Friday, December 5, 2014

Pope Francis and Faithfulness: When have we Gone too Far

We have a lot of freedom in Christ. We can work as we want, eat and dress as we want. However, truth belongs to God. Therefore, we are not free to manipulate with it for political reasons, even good ones.

Understandably, Pope Francis is deeply disturbed by the treatment of Christians throughout the Islamic world. He therefore laudably proclaimed:

  • "It is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties."
However, he followed this with a pandering, pragmatic statement:

  • "They will then find it easier [once they enjoy the same rights] to see each other as brothers and sisters who are travelling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace."
There is little doubt that if citizens share the same rights on the law, this “will help friendship to flourish.” However, equality is found nowhere in the Islamic world, even in Islamic nations having “secular” constitutions. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since Sharia and Koran provide absolutely no basis for equality. Here is one example from the Koran:

  • [Surah 3:27] Let not the believers take the disbelievers for friends rather than believers. And whoever does this has no connection with Allah unless it is done [deceptively] to guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully.
What are the “misunderstandings” to which the Pope alludes? The Daily Mail reports:

  • Pope Francis said last night that equating Islam with violence was wrong and called on Muslim leaders to issue a global condemnation of terrorism to help dispel the stereotype.
  • He told reporters aboard his plane returning from a visit to Turkey that he understood why Muslims were offended by many in the West who automatically equated their religion with terrorism.
How many jihadic verses does the Pope need before he will connect Islam and violence? There are already many hundreds, even thousands when we also consider the Hadiths! How many more Islamic terroristic groups, all claiming to find their inspiration from the Koran and Hadiths, will it take before he will connect the dots?

I appreciate the Pope’s desire for peace, but will such political maneuvering achieve it? All of our Western leaders have long hastened to call Islam the “religion of peace.” However, Islamic terror has gladly proliferated alongside of these political proclamations. It seems as if the Islamic world interprets such affirmations as weakness and a green-light to escalate the terror at the expense of millions of lives.

However, the Pope’s words raise another question. Do Christians have the freedom to distort the truth for potential political gains? The Pope stated that we “are travelling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord.”

Instead, we clearly have different aims. The Koran envisions a world dominated by Islam, whether through peaceful or violent means:

  • [Surah 8:37] Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion (Islam) reigns supreme.
  • [Surah 4:5] When the Sacred Months are over, kill those who ascribe partners [like Jesus] to God wheresoever ye find them; seize them, encompass them, and ambush them; then if they repent and observe prayer and pay the alms, let them go their way’.”
  • “…kill the disbelievers wherever we find them” (Surah 2:191) and “murder them and treat them harshly” (9:123), and “Strike off the heads of the disbelievers” (8:12, cp. 8:60).
These are standing orders, as the many terrorist organizations and their supporters confidently understand. Are Christians free to misrepresent these central tenants of Islam in hope of political gain – cooperation, for example? An adjacent question is this – “Are we free to disown our faith if our lives depend on it?”

I don’t think that we have such freedom. Jesus explained to a Samaritan woman that truth is a inviolable element in a marriage to God. The woman was a multiculturalist and thought that religion was merely a geographical issue – Samaritans worshipped on Mt. Gerazim who the Jews worshipped on Mt. Zion. Jesus wouldn’t allow her religious pluralism to stand:

  • Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from [the revelation given to] the Jews. (John 4:21-22)
We cannot relate to God in any manner we so choose. We are mandated to relate to Him in truth with our entire being:

  • Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24)
Truth belongs to God. We are not free to distort it according to our own purposes. “We must worship in spirit and truth” – no wiggle-room there.

God illustrates this point in His denunciation of Job’s three friends:

  • "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7-8)
The three friends had been very sacrificial. They had spent days with the ailing Job in a vain hope of correcting him of his putative errant ways. Yes, they had misrepresented God in their denunciations of Job. However, it seems that they had been speaking in this manner for Job’s own good. Nevertheless, this didn’t make up for the fact that they had not “spoken of me what is right.”

We are not free to worship God in any manner we choose. Our worship must also reflect truth. We cannot bow down with knees or even words before the god of expediency. Mordechai understood this:

  • And all the king's servants who were at the king's gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage. Then the king's servants who were at the king's gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king's command?” And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai's words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. (Esther 3:2-4)
Mordechai was no one’s fool. He understood the price he would have to pay for his faithfulness to his God. However, he also understood that faithfulness to God’s truth was more important than political gain.

The three faithful Israelite young men also understood this. All Babylon had been commanded to bow down before the golden image of the King. However, they would not. Even after King Nebuchadnezzar gave them a second chance to bow down and worship, they still would not, even at the threat of a most horrible and fiery death (Daniel 3).

Faithfulness trumps pragmatic gain. Paul had charged that Peter’s behavior had denied the truth of the Gospel:

  • But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned [before God]. For before certain [Jewish believing] men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel. (Galatians 2:11-14) 
We are not our own. We belong to God and must never betray the truth of the Gospel, whether in word or in deed, as Peter had done. How did Peter betray the Gospel? He acted in a way which said, “We are not all equal in Christ.”

We also belong to our brethren. When we betray the Gospel, we also lead others to do so! After all, if Peter could bend the truth of the Gospel, so can we, right?

The Pope has acted in a way that says, “We can manipulate the truth for political gain.” If he can, why can’t we! If playing fast-and-easy with the truth “works,” what can be wrong with it? Just ask Paul!

I wish instead that the Pope would stand for truth and go to the UN and denounce the horrors committed by Islam against non-Muslims and continue to denounce them with all of his strength and authority.

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