Tension started mounting last week after Muslims accused three Christian youths of burning a copy of the Koran. They denied the allegations, but clerics called for their death.

via Eight Christians burnt to death in Pakistan after Koran is ‘defiled’ – Times Online.

For comparison sake, when is the last time you heard a local Christian minister call for the death of some in the U.S. for allegedly burning a few Bibles?  Or how about calls for death to the artists who blaspheme and demean the name of God through their art?  (I chose not to link to any sites, but you could easily search news for “controversial Christian art” and find plenty of examples.)

Another telling excerpt from the article:

The mob opened fire indiscriminately, threw petrol bombs and looted houses as thousands of frightened Christians ran for safety. “They were shouting anti-Christian slogans and attacked our houses,” Rafiq Masih, a resident of the predominantly Christian colony, said. Residents said that police stood aside while the mob went on the rampage. “We kept begging for protection, but police did not take action,” Mr Masih said.

Here in America the President of the United States vilifies policemen for doing their jobs and in Pakistan the Police can’t be bothered to do theirs.

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Normally, I will do my best to avoid “using” scripture to score a political point, but I must confess that I see the world through the lens of scripture and I feel that I would be denying my faith in Jesus Christ if always refrained from sharing my “religious” perspective.  I would be happy to discuss that perspective with anyone interested.  With that in mind, I would also be interested in discussing differing perspectives on this verse, or any other verse, as it relates to politics or life in general.  And lastly, before I get to the topic at hand, there has been a moderately successful movement in this country to marginalize all religious thought when it comes to the so-called “secular” political arena.  This is a tragedy on so many levels, but for now I intend to keep religion in the public discourse (for my faithful few readers) because it is as much a part of the life of this nation as our “secular” institutions (which are hardly devoid of religious overtones, but thats another post…).

So, Ephesians 4:28:

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

This really ought to concern the individual and not the corporate, but it certainly has implications for the corporate body of Christ as well.  It is perhaps important to note that Paul is speaking to believers in Christ, so arguably, this admonition would not apply to people who have not put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  However, one of the common things I hear coming from professed Christians is that our government, as an extension of its citizens, has the obligation to be Christ-like.  Or put another way, helping the poor is something that the government should do because that’s what Christ instructed His followers to do. The government, no matter how much of, for, and by the people it is, is still not an individual capable of making a decision to have faith in Christ.  (Again, maybe that should be another post.)

If you consider members of our government to be believers in Christ as many of them profess, then this verse ought to shame them right out of office.  First, they are thieves of the worst kind.  They take peoples money without (willing) consent and they do it with the “blessing” of being from a government charged with the welfare of the very people from whom they are stealing.  No matter what the intention is with the money, taking it from others without consent is stealing.  Men and women of congress who profess to be followers of Christ ought to pull out all the stops to “steal no longer”.  Secondly, they should get back to work doing something useful.  This may be hard to imagine, but I suspect that there is some work in Congress that can be done that would be considered useful (I confess to not being able to think of anything at the  moment).  Congressmen and women should focus on that which is useful for our government to do.

If members Congress kept their hands off of the citizens’ money then we would be able to realize the potential of the last part of Paul’s statement.  Only in the hands of individuals is “something to share” going to get where it most needed and in the right manner.  An individual should not be compelled under a legal obligation to give to those in need.  Rather, an individual ought to give as he is compelled by compassion, mercy, and love for his neighbor in need.

You could argue that Christians should do this anyway regardless of whether Congress takes their money or not and regardless of how much they take.  Yes they should, but I believe there are studies that demonstrate that those individuals are giving to those in need beyond what the goverment takes from them under the auspices of meeting those same needs.  I know that my family and I have been the recipients of many blessings that have come from the hands of individuals who are compassionate and willing to help us meet our needs.  I have looked at government options for meeting our needs and for the most part, I have decided against using those options for many reasons (another post idea?) not the least of which is that givers receive as much of the blessing as the receivers and denying people the opportunity to be blessed through giving is selfish and not honoring to God.

So, to sum it up: tell the members of Congress to stop stealing your money and do something useful.  This could take many forms, the most appealing of which would be just to vote them all out of office at the earliest possible convenience.

Below is a link for an article in the Washington Time that reports that children are being bought to act as suicide bombers.

EXCLUSIVE: Taliban buying children for suicide bombers – Washington Times

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Here are some pertinent excerpts from the article:

Pakistan’s top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is buying children as young as 7 to serve as suicide bombers in the growing spate of attacks against Pakistani, Afghan and U.S. targets

I can’t imagine a culture in which a child as young as 7 years old would be used as an instrument of death.  Would this be possible in a predominantly Christian culture?  A Jewish culture?  Even a Bhuddist or Hindu culture?  Being a Christian in a predominantly Christian culture I think I am safe in arguing that no, this would not be possible.  Certainly there are psychopaths who do terrible things to children, but would they have success buying children to be used as suicide bombers?  I doubt that could happen here and even if it started to happen the public outcry would be so deafening there would be no way that it could be sustained once it was discovered.  Perhaps, I put too much faith in the concience of my fellow Americans, but I am too optimistic to think otherwise at this point.

A Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said the going price for child bombers was $7,000 to $14,000 – huge sums in Pakistan, where per-capita income is about $2,600 a year.

That you would assign a price to any person is outrageous.  People have value beyond estimation if you believe that they are created uniquely by God to live and serve Him in a unique way.  For the sake of understanding the possible draw in selling you child I want to make a comparison.  I’m no economist, or statistician, but if you extrapolated the price being paid for a child to be a suicide bomber in Pakistan and translate it to the United States where the per capita income is reported as $39,751 in 2008, then the equivalent price for a child in the US would be between $100,000 and $215,000.  I imagine that many life insurance policies for adults in our country are in this value range and no family member (I hope) considers “offing” them to collect that amount of money.

In some cases, he [unidentified U.S. official] said, the children are kidnapped and then sold to Mehsud.

This is only moderately encouraging.  At least parents aren’t willingly selling their children to evil.  Sadly, evil befalls their house in the form of malevelant men who are either looking for dishonest gain or are intentially abetting the twisted plans of the Taliban.  I hope that parents of any age children in Pakistan are waking up to realize how evil these people are and that they might have the courage to stand up to the Taliban and their ilk and purge them from their midst.

Efforts to reach a spokesman for Mehsud [the purveyor of child suicide bombers] were not successful.

Ha!  You’re kidding, right?  Who tried to reach a spokesman for this snake?  What were they hoping to find out?  Official US policy is to get this guy, dead or alive.  I hope that at least now there is no way that his death can be turned into a rallying cry of martydom.

I am no religious expert and I don’t intend to use wide brush strokes to describe Islam, but aren’t the Taliban of the Islamic “persuasion”?  Either way, the Taliban are clearly evil.  Evil is bad (for those of you subjected to a multicultural education).  Bad is not desirable (for those of you subjected to a curriculum of self-esteem building).  There are more sophisticate debates over whether it is wise to engage groups like the Taliban in the far reaches of our globe, but I for one support the effort to rid this world of that kind of evil.

I am unsure of how commonplace this type of punishment is in the Islamic world, but an investigation into the roots of Wahabi Islam should be cause for concern, don’t you think?  Is this the same ‘great’ religion that we compare to Judaism and Christianity?  Are there any out there who think that this falls under cruel and unusual?  How about this treatment compared to waterboarding?

Somali Islamists Cut Off Hands and Feet of 4 Thieves – International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News – FOXNews.com

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Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9-10, NIV)

I’m hard pressed to begin my thoughts on these verses. Anywhere the bible mentions slaves it seems like there is a likely possibility of major misunderstandings. Some people will try and dismiss the bible because they think that it tacitly condones slavery by not outright condemning its practice. Others will go to the other extreme and find a means of justify slavery because of its appearance in both the Old and New Testaments. And still others may seem almost dismissive of slavery by too easily equating slavery, in New Testament terms, with employee, in contemporary jargon. I imagine there is a way of talking about slavery the way God intended and that there are many people who talk about it in a genuine and thoughtful manner. If you don’t listen carefully and speak carefully, then you can miss what people are trying to say when they discern what the bible is saying. I’m not an expert on the historical implications of slavery during the years of Paul’s missions, but I will try and speak sensitively about the subject that is so easy to ignite a fire.

Let’s not forget that Paul is writing to Titus, a disciple of Christ, and he is telling Titus to instruct the believers in his care in a way that honors and glorifies Christ. It is important to remember that when Paul talks about slavery here, he is not establishing some sort of “Christian Policy” on slaves and slavery. He is addressing the one thing that no one can take from us (not even, dare I say, God): free will.

The freedom in question here is our freedom to choose our attitude and, consequently, our actions. God created us each with the capacity to determine our will. If He hadn’t, we wouldn’t be made in the image of God. If He hadn’t, our worship would be compulsory and devoid of devotion. As much as God wants us to love Him, forcing us to love Him would be against the very nature and character of God.

As it relates to where we find ourselves walking in this world, we can’t always choose where we end up in life, but what we can do, no matter what the circumstance, is choose how we respond to the circumstance. Paul doesn’t address this in this passage of Titus, but he does address the way masters should behave toward their slaves (Ephesians 6:9) and there too he addresses the attitude and actions of the believer, not the institution of slavery. What is most important is how we live out our faith in Christ, not where we are when we live out the faith.

Be subject. Paul commands Titus to teach slaves to be subject in everything. Similar to other prominent themes about submission, Paul addresses submission in the hearts of slaves, people whose lives are (sadly) not their own. Our hearts are to yield to Christ as He yielded His to the Father. In practice that means that we subject ourselves to our earthly masters as well as our heavenly master. This is problematic because our earthly masters are not perfect like our heavenly master and submission to someone who is not perfect can be downright impossible to do at times. But the act of submission to our earthly masters is not for their sake and not even for our own sake. It is for God’s sake. Our job is to glorify Him in everything that we do and our submission to our earthly masters is one manifestation of that praise. (Paul could have probably stopped here in his discourse to Titus. When someone says everything, don’t they mean, “Everything”? However, he has to spell it out in details to make sure that we understand completely what it means to “be subject in everything”. I guess that comes with the territory when dealing with depraved souls.)

Please them. Well, that makes sense. Please your master, please God. Part of that “everything” Paul mentioned at the beginning, but expanded moderately to include going an extra step. God expects us to “live right”. It certainly pleases Him when we do, but what must please Him even more is when we take time, with gladness and cheerfulness in our hearts, to praise, honor, and glorify Him either through prayer, worship, or any means that seems noble and true.

Don’t talk back. Again, here is a simple yet practical way to live out being subject in everything and thereby glorifying God. Restraining our tongues is one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate our faith. It isn’t easy to hold your tongue when you have something to say, but watching our speech carefully is important to living a life that glorifies our Father in heaven. Evil thoughts may be generated from the heart, but we have an opportunity to stop them at the tips of our tongues and if we practice the self-control Paul talked about earlier, then we can stop evil thoughts from promulgating and festering in other people’s hearts. And we give ourselves time to examine our hearts and purge those thoughts (to the best our ability and with the help of the Holy Spirit, see Psalm 51, verse 10).

Don’t steal. It’s amazing to me that this would need to be mentioned, but it is and it ought not to be dismissed. One way to look at this is to remind the believer that everything we have belongs to God. If we act as though something belongs to us apart from the ownership of God, then it is as though we are stealing from God. And it isn’t that He couldn’t take it back from us, but rather that it speaks to the condition of our relationship with Him. If we are willing to call something ours without recognizing the ownership of God, then we are spiting God’s blessing in our lives.

Be trustworthy. This seems to flow out of the admonition not to steal. But a master is truly blessed to have someone he can trust, and the same is true in our relationship with God. How much can God trust me? The more I show God that I can be trusted, the more God will entrust to me. I was not born deserving of God’s trust, despite the plans He may have had for me. As stated earlier, He can’t contradict His nature (because it’s perfect) and can’t make me be trustworthy. I have to earn that trust and I will need the help of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Showing trustworthiness to your earthly master is, again, a means of glorifying you Father in heaven.

Make the teaching of God our Savior attractive. I should have started with this exhortation because I believe that it gives purpose for why we believers, either as free men or slaves, are to be subject to our masters in everything. It glorifies God. Sure, there may be earthly benefits as well, but the bottom line is that our God is worthy of all glory and by training ourselves to be subject in everything we are bringing glory to the God that saved us from unrighteousness and sin and prepares a place for us in heaven for all eternity. Critics of Christianity often point to the behavior of men and women who have talked the talk but at some point failed to walk to walk as an example of why following Christ is foolish. Paul addresses this many times and many ways, but it may be as clear as anywhere when he sums up this segment of his letter to Titus with the phrase, “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

MW