When God cries

“As a parent you can only ever be as happy as your unhappiest child”

I remember going to church as a small child and reciting the Catholic creed. It starts with: “I believe in God the Father”.

one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:6)

As our Heavenly Father just imagine how unhappy He must be looking at the state of the world we live in filled with so many of His unhappy children.

  • Imagine Him crying for the children killed in bombing in Syria
  • Or the starving children of Yemen
  • Or the young girl being used for sex in the streets of Manilla
  • Or the little boy washed up on the beaches of Turkey when the boat that was supposed to carry him to safety from the war in his country of birth sank
  • Or the man shot dead in the streets of Georgia because of the colour of his skin
  • Or the young gay man who kills himself because he was rejected by his family and his Church
  • Or the children who watched their father killed by a ‘pro-life supporter’ because he was a doctor working in a clinic that provided abortion
  • Or simply the person who we caused pain through our unkind words

Imagine Him cry and then imagine the shame we should be feeling for uttering those unkind words, for staying silent in the face of injustice, for valuing our own comfort over the lives of those poorer than us. None of us like to feel shame though and we are usually very quick to remind ourselves that God forgives all our sins, which is true, but still doesn’t make our actions acceptable nor inconsequential.

1 Samuel 13:14 says about king David, “ But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

David’s heart was far from perfect. He committed adultery and murdered his mistress’s husband to hide his sin. And although God forgave him, his actions had serious consequences. A man died and David’s son born from his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba also died. But David was repentant and eager to please God. He was willing to recognise his fault and listen to God’s heart.

We need to be men and women after God’s heart. We need to not be afraid to recognise our faults, repent and speak out to prevent others from falling in the same trap. We need to hear and feel God’s heart and act on Its conviction with our voices, our prayers and our deeds.

see also

Look after orphans and widows in their distress

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Nine years ago, when my family and I first moved to France we went through a very traumatic time. I can honestly say that it felt like just about everything was going wrong. We hit one disaster after another which affected our family life, our living conditions, our finances and health very deeply. I must admit that I struggled with my faith in those days and in believing that God was good and loved me. But on one of my daily lament to God, I heard this very clear voice in my head telling me: “I have given you everything you wanted, you asked for a husband, I gave you a husband, you wanted a family, I gave you children, you wanted to move to France, you now live in France, now it is my turn”.

I have spent most of my life since that day trying to work out what “my turn” meant, but I still struggle almost everyday to remember that my salvation was not just about me, it was about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Church, the lost, the disenfranchised, the needy, the sick, the weak and the defenceless.

The events of the last few weeks in the United States of America, the senseless murder of Georges Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many others before them has forced me once again to face my failings in putting God and others before my own concerns and comfort.

I have had to examine my own heart and my own prejudices. I had to speak to my children to make sure that the next generation does better than we have. I have read countless comments on social media condemning the protesters for trying to make white people feel guilty for their privilege. I have heard many Christians declaring that we shouldn’t talk about race in Church and criticising their pastors if they did raise their voices against racism and prejudice during their sermons.

And it got me thinking: so much of what we hear in Church is about us as individuals. It’s about making us feel and live better lives. It’s about overcoming our own pain, discomfort, guilt and shortcomings. I am not belittling the importance of that message, however, if we never go beyond simply focussing on ourselves, we cannot grow as Christians.

A grownup Christian looks after widows and orphans, as James 1:27 tells us:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

As Christians we must be at the forefront of the battle against prejudice and injustice. We must be seen and heard crying for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their gender, the colour of their skin, their nationality, their religion or denomination, their disability, their socio-economic background, or sexual orientation. We have been commissioned by God to do so and we must make this a Church priority. This is how we will be spreading the message of God’s love to the world (see also this blog post).

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 

You cannot love and discriminate at the same time. We must show love to all. Why is it so much more prevalent in church to forgive a murderer than to accept a gay man for who he is?

In Galatians 3:28, it is written: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are all created equal, image bearers of God and it is about time this becomes a reality in all Christian churches.

We cannot continue to stay within the comfort of our little group of Christian friends, talking about comfortable issues that make us feel better about ourselves. We must examine our own guilt in fostering and maintaining prejudice and injustice in the world, repent and recognise the equal rights of ALL the children of God without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

Beware of false Prophets

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves”, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit”. Matthew 7:15, 18

I don’t know if you have watched the series The Chosen online. If you haven’t, I strongly recommend it, it is very enjoyable, enlightening and biblically based I have found. https://studios.vidangel.com/the-chosen

In series 1, episode 8, Shmuel, a Pharisee Rabi from Judea, informs Nicodemus that he has found a matter of law that he is deeply passionate about: False prophecy. He continues telling him that when he heard Jesus telling the paralytic man that his sins were forgiven, he thought to himself that only God can forgive sins. At that moment Jesus turned to face him and recited his thoughts exactly “as if reading them from a scroll”. At first, he considered the possibility that Jesus could be using divination but then realised that of course as a pharisee this would be his first thought and this should be obvious to anyone. He accuses Nicodemus of saying nothing when Jesus called himself “the son of Man as if from the prophet Daniel”. He asks Nicodemus if he will oppose his request to study False prophesy possibly in Jerusalem and when Nicodemus questions his motive as being political and self-interested, Shmuel answers that on the contrary “It is about the law and the law is God”.

Throughout the Gospels we see recounts of leaders who were so concerned about False Teaching and False Prophets that they did everything in their power to stop Jesus’ Ministry to the point of killing him. In John 11:47-50, the high priests describe Jesus as a dangerous man who would encourage “everyone to believe in him and then the Romans would take away both their temple and their nation”. The high priest Caiaphas declared that “it is better that one man die for the people than the whole nation perishes”.

Their intentions were good at first glance, they did what they were taught to do, what they thought was right: to obey the Law and protect God’s people, the Israelites. But because they could not see who Jesus was in the eyes of the Lord, they saw only someone who was a danger to the Law and needed to be stopped at all costs.

What strikes me in all these encounters with leaders of the ancient world, whether real or fictional like Shmuel, is not only that they were blind to the identity of Christ, but that their actions were not guided by Love. In fact, they were so preoccupied with doing what was right in the eyes of the Law that they forgot to consider the person of Jesus altogether, dismissing him as a dangerous man who could and should be written off.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end in the ancient world and I see much of the same language about false teaching and false prophesy leading to legalistic actions in the church today.

Yes in Matthew 7:15, Jesus warns us to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves”, but in verse 18 he also tells us:

“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit”.

So let us consider if each person we are quick to condemn as a false teacher bears good fruits or bad fruits. Let us consider who that person’s identity in Christ is, before judging him or her by our standards.

When a church declares it acceptable for a woman to serve as a Deacon, in Sunday School for example or in the Administrative Department but not as the senior Pastor or Elder, they make a statement that they are more concerned about the rule of Law as they see it in the Bible than the identity of the woman as an image bearer of God and equal to a man in the eyes of the Lord (Galatians 3:28).

When a church proclaims that an openly Gay man is welcome to attend a Church but not to serve the Church, they affirm that they are more concerned about the reputation of the Church than the right and duty of every child of God to serve in any way he or she has been called to do.

But Jesus has called us to

“Love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength,” And to “Love our neighbour as ourselves.” Mark 12:30-31. (also see this post)

And you cannot love someone and discriminate against them at the same time.

You cannot follow the teachings of Jesus and consider the Law only without considering whether your opinion was made in love and taking into account the other person’s motives, calling and identity.