Monthly Archives: July 2013

Handling Opposing Beliefs

oppositionOne of the most important lessons one can learn in life is how to handle a person with an opposing view or belief.  Church history is fraught with opposing belief systems and examples of how they were handled. Usually, they ended with one side castigating, shaming and shunning the opposition, or, the murder of the opponent.  Sadly, not much has changed today. When it comes to opposition of beliefs, there seems to be no room for logic or reasoning. Religious dogmas and doctrines aren’t open for logical and rational discussion. Even outside religion, people will not give those they disagree with the “benefit of the doubt” and reason with them respectfully and with grace. They do not know how to “agree to disagree.”  Instead, they attack in anger that eventually leads to name calling and vitriol, and, public slandering.  Why is that? One would think that with all the advancements in technology, the advent of the internet and, access to information, that people today would be better educated and better able to reason with others. Sadly, this is not the case across all religious denominations. No matter the culture, religious beliefs trump sound reasoning and logic and lead to war. What we see today is not only religious wars, but, we also see individuals pitted against each other! They take to the internet and use their words to defame and discredit and shame those who disagree. They have left off sound reasoning coupled with respect and grace and love toward those who disagree with them.  So, is there a way to handle an opposing belief without going to the place of anger and attack? Yes! Let’s look at an example from around 232 A.D. of how any and all opposition SHOULD be handled. I have, thus far, found no other example like this and was simply impressed by this man’s love and grace. When faced with the opportunity to attack this man, he extended nothing but good words about him. THAT is unheard of in today’s culture.

Dionysius was born about 200 A.D. He was one of two of the most brilliant pupils of Origen and became Bishop of Alexandria in due time. He lived during a time when Christians were being persecuted off and on. Not only this, but the bishops and presbyters were also fighting amongst themselves to gain pre-eminence and control within the Christian communities. Dionysius exemplifies true Christ-like conduct toward opposition. This is something that I have not witnessed with today’s Christianity yet. Nothing would thrill my soul more than to see this attitude extended to all. The root of this type of behavior is evidently LOVE toward his fellow man. Let’s look at this amazing example:

An Egyptian bishop, named Nepos, taught that a millennium of sensual indulgence on the earth was to be looked for. His error survived him, and Dionysius undertook to write a refutation of it. In his treatise, however, instead of denouncing its author, he speaks of him with reverence and affection. “Not only do I in many things agree with Nepos; I loved him, both for his faith and industry, his knowledge of the Scriptures, and his careful attention to psalmody by which many are still delighted. I reverence him also, because he is gone to his rest. But the truth is to be loved and honoured above all.”

Besides undertaking to answer in writing the erroneous opinions of Nepos, he held an oral disputation with Coracion, the chief leader in the heresy, and his adherents. In his conduct on this occasion he has left a remarkable example of the manner in which Christian disputants ought to behave towards one another. “When I was at Arsinoe,” he writes, “I called together the presbyters and teachers, with those of the brethren who desired to be present, and proposed we should examine the doctrine together. They entrenched themselves in Nepo’s book as in an impregnable fortress. I sat with them three whole days from morning till evening, endeavouring to refute his arguments. I was greatly pleased to observe the constancy, sincerity, teachableness and intelligence of the brethren, the moderation of the questions and doubts that were advanced, and the mutual concessions which were made. We studiously avoided insisting upon our own preconceived opinions, however correct they might appear to be. We did not attempt to evade objections, but endeavoured as far as possible to keep to the point. When reason required it, we were not ashamed to change our opinions, but received sincerely, and with a good conscience, opening our hearts towards God, whatever was established by the Holy Scriptures. In the end, Coracion, in the hearing of all the brethren, confessed himself convinced by the arguments advanced, and declared he would no longer promulgate the erroneous doctrine.”

What a testimony this is! No arguing and screaming. No imposition of dogmas and beliefs! Just respectful, logically sound reasoning ensued, allowing for Coracion to save face and retain his integrity!  Dionysius made sure that his opponent’s character, honor and integrity remained intact. He did not defame and slander. He did not publicly humiliate and castigate. If only people would love others THIS MUCH to do the same in areas of dispute! We certainly can apply this example to not just religious disputes, but all disputes. What a marvelous example God has left us of one of his children. Thousands of years later, Dionysius’s example still shines through with the light of Christ. My hope is that through his testimony, others will endeavor to emulate his behavior in handling those that disagree with us. Don’t take to being offended by opposition. Use it to show love and respect toward your fellow man. How you act in times of opposition speaks loudly of your TRUE Christian character. Let’s not give place to division and learn to genuinely love others enough to respect them and love them, even when we disagree with them.

Love or Manipulation?

unconditional loveDuring the early centuries, persecution of the Christians began to proliferate. Christians were looked upon as the cause of many of the terrible things that happened during that time – like famine and pestilences. What Christians back then tended to do is the same thing that Christians of today do. They look to their own. Sadly, this is not wrong in itself to the extent that those one is looking after are immediate family. However, as Christians, when tragedy happens, it behooves us to look to the welfare and benefit of others too – even if they do not believe as we do, even if they are not family. This is what “unconditional” love is all about. If ever there is an opportunity for those who do not believe, to see God in you, it is through UNSELFISH and UNCONDITIONAL love.

What many tend to forget is that God does not place “conditions” on his love. God does not add any rules for us to follow in order for him to love us and bless us. God does not require us to even have FAITH for him to love us! Fathom that! God loves us because he created us and we are all his children. Even disobedient, faithless children are loved by him! Why? Because God IS LOVE. He loves us UNCONDITIONALLY.  This said, if God lives in us then, it should be an automatic response for us to love the same way, right? Tragically, this is not the case. What we find today are those that profess Christ and use his name to manipulate and control those around them. For example: God will not reveal HIS will for ME to anyone else but ME. I have had many different Christians that loved me and have “prayed for me” and then, had the audacity to tell me that what God has given me perfect peace about, is not His will for me! God is not going to tell others what HIS will for ME is. Let that sink in. God and I have a relationship that is CONFIDENTIAL between ME and HIM! How awesome is that? God doesn’t GOSSIP! His Holy Spirit was given to ME to guide ME and no one else, but ME.  And yet, throughout my lifetime, I have had not only others, BUT, my very own family members tell me God’s will for ME. What people fail to separate in their minds, is THEIR will from God’s will. Let me explain.  God’s will for ME will be different than his will for someone else. If God gives me peace about a decision or action and someone tells me that they “prayed” and it is not God’s will, a BIG RED FLAG goes up in my mind. That tells me that they are trying to CONTROL me. They have no interest in God’s will for me because God has already made his will known to me and I have peace about it.  They are trying impose THEIR will over God’s will for ME.  Beware of those that try to control and manipulate you using the words ” I prayed about it” or “God told/revealed to me” – they are false prophets looking to their own, wanting to have THEIR will in your life, not God’s. That’s a sign of manipulation and control, not love.

This issue of manipulating and controlling others “in the Name of God” has been going on for centuries. It is nothing new; and, it can be overcome through UNCONDITIONAL love. Unconditional love accepts people where they are and, does not require them to do anything to deserve the love.

The following excerpt shows how one REAL Christian, named Cyprian, handled a tragic situation and taught other believers how to show unconditional love toward the heathen during a time when they would have been persecuted further because of the pestilence that plagued everyone. Because Cyprian came to the realization that love draws people to God better than preaching and separated living, what he was able to accomplish was nothing short of astounding. How many heathen’s hearts were affected by this one man who was willing to stand in the gap and rally other Christians to the side of UNCONDITIONAL love instead of CONDITIONAL love that only “looks to its own?”

The ravages of the pestilence brought the two religions into sharp contrast. The epidemic, though it by no means spared the Christians, raged with greatest violence among the pagans, the result probably of fear, which predisposes so strongly to infection Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, graphically describes the devotion with which the Christians of that great city attended on one another. “Regardless of their own peril, they visited the sick and ministered to them assiduously; and when they died taking them on their upturned hands and on their bosoms, they closed their eyes and their mouths; then laying them out decently they carried them to their burial; and in a little while after, joyfully following those who had departed before them the same services were in turn done to them. With the heathen all was the very reverse. They thrust aside those who began to be sick, kept aloof even from their dearest friends, and casting the sufferers out on the public roads to die, them there unburied.” Such was the condition of the city under this dreadful visitation, that Dionysius exclaims, “When will this air, befouled by noxious exhalations, become pure again? For there are such vapours sent up from the earth, and such blasts from the sea, and airs from the rivers, and reeking mists from the harbours, that for dew we might suppose we have the impure fluids of the corpses which are everywhere rotting under neath.”

The moral contrast was still more striking at Carthage, where the care of the Christians was not confined to their own community. The pestilence spread from house to house, especially amongst the dwellings of the poor, with awful regularity. Whilst the rest of the population were hardened in selfishness, an wretches were even plundering the houses of the dying, and whilst the multitude reviled the Christians as having drawn down the terrible visitation by their impiety, Cyprian called his flock together and exhorted them to extend help to all who needed it heathen as well as Christians. “If,” said he,” we merely do good to our own, we do nothing more than publicans and heathen. Now is the time to overcome our enemies by love.” Under his direction the city was divided into districts the rich gave their money, the poor their labour; the bodies which tainted the air were buried; and the sick, whether Christians or pagans, were nursed at the expense and by the care of the Church of Christ. — Edward Backhouse, Early Church History to the Death of Constantine, pgs. 146-147.

The testimony that rings loudly is Love. Cyprian exhorted other Christians to stop being so self-centered and selfish! What if Cyprian had not done so? Nothing would have changed and the heathen would have persecuted the Christians all the more because of the pestilence. However, because they saw the genuine love and care from the Christians, instead, how could they lay to their charge any more evil than the pestilence they too were already enduring?

Today, the church of God suffers because there are countless numbers of people that profess Christ and use his name to manipulate and control others through “rules,” “doctrines,” “dogmas” and the like (MAN’s WILL). God NEVER gave us any rules that we needed to follow to be loved by HIM. God is LOVE. God gave each individual his Holy Spirit to guide their life. By doing so, he extended EQUALITY to all – male and female. There is no INEQUALITY where God is. If you do not have a relationship with others that is EQUAL, then you are not right with God. There is no male nor female in Christ Jesus. We are all equal!

To impose your will on others is wrong. It is time for Christians to stop trying to control and manipulate others by imposing their will over God’s will in their lives. By doing so, they are carrying God’s name in vain and that is a very serious sin in God’s eyes! (See The Third Commandment – What it Really Means). Whenever possible, try doling out some genuine, unconditional love instead and let those you love make their own decisions. After all, that’s the best way to help people grow and become better. Unconditional love overcomes everything and speaks louder than your talk. Try it.

Former President Jimmy Carter – Advancing Women’s Rights

Carter Center Conference Mobilizes Faith Groups to Advance Women’s Rights

June 28, 2013

Top religious leaders, activists, and religious scholars representing more than 15 countries and over 35 faith-based organizations, universities, and religious bodies, who are committed to making concrete gains in women’s rights gathered at The Carter Center June 27-29 for the conference “Mobilizing Faith for Women: Engaging the Power of Religion and Belief to Advance Human Rights and Dignity.”  The conference highlighted the influence of religion on women’s rights and called on people of faith and religious leaders to assume their responsibility to advance equally the well being of all members of society. Discussions focused on aligning religious life with human rights, stopping human trafficking, connecting religious study to advocacy, and the impact of war on women.

Watch the 20-minute video below to hear President Carter’s remarks at the conference on Friday, June 28.

jimmycarterClick Here to Watch Video

Mother Teresa and the Fatal Love of Suffering – By David Hayward

shopWhen I was studying for my Masters in Theology, I took some Patristics courses… the early church and apostolic fathers. It was fascinating studying the martyrs like Polycarp, Ignatius and Justin Martyr because they wanted to be martyred. It was such an honor, such a sacrifice, such a guarantee of eternal reward, that they seemed to do anything in their power to get killed for their faith. They took as their examples Jesus who did not open his mouth to defend himself, thereby cementing his execution, as well as Paul who did everything in his power to stay in chains so that he could testify to the top dogs in Rome, which ended with his execution (legend has it).

There is a new exposé on Mother Teresa that has come out from The University of Montreal, written by Serge Larivée, Department of psychoeducation, University of Montreal, Carole Sénéchal, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, and Geneviève Chénard, Department of psychoeducation, University of Montreal. The study probes Mother Teresa’s

“… rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce.”

What is most interesting though is that the 500+ missions that she opened were described as “homes for the dying”. Two thirds of the people who came to these homes hoped to find a doctor to treat them, while the other third received no treatment and lay dying without appropriate care. The doctors questioned observed a shocking lack of hygiene, unfit conditions, a shortage of actual care, inadequate food and no painkillers. The problem was not a lack of money because hundreds of millions of dollars were raised by Mother Teresa’s ministry, but rather a particular perception of suffering and death. She saw something beautiful in the poor accepting their lot, suffering like Christ, and viewed their dying as sharing in Christ’s passion. She believed the world gained much from the suffering of the poor. . . (click here to read more)

My Father’s Story – By Nancy Bicknell

come homeI was raised with deep roots.  You learn a lot on a farm about roots when raising crops and about the worms that eat away at those roots. There is nothing more disgusting than a big green tobacco worm that eats the leaves of the tobacco plant—unless it would be the cut worm—that cuts the plant off at the root.  Even after a cut worm has severed the plant it lives awhile before the withering process begins.  That withering process is what I saw happen in my family and now with my parents’ with IFB abuse.

My father was raised by a mother who loved God.  She had 7 sisters and brothers and they lived off the farm lands in Wisconsin. I remember the day a Bible College student walked out into our tobacco fields to sell us a Bible. My father, who I had never seen buy anything, bought the biggest and brightest Red Bible in the bunch. That Bible sat by his chair by the stove and he read it often as I grew up. He never went to church and was fearful of being in a crowd of people. He could not even talk on the phone comfortably. But people respected my father. When my little sister went to a local IFB Baptist church and said she “Found God,” My father watched. When I went forward in the same IFB church after evangelist Jack Hyles preached, my father watched. When Ron Comfort came to evangelize, we got my parents to go to the church. My sister and I cried during the invitation and asked my father to go forward. He did. Dad became active in the IFB church along with my mom. He learned to give his testimony, lead in prayer and, was elected to be a deacon. He stopped smoking, stopped growing tobacco, and he told others what God had done for him.

Then the cut worm struck when my father was asked to vote on expelling an IFB school student for listening to music with a beat. (You see, secretly my father loved the Grand Old Oprey music.)  He felt coerced, as a deacon, into expelling the student, but when he saw children were being hit and were fearful, the cut worm struck and my father left the IFB church. My dad started a new church that met in an empty grocery store and they had about 30 people who followed them from the old IFB church. I understood the loss my parents felt for their beloved church members. I saw the withering process of grief. My mom lost a lot of weight and my father started having heart trouble. Leaving their roots was hard for my parents. Being quiet about abuse in his church was intolerable for them.

I returned to the IFB church, even as my father was standing up for abused children, in spite of the fact that my own son had been abused in an IFB church. Dad was willing to walk away from his IFB church where he had built the steeple and was truly part of that church’s roots because his mom’s country church had closed and merged with that IFB church. I admired his courage to do the work of the cut worm. I was more of a tobacco worm nibbling at the leaves while leaving the plant intact. I had learned through all of my counseling experience that you can only be a victim of a system one time. If you choose to go back you are now a volunteer. I was walking back into the church system where my son, Scott had been abused, because I missed my friends—the sense of a family—was drawing me back.

When my anger over past abuses surfaced Dr. Professor, a church deacon, encouraged me to let it go and to forgive. I was willing to try. I only wanted to move forward. As my husband Larry and I sat in the back pews singing the hymns I ignored the soundtrack from Jaws playing ever so softly in the back of my mind. Even though the warning built to a crescendo in my head…. “dunt…Dunt…Dunt…DUNT…DUNT…DUNT”—I continued to wade  slowly back into the IFB waters.

Sitting in the IFB pew, I was judged for being divorced. Pastors used the pulpit to bash psychology and spanking of children as the primary mode of discipline.  Complete surrender to rejoin the church was the goal of the IFB in order to graft    their abuse victims back to the root. The roots of the IFB belief system were awakened in me but the true roots my father had given me had gotten tangled up in the IFB doctrines.

My father eventually had a heart attack and was put on hospice at home.  He asked to have his Grand Old Oprey and Gaithers music played at his bedside. My husband, Larry a musician who played old Elvis and Beatles music, understood the importance of music in finding some measure of comfort. Larry used his experience to see to it that my father had the music that he loved. My father stayed connected to his family roots as long as he could but his heart continued to fail him. He gave us all instructions as he died.  His sister, Judy, was to be in charge of cleaning the bird poop off his grave stone, Rita was to watch out for Mom, Jo was to continue to be a nurse and me—I was to continue to draw pictures and write books.

He knew we all loved God and that he would see us again in heaven. He chose to die when I left his bedside to shower. He was gone. My sister’s husband, who had also left the IFB pastorate because of the abuse that he saw in the IFB system, preached the funeral. That was the last time he ever got behind an IFB pulpit. My husband played the guitar and we both sang at my father’s funeral—we sang with the 4/4 beat hated by the IFB—we stood with my father and, for my father. My father had found his roots.

The Corrupt State of the Church

corruptionThe following passage of church history is from the second century. The reality of the corruptions of the church should ring in everyone’s ears loudly. These same corruptions are still taking place to day and on a much larger scale.

The corrupt state into which the Church had fallen in another large city, Carthage, is described in strong language by Cyprian, bishop of that place. “The Lord would prove his people; and because the divinely prescribed rule of life had been disturbed in a long interval of tranquillity, a divine judgment was sent to revive our tottering, I might almost say slumbering, faith. Forgetting how believers lived in the times of the Apostles, and how they ought always to live, Christians have laboured with insatiable desire to increase their earthly possessions. Crafty frauds were used to deceive the simple; subtle meanings, to circumvent the brethren. They united in marriage with unbelievers; they swore rashly and what was worse, they swore falsely; they spoke evil of one another with envenomed tongues; they quarrelled and hated one another. . . . The priests have neglected religion; sound faith has been wanting to the ministers; there has been no mercy in their works; no discipline in their manners. Many bishops, despising their divine charge have forsaken their sees, deserted their people, and wandered over foreign provinces to traffic for gain, whilst their brethren were starving in the Church. They have hoarded up money; they have possessed themselves of estates by fraud; they have increased their wealth by multiplied usuries. “It will be readily understood that amongst men so devoted to the world there was little strength to stand against persecution.” — Early Church History to the Death of Constantine, Pg 141

The parallels between the attitudes and behaviors of Christians and their leaders in the early church, and today’s religious leaders, continue to amaze me. When I see the same things happening today that took place in the first and second centuries, one cannot help but be amazed. What we must consider is that corruptions entered into the religious system very early. Why? Because man has a tendency to corrupt things. It’s that simple. Whatever man does is usually done for selfish causes, biases, money, personal gain, power or prestige. To think that today’s religious system is not corrupted and full of every abomination as it was in the early centuries, is ignorance. One will never see nor understand how much of the religious teachings, manuscripts, dogmas, rules, etc., have been twisted until one understands that their is corruption and is willing to do their due diligence to expose it.

Countless multitudes are blind to the corruptions. They are taught to believe lies that they have no idea are lies. They trust strangers with their lives and the lives of their families. Just because they say they are Christian, does not make them trustworthy. This is a sad reality that many overlook. The quote above is a stark realization to how many Christians are building their empires off the backs of the poor and using fraud to do it. We must wake up to this reality and work towards changing it or history will repeat itself and persecution will come; of which, no Christian will be exempt. As it was then, so it will be, even now.

Christians and Military Service

militaryOne of the many areas of concern for Christians is whether or not God is okay with them serving in the military. I remember when my oldest son, at the young age of 14, became enamored with the military. His whole desire was to serve his country in the armed services as soon as he was old enough to enlist. However, when he became of age and expressed this earnest desire to preachers and church leaders, they did all they could to discourage him from joining the military. One preacher even went so far as to have a church service where he made a former military man (because he enlisted after the preacher told him not to many years prior) apologize publicly for being in the military as if it was a huge shame to have done so, and a dishonor to God! This preacher gave the congregation the impression that this soldier had dishonored and disobeyed God.  This wasn’t a dishonor to God. What happened was the man did not listen to the preacher. It’s all about control here. How sad that this man was made to feel that his years of service and sacrifice were not pleasing to God and that God could not use him because of it.

Many preachers, in the cult I came out of, taught that if a person joined the military, they would be contaminated by ungodly living and vices that would make them useless to God. This is what they expressed to my son. Really? Is God that SMALL that HE is not powerful enough to bring about good from the life of a sinner if such a thing should occur? Is every person that joins the military without self-restraint or morals? (That’s basically what they are saying about those who do join.)  Who is MAN to decide who God can or cannot use for his purposes? God did not give preachers the authority to control the lives of others with their opinions and doctrines. God gave the Holy Spirit to individuals to guide them, not church leaders.  Sometimes, people forget that.

This issue of serving in the military has been an ongoing issue from the beginning with Christians. As a result, many zealous Christians, thinking they were standing for God, brought shame, reproach and harm upon those who served with them.

During the early centuries, Christian leaders did everything they could to discourage believers from enlisting just as they do today in some religious sects. They even went so far as to instruct new believers who were already serving to abandon their service. Why? Did not King David fight many wars? Did not Saul fight many wars? Did not the early Jews fight wars to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem or to conquer Canaan? Was God angry with them for doing so? Because they were kings and leaders, did it exempt them in some way from God’s anger or from being a dishonor to God?  Does serving a non-Christian King give one the right to refuse to be called into service even though God is the one who determines those in authority and commands us to honor them? Does serving a Christian King make fighting and serving okay? Did not God command the Jews and Kings to wipe out entire people’s? If so, then why would God be against military service, especially in time of war?

Sadly, the reasons given to Christians for not serving in the military, have been fabricated and twisted by religious leaders in order to control them. It has nothing to do with God. It has to do with control. When church leaders were telling my son that it was not God’s will for him or anyone else to serve, what right did they have to say such a thing?  Think about this: If God puts it on the heart of a man or woman to serve their country, who are these religious leaders to tell them it is not God’s will for them? God has given his spirit to each individual to guide them in performing his will in their life. For a religious leader to tell others what God’s will is for them is a usurping of the Holy Spirit’s position in the life of a believer! In the end, this type of teaching about serving in the military will only bring the same consequences that it brought the early Christians. Let’s see how it affected one early Christian and those he served with in the military. My words are in brackets in these passages and all bolded emphasis is mine.

“Do we believe it lawful for a human oath to be superadded to one divine? for a man to come under promise to another master besides Christ, and to abjure father and mother and all nearest kinsfolk whom even the law has commanded us to honour and love next to God Himself? Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? Shall the son of peace take part in the battle, when it does not become him even to sue at law? [These are all excuses religious leaders gave early Christians to keep them out of military service.] . . . If faith comes later and finds any pre-occupied with military service their case is different; and yet when a man has become a believer, and faith has been sealed, there must be either an immediate abandonment of the service, which has been the course with many, [God does not command this] or all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God; or last of all, that same fate must be endured for Him which non-combatant citizens are ready to accept.”

In the same tract he relates an instance of refusal, not indeed to enter the army, but to wear the laurel wreath of victory. The bounty of the Emperors was being dispensed in the camp; the soldiers were approaching crowned with laurel; some of them were Christians. “One, more steadfast than his brethren (who imagined that they could serve two masters), his head alone uncovered, the useless crown in his hand, was nobly conspicuous. [This is what many Christian zealots do. They are “nobly conspicuous” drawing attention to how separated, righteous, noble and holy they are in comparison to others.] He was presently marked out, and all began to jeer him while at a distance, and to gnash upon him when he came near. [For the Christian, this treatment is worn as a crown of honor, showing others how noble he is to take persecution for his faith, not realizing that he is just being foolish in bringing persecution unnecessarily upon himself.] The murmur was wafted to the tribune, as the soldier was leaving the ranks. The tribune stopped him. ‘Why do you not wear your crown like the rest?’ ‘I have no freedom to do so,’ [Must be a religious, unspoken rule.] he answered. Being pressed for his reason he confessed, ‘I am a Christian.’ The case was considered by the officers and voted upon, and it being decided to remit the judgment to a higher tribunal, the offender was conducted to the prefects. Immediately he put off his heavy cloak, loosed his military sandals, gave up his sword, and dropped the laurel crown from his hand. [He is so prideful that he is willingly to throw down his life?] He was taken to prison, where,” adds Tertullian, “he awaits the white crown of martyrdom. [What about his family? He certainly is not thinking about them! That’s pretty self-centered. What is the reason he is going to die? What is the cause?  Pride.]  Adverse judgments,” continues the writer, “have been passed upon his conduct, as if he were headstrong and rash and too eager to die [Ya think?], because, in being called to account about a mere matter of attire, he brought trouble on the bearers of the Christian name; — he forsooth alone brave among so many soldier-brethren, he alone a Christian! [He wasn’t the only Christian. He was the only one brazen enough to be so foolish and, too proud to retract his words and humble himself.] So they murmured and were alarmed because the peace and immunity they had so long enjoyed was endangered.” [He endangered the safety of other Christians because of his attitude and foolishness.]

— Edward Backhouse, Early Church History to the Death of Constantine, pgs 111-113.

What this tidbit of history shows us is that a soldier, thinking he was serving God by refusing to wear the victor’s crown of laurel, ended up being a reproach to other Christians and endangered their safety as a result. Did he think that God would be against wearing the laurel? Seriously? Sounds like a bit of SELF-righteousness and pride to me.  Little behaviors and attitudes such as this are the cause of persecutions for Christians. What many do not realize is that sometimes, there are those that are brainwashed into believing things that God did not say and, by example in scripture, did not require of anyone. How many Christians bring upon the name of Christ a stench because they are over zealous in their rules, self-righteousness and separation?  You have to be really good at twisting scripture to convince someone that wearing a victor’s crown is wrong because you are a Christian. You have to be really stupid to die for that belief. Could this young man simply have “put his foot in his mouth” and then was just too proud to retract it?

It takes some genuine humility and unconditional love toward those who are not Christian, to truly behave the way God would want and, to be the example to them that God would want. This soldier could have spared his life if he would have just humbly put the crown on his head and apologized. Humility and unconditional love of others will cause a person to look to the benefit of others and do all they can to not be a rock of offense to them. If you are not sure about some rule or doctrine, humble yourself until you can do some research on it! Don’t be as foolish as this soldier was.

Before we take to drawing a battle line in the sand regarding service in any area, think about the perception you are giving off to others. Is it offensive? Are you, by your actions and words, letting others know loudly and clearly that you are holier and more righteous than they are because of your faith? Will this perception bring any of them to Christ or, turn them away? (Just remember that there are non-Christians that have more ethics and morality than some Christians.) This attitude is repugnant to others and gives off an air of judgmentalism. Many Christians, like this lone soldier of the first century, will be persecuted because they bring it upon themselves through foolish attitudes, thinking and behavior.

This early Christian wasn’t refusing to serve, he was refusing to wear the victor’s wreath upon his head – something that is no offense to God! Is serving in the military wrong for the Christian? No. If God leads you to do so, then do it.  It doesn’t matter what church leaders say about it. Let the Holy Spirit guide you, not men. Clothe yourself in humility and unconditional love and you will never be a rock of offense to others, bringing reproach upon yourself or God, whether in the military or not. What some Christians forget is that soldiers sacrifice their lives and families so that they can enjoy safety and freedom. How repugnant for those who now serve, or have served, to say that God is against it and that they will be a bad influence on a Christian that decides to enlist and serve. It’s not the service that makes the difference with God. It’s the thoughts and intents of the heart. For religious leaders in the cult I came out of to imply that everyone who joins the military will be corrupted and be of no use to God, is also implying at the same time, that those already in are corrupt and have no moral foundations! By default, they judge those in the military as a whole, paint them with a broad brush, and then they themselves complain when they get judged by unbelievers and painted with the same broad brush. The only difference is that Christians call it “persecution.” That certainly sounds more “noble,” doesn’t it?

Service in the military does not corrupt people — poor character, lack of ethics, lack of morality, PRIDE, love of money, self-centeredness, a thirst for power and control of others, loving conditionally instead of unconditionally — these are what corrupt people.

A Brief Reality Check

dignity“The ministry was not confined to one reader or one expositor or even to the presbyters, the appointed teachers of the Church. When the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, descended on the disciples–women as well as men– and they began to speak with other tongues, Peter declared that what was then happening was the fullfillment of the prophecy of Joel regarding the spiritual gifts of the New Dispensation. . .

How large a part women had in the work of the Church during its early days of vigour and simplicity, may be seen from the sixteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. About one-third of those to whom the Apostle sends his Christian salutation are women – Prisca, Mary, Junia, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus’ mother, Julia, and Nercus’ sister – and five or six of these are distinguished for their place in the Church, or their abounding labour in Christ. Of one it is said, “Unto whom not only I give thanks but also all the Churches of the Gentiles.” Of four others that they “laboured,” or “laboured much in the Lord.” — Edward Backhouse, Early Church History to the Death of Constantine, pages 53-54.

Tidbits of history such as this are very important for people to recognize and understand. Women had much bigger roles in the early church than men, throughout history, wish to admit. Because men wish to maintain control, prestige and power, they do not want the truth to be told about women. The truth places women as equals intellectually and spiritually. Religion robs women of equality, autonomy, honor and dignity. The reality is that, through translation, religious men of old made a conscious effort to point religious texts in the direction of putting women in submissive and abusive roles, robbing them of protection and equality in the world.  Not only this, but religious men of old have never been willing to give women their dignity back!  It’s time for this to change and for laws to be enacted to protect women from this abuse; and, for women to be given their honor, dignity and equality back.