry,God," I'm sorry brother or sister," "I sure am stupid," "I sure am selfish," "I sure am mean," "Teach me, O Spirit of Love," and "Thank you Lord Jesus for your suffering," but it should never, never be, "I need your forgiveness, God, I don't think the cross was enough to pay my debt."

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Submitted by wildcat on Tue, 12/01/2009 - 11:36pm.

Church is a place, not a building, right? A place where we worship God? Mine is in the woods or on the beach at sunrise or working in one of my gardens; in a place where I can see the beauty that God has created. I give love and kindness when I put out food, fresh water and nesting materials for the woodland animals. I receive love and kindness when I get to watch them. One year, on my birthday, a mother and two fawns stopped in the yard to eat some apples I had put out. What a wonderful gift. I do like going to “real” church because I like hearing the message. I don’t go to make friends (although I have) and the church I attend does not have a choir, piano player (we used to) or a children’s program so I go solely for the message. And I have to say that I don’t believe God minds at all that I attend only sporadically even though you state that I am not following His command. I guess that everyone finds their own peace at some point in their life. And sometimes, when we get old, we just do what feels right. I know I have and I'm too old to care what anyone thinks about it!! So, don't scare the college kid!!

The Wedge's picture
Submitted by The Wedge on Tue, 12/01/2009 - 11:49pm.

NIV translation: Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

It points to other passages that state that each believer is part of the body of Christ, etc. If you go solely for the message, then you are feeding yourself and neglecting others within the church. Do what you will, it is between and betwixt you and God, but I do not believe that you are in right in this matter. You sound somewhat Deistic. Cheers to you.

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