Yesterday, I spent several hours perusing Facebook. It struck me that I have a lot of friends from a lot of different backgrounds. Thus, I surveyed a wide variety of opinions and comments regarding politics, race and religion.
At least two areas of discussion have really attracted my attention in recent days: church polity and racial relations.
First, my church – the Presbyterian Church in America, had its recent annual General Assembly (yearly meeting of church leaders, which oversees the life and work of the church). The PCA has historically taken the unpopular yet biblical stance regarding leadership in the church. According to Scripture, the roles of teaching and governing in the church are reserved for mature Christian males whose calling, preparation, qualifications and authority are recognized to be gifts of the Holy Spirit to Christ’s church. All others are encouraged to use their God-given gifts and abilities to enhance the life and ministry of the church. In recent times, there is increased interest in more clearly defining what these roles might be. At this year’s assembly, there was much lively debate regarding this issue. This generated conflicting reports and confusion. In true Presbyterian fashion, a study committee was appointed; however, vague terminology regarding its task has subsequently added to the confusion.
Stay with me on this. I really am trying to make a point. My initial reaction was predictable. The PCA has studied, debated, stated and restated its position on far more than one occasion. To me it was a no-brainer. The PCA knows what the Bible teaches and needs to apply it! I even started to write a blog entitled: It’s really not that difficult to understand… However, somewhere in my 68 years I have learned that there are usually two sides to every story. Thus I attempted to investigate further. The Internet is an effective but limited tool, but it provided other information. I was particularly held by the fine report of our pastor, TE Jeff Ferguson which he presented to the congregation.
So, not willing to yield to current social pressures, I am willing to trust my brothers and give them the benefit of the doubt. I hope and pray that the study committee follows the precedent of previous study committees on other issues and produces a biblical, insightful and helpful resource for our church.
The point I’m illustrating is this. My initial reaction was not well informed. I thought it was rational and studied. Looking back, I can see it was tainted with emotion.
Now to the second point. Within the last week there have been at least three well-publicized violent acts which involved guns. The press, and many leaders in our government are utilizing them to promote gun-control. Pardon the pun, but it’s a loaded issue. People created in the image of God have been killed. Families and communities are grieving. Obviously this is an extremely emotional issue. This should make us stop and pray for these families, communities, and especially our country.
There have been many reactions. Those who react immediately have what turns out to be a superficial understanding of the facts and react predictably. Some have agendas and points to prove; others have deep grief responding and reacting to their deep loss. On the other side, there are those who perhaps dig a little deeper, but also react predictably. They also have points to prove.
Let me illustrate. Last week the police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot and killed a 39-year-old black man outside of the convenience store. CNN and other news outlets were all over it. According to news reports: A graphic cell phone video of the shooting was shared widely on social media, quickly sparking local protests and drawing national attention. Federal authorities have taken charge of the investigation.
Sterling was shot outside the Baton Rouge convenience store after an encounter with two police officers. The officers can be seen in the video on top of him before shots were fired.
The “national attention” referred to above was the emotional response of grieving people. The mother of one of the victim’s children was quickly interviewed; understandably, she responded in anguish and anger as she stood beside the victim’s 15-year-old son who was sobbing.
Reactions to this national attention have been predictable. The media and government officials, even up to the highest level have seized the opportunity to advance their agenda. On the other hand, are those who have investigated the circumstances and can prove that the victim was a bad person… Get on the Internet and check it out. Many people have many positions and most of them are predictable. I submit that they are predictable because they are emotional or intended to play on emotions.
On Friday, CNN updated their report: Baton Rouge, Louisiana (CNN) A homeless man made the 911 call that brought police to the convenience store where Alton Sterling was shot dead, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Thursday.
Sterling was selling CDs early Tuesday outside the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, the source said, when the homeless man approached him and asked for money.
The man was persistent, and Sterling showed him his gun, the source said.
“I told you to leave me alone,” Sterling told the man, according to the source.
The homeless man then used his cell phone to call 911.
The details about the 911 call shed new light into the Baton Rouge police’s high-profile fatal shooting of Sterling, a 37-year-old black man.
I acknowledge that it is very difficult to be objective. But I also submit that it is extremely easy to respond out of emotion. It’s always better to reflect than to react. I also acknowledge that life moves quickly, circumstances change and unseen influences pressure and persuade us to make knuckleheaded decisions and knee-jerk reactions. If you are reading this, however, you are likely not in such a circumstance at the moment. So I urge you to rein in your emotions and bury your agendas.
Controlled emotions and thoughtful reflection will prove to be faulty if they are not influenced and guided by truth, the whole truth. Immediate news reporting generates emotion and creates impressions which are long-lasting and irreplaceable. Subsequent information and corrections usually go unnoticed. Bloggers go wild… How can we know the truth?
We are not the first, and certainly not the last to face grinding pressure – even evil influences. Jesus Christ at the onset of his public ministry went out to a lonely place to face the temptations of the evil one. (Matthew 4 provides the details.) On three separate occasions, Jesus rebuffed Satan with a strategic spiritual weapon. St. Paul (Ephesians 6) calls it the sword of the Spirit. Jesus simply said: “It is written…”
Jesus quoted from the Scriptures. He knew what the Bible said and he applied it to his circumstances. He found it to be a sure guide and ordered his life, death and resurrection by it. So if Jesus needed the Bible, everyone (me, you – everyone) can profit by using the sure guide to life.
2 Timothy 3:15(b)–17 (ESV)
… the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
So, let us learn what to do and then by God’s grace, do it.