"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues [temples, churches]." --Matthew 10:16-17
Why aren't local ministers in America standing up and being persecuted more by their local congregation?
Last week, our minister spoke on the passage above and reminded the congregation that throughout the Book of Acts and the New Testament, we see that the followers of Christ were ready to go out like sheep to packs of wolves. This minister comes from Pakistan and knows a lot about persecution, from within and from outside the church. Importantly, in the scripture from Matthew above, Jesus states that the persecution that would be most painful for his disciples or followers would be the punishment given to Christians by those of one's own community, especially one's religious community.
In the persecutions of the apostles and disciples of Christ in the Book of Acts [e.g. Acts: 9:23-25, Acts:6:8-15 or Acts 19], we observe that whether it was Greek merchants who lost money on a slave to the healing power of the disciples or commercce agents, like in Ephesus who lost money in the idol market punishment was awaiting those true believers and witnesses of the New Gospel message. It did not matter if their community was Jewish, Greek, Roman or all-of-the-above.
After hearing the message that Sunday here in Oman, my thoughts immediately turned to my home country, the USA, where I could at that moment only recall one major Christian minister of the last year who wrote and spoke loudly about the need for Christians to refrain from supporting Donald Trump. This was Max Lucado of Texas who has written many of my favorite Christian books, like Facing Your Giants or Before AMEN.
In February of this year, Lucado created a stir by writing in his blog: DECENCY FOR PRESIDENT , in which Lucado made many points against supporting Donald Trump.
The Chistian message of Pastor Lucado was simply: "We appreciate decency. We applaud decency. We teach decency. We seek to develop decency. Decency matters, right? Then why isn't decency doing better in the presidential race? The leading Republican candidate to be the next leader of the free world would not pass my decency interview. I'd send him away."
Lucado added, " I don't know Mr. Trump. But I've been chagrined at his antics. He ridiculed a war hero. He made a mockery of a reporter's menstrual cycle. He made fun of a disabled reporter. He referred to the former first lady, Barbara Bush as "mommy,' and belittled Jeb Bush for bringing her on the campaign trail. He routinely calls people 'stupid,' and 'dummy.' One writer catalogued sixty-four occasions that he called someone 'loser' These were not off-line, backstage, overheard, not-to-be-repeated comments. They were publicly and intentionally tweeted, recorded, and presented."
The bottom line for Christian readers across the lands from Lucado's message was: "Such insensitivities wouldn't be acceptable even for a middle school student body election. But for the Oval Office? And to do so while brandishing a Bible and boasting of his Christian faith?"
Because I read Lucado's writings, I was proud of the man, but I still observed far too many so-called people in my so-called Christian nation falling far from the mark and landing in Trumps lap or even in his enterouge.
To be sure, some other christians, Jews and leaders of a variety of churches and faiths at the national level in the USA have since spoken out agains Trump in even stronger language this 2016. For example, in April a variety of Major Faith Leaders Declared Trump 'Racist, Bigoted, and Hateful'. That same "group of high-profile Christian leaders has published a lengthy statement passionately condemning Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, calling his campaign message 'contrary to our Christian values' and condemning his bombastic rhetoric as 'racist, bigoted, and hateful.'" NOTE:The statement is housed on the website calledtoresist.org, dedicates more than 2,000 words to decrying Trump's candidacy.
By June 2016, Max Lucado had been joined by a handful of other evangelical christian leaders. Religious News Service ran an article entitled, 7 conservative Christians who are not supporting Trump. The author of the piece noted, "Perhaps no evangelical leader has been more outspoken in opposition to Trump than Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission."
One Trump retort on Twitter has called Moore "a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!" NOTE: Hey, America, isn't Trump the nasty guy with no apparent heart?
Then, in July, Huffington Post noted that there did seem to be a growing divide between national leaders of evangelical churches and those in the rank and file in America. The religious editor extrapolated, "Rank and file white evangelicals, who make up one-fifth of all registered voters in the U.S., have in fact rallied in favor of the reality TV star-turned-presidential candidate. But a number of high profile evangelical leaders have spoken out against Trump's campaign, policies, and tactics in recent months."
The bottom line for most Christian leaders in their opposition to Trump harks back to the roots of practicing Christianity in the New Testament. The leaders explain that Trump's policies and actions don't reflect Christian values." Moroever, in "the past, Trump has appeared unfamiliar with scripture " even though memorizing Bible verses is a common and encouraged practice among Christians. And he's claimed he's never asked God for forgiveness" an act that is an essential element of Christian theology. "
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