Daily Devotions

Bible: Stumbling Block?

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“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’?" (Luke 17:7-8)


This passage is a prime example of why fundamentalist interpretations of Scripture are not only false, but can even be sinful. It was a misguided fundamentalist interpretation that used these words of Jesus to condone and even encourage slavery. What a shame!


Remember our theology. While on earth, Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. While Jesus was without sin, he remained fully human. Included in being fully human, Jesus remained a product of his environment. He gave examples his audience in antiquity could relate to in their specific time and place. If Jesus returned today, he would certainly not use slave imagery to make his larger point.


Reading and responding to the Bible is dangerous business. Historically speaking, the Bible has been a weapon nearly as often as it has been a guide to the Divine. Yet, those of us who try hard to remain culturally appropriate, should not shy away from the somewhat embarrassing aspects of the Bible. Rather than ignore them, these types of passages can provide wonderful occasions for reflection, discussion, and spiritual growth.


Today, pray for the Christian community to continually work to remain respectful and responsible in the way we think about our brothers and sisters in our community and around the world. Words and descriptions have power. Being sensitive to the issues and concerns that divide us is a huge step in finding reconciliation. Pray for God to unite us as a people. Division is easy, while unity takes hard work and a patient spirit. It also requires intelligent and meaningful language, creatively used, to bring lasting unity.

The Skinny on the Role of Church and State

Every political campaign season, the issue of Church and State comes up in conversation, especially when you are a Pastor. Every four years I feel compelled to consider anew the controversial subject that makes church members lobby to get me to commit to Fox News or MSNBC, and then tell me that whatever I hear I need to keep to myself, or I will be breaking an article of law first uttered by the seventeenth century founder of the First Baptist Church in America.

Warnings to continue political silence are seemingly reinforced by the principle founder of the Declaration of Independence. It was Thomas Jefferson who declared that they should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus "building a wall of separation between Church and State." Unfortunately, people are quick to pick up on the "wall of separation language," and miss the "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" part.

In looking to both understand and explain this complicated, centuries-old concept, I turned to an all-knowing place called Wikipedia. Wikipedia often gets a bad rap because it was developed outside a formal academic process, and could be changed by anyone feeding false information. Through the years, caring people have dedicated themselves to making Wikipedia a consistently stable and accurate reference. Here is what Wikipedia says about the Separation of Church and State: "Three central concepts were derived from the 1st Amendment which became America's doctrine for church-state separation: no coercion in religious matters, no expectation to support a religion against one's will, and religious liberty encompasses all religions. In sum, citizens are free to embrace or reject a faith, any support for religion - financial or physical - must be voluntary, and all religions are equal in the eyes of the law with no special preference or favoritism."

The rationale for the Separation of Church and State affirms religious liberty and no religious favoritism. Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers wanted to make sure the Church did not become one with the state, or that one religious faith is not given beneficial treatment over another religion. This did not mean those in the Church cannot speak to matters of justice and other political matters. I strike it rich again with another quote from Wikipedia: "His 1967 article analyzes the inaugural speech of John F. Kennedy: 'Considering the separation of church and state, how is a president justified in using the word 'God' at all? The answer is that the separation of church and state has not denied the political realm a religious dimension.'" The political realm should not ignore the Church, nor should the Church ignore politics. There are certain boundaries, but striving to speak out for justice and transformative change is a religious imperative, and that type of lasting change can only occur through political systems.

As people of faith, committed to the Christian Church, do not be afraid to have your faith influence your politics. Nor should the Church fail to speak out in matters affecting God's children. Pray for the wisdom to know how to faithfully influence our political system, and our political system to properly address the prophetic voice of the Church.

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