February 15th, 2008

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Commemorating February 7th

Friday, February 15th, 2008

This past Thursday several persons gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Galilee Baptist Church in Panola, Alabama. The common bond was remembering about the tragedy of two years ago when four rural churches here in West Alabama were set on fire. Two burned to the ground and a third was badly damaged. We talked about what we had learned from God during the past two years.

Pastor Hawkins of Dancy Baptist Church was there and so was Pastor Foy of Spring Valley. Pastor Little of Galilee led the service. Morning Star which will host a dedication of its new building on February 24th, was not represented.

We spoke about our anger, our fear, our hurt, and our bewilderment on the 7th of February, 2006. We also spoke of the affirmation of the teaching of Jesus about forgiving enemies, even in that very difficult time.

The churches have repaired or new and larger facilities in three cases. New pastors serve two churches. New friendships have been forged. Help has come from all around. Many Christian friends have come and helped with the rebuilding. The arsonists are now in prison. The churches pray for them and rejoice about spiritual victories in the lives of the boys. All look forward to a time when the arsonists can come to the churches, worship, be publicly forgiven and express their sorrow.

The churches have been affirmed. Old racial barriers have been bridged. Vision and hopes for the future fuel the congregations. A repeated insight that God has brought good from evil is roundly affirmed. Much work lays before each of the congregations. But they are confident that the God who brought them through this tragedy will be with them in the years to come, whatever comes.

Issue of critical spirit. Mt. 7:1-5

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Having been a teacher much of my adult life, I have found that holding a critical spirit has been a great problem for me, personally. I seldom take things at “face value”. I look for deception and evil motives. I find some vindication of this in Mt. 7:15. But, I have missed out on a lot of joy by having such a critical spirit. I seem quite at home in this season of presidential primaries.

Perhaps there is a balance to be struck here. Perhaps, the teaching of Jesus for us to be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” has an application here. Enjoy all that you can. But do not let the crooks have a free reign.

I realize that a critical spirit can, and often is, a cover for putting someone else down in order to put ourselves up as dominant in a relationship. Often, the message is that we are wiser, better, and could do things in a fine fashion. This is true in the classroom. It can be true in the family, and even in the church.

It is not difficult to hear (look at me judging again) someone misusing this passage as a proof text for foolishly not standing against any wrong. Often I hear persons glibly declare that we are not to judge others. It very quickly results in an affirmation of the “relativism” that dominates our popular culture. In his treatment of the law back in the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus clearly declares that God has some absolute demands that inform his laws for our lives.

Certainally, Jesus is reflecting here another basic principle of the Christian life. We are to seek what is best for others, even our enemies. We are not to be critical of others to tear them down, or to gain advantage. Rather, we are to be honest assessors of ourselves and of others as a means of moving and of encourage development in righteousness.

Judging should have a redemptive purpose. When it fails to have, it is evil.