Encouragement

The Good News That Heals

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Introduction

In Singapore today, it is quite likely that the first time you hear about Jesus is that Jesus can heal you or your sick loved ones. This is a decided shift from the time when you are more likely to hear about the love of God or the forgiveness of sin as the Good News of Jesus Christ. Nobody is dumping the love of God and the forgiveness of sin, but it is worthwhile asking if this new opening point of contact is good, and if so, how exactly can we make the right claims of healing and avoid making false promises on God’s behalf.

Prayer for healing is a settled practice in the church from the earliest of times, and this has gone without challenge through to the present day. No Christian has ever rejected that God heals, and from time to time, he does it in extraordinary ways. It can be a healing from a disease that leads to death or permanent disablement, or it can be the sudden and immediate recovery of a disease that should normally take a long time. We call these “miraculous healing.”

jesus-heals-the-blindThe Good News of Jesus Christ is not linked to healing until more recent times. In the Gospel accounts, it is clear Jesus heals and that healing is part and parcel of his proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Over time, healing has been decoupled from the Good News. In more recent times, Christians have rediscovered the role of healing in the proclamation of the Good News. All good things tend to produce the danger of an over-emphasis. Healing is no exception.

The Contribution of the Pentecostal Tradition to the Issue of Healing

The Pentecostal Tradition began in America in 1900. It focuses on the speaking of tongues as evidence that a person has been “baptized by the Holy Spirit.” Like other Christians, they too pray for healing. But unlike other Christians, they emphasize miraculous healing as part of the life of the church. Because of certain excesses, other Christians tend to reject too close an association with them, and they were no more than a minor denomination among different Christian traditions. They are indiscriminate in “stealing” Christians from other churches, saying they are lacking in a second blessing, and in proclaiming the Good News. The American expression about these Christians is that they are on the “other side of the [train] tracks,” meaning the poor, dangerous, and uneducated part of town. This is represented by the “Assembly of God,” and they were not well received by the rest of the Christian community.

Over time, some business people became part of this tradition, and they applied business marketing methods. They rightly emphasized proclamation of the Good News (rather than steal members from other churches), and this is sometimes called the “Charismatic Movement.” Some broke away from the AoG, and some AoG reformed to adopt the Charismatic method. They have a more contemporary presentation of the Good News, are not shy about using paid advertising, and continue to emphasize tongues, miracles and “deliverance” as the norm. Their worship, like the Pentecostals, tend to be highly emotional with claims of healing, demon casting, etc.

After this, came the “Third Wave” within the Pentecostal Tradition. The biggest problem of the Pentecostal Tradition is that they are very weak in biblical knowledge and many of their claims run counter to Scripture and the test of reality or truthfulness. The Third Wave is “practice in search of the Bible.” At least two things happened with this wave. First, some of the excesses were reigned in as they cannot find Scripture to support their practices (e.g. slain by the Spirit, holy laughter). Next, a strong link is created between healing and the proclamation of the Good News. This is called “Power Evangelism.” The emphasis is that healing (and deliverance from evil spirits) is the main method of evangelism. Jesus, they say, is proclaimed as power over every human ill.

A fourth and current development within this tradition is the “Word of Faith” or “Prosperity Gospel.” In addition to promising health, the emphasis shifts to wealth. “God wants you to be healthy and wealthy through Jesus Christ.” Sadly, this seems to be a move away from Scripture. But alongside this development is a healthier one. Some now reject the need to speak in tongues, which is the serious theological point. Ability to speak in tongues or not is a minor point of dispute. But the grave theological divergence of this tradition is their insistence that every Christian must speak in tongues at least once. The move away from this is an important move in the right direction, and other realizations of the truth should follow.

What does the Bible Say about the Good News and Healing?

The Gospels tell us that Jesus did three related things. (1) He proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom of God; (2) He healed the sick miraculously; and (3) he cast out demons. For example, in Luke, we see Jesus began His ministry by teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:14ff). Next, Jesus cast out a demonic spirit (Luke 4:31-37). Third, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and many more (Luke 4:38-44). Of course this three-part action is seen in the other Gospels as well.

When Jesus sent out his disciples to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom, he empowered them. “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-2).

These three aspects are parts of a coherent ministry, and not disconnected bits. Jesus was not doing three separate things. He was declaring that the kingdom of God has come, and showing the people he was the king of that kingdom. He was also showing what the kingdom of God looks like. It will be where (1) the truth of God is taught, (2) the devil is defeated, and (3) the result of sin (sickness and death) will be banished because sin would be forgiven. This will come about when people repent of their sins and acknowledge Jesus as their true king.

Jesus came to move us out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is where our sins are forgiven. When our sins are forgiven, the devil loses his grip and he is defeated. When our sins are forgiven, the effects of sin (death) will be abolished through our resurrection. In the resurrection of Jesus, death is defeated, and the way to eternal life is opened to all who share in his resurrection. Jesus’s healing and the raising of the dead are all precursors to the resurrection of Jesus.

There is good reason to connect our salvation with healing because healing is a foretaste of the resurrected life. It is the expression of God’s forgiveness of our sin. It expresses our moving from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13)

jesus-commands-the-wavesHowever, it is another thing to say we replicate the actions of Jesus. The signs and wonders campaign does not produce any real signs and wonders as Jesus did: walk on water, calm a storm, or catch fish at a command. There is no true replication of Jesus’s ministry. And it is right that we are unable to replicate Jesus’s ministry. After all, if everybody can do what Jesus did, there will be nothing to show he is the Messiah sent from God!

When we come to the Acts of the Apostles, we still see miraculous healing, but there is a distinct difference from the ministry of Jesus. Jesus performs many signs and wonders beyond healing: turning water into wine, stilling a storm, walking on water, making food multiply, etc. There is also an abundance of the casting out of impure spirits. When we come to Acts, which is also written by Luke, and from whom we can expect the same style of writing, we should expect a repetition of what Jesus did—especially when he tells us he intends to present the work of the disciples as the work Jesus continues to do through his disciples (Acts 1:1).

In Acts, we see miraculous healing and the casting out of demons in many places. But there is not a single incident when the disciples perform the type of miracle that suspends the laws of nature. The closest we have is Peter’s miraculous escape from prison (Acts 12:6-10), and Paul bitten by a poisonous snake, but remained unharmed (Acts 28:3-6). In both these instances, Peter and Paul were not the agents of a nature miracle, they are only recipients of God’s miraculous deliverance.

The distinct difference between the ministry of Jesus and those of his disciples is that only Jesus performed the nature miracles. But there is no substantive difference in healing and the casting out of demons.

When the kingdom of God is fully come, we are told, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”(Revelation 21:4). It goes without saying that when there is no death, sickness is banished. When Jesus comes in his glory, all creation will be healed. The earth, the land and sea, plants and animals, will all be healed from what the sin of man imposed. But leading that charge of the healing of God’s creation will be God’s people, the heirs of his kingdom. Fallen man destroy God’s creation. Redeemed man will be the agents of the restoration of God’s creation.

What I find remarkable is that Christians today tend to fall into one of two camps. One camp makes a big show of healing and another camp practically does not want healing to happen because they don’t believe God continues to heal today.

When we look at Scripture squarely, we can easily see that the Good News brings healing at all levels. The Good News of John the Baptist heals relationships. “[A]nd he (John the Baptist) will go before him (Jesus) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:17, ESV).

The prophet Isaiah gives a preview of what Jesus would do (Isaiah 53:3-5, NLT)

He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.

There is a tendency for some to forget everything except the last clause, “He was whipped so we could be healed” and there are some who only look at “he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sin.” The first group looks at the body and the second looks at the soul. There is no wholeness without body and soul. A broken body with a redeemed soul is still not whole. A healthy body who does not know Jesus is also not whole.

What we need to observe is that there was a healing for the sick – once. That is, we do not see multiple miraculous healings for the same person, not even once. When people are sick and call upon the Lord, and the Lord heals them, it is to point them to Jesus. It is to let them know that God is able to heal their whole person, body and soul. Eventually, the body will waste away and we all die (unless the Lord returns before that time). We must not hold out healing as a gimmick to bring people to Jesus. At the same time, we must not shy away from the reality that God used, and continues to use healing as a means of expressing his power over sin and death, and his ability to forgive and to heal the whole person, body and soul.

Let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say about healing in the preaching of the Good News in Acts:

Event Other Signs Healing Conver-sion
Peter’s preaching at Pentecost (2:14-41) No No Yes
Peter heals lame man (3:1-10) No Yes Yes
Peter’s mass healing (5:12-16) Yes Yes Mixed
Peter curses a sorcerer (8:20-24) Yes No No
Philip evangelizes the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26ff) No No Yes
Saul converts through blindness not healing (9:1ff) No No Yes
Peter with Aeneas and Dorcas (9:32-43) No Yes Yes
Peter’s evangelism to the centurion (Acts 10) No No Yes
Believers evangelize through persecution (11:19-21) No No Yes
Paul curses a sorcerer (13:6-12) Yes No Yes
Paul in Pisidian Antioch (13:14-49) No No Yes
Paul/Barnabas in Iconium (14:1-7) Yes ? Mixed
Paul heals in Lystra, creating chaos (14:8-20) No Yes No
Paul exorcises demon in Philippi (16:16ff) Yes No No
Paul evangelizes in Thessalonica, conversions recorded in epistles (17:1-9) No No Yes
Paul evangelizes in Athens 17:16-34) No No Yes
Paul evangelizes in Corinth for 1½ years (18:1-17) No No Yes
Paul raises Eutychus from the dead (20:9-10) Yes No No

The above is not comprehensive, but I want to show you that the Good News that heals is a sound message. However, the Good News is not always declared with temporal healing; and the Good News is never delivered with a promise of healing. Healing is never a carrot dangled as a motivation for conversion. Healing just happens. It often occurs without notice. It is never offered to the masses. Where there is mass healing, it just happens without planning. Evangelism is more often seen without physical healing than it is seen with physical healing.

Two events deserve special mention. Peter’s mass healing and Paul’s mass healing. These mass healings happened only once in their lives as far as we can tell. In Jerusalem, “As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.” (Acts 5:15-16). We do not know if Peter’s shadow healed people, but we are told that it is what the people believed. However, it is clear that Peter healed all he set out to heal. Yet we note it is the villagers who convert, the people in Jerusalem were no longer converting. “But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them.” (Acts 5:13). There was a season of signs and wonders through Peter, but it was also a time of limited effect in conversions, much less than at Pentecost and thereafter when there were mass conversions. In other words, the best conversions happened outside of this mass healing.

Paul stayed in Ephesus for 3 years. That was his base to reach the Gentiles for Christ Jesus. There, “God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled” (19:11-12). For a time, there was mass or unusual healing. Every miracle is unusual, but there are some more unusual than others. In the life of Paul, this happened in Ephesus (not everywhere, otherwise they won’t be unusual).

If we look at Luke’s record of works of power by Peter and Paul, we see a pattern emerging. Peter is the chief apostle to the Jews and Paul the chief apostle to the Gentiles. Their ministry is authenticated by God in that both of them confronted sorcerers, cast out demons, healed the sick and raised the dead. There was even a time when there were unusual miracles. In the case of Peter, it was in Jerusalem, and in the case of Paul it was in Ephesus. Jerusalem was clearly the Jewish center of religion. Paul had made Ephesus the center for his Gentile mission, and that was where God chose to authenticate Paul. In both instances, the people, not Peter or Paul, were the movers of the healing. People place the sick along the path Peter walked, so his shadow might fall on them. This was not Peter’s doing. In the case of Paul, they took his work apron (for tent making) and handkerchiefs, and used them to heal the sick. Neither is ever repeated. God is creative and does not need to duplicate his creative works.

Summary

We see Jesus and his apostles proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God, often with healing and even raising the dead. The main difference is that Jesus talks of himself and the apostles talk of Jesus. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Our resurrection through King Jesus is the core of the Good News. Resurrection is total healing: body and soul.

Healing, or signs and wonders, happen sovereignly. We can see God using healing to relieve the sick, to facilitate the Good News, to bless believers, and to authenticate the apostles. All these are done in the proclamation of the kingdom of God. Jesus has come to claim his kingdom, and it is the kingdom that will be inhabited by the resurrected, by people made whole in every way. The casting out of demons and the healing light the way ahead so we can understand God’s redemptive plan for the world.

While healing should be included in the Good News because it is about total healing through the resurrection, I am concerned with the practice of making the wrong link of the temporary physical healing of the body to the Good News. Healing is sometimes used as a carrot for people to convert. That is not biblical. Worse, we sometimes see a bait-and-switch tactic. A person comes with stories of God’s wonderful healing (true, but a bait) and invites people to come for physical healing; but at the same time makes a disclaimer that it is God who heals, so if they come to Jesus, they may not be healed anyway (true, but a switch). It sounds like a product that declares loudly: “See, so many people are helped by this supplement … but it depends on you, and everyone is different.” Sounds familiar?

I am also concerned with a Good News that is devoid of healing. Healing is completely consistent with the promised kingdom of God at the resurrection. Healing is a token of God’s grace pointing us to the resurrection. The Good News is the total healing of body and soul (through the forgiveness of sin). Miraculous healing points to the resurrection, not an inducement for conversion or a promise of perpetual good health for the believer. Healing shows us God’s goodness. Healing makes us humble and grateful. Healing causes us to glorify God. Healing shows us there is more to this world than pain and death. Praise the Lord! His goodness endures forever.

The Good News heals everyone who comes, not only the lucky few who win the lottery of physical healing. Our immediate blessing is the forgiveness of sin, and the healing of body and soul in some way that points us to our full healing at the resurrection. The Good News that heals is for everyone who comes to Jesus.

Pastor Peter Eng

What is Temptation?

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter different temptations, for you know that the proving of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(James 1:2-4)

I know what “temptation” means. At least, I think I know. And the dictionary bears it out. But when I come to the text of the Bible, “temptation” seems to have some of the same meaning as in English and some meaning totally unrelated to our contemporary use of the word. For instance, I can yield to the temptation of a chocolate cake without sinning. But in the Bible, yielding to temptation is always sin. And to make the puzzle worse, it seems that the Bible uses the same word (peirasmos) for “temptation” and “trial.” The two look very different to me. Temptation has to do with pleasure and trial has to do with pain.

This puzzle is demonstrated in James 1:2.

  • My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (KJV)
  • Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, (NASB)
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (NIV)
  • Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy (NLT).

Some translators take the original Greek word (peirasmos) to mean “temptation” and some to mean “trial.” The NLT looks at this problem and decides on the word “trouble” to encompass both “temptation” and “trial.”

Our first hint to the solution is that temptations and trials are opposites. So they are connected. They are not two disparate terms with no commonality. And even though their commonality lies in their being opposites, one dealing with pleasure and another dealing with pain, we can be justly hopeful that there is exciting meaning to be discovered.

If we look at how the KJV translates this word, we will notice that the KJV always translates the word as “temptation.” This results in expressions like “the last temptation of Christ” referring to Jesus’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus was in that garden, there was no temptation to any pleasure. The temptation Jesus faced was not to go ahead with the cross. He had the option to lay down his life or to take it up again. This temptation had to do with pain, not pleasure. In our day, we will not use the word “temptation” to refer to Jesus’s experience at Gethsemane. What we see is that Jesus had a choice one way or another. He need not die if he did not want to. The emphasis on that use of “temptation” relates to Jesus having an opportunity to escape pain, or to escape a trial.

The word “temptation” in the Bible is used in two senses. The first we already know, that is, a temptation entices us to a pleasure that is sinful. The Bible also uses the term to refer to the sinful avoidance of pain. For instance, if we are asked to deny Christ on pain of imprisonment or death, we would be going through our Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus did, we will have to choose comfort and life versus faithfulness and death. There will be no pleasure involved in our choice. Instead, it is the opportunity to escape pain and death that draws us. So temptation is not just the attraction to sinful pleasure, it is also the sinful avoidance of pain.

Point: Temptation/Trial (peirasmos) is related to the indulgence of sinful pleasure and the sinful avoidance of just pain.

Another puzzling expression in the Bible is found in Hebrews 4:15 which says of Jesus, “… we have [a high priest] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” This makes it clear to us that we can be tempted, but if we do not yield to temptation, we have not sinned. That is clear enough. But what if we want to sin and lust in our hearts even though we do not do the act? Jesus makes it clear that lusting in our hearts is already sin. “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). This again creates two problems: (1) we cannot imagine that Jesus lusted but did not yield and Jesus himself tells us that the desire to sin is already sin; (2) our understanding of “temptation” in English always involves the desire for something.

It appears that the meaning of “peirasmos” (temptation/trial) in Greek is not about desire. In fact, we can affirm that when Jesus was tempted, it did NOT mean that he wanted to sin. So then, what is the meaning of the word?

I like to suggest to you that the Greek term focuses on choice. That is to say, Jesus was given the opportunity to sin, but did not sin. Temptation was not the desire to sin but the opportunity to sin.

This difference can be easily observed in life. If a man lusts after a woman at his place of work, according to Jesus, he has already committed adultery in his heart. He has already sinned. The desire to sin is evil in itself. He might have no opportunity to carry out his fantasy about the woman, so he has no opportunity for sin. In our day, we will say he is tempted by the woman, but the way the Bible uses the word would not allow it. If we use the biblical term, we would say he lusted after the woman. When we say he was tempted (but did not act on it) we are suggesting he did not sin. When we say he lusted (even though he did not act on it, or had no opportunity to act on it), we are saying he had already sinned. And that is Jesus’s view.

Let’s paint a different scenario. Let’s say the woman presents opportunities for the man to have his way with her. But he did not. He was not lusting after her, and when the opportunity came, he did not take up the opportunity. This would be like the case of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. He fled from her. The biblical term “temptation” would apply to Joseph. Not because he lusted, but because he was given the opportunity to sin. In the case of the man who lusted, the term temptation would not apply because he had no opportunity. He simply lusted after her.

I like to suggest to you that in the Bible, “temptation” focuses on the opportunity to sin not the desire to sin. This is why a person can be tempted but not sin. And this is why the desire to sin is already sin, and not a temptation to sin.

Point: Temptation/trial (peirasmos) is not the desire to sin without the act, which is already sin. Temptation is the opportunity to indulge in sinful pleasure or to avoid just pain.

When I discovered the Bible uses one word (peirasmos) for both temptation and trial, two things become clearer. First, I become aware of the motivation for my own actions.

I had a hard time understanding my own failures. Why did I fall into sin? Why did I yield to temptation? It was only when I understood what motivated me, and what continues to motivate me that my heart is laid bare before God. When I yield to the opportunity for sinful pleasure, it is because my heart had not been right for a long time. And the devil presented an opportunity to the impure heart. That is temptation. If my first love had been to my heavenly Father, and my heart is kept pure, then the opportunity for sinful pleasure will hold no attraction to me and I will reject the temptation.

My first battle is not to say “No” when the opportunity arises. That is the final battle. My first battle is to say “No” when sinful desires arises in my heart. I have no reason to be smug if I say “No” to the opportunity but if I had said “Yes” to dark passions. This is because the heart that imagines sin will eventually indulge in it.

When I zoom out to all of life, I find that we are all motivated by pleasure and pain. These two aspects control almost every action we do each day. We will choose a pain to avoid greater pain. We will deny ourselves a pleasure to get greater pleasure.

The next thing I discovered when I understood the duality of pain and pleasure in temptation is that they are two sides of the same coin. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the courageous pastor who stood up to Hitler and was eventually martyred said:

“Temptation to desire always includes the renunciation of the desire, that is to say, suffering. Temptation to suffering always includes the longing for freedom from suffering, that is to say, for desire. Thus the temptation of the flesh through desire and through suffering is at bottom one and the same.” (Creation and Fall; Temptation, 134)

This observation is practical and sublime. We know from experience that when we seize pleasure that is improper, we will enjoy the pleasure but suffer the consequence of pain. Conversely, when we accept the privation of not yielding to sinful pleasure, the result is true pleasure. Yielding to sinful pleasure produces pain; and embracing righteous pain produces pleasure. So when the Bible uses one word for both pain-temptation and pleasure-temptation, it reaches beyond the immediate pain or pleasure. It brings us to the opposite results of sinful pleasure or of the sinful pain avoidance. The decision for sinful pleasure will result in pain and the decision to avoid just pain will result in more pain. Contrariwise if we reject sinful pleasure (which is painful), we will experience greater pleasure; and if we embrace just pain, we will be rewarded with true pleasure.

It is important for us to pause at this point and note that all true pleasure is from God. There is nothing wrong with pleasure. God created us with the capacity for pleasure. It gives God pleasure when we enjoy our life and thankfully drink deep of the pleasure God gives us. The devil perverts the pleasures that God gives us for our proper enjoyment. The devil corrupts pleasure into something selfish and excessive, in such a way that the pleasure becomes sinful and harmful.

This is easily observable. Food is good, but food in excess is sinful towards God and harmful for us. Rest is good, but laziness is a repudiation of the productivity God expects of us, and such indolence is harmful to us. Work is good, but when work defines our value and we become workaholics, we depart from God’s purpose for work and we harm ourselves and our loved ones. Temptation as sinful pleasure is a perversion of God’s blessing of pleasure.

When we see that sinful pleasure and the sinful avoidance of pain naturally result in the exact opposite, we begin to appreciate the true nature of temptation. To yield to immediate sinful pleasure is to choose long-term pain. To accept temporary pain that we are called to bear is to choose long-term pleasure.

Conclusion

For me, an understanding of where the battle line is at, has been enormously helpful. I had wrongly understood temptation to mean the desire to sin. So I did not guard my desire, only my action. But that guarantees failure in the long run. We can only say “No” to opportunities to sin for so long, and so many times before we give in, if our heart is not right. As the saying goes, it is not how much water outside the boat that will sink it, it’s how much water in the boat. If I indulge sinful desires, even from a distance, then I am letting water into the boat. My sinking has already begun. The opportunity to sin simply seals what has already begun.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to pray “And do not let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13). The evil one prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour the soul of anyone whose heart is already given over to sinful desires. But his temptations are ineffective against the one who loves God with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his strength; and his neighbor as himself.

Pastor Peter Eng

Healing Through Community

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My own healing comes mainly through prayer and the Word of God. But I will be wrong to stop here or imagine myself strong against all odds. That just isn’t true. I see the hand of God best when he uses people to help me heal. I think my experience is not unique. Let me point out briefly the different ways Abba Father heals me through community.

When I am most disillusioned by people, and when I am dealt the most faithless betrayals, God sends people to stand with me and to bless me. He may send help from people I expect will be there for me; but I also marvel at how he sends people I do not expect – as though Abba Father is reminding me, “Child, I have resources you don’t know and never imagined.”

When I am betrayed, God restores hope in me through community. Abba Father does it through people, so the betrayal will not lead to cynicism or bitterness. He is telling me, “There are good people, don’t become bitter over the faithless ones.”

Almighty Father speaks the word to me through another person. Yes, it may be something I already know. But the same truth I know is different when it comes from the mouth of another. It is not me looking for comfort, it is the Word of God someone ministers to me. And what joy it is when I receive it humbly and personally as from my loving Father.

Some think they do nothing when they sit with me through the moments of despair. But your presence, your commiserating with me, is comfort that I have a friend through the community of faith.

When I am weak and I see the strength you have, it makes me strong. Some bear pain well. Some have unwavering constancy. Some will hope when I dare not. Some will forgive when I cannot imagine how. Some will speak softly when fury would be just. Some show discipline I can only admire from afar. Some will simply not give up. Some give and give and put me to shame. Some serve humbly because their reward is with our Father.

Community humbles me, strengthens me, and heals me. Thank you Father for community.

Pastor Peter Eng

Healing Through Food

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There is more to the subject of healing. Forgiveness is a one-time event. When we receive forgiveness from God, our issues are purged clean, like if we get cancer, and the cancer is successfully removed. The core issue is addressed, but healing is more than the surgery that removes the cancer. Healing takes time. And proactive action.

The idea of food as medicine is well established in Chinese culture. We have traditional claims to healing through certain foods. Regardless of whether we believe in these claims, the reality is that we need good food to heal well. Cancer patients are constantly urged to eat even if they do not feel like doing so. Unless we eat, we will not heal. Even if we are not recovering from healing, staying well requires us to eat well.

Feeding of God’s holy Word is essential for our healing. As much as healthy people need to eat to stay healthy even when they are not recovering from some health crisis, we need the Word of God. It is food. It is also food as medicine.

Have you seen pictures of people who are anorexic? They have convinced themselves the food they see is not good enough. I was in casual conversation with this woman who had constant issues with anorexia, and she kept remarking this is “empty calories”, that is “empty calories.” There is some truth to the charge that many food we see are empty calories, meaning they provide calories without protein, vitamins, or minerals. (For example: sugar, tapioca, poor quality oil). But the criticism of “empty calories” comes from someone who does not even consume calories! Even empty calories provide energy. They just fail to provide beyond energy. Should food that is not the best become an excuse not to eat?

Unfortunately, we have spiritual anorexics who can never hope to heal from the spiritual brokenness or even maintain their spiritual health because they buy in to the criticism of some that this or that Bible version is not the best. Perhaps it is the excuse that this or that preacher is not interesting enough.

Let’s assume for a moment that all these criticisms are true. So what is our response? Do we sneeze at these “empty calories” and neglect our own spiritual feeding? Reading any Bible is better than not reading any. Just like eating any food is better than not eating any food.

To be sure, we strive to give you the best possible spiritual food. Your time at worship is short. And even though we are supposed to feed on God’s Word daily, many people eat only once a week when we come to worship on Sunday. So the preacher tries to give you the best possible spiritual food.

The best spiritual food on Sunday, even if you gorge yourself on it, can scarcely keep you through the week. We need much more calories, even empty calories is better than no calories. But I would like to introduce you to good calories during the week. It is essential for our health and especially vital for our healing.

My personal favorite spiritual food are the Bibles on phone apps. And the ideal is YouVersion of Bible by Life. It allows me to access various versions, I can choose to download many of them if I want to. I can even have different languages including Chinese. I can change the font size to reduce the strain on my eyes. And when I am feeling lazy, I can have the text read to me (in some versions). I can highlight (and undo highlight) and make notes (and delete them) and they will stay with my account. I stopped making notes in my hardcopy Bibles because they wear out and my notes are gone. This phone Bible does not wear out and my notes do not disappear.

I’ll take a version and read through the Bible in that version and then start on another version. If you don’t know which ones to start with, I suggest you do it in this order: NLT, NIV, ESV. This is because the NLT is the easiest to read. The app has many reading plans. Pick any one and have fun going through it. And when you hit a tough spot like Leviticus, you can do one of two things. Go really slow and try to take it all in, or more realistically, go really fast and move on to the most interesting parts.

Our brokenness cannot heal unless we feed on the Word of God. There is no short cut. And when we feed on God’s word, what starts out as discipline soon becomes a delight. We read God’s Word because we need it; and eventually, we read God’s Word because we delight in it.

Pastor Peter Eng

Healing Through Prayer

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16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5 ESV)

I like to continue from last week’s chat with you on forgiveness and healing, and a little on healing by using what God has provided us so we can heal. In Christian vocab, they are called “means of grace,” that is, the means through which God’s grace comes to us.

We all want God’s blessings, God’s grace. But how do we get it? Too many people today talk about a “breakthrough” in life and God intervenes so our brokenness gets healed. In reality, the breakthrough is more closely related to the one-time event like forgiveness or understanding where there was ignorance. This is like the surgery we go through so our healing can begin. The surgery is a one-time event. But healing is incremental over time. While God can give us miraculous healing of the soul as he sometimes does in the healing of the body, instantaneous healing is not the norm either of the body or of the soul. For instance, repentance from a drug addiction is a moment in time. But healing from a drug addiction takes time. All healing takes time. But time alone does not heal. Prayer over time is one of God’s means of grace for us to heal.

We cannot heal spiritual brokenness without prayer. And when we pray, we heal even the spiritual brokenness of which we are not aware! Prayer is not about asking things from God. That is the last reason to pray. We pray because it makes us whole.

Some of you have practiced what we see in the Lord’s Prayer, and you have been greatly blessed. Keep doing it. There is no particular order of importance but they should all be practiced.

(1) Call on God as Father. There is nothing wrong with calling him “Lord,” “God,” etc. But you understand God’s heart in prayer when you call him “Father.”

(2) Pray aloud. All prayer was done verbally, not in the head. Go back to that. You will find it helps you focus better, and the mind does not drift as easily. This also makes your prayer deliberate. It is a personal time and place set aside to pray out loud to our Father in heaven.

(3) Posture. Recently one of you shared that you prostrate in prayer, that is, kneeling with forehead to the ground. And that makes a difference to you. Yes, the posture of the body reflects the posture of the soul. God made us body and soul and the two are intimately connected. What we do to one affects the other. Another one of you shared that you are so comfortable with kneeling that you can fall asleep while kneeling. Yes, that is also true. This is why we do not prescribe one posture. It is important for you to adopt the posture that works for you. For me, walking has been the most effective posture to take when talking to my Father in heaven. This is not praying while I need to walk from one place to another. This is praying and the walking is incidental. I am not going anywhere when I walk and pray. That is praying time, not commuting time. I can pray while I commute, but that is not dedicated prayer.

(4) Listen. I am so glad to hear one of you also say that you are also experiencing this. When I pray to Abba Father, I find he talks to me too! Not an audible voice, but suddenly new thoughts come to me that are not “me.” When I am in desperate need for strength or wisdom, as I tell Abba Father my problems, he strengthens me even as I pray. And I emerge from the prayer a stronger, calmer person with less anxiety.

If we neglect prayer as God’s means for our healing, we will never be healed. It is as serious as that. That natural heart-cry in times of desperation is good, but not enough. Your prayer time must be a time of deep personal communion with God. You will find much healing from any brokenness. Your heart will be transformed as you pray. Your deep hurts will come out and gentle healing will soothe your soul. Your worst insecurities will be placed before your Father in heaven, and he will give you the blessing you need to move you from fear to faith. Your pride will melt away. Your besetting sin will be taken apart by the healing of the Holy Spirit and you will see your own heart like never before.

When we pray as Jesus teaches us to pray, a whole new world of spiritual reality opens up before us. We will begin a journey that allows us to experience the presence of God.

Pray. Because without prayer, we will not find healing. It is God’s powerful provision for our wholeness, our wellness. We will never heal without prayer. We will never fail to heal with prayer.

Pastor Peter Eng

Forgiveness and Healing

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B is addicted to gambling. In the past, she would go to Genting to gamble. But now, all she needs to do is to pay $100, and gamble to her heart’s content at MBS. Over the course of a year, she has lost all her savings. She starts borrowing money from loan sharks, always believing her luck will change. It didn’t. She now quarrels with family because she wants to “borrow” from them. She then steals from family to pay the loan shark. She begins a pattern of self-destruction: borrow from loan shark and stealing from family.

One day, she comes to her senses. She calls her estranged family together, confesses her sin, and asks for their forgiveness. She wants to turn over a new leaf. The forgiveness part is taken care of, but what about the healing? The family knows she has a sin pattern and that pattern has to be broken. They want her to register herself so she cannot go to the casino. They want her to use her time constructively by taking on a job. Any job would do. They want her to surrender all her money except her daily allowance. They send her to an addiction clinic for help. And they require her to worship, join a small group, and talk to the church pastor.

Let’s say, the family accept her repentance, but do nothing to help her heal from her gambling addiction. You can be sure she will drift back to her pattern of gambling.

When water has been running down a hill a certain way, it gouges out a path for itself. This becomes the path of least resistance, and the water will head down that path digging a deeper and deeper groove. If we want the water to run along a different way, we need to divert that water. We need to fill up the ravine the water has gouged, we need to do something to effect change.

Our Father’s forgiveness is only the start of his goodness to us. He continues his goodness by providing us healing from our sin issues. These are called “means of grace.” Repentance brings forgiveness, but repentance does not bring healing. It is amazing how often we confuse the two.

If a child says, “I have wasted my time in computer games. From now on, I want to use my time wisely.” The parents are delighted and then expects the child to somehow stop his pattern of behavior and adopt new patterns. It can happen. But more realistically, the child needs support to find new patterns of behavior.

If a person is ensnared in a sexual sin, he can repent from it, and can want to genuinely move out of it. But until and unless he also has a healing process in place, he will fail again and again. He will hate himself and write himself off. He thinks his repentance is also healing. It is not. It is only the start of healing.

If a person is insecure or lonely and gets into all sorts of trouble in her quest for security or companionship, she may repent a hundred times for all the wrong things she does to meet her desperate need. Yet, her repentance will not lead to a new life unless the wound of insecurity and loneliness is addressed.

(1) The first means of grace is also the act of repentance – baptism. In baptism, we say, “I believe in Jesus, I confess him as Lord, and die to sin, and now I will live a new life.” It is like the surgery one needs to get a fracture fixed. Then comes the other means of grace. They are like the physiotherapy and exercise one has to do to recover. They have to be done constantly, regularly, and diligently. (2) One of these is the holy communion. It is the physical affirmation of the spiritual reality of baptism. It is the reminder that we have died to sin, and the sin that we engage in is motivated by the evil one. (3) Another means of grace is prayer. Not the type of prayer that merely lists items, but personal prayer through a time we set aside, call on Abba Father, assume the right posture, and pray out loud to him. (4) In our day, God has provided another means of grace at a level no generation before ours enjoyed. Bible Reading. We have all sorts of reading programs allowing us any version to compare if we think something is unclear; and on days we are too lazy to read, we can even switch to audio and have it read to us. We can read in different fonts and on the computer or the phone. We can do it while we travel. We can even take notes and share with friends in a reading community.

Let us receive not only forgiveness but healing also. Let us exercise God’s means of grace to us with diligence that we may have healing in our soul.

Pastor Peter Eng

Receiving and Giving – Part 3

Peter Eng

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Summary on why we tithe

The reasons we tithe are rooted in Abraham, the father of our faith. He tithed and all Israel tithed. We who are the true Israel of God, the spiritual sons of Abraham, and we receive even greater blessings than the sons of Abraham after the flesh. We can therefore do no less than to worship God with our tithe. This worship is a confession that God is sovereign in our life.

Next we see the tithe as an expression of gratitude to God. Abraham tithed his spoils; Jacob vowed to tithe all that God will bless him from that time on. Gratitude is the second reason we tithe.

The third reason for the tithe in the OT is the support of the Levites. In fact, in practical terms, the tithe went primarily to support the Levites. In those days, they had no land to farm and the Lord is their inheritance. If the people do not tithe, the Levites starve. If the Levites starve, they will need to provide for themselves and will no longer be in a position to minister to the people spiritually.

The term “tithe” is a good and convenient term to be retained for spiritual Israel. All three reasons for tithing remain true for the Kingdom of God: worship, gratitude, and material blessings for spiritual blessings.

Christians who argue that we are only obligated in freewill offerings are suggesting that the reasons for the tithe are no longer there. Every reason for the tithe remains. If there is no tithe in giving when we function in a developed community of believers, then there is no need for a full-time minister of the Word. The minister of the Word should also serve out of his free-time. The principle in the NT is the same as the old. “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”The minister of God works and must not be cheated out of his work. The fact that he does it out of love for us does not mean we abuse that love and do not show him our love in return as the Corinthians did to Paul. By contrast, the Philippians understood the principle of receiving and giving, and supplied Paul’s needs.

The tithe may not be commanded in the NT, but that does not make it optional.  At the same time, the duty to tithe does not make it a law.  For instance, Christians are to evangelize. But there is no rule on when we begin to evangelize.  When we finally come to the realization that a wonderful privilege it is to evangelize, we do it. Yet it is only with encouragement and some cajoling that we evangelize. At the same time, it would be wrong to say evangelism is optional. We must not think of our faith in terms of the bare minimum we need for salvation.  We must think in terms of the abundance we receive from God when our faith is exercised fully.  It is not about minimum obligations to keep God from getting angry at us, it is about the maximum appropriation of God’s blessings.

How do we calculate the tithe?

“I’m a business man just starting out in my business. How can I assign 10% of my profits to God’s work? I really don’t see how I can survive that.” One person asks me recently.

The first hindrance to the tithe is the wrong understanding of what constitutes the tithe. We don’t have extensive discussions in the Bible on how to calculate the tithe, but I present the following for your consideration.

Let’s go back in time. The tithe of the produce of the land involved the major crops. The minor crops, like the herb garden, were not tithed. The land itself was not tithed. From this, it is fair to say that we are not called to tithe the business or a tenth of the business income. We are to tithe our personal income. Let’s say you are a business owner and your net business profit is $300,000. You reinvest $200,000 into the business and your personal income is $100,000. Your tithe is based on your personal income of $100,000. This is based on the idea that we are called to tithe the income, in the same way the farmer tithes his harvest and not his land.

Another reason for this thinking is derived from the third reason for the tithe in the OT. The tithe goes towards supporting those called to serve the Lord. The Lord’s servant is paid a 110% of the average income of the tithers if everyone tithes.(That is, eleven tribes tithing towards one.) The reality is that most do not give 10%, and the servant of the Lord usually gets less that 100% of the average income of people he serves. The Lord’s servant lives at the level of the people he serves. So ten working families can theoretically support one full-time person’s income.

The salaried person has an easy job of deciding the tithe because he has a fixed income. Yet, we meet the inevitable question. The first question that arises is, “Do I tithe gross or net?”

My answer is, “It’s up to you.”

I personally practice tithing gross. But the Bible is silent on it, and I have nothing to add. However, I like to suggest that if you look at the principle of 11 working persons supporting 1.  Some will not give 10% but say, 5%. Some do not tithe at all. So will 11 people who are supposed to tithe support 1 person? To further reduce the amount, we tithe net. Our net becomes the gross of God’s servant. On the side of personal consideration, I see the gross and net like before or after tax money.  If I tithe my gross, any money put aside is “after-tithe” money.  I am not expected to commit another tithe from that amount of money. On the other hand, if I tithe my net, any money put aside is “before-tithe) money. When I withdraw that money to spent, I will treat it as something I need to tithe.

Do I tithe my inheritance? The simple answer is “No.” In the OT, the land is handed from parent to child, likewise the home. We are almost certain that was never tithed. The inheritance of land is not an income, but a source of future income. Treat your inheritance like a business asset. There are, however, some people who are blessed with much and wish to expressed their gratitude to God and their commitment to a simple life, and so give a freewill offering from the inheritance. This is a special blessing which only the pure in heart know how to give.

Is the tithe always 10%? My short answer is “Yes.” I hear some people talk about a 5% tithe. The word tithe means 10%. Can we have a 10% that is only a 5%? Would you be happy when your employer cuts your salary by half and still insists he has paid you? Remember that tithe goes towards the support of God’s servant who has blessed you. If you tithe 5%, you have, in principle, cut his salary by half.

Do I have the duty to tithe when I am in debt? There is no simple answer.  First I am assuming it is a desperate debt that you have to pay up, not like a structured long-term mortgage that you pay over time. If it is a mortgage type debt, your duty to tithe remains. If you are in grave danger of financial failure and you have cut out all discretionary spending in your life, I believe you are not under duty to tithe. There are poor people in Israel or in the Israel of God. If they have cut back all discretionary spending and still cannot tithe. I don’t think the tithe applies to them. They are no longer like the famer who gets a good harvest, they are like the gleaners (e.g. Ruth) who are living on very little. But if we are paying a debt and still have money for discretionary purchases then our debt is not reason to stop tithing. Channel the discretionary spending to the Lord’s work as an expression of your commitment to tithe when you have the capacity to do so.

Do I have the duty to tithe my student grant or scholarship? The short answer is “No.” Most grants and scholarships pay tuition, room and board, etc. Under these circumstances you are still a dependent and you are receiving kind rather than cash. As much as you do not tithe for room and board at home, you do not tithe for the room and board you get in a grant or scholarship. However, if the scholarship is a merit scholarship with generous proportions, you should consider it income and tithe accordingly.

How do I direct my tithe? In our complicated society, we are faced with different ministries with different needs. Assuming that we are committed to the tithe, where does it go? We recall the tithe goes to the Levite. The more directly that is done, the less complicated it is.  For instance, if you belong to a small church plant with 10 working people and each give 10%, the minister will have the average income of the congregation (less the amount of net rather gross tithe). If there are 20 working persons and each tithe, and there are church expenses, we can assume that half of our tithe goes to the minister and half to ministries that we consume. Evangelism, new converts, programs and facilities consume our tithe. I am detailing these so we can understand that we consume resources. Our tithe must go to where we consume. There is nothing spiritual to say I give nothing to my own church and give my tithe to the poor people I meet because they need it more. If you come from a big church with excess funds it is acceptable to channel some of your giving to another need. But at no point can you cut off your giving to the place from which you get your spiritual care and feeding.

A really bad case of this is when your own church is small and short of funds to pay your pastor properly, but you still direct your tithes to where you are not getting your spiritual content and where you are consuming. If your church is unable to meet your spiritual needs and you go to different places and you split your tithes, it is acceptable. The point of the tithe in addition to worship and gratitude to God is duty to those who serve us. We must not muzzle the ox that is treading out the grain. Until the duty reciprocity is met, generosity to the poor is irrelevant. It is like telling people who work for you, “I am supposed to pay you so much, but I have decided to give part or most of it to the poor because I think they need it more than you do.” The tithe is not our money to control. God has already assigned it to his servant who serves you.

If God’s servant who serves us is amply supplied and what we consume is amply taken care of, we may direct our tithes to other ministers of God who are in need. There are many of these. The tithe is for what we consume in spiritual benefits. If you consume an expensive church building in your spiritual needs, do not begrudge your tithe to that project.  If we are not convinced there is such a need, we may choose not to participate. But the most basic need we must not lose sight of is the need to supply those who serve us spiritually.

Family in ministry. Some people may have family members in full-time ministry. Do we support them? If they have a need and their ministry is unable to meet that need, the answer is “Yes.” When there is a need, it is proper that our family members be the first recipient of our tithe. But we still cannot freeload on the community that provides us spiritual blessing. They must have something.

Special Giving

The freewill offering is beyond the tithe. If the Lord has blessed us with much and we see a need and like to give to it, it is freewill offering. Unlike the tithe where there is a duty to do so, there is no duty involved in the freewill offering. The emphasis here is that it is beyond the tithe. Anything within the tithe is not freewill offering. Some Christians direct their tithes to pet projects. That is not the best way to give. The essentials must be met before the optional. It is good that we have things we feel passionately about and wish to give to those beyond the tithe.

An example of freewill offering is when a person receives an inheritance and wishes to give part of it away. That is not the tithe, it is freewill offering.

Legacy giving is when people who have received spiritual blessing choose to leave something behind to bless others who come after them. For some it may be a fund for missionaries, or for the education of unsupported pastors’ kids, or unmarried widows of pastors, etc. It is often done in the context of a testamentary Will, though there are people who give while still alive.

In my personal experience, Singapore Christians tend to be better at tithing, and American Christians are better in special giving involving their inheritance. Many feel they have already supplied their children and choose to leave a significant portion to the Lord’s work as a blessing that extends beyond their life.

Conclusion

Money has a special hold on us. In our natural self, we are loathed to part with it. Without Christ, we are all grabbers and takers. We know only to give to our immediate family and any giving is out of our excess. But when we have received the richness of God’s redemption, we learn to give.

I was a wayward child and I believe that the grace of Christ saved me. I was in the “youth at risk” category. If not for the redemptive work of Christ, I may be behind bars today. Whatever hardships I face, whatever disappointments, whatever injustice, whatever failures, God has blessed me more than I deserve. There was a path I did not take. God kept me from that path. There will always be suffering this side of eternity, but I am grateful to God for the blessing of wife, children, home, and health.  We have never experienced hunger from want or the turmoil of war. God has protected us from natural disasters and the violence of wicked people. And when there are accidents, he has spared us so we can speak of his mercy. Where people have been wicked towards me, God has sent unexpected friends to uphold me in my moments of despair. I have done nothing to deserve such a good life. There is every reason for me to bow in worship and present my tithe in grateful acknowledgment of his goodness to me.

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Receiving and Giving – Part 2

Peter Eng

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Let’s look at giving as taught in the New Testament and we can see the sensitivity displayed to their situation.

What is and what ought. The Apostle Paul makes occasional references to how he is or is not supported by the churches, suggesting that despite his full-time service, his income through the church is sporadic. The church in Corinth did not support him financially (1 Corinthians 9:12); but the church in Philippi did (Philippians 4:15-16), even though it appears that it is done from time to time.

We see Paul collecting money for the poor even though he is himself not rich. The early Gentile Christians in Corinth do not know how to give to those who serve them. And Paul gives them time to grow.  Yet at some point, he has to speak with them honestly about how the Corinthians treat him.

Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

(1 Corinthians 9)

It is a shameful thing for a preacher to do the work of the Lord for money.  But it is also a shameful thing for Christians to ignore the needs of the Lord’s servant from whom they have received spiritual benefit. That preacher has to live.  If we do not pay the preacher who ministers to us, someone is paying.  They preacher is paying for it himself (like Paul or Barnabas) or others are bearing our share of the burden. In the vocabulary of our day, we will be called freeloaders. We enjoy the benefits at the expense of others when we can and ought to contribute.

Paul says that even animals are given a share of the food they produce. When we do not tithe and take care of God’s servants (like the Levites of the OT), we are cruel and do not even give God’s workers what we owe even to animals that work for us.

Paul did not ask for, and the Corinthians did not offer support. They pretended Paul and Barnabas did not need resources to live. They will forever go down in history as freeloading Christians. They were not people without means. They were simply people without love for those who loved them and sacrificed much to serve them.

On account of Paul being open to accusations of self-interest if he talks too much about giving and receiving, he chooses not to take from the Corinthians so the Gospel will not be hindered. This is an irregular situation where Paul has to manage the selfish “taker” Christians in Corinth, but it is not the norm.

We find a fuller picture of the norm when Paul is not talking about himself.

17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

(1 Timothy 5)

Paul is quite clear that those who serve in the spiritual realm ought to be supported. While the tithe is not mentioned, the means of supporting the Levites through the tithe is very clear. In God’s Kingdom, many will serve like Paul and Barnabas, serving without support so the Gospel may not be hindered. But that is the exception, not the rule. The norm is for the believers who receive spiritual benefit to bless God’s servants with material benefits. And when we dare to ask, “How much?” The answer is clear. It is already given.  It is the tithe.

We do not have any direct command for the early church to tithe. But the early church is not without a trajectory. The worshippers of the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob tithe in worship, and Israel tithe to Yahweh their king. We are both children of Abraham and citizens of God’s kingdom. Should we not tithe?

Some would insist that the absence of a direct command means we have no such obligation. We need to recall that the early church was a new spiritual nation in the making. To insist that no direct command means no obligation would be the same as saying, “There is no direct command to stop slavery so we can continue to have slaves.” And, “There is no direct statement to say that we should stop polygamy or concubinage, so we can continue to have several wives and concubines.” The absence of a direct command is not the start and end of every consideration. In our day, this means tithing should not be the first thing new converts are taught. Churches who do this betray their own greed and disregard for the welfare of the babes in Christ. On the other hand, Christians who reject this responsibility forget the reasons for the tithe.

The apostles teach the people to give by first collecting for the poor.  It is always easier to start giving by calling for donations to the desperately poor and needy. The Corinthians are so mean-spirited that Paul has to arm-twist them to give to the poor. There is no need to talk about giving to those who served them spiritually; to do so would be to invite suspicions that people serve with monetary motives. But Paul speaks openly to Timothy his mentee. The church in Ephesus is stable and there is occasion to regularize matters. The picture is simple. The teaching elders are to be paid, and if possible well paid when they do their work well. And the funding for that pay is already an established pattern: the tithe. If there is no tithe, how are the Levites to be paid? How are the teaching elders to be paid?

Paul’s letter to Timothy outlines for us what ought to be the case. The true servant of God must never serve because he is paid. Yet the true people of God must never neglect the welfare of those who feed us spiritually. Many immature Christians are not ready to give. They are like little children who take from their parents and have not learned to give.  But as they grow older, we can expect greater maturity and with that, a greater eagerness to give.

There is no joy is freeloading. Until we give to those who serve us, we are freeloaders, we are children still learning and growing.

Non-reasons for tithing

Some of us who are familiar with the Bible may be surprised to find I did not include some of the most common passages for tithing. The reason is that I consider them non-reasons.

The first is from the prophet Malachi.

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LordAlmighty.12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

(Malachi 3)

This text is often quoted as a reason to tithe. In a short-handed fashion, it is not wrong to use this text to teach tithing. It is true that in the OT, tithing is required and the people did not tithe, thus they are robbing God. The dynamics in the church are different.

This text is talking about a confrontation between God and the people. They are a mature nation, and not giving as they ought to. As a result, God is withholding blessings from them. God will resume blessings on them if they resume tithing. In that sense, it is applicable for some people. God can withdraw blessings for the Christian who refuses to grow up and refuses to tithe to God’s work. The challenge then is to ask people to tithe so God will resume his blessings.

Let’s look at this practically and see Israel as a farming community. There are some who tithe but most do not (Malachi’s time). How does the rain fall? Does it rain on the farms of those who tithe and not rain on the farms of those who don’t tithe? If the cause and effect of tithing is so straightforward, all the farmers would tithe without being told! The nation fails as a whole and the judgment falls on the entire nation. How do Christians want to apply that to our time? Many people cite Malachi 3 as though it is a simple cause and effect in the life of the individual. “If you tithe, God will bless. If you don’t, you are robbing God and God will not bless you.” So what of the tithing farmers who get no rain?

The first point to note is the blessings in Malachi 3 are about the resumption of blessings from God. What if God has not withdrawn his blessings? That is to say, a person is not at a point in his life when God has withdrawn his blessings of account of the non-tithe. He starts to tithe and expects God to bless him more, but that is all the Lord intends for him to have. Does he then get angry that God is not giving more when he tithes?

The suggestion when we use this passage for tithing is that God will give us MORE if we tithe, not that God will resume his blessings if we tithe. This wrong reading of the text is then used to fan our greed. We want God to give us more, so we tithe. That is not the original reason for the tithe even in OT times. The tithe is to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and to worship him. When Israel becomes a nation, she is called upon to support the Levites who served them in spiritual things, and to supply the needs of worship. If we use this text for tithing, we are prone to use it to fan greed rather than devotion. We tend to induce the person to give so he will get more.

Another favorite text is38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6)

The meaning here is that we will get back what we give without any discount. The figure of speech is the measure of grain. We measure out a portion, we will get back the same but this time, it will be shaken, pressed down, and filled to the running brim. But it will be the same measure. If we think of this text as God blessing us when we give, God’s blessings would be quite miserable. Let’s consider this. If we use the same measure and then shake, press down, and fill to overflowing, how much more will we get? 10% more?20% more? Is that the limit of God’s blessings for those who give?

The context is about judging people. The preceding verse reads: 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6)

The passage is about judging others and condemning others, not about giving to God.  It is about dishing out condemnation. If we are harsh in our judgment of people, and we condemn people using a harsh measure, we will have the same measure returned to us. Not only will we be judged by the same harsh measure, we will receive a full measure of it, shaken, pressed down, and brimming over.

This passage has nothing to do with giving money and receiving something good in return. It is a caution not to dish out harshness so we will not receive harshness in return.

The net effect of using this text to motivate giving is once more to induce greed in us. We will have a hidden motive to give so we can have more. That is never the reason for the tithe. In the New Testament the reason for the tithe (or “giving” if you do not like the use of the word “tithe”), is to provide material blessings for those who give is spiritual blessings. We are not to muzzle the ox that treads the grain. It is like Israel tithing to the needs of the Levites.

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Receiving and Giving – Part 1

Peter Eng

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The practice of tithing among Christians is so well known that even people of other faith talk about it now and then. Like many things we know, there remains much we don’t know.

What is tithing? The very short answer is: “Tithing is returning one-tenth of our income to God in acknowledgement that he is sovereign over our life and earnings.”

This definition immediately raises questions in at least two areas:

(1) Why should we tithe?

(2) What does tithing look like in practice?

Why should we tithe?

Let’s recall the story of how God calls Abram to leave Ur and to go to a land he had promised Abram.  At this point, there is no indication that Abram knows who this God is. He may or may not know God as “Yahweh” at this point. He just knows some deity has spoken to him in a way he cannot ignore, and obeys that as a call from God. He eventually reaches Canaan and worships God the best he knows how.

Soon disaster strikes! His nephew Lot is captured by marauding invaders! Abram organizes his 318 men to rescue Lot. He sneaks up on the complacent armies, strikes them hard and rescues Lot. Not only does Abram rescue Lot, he returns heavy with the booty of the vanquished armies. (Genesis 14)

Melchizedek, the king of Salem (old name for Jerusalem), who is also a priest of the Most High God, comes to meet Abram. He gives Abram bread and wine to refresh him, and he declares to Abram,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

                                                   (Gen 14:19-20)

The term “God Most High” appears for the first time, and that is possibly the first time God reveals his identity to Abram. The God Most High lays claim to Abram’s success. We are not told how Abram knows, but he immediately submits himself to his God whom he now knows to be the God Most High, creator of heaven and earth. What a worthy and wonderful revelation!

Abrams also knows his successful rescue is due to the God Most High.  He immediately gives one-tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek, the priest of the God Most High, now the God of Abram. When Abram gives this tithe, he is submitting to the God Most High as his God and acknowledges that it is God Most High who gives the victory.

Herein lies the most compelling reason for tithing. Abram, our spiritual forefather started this. At the point of realizing who God is, and that he owes his success to God, he offers his tithe.  By this tithe, Abram is saying, “I acknowledge you as my God and I owe you the success I have. I gladly offer this as my act of worship.”

The second instance of the tithe comes from the mouth of Jacob. Jacob, the grabber the man does not know how to give, only to take. He is not a nice man. He has just cheated his own brother and is now fleeing for his life. On the way, he stops to sleep at Luz. There God appears to him in a dream telling him, he is the God of Abraham and Isaac. And the promise given to Abraham is repeated to Jacob.

In his moment of despair and possible reflection of his own evil deeds, God speaks to him. Not in reprimand that he deserves, but with goodness Jacob does not deserve — words of promise and direction. But Jacob is a stingy man in faith and in purse. He does not come outright to confess God. Instead he makes a conditional vow, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord [Yahweh] will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (Genesis 28:20-22).

God brings Jacob home with abundance after more than 14 years, and Jacob and his descendants are forever bound by the vow he makes to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and now also the God of Jacob. At the heart of the tithe is Jacob acknowledging God’s sovereign control and protection. It is worship in action. He is saying, “God is my king.” “This is the tribute I owe him.” Is the God or Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” also the “God of [insert your name]?

Israel then becomes a nation, and receives tithing regulations. There is a first tithe, a second tithe, etc. There are regulations on how the tithe(s)is(are) to be used. We will by-pass these as they apply to the nation of Israel after the flesh and we who live in Christ are the true descendants of Abraham, the spiritual Israel of God. There are, however, several principles to be noted.(Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:25-29; Deuteronomy 14:22-29).

The tithe is not optional. They are essential for the spiritual and material work of the Levites, priests and temple. This does not mean the people always obeyed. During the time of Judges, people did not tithe because nobody forced them to. This resulted in a desperate tribe of Levites willing to sell out their spiritual services to anyone willing to pay them.  But when a good king rules, tithes and offerings were collected by the king (2 Chronicles 31:5).

We tithe because

(1)   Like Abraham and Jacob, we acknowledge the Lord as our God. The acknowledgment of the Lord is not an empty acknowledgment. It is a commitment sealed with the tithe. The Lord Most High is my God, so I tithe as a spiritual child of Abraham.

(2)   National Israel declared the Lord as their God. In acknowledgment of God’s person and goodness they tithe. We are the Spiritual Israel of God and we ought to acknowledge God as our King with the tithe.

The commands to tithe are neither repeated nor repealed in the New Testament. There are some who argue strongly on the count that it is not repeated, that the tithe is repealed. I do not find the arguments convincing. At the same time, it is true that there is no reaffirmation of the tithe in the early church.

We come close to an affirmation of the tithe when Jesus addresses the Pharisees who tithe their herb garden, but neglect the most important aspects of faith. Jesus affirms their tithing is right, but their neglect of the weightier matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness contrasts so markedly against their scrupulous tithing.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23)

It is true that Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, sons of Abraham in the flesh, and they have that obligation to tithe. But it begs the question that if the sons of Abraham in the spirit have received the greater blessings and inheritance, should they do no less?

I think the reasons for the lack of affirmation are quite understandable.  The first gentile Christians are not in the habit of giving one-tenth, but they are accustomed to giving offerings to the pagan temples. To make the tithe a requirement for Christian community from the get-go would pose a huge obstacle to faith. It will cause people to suspect the motive of preachers proclaiming the good news, and it will be a stumbling block on the path to faith.

Another reality is that many early Christians were slaves.  Imagine yourself a slave with no income and you are required to tithe. What will you do? You did not choose to refrain, you simply have no means. Do you become a second class church member because you cannot tithe?

Our situation today is much closer to national Israel than to the fledgling church. We don’t have slaves. We expect full-time people to serve our spiritual needs. We want to worship in nice buildings and have good programs. We are consumers in our faith. Someone has to pay for it. Even if we meet in homes, it is someone’s home. When we listen to the preacher, he has to take time out to prepare spiritual blessings for us.  If we want full-time preachers we need to support him as Israel supported the Levites.  The question is how they are to be supported.

The beauty and genius of the Christian faith is our flexibility. The Christian community can function on a shoe string with no full-time preacher, a self-supported preacher, or a paid full-time preacher.  In countries such as Singapore where our economy is developed, the full-time preacher is the norm—and rightly so. In addition, we demand preachers who are trained in what they do. In Singapore, there are additional laws governing where people can meet and how any church or society must be run. These require resources to comply. Someone has to pay for these.

In contrast, the underground church to this day meets in homes and often do not have full-time preachers. They don’t have the overheads of the Christian faith expressing itself in a developed society. And truth be told, many have tried to function like the early church, but they have not succeeded. The social dynamics of a free and stable country place the same demands on the Christian ministry as they did on national Israel.

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The Christian Approach to Homosexuality – Part 4

Peter Eng

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World Vision (a Christian Relief Organization) employs homosexuals. Many evangeli­cals who support World Vision object. We are not here to accuse or to excuse World Vision. But this is a good test case for us to understand our own views towards homosexuals. Should Christian organizations hire homosexuals? What about when they are only hired for services? For instance, should I knowingly pay for the services of a plumber when I know he is gay? (Most people don’t have a problem with that.) And how is that different from hiring someone full-time? Does it depend more on the job the person is hired for? For instance, is there a difference between hiring a homosexual who does maintenance compared to one who is in ministry?

Our conversation is not about hiring.  But I think the hiring issue causes us to think and clarifies our view towards homosexuals. The points below are not of equal length because they do not require equal treatment.

#1 Look at our sexuality with eternity in view

What will it be like in the (completed) Kingdom of God? That is, how do we function sexually in the resurrection? Let’s put our present day sexual concerns in light of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us, “For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25 cf. Matthew 22:30). Our marriage relationship and our sexuality will become irrelevant. (This is not only about marriage but also a polite reference to our sexuality.) 

This does not suggest our sexuality should be ignored as a moral issue because it concerns only our current existence. As much as family, marriage, and sexuality are all of great concern to us now, and God has given us distinct guidelines for life here in this existence, homosexuality falls under the same level of concern. We will continue to sing God’s grace and love into eternity, and we will be pleased to know that any contention about issues of sexuality will pass into oblivion. Our struggles with sexuality, whatever they may be, will be no more

#2 Judgment begins with the household of God

The Apostle Peter gives us the principle that judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). When we make the assertion that homosexuality is wrong according to the moral standards given to us in the Word of God, we are not suggesting that heterosexuals are better people. In the area of our sexuality, heterosexual people are no less sinful, no less failures, and no less in need of redemption or in danger of judgment.

If we remove the sin of homosexuality from the text in 1 Corinthians 6, it reads, “Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who worship idols, or commit adultery … or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.” Homosexuality is wrong, but should not be singled out as the only thing that disqualifies us from the Kingdom of God. Adultery is specifically mentioned here. Beside sexual sins, the other sins that keep us from the Kingdom of God are: idolatry, theft, greed, drunkenness, etc.

Evangelical Christians who submit to the authority of Scripture need to recognize that homosexuality is not isolated as a special sin that keeps us from the Kingdom of God.  There are many other sinful aspects of life that would prevent us from entering the Kingdom of God. Many heterosexual people indulge in sexual sins. Many commit adultery. Heterosexual misbehavior is not excused any more than homosexual misbehavior. While we have spent much space asserting the sinfulness of homosexuality, we do so because too many people assert that homosexuality is not a sin. We do it not because it should be singled out. It is like if some group decides to assert that adultery is not sin. We then have a push back to assert it is sin.

The current homosexual assertion that homosexuality is not sin is one reason for our current push-back. We know that the argument has become increasingly strident, and in part, it is due to homosexuals asserting that homosexuality is a choice issue, not a moral issue.

At the same time, we need to recognize that homosexuals are discriminated by much of society. They are not persecuted the way Christians are persecuted, but in some instances they are killed because of their homosexuality.  I think Christians have added to the problem. Let me explain.

Let’s say homosexuals are bullied in a community, in school, in the military, or at work. What is our response as Christians? Do we stand with the person or against him? We can join the crowd and marginalize him further because of his sexual sin, or we can stand with him because he is a person made in the image of God and in need of redemption.

Now, when we look at our own attitudes, we see it is easier to join the crowd in marginalizing a homosexual than to behave as Jesus did. The person is first a human being before he is a homosexual. When we look at 1 Corinthians 6, we see that adultery is confronted in the same way as homosexuality.  To help us clear our own head, and heart, it is useful for us to compare how we respond to adultery and homosexuality, because we see Scriptures placing them beside each other.

I suspect heterosexual sin is more prevalent than homosexual sin! Some place the incidence of adultery to be around 50%, but it is likely that it is no lower than 30%. In a country like America we see adulterers sitting comfortably in churches singing praise to God as though they have done no wrong.  On our part, we see no evil, hear no evil and say no evil.

If we will be fair to homosexuals, why do we not address the sexual sin of adultery with equal vigor as we do the sin of homosexuality? I think if we dare to look within us, we will find the answer, notwithstanding the point that we are in a push-back response to the assertions made by the homosexual community.

Many of us have deep seated animosity against people who practice homosexuality.  Perhaps in part because we are not them, so we can afford this animosity. Perhaps we are deflecting our own guilt onto them. Perhaps we are not guilty and like to use them as examples that we are not sinners like these people. The reality is that homosexual people have suffered prejudice.  They respond to this prejudice by asserting that homosexuality is not a sin. That is also incorrect!

At some point, we need to ask if the current homosexual assertion that homosexuality is not wrong is the result of the prejudice they have suffered, and if we have contributed to their current assertion.

Let’s take a step back and ask, “Why?” Why do we have this prejudice in the first place? 

I believe that in part, we see homosexuality as worse because it is a perversion of the natural order of sexuality.  Adultery, on the other hand is a sin by excessive indulgence, or in taking pleasure beyond where we have the right to do so. Adultery is engaging in normal sexuality to sinful excess. Homosexuality is engaging in abnormal sexuality.

There is some justification to say that homosexuality is worse than adultery, like it is to say incest is worse than adultery.  But what the Bible makes clear is that either homosexuality or adultery disqualifies us from the Kingdom of God.  If we leap from the 50th floor and die, does it make any practical difference if we leap from the 49th floor and also die?  Do we say it is terrible to leap from the 50th floor but quite alright to leap from the 49th?

At the same time, I am puzzled. If we have 5 people leaping from the 50th floor and 100 people leaping from the 49th floor, which should be the greater concern if we can address only one issue at a time? Would it not be that we would do a triage of trying to save as many people as possible first? Why do we address homosexuality so much more than adultery when adultery is more common than homosexuality?

Do you think Jesus’ injunction to first remove the log out of your own eye before you try to remove the speck of sawdust from your brother’s eye applies to us in our approach to sexuality?

When we place homosexuality and adultery side by side, we begin to see our own picture emerging. We see we have been discriminating against homosexuals. We see our own failure and our own double standards. We see that perhaps we should not be the guiltless party entitled to cast the first stone.

Jesus told the crowd ready to stone the woman caught in adultery, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7 KJV), the principle applies to homosexuality. Let the one who does not commit adultery, who does not have sexual sin, who does not watch porn, who is not greedy for money, who does not love things more than God … cast the first stone.

Jesus does not excuse the sin of the woman caught in adultery.  What Jesus brings to the table is the sin of the other people who surround this woman caught in adultery. Jesus is asking for equal justice.

I like to suggest to you that we need to affirm two things: (1) homosexuality is sin because the Bible affirms it; (2) homosexuals have been unfairly targeted and are right to say they have suffered discrimination.  In the first point, I know I will have evangelicals agree with me readily.  But in the second, I am out on a limb.

I hope to persuade more fellow evangelicals the sinfulness of homosexuality does not give us the right to behave the way we have been behaving towards them. We need to apply the same rules. That is one way to determine our own bias. Next we need to stand in their shoes to determine if our actions are righteous.

#3 Standing in their shoes

Let’s return to the test case of World Vision. Does World Vision allow openly adulterous people to be employed? If so, they need to allow openly homosexual people in their employment. If they allow one and not the other, there is an immediate failure in being consistent. So let an employer ask if he employs adulterers and homosexuals, and use that as a platform in social justice. We are not discussing if World Vision should or should not do this or that. My suggestion is this: if we will have justice we can let the stones fly or let the stone lay on the ground. We cannot have selective stoning. There is grave injustice in selective stoning.

Next, we need to stand in their shoes. Let’s say you have employers who are homosexuals and you apply for a job. He looks at you and sees you are heterosexual. He decides he will not employ you because you are heterosexual, would you accept that?

But I need to qualify. There is a clear justification for a religious organization not to employ people who continue to engage in activities contrary to their moral requirements and there is no injustice in that.  A Christian organization can dismiss practicing homosexuals as it dismisses practicing adulterers.  A Buddhist organization can dismiss people who eat animals just as a Muslim organization can dismiss people who eat pork. But there must be a consistent adherence to the tenets of one’s own belief system.  We cannot selectively fire people for one and not another when they fall under the same consideration.

Perhaps another scenario is this. You discover that among your employees, one is an adulterer and one is a homosexual. Do you fire both of them, one of them, or neither? If yours is a secular business, do you fire them?

The challenge we face is this: If we are sympathetic to the injustice suffered by homosexuals, people think we accept homosexuality. But that is not the case. Not any more than the suggestion that when Jesus defended the woman about to be stoned, he justified her adultery. We affirm both the sinfulness of adultery/homosexuality and also affirm the need for a righteous and compassionate handling of sexual sins. Jesus gave us many examples.

Many of us have friends and loved ones who are homosexuals. We face the tension of loving them without approving their action.  This struggle brings home the attitude we ought to have. The Christian view towards sin is redemption. We all need redemption from sin as much as the homosexual or the adulterer. At the same time, we are much more than our sin.  The homosexual and the adulterer is more than his sin. He is the person Jesus loves. He is the person for whom Jesus died.

#4 Homosexuality and the law of the land

The challenge we have before us are man-made laws and man-made protocols. If we submit to the moral laws of God and construct our legal system according to God’s moral law, we will have a different approach to many things. The world’s justice system is not aligned with Scripture. So how do we address the issue of homosexuality in a country’s legal system?

In previous conversations, we talked about the Singapore Penal Code S377A.  It is a very imperfect law.  But there is nothing in its place if it is abolished. I do not think all imperfect laws should be abolished as the resulting vacuum is worse. S377A continues to serve the function of identifying homosexuality as wrong. For me that is the most important function of S377A.

S377A is quite bad in that the penalties connected to it are terrible.  Let’s use adultery as a comparison again. Does an adulterer get sent to prison? I think not.  At the same time, adultery remains in the books as something wrong. Homosexuality should be recognized as a moral wrong but not singled out for disproportionate penalties. As there are penalties for the adulterer so the homosexual should not expect to go scot- free. The good thing is that Singapore has applied a light hand on S377A and as a legal system, we have not made victims of homosexuals.

Conclusion

I like to propose to you the biblical view of homosexuality as follows:

  1. Homosexuality is a sin. Adultery and other sexual sins are also addressed in the Bible and homosexuality is not singled out as a sin for special attention.
  2. All sexual sins are linked to our present corruptible body, and all sexual sins will be resolved when we rise from the dead and live in the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
  3. We use adultery as a comparison to search our own hearts concerning possible bias against homosexuals and have discovered that there is merit in the homosexual complaint that we discriminate. We must desist.
  4. The Christian approach to homosexuals and adulterers is one of redemption.  We affirm they need help and we are called to be agents to help them, not to inflict harm on them.
  5. The State has laws that are more confusing than consistent. The law of the land is not particularly helpful in the redemption of homosexuals (or adulterers). We are called to reach people at their place of need and empower their life with the presence of the Holy Spirit who transforms the heart and the mind.

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