Avoiding The Samaritans

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. 

The Haste Of The Hermandads

The Haste Of The Hermandads

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

In the 1100s, in an effort to protect travelers going from northern Spain over the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Dogs of God, Reston, 50), a military force known as the hermandads (“the brotherhood”) was organized.  Soon, these vigilantes spread across Spain and offered themselves as protectors of roads and merchants.  Eventually appointed as a national police force who could collect taxes and prevent insurrection in every municipality, they would go on to exterminate untold numbers of Muslims, Jews, and other “enemies of the state” during the Middle Ages.  Reston mentions an unsettling “right” granted to the hermandads in the 15th Century, during the famous reign of Isabella and Ferdinand.  He writes, “In a curious turnabout, executions took place first, and trials were held afterwards” (51).

Given our country’s constitutional concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” this practice seems both backward and barbaric.  How useful is a trial to present facts about a case after the defendant has been executed?  What if the deceased was found innocent? What if there was no proof of guilt?  Of course, the “facts” of every case incredibly supported the punitive action that preceded it.

While we may find such a practice appalling, how often do we do the same with our tongues?  Through rash anger, reckless gossip, and rabid prejudice, we can serve as judge, jury, and executioner of the reputation and actions of another.  How often do we jump to conclusions and assassinate another’s character, but later revelations prove our actions both premature and unjustifiable?  Unfortunately, the damage having been done, nothing done by way of reparation can fully undo the effects upon the victim.

What we need to see is the spiritual danger we face who “execute” before “trial.”  Solomon wrote, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13).  A few verses later, he says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (21a).  That New Testament “wisdom writer,” James, adds, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;  from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (3:8-10).

Be very careful!  Even when we think we have the facts about another, let us post a guard outside the door of our lips (cf. Ps. 141:3).  Better to deliberate and reserve judgment than to execute before the trial has been held!

The Religious Freedom Rally For Jack Phillips

The Religious Freedom Rally For Jack Phillips

Neal Pollard

It was my privilege to be in attendance at the “Religious Freedom Rally for Jack Phillips,” held on the campus of Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. If you do not know, Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop, a business he opened and has operated since 1993. Because he refused to decorate a cake for a same sex couple, Phillips was sued. His case has gone through the various court systems and will be heard before the United States Supreme Court on December 5, 2017.

While the Event Center where it was held was not packed and overflowing, there were hundreds present. I met and walked in with a young man and woman from Sweden, who came to the United States primarily to cover this event for a Christian Magazine in their country. The rally’s speakers included the head of Catholic Charities, the managing director of Jewish values, a state senator, a congressman, part of Phillips’ legal team, university officials, Barronelle Stutzman (the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, who was sued by Robert Ingersoll because she refused, out of conscience, to make a floral arrangement for the same-sex wedding of Ingersoll and Curt Freed), and others.  There were many poignant moments and memorable quotes. A team member from the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Phillips, said, “America did not give us freedom of religion. Freedom of religion gave us America.” Mrs. Stutzman still does not know if her case will be heard by the SCOTUS, and she stands to lose everything financially. Yet, she was gentle, meek, and soft-spoken, though obviously full of conviction. The tone was cordial and respectful, from every speaker to everyone in attendance. The rabbi, Yaakov Menken, said, after talking about ancient, longstanding forms of “political correctness,” that “what is new and profoundly disturbing is the use of civil rights to trample civil rights.” Last of all, Jack himself spoke. It was understated, almost matter-of-fact. He spoke eloquently and simply about the importance of our being able to act in accordance with consciences shaped by Scripture. Everyone spoke of the importance of believing and behaving in accordance with convictions that are dear because they are true.

Today was a stark reminder of the reality of forces who are actively assaulting faith in God and His Word. These are willing to do whatever they can to prevent us from doing what God has commanded us to do—share the pure, unaltered will of the One who gave us life and saved us from our sins. They are not bound by biblical ethics, so they will deceive, distort, manipulate, bully, attack, suppress, and fight divine truth. We are bound by a higher law, but truth, kindness, mercy, and love, as taught by God, will prevail. If not now, if not under our government and institutions, then undeniably at the very end of all things. Don’t lose heart. Whatever else you may lose at the hands of those described by Jesus in Matthew 5:44ff, some things cannot be taken away from us! Hold onto to those things.

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Religious Freedom Rally For Jack Phillips

Is It A “Sign”?

Is It A “Sign”?

Neal Pollard

I read about the discovery of World War I shells found in the Sea of Galilee, likely dumped by fleeing Turkish ships lightening their load to escape the pursuit of the British. There is a bigger story, though, than a 100-year-old wartime artifact being found in an unlikely place. The shell was uncovered through an unprecedented drought that has left exposed an island in the middle of that sea. Some religious Jews think it presages their long-awaited Messiah, their conviction based on their view of Psalm 66:6, Zechariah 14:8, and Isaiah 15:9. Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces and freelance writer, cites various rabbis who say that the present weather anomaly and its consequences are prophesied signs. Yosef Berger, the rabbi of David’s tomb in Jerusalem, says, “Just like in prayer, which is a dialogue with God, our thoughts are taken into account in Heaven, and can bring the desired prophecy into existence… By people believing that the Galilee drying up is part of the prophecy, it will help the Messiah come” (Breaking Israel News).

I appreciate any people who believe in the truth of the Messiah, and I see any such looking and longing of a transparent sincerity. However, these well-meaning Jews are 2000 years too late. The kind of Messiah they seek is not clearly stated, but their forefathers rejected the kind of Messiah Jesus Christ was and is. The Old Testament prophesies of His birth, ancestry, forerunner, earthly ministry, opposition, crucifixion, resurrection, and church were fulfilled in the time of Jesus. The New Testament often looks back at prophesies and show how Jesus fulfilled them.

The Jews of Jesus day stopped their ears and shut their eyes to the signs and miracles He did, repeatedly proving to the open-minded observer that what such revered men as Moses, David, Isaiah, Micah, Zechariah, Malachi, and others wrote concerning the Messiah was fulfilled by the nature, birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Luke 24:44-47; John 20:30-31). Their lack of faith cost them at Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It will cost them eternally, if they do not believe in the Christ who has already come.

The drought-stricken waters of Galilee are a sign of a lack of sufficient rain, but nothing more. Those still awaiting the One who already came should instead learn of Him and follow Him. Because His second coming will be without signs (cf. Mat. 24:36ff). May we all be ready for that day!

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The Holocaust: What Can Be In Men’s Hearts

The Holocaust: What Can Be In Men’s Hearts

Neal Pollard

Though mankind can construct a fantasy to explain our origin and propagate it in places like The Natural History Museum, we have a harder time skirting around our moral outrage at the atrocities committed by the Nazis from 1933 to 1945.  I made my third ever visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and, more than ever, I was dumbfounded at how anyone could perpetrate torture and treatment like the European Jews received at their hands.  Words like “wrong,” “immoral,” “evil,” “wicked,” and “barbaric” flow freely from the mouths of the visitors who see pictures or watch videos of the organized pogroms and the aftermath of the death cities they called concentration camps. Witnessing such depravity makes it easier to understand how men could take an innocent man like Jesus and be hardened enough to have Him crucified.  It also helps us appreciate how necessary that sacrifice was.

Hitler, if he worshipped anything, worshipped the occult.  He seemed not to truly acknowledge the existence of God, using His name only as a shield to defend his dictatorial policies.  His regime is an extreme example of what men, apart from God, are capable of doing.  With no sovereign standard to submit to and no transcendent truth to believe in, men become their own gods and write their own laws.  They so often do so without regard for the welfare and lives of other people.  They do as they please and what pleases them so often destroys them but also others.

Jesus warned of such a mindset in Luke 16, speaking to the Pharisees, saying, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (15).  He warned on another occasion that “what comes out of a man defiles a man” (Mark 7:20), including “evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, theft, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, [and] foolishness” (21-22).  When men try to negate the nature of God and escape the existence of God, it leads to the perishing of people and the harm of humanity.  The answer is simple, if demanding: “‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:12-13).  Either way, it’s a matter of the heart! May our hearts get right and stay right.

BRENDAN EICH: A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE?

BRENDAN EICH: A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE?

Neal Pollard

Sometimes the ones who cry for tolerance and acceptance can be most lacking in the qualities themselves.  Surprisingly little has been said in outcry against the forced resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich on April 3, 2014. Eich not only co-founded Mozilla, he also invented the programming language Javascript (www.huffingtonpost.com). He had proven his professional aptitude to hold this position.

Before being forced out as CEO, Eich had stated in an interview with technology news service Cnet, “I don’t think it’s good for my integrity or Mozilla’s integrity to be pressured into changing a position. If Mozilla became more exclusive and required more litmus tests, I think that would be a mistake that would lead to a much smaller Mozilla, a much more fragmented Mozilla” (Foxnews.com). He also told them, “If Mozilla cannot continue to operate according to its principles of inclusiveness, where you can work on the mission no matter what your background or other beliefs, I think we’ll probably fail” (ibid.).  He was referring to his widely known opposition to same sex marriage and more specifically a $1000 donation to the campaign to support Proposition 8 in California back in 2008.  This proposition, which over 7 million fellow-Californians voted for and which passed, was a state constitutional amendment to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry.  It was overturned by the Supreme Court last year.

It raises the question of what homosexual activists really want.  Is it merely acceptance and validation or forced approval?  If one can lose his job for stating a conviction against that lifestyle, does this suggest a move against the rights of anyone who wishes to articulate belief in the biblical view that homosexuality is a sin?  Could this foreshadow a time when those in churches preaching against the practice of homosexuality could lose their property, freedom, or worse?

On November 9-10, 1938, German stormtroopers and non-Jewish civilians, under pretense of an assassination in Paris of a German diplomat by a Jew, led an organized effort against the Jews in an event that came to be known as Kritallnacht or “The Night Of Broken Glass.” The official United States Holocaust Memorial Museum writes,

The rioters destroyed hundreds of synagogues, many of them burned in full view of firefighters and the German public and looted more than 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses and other commercial establishments. Jewish cemeteries became a particular object of desecration in many regions. Almost 100 Jewish residents in Germany lost their lives in the violence. In the weeks that followed, the German government promulgated dozens of laws and decrees designed to deprive Jews of their property and of their means of livelihood even as the intensification of government persecution sought to force Jews from public life and force their emigration from the country (http://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1933-1938/kristallnacht).

It has been said that in our supposed age of tolerance people have the right to say and do just about anything.  Just about any fringe group can hold the most outlandish views and do so publicly.  It is unacceptable to discriminate against one for almost any reason.  However, the right to stand upon Christian principles, originating in Scripture, is eroding. To discriminate against Christian beliefs is growing in acceptance.  That’s not meant as alarmism or as an expression of a martyr complex.  But, reading the New Testament, we know that Christians faced persecution simply for believing and sharing God’s Word.  May God ever give us the courage and willingness to stand upon the rock solid foundation of Scripture.  No matter what.