JUXTAPOSITION

JUXTAPOSITION

Juxtaposition is the placing of two things side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. A sports car and a dump truck placed side by side are in juxtaposition. A Great Dane and kitten side by side are in juxtaposition. Advertisers use such images because they cause us to stop and take notice. But real-life juxtapositions are even more powerful. A Richmond Times article on former President Jimmy Carter showed the late Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin, former leaders of Egypt and Israel respectively, standing together in a peace accord brokered by Carter. It was and remains an unusual thing to witness. The juxtaposition of opposites has great power to reveal the essence of those opposites. It helps us see things we didn’t see before.

January 22nd always holds an unusual juxtaposition for me. Two things occurred on that day that, when seen side by side, clarify the meaning and purpose of my life. January 22nd is my mother’s birthday. (I’m not sure she’d want you to know the year, so I’ll leave you guessing). January 22nd is also the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in this country. Because of Mom’s birthday, I have a birthday. Because of Roe v. Wade, over 40 million children never did. World Magazine reports an estimated 862,320 American lives were lost to abortion in 2017 alone. I urge you to read their report in this month’s issue.

Think of it. With one stroke of a legal pen America lost many times more than all the people she lost in all her wars put together. Most of those wars were fought against oppression of one kind or another. They were fought to preserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not only for our-selves, but also for other nations. I wonder sometimes, what would the men and women who fought to free us from English tyranny, Nazi oppression and Communist domination think of what we’ve done with our freedom?  What does God think?

The Lord Jesus liked juxtapositions. He said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20)

We need to remember that when we think of abortion. The size of the problem compared to our ability to fix it is downright laughable. But my Mom’s birthday and your Mom’s birthday have given us the opportunity to do some mustard seed living. Here are some practical things you can do. Support your local Crisis Pregnancy Center. We’ll be hearing from a representative of the Selah Center in Clarkesville in our worship service this week. They help young women make it through to a life-giving conclusion to their crisis. Write your Congressmen and Senators and tell them if you support restrictions on abortion. Become a Mentor/Role Model for an “at risk child.” These kids are more at risk for having abortions and other life-threatening choices. Encourage and vote for the streamlining of adoption laws. Vote for pro-life candidates in this year’s elections. Finally, pray, that all children will have the joy of celebrating their own birthdays, and their Mom’s.

A MESSAGE FOR WOUNDED MEN

A MESSAGE FOR WOUNDED MEN

Millions of men go through life with a jagged tear in their souls. They don’t know how it got there, and they don’t know how to fix it. All they know is that they are hurting, they are angry, and they are confused. If you are one of these men or if you know one, read on.

Jepthah[1] was a mighty warrior and a wounded man. His father was Gilead, and his mother was a prostitute. He was a loser times two, the fatherless son of a despised woman, and the sole reject from a band of brothers. Imagine opening the family scrapbook to find that you aren’t there. No one took Jepthah’s picture. No one recorded his wins on the field. No one kept his report cards in a special file. He learned early that his place was on the edge, edge of the camp, edge of the table, the edge of life. A man like that has no roots, no sense of who he is and why he is here.

One day his father died, and Jepthah’s last shred of protection died with him. His brothers cornered him in the camp: “Get out! You have no place here! You have no claim on Dad’s land or money. Get out, or we’ll kill you.”

Men, you don’t have to be illegitimate to feel like a Jepthah. You can grow up in a large family or as an only child and still never know the affirmation of a father or the acceptance of brothers. You can be surrounded by peers in a room full of people and totally alone, always on edge. You might grow up in a home with two parents and never connect with a father because he doesn’t know how to connect with you, or he’s too busy doing his own thing to figure out how important it is.

Men like Jepthah grow up desperate. Desperate for the love they cannot get, desperate for affirmation they’ve never received, and desperate for belonging they’ve never known. It has various effects. But two patterns stand out.

Sometimes, they become passive. Like a two-way radio never used to transmit, these men are stuck in emotional receiver mode. The passive man cannot give of himself from a position of strength. He finds it difficult to take charge and give direction to his life or anyone else’s. He may be extremely intelligent or incredibly talented, but he cannot harness it. He cannot channel it into anything positive.

Often, he becomes aggressive. He’s the hard man, the strong man, the bull-headed man with whom no one can negotiate. People either love him or hate him, but there is no middle ground. He’s always right because he learned as a child that he had to be right to survive. He won’t depend on anybody or take anyone else’s advice. He’s tough, determined, and opinionated and usually gets his way.

He may be married but doesn’t know how to enjoy marriage or make it enjoyable. He may have children that adore him, and he may love them, but he doesn’t know how to receive their love or return it. Such men are often warriors, but combat is all they know how to do.

Jepthah was like that. It made him a successful warrior, but it cost him his daughter in the end.

If you can identify with Jepthah, I have good news. Jesus came to give us the water of life that would heal our wounds and quench our thirst for love. He came to reconcile us to our Father in heaven and give us the ministry of reconciliation with others.[2]

If you want to know his love and healing, begin by praying this prayer: “Lord, let me see myself as you see me. Help me know how much you love me and understand my place in your family. Please heal the wound my father left in my soul. And help me learn new ways of relating to my wife, my children, and my friends.” It may take months. It may take years, as it did in my life, but I promise you that is a prayer God will answer.

[1] Read his story in Judges chapters 10-12.

[2] John 7:37-38; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19;

THEOLOGY OF ARMED DEFENSE The West Freeway Church Shooting

THEOLOGY OF ARMED DEFENSE The West Freeway Church Shooting

Most people live with one of two worldviews: one that matches reality or one that ignores it. We’re watching those two worldviews play out in daily debates about all kinds of things, including abortion, marriage, transgenderism, parenting, and in Virginia, the Second Amendment.  Watching the last press conference held by law enforcement the night of the West Freeway Church of Christ shooting was a refreshing dose of reality in our ongoing debate about gun ownership in America.

The Lieutenant Governor, the FBI Special Agent in Charge, the state Director of Public Safety, the town Police Chief, all concluded the same things:

  1. Violence can happen anywhere, at any time, usually when you least expect it.
  2. Law-enforcement cannot always arrive in time to prevent crime or death.
  3. Be prepared ahead of time.

Jack Wilson, the man who took down the shooter, was more succinct: “The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists, and I had to take out an active shooter in church.”

Mr. Wilson’s comment is completely in keeping with the Biblical worldview of violent evil and how to deal with it. But some of us still wonder if there might have been some other way. Here then, is a brief biblical theology of armed self-defense.

Violent evil will be with us until Christ returns.

From our point of view, violence is random. We never know when it is coming our way. Therefore, we must be prepared to meet it. The State is biblically responsible for protecting us from violence.[1] Texas did that when it passed laws enabling armed church security that took into account the fact that, even with improved response times, law enforcement can’t always get there.

Evil must be resisted, sometimes by force.

Many assume that Jesus’ only response to evil was passive acceptance. That is inaccurate, as well as inadequate. Jesus actively resisted all kinds of evil. He illustrated some of his teachings by referring to a “strong man, fully armed, guarding his own house,” and with a “King, preparing for battle,” without implying that there was anything wrong with the use of force in those moments. When asked by soldiers how to practice righteousness, he did not tell them to lay down their arms and resign their commissions. When preparing his men for his departure, he urged them to provide themselves with swords (Luke 22:36). He taught us not to take personal vengeance for a wrong committed against us. But by no means did he advocate acquiescence to violent, criminal, aggression. Turning the other cheek to a slap means absorbing a deeply personal insult without retaliation. It does not mean submitting to violent crime without a fight.

Every passive defense system can be compromised.

In WWII, France staked its security on the Maginot Line, a huge, expensive series of fortifications along its borders with Germany and Italy and fell to the superior mobility of the Wehrmacht in short order. The standard operating procedure with airline hijackers before 9/11 was negotiation, a passive defense. Now, many pilots fly armed, and negotiation isn’t part of the defense plan. Newtown school had a good system of passive defense that was diligently applied. But it was completely inadequate to the task.

Many people in our country believe that the best way to prevent more mass shootings is to disarm the public, to take guns away from all law-abiding citizens. That view ignores reality, embracing passive defense as the only defense. Criminals and the criminally insane will find weapons. The best defense against violent evil is an equally violent offense. Therefore, the best defense against the next mass shooter is a properly trained person equipped with adequate firepower to meet the threat.

[1] See Romans 13.