Gospel Without Borders: Romans 13 & The Children

Those are the words of a friend who messaged me this past weekend, searching for an answer to the anger she felt over Jeff Session’s defense of separating immigrant families by using the bible, as well as the anger she felt towards the bible passage itself.

I responded to her later in a jesting manner by saying “Don’t let Jeff Sessions be your biblical interpreter”, but I knew that the problem was deeper than that.


 

This blog post is not a news article. I am not here to inform you of the topic any further than seeking to tap into our common morality that will hopefully bridge the gap between competing political opinions.

Regardless of when this policy started, or when some of the pictures are from, lets agree with this, no matter the side you are on:

Separating children from their parents, or anyone who would care for them, for an extended period of time is NOT okay

Agreed?

We know that illegal immigration is still a problem, we know that the immigration system is a broke system.

Let’s start the reform that is needed by figuring out what to do with these children, who regardless of what some may think of their parents, deserve our compassion AND action.

The compassion of the Gospel knows no national borders. 

 


Getting back to Romans 13

While we may accept that something isn’t right here, Jeff Sessions is sweeping morality under the rug of Romans 13.

Romans 13 has hidden many messes in the past, so I am not surprised that it is being used to hide this one.  What better way to shut up the religious folks than saying, “Hey, God appointed your leaders, and you are to do what they say and respect them!”.

Just recently, I saw a post on facebook from someone explaining that although they don’t like what is happening to the children, Romans 13 gives the government the authority to punish those who break the law.  Thus, any progression to help the children is halted by the crimes of their parents, and this individual cannot do anything because they are called to respect their government.

But Romans 13, if taken 100% literally, 100% of the time, would mean that Paul should have stopped preaching about Jesus when Nero said to stop.  It would mean that the early church should have ceased to exist when Roman rulers before Constantine outlawed it.  It would mean that the Nazi regime should have never been resisted by the confessing church in Germany.  It would mean that Christians should never resist evil, so long as evil is coming from the government.

Something is wrong then in how Jeff Sessions is interpreting Romans 13.  I am confident that Paul never meant for his writings to be applied like that.

Maybe Romans 12, and the rest of Romans 13 after verse 7, are meant to show the contrast that is supposed to be there between those who have come into the faith community of Jesus, and those who did not, including secular governments.

Perhaps Romans 12, which tells us how Christians are to act, is meant to be a way for us to interpret when the government is not following the will of God in their actions and laws…


When Paul wrote Romans 13, Nero was the emperor.

Nero was a known tyrant, and after this letter would have been written, there was a fire in Rome that was falsely blamed on the Christians, and Nero then started the state-sponsored persecution of Christians.

“But he was appointed by God.  We are to follow his authority and rule. ”

Yet, Paul, the author of Romans 13….didn’t follow the law of the land.

Paul did not live in a democratic republic like the United States.  He did not have a political voice. But he rebelled to the point of death when his higher authority superseded his earthly authority.


We have one authority that deserves our allegiance.

All other authorities in our lives are superseded by the authority of God.

If an authority on earth goes against our call to action from our supreme authority, we must not support the action of a lesser authority.

And in situations where we have a voice in the political sphere, we are called to speak up when we feel that a wrong is committed.

And that wrong is what is being done to the children. We agree on that.

For our God is concerned about the oppressed, and the broken, the foreigner, and the immigrant.

The book of Amos is full of God becoming angry at the arrogance and wealth of his people, while others starve.

Even Leviticus calls the people of God to care and welcome the stranger – Leviticus 19:33-34.

The bible cannot be held by a political party. And our politicians cannot be our pastors.

But what is being done should not require articles and podcasts that seek to get Christians to rally against it – we should be leading the resistance.

Let the church rise against the evils of the State, and be the example that we were always meant to be to the world.

The compassion of the Gospel knows no national borders.

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I thought this cartoon got a good point across.  Source Link – Click Here

 

 

 

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Book Review: Blurry – Bringing Clarity to the Bible

*The following is my review of “Blurry – Bringing clarity to the Bible” by Ryan Lokkesmoe published by CLC publications.*

Context of the Review

I am a Youth and Young Adult Minister by vocation so reading this type of material is truly a part of my ministry to the local church so that I can suggest reading material to those under my care, and also to fellow members of the church I am at if they would be interested.  In the subject of reading the bible, based on what I have observed through the different churches I have been a part of, one of the main reasons that teens, college students, young adults, and even adults do not read the bible often is because they are intimidated by its length, formality, and overall complexity.  People may desire to read the bible, but they do not know where to start, how what their reading at the moment fits into the broader story, and they were likely never taught about the different “genres” of the bible – Historical, Law, Poetic, Prophetic, Gospels, Epistles, Wisdom Literature.

In bible college, I remember reading a book that provided a fantastic summary of the bible, its story, and it included a historical telling of the inter-testimonial period.  That book impacted how I came to the Bible in a drastic way – No longer did I fear the Old Testament; I understood its importance, and had a desire to read from it more. But that book is probably a little too “meaty” to pass around to a wide age group that includes teenagers.

I wanted to find a shorter book that was easier to understand, but still provided the same basic overview, the same great historical telling of the inter-testimonial period, and the same great message about the different genres of the bible.

I found that book in “Blurry: Bringing clarity to the Bible” by Ryan Lokkesmoe.

Summary

“Blurry” is a book that takes on the task to provide an overview of the Bible, including its various genres, to everyday Christians.

Lokkesmoe decided to complete this task by taking 4 books of the bible from different genres of scripture, and taking you through them to provide examples on how one should read certain passages.

Review

Ryan Lokkesmoe did an awesome job ensuring that his book was written in a way where it was clearly meant for any person who desires to learn more about the Bible; readers do not need a formal Christian education to understand what he is saying.  To me, that is one of the biggest assets of having this book in my ministry library.

I really liked the author’s approach to the subject by going through different books of the bible to teach the difference in genres through example.  He also did a great job explaining the narrative of the Old Testament, Inter-Testimonial period, and an overview of the New Testament.

I believe that the book is very good at not only providing an overview to help understand the Bible, but also to give the reader some valuable commentary of specific passages that Lokkesmoe highlighted to give examples.  This book would really give someone a valuable foundation to grow upon as they seek out the Bible on their own.

Pros:

  • Everyday language is used
  • Excellent Overview
  • Great Examples
  • “Blurry Points” were scattered throughout the book and were practical tips on how to read the bible
  • Great and helpful lists in the back of the book for further understanding and study
  • Brief in length, but thorough in content
  • The physical quality of the book is also something to be mentioned: This paperback book’s cover is thick and high-gloss, the binding is solid, and the paper is thick enough to make under-liners, and highlighters like me happy.

Cons:

  • The only thing I would say is that there was at least one point where I felt that the author took a theological position that didn’t need to be made in the context of what he was writing about.  And while this did not bother me, others may read it, and decide not to read further depending on how seriously they take that issue.

Favorite Quotations

  • “To acknowledge that the Bible is like an anthology [a collection of many books bound together] is to acknowledge that God used variety to communicate His truth: a variety of people, in a variety of places and circumstances, through a variety of literary genres.  This is the starting point for bringing the bible into focus.  When we understand that, we understand that not everything in the Bible can be read in the same way or with the same expectations.” – Pg. 23
  • “God created everything in the world out of nothing, and it was all good.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden of Eden by eating the forbidden fruit.  Because of this disobedience, sin came into the world and put distance between God and humanity.  The relationship was broken.  God was not OK with that, so he began to intentionally pursue humanity” – Pg. 41
  • “I believe the church is in need of a Josiah moment.  We need to rediscover God’s Word.  We need to find it, dust it off, and return it to its rightful place in our lives.  We need to recommit ourselves to knowing and following God’s Word, and we need to remove all other competition-because make no mistake, there is competition all around us.” – Pg. 134

Recommendation:

Yes/No:  Yes – it is a book of great wisdom that is easily communicated.

For who:  I would recommend this book to anyone who does not already have a basic understanding of the bible, and its genres.  I would feel comfortable recommending this book to anyone aged 15 years old, to an adult who simply desires a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, but doesn’t know where to start.

Ranking: 10/10

This book does a very good job at presenting its stated case to its intended audience.  It is a book that any Minister could keep on hand to provide to their flock.

Links:

Purchase the book Here from the publisher

Purchase the book Here from the author, via amazon

Follow the author on Twitter Here

Learn more about the Publisher Here