One misstep in today's punishment driven culture can mean you are cancelled for life.
Throwing a baseball, a bottle or even a rally-cap at a professional athlete is grounds for ejection from the stadium. This is obvious to all. The safety of everyone at sporting events, whether fans or players, is paramount. An appropriate response is demanded. Appropriate is the key word.
I'll admit I am not privy to the specifics of this situation, so my remarks are going to be general. The “banned for life” movement is strong in America, and it's driven by an all-to-familiar and vindictive cancel culture.
Banned for life? For throwing a baseball at someone?
The punishment for second degree murder is often significantly less lengthy (though I'm not suggesting missing a lifetime of baseball games is in any way the same as going to prison). In fact, NJ.com reported Sunday the fan was not even arrested, though this may change after the facts are gathered. Be that as it may, throwing a baseball that caused no injury resulted in a life sentence by Major League Baseball without the possibility of parole.
A NATION DEVOID OF THE SPIRIT OF FORGIVENESS
ESPN reports, “Verdugo said he tossed the ball into the stands to a young Red Sox fan but that a Yankees fan intercepted it and threw it back onto the field, hitting the outfielder.”
As a Chicago Cubs fan, I've witnessed many homerun balls hit by the visiting team launched back from the bleachers onto the field. This is a long-standing tradition, one that is good for the sport. I've often seen the air-mailed baseballs soar past players and I've often wondered if any of them have ever been hit. Granted, the velocity of a ball by the time it lands near the infield would be minimal.
Would this be cause for a lifetime ban? Of course not. Is it possible the situation with Alex Verdugo was more deliberate and egregious? Yes. But, again, much greater crimes carry much shorter sentences. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, the punishment must fit the crime, and some might argue this situation barely even qualifies as a crime, if it does at all.
Reports of people being banned for life from theme parks and cruise ships for some extremely minor offenses are out there, and while I don't diminish the need to hold people acc0untable, there must be a mechanism for penance and forgiveness. Sadly, we are living in a nation that is woefully lacking in the value of forgiveness. Instead, punishment, control, shame and judgment have become the norm in our society.
BANNED FOR LIFE
According to CBS Sports writer Matt Snyder, Justice was served — the fan was banned from Yankee Stadium and the other 29 ballparks for life, an MLB spokesperson told NJ.com's Brendan Kuty on Sunday.
Was justice truly served with a lifetime ban?
Except for the most extreme cases, the punitive term “banned for life” should disappear from our culture's verbiage. Social media platforms also use similar terminology when deleting accounts. Often it's unclear why people were banned as specifics are rarely shared. Even the offenders are often in the dark as to why they have punished and are given no path for restoration.
President Donald Trump was famously banned for life from Twitter. It's so preposterous and inconceivable that our nation's highest-ranking official could be muzzled.
“The way our policies work, when you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform whether you are a commentator, a CFO or you are a former or public official,” he said.
Vengeance instead of common sense, love and forgiveness is leading the charge today, and our nation is growing darker and more sinister by the hour.
Both President Trump and the culprit who foolishly threw the baseball are banned forever. Paul Hodgkins will serve eight months (or less) for joining a group of rioters who assembled at the front of the Senate chamber. His intention was to obstruct the certification of the 2020 Presidential election.
In fact, in another baseball related story, the person (or people) responsible for shooting four people outside a Washington Nationals game the other day may very well receive sentences (should they be found and convicted) well short of a lifetime.
A PATH OF RESTORATION
No matter the violation, a path of restoration must always be extended, whether it's by Major League Baseball, Facebook, theme parks or cruise ship companies. Simply slamming down the gavel and erasing someone without any opportunity for rehabilitation is cruel.
If you presume I'm dismissing wrong and hurtful actions, I'm not. Neither am I suggesting we look the other way and allow all sorts of inappropriate behavior. I'm saying there must be communication with the offender, an appropriate time-out or other measure to ensure people's safety and then a clear path of restoration.
A life-time ban is most situations is ludicrous, heartless and fully unnecessary.
Remember, people who have been convicted of all sorts of heinous crimes including drunk driving, manslaughter, bank robbery and other illegal actions are offered an appropriate sentence usually with the possibility of parole. Their ban is not of the lifetime variety. Yet, throw a baseball at someone or break some rules online or elsewhere and the judgment is harsh, final and permanent.
Again, I'm not suggesting that an inability to post memes to social media or to hang out in the bleachers to cheer the Cubs on to another World Series title is in any way similar to being incarcerated. I'm simply making the point that greater crimes have a path of restoration built into the sentence. Today's “banned for life” movement does not. When culture cancels you, it's permanent.
The thought of being banned from seeing Major League baseball games with my children breaks my heart. One mistake, no matter how intentional it may be, should not qualify someone for permanent cancellation. Yet, that's what we are seeing today. No love. No forgiveness. No path of restoration. No acceptance of apologies. No hope.
The result is a fear-based culture that cancels all who don't comply to the letter of the law. This alone is resulting in a scary, judgmental and vengeful America that looks nothing like it did a couple decades ago.
There's a reason most prayer rooms are empty.
I'm a prayer freak. Nothing invigorates me like passionate, Holy Spirit-driven intercession that results in stunning and miraculous moves of God. Absolutely nothing compares to being both in God's presence and in his will.
I also understand why so many are staying far away from the dry, dusty prayer rooms. Too many of these supposed calls to prayer are marked by unbelief and apathy while being devoid of the fire and the wind that were made famous in Acts chapter two.
Yet, more than any time in this planet's history, we need firebrands who will take up the mantle of fervent intercession. Without it our nation is doomed.
“Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:15, ESV)
IF PRAYER IS BORING, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.
Dastardly, wicked forces are overrunning America and too few are wielding our most potent and effective weapon, intercession. It will grant us dramatic victories that can come no other way. No measure of brilliantly crafted political talking points, well organized protests or grass roots uprisings against the various threats in our land compares.
We need to discover the wild wonder of fervent intercession. Hitting our knees, pacing around a prayer room or collapsing in desperation at an altar with tears and cries will have profound impact. Living in the very presence of God, hearing his voice and experiencing the shock and awe of his movement is enough to cause any of us to never want to stop. Truly, if prayer is boring, something is off. There is no way to become disengaged when the Creator of the universe is manifesting in the place of prayer. The interaction, revelation, healing and overwhelming love that comes from our passionate intercession cannot be described.
Imagine living under a promise of God to be attentive to our prayer. That would be a game-changer for our nation. Unfortunately, I don't believe we have done what is necessary as a nation to step into that. In order for God to truly hear our prayers, much must be accomplished first.
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13–14, ESV)
Boring, predictable prayer will never save a nation. Vibrant, fiery, zealous, faith-filled and unrelenting prayer, however, will.
The famous verse found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often repeated but rarely adopted and the chaos and crisis in our nation is the result.
THE KEYS TO VICTORIOUS INTERCESSION FOR AMERICA
While there are numerous scriptures and passages in the Bible that give us clear direction regarding effective prayer, we cannot ignore the undeniable instructions found in 2 Chronicles 7.
Failure to consider any of the following points will compromise the mission. America will grow darker and the hope for revival will become dimmer.
ONE. GOD AT TIMES RESISTS NATIONS.
“And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’ ”” (2 Chronicles 7:21–22, ESV)
If we hold to a theological belief that God does not bring pestilence, disaster, famine and other judgments to nations, we will have no grid to begin our intercession. Many argue that God is the author of all that we would call good and Satan is the author of all that we would call bad. That doctrinal analysis, however, doesn't hold up to even an elementary review of Scripture. Others would say that all of this has changed in the New Covenant. While there were dramatic shifts after the death and resurrection of Jesus, God's role of judge hasn't changed. Justice has not been eradicated.
TWO. ARE WE TRULY HIS?
Verse fourteen starts, “if my people…”
If we aren't among the consecrated Bride of Christ, those who have filled their lamps with oil and who are radically surrendered to God, we must question whether we are his.
Regardless of whether we are saved or not, we must soberly consider if we are living a life devoted to Jesus. Are we embracing holiness and repentance as we pursue God with wholeheartedness? Or are we lukewarm and backslidden? The answer matters. Sin threatens intimacy with God which is instrumental as we contend for revival in our nation.
THREE. DO WE HAVE PRIDE?
If we are called by his name and if we humble ourselves we are on the right track. However, a lack of humility will stop us in our tracks. God resists the proud, and that's not good if we are attempting to have his ear.
FOUR. DO WE PRAY?
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16, NKJV)
If our life is marked by intense, continual prayer, we will see the wonders of God manifest in our lives and in our nation.
FIVE. DO WE SEEK HIS FACE?
Spending hours seeking after God is a glorious pursuit. Read the Word of God, fill the room with anointed worship music and talk to him as a friend. This single discipline will transform your life for eternity.
SIX. HAVE WE TURNED FROM OUR WICKED WAYS?
James tells us the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Again, holiness matters. Unrepentant, continual sin of all types will result in judgment. Whether it's lust, unforgiveness, pride, apathy or any other forbidden issue, wickedness will destroy our nation, not save it.
I do believe the turning of our nation is a simple as adhering to 2 Chronicles 7. Fervent, passionate prayer from a repentant, surrendered church will usher in revival that will set America ablaze with the love and power of Jesus.
Christians lose credibility and influence when they promote conspiracy theories in these dire times.
The last year of human history has proven to be one of the most bizarre thanks to the strange political divide that has widened over masks, vaccinations, Donald Trump and cultural troubles.
Speaking in generalities, those on the right are pro-Trump, anti-mask and anti-vaccine. The left despises Donald Trump, wear masks as a badge and are dumbfounded that anybody could oppose a virus-ending medicine.
Certainly, there are others who analyze the sharp contrast and are stunned at where the arguments have landed. Can a conservative not don a mask without the fear of being called out? Are there any liberals who are admittedly nervous about the vaccine? Is it at all possible for the left to appreciate anything our former President did for our nation? Can those on the right do the same with the current administration? Or is it all black and white? Well, I personally haven't seen the gloriously mundane shade of gray much at all since the crisis has begun.
THE RISE OF THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS
We are living in a day when the world is in desperate need of balanced, biblically invested and prayerful Christians. The days are complex and confusing to most and fearful to many. This end-time season should have been a testing ground for the church, a time for us to grow in our faith, to learn how to love and to truly discern how to respond.
For many Believers, this in fact did happen, yet many others have instead adopted right-wing conspiracy theories as their go to reaction. This is deeply compromising the mission of the church and it is wounding our nation.
Sometimes I sit back and shake my head as I read the social media rants promoting ridiculous theories. Honestly, it's an embarrassment to the church, while also being an indictment on the church. Where are the biblically grounded pastors and leaders who are speaking into the lives of these rogue propagandists?
As an example, many believe receiving the vaccine results in taking the Mark of the Beast. This is impossible. The level of biblical illiteracy is stunning. Others actually are saying the vaccine changes your DNA, deeming you an unhuman hybrid. I'm not making this up. You are now unredeemable. With altered genetics, it's impossible for you to ever become a child of God, or if you already were one, impossible to remain in God's family. A visit to the drugstore to get vaccinated apparently transforms you into a Nephilim of sorts, resulting in a sentence of eternal torment in Hell. Others are saying the virus is entirely a media-driven myth. Nonsense. Any intellectually honest person will admit that COVID kills.
I believe we all need to err on the side of civility and endorse people's right to make their own medical decisions for themselves and their families. No shaming is ever appropriate for Christians.
Instead the mere suggestion of vaccinations triggers many who hold to an opposing scientific view. This is where the dividing line is drawn and the shaming begins. Again, I personally find it both suspicious and strange that a vaccination is where so many have chosen to divide. For those who believe the risk of the vaccine is greater than the reward, it's appropriate and good that they share their concern with others. But, good-hearted concern isn't mostly what we are seeing today. There's an underlying rage at play, anger that spikes when warnings about the vaccine go unheeded. There is an unholy spirit at work and we need to do a much better job discerning just what it is. Of course, you'll find rage on the other side too from those who are disgusted that some would defy national efforts to increase the vaccination rate. Everybody is triggered.
A RIGHT RESPONSE
It's important to admit that nobody has the full revelation on anything in this season. Both pro and anti-maskers and vaxers simply can't presume to be the resident experts on the topics. Too many are listening exclusively to their own echo chamber by finding supposed medical experts that are promoting their views. Statistics do suggest that vaccinations are extremely effective and are saving lives. Still, some are legitimately concerned about health risks. These concerns are valid, yet nobody can definitively say that all should be vaccinated or all should not. It is not black and white, which is why we must not respond with unfounded conspiracies or misguided fear-mongering.
The right response includes operating in a spirit of honor towards those who disagree with us. If someone does or does not want to get the vaccine, their decision can't be expected to include us (unless they are in our immediate family). Honor their right to autonomy.
Responding correctly also means we must go deep in intercession, in the Word of God and listening intently to the Holy Spirit. As someone who endorses true prophetic ministry, I must say that we need clarity regarding God's heart in this time. We can't presume anyone who experiences a flickering of their spiritual antennas to possess valuable and accurate revelation. Too many are spiritually immature or undisciplined to hear God clearly.
Does this mean we are to pull back and remain silent? No. We are free to communicate our beliefs on the subject if we admit we aren't privy to the full picture. If our concerns are severe originating from an authentic warning from God, shout it from the rooftops. However, that shouting must be from a tender, humble heart. Arrogance, presumption and know-it-all-ism isn't behavior becoming of a Believer in Jesus.
Lastly, abandon the conspiracy theories. Yes, even conspiracy theorists will be right every now and then, but the hour we are in demands sobriety and accuracy. We can't afford to provoke unnecessary scorn from the mockers. May God raise up true end-time people who are led by love, who reveal the heart of God and who refuse to be triggered by simple differences.
While there is something to be said for humility and for being quick to apologize, even when an apology isn't warranted, we must be mindful of the extreme pressure from those unguided by biblical paradigms. They are on a mission to force Believers to relinquish their moral stand and to succumb to their unsanctified versions of right and wrong.
What was West's misstep? He promoted modesty. He argued for the historic position of living decent, moral lives regarding the way we present our bodies. While it's true that most of those making the noise about this strange controversy were not alive prior to the sexual revolution, we cannot allow their demands for looser national morals to go unanswered. They have no grid for the type of modesty our great-grandparents grew up appreciating. To the unredeemed, proudly exhibiting the human body is healthy, empowering and fulfilling while not grasping the destruction they are promoting.
UNAPOLOGETIC BIBLICAL MORALITY
Oklahoma-based Pastor Jeremy Coleman voiced his objection to Matthew West's light-hearted song by saying, “We are telling our daughters and young women that their body image should be defined by someone else’s opinion,” he said. “Women should feel confident, comfortable, and free to dress and express themselves however they want. Telling them to dress a certain way to be ‘less attractive’ is reverse body shaming.”
No, it's biblical, historic modesty.
This disturbing retort, by a pastor nonetheless, should have every Believer in Jesus grieved as the spiritual direction of our culture trends darker by the day. I had to read Pastor Coleman's statement multiple times to make sure I didn't misunderstand what he was saying. I don't believe I did. He came out in opposition to biblical modesty in favor of self-expression. In fact, more specifically, he supports Christian women (and men as well I presume) expressing themselves “however they want.” One must wonder if fully nude is an option.
Where are the holiness preachers today? There are some still alive and kicking, but long gone are the days when fire-breathing preachers were the norm. Fists would pound on well-worn wooden pulpits as holy fire erupted from the mouths of God-fearing preachers of yesteryear. No apology would ever come after a call to radical holiness. Never.
As I said, Matthew West's humility in addressing the offended has merit. I appreciate his desire to represent Jesus and to exhibit a tender heart towards those who were triggered by his message. However, are we setting a precedent that will be difficult to recover from? When do the apologies end? Will we start removing worship songs that exalt God as holy from music services and social media outlets? What about sermons, books, articles, videos and other media that communicates timeless biblical truths? Should we apologize and then remove them when the ungodly (or spiritually compromised) voice their dissent?
This feels very much like a slope that we are beginning to slip down, one that will be extremely hard to recover from.
WHAT DID MATTHEW WEST EXPECT?
While his song was written in comedic fashion, he didn't expect the worldly, non-Christian crowd to celebrate, did he?
A world that's drunk on sex, lust and immorality will most certainly reject any suggestion of modesty. A culture that worships self, that promotes and celebrates the self-expression that Pastor Coleman so boldly affirmed, will lash out against all who suggest their idols cover up.
We are living in an age when humanity and is exalted and unholy desires are protected. Nudity is normal in movies today. Sexual situations are commonplace on network television. Foul language, coarse joking and all sorts of immoral behavior is embraced by today's culture as acceptable. In fact, it's growing more uncommon to find followers of Jesus who refuse to be entertained by this type of wickedness.
We should be shouting from the rooftops the truth of holiness. We can't shrink back and allow the truth of Scripture to be cancelled. If we are focused on growing an audience, on gaining influence, on making money, on growing our ministries or on keeping people happy then we are deeply compromised.
You better believe I'll be unapologetically shouting in piercing fashion into the ears of an evil culture the messages of repentance, holiness, purity, modesty and the realities of both heaven and hell. I will be held accountable for how I prepared the way for my five children. In this sexualized society we have no option but to confront, rebuke and advance against the darkness.
Yes, young lady, cover up. Love others more than yourself by not becoming a stumbling block with your attire. Yes, young man, refuse to entertain lustful thoughts about daughters of God. They are not there for your sexualized fantasies.
I'm praying for God to raise up a new generation of firebrands, men and women of God who will preach on fire, call out sin, confront culture, battle wickedness and refuse to apologize for preaching the Gospel, whether it's from behind a pulpit or a guitar.
Originally published by The Stream.
According to ESPN, in the 24 hours since the announcement, Carl Nassib's jersey sales rocketed to number one in the NFL.
In a recent article I explained why expecting those who don't know Jesus to understand our version of morality is nonsensical.
Many of arguments supporting the LBGTQ+ agenda make all the sense in the world. Their world. Christians are truly from another world, one that is foreign to them. Those who have not had a dramatic, life-altering encounter with the most powerful force in existence simply have no grid for much of what we believe. To them, loving another person of the same sex is clearly and obviously a positive thing to do. It makes sense to surrender to their sexual desires when they truly feel they were born that way. What we would call unnatural is natural to them, and vice versa.
In today's post-Christian culture it should not surprise us that jersey sales spiked after Carl Nassib's revelation that he's been a practicing homosexual for years. Homosexuality is but one of many behaviors and ideologies that has been normalized. To those who don't subscribe to the teachings of the Bible, there is no moral prohibition for these beliefs.
Legislated morality is based on what is accepted and rejected by the whole of society. This is why murder is still a crime and why gay marriage is no longer illegal. America has spoken, and while it may have been the squeaky wheel that forced this shift, homosexuality is legal and not only widely accepted as acceptable, but it's promoted aggressively. We are in the middle of Pride month after all.
THE NORMALIZATION OF SIN
I have argued in the past that, according to Scripture, not all sin is the same. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, for example, is unforgivable. Other sins are “not unto death.” Sexual sin has greater consequences then others. It's no small thing to embrace, promote or to secretly participate in any type of sexual sin.
We as Believers have watched the normalization of the sexual sin of homosexuality overtake our nation. This is without question a dangerous and deadly trend that is imprisoning innumerable people who previously may have surrendered to Jesus. Now, in their minds and the minds of those who influence them, there is nothing to repent for.
Now, we must talk about the challenge of addressing this moral pandemic.
While homosexuality has been normalized in our nation, other sexual sins have been normalized in the church. This is why Christians have been labeled as hypocrites when we attempt to voice biblical truth about homosexuality.
According to Scripture, there is little difference between an unbeliever practicing homosexuality and a Christian entertaining sexual lust. In fact, the violation is probably greater for the Believer than for the unbeliever. Judgment begins in the house of God.
The moment we look at an attractive person walking down the street and imagine them in a sexual, undressed fashion, we have committed adultery. I'm not even talking about the massive percentages of Christians, and even pastors, who watch pornography. I'm not referring to the many sexual affairs that Christians fall into. I'm not addressing unmarried couples who are followers of Jesus yet living together. I'm talking about the most basic, common sexual sin known to man: lust.
If we imagine it, we have done it. The sin of lust has long been normalized. In fact, a “Christian” sex therapist rebuked me after writing an article dealing with sexual lust several years ago. They declared sexual lust is healthy and even prescribed by their office as a help for Christian married couples. Shocking.
Until a wildfire of holiness spreads across the church, our voice will lack character and integrity when we attempt to address broader culture. Sin has been normalized in society because sin has been normalized in the church.
THE MILITARIZATION OF SIN
It's easy to see how the normalization of homosexuality has come as a result of a militarized effort to force its acceptance.
Just as the pro-abortion crowd has worked tirelessly to eradicate obstacles to their cause, homosexual activists have been brash and unapologetic in their mission to effect change in the sexual norms of America.
I believe there is appropriate, unapologetic and direct resistance to an aggressive, militarized effort to change our nation in this manner. Christians must not remain silent in the face of dangerous shifts that are being forced on us and our children. We pray, we get involved politically, we preach, we peacefully protest, we write, we sound alarms. There is a clear and present danger and our children are in the crosshairs.
However, we will have no supernatural backing and no spiritual authority to confront this invading spirit if we have not conquered our own normalized sins. If we lust, if we play around with any type of sin whether it's greed, hatred, lying or our own heterosexual version of fornication, we don't have a chance.
If we don't know how to fight with a heart of love and without hating our enemies, we will lose. If we want to take our enemy out instead of welcoming them into our camp as redeemed, sanctified, washed-in-the-blood new brothers and sisters, we should stand down. We will do more damage than good.
THE STRUGGLE OF SIN
Carl Nassib is simply one of millions who are struggling. Outside of an authentic Christian worldview, Carl and others have absolutely no grid for holiness. It doesn't make sense.
Carl and others like him should feel the love of Christians, not their disgust. He may not know it, but there is joy, abundant life and eternal freedom that would blow his mind if he only had a legitimate encounter with Jesus.
We must model a life of holiness and love if we hope for people like Carl to find Jesus. We must understand the difference between the militarization, normalization and struggle of sin. Our response must match the situation.
Originally published by The Stream.
Why are so many Believers trading God's justice for mob justice?
Don Carson explains, “To preach moral duty without the underlying power of the gospel is moralism that is both pathetic and powerless.”
It seems many Christians have fully swapped out morality rule books, trading the Bible for an ever-changing social justice manual. One was written by the very hand of God and will never be erased, edited or discredited. The other? The loudest and most influential voices win the right to determine what the societal rules of the day are. Of course, the rules change according to whatever their current agenda is, and most aren't privy to these rules until they are cancelled, or worse.
Of course, most people of God wouldn't admit to shelving the Word of God in favor of the word of the mob. Instead, they have been known to attempt an unholy morphing of the two manuscripts while most often favoring social justice issues. Biblical truths are forced to fit within manmade definitions of what is right and fair.
The truth is biblical justice and social justice are often, though not always, mutually exclusive. They are at odds.
“You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice. And do not slant your testimony in favor of a person just because that person is poor.” (Exodus 23:2–3, NLT)
The plumbline of morality can never be the crowd. This is the clearest way to express the concern with today's social justice movement. Does it mean the crowd is always wrong? No. Does it mean the crowd is imperfect in its ability to discern? Yes. For Christians the litmus test of morality does not come from our ability to gauge unfairness or improprieties. The test is Scripture. We don't need a social justice movement that's tainted by the agendas, whims, politics and emotional reactions of the squeakiest wheels. We need a movement of God's justice on the Earth as he is the only perfect judge. His justice is never wrong.
There are many distinctions between social justice and biblical justice. Here are just a few.
GOD JUDGES FAIRLY
Social justice promotes an often twisted version of fairness, demanding individuals, entire people groups or segments of society are punished, minimized or discredited for the sake of those the mob values. The agenda becomes the standard of fairness, though it's laughable to even consider using the word.
For Believers the standard is radically and entirely different than the one social justice advocates have adopted. The reality is that the fairness of God can be both comforting and terrifying.
Those who have been wronged and who are putting their full trust in God can rest knowing God is their advocate.
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19–21, ESV)
God's fairness should also strike us with fear. Those who promote social justice would do well to understand that outside of Christ we are all wretched, wicked and soaked in sin. Advocating for the disenfranchised without revealing they are literally living under the wrath of God will bring only the most temporary of relief. If it's fairness we are talking about, we need to grasp the reality that we all deserve the never-ending, horrifying, maddening and tormenting fires of Hell. This is fair and right judgment.
However, while the bad news of social justice cancels and defames any and all who have failed to support their cause or measure up to their humanistic standard, the good news of the Gospel reveals the wonder of God's love. God knew we could never measure up to the standard of holiness necessary to live with him forever. His passion for us (unlike the disdain seen in cancel culture) resulted in the greatest act of love the world has even known. Jesus died so we could live.
FORGIVENESS VERSUS RETRIBUTION
The spirit behind many social justice movements is one of punishment. The Spirit of God yearns to forgive all. The Bible tells us that God wants no man to perish. Social justice is so broken and limited in its ability to truly promote a societal fix that punishment and promotion becomes the only system available to them. Punish the oppressors and resisters as they promote the cause of the oppressed.
In today's social justice driven cancel culture the concept of forgiveness is laughable. I am so grieved at the amount of vitriol that is vomited across social media today. People are fueled by pure hatred and vengeance against those who stand in their way. I've seen it on both sides of the political aisle. In fact, it's often professing Christians exposing their fangs preparing to devour any who oppose their earthly mission.
What would happen if, instead of a “defund the police” social justice movement we saw masses of people holding signs that proclaimed “forgive the police?”
In fact, what if we saw pro-lifers declaring, “I forgive the abortionists” as they prayed outside of the clinics?
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.” (Luke 23:34, ESV)
This humble and loving heart posture wouldn't mean we can't still contend for police reform or the ending of abortion. But it does flip the script by driving the conversation from a place of humility and deep love for the offenders.
Instead of punitive demands for people to make amends (or to be cancelled permanently), true love and true justice would instead call people to repentance. With tears in our eyes and compassion in our hearts we must look at the oppressors and call them into God's Kingdom. They are not people to be crushed and despised, but rather they are potential future brothers and sisters.
God makes it clear that we must love our enemies, not cancel them. We pray for them, contend for their souls and reveal the passion God has for them.
When penance takes the place of repentance we put people into an impossible situation. While it feels good for social justice mobs to exert control and enforce punishment, it's a carnal, demonic emotional rush that only brings destruction.
Further, as we are inviting people into glorious repentance and into a new life in Jesus, we must search our own hearts. As we fight for true justice it's critical that we walk in humility, love and repentance ourselves. Social justice is often driven by pride and puffed out chests. God's justice results in us hitting our knees and humbly advocating for those who so desperately need God.
EARTH ISN'T OUR HOME
It's disturbing how much energy some churches are giving to social justice initiatives to the exclusion of preparing people for what happens after we leave the earth. To devote so much effort to what amounts to a blip, a vapor, a split second in time compared to an impending eternity makes little sense. No sense. Campaigning for some sort of fairness on the earth is ultimately meaningless if those on the receiving end are not also prepared for life after death.
Of course, we see this carnality play out in many additional ways. It's not exclusive to the focus of social justice. Many Christians are intent on indulging on temporal selfish pleasures while having little thought of the price they are paying eternally.
Is the Gospel being preached? Is Heaven and Hell on the forefront of conversations? We can give our lives attempting to help others naturally while failing miserably in preparing them spiritually. Evangelism is the tool God has given us to reach the world. Social justice is an imperfect and possibly dangerous substitute, especially when utilized outside of the framework of Scripture.
“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”” (John 18:36, ESV)
THERE IS A PLACE FOR GODLY JUSTICE MOVEMENTS
In no way am I attempting to argue that we should sit on our hands with muzzles on our mouths. No, we shouldn't remain silent when people are wrongfully attacked, minimized and oppressed. We should go to battle as agents of the Lord and push back the forces of darkness.
Wickedness is rampant in the earth and God is looking for fearless warriors to confront the evils of abortion, sex trafficking, racial injustice and other ills.
I didn't cover all I could in regard to the dangers of wrongfully applied social justice movements and I'll not even begin to cover all of the opportunities for biblical justice in our nation. The point I'm attempting to make is that we must address issues in society with truth, the right motive and with the loving, compassionate heart of God.
We cannot use division and battles between cultural groups to bring healing and justice to our nation. The Bible demands that we don't oppress each other and also that we refuse to scheme against each other. We can see this world impacted if we refuse to demonize the oppressors and if we respond to sociological crisis with the love of Jesus.
“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.” (Zechariah 7:9–10, NLT)
Photo credit: “Moral Monday March & Interfaith Social Justice Rally” by twbuckner is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Originally published by The Stream.
Revival in Hollywood would shock the planet with the love and power of Jesus.
I come alive imagining a spirit of legitimate revival blowing and burning through the sound stages and mansions of Southern California.
Consider an atmosphere of intense intercession with some of the media elite on their knees, weeping, crying out and contending for a move of God to overtake the nations of the earth. Can you see it? Tom Cruise leading the room in repentance, Miley Cyrus declaring freedom to the oppressed, Jimmy Fallon casting out demons, Ellen DeGeneres healing the sick and Tom Hanks preaching the Word. I can see it.
The thought of daily prayer meetings that draw the most prominent talent from television and the big screen is invigorating. It's past time for the Jennifer Aniston's and Johnny Depp's of the world to fall madly in love with Jesus and to lead the charge for a Holy Spirit outpouring in Hollywood.
Possibly more powerful and far reaching than a move of God in any other segment, revival in Hollywood would dramatically shift the entertainment industry into something that impacts the world for Jesus.
TWO TROUBLING CONCERNS
As I dream of a Jesus revolution in Hollywood there are two troubling concerns that haunt me.
First, the lack of authentic revival there to date grieves my spirit. While I'm certain there are some who have been dramatically transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the numbers are few. I'm struggling to think of a single well known celebrity who has had a legitimate Damascus Road experience. Where are the tear-jerking stories of radical surrender to Jesus in Hollywood? Why are there no (or so few) testimonies of life-altering encounters with God, undeniable healings, deliverances and overwhelming freedom? It should become common for people like Sylvester Stallone, Dwayne Johnson, Will Smith, Harrison Ford and others to wholeheartedly repent and start following Jesus with exuberant passion. Yet, such reports are rare.
Second, and possibly more concerning, is the potential redefining of Christianity by those who do appear to embrace God.
For quite some time I've been alerted in my spirit to the risk of “celebrity Christianity.” God has often been thanked behind an Oscar Awards podium, yet it's obvious most who shout his name are in no way devoted to Jesus. This casual shout-out to God has now morphed for many into an intentional redefinition of biblical truth. While it's certainly exciting to see some of the world's most famous people mention God in a positive light, we have to reel in our fervor and honestly consider whether it's truly Jesus who is being promoted.
“So, you now telling me that I'm allowed to redesign my relationship with God as an adult, and make it how it feels most accepting to me, makes me feel so less turned off by spirituality.” This is the message Miley Cyrus seemed to get from Justin Bieber's wife, Hailey in an Instagram video interview.
Hailey Bieber recently talked about the expectations she and Justin have as professing Christians. “As a model, Bieber says she’s often expected to “show skin” but then hears that’s “not a good representation” of her Christian faith. When she receives flak for posting certain photos of herself online, Bieber says she wonders, “Am I doing something wrong? Am I setting a bad example [because] people in the church will see this? And the reality is—no.”
We must understand that we are all in process and Hailey and Miley are very young and still searching. We need to celebrate the search. They are remarkable human beings and deeply loved by God. However, we can't remain silent when the signals being sent in the midst of that search may lead people astray.
It is troubling, whether Hailey meant to communicate this or not, that Miley Cyrus felt vindicated and confirmed in her own version of spirituality.
“I was raised going to church as a believer, and that was a really important part of my life,” Miley shared. “And I kind of fell off that path a little bit because I think I had a hard time finding a relationship with God that worked for me as an adult.”
Miley's journey seems to have led her outside of biblical boundaries and to feel confirmed in her decisions is troubling.
New Age, psuedo-Christian spirituality has been around Hollywood for a long time, yet now it's being affirmed as authentic, biblical Christianity, which it is not.
In the Instagram video Hailey promotes community whether it's at church, on a sports team on in a book club where there's no judgement and where you find acceptance and love. She states, “For me that's church and that's God and that's faith.”
Miley, who was raised in church, said, “I'm so happy I just learned something. What I just took away from you is I'm allowed to decide what my relationship is with spirituality as an adult that doesn't have to be aligned the way it was when I was brought up.”
Hailey said, “It's your journey between you and God. I've always had a hard time too with church making people feel excluded and not accepted and like they can't be a part of it because of what they believe in or who they love or who they don't love.”
ONE EXCITING REASON TO REJOICE
In the interview, which was supposed to be about makeup (and eventually did switch over to that topic), Miley said something that caused my spirit to rejoice.
“I'm so happy we are talking about God and not about makeup! This is like what I need right now. I need to hear this. I can just talk with God directly.”
The Holy Spirit is drawing Miley and so many in Hollywood and the entertainment industry right now. I'm wildly awakened to the wooing of the Spirit of God in what many would call the most unredeemable cultures. Whether it's Hollywood, Nashville, Washington D.C., our nation's universities or other atheistic environments, the power of God will burn through the arguments, confusion and resistance.
We must contend for the souls of the searching and stand strong, in love, with humility against mixed messages that lead people away from the truth.
Miley Cyrus is on God's heart and while she has been jaded by church hurt of the past, her future is prime for surrender to the One who loves her with such overpowering zeal. Pray for Miley. Pray for Hailey and Justin. Pray that God's character is fully revealed, that love and holiness are pursued and that they all embrace him for who he is, not who they want him to be. This message is for you and me as well.