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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What Should Christians Be Preaching?

There are a number of preachers who insist that it is their God-given duty to "cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the House of Jacob their sins." (Isaiah 58:1) Many of them go on to assert that they are also obligated to discourse on all things political - that God expects them to bring "His" perspective on these issues to the forefront. Are they correct? Does God expect his ministers to wade into the political fray of this world?

Let's take a closer look at the passage from Isaiah which is often quoted by these ministers to support their preaching. The first thing we notice when we turn to the book of Isaiah is that it was originally addressed to the ancient nation of Israel, and that it was intended as a warning to those people. Nevertheless, if we are looking to apply these scriptures to our own day/time/circumstances, then we should read the entire passage to get the proper context.

We read: "“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon." (Isaiah 58:1-10, NLT)

Now ask yourself: Are the folks who are crying aloud humbling themselves? Are they oppressing their workers? Are they quarreling? Have they freed those who have been wrongly imprisoned and lightened the burden of those who work for them? Have they shared their food with the hungry and provided shelter to the homeless? Have they helped their family members who are in need? Have they removed the heavy yokes of oppression that weigh people down? If not, then they are NOT fulfilling this scripture!

I also seem to recall Jesus Christ (remember, this is supposed to be HIS Church we are talking about) preaching that his followers should not presume to judge each other. He went on to say that it was hypocritical to point out flaws in your brother that are really insignificant when compared to the flaws that are present in your own life. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Finally, when we talk about politics, we should all be mindful of Paul's instruction to Timothy about such things. He wrote: "Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things. Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen." (II Timothy 2:1-10, NLT)

It seems to me that Paul's advice to Timothy should still apply to Christian ministers today. They are good principles, and the message that Paul preached is timeless. What do you think?