Brothers . . . behave!
We hosted two of our fourteen grandkids for a sleepover last night. We love all of our kids––and all of their kids––with all of our hearts. God has blessed us with a family that is close, tight-knit and following Christ. We could hardly ask for more. Yet, with two rambunctious five-year-old cousins in the house, I heard my wife say more than once, and with great emphasis, “Children, BEHAVE!”
Because we have two five-year-old cousins in the house I am up, early. They are watching some animated program on the television while I try to get my first cup of coffee into my cup. They are being very quiet and well-behaved. Grammie is still in the bed trying to catch a couple of extra minutes of peace and I’m sitting in my office exchanging emails with a friend with whom I am collaborating on a project. I tend to be a bit of a tease so it is not a surprise that one response to an email message was terse, “You need to behave!”
My wife loves our grandchildren and her command to behave was driven by that love for them.
My friend and I are very close, and even that light-hearted rebuke, is driven by that closeness.
I love the Body of Christ. I have spent most of my life serving the Body of Christ so what I have to say this morning springs up out of that love.
Brothers and sisters . . . we need to behave.
We are living in turbulent times. The spiritual heart of our nation has declined precipitously, now tolerating––even celebrating––every type of perversion and rebellion one can imagine. We are deeply divided in so many ways; racially, morally, socially, and politically. Rancor for one another has erupted like a festering wound that can no longer be contained by the scab that covered it. A few moments on almost any social media platform will confirm this. As I sit here in the morning quiet, I am reminded of the words of Paul to the Galatian church: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:15)
The arrival of the COVID 19 pandemic has served only to highlight the deep fissures among us. We are divided over masks, quarantines, lock-downs, treatments, drugs, and vaccines. That which ideally should have caused us to unite in a fight against a common enemy has only driven us further apart. We stand knee-deep in the pus that is leaking from a sickness that is far worse than any viral infection––an infection of the heart––and I fear, it is killing us.
Now enters into the fray, BLACK LIVES MATTER and ANTIFA; Marxist driven revolutionaries bent upon the burning down of the Republic. Let me be clear here: I speak of the ORGANIZATION that is BLM which in truth has nothing to do with the advancement of the black community. Black lives matter is truth and racism in America is real, but BLM and ANTIFA have no desire to heal the wounds, only deepen them as it suits their goals.
Cities are burning and in ruin. Families are locked up in their homes in fear. Criminal gangs roam our streets chanting, looting, burning, and attacking innocent old men and women. The smoke and flames of a nation trembling on the edge of a precipice rise from sea to shining sea.
In all of this chaos, the one voice that America needs to hear is strangely quiet. At around 100 B.C. a Christian monk by the name of Telemachus leaped over the wall of the Coliseum in Rome to the arena floor. Running to the very center of the mayhem and standing between two powerful gladiators he cried out, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I command these wicked games to cease. Do not requite God’s mercy by shedding innocent blood.”
Telemachus ran into the heat of the battle, carrying no weapon save the Word of God and a heart that was ablaze with the Spirit of the Living Christ crying, “STOP!” The sad ending to this story is that Telemachus was immediately slain by one of the gladiators. The joyous ending to this story is that the blood-thirsty mob was so shocked by the raw violence of what they had witnessed that they filed out of the Coliseum in stunned silence and according to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, from that day forward the games ended. The Coliseum lies in ruins but the cause of Christ lives on!
I write these words filled with self-recrimination. It is so easy to get sucked into the mayhem. It is so tempting to pick a gladiator to side with, cheering him on in the slaughter. Too, too many of us who say we follow Christ have cheered from the sidelines while our favored politicians commit “murder” against one another. We have been too willing to lend our voice to the name-calling, spewing (and sharing) any available vitriol we can find to vilify, de-humanize, or otherwise destroy another human being that we find particularly unpleasant. We are hungry to see Ghislaine Maxwell’s vile list of high ranking officials caught in Jeffery Epstiens ugly web of debauchery. We will rejoice in the downfall of certain people instead of being heartbroken at the sinful web into which they have been drawn and from which they need to be redeemed.
So today, instead of shouting at sinners to expose their wickedness, I want to run to the center of the arena where I find my brothers and sisters engaged in the wrong battle and shout, “Brothers . . . BEHAVE!
I wrote these words on my Facebook page in the early hours of this morning: “I think it fair to say––and I speak to myself as much as anyone else––that those of us who name the Name of Christ should spend a great deal more time on our knees crying out to God for revival than we do on Social Media speaking evil of those with whom we disagree. To think that we can affect true change in our nation through bitter political discourse is a fool’s errand, and should demonstrate to all of us that we don’t trust in the power of God as much as we say we do. I remind us that when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were ordered to bow down before the great image of the King, they did not yell, scream, and demand a fair hearing. They simply, quietly, and even respectfully said, “No.” We can learn something from these guys.”
I don’t for a moment suggest that we should not speak out, and with conviction, against such issues as racism, abortion, or sex trafficking. If anything, our voices should be able to be heard above the noise. I do not oppose engaging in the political arena as we plummet toward what is sure to be a tumultuous election in November. However, our entrances should be as Ambassadors of Christ, not right-wing or left-wing political hacks. We must desire to see godly principles once again operating in our government. However, the demand for adherence to godly principals in our government should be sounded by voices that are actually functioning out of those same principles. We cannot win our nation to godliness when we ourselves enter into the ungodliness that is so prevalent. We must decide whether we believe in the way of Christ or the way of the world. It is an either/or, not a both/and position. Jesus rarely spoke to the wicked with biting condemnation. He reserved those words for the “religious.”
My friend Telemachus did not leap into the ring to take the side of any gladiator, but he stood on the side of Christ, the King. He did not wish any competitor harm but desired that they all be set free. We are living in the flesh if we think that a political victory from one side or the other will save America. We must first run to the feet of Jesus so that our own hearts might be clean before we run to the center of the coliseum to demand that our politicians repent.
The other day I read yet another vile post from a devoted Christian brother skewering President Trump for all of his failings. My heart was sick that such animosity was coming from a man who claims to follow Christ. Then, I remembered some of the things that have erupted out of my own heart towards certain legislators that I don’t care for––and my own thoughts and words condemned me.
That was the moment my loving Heavenly Father spoke to me, “You need to behave.”
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