Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Who is your Friend?

A highly respected Messianic Jewish leader recently announced that anti-Semitism is just Satanic, meaning that the Jewish people played absolutely no role in anti-Semitism.

I challenged him claiming that the Jews did play a part. Moses and all the Hebrew Prophets had warned the Jews that if they continued to turn their back on God, God would turn His back on them, and they would be hated by the nations.

Understandably, my words were offensive, but who is a friend of the Jews? The one who absolves them of all guilt or the one who calls them to confess their sins and find healing? Many regard their friend as the one who speaks comforting words. However, our Lord sees things differently:

  • The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading. (Lamentations 2:14)
The false prophets always spoke comforting and popular words. Had Israel’s shepherds confronted Israel with their sins, they might have repented and averted death and captivity.

I am certainly not suggesting that my Messianic friend is a false prophet, but this faithful leader is making the same mistake as the false prophets. Instead, the good shepherd must expose sin and not gloss over it, according to God’s instructions to Ezekiel:

  • "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.” (Ezekiel 33:7-8)
A friend will confront his people with their sins. Instead, the politician will tell them what they want to hear to get what he wants. In contrast, the faithful servant will seek the best for his friend and will not draw back from speaking painful but necessary words.

For many, Jason Riley’s words will be painful. He will even be called an “Uncle Tom” and a traitor, but in Please Stop Helping Us, Riley writes words we all need to hear:

  • The intentions behind welfare programs, for example, may be noble. But in practice they have slowed the self- development that proved necessary for other groups to advance. Minimum-wage laws might lift earnings for people who are already employed, but they also have a long history of pricing blacks out of the labor force. Affirmative action in higher education was intended to address past discrimination, but the result is fewer black college graduates— particularly in the fields of math and science— than we’d have in the absence of racial preferences. And so it goes, with everything from soft-on-crime laws that make black neighborhoods more dangerous to policies that limit school choice out of a mistaken belief that charter schools and voucher programs harm the traditional public schools that most low- income students attend. 
Conservatives have oft spoken against the negative effects of the welfare system. For this, they have been labeled “racist.” The church has been widely criticized for betraying their mandate to care for the poor. However, if the entitlement programs have done more to hurt the poor than to help, there may be sound reasons for the church’s opposition.

Opposition to the welfare system is not merely anecdotal. It is both empirical and logical, according to Riley:

  • Time and again the empirical data show that current methods and approaches have come up short. Upward mobility depends on work and family. Social programs that undermine the work ethic and displace fathers keep poor people poor, and perverse incentives put in place by people trying to help are manifested in black attitudes, habits, and skills. Why study hard in school if you will be held to lower academic standards? Why change antisocial behavior when people are willing to reward it, make excuses for it, or even change the law to accommodate it?
Conservative and Liberal alike can agree that the Black community continues to suffer. However, they differ greatly in their analysis. While Liberals blame the system for the fact that there is a disproportionate percentage of Blacks behind bars, Riley writes:

  • Although black civil rights leaders like to point to a supposedly racist criminal justice system to explain why our prisons house so many black men, it’s been obvious for decades that the real culprit is black behavior— behavior too often celebrated in black culture.
If black behavior is the cause, then black behavior must be addressed and not the alleged racist system. Meanwhile, the disparity is growing worse in many areas. Riley writes:

  • In September 2011 white unemployment was 8 percent, versus a unemployment rate of 16 percent. For black men it was 18 percent, and for black teens the jobless rate topped 44 percent. Nor was employment the only area where blacks as a group had regressed economically under Obama. According to the Census Bureau, black homeownership rates in 2011 had fallen to a point where the black- white gap was the widest since 1960, wiping out more than four decades of black gains.
  • When Fox News’s Sean Hannity asked black talk- show host Tavis Smiley in October of 2013 if black Americans were “better off five years into the Obama presidency,” Smiley responded: “Let me answer your question very forthrightly: No, they are not. The data is going to indicate, sadly, that when the Obama administration is over, black people will have lost ground in every single leading economic indicator category. On that regard, the president ought to be held responsible.” 
Many ascribe the problems to underlying racism and its determination to exclude blacks from society. Sometimes it is called “systemic racism,” a sinister and unseen master-plot to keep blacks in their place. Why do the Leftists invoke this imaginary conspiracy? Since it is an incontrovertible fact that there is no longer legal racism! All of the racist laws of the USA have been over-turned. Therefore, the blame-spinners must re-envision racism in another way. Even black-on-black crime is a product of this conspiracy. However, Riley resists the blame-game:

  • Race consciousness helps cohere the political left, and black liberalism’s main agenda is keeping race front and center in our national conversations. That’s why, for example, much more common black-on-black crimes take a back seat to much less common white-on-black crimes. The last thing that organizations like the NAACP want is for America to get “beyond” race. In their view, racial discrimination in one form or another remains a significant barrier to black progress, and government action is the best solution. 
Is Riley a friend to his black people? Not according to most Leftists who instead regard him as an “Uncle Tom!” However, Riley wants to protect his people from certain destructive notions – namely, the belief that there is a plot against them. It is this kind of belief that will inevitably keep them down.

Such a belief might be comforting – the white man can be blamed instead of engaging in painful self-examination – but it will prove costly. What white employer will seek to hire a black youth after watching the Ferguson riots!

Truly, the human race will never reach a place where we will all regard our fellow humans as equals. There will always be racism - both black and white. However, we have made massive strides. Meanwhile, the attempt to spread the idea that blacks are still the victims of a massive, covert, and systemic plot to exclude them from society can only engender bitterness, resignation, and violence – the very things that we are seeing today in growing numbers.

How then should we be a friend? John and Charles Wesley prayed to the Lord about their disintegrating society, where the preaching of the Gospel was often accompanied by violent reactions. Nevertheless, by the grace of their Savior, they were able to organize new believers and seekers into home-fellowships where they studied the Bible, prayed, confessed their sins, and committed themselves to follow Jesus.

What was the impact? Charles White, professor of Christian Thought and History at Spring Arbor University, writes:

  • The Methodists made such an impact on their nation that in 1962 historian Elie Halevy theorized that the Wesleyan revival created England’s middle class and saved England from the kind of bloody revolution that crippled France. Other historians, building on his work, go further to suggest that God used Methodism to show all the oppressed peoples of the world that feeding their souls on the heavenly bread of the lordship of Christ is the path to providing the daily bread their bodies also need. (Mission Frontiers, Sept-Oct 2011, 6)
  • Coming to Christ through the Methodist movement changed the lives of a million people in Britain and North American in the eighteenth century….most of these people and their children moved from the desperation of hand-to mouth poverty to the security of middle-class life as they made Christ their Lord and experienced the impact of His power on their economic lives. As these people moved up the social ladder, they began to influence the political life of their nation. They helped to transform Britain from as eighteenth-century kleptocracy – where the powerful fueled their lives of indulgence by exploiting the poor into a nineteenth century democracy – which abolished slavery and used its empire to enrich the lives of every subject of the crown. (9)
This is what it means to be a friend!

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