The Color of Your Church and Thrasymachus

The Pastor’s Perspective  by Pastor Mark Anderson   Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, CA

Regular readers of the Pastor’s Perspective will know that I do
not make a habit of allowing my remarks to be driven by cultural trends, issues, and fads.  There is, after all, nothing redemptive or especially edifying about the culture.  We do not need what the culture offers.  The culture does need what the Church proclaims: the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.  One current story, however, has gotten my attention; the story of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

 ‘Justice is simply the advantage of the stronger’, so said the Greek Thrasymachus.  Those in power (pick your color) inevitably believe themselves to be standing on the high ground of justice.  Any rational assessment of the world will bring you to this conclusion.  This also applies to leaders in religious organizations who cloak themselves in the mantle of ‘prophetic ministry’.  The fact that the liberal theological tradition claims this mantle, both in black and white churches, does not justify their skewed view of the Christian faith.

In this regard let me state that I believe it to be inherently un-Christian to advance any church’s identity primarily on ethnic, racial or political grounds.  When churches do this they betray the truly inclusive message of the cross and sell the birthright for a cheap porridge of narrow, bigoted religion, however righteous they percieve their cause to be.  They also fail to see themselves as full-fledged partners in the huiman fellowship of sin, as much in need of forgiveness as the neighbor they excoriate.

So, if you want to build a religious institution around justice grievances and hammer away at this group or that, go ahead.  But please, do not sully the work of the Savior by calling yourself a church who claims to speak in the name of the One who willingly gave up His life for sinners.  The God I know takes no pleasure in pastors or congregations, white, black, green or purple, who take delight in pointing out the speck in the brother’s eye while ignoring the log in their own.  The God I know takes no pleasure in churches that allow topical issues and justice grievances to supplant the glorious Gospel of His Son’s bloody cross and glorious resurrection.

So, to Rev. Wright and ANYONE else who claims to speak for God in Christ, here is some advice:

The next time you have an opportunity to stand in front of a congregation of sinners (any color will do), tell them their sin is forgiven for Jesus’ sake,  for that is our message when all is said and done.  And then lead them in this (probably infuriating) variation on an old song:

            ‘ Jesus loves the little bigots, all the bigots of the world,

             red and yellow black and white they are precious in His sight.

             Jesus loves the little bigots of the world.


  If you can’t sing this and mean it,  you have not heard the Gospel.

                             Grace to you,

                                       Pastor Mark Anderson

 What say you about Rev. Wright’s preaching on the topic of race?


Homeless in my midst…

Today was sort of a strange day. For some reason I was thinking about the plight of the homeless people in my area. And since they were on my mind I seemed to notice so many more of them than I otherwise might.  For Her, It Was Just Another Sunday

Well, the fact that I was thinking about the homeless isn’t the real point of this posting. The real point of the story is what I did about it… nothing.

Jesus told us so many times and in so many ways to take care of the poor. He tells us in Luke 14:33 that “if we don’t renounce everything we have then we cannot become His disciple.”

So why is it that I don’t sell at least some of what I have and give it to the poor?

The answer is simple. I don’t want to. And that is why today, after seeing and driving by at least 8 different homeless people…I did nothing. Well, almost nothing. I did talk to one guy for a few minutes about Christ, but he seemed totally disinterested and at one point I thought he might lunge out and strangle me. I probably had it coming. Actually I know I have it coming and if it were not for Jesus, the Father would probably do it Himself.

I think I stopped and talked to that last guy from the guilt of driving by the other seven.  Another righteous deed bites the dust.

I wonder how many other Christians ignore the homeless as I regularly seem to do?  I zip past them like they weren’t even there. Most of the time they might as well not be there. Oh sure, I’ve got plenty of good reasons. “Most of them are probably mentally ill. Most of them would probably just use the little bit of money I might give to them for drugs or alcohol, so I wouldn’t be helping them any. I’m late, so I don’t have the time to stop. I work hard for my money and they are lazy and don’t really deserve anything. It just encourages them to stay in their situation. There are plenty of other people that are out there trying to help them, and telling them about Jesus. They don’t want help. They might kill me. I might kill them.”  Lot’s of great reasons not to stop. So I don’t.

I guess in many ways I am like the righteous Jew who steps around the beaten man lying in the road. And, in that way, the Law condemns me.

We all know that we could be doing so much more and we’ve got every excuse in the book and most of them are quite valid as far as we are concerned.

It is exactly for self concerned, self absorbed, possession hoarding sinners that He came and died. We are incapable of the selfless love that He demands of us. We do not want to give up what is rightfully ours (not much of it anyway) and He knows it. That is why He had to die for us.

Should we always stop and help the homeless? Not necessarily. Each of us has to make those determinations for ourselves. Whether we do, or not, is not really the issue here…it is the heart. It is our willingness to ignore others that we might not be burdened. It is our desire to live as our own gods, making up the rules for life as we see fit, ignoring the Lord, the giver of life and His commandments to us.

We are sinners. No doubt about it.  Full on 100% grade ‘A’ sinners. We are not half-righteous (those of us that are honest about it), we are not getting better (those of us who are honest about it) we are not earnestly living as God would have us live (those of us who are honest about it).

So what do we do? Try harder? Read more scripture? Pray more often, and more fervently? 

Those are not bad things to do and we might benefit from doing those things, and then again… we might not.

No… the answer does not reside in ourselves, or anything that we can or will do. The answer resides in the person of Jesus Christ and in Him alone. He is our righteousness. He is the answer to our selfishness. He is the answer to our sinful rebellion towards a God that made us and sustains us.

We ought feel badly that we are not up to the task. But we shouldn’t despair over it because of the One who has taken our sins, all of them upon Himself and wiped the slate clean. He wipes it clean each and every day… in your life and mine!

  Or do you think God holds it against us each time we fail to stop and help someone in need?

          Thanks for your insights.

                                 – Steve Martin