Category archives: Religion & Culture

The Chosen: A Fresh, Personal, and Faithful Presentation of the Gospel

by Dan Hart

April 15, 2021

If ever there was a time that needs fresh witness to the truth of the gospel, it is our current moment. As the uncertainties of government overreach and simmering social and political tensions continue, the human heart can’t help but yearn for stability and reassurance. It’s a time when Jesus’s beautiful words in Matthew’s Gospel have never been more desperately needed: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Depicting the fulfilment and peace that only Christ can bring to a post-Christian culture in a compelling and original way is no easy task, but one filmmaker has found a remarkable way to succeed. With The Chosen, a new drama series based on the life of Christ, writer/producer/director Dallas Jenkins has breathed new life into the biblical epic genre in a groundbreaking way.

The Chosen is the first ever episode-based series about the life of Christ. In order to produce the series, streaming video company VidAngel and Jenkins decided to use online crowdfunding. It became the biggest crowdfunded film project ever, with over $10.2 million raised by January 2019. In April and November of that year, the first series of eight episodes was released online, and they have been viewed almost 50 million times in 180 countries. The Chosen’s producers have already raised another $10 million for the production of the second season, with the first three episodes now released. The producers are planning to continue crowdsourcing for the foreseeable future, with the goal of producing seven seasons in all.

The great strength of The Chosen is its emphasis on relationship and relatability. The series starts by portraying the disciples and Christ’s other followers as honest, searching, flawed, and often humorous men and women who are trying to make their way as faithful Jews in a harsh Roman-occupied world. Peter and Andrew struggle to figure out how to pay their taxes as poor fishermen, Mary Magdalene grapples with demons and finding direction while trying to move past her former sinful lifestyle, and Matthew is a highly eccentric and reviled tax collector who wrestles with social stigmatization. With great emotional depth and feeling, The Chosen beautifully shows how Jesus breaks into the lives of these ordinary men and women and sets their hearts ablaze with a longing for truth and a burning desire to follow Him.

Much of the success of The Chosen can be attributed to the deeply human and pastorally empathetic portrayal of Jesus by actor Jonathan Roumie. With past film depictions of Jesus often emphasizing His stoic authority and divinity, the great strength of Roumie’s depiction is that he lets Jesus be approachable and sympathetic without sacrificing Christ’s sovereignty. In a scene drawn from Luke 5, Roumie’s Jesus laughs with joy and revels in the moment as He watches Simon and his brother whoop and holler as they struggle to drag in the miraculous catch of fish. In one poetic shot, Jesus is so moved that He glances up to the heavens, as if He Himself is in awe of the wonderful work of His Father. A few moments later, Simon cannot help but fall at Jesus’ feet and mumble about his unworthiness. Jesus’s face is seen from a low camera angled up, clearly establishing His divinity as He responds to Simon’s inquiry (“You are the lamb of God, yes?”) with a simple, “I Am.” But then Jesus crouches down to Simon’s level, and with a penetrating yet compassionate gaze, extends an invitation: “Follow Me.” The scene masterfully combines the human and the divine.   

Other scenes breathe new layers of meaning into familiar gospel stories. As Jesus stands in front of the stone jars of water at the wedding at Cana, the scene is intercut with a wedding guest describing the work of a sculptor: “Once you make that first cut into the stone, it can’t be undone. It sets in motion a series of choices. What used to be a shapeless block of limestone or granite begins its long journey of transformation, and it will never be the same.” The metaphor is a perfect one: by turning the water into wine, like a sculptor’s first cut, Jesus knows that his public ministry will begin, and there will be no turning back. “I am ready, Father,” Jesus murmurs, before dipping his hand into the water, and taking it out with wine dripping from it.

The most pivotal scene from the first season is the encounter at night between Jesus and Nicodemus from John 3. Actor Erick Avari perfectly captures how a member of the Sanhedrin would have been torn between his position in Jewish society as a scholar of the law and what his heart is telling him about who Jesus really is. As Nicodemus’s incredulity and questions turn into awe and trembling before the Messiah as He unveils the heart of God’s salvific plan, the viewer can’t help but empathize with the Pharisee’s predicament but also be spellbound all over again by Christ’s immortal words of John 3:16. 

The Chosen isn’t without its flaws. Scenes early in the first season, particularly ones with Roman characters and costumes, come off as a bit gimmicky, and at times, the tone of some scenes in the first two seasons feel a little too comic and unserious. 

Still, for believers, The Chosen will deepen the vision of the gospels in your mind’s eye, and in the process may even deepen your faith. And for unbelievers, The Chosen is a personal, welcoming invitation to explore the Truth of the gospel. As the Scriptures say, time is short (1 Corinthians 7:29; James 5:8; Revelation 22:12), and the need for cultural renewal in Christ is staggeringly great. A tech-savvy, revitalized, and imaginative yet faithful presentation of the gospel could not have come at a better moment.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of April 11)

by Family Research Council

April 15, 2021

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

1. Update: Candy Jarred: Nestle, Mars Join Woke Wars

Some companies just can’t resist touching the hot stove. Despite all of the grassroots pushback in Georgia—all of the boycotts and outrage and public opinion polls—two major U.S. brands have decided to wade into an even more controversial debate by launching a massive pro-transgender push for minors. Mars and Nestle recently announced they are coming for your kids.

2. Update: Arizona, Georgia Double-Team on Woke Sports

It’ll be months before Major League Baseball knows how much its decision to move Atlanta’s All-Star Game cost them financially. Fortunately, Americans won’t have to wait nearly that long to understand how much it hurt the MLB politically. Thanks to Governor Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.), they already know.

3. Blog: Why Is Religious Freedom So Uniquely Important?

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?

4. Blog: 4 Tips for Praying for the Persecuted

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 doesn’t have to be.

5. Washington Watch: Sen. Tom Cotton Unpacks Biden’s Order to Establish a Commission for So-Called ‘Court Reform’

Tom Cotton, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court striking down California’s restrictions on in-home religious gatherings, President Biden’s commission on court packing, and his letter to the Department of Defense on its use of the Southern Poverty Law Center as a resource.

6. Washington Watch: Rep. Robert Aderholt Calls for Bipartisan Unity in Supporting the Hyde Amendment

Robert Aderholt, U.S. Representative for the 4th District of Alabama, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the letter signed by GOP members of the House appropriation committee urging support for the long-standing, bi-partisan Hyde Amendment.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Corporate Woke-ism in Election Reform

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.), former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and Michael Lancaster, the state director for the Frederick Douglass Foundation in Georgia to discuss and pray over the recent opposition from corporations on election security laws like the one Georgia just passed.

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 ordered loyalty in our relationships with one another.

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.

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.

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.

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.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of March 21)

by Family Research Council

March 26, 2021

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

1. Update: USA Today Looks to Bounce ORU from NCAA

Everyone loves an underdog. Well, almost everyone. While the rest of the country rallies around Oral Roberts University, cheering on the Cinderella of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, USA Today says the slipper doesn’t fit because of their belief in the Bible.

2. Update: Trans Debate Hits too Close to Noem

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota made a name for herself by bucking COVID restrictions and has had her eye on bigger things in the Republican Party for a long time. But with her recent decision to cave to the Left, rather than stand up for South Dakota’s girl athletes, she might be kissing those big plans goodbye.

3. Blog: Hong Kong Has Gone Dark

With dozens of the top pro-democracy political candidates now in prison, Beijing has crushed the hopes of hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers who took to the streets in a call for greater democracy. As Hong Kong endures political repression under the Chinese Communist Party’s tightening grasp, the freedom-loving world must act to punish Beijing.

4. Blog: Harriet Tubman: A Leader to Freedom and a Servant of God

For Women’s History Month we’re looking at the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. Born into slavery, she started with nothing. However, she eventually acquired her freedom and led others to theirs. Harriet’s life and legacy were marked by her trust in God to guide and protect her.

5. Washington Watch: Sen. Marsha Blackburn Unpacks the Equality Act’s Attack on Womanhood and Biden’s Border Crisis

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) joined Tony Perkins on the radio to discuss the threats posed by the Equality Act and the Fairness for All Act, and the escalating border crisis.

6. Washington Watch: Reince Priebus Says Everyday Conservatives are Outpacing Woke CEOs in Political Donations

Reince Priebus, President of the Michael Best law firm, former White House Chief of Staff to President Trump, and former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, joined Tony Perkins with details on the news that a record number of individuals have been donating to the Republican Party since President Biden took office.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: KathyGrace Duncan Shares Her Detransitioning Journey

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins was joined by KathyGrace Duncan, Women’s Ministry Leader at Portland Fellowship, who shared her detransitioning journey and her testimony of finding freedom in Christ.

Thinking Biblically About Courage

by David Closson

March 24, 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”, and Love.

As cultural winds blow ever stronger against biblical orthodoxy on human sexuality, some states are pushing back by passing bills protecting youth from harmful gender transition procedures and protecting women from being forced to compete against biological men in sporting events. One such piece of legislation, South Dakota House Bill 1217, was recently approved by the state legislature and sent to Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk. However, Noem shocked conservatives by vetoing the bill.

Noem suggested revising the bill to support protections for middle school and high school girls but not extending the same protections to older women, specifically collegiate athletes. This attempt to craft a “win-win situation” in the face of opposition might seem courageous to some. But the mere presence of opposition from some quarters does not automatically mean you are being courageous—or are doing what is right. A biblical and philosophical examination of courage requires us to dig deeper.

What is courage? The philosopher Aristotle, who believed that moral behavior was found in the mean (or moderate position) between two extremes, argued in his ethical treatise Nicomachean Ethics that courage is the mean between the feelings of fear and confidence. Merriam-Webster defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” 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.

Is courage a virtue Christians should pursue? Yes. Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to trust Him and obey His commandments, regardless of the consequences. Psalm 27:14 reminds us, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” and again in Psalm 31:24, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” We are exhorted to be courageous not because the things we are called to do are easy, popular, or will make us successful in the earthly sense, but because God has commanded us to fear Him rather than men (Acts 5:29).

When Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel, he was understandably overwhelmed. Yet God charged him to be courageous: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). The pressure facing Joshua was immense. Leading the quarrelsome and obstinate Israelites into the Promised Land was no small task. Thus, as Joshua stepped into his new role, God called him to be courageous, to exhibit strong moral and mental fortitude as he took on the mantle of leadership.

Queen Esther also had to choose to do the right thing in her time, at great personal risk. Encouraged by her cousin Mordecai, Esther approached the Persian king to petition that her peoples’ lives be spared from genocide. Although nervous, she understood the gravity of the situation and was willing to lay down her life for a noble cause. “If I perish, I perish,” she said before venturing into the king’s throne room (Est. 4:16). By God’s grace, her courage was rewarded, and both she and the Jewish people lived.

Likewise, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were commanded by the pagan king of Babylon to bow down to a golden statue and worship. These men knew that it was a sin to worship any man or image other than God, so they refused, and the king commanded that they be burned alive. Before they were led to the furnace, they expressed their belief that God could deliver them. But they told the king, even if God allowed their death, “be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan. 3:18). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to die obeying God rather than sin in order to avoid death.  

The example of these Jewish exiles is instructive. We are called to do the right thing and be courageous not because God will necessarily save us but because it is what is right and honors Him. Many brothers and sisters in the faith have lost their homes, family, friends, possessions, jobs, and even lives because they chose to be courageous and obey God. Although that was the price their courage required, their reward is much sweeter (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Christ is our ultimate example of courage. Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are, yet He never sinned (Heb. 4:15). Despite constant rejection, criticism, and unbelief, He poured Himself out and ministered to sinners. He exemplified the greatest act of courage when He went to the cross and paid the price for our sin.

Courage requires that we fear God above man, know His word, obey it, and practice wisdom and discernment. Paul exhorts us to take up the whole armor of God so that we will be able to stand firm in the evil day (Eph. 6:13). The late preacher Billy Graham once said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” He’s right. Courage is contagious, and even though most of today’s politicians lack courage, Christians should strive to be courageous because God “gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). As we seek to be more like Christ, we can all start by being courageous and doing the right thing for its own sake and thereby encourage others to pursue the virtuous life.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of March 14)

by Family Research Council

March 19, 2021

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

1. Update: Biden Pentagon Deploys Weaponized PR

America’s biggest threat isn’t China or North Korea. It isn’t even Iran. According to this commander-in-chief, it’s a 51-year-old talk show host who isn’t afraid to call out this administration’s absurd military priorities. Tucker Carlson probably had no idea how powerful he was until last week, when the Defense Department dropped everything it was doing to turn its rhetorical guns on the Fox News commentator.

2. Update: Biden’s Fireside Splat

Joe Biden avoided talking to the American people longer than any president in the last 100 years. And when he finally did, it wasn’t exactly worth waiting for. After more than 50 days of silence, all Joe Biden proved by coming out of the White House basement is that he’s a sore and ungracious winner, who isn’t above taking credit for the vaccine successes he inherited.

3. Blog: Fanny Crosby: One of History’s Most Prolific Poets and Songwriters

For Women’s History Month it is important to look at the contributions of God-fearing women in American history. Francis “Fanny” Jane Crosby is one of those women. She was one of the most accomplished, well known, and sung poets and songwriters in history, who was blinded as a baby and had no easy childhood, but trusted the Lord’s goodness and had a determination to live life to the fullest.

4. Blog: Thinking Biblically About Love

The Vatican recently made headlines when it released a statement that said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex relationships because God “does not and cannot bless sin.” The Vatican’s announcement received backlash from many who equate love with tolerance. God does not conflate love and tolerance, so what is a biblical perspective on love?

5. Washington Watch: Rep. Jim Banks Worries About the Consequences of a Woke Pentagon Focused on Politics, Not Threats

Congressman Jim Banks joined Tony Perkins on the radio to discuss the Pentagon launching a PR campaign against Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

6. Washington Watch: Mississippi Sen. Angela Hill Celebrates the Wave of Girls’ Sports Bills Becoming Law Across the U.S.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed into law a bill that protects girls’ sports. Angela Hill, Mississippi State Senator, joined Tony Perkins to share about this good news.

7. Pray Vote Stand Broadcast: Fairness for All?

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony Perkins, Russell Vought, KathyGrace Duncan, and former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran discuss the “Fairness For All” bill and why it’s not fair. It’s a compromise of our most sacred truth—the gospel.

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