Categories
evangelism prejudice

Avoiding The Samaritans

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength


Brent Pollard

I recall a decision in 1999 to take the “scenic route” home from the Richmond (Virginia) metropolitan area, where I had attended a lectureship, to my home in Coffee County, Tennessee. West Virginia and Kentucky indeed proved to be beautiful states, but I added about three hours to my trip. I was exhausted. I decided to stick to the fastest route in the future.

In New Testament times, there were many routinely taking the longer route. No, they were not enjoying the scenery. According to Charles F. Pfeifer, author of Baker’s Bible Atlas:

“Prejudice was so great that many Jews chose to detour across the Jordan and travel through Peraea, rather than go through the land of the despised Samaritan, when making trips from Galilee to Judah.”  (Pfeifer 1)

It appears a trip through Peraea was more palatable since it was a district inhabited by Jews during New Testament times. I wonder how many hours this detour added to their journeys?

Jesus made a point by traveling through Samaria on this one occasion. What was that point?  Everyone needs Him. I imagine this point seems less significant compared to the “meatier” portions of John 4. Typically, we focus on His discourse with the woman at the well. Yet, note verse 4. Translations vary in the wording, of course, but the gist is that Jesus had to travel through Samaria.  (I do not deny that His rationale may have been logistical, to save time. Regardless of the exact reasoning, however, Jesus intended for the Samaritans to hear the Gospel. We see early Christians taking the Gospel there in Acts 8. Therefore, Jesus provides an example by speaking to the Samaritan woman, showing Samaritans deserve the Truth.

That the Gospel is for all was a hard lesson for even the Apostles to learn. Consider the example of Peter. The Lord chose Peter to preach to the first Gentile convert to the Faith (cf. Acts 10.9-15,28). Even so, Paul had to later rebuke Peter for avoiding the company of Gentiles for the Jews who had recently come from Jerusalem (cf. Galatians 2.11-14). Can this not also be a hard lesson for us? In our era of identity politics, it is easy to feel uncomfortable among those who do not share our demographic. Thus, we go out of our way to avoid others with whom we share less in common. We avoid others because they have more or less melanin in their skin. Socioeconomic difference likewise becomes a justification for avoidance. Maybe we don’t want to associate with someone less educated than ourselves. Whatever the reason, we may go out of our way to avoid such persons.

It is time for us to stop the unnecessary detours we take to avoid contacting those making us “uncomfortable.” Everybody needs Jesus. The Lord expects that you and I must go through Samaria too!

Sources Cited:

1 “New Testament Palestine.” Baker’s Bible Atlas, by Charles F. Pfeiffer, Baker Book House Co., 1961, pg. 191. 

Categories
evangelism prejudice race racism Uncategorized unity

Of One the Lord Has Made the Race

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

 John Moody McCaleb was a missionary in Japan for the better part of his life. He moved to the island nation during the Meiji era, in which Japan was sprinting to catch up to the technology and emulate the political philosophy of the West. The war-weary pacifist, David Lipscomb, strongly influenced McCaleb. (I would dare say that it did not take much to sway him since his father, a Union soldier, was shot and killed by a fellow Union soldier as he was crossing a stream since he did not hear the latter’s order to halt. 1)

 Hence, when Japan became an Imperial state in its early Showa era, McCaleb’s pacifistic ideology put him at odds with his adopted home. He was sent “home” to the United States in October of 1941, just a couple of months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Since his expulsion, McCaleb’s house, which survived the tumultuous world war, has become a museum. A contemporary caretaker of the museum noted that McCaleb never flew an American or Japanese flag in front of his residence, stating “my true nationality is the kingdom of heaven.” 2

 Perhaps, it should not surprise us that the first stanza of a hymn penned by McCaleb reads as follows: “Of one the Lord has made the race, Through one has come the fall; Where sin has gone must go His grace: The gospel is for all.” Yes, this pioneering American missionary of the Restoration Movement wrote one of the most beloved hymns highlighting the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20), The Gospel Is for All.

 I wished to share this to drive home one point. McCaleb failed to see cultural distinctions as “racial” in nature. McCaleb understood as Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17.26-27: “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (NASB)” Indeed, we are of one race, the human race.

 When we look for the genesis of our divisions in God’s Word, we read Genesis 11 and the account of the Tower of Babel. Within that chapter, humanity, united, sought to use its solidarity to rebel against God. God couldn’t allow that for, because thus united, He observed, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6 NASB). And so, God divided us by giving us different languages.

 Someone might scoff that vocabulary is not an insurmountable barrier since we learn the tongues of others today. First, it is not as if there were primers to teach one another the new languages existing initially after the Tower of Babel. Second, thus motivated to disperse, they went on to develop cultures independent of one another centered on those communication divisions. They intermarried those of their lingual group who had developed customs different from other lingual groups. It was a positive feedback loop.

 Might I humbly suggest that this remains the source of our societal ills today when it comes to poorly labeled “race relations,” since we are only one race? We have different cultures and customs. Language is not an insurmountable obstacle because we know the syllabaries and alphabets of those speaking different languages from ourselves. With this knowledge, we take the Gospel to every creature.

 But if we want to know what causes a man to kneel on the neck of a subdued man because he has more melanin in his skin, it is not a “racial problem.” It is a sin problem. And even though we all like to think that those resembling ourselves are free of such biases, it is something against which we all must carefully guard our hearts, whether we possess little or much melanin.

 Each of us is created in the image of God and must seek to treat one another as we desire to be treated (Matthew 7.12). Please keep this in mind whenever you see the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” type of headlines the devil likes to employ to impede the progress of the Gospel in this world. He seeks to do so by convincing men that the essential things are the least important, but that the amount of melanin in one’s skin is of greater import.

REFERENCES

1 Walker, Wayne. “‘The Gospel Is For All.’” Hymnstudiesblog, WordPress.com, 6 Nov. 2008, hymnstudiesblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/06/quotthe-gospel-is-for-allquot/.

2 Ikuma, Koji. “The Old Missionary Museum of Zoshigaya, a Story of One of the Famous Christian Missionaries in Japan.” Unfamiliar Japan Tours, Unfamiliar Japan Tours.com, 19 Aug. 2016, uj-tours.com/missionary-house/.

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Categories
conflict peace prejudice unity

Chasing Calm In The Chaos Of Conflict

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Conflict stinks. It’s unpleasant, uncomfortable, and far too easy to do poorly. Conflict is a delicate game balancing a desire to achieve a certain outcome without causing unnecessary escalation.

We live in a world where evil is alive and well. No one wants evil to exist, but it does because of sin. Both good and bad people sometimes do evil things. Those people should be held accountable and justice meted. Our country has had a consistent pattern of civil unrest after an injustice. We no longer know how to have healthy conflict. 

  • Do you want to perpetuate hate? Use the actions of an evil person as an excuse to harm others, burn businesses, and contribute to civil unrest. 
  • Do you want to stifle positive change? Share polarizing rhetoric. It will flawlessly push either side more firmly into their ways. 
  • Do you want to keep a rift between entire groups of people? Play the blame game instead of holding those responsible accountable. And, when those responsible have been held accountable, continue to accuse others of complicity. 

Every single person on the planet is guilty. Every single person on the planet is hopeless without God. Every person on the planet would die lost if not for Jesus and the forgiveness He offers. Not one person is perfect. 

  • Do we want peace? Be good to all people (Galatians 6.10). 
  • Do we want to eradicate prejudice? Unite within the family of God (Galatians 3.28). God created people, not factions. 
  • Do we want to eliminate hatred? Be patient, kind, humble, not jealous, not self-centered, not easily provoked, not a grudge-holder, not someone who relishes in dysfunction, love truth, not retaliatory, and be full of hope (I Corinthians 13). 

We must face the fact that the only way to have true stability, love, acceptance, and goodness is to go through God. Only when we look to an objective standard – one that cannot change simply because man’s threshold of tolerance has – will we have peace. 

“Happy are the peacemakers, because they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5.9). 

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Categories
prejudice race racism

Some Beautiful ‘Truths About Race

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

I wonder if we’ll ever live in a world free of racial turmoil, tragedy, inequity, and bigotry. Whenever we make assumptions, blanket statements (or beliefs), or judgments about people based on something so literally superficial as skin color, we miss the deeper possibilities–love, relationship, and unity, just to name a few. One thing we can never legitimately do, when seeking to prop up racial prejudice, is to lean on the Bible to do so.

Scripture highlights the racial tensions that existed on both sides of the Jewish-Gentile divide in both testaments. Yet, instead of endorsing it, the Bible–especially through Christ–seeks to transcend and destroy it. Consider some beautiful truths it teaches about race.

–“He made from one man (literally, “from one”; some versions say “one blood” and others “one ancestor”) every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26). As many have put it, “We’re all related through Adam.” Malachi rhetorically asks, “Do we not all have one father?” (2:10). There is biological unity among the races.

–“Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26). The Godhead declares this at the creation, when making that first man. Every person of every race shares this marvelous, identifying trait. No human should suffer an identity crisis, in the ultimate sense. We’re made in the image of God! There is existential unity among the races.

–With no qualifier, Scripture says “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). There may be different genetic predispositions or conditions that strike each of the races of humanity, but this inevitable ending awaits us all. There is corporeal or physical unity among the races. 

–Among so many passages that relates a similar principle, Solomon writes, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken” (Prov. 15:13). Each individual has a particular makeup, whether we speak of extroverts or introverts, moodiness or even-temperedness, expressiveness or reservation, or the like, but all of us have an emotional makeup. There is emotional unity among the races. 

–“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Each one of us has unique struggles, weaknesses, and temptations. Ultimately, none of us escapes this reality. There is spiritual unity among the races. This extends to the fact that One man died for all sinners (2 Cor. 5:20). Then, beautifully, because of this, He places every obedient believer in Christ in one body (Eph. 2:16). As Paul declares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is [a]neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

Men will try to stoke and foment division. The carnal will embrace and inflame such baseness as racial prejudice, with its fear, assumption, and blind ignorance. But let all who do so step away from the Bible and away from the cleansing blood of the Savior. For neither cover such sin! Instead, let us answer the call of Scripture to strive toward unity in every area God sets forth. 

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Tyler King studying the Bible with a truth seeker. 
Categories
love prejudice Uncategorized

Consulting The New Testament For How To Treat The Jews Today

 

Neal Pollard

Six months after the deadly shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a similar attempt was made on the Chabad Synagogue in San Diego this weekend (4/27/19). Although Jewish people are not the only ones targeted in attacks toward religious and non-religious targets, hatred and violent acts against Jews are some of the most severe and ancient known to the world. Antisemitism has often been so strong and passionate, it is incredible. Stereotypes against them are sweeping and staunch. Among those professing to be Christians, there is a wide range of views and false extremes at both ends. Let us consider some truths and then a few applications.

  • Jesus was a Jew (Mat. 1:1-17).
  • All the apostles were Jews (Matt. 10:2ff; Acts 1:21-26; Phil. 3:5-6).
  • Some of the greatest Bible heroes, including Moses, David, Elijah and the prophets, Esther, and more, were Jews.
  • Jews prompted the Romans to cause Jesus’ death (Mark 15). 
  • Salvation came first to the Jews (Rom. 1:16). 
  • The first Christians were Jews (Acts 2-9).
  • The Jews were God’s chosen people to bring the Messiah for the benefit of the whole world (Gal. 3:23-29). 
  • Jesus fulfilled the Old Law (Mat. 5:17), and by His death He ended the religious separation between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:11-21).
  • Jews and Gentiles are all saved by the same “Way” (John 14:6; Rom. 11). 
  • Though some believe the Jews are suffering from the curse they placed on themselves when Jesus was crucified (Mat. 27:25), that is no justification for any mistreatment of the Jews today.
  • True, New Testament Christianity seeks to harm no one (Mat. 10:16) and wants to embrace any who come to Christ (Rev. 22:17; Rom. 15:7). So, anyone doing violence in the name of Jesus is misusing and abusing His name!
  • Premillennialists, who in their misunderstanding seek to elevate the city of Jerusalem or modern-day Israel, misunderstand the nature of Christ’s Kingdom and the end of time (Mat. 24:36ff; 2 Pet. 3:10; etc.).
  • No race is inherently superior or inferior (Acts 17:26; Gal. 3:28-29). God is not one to show partiality (Acts 10:34), so neither should we.
  • God wants every Jew to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).

These are just some of the Bible facts to keep in mind when considering our own feelings or testing the feelings of others against Abraham’s descendants. In a world of hate and fear, Christians are to rise above such (Col. 3:1-2). While most Jews (and Gentiles) will refuse the gospel (cf. Mat. 7:13-14), our heart and efforts should be dedicated to trying to share it with anyone and everyone who is willing. Hateful words and harmful conduct are the characteristics of those against Christ and certainly do not represent Him!

Jewish Star Of David Ornament Religion Judaism

Categories
church church (nature) church function church growth church of Christ prejudice race

REDUCING RIOTOUS RACE RHETORIC

Neal Pollard

At various times when I was growing up, I called Hawkinsville, Rockmart, Cairo, Sylvester, Franklin, and Hinesville, Georgia, home. While my dad was once fired from a congregation for converting a black woman, race relations in those rural towns—at least among us children—were excellent. While High School was very cliquish (along a great many lines more significant than racial ones), many of us had close, great relationships across racial lines. Certainly, there were instances of prejudice—from every race toward every race—but it was not characteristic. Perhaps it was because we were not constantly obsessed with it. We just got along.

Are you getting sick of hearing politicians, the media, and even social media (including from some members of the church) fanning the flames of dissension on this topic? I am. From my imperfect observations, I see the following:

Less Productive:

  • Placing blame on any one side
  • Having our minds closed to discussion
  • Stereotyping and pigeon-holing
  • Guilt-tripping and manipulating
  • Living in the past rather than dealing with the present
  • Categorizing everyone on the basis of their skin color
  • Blaming or praising based on geographic or political boundaries
  • Cherry-picking historical incidents to validate one’s point of view or assertion
  • Thinking our personal experience is indicative of everyone else’s

More Productive:

  • Eradicating concepts like “predominantly white” or “predominantly black” congregations
  • Showing Christ-like love and acceptance to people who look and sound different from us
  • Showing hospitality and associating with people of every race and walk of life (publicly and privately)
  • Getting to the point where we don’t associate anyone with their race or ethnicity
  • Teaching our children to choose friends and spouses based on the content of their character rather than color of skin
  • Extending the “Golden Rule” to race relations like we should every other issue
  • Selecting preachers, deacons, elders, and other church leaders with no regard to anything so superficial as skin color

The Bible says that God made every race (ethnos—nation, culture) from one man (Acts 17:26). The Bible says the whole earth was populated from Noah’s three sons (Gen. 9:19). The Bible speaks of the “human race” (Jas. 3:7), and doesn’t emphasize a red, yellow, black, or white race. The Bible says that heaven will be populated by people of “every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev. 7:9). Let us make sure, especially as Christians, that we are not fanning the flames of division, animosity, controversy, and hatred by treating this important subject in a way that takes people’s eyes off of Jesus or the church’s true mission! Surely this will reach more people of every nation, tribe, people, and tongue.

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Categories
prejudice racism Uncategorized

Who Is Behind This “Race War”?

Neal Pollard

I’m a child of the ‘80s, which, in south Georgia, seemed to be “post-racist.” Maybe it was the naivety of youth, but one of my closest friends, Greg Gwyn, was black. We were “Bird” and “Magic” (on the basketball court, at least in our minds). We were “Crockett” and “Tubbs.” We both rejected, out of hand, the notion of being “Wonder” and “McCartney” (too cheesy). While our High School had cliques, a timeless problem, they were determined more by interest than race. Sure, there was prejudice, as that is also timeless. But it was not the mainstream attitude.

I have preached full-time for three congregations, in Alabama, Virginia, and Colorado. All three are integrated, having not only “white-collar” (forgive the adage) professionals but also inner city representation among our African-American members. But, all three have wealthy and poor caucasians, too. Individuals in all three congregations probably struggled with making all kinds of arbitrary distinctions, including on the basis of race, but such attitudes have not been fostered. If uncovered, they are addressed with the power and authority of Scriptures like “God is not one to show partiality…” (Acts 10:34), “He made from one man every nation of mankind…” (Acts 17:26), “There is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), “Do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (James 2:1; and, if you do, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives,” vs. 4), etc. Our elders, deacons, Bible class teachers, and general leaders in these congregations, men like Kevin Turner, Ron Herman, Bill Burton, Jimmy Reynolds, Ron Thompkins, Joe Cook, King Taylor, and Ronnie Royster, would not be thought of in terms of their race if not for the point of this article.

So, as we see fiery debate, protests, wagon-encircling, hatred, and acerbic rhetoric, scratching our heads as to how all-consuming it has become, do we stop to ask who would be behind such division and strife? No, I don’t mean Republicans or Democrats, protest groups or activists, or hobby horse riders among brethren.  I think it is more sinister and serious. Who is ever behind separating not just mankind, but the Lord’s bride? Who benefits from people building walls to keep out others on any arbitrary basis? Who wins in the face of such crushing losses? Maybe we need to be asking that question and focusing on that issue more!

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Categories
division prejudice strife Uncategorized

TO THOSE WHO DIVIDE BRETHREN

Neal Pollard

—“A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends” (Prov. 16:28).
—“A worthless person, a wicked man is one who…spreads strife” (Prov. 6:12,14).
—“There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: …one who spreads strife among brothers” (Prov. 6:16,19).
—“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions” (Prov. 10:12).
—“Though his hatred covers itself with guile, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly” (Prov. 26:26).
—“Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Prov. 20:3).
—“Through insolence comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel” (Prov. 13:10).
—“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out” (Prov. 17:14).
—“He who loves transgression loves strife…” (Prov. 17:19a).
—“Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife” (Prov. 26:21).
—“An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the Lord will prosper” (Prov. 28:25).

Suffice it to say, the Lord has not been silent on the matter. Our age is marked by the manufacturing and fanning the flames of controversy, endless argument, and divisive issues. Men seem to take pride in starting strife and stirring the pot. When we share the gospel, in gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24) and love (Eph. 4:15), it can still be met with devastating disagreement and vehement vituperation. But, thanks to mediums like social media, some among us have seized the platform to spread division where they could as easily work to promote love and unity among brethren.  I cannot presume heart or motives, but the fruit has been to start brotherhood brawls and to stratify schisms. It is worrisome that while we manufacture outrage on politics, race, law enforcement, “guilt by association,” nitpicking the church, or constantly bringing up the latest “what’s wrong with the church” scenario, 151,600 people die around the world every day (via http://www.ecology.com/birth-death-rates/)! Most of that number will have traveled the broad way that leads to destruction. Surely we can redirect our passion and conviction away from divisive diversions and do our part to stem the tide of such an eternal tragedy!

Meanwhile, we can resolve to see people, not skin color, God’s sovereignty, not party affiliation or uniform, the local church’s autonomy, not an opportunity to be a busybody, and with every other, similar scenario, not major in the minors. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier provisions of the law, justice, mercy and faithfulness while scrupulously focusing on matters comparatively minor (Mat. 23:23).  We have a brief time to use our talents and influence on this earth. Will our cause be social justice, brotherhood policing, or political activism, or will it be building up the kingdom through evangelism, edification, and benevolence? May God grant us all the wisdom to “not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life…” (John 6:27). Be a builder, not a basher!

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Categories
prejudice sin

“Every Way Of A Man Is Right In His Own Eyes”

Neal Pollard

I am sad whenever anyone in a position of power and authority abuses that, worse whenever that abuse turns deadly.  I am sad whenever anyone, of any color, demonstrates prejudice toward any group, race, ethnicity, or similar common denominator.  I am sad whenever anyone tries to commit a crime and get away with it.  I am sad whenever anyone resorts to hatred, profanity, and divisive speech, even if venting anger, hurt, and fear.  I am sad whenever anyone exerts themselves in contentious and divisive rather than understanding and unifying ways.  In essence, I am sad whenever someone does evil and commits sin, but seeks to justify and defend himself or herself in so doing.

Long ago, the Holy Spirit moved Solomon to say, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (Prov. 21:2).  In nearly identical fashion, he writes, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” (Prov. 16:2).  Sin constantly occurs every moment of every day throughout every community of the world.  At times, individuals will freely confess and without making excuse.  However, the more common course seems to be what Solomon says.  Parents raising children, asking who left something on the floor or who made a mess, hear the all-too-familiar, “Not me!” If one is caught in the act of wrongdoing, he or she may still say, “It’s not my fault,” “I didn’t mean to,” “It’s not what it looks like,” or “you don’t understand.”  Perhaps that’s desperate self-preservation.  Perhaps it’s an attempt to deflect responsibility and consequence.  But, Solomon cuts through the flimsy excuses, realizing God sees with a perfect, unbiased manner and cannot be fooled. We can try to lie to others to try and mitigate or deny our guilt, but He sees all and knows all.

Horrific images out of North Charleston have sickened and scared us!  If all is as it very much seems to be, color-blind, occupation-blind justice needs to be done (cf. Rom. 13:1ff).  May it serve as an even greater object lesson that transcends race, law enforcement, and the like.  When people become their own standard of right and wrong (cf. Jud. 17:6; 21:25), they can tend to justify anything (i.e., abortion, pornography, fornication, etc.) that God deplores.  Let us remember the second part of Proverbs 16:2 and 21:2.  “The Lord weighs the hearts and motives.”  He never gets it wrong!