I just had this discussion in our breakfast Bible study so I will recapitulate it while it’s fresh on my mind. Mark 16:16-18 says that certain signs will accompany believers – namely, they will cast out demons, be protected from snakebite and poison and heal the sick. I believe all of Scripture. So – why do we not handle snakes in our congregation? Why do we not conduct specific healing services? Just as a side note: I have long observed that many more congregations elect to handle snakes than to gulp down cyanide. But hey – name your poison, I guess.
I recently had a very civil online conversation with a fellow who describes himself as a quasi-atheist. I could say that many of my online conversations with atheists have been less than civil but would quickly have to add that many of my online conversations with believers have also been non-civil. It’s apparently a human thing. Anyway – among other things, this fellow sees himself as ‘not a sinner’ because he feels that ‘sin’ requires an offense against a divine law and he cannot see why he should trust that the Bible (or any other holy book) contains an actual law communicated from God. From his point of view I think breaking human laws would qualify one to be a ‘criminal’ rather than a ‘sinner’. I understand this point – Jesus was convicted as a criminal but the Bible says and I believe – was not a sinner. I spoke to him of how the Bible describes the law of God written in our very being and so the man who knows right and wrong and does wrong is convicted by his own conscience as a sinner quite apart from his status as a criminal/non-criminal. I allowed that some call this ‘natural law’ rather than ‘divine law’ but it seems to me that the universal nature of basic moral precepts can’t be fit into a godless universe. He replied that, to the contrary, there are far too many disagreements and divisions to believe in a universal divine law as part of our creation. He cited disagreements among believers on matters like Sabbath observance and dietary matters (eat pork or not eat pork as a religious issue.)
While I understand what he is saying I think he’s missing a few key points.
First, let me apologize for a few typos I failed to catch in my Daniel 11 post. The number oriented typos were probably easy enough to figure out – like saying to read 11:29-25. Oops, make that 11:29-35. I also misspelled Seleucus as ‘Seleucuc’ at least once. The more important typo was at the end of the section on 11:7-9. I wrote ‘Seleucus Callinicus contented himself…’ Obviously it should have read ‘Ptolemy III contented himself…’ Sorry about that.
All that said, Happy Labor Day! The holiday was created to honor the achievements and spirit of the American worker – and to give those workers a day off – with a parade! We often skip the parade these days. But the spirit of the American worker is still worth celebrating. We sometimes mistakenly think that paradise (Eden) was a long running opportunity to loaf. If we carefully read the early chapters of Genesis we understand that man was intended to tend and shape God’s creation. I believe the garden of Eden was a model for us to follow in transforming the wider ‘wild’ earth. The curse (our own fault) introduced more difficulties into our task but we always had a task. We used to understand this better. There is a reason the American culture was reckoned to be shaped by the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’. Even God’s insistence on a day of rest was for a DAY of rest which as I understand it had two purposes: 1. To institute a time for more careful meditation on God and His will. 2. To better prepare us for the next six days of work – for which a break not only made us stronger but which labors should be shaped by our meditations on God and His will. When we understand our labors as part of His will and a necessary and fulfilling part of our nature – things just go better.
I recognize, of course, how in the fallen world there will always be those who exploit – CRUELLY exploit – workers. I do not justify unsafe working conditions, slave or poverty wages, or requirements that turn a vocation into soul stealing spirit crushing drudgery. But such developments come from the sinful earthy side of things – not the heavenly godly side. I also do not justify – or even understand – calls for the twenty-hour work week or requiring ‘living wages’ to be attached to obviously part time efforts. This isn’t good for our spirits either. As to recent political efforts I have seen to pay criminals for – not breaking the law, or, paying people to protest – sorry, I just can’t seem to get there.
If anyone cares to try the old line about how a guy with a ‘cushy preaching gig’ couldn’t possibly understand about the real work world, I invite you to come spend a week working along side me. Then we’ll talk.
In the meantime – I hope you enjoy a nice break for Labor Day. Then, I hope you can come (if you don’t already) to see your capacity for work as a God given gift and your vocation as another way both to find fulfillment and give glory to our gracious creator.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church