NOTE: This is part 2 of a set of questions from our closing week in the “Re:Member” series. (Click here for part 1.) They are all questions rooted in the commands of Romans 12:9-21, and I have asked our staff to walk this balance beam with me, answering the questions as best they can biblically, practically, and personally. We’ve got a great team here at FFC, and I think this Q Zone series (“The Balance Beam”) will show you precisely why I love working with these guys.
1. How do you balance standing up against the assault on our biblical Christian world view by our current federal government with our responsibility to “bless those who persecute you and do not curse them”? There are a couple of issues to address in this question: first, what constitutes an assault on our biblical, Christian worldview? If we are talking about a government that is choosing to not adhere to a biblical worldview, then as American citizens we campaign to elect representatives who will mirror our biblical worldview. If we are talking about a government that is forcing Christians to act in violation of the clear teaching of the Word of God, then we would need to carefully examine Romans 13 and seek the Lord’s wisdom regarding a proper response, which includes peaceful, civil disobedience.
The second part of this question regarding persecution is a bit more difficult to apply to our government. Within the context of Romans 12, Paul is clearly mirroring the teaching of Jesus in which our Lord spoke of Christian, brotherly love as one of the clear distinctives of a disciple. A Christian is to love his brother and seek to win him over through the gospel, not through retaliation or some other human endeavor. As a point of contrast, Jesus even taught us to turn the other cheek if someone stikes us (Luke 6:29-30).
One of the dangers we Americans face is a lack of appreciation for what the word “persecute” means. We interpret persecution to be a government that chooses to prohibit prayer in our schools or seeks to remove the 10 commandments from a public building. Understand, that in most parts of the world, Christians are persecuted through physical violence and even death. As we are learning in our study of Acts, true persecution started with the martyrdom of Stephen and continues through to this day. We need to be careful that we don’t Americanize this word and then try to make biblical comparisons.
In summary, should we resist as American citizens when our government seeks to turn away from biblical values? As citizens, yes. We have the tools of a democracy at our disposal, including freedom of speech and a right to vote. Is our government truly persecuting Christians to the point where Romans 12:14 comes into play? Not in the least way. (Chris Eller)
2. What are ways we can serve fervently as a student in our community and at work? This may seem like a silly answer but you can serve fervently as a student in the same ways that other people who are not students serve. Getting involved in a ministry at church, getting into a small group, being a light in the darkness of your workplace — These are all things that can and should be done regardless of age or status. I think 1 Timothy 4:12 speaks to this when it commands, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Being a student does present unique challenges, but doesn’t mean that your service has to look any different than the rest of the church body. So be on time, work hard, give your best whatever the task, respect your leaders, follow through with details, and treat your team members lovingly — that’s some of the expectations of fervency for all of us.
On the other hand, there is a trap here for some students, and especially Bible College students. Sometimes being young and studying the Bible/theology can lead to some “big-headedness.” Be wary of that! Admittedly, sometimes, as a student or even a recent graduate from a Bible College, you might know more information about the Bible than most people in the church, but that doesn’t mean you become any better than any one else in the church.
Just remember – Being a student makes you no less and no better than anyone else serving. You can jump right in and serve fervently alongside everyone else wherever God has placed you. (Brett Stiles)
3. How do you know when to “turn the other cheek” physically, and when to defend yourself, whether here or in a Muslim country? Is defending yourself physically going against this verse? (Romans 12:17-19) The question, “how do you know when to turn the other cheek or when to defend yourself” is a question that finds its roots in Matthew 5:38-42. Here Jesus explains how Christians should not retaliate against others. The Old Testament law allowed for equal retaliation (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth), but Christ rather tells us not to be concerned with revenge or retaliation, but instead turn the other cheek or to go the extra mile.
Christian should expect to face persecution, and even physical harm as they serve or represent Christ, and in those situations believers are given the example of enduring persecution and rejoicing in Christ. However, there is fundamentally a difference between taking revenge and protecting yourself or your family from harm. Defense isn’t revenge or retaliation. (Nathan Boyd)
4. Please expand on leaving your problems in God’s hands vs. being men of action, proactively seeking out solutions to problems and trying to prevent things from happening. The Bible never asks men to avoid problems or act in a manner that is less than diligent. In fact, Proverbs consistently lays out planning as a mark of the wise person. The key is to plan with God’s authority in mind. Solomon says this when he reminds us that “many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). And James echoes this in the New Testament when he commands us to plan with the Lord’s will in full view (James 4:13-15). No where in these specific verses does James condemn planning; rather, he condemns planning without regard for God’s authority and purpose (i.e., his will). So plan, work, act, and solve, all the while knowing that even in your best efforts, God has the full right to change your plans and redirect your efforts as he sees best for his glory and your good. (Todd S.)