FRC Blog

Thinking Biblically About Loyalty

by David Closson , Laura Grossberndt

April 14, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourageForgiveness, and the Resurrection and the Social Gospel.

In June of last year, news broke that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was releasing a state-approved “translation” of the Bible that would better fit the regime’s ideology. The message the CCP was sending to Christians in China was clear: your true loyalty must be first and foremost to the state. But what is a true biblical understanding of loyalty?

Loyalty can be defined as “a strong feeling of support or allegiance.” A close synonym is “faithful.” People typically think of loyalty as being an admirable quality and are liable to commend a person who exhibits loyalty to their family, country, friends, or authority figures. How should the biblically-minded Christian think about loyalty? Does God want us to be loyal?

A prerequisite to loyalty is the existence of relationships. Scripture leaves no doubt that God created us to be in relationship with Himself and others. First, we know that God is triune and the three Persons of the trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—have eternally existed in relationship with one other. Since human beings are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), we, too, are created for relationships, both with God (John 14:23, Rev. 21:3) and our fellow human beings (Gen. 2:18, John 13:34).

Scripture tells us that healthy, faithful relationships are one of the things that will make the broken road of life easier to navigate. As Solomon writes in Proverbs, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (17:17) and “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24, ESV). In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon also notes the advantages of living life with other people:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecc. 4: 9-11, ESV)

There are many examples in the Bible of people who demonstrated loyalty or faithfulness to each another. Ruth refused to leave her mother-in-law Naomi even after her husband had died: “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16, ESV). Jonathan was a loyal friend to David and protected him from his father, King Saul, who tried to kill David on multiple occasions. When David asked Jonathan for help, he replied, “Whatever you say, I will do for you” (1 Sam. 20:4, ESV).

God Himself is the greatest example of loyalty in His relationship with us. In 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul explains that being faithful is intrinsic to God’s character: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny himself.”

The Bible gives us wisdom and counsel on how, when, and to what degree to be loyal to different relationships. Children are told to honor their parents (Deut. 5:16, Eph. 6:1-3). Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Citizens are told to submit to the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1) and to seek the welfare of their city (Jer. 29:7). Christians are told to bear with one another in love (Eph. 4:2). It should be noted that one instance when our loyalty to people is not required, however, is when being loyal to them would be disloyal to God (Acts 5:24-32). Not only is God our ultimate example of faithfulness, but He is also the only one to whom our ultimate loyalty is due (Ex. 20:3).

Love and loyalty are related. The theologian Augustine said we must “Have rightly ordered loves.” Similarly, we must have rightly ordered loyalties. Strong loyalties to the wrong things will inevitably lead to disloyalty to the right thing. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Mt. 6:24, ESV). Where competing loyalties exist, one will eventually win out, revealing our deepest loyalty.

Friends, family, bosses, sports teams, political parties, and even trendy theories are competing for our affections daily. Our ultimate loyalty, as Christ-followers, must be to Christ, “the founder and perfector of our faith” (Heb. 12:2, ESV). We will be loyal to something; if not Christ, then things of this world will command our allegiance (1 John 2:15-17).

The issue of loyalty is immensely relevant for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. For example, the Chinese government recently launched a campaign to make Chinese Christians “more Chinese.” As noted previously, this campaign includes a “translation” of the New Testament that is friendly to communist ideology. The CCP leaders view Christianity as a threat to their regime because they understand believers’ loyalty is ultimately to God and not the state.

Although less explicit, the same thing is happening in the West as people “reimagine” Christianity and adjust long-standing Christian doctrines to make them seem more compatible with prevailing norms and ideologies. When people adjust their religion to fit their politics, it makes it clear where their ultimate loyalties lie.

It is important for Christians to recall 1 Peter 5:8, which says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (ESV). When our affections are misplaced, we lose the ability to be sober-minded. We must be mindful to love what is good in the proper manner and to the right degree lest our judgment becomes impaired, and we find ourselves at war with the truth. 

God wants us to be loyal to Him—to hate what is evil and love what is good. And it is only once we live in true and total loyalty to Him that we can have rightly-order loyalty in our relationships with one another.

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4 Tips for Praying for the Persecuted

by Arielle Del Turco

April 13, 2021

Global persecution of religious believers is an immense and complex problem with diverse causes, legal factors, and cultural and historical dynamics. This can make the scriptural mandate to remember and pray for persecuted believers an intimidating task. But it shouldn’t be.

Here are four tips to keep in mind when you pray for the persecuted.

1. Pray for specific people, countries, and situations. 

When you know of a specific person abused or imprisoned for their faith, pray for them by name. Consider the cases of Huma YounusWang Yi, and Leah Sharibu.

When you don’t know of individuals in need of prayer, pray for situations. Pray for Christians facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan, for young girls held hostage by Boko Haram in Nigeria, for Christians detained in labor camps in North Korea, or churches in China facing harassment from the government. Voice of the Martyrs has a convenient Global Prayer Guide with a summary of the challenges in every country with laws targeting Christians and countries where Christians experience dangerous social hostility.

There are hundreds of thousands of persecuted believers whose names the outside world may not know and may never know. Yet, God knows their names and the trials they have suffered for Him. It’s okay, and beneficial, to pray for the persecuted even when we are unaware of specific situations. These people need our prayers as well.

2. Consider what you might want prayer for if you lived in a persecuted context.

Many Christians live in a country where it can be dangerous to follow Christ. Open Doors estimates that 340 million Christians live in such places. Not all methods of persecution are life and death. Many are relatable. Christians may be facing discrimination in employment, as many do in Pakistan. Or, they may be attending a church service on a religious holiday with a gnawing fear of an attack, the likes of which are all too common in the Muslim world. Or, they may live in a restrictive country where they are afraid to share their faith.

Depending on the context, pray for persecuted believers the way you would want someone to pray for you if you were in the same situation. Pray that God would meet both their physical and spiritual needs.

3. Pray that religious freedom would become the universal standard across the globe.

In addition to praying for persecuted individuals and situations, pray for greater religious freedom around that world.

Further, pray for the leaders of other countries that persecute believers—that they would have a change of heart and that their plans to oppress religious groups would be thwarted. Also, pray for the leaders of free countries, including the United States—that they would be given effective policy ideas and solutions to advance international religious freedom.

4. Remember why we pray for the persecuted.

Scripture calls Christians to remember and pray for the persecuted.

In Ephesians 6:18-20, the Apostle Paul instructs believers to “keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

In this passage, Christians are asked both to pray for all other Christians as well as to pray for Paul, who was imprisoned for his ministry at the time he was writing. In prison, Paul was concerned for his Christian witness and requested prayer that he would have the right words to use. Similarly, we can pray that missionaries and believers in persecuted contexts would represent Christ well with their words and actions and be granted wisdom to operate in their contexts.

Praying is also a significant way to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31). Like Paul, many persecuted Christians express a desire to know that others are praying for them and remember them. American pastor Andrew Brunson felt this way while he was held in a Turkish prison for two years. Consistent prayer is a meaningful way to treat people the way we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).

If you are still unsure of how to pray for persecuted believers, feel free to draw from this sample prayer:

Father God,

I ask that You would comfort and protect Christians around the world today who are intimidated, detained, and attacked for their belief in You. Please give them the physical strength and spiritual endurance to withstand persecution. Be present with them in their hardship and remind them to find peace in You. I pray that You would use the situations that their persecutors intend for evil for good.

I thank You that You give us all the freedom to follow You and that You beckon us with love. I ask that there would be greater religious freedom around the world and protections for those who wish to live out their faith. Please show me how to better serve You and the precious members of Your church suffering for Your name. Amen.

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Why Is Religious Freedom So Uniquely Important?

by Arielle Del Turco

April 12, 2021

At the heart of many recent contentious debates from the Equality Act to COVID-19 church restrictions is the issue of religious freedom. But what exactly is religious freedom, and what makes it so uniquely important?

At its core, religion is the search for truth about questions of ultimate meaning. Common to most religions is an organized collection of beliefs, behaviors, and practices that connect or relate humanity with the divine. Religious freedom, then, is the freedom to believe what you want in terms of doctrine and theology and the freedom to order your life according to your deepest convictions about ultimate things.

In other words, religious freedom protects the ability of individuals to choose and change their religious beliefs and align their lives in agreement with those beliefs.

Religious freedom is not relativistic, nor does it profess there is no truth about God. Rather, it affirms the deep importance of truth and upholds the right of individuals to come to their own conclusions about what is true of God, humanity, and the world.

Attacks on religious freedom target one’s conscience—the very core of their being. This makes religious freedom a unique and essential right. Tom Farr says, “Our nature impels us to seek answers to profound questions about ultimate things. If we are not free to pursue those answers, and to live according to the truths we discover, we cannot live a fully human life.”

Thus, religious freedom is not merely the right to attend church and practice your religion within the walls of a church, synagogue, or mosque. Rather, it is the ability to live out your faith, including in the public square.

This broad conception of religious freedom is enshrined in the United States Constitution. The First Amendment protects this basic right, often called our “first freedom.” The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Beyond this key constitutional protection, religious freedom is also a fundamental human right, one recognized by international resolutions and treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

Religious freedom is a widely recognized right around the globe. Yet, laws in many countries put qualifiers on the legal right to religious freedom, empowering governments to crack down when the beliefs of a community or an individual are perceived to oppose the government.

For Americans, these aggressive international violations remind us of the importance of protecting religious freedom at home. Yet, they also demonstrate the importance of promoting religious freedom in our foreign policy.

Societies that embrace religious freedom and pluralism tend to be more prosperous and secure. This makes sense. Societies that embrace individuals’ freedom to express their own viewpoints and live according to their beliefs are going to attract, rather than repel, talented people abroad as well as global economic engagement. Pluralistic societies that value human dignity and do not view religious groups or beliefs as a problem to be eliminated will not suffer from the violence that is fostered by religious discrimination.  

Religious freedom corresponds with and affirms other basic freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The right to openly express your most deeply held beliefs is essential to religious freedom, as is the right to peacefully assemble in houses of worship and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the concept of religious freedom is often misunderstood. This is seen with increasing frequency with activists who pit religious freedom against the demands of the moral revolution. For example, those whose beliefs about gender and sexuality are influenced by their faith are caricatured as intolerant and their beliefs are perceived as subversive. The resulting tension threatens to erode support for religious freedom as a freedom that benefits everyone—religious and non-religious.

Amid increasingly heated cultural debates, it is critical for those who value our first freedom to affirm its importance. Religious freedom will not endure by laws alone, although the law should include robust protections for religious freedom. Religious freedom also relies on cultural support.

By consistently living out our faith in the public square, we can foster a culture that respects religious freedom. So, pray in public, share your faith, and do not compromise your beliefs. Your constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion protects your ability to live according to your convictions. So, use it. Live according to your faith and defend the rights of others to do the same.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of April 4)

by Family Research Council

April 9, 2021

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Fans Intentionally Walk after Baseball’s Activism

The 2021 baseball season isn’t even a week old, and it’s already over for some fans. Why? Because, as Andrew McCarthy so efficiently put it: the Left ruins everything. Sports, entertainment, toys, snack cakes, you name it. Their wokeness is a cancer, and it’s taking every enjoyable, unifying, non-political piece of American life and destroying it.

2. Update: Coke Gets a Kick in the Can from Consumers

A week into the fiasco over Georgia’s election law, most Americans want to know: just who are these woke CEOs listening to? Not to their shareholders, who can’t make a profit when their companies alienate half of the country. Not to lawyers or legislators, who could set them straight on what the policy actually does. And certainly not to U.S. consumers.

3. Blog: Thinking Biblically About the Resurrection and the Social Gospel

Around the world, Christians celebrate Easter as the most important day in history because it is the day Jesus conquered sin and death on our behalf by rising from the dead. The resurrection is central to the gospel because without it, Christianity is nothing more than a social club. However, on the day when Jesus’ resurrection normally takes center stage, Raphael Warnock, the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and Georgia’s junior Senator, took to Twitter to share a very different message: “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

4. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Forgiveness

There is a tension, it seems, between justice and forgiveness. A world without justice devolves into lawlessness, but a world without forgiveness is cruel and harsh. Our culture’s on-going conversation about race, and the growing popularity of critical race theory, forces us to consider whether forgiveness for past wrongs is required by Christian charity.

5. Washington Watch: Mike Pompeo Talks About the Disbanding of His Key Commission & the Contrast of Biden’s Priorities

Mike Pompeo, Former Secretary of State, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Biden State Department disbanding the Commission on Unalienable Rights and reversing Trump policies protecting human life and religious freedom.

6. Washington Watch: Gov. Brian Kemp Insists the Entire Controversy Over GA’s Election Law Is Based On ‘Liberal Lies’

Brian Kemp, Governor of Georgia, joined Tony Perkins to discuss Major League Baseball caving to cancel culture and pulling its All-Star game out of Georgia.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: The Filibuster – What Is It and Why Does It Matter?¿

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Pastor Jim Garlow to discuss recent events in Georgia and the efforts of some lawmakers to remove the filibuster and how that would affect our nation.

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Thinking Biblically About the Resurrection and the Social Gospel

by David Closson

April 7, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourage, and Forgiveness.

Around the world, Christians celebrate Easter as the most important day in history because it is the day Jesus conquered sin and death on our behalf by rising from the dead.

The resurrection is central to the gospel because without it, Christianity is nothing more than a social club. As the apostle Paul explained to the Corinthian church, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14).

However, on the day when Jesus’ resurrection normally takes center stage, Raphael Warnock, the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and Georgia’s junior Senator, took to Twitter to share a very different message. On Sunday, he tweeted: “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

It is well-known that Raphael Warnock is a liberal politician. He ran on a progressive platform, and in his short tenure in the U.S. Senate, he has voted to confirm President Biden’s most radical nominees and expressed support for policies that would expand abortion and restrict religious freedom. But more than a voting record, Warnock’s since-deleted Easter tweet provides insight into how the reverend’s faith informs his politics, i.e., his political theology.

To be clear, there is nothing “more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ” as Warnock believes. The message of Easter, the very center of Christianity, is that God took the initiative to save sinners because sinners cannot save themselves. As Paul explains in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” However, because of God’s love, verse four says, “when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ.” As Paul explains elsewhere, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). In other words, Christ died as a sacrifice for sin. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus reconciled us with God (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

Jesus is not simply the foundation of Christianity; He is the foundation of reality. Paul, in the book of Colossians, summarizes the centrality of Christ, writing: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Concerning salvation, Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Scripture is clear that we cannot save ourselves by helping others. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Of course, Christians are called to do good works. A verse later, Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” However, the suggestion that “through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves” is contrary to everything the Bible teaches about salvation and strips the empty tomb of its power.

As an American, Raphael Warnock is free to believe and teach whatever he wants. However, as someone who serves as a minister of the gospel, he is not free to say whatever he wants about Jesus, the resurrection, and salvation. Like all who profess to be Christian, he is bound by Scripture. His message of salvation through good works directly contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ which promises salvation on the basis of Christ’s completed work. Faith in Jesus, not works, is the only way to be saved (Acts 4:12).

While Senator Warnock’s assessment of Easter is not biblical, it is nevertheless consistent with competing belief systems like liberation theology and critical race theory. In fact, his tweet is an outworking of theological systems (liberation theology and the social gospel) which prioritize social justice over orthodox doctrine. These systems teach that the greatest problem in the world is injustice and that the solution is political revolution. For example, liberation theology, which reconstructs Christian theology through the lens of “oppressor and oppressed,” identifies different problems and different solutions than the gospel does. In that world, it is possible to “save ourselves” by “helping others” because once we have eliminated injustice we have been saved.

But Scripture has a very different understanding of what our greatest problem is and the solution to that problem. While God hates injustice, injustice is simply the fruit of a sinful, rebellious heart. The real solution is a changed heart, and that is something no political revolution can accomplish. Only Jesus can convert and change sinful hearts. As bad as Senator Warnock’s policy preferences may be, his theology is even worse and likely the source of his confused policies. Simply put, we cannot save ourselves. Therefore, for the sake of your eternal destiny, trust Scripture which says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

For more on this topic, don’t miss the author’s interview on Washington Watch.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of March 28)

by Family Research Council

April 1, 2021

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Biden Cracks under Presser

If Americans were concerned that Joe Biden hadn’t held a press conference, imagine how concerned they must be now that he has. Most people assumed that the 78-year-old president would be prepared to meet the press. What they got instead was a painful, hour-long confirmation that the man leading our country has none of our crises—the border, China, COVID, or fair and free elections—in hand.

2. Update: Protecting Girls: On a Need to Noem Basis

The people of South Dakota just recently had to watch everything that their legislature worked for on girls’ sports vanish with one wave of Governor Noem’s hand. Despite a week and a half of outcry from her constituents, Noem dug in and did not, as some people hoped, reconsider vetoing a bill that would protect girls’ sports.

3. Blog: You Can’t Twist Scripture to Force Women to Compete Against Men in Sports

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) recently vetoed House Bill 1217, legislation that would protect women from being forced to compete against biological men in sporting events. While most conservatives were frustrated by Noem’s capitulation on the bill, one faith group actually encouraged Noem to veto it.

4. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Courage

What is courage? C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” In other words, the courageous person has poise and the fortitude to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. Despite potential blowback, the courageous person stays the course and pursues what they know is right.

5. Washington Watch: Kristen Waggoner Debunks Gov. Noem’s Flimsy Legal Rationale for Vetoing the Girls’ Sports Bill

Kristen Waggoner serves as the General Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. She joined Washington Watch guest host Joseph Backholm to dissect the Conservative uproar over Governor Noem’s “style and form” veto.

6. Washington Watch: Gov. Brian Kemp Pushes Back Against the Left’s Absurd Objections to GA’s New Election Reform Law

Does Georgia’s new election law deny water to voters standing in line, as President Biden claims? Georgia Governor Brian Kemp joined Tony Perkins to set the record straight and discuss the Left’s objections to the state’s new election integrity law.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Join Franklin Graham in Prayer for our Children

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Rev. Franklin Graham and Arkansas State Rep. Robin Lundstrum to pray for Gov. Hutchinson to make the right decision and sign the common-sense bill, the SAFE Act, that would protect children from sterilization and harmful surgeries.

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Thinking Biblically About Forgiveness

by Joseph Backholm

April 1, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”Love, and Courage.

There’s a tension, it seems, between justice and forgiveness. A world without justice devolves into lawlessness, but a world without forgiveness is cruel and harsh.  

Does justice demand that the perpetrators of particularly heinous crimes, such as the man who bombed the Boston Marathon, receive the death penalty, or is capital punishment a form of vengeance that God forbids? More broadly, our culture’s on-going conversation about race, and the growing popularity of critical race theory, forces us to consider whether forgiveness for past wrongs is required by Christian charity or a way to minimize the significance of past injustice so that current injustice can endure.

In this cultural moment, there is a hesitancy if not outright hostility to the concept of personal forgiveness. The very logic of “cancel culture” is that some ideas and opinions are so repugnant that the offending ideas need to be removed from public discourse and that anyone who holds them must “canceled,” i.e. deplatformed and silenced. Forgiveness is often seen as a sign of weakness or even a threat to true justice.

So, how should Christians think about forgiveness?

We begin with the awareness that since God is both just and forgiving, justice and forgiveness are not in conflict. Forgiveness should matter to Christians because it is part of God’s character. King David proclaimed, “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you” (Ps. 86:5, NIV). Since our goal as Christians is to emulate God’s character (Eph. 5:1), that means we must be forgiving.

God is forgiving, but He is also just. His justice requires punishment for sin. It is not cruel or unforgiving to hold someone accountable for their actions. This is what true justice demands. Loving parents forgive their misbehaving children but also discipline them because permissiveness is not loving.

But it is important not to confuse punishment and discipline with revenge. Done well, punishment and discipline are for the benefit of the offender, or possibly, those who need to be protected from the offender. Revenge has a different goal. Revenge is done to gratify the person giving the punishment.

God is pro-punishment, but He does not want us seeking revenge. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). It should also be noted that capital punishment is a power given only to the governing authorities and not to individuals (Rom. 13:4).

Discerning whether we are acting out of a godly desire for justice or a sinful desire for revenge starts with checking our hearts. Are we seeking this person’s good or their demise?

After Paul reminds us that revenge is for God alone, he suggests that forgiveness is evidenced by a genuine desire for their good: “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” (Rom. 12:20-21). In these verses, Paul assures us that we don’t need to take revenge because God will right all wrongs in the end. Since God guarantees justice in the end, we are free to pursue forgiveness.

Forgiveness is essential to the Christian life because forgiveness is what made the Christian life possible in the first place (Col. 1:13-14, Eph. 1:7-8). At the heart of the gospel is the idea that we have been forgiven a debt we could never have paid ourselves (Rom. 6:23, Eph. 2:8-9). Christ extended the ultimate gift of forgiveness and we are commanded to extend forgiveness to others:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)

Also:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:13)

If we who claim to be Christians find ourselves unable to forgive others, this calls into question our awareness of how much we have been forgiven:

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Mt. 6:15)

Also:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

This does not mean that God’s forgiveness is conditional or dependent on something we must do. After all, we cannot earn our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). However, our unwillingness to extend forgiveness may imply that we do not fully understand our own need for forgiveness—or the heart of the gospel.

God’s promise of future justice and our personal experience with His forgiveness informs how Christians think about both justice and forgiveness. God is just, and even if justice escapes us in this life, we know He will one day right all wrongs. Whether we are debating capital punishment, racism, or cancel culture, forgiveness is not merely a way to improve human relationships but a means to show others what Jesus has done for us. For Christians, a life marked by forgiveness is a sign of God’s grace and a testimony to the world of the gospel’s power.

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Burma: More Dangerous Than Ever for Religious Minorities

by Lela Gilbert

April 1, 2021

 

Once upon a time, Burma was a land of romantic mystique. Rudyard Kipling’s 19th century poem “Mandalay” conveys that vision,

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me…

Sadly, Kipling’s reverie is light-years removed from today’s bitterly divided and dangerous Burma—also known as Myanmar. In an ever-worsening conflict that has recently seized the country, the Burmese Army is shooting protestors with live ammunition, innocent families are bombed by government aircraft, and more than a million refugees have fled abuses of unimaginable brutality.

Since February 1, 2021, Burma has been featured in near-daily international news reports decrying a violent military junta’s coup, which overthrew the government of Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy (NLD). From that day until now, bloodshed has increasingly spread across the country.

Today’s Burma is a perilous war zone in which terrified ethnic and religious minorities are facing life-or-death dangers, and chaos reigns supreme. But even before the February 1 coup, Burma was a land of many dangers, and freedom of religion was virtually non-existent.

Although most westerners imagine that a Buddhist nation like Burma/Myanmar would be peaceful and gracious, the country’s military has long been ruthless. Christians, who live as an at-risk minority in several Burmese states, have faced ongoing mistreatment at the hand of a notoriously brutal army for decades. And Christians aren’t alone in their suffering. Rohingya Muslims have also experienced unimaginable cruelties.

These abuses have not gone unnoticed. In 2019, the U.S. government imposed punitive actions for the Burmese government’s human rights and religious freedom violations, including travel bans against military leaders for “gross human rights violations.” In December, the U.S. Department of State redesignated Burma as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC). In fact, since 1999 the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has declared Myanmar a CPC in its annual reports. This has been due to violent practices, lawless abuses, and discriminatory treatment of non-Buddhists. The regime has used fines, imprisonment, forced conversions, starvation, gang rape, and child abuse as its array of weaponry.

Rohingya Muslims have been particularly targeted since 2016. That October, more than a hundred Rohingya men, armed with various weapons, including knives, slingshots, and rifles, attacked police and killed nine officers. Those insurgents attacked again in 2017. The Rohingya had been stateless for decades, but due to these acts of violence against the Burmese government, they immediately found themselves facing deadly retribution. More than a million have since fled.

In recent days, the Rohingya’s ongoing tragedy was horrifically amplified thanks to a fire in the refugee camp in Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands had taken shelter. On March 23, the New York Times reported that local authorities “searched for survivors…”

amid the smoldering ruins of a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp, one day after a fire killed at least 15 people, injured hundreds and left tens of thousands homeless once again. The carnage at the camp in Cox’s Bazaar, near the border with Myanmar, was the latest tragedy for residents, who have lived for years in its squalid shanties since fleeing their homes in Myanmar in the aftermath of a military-perpetrated massacre.

While that tragedy unfolded, the beleaguered Christians in Myanmar continue to face greater risks than ever. World Magazine reports,

In the ethnic Karen region in eastern Myanmar, villagers in Day Pu Noh Valley in Papun District noticed a military fighter jet flying overhead in the afternoon. That night, the military dropped bombs on the village—the first airstrikes in the region in 20 years—killing three people and wounding eight.

The gloves are off now,” Free Burma Ranger’s Dave Eubank said of the military’s escalation. “There’s no need to have a façade of democracy anymore, [the military] felt the cease-fires were not working in controlling the ethnic groups, so now they are doing what they were going to do all along.”

Dangers for Christians abound as protestors across the country rise up in defiance against the regime. And some believers remain terrified by the upheaval. Open Doors quoted one Christian: “I couldn’t sleep and I cried out to God more than three times that night. Our dreams, hopes, vision and freedom are taken away. Our lifetime has been full of grief, fear and trouble under the military regime. People are suffering because of the war. Job opportunities are also difficult now, and we are depressed by the military coup because we had hoped for a ceasefire.”

However, Christianity Today offered a different perspective. An evangelical leader described the civil disobedience in which some Christians are participating: “On the ground, our brothers and sisters [believers] will continue their movement…the drumming of pots and pans, peaceful mass marching demonstrations, and the chants of condemnation to the military. Abroad, we will let the world know that we are fighting back.” He went on to say, “Christians in Myanmar are not timid…Christians might fight with [their] greatest weapon, prayer and Jesus himself.”

This leader then offered a plea—one with which we can all respond with urgency. He said, “We also request all of you who sympathize [with] us, pray for us in this fight to overcome sin and Satan’s schemes.”

Yes. Let’s remember to pray that our Lord will extend mercy to the Rohingya and to all others who suffer under the iron fist of Burma’s military regime. And may He provide increased blessings, encouragement, and safety to Burma’s beleaguered Christians.

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Pennsylvania Court Delivers Two Pro-Life Victories

by Mary Szoch

March 31, 2021

This past week, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued a huge victory for all Pennsylvanians—born and unborn. In a 6-1 decision, the Commonwealth Court both upheld a 1985 Pennsylvania law stating that state taxpayer dollars could not be used for abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother and ruled that “Reproductive Health Centers,” in this case, three Planned Parenthood affiliates and three stand-alone abortion clinics, “lack standing to initiate litigation to vindicate the constitutional rights of their patients enrolled in Medical Assistance.” The abortion businesses who were the plaintiffs in the case will appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Commonwealth Court’s ruling is cause for celebration for several reasons. First, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the rights of Pennsylvanians to have a law prohibiting tax dollars for elective abortions. The 1985 law is essentially Pennsylvania’s version of the Hyde Amendment. This amendment, which passed in 1976, had overwhelming bipartisan support for over 40 years—including support as recent as 2019 from now President Joe Biden—but it is now under attack by Democrats and President Biden. Neither the 1985 Pennsylvania law nor the Hyde Amendment prohibit abortions—both simply state that taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund abortions.

The vast majority of Americans are supportive of this law. In fact, a 2020 Marist poll found that 60 percent of Americans, including 37 percent who identify themselves as pro-choice, oppose taxpayer funding of abortions. Americans recognize that taxpayers who correctly believe abortion is the killing of an innocent unborn baby should not be forced to pay for this practice. Hopefully, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will uphold this ruling and it will be repeated by other state supreme courts who face similar challenges from abortion providers.

Second, the court ruled that abortion businesses do not have standing to challenge a prohibition on taxpayer dollars paying for abortions. In doing so, the court recognized that the key stakeholders in a case regarding abortion are not businesses who stand to profit from the practice of abortion, but instead, pregnant women who intend to have an abortion. This is a major step in limiting the abortion industry’s exploitation of women in Pennsylvania. 

Under the Pennsylvania standard for standing, the Commonwealth Court ruled that they would be required to determine if patients “on whose behalf Reproductive Health Centers purport to speak even want this assistance.” Unfortunately, however, Pennsylvania has a different standard for standing than the federal government. As was seen in the Louisiana case June Medical vs. Russo, the Supreme Court has allowed abortion businesses to file lawsuits on behalf of the women they proport to serve. In doing so, the Supreme Court allowed Louisiana abortionists to continue to profit from putting the lives of women receiving abortions at risk—despite the abortionists’ inability to demonstrate that any affected women actually supported their position.

While the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s ruling is not indicative of how the United States Supreme Court would rule in such a case, and while it may be overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, for now, it is a pro-life victory. It is a ruling that recognizes the conscience rights of Pennsylvania taxpayers while limiting the ability of abortion businesses to speak for women. Pray that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds this ruling and that other states’ pro-life efforts are buoyed by this victory.

Family Research Council has developed a series of maps to help Americans understand their state’s abortion laws. To see where your state stands with regard to funding abortion businesses, click here.

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Rosa Parks: A Woman of Quiet Strength and Faith Who Galvanized the Civil Rights Movement

by Molly Carman

March 31, 2021

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Women have played an important role in our nation’s history and the women in this series represent those who have faithfully, courageously, and humbly served their families, communities, and our nation. Don’t miss our previous installment on Abigail Adams, Fanny Crosby, Harriet Tubman, and Clara Barton.

Born and raised during the Jim Crow era, Rosa Parks became known as “The Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement.” Although she is best remembered for refusing to give up her seat on a bus, she also believed that taking a stand for equal rights was invaluable. Rosa had a tenacious and fiery disposition, but she believed that her strength was not her own, once declaring, “God has always given me the strength to say what is right.” Her endurance and faith spurred her on through the darkest nights and the lowest valleys, and her legacy continues to inspire today.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her parents separated when Rosa was only two years old, shortly after her brother Sylvester was born. She and her mother and brother moved to live with her maternal grandparents on their farm outside Montgomery. Rosa’s grandparents were former slaves and early advocates of the civil rights movement. She recalled her grandfather standing by the front door with a gun as the Ku Klux Klan marched down their street.

Rosa’s life with her grandparents was extremely formative. In her autobiography, she reflected:

Every day before supper and before we went to services on Sundays, my grandmother would read the Bible to me, and my grandfather would pray. We even had devotions before going to pick cotton in the fields. Prayer and the Bible became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength.

Rosa would continue to attend church her whole life. She was greatly inspired by the stories of other Christians who took a stand for their rights as she considered how she would stand up for her own.

When Rosa was 11, she began attending Miss White’s Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, a private Christian school. Her education continued at Booker T. Washington Junior High and Alabama State Teachers College, a high school. However, Rosa returned home before graduating to care for her dying grandmother and ill mother. Because she had not finished her education, Rosa took a position as a seamstress.

When Rosa was 19, she met Raymond Parks, a barber, who proposed to Rosa on their second date. They were married on December 18, 1932, and never had any children together.

Raymond encouraged Rosa to go back to school the following year and earn her high school diploma. After graduation, she worked as a secretary at Maxwell Air Force base, which was going through desegregation. Rosa and Raymond both became members of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1934. As chapter secretary, Rosa documented the most violent acts committed against blacks. The Racy Taylor case became national news because of Rosa’s work. In 1947, her reputation as a fiery activist grew, and she was asked to speak at the NAACP convention, where she received a standing ovation.

However, the civil rights movement began to change when Brown v. Board of Education was decided on May 17, 1954. As desegregation began in the schools, the NAACP believed it was time for the buses to desegregate as well. Rosa Parks was not the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat, but her story lit the flame.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa boarded a Montgomery city bus after a long day of work and sat in the middle section next to three black men. The bus driver, James Blake, was notorious for harassing black passengers. When a white man boarded the bus, Blake approached Rosa’s row and asked her and the other three black passengers to move to the back to make room for the white passenger. They all refused at first, but after the harassment continued, the other three all moved. Rosa did not move and remained seated alone. Blake threatened to call the police, to which she calmly replied, “You may do that.” Rosa later recalled:

I instantly felt God give me the strength to endure whatever would happen next, God’s peace flooded my soul, and my fear melted away. All people were equal in the eyes of God, and I was going to live like a free person.

Rosa was arrested and taken into police custody but was released on bail that same evening. She was later fined $14 but never paid the fine. Martin Luther King Jr. heard what happened and initiated plans for a bus boycott in Montgomery. Thirty-five thousand flyers were distributed, and the boycott began on the morning of Rosa’s trial. The boycott lasted for 381 days and was nearly 100 percent successful.

Although in many ways Rosa was the spark of the boycott, she was ignored and abandoned by many of her fellow black friends who said she was just stirring up trouble for them. She also lost her second job as a seamstress in January 1956. Rosa and Raymond’s reputations began to be slandered, and they received numerous death threats. Her husband was so overwhelmed that he suffered a nervous breakdown. In November 1956, a federal court ruled in favor of desegregating buses in Montgomery. After the law was first implemented, Rosa was photographed riding the bus next to reporter Nicholas C. Chriss, a white man, on December 21, 1956 (see image above).

Due to their continued harassment and financial struggles, Rosa and her husband moved to Hampton, Virginia and then Detroit, Michigan in 1957 to live with her brother and his family. While there, her health declined and she developed stomach ulcers, but struggled to afford the necessary medication. Thankfully, Raymond found employment and they became more financially stable for a time. The civil rights movement that Rosa helped spark led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race.  

Between 1977 and 1979, Rosa’s husband, brother, and mother all died of cancer. Rosa dedicated herself to civil rights advocacy and continued to receive death threats for most of her life. President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. In 1999, she was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005 in Detroit, Michigan. She was the first woman and the second African American to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. On February 4, 2013, on the centennial of her birth, her statue was unveiled in the Capitol. In life, Rosa saw it as her duty to stand strong in the face of grave injustice but also realized that the strength she needed could only come from God.

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