I posted this a couple of years ago, but I’m now organizing a 50th year Reunion for my own class of 1965 at Fort Worth Christian, so I thought it might be appropriate once more.

Last weekend was Homecoming at Fort Worth Christian School—my high school alma mater—do you say alma mater for a high school??  Only once since 1965 have I attended FWC’s Homecoming, and then it was just the football game, so I hardly saw anyone I knew.

This Homecoming was very different. Good friends of ours had spent months, if not a whole year, organizing a 50ish Homecoming reunion for the FWC classes of 61, 62, 63, and 64, the very first graduating classes.  FWC was such a small school in those early years that even though my class was a year later, I had sung in the chorus, played sports, played in the band, and been friends with these older guys.  I actually had a role in the Senior Play for three years—and no, I wasn’t a senior for three years! We were just a small school, so we knew each other!

As if one reunion wasn’t enough, my brother and sister’s class (68) also had a big reunion and I decided to go with Gary to it as well. What was I thinking!

I love the history that reunions recall.  I loved the old pictures of cheerleaders in skirts below their knees. I was amazed at the pictures of the empty sheep pasture where the school was built—in the middle of nowhere—an area now surrounded ten miles deep in a heavily populated area of the city.  I used to be able to stand on “the hill” as we called it then, and see about twelve miles to the grain elevator in Saginaw.  Now, there are so many trees, people don’t know why the area is called College Hill. The trees have overwhelmed the geography!

I was also shocked at the blatant racism in some of the programs we put on in the earliest years. I’m pretty sure I played in the band for these minstrel shows, but I was retrospectively glad that my name was not in the printed program. I remember a big fight we had one year over allowing a child to tap dance in the FWC talent show. We eventually banned tap dancing—for fear of lust, I suppose—but at the same time, we didn’t recognize real racial prejudice in ourselves.  I hope this means we have learned a lot in the last fifty years.

I had forgotten how many of my classmates married right out of high school. Many of them married each other! And most of them are divorced.  You probably think that should have been expected with them marrying so young, but not necessarily.  Most, if not all of our parents married pretty young as well, and they stayed together.  But not the newly-weds of the 60s.  Divorce, which was taboo in the 50s, became an everyday reality in the 60s.  Today, it is hardly a even a category label.  Maybe we haven’t learned so much in the last fifty years.

The people missing at the reunion also had a lot to say.  A surprising number had already passed away, at least one is in prison, some had moved far away from Ft. Worth and made lives very distant from their high school years, some were embarrassed to come, several had grandkids in football games competing with the reunion and, of course, the grandkids won, and, I suppose, some just didn’t want to come.

That’s ok.  High school friendships only stick if you live continuously near classmates that you were great friends with.  Notwithstanding our skinny black ties and white jackets or the girls’ skirts and beehive flips–those styles that make us look older to our grandkids, we were just kids.

High school was a great time. FWC, even in its infancy, was a place where we had good friends and  where committed teachers inspired us—most of them anyway.  The fact that now we’ve gained weight and/or gone bald, succeeded and/or failed, been happy and/or hurt in life, grown emotionally or not—not many if any of the outcomes of our lives can we blame on high school.

Did you know that the letter jacket worn by Fonzie in Happy Days is on exhibit in the Smithsonian? 

A little nostalgia is good for everyone,  but high school was an isolated moment in time, put on exhibit at your reunion for a brief visit, then you walk out the door into what the real world has become for you.

The trees that have grown up around high school have changed the geography, haven’t they!

Max 60

Sherrylee’s dad died yesterday.  This is the official obituary. Amazing how hard it is to describe someone’s life.  Thank you to all our friends who have sent their condolences. We appreciate every prayer and every kind word. 

Funeral services for Max L. Johnson will be at 1pm, Tuesday, May 26, at Collegeside Church of Christ in Cookeville, TN. Graveside service will follow at 4:00pm at Crestview Cemetery, Gallatin, TN.

The family will receive friends from 6-8pm Monday, May 25 at Hooper, Huddleston & Horner Funeral Home.  Friends may also visit with the family Tuesday from 12-1pm before the service at Collegeside.

Mr. Johnson passed away at Thursday afternoon, May 21, surrounded by family and loved ones, covered with psalms and prayers.   He was 89 years old.

“Mr. Max” preached as a minister of the Gospel for forty-seven years, serving Churches of Christ in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.  He helped begin AGAPE of Georgia, Greater Atlanta Christian School, and served on the Board of Mt. Dora Christian Home and Bible School in Florida.

He was known as a humble and studious Bible teacher with a great sense of humor, an enthusiastic sports fan, and a husband and father who loved, led, and served his family.

After moving to Cookeville, he served at Collegeside Church of Christ as an elder and as one of the ministers.

He is survived by his wife of 17 years, Opal Brizendine Wakefield Johnson, 11 children, 33 grandchildren, and 55 great grandchildren.

He is preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Joyce Blackman Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida, and his oldest child, Linda Johnson Samanie of Arlington, Texas.  Also preceding him were his parents Henry Frank and Essie Johnson of Hendersonville, Tennessee, his brother Garnet Johnson of Hendersonville, and his sister Nell Katherine Johnson Warren of Nashville, Tennessee.

Phillip Johnson, Max’s son, will preside at the Tuesday service celebrating his life in Christ.  Grandsons in attendance will serve as pallbearers.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Let’s Start Talking Ministry, P.O. Box 162476, Fort Worth, Texas  76161-2476.

imitastionBecause of internet issues, this post is coming out two days after returning from Honduras! Sorry. mw

I’m in Tegucigalpa, Honduras today, teaching in the Baxter Seminar at the Baxter Institute. Baxter Institute was founded in the mid-sixties and has served Latin America faithfully as an institution of higher learning since then. In addition to the college-level theological education offered to their students, a medical clinic has been opened on the 19-acre campus in the heart of this capital city in order to show the love of Christ in the community.

I’m here at the invitation of Stephen Teel, the fifth president of Baxter and a former missionary to Argentina. Let’s Start Talking worked with Teel in the mid-90s in one of our first works in Buenos Aires. His invitation to teach at this Seminar—which, by the way, is attended by over 200 Latin church leaders from not only Honduras, but also El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and only a handful of us Gringos from North America—was very intentional.

Steve and I were talking this morning, and I was telling him about the great interest in LST that I saw in the class I was teaching. He was delighted and told me that he wanted me to emphasize how the LST strategy of helping people improve their English was especially valuable in Latin America because it tended to appeal to people who perhaps were a little better educated, a little more professionally ambitious, a little better connected to the world—in general, a group of people that have been more difficult to penetrate with the Gospel.

I recognized this need from previous conversations with missionaries in Brazil, in Ecuador, in Chile, and other Latin American countries, where many of our churches are quite poor and lack strong national leadership—mostly because of lack of education and resources for developing leaders among a social strata that is never called upon to lead.

Then, however, Steve surprised me a little by saying that too many of the churches that he is familiar with know no other way to evangelize than to knock doors, and hold gospel meetings, to which they find great resistance (naturally!), so they have tended toward medical clinics—to which they find much more receptivity (naturally!) because they are giving their neighbors something they really need.

Furthermore, Teel said that the churches here have not seen other types of evangelism like LST, so they can hardly imagine it.

I’ve heard that before in many other countries as well. People learn by imitating what they see, not by reading brotherhood newspapers or attending lectureships. When they see it in action, they can decide if it is worth imitating—or not.

I’ve often wondered why so many mission sites seem to be stuck in the 1950s! Their theology, their worship, and their activities seem all to have been inherited from the missionaries who first taught them and who first modeled for them the way to do things. That seems to be the obvious reason for a kind of spiritual stagnation that knows no political boundaries.

I have often wondered why these wonderful—usually small—mission churches have not continued to grow and to mature—all of which would, of course, imply changing—YIKES!

My single working theory for many years has been that the early missionaries taught them a formulaic Christianity. One pattern, one way of worshipping, one acceptable way of living, dressing, acting—all of which, of course, was the pattern and formula that the missionaries themselves believed to be true and appropriate at the time of their greatest influence on that church.

Now, however, I think I’m going to add another reason to my working hypothesis, that is, that these small mission churches have not had enough contact with either more mature Christians, or with Christians who have had different or “newer” experiences in faith. And, I’m afraid that when they did, they were so fearful of breaking the pattern that they were given that they labeled false and heretical ideas and actions that were simply different.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. As I was sitting in the devotional this morning with 200+ people singing their hearts out in Spanish (of which I could only pick out a few words), I thought to myself. If these were African Christians, somebody would be up moving with the music (otherwise known as “dancing.”) If these were almost any large gathering of North American Christians, someone, if not many, would be raising at least one hand in praise. If we were in Asia, the singing would be too loud. And they did not sing a single song that I recognized as translated from English—something pretty rare all over the world among Churches of Christ.

The danger is not the diverse expressions and words of these global Christians; the danger is the breach of fellowship when anything but the familiar is witnessed or experienced. Instead of fearing that person who sings a different song, who introduces a “better” understanding of familiar scriptures, who wants to do something different, we who travel between such churches, we who support these works, we who do short-term works in these churches need to encourage growth and maturing, to encourage learning, nurture good changes.

The best way to do this may not be to hold a weeklong seminar on “Changes That You Desperately Need” as if we are the Perfect Ones and they are the Ignorant Ones, rather to go in a spirit of humility and gently act out our faith—act out our worship—act out our new ways of evangelizing—act out our new ways of serving—and let them follow Paul in leaving the bad and holding on to what is good.

Thank you, brothers and sisters in Honduras, for teaching me this. I am going to do things differently in the future because of what you have taught me.

missionsMidterm sounds like I’m talking about a political election topic, doesn’t it!  Not true!

This last week at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures, Let’s Start Talking and Missions Resource Network announced a new initiative for carrying the message of Jesus to the world more effectively.  With this initiative, we believe we can help make better use of time, resources, and people when sending Americans overseas on the mission of God.

Let’s start with the most common current approach to new missions:  Most of our missionaries first participate in some kind of short-term mission. Many of these trips are either compassion missions—medical, disaster relief, construction, poverty-related, or children/orphans—or they are “survey” trips to better understand what needs to be done to prepare for a long-term mission.  A few short-term missions could be categorized as evangelistic, though all of them are intended to share the love of Jesus.

Usually young couples, some young single professionals, or an occasional family then makes the commitment to long-term missions.  By this, we usually mean a complete move to a foreign location for five years or more.  You sell your house and your car and move to a foreign place, spend probably two years learning the language and acclimating to the new culture, perhaps working with an established congregation or, if not, laying the groundwork for establishing a new congregation—mostly “house churches” today.  The sponsoring church is willing to invest a huge amount of money to move these new workers and spend two years preparing them because they expect to get at least  three more years—maybe longer—of excellent service from them.

So here are the unfortunate facts that drove LST and MRN to stop and think about an alternative strategy for churches to send Americans overseas on mission:

  • Most Americans stay on average just over 3 years on their mission site—regardless of what their commitment was.
  • In three years time with two spent primarily in preparation, it is very difficult to accomplish any of the initial long-term goals. Planting self-sustaining churches with national leaders which survive the departure of the American missionary in essentially one year is really a completely unrealistic goal.
  • The supporters and sending churches look at their investment in this failed effort and feel as if they have been burned, making them less interested in ever doing something similar again.

Instead of simply wringing our hands and bemoaning the current situation, MRN and LST sat down to pray and talk, asking God for wisdom to see a new path.  Why these two ministries?

Missions Resource Network was begun to help churches send missionaries and to help care for them better while on the field.  Because of that mandate, potential missionaries began coming to them for training which they then received from highly competent missions experts. In recent years, MRN has begun focusing also on training foreign churches to be sending churches and not just receiving churches.  Let’s Start Talking has always been focused on sending short-term workers (2-6 weeks) on evangelistic missions.  We also send a few interns each year on 6-12 month missions, usually following up an LST project.

So, after months of prayerful conversation and much collaboration between our two ministries, we would like to offer our churches and potential workers a new strategy– our Midterm Missions Initiative– that we believe will be better for the workers, better for the sending churches, better for the global church being served,  therefore better for the Kingdom!

Key components of this new initiative are

  • Planning to stay for 2-3 years. If this is how long people will stay, then let’s not pretend that they will stay longer; rather, let’s plan a work with goals that are reachable in this midterm timeframe.
  • Planning to avoid many of the upfront expenses of a long-term work, such as moving whole households, investing heavily in language study, start-up costs for new church plants (including buildings), etc.
  • Focused training for midterm work, not overtraining them for tasks they will not be there to do.
  • Working in English, taking advantage of the world-wide interest in English in both industrialized and developing countries allows workers to go where they are called and to begin working effectively the day after they arrive.
  • Through specific training in making disciples, they will be able to expand the vision and presence of the global church, working for multiplying growth, but not creating dependency on their presence.

Here is the path as we currently see it:

  • A global church requests help and is willing to invite a midterm missionary or couple.
  • Potential workers are identified or identify themselves and contact MRN or LST.
  • Workers make application and do some preliminary testing to determine readiness.
  • Workers then commit to an LST project, probably to the site where they will eventually be going. In conjunction with their project, they receive complete training in the LST approach.
  • After successfully completing their LST project, they are coached by MRN through specific tasks including finding a sponsoring church as well as preparing themselves to implement a disciple-making   This period may take 3-6 months.
  • When ready, they return to their mission site and begin working with the local church in two specific ways:
    1. First, they will follow up with people contacted through LST and will continue reading the Gospel story with them while helping them with their English.
    2. While doing this, they will begin looking among their Readers for those people who are seeking faith AND who are willing to share what they are finding with other people in their network. When they identify such a person, they approach them about beginning a Discovery Bible study—a very simple and intuitive approach to finding Jesus—in their home or at work.  One of the big differences is that it is not the American worker who leads this, but the person at the center of this network. He/She shares just as much as they have learned the week before from the American worker.  As they share with their friends, this first Person is also encouraged to look for seekers among them who will begin a new group in their home. That second person shares what they have learned from Person #1—and so it grows and multiplies.  As people become believers, then Christians, they are either integrated into the local congregation or they collect themselves into new churches.  Either way, the Lord has added to those who are being saved!  And when the American leaves in 2-3 years, the work has far outgrown him/her and is not dependent on their efforts to continue.

And our sending churches in the States will love this.  They will have shorter commitments with more reachable, tangible goals which can be achieved at much less expense. They can send their own members to do LST, thus helping their midterm worker. They will have the cooperation and partnership with MRN and with LST to walk beside them.  What is there not to like about this!!

And some of these midtermers will become long-termers—and  some lifers!  But the process of making these major decisions for both the workers and their sending churches will be much more tested and proven before those kinds of commitments to each other are made.  And that’s good too.

Let’s get started!  What global church wants to invite a midterm person or couple?  Who wants to go for 2-3 years?  The harvest is ripe!  Contact MRN or LST and we will be glad to help you get started.

Oklahoma_City_bombingFive years ago, the first year I blogged, I wrote this piece about the Federal Building bombing in OKC on April 19, 1995.  The importance of that date is still with us, so I’m updating and republishing these earlier thoughts.

Fifteen years ago today, I was standing in my office at Oklahoma Christian University when one of my colleagues rushed in and said, “A bomb just exploded downtown!”  I thought, “That’s interesting,“  imagining something like a small letter bomb or something that blows up an office, set by some disgruntled employee.

Of course, within minutes the reports started coming of what was until 2001 the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil in modern times.  Now fifteen years later, the country has experienced worse, so it is easy to forget what we learned from Oklahoma City.  Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Home-grown, flag-waving extremists are just as dangerous as foreign jihadists. Immediately following the bombing, reports of Arab-looking suspects were all over the news; the real bomber, however, was born in New York of Irish Catholic parents, voted “most promising computer programmer” at his high school, a decorated veteran of the first Gulf War, and an outspoken anti-tax, pro-gun, anti-government proponent.  The current extreme political rhetoric and hyper-polarization frightens me!
  • The use of war metaphors does not justify killing innocent people. McVeigh declared war on the federal government, so killing kindergarten children in the Murrah Building was for him an unhappy, but acceptable consequence of his military objective. Neither as individuals nor as countries should we be confused about the morality of killing innocent people for our own benefit.
  • Average people are amazingly good and amazingly brave in a crisis. Immediately following the bombing, police and medical personnel rushed towards the bomb site. One of our church members was among the first police officers to arrive; he crawled into the rubble to pull out a baby covered in ash—but alive.  Vendors brought bottled water, sandwiches, blankets, medical supplies; people of all sorts came to help however they could.  Students at OC with just minimal training in first aid rushed to the scene, wanting to do something to help.  I’m not sure I have ever experienced a greater sense of community.
  • Everyone is damaged; the world is diminished by such acts of violence. Our friend the police officer was so traumatized by what he saw and experienced in the first hour after the bombing that he spent months –maybe longer—seeking help and attempting to recover.  Not only the families of the victims, but the friends of the families of the victims, and the relief workers, and those who narrowly missed being victims just by “chance,” and the man who rented the delivery truck, and people who sell fertilizer, and everyone who works in a government building who goes to work every day, the whole community has been damaged. There are no armies, no federal agencies, no screening devices, nothing that can restore this world to wholeness. We can only forget–which we will with time.

But Christians must live in certain hope, participating with God to transform this world from being a bombed-out shell to a place where swords have been beaten into plowshares and lions lie down with lambs. What we can’t forget is that we belong to the Prince of Peace!

garage-salePreparing for a garage sale of my Mom’s things has been a life-changing experience for me.

My parents were pretty typical of people who were born in the 20s, spent their youth during the Depression of the 30s, were young adults during WWII, a young family in the 50s, struggled a bit through the sixties, aged in the 70s and 80s. Dad died in 1989. Mom lived by herself but continued to work another ten years, then she grew frail and died this year at the age of 91.

That’s a summary of two people’s lives in just four lines of words—more than most people get.

Financially, I think they were pretty average as well. Dad grew up as an only child in a small Kansas town. His father managed the grain elevator for 42 years, so they had a good, steady income, but nothing lavish. Mom grew up on a farm in Justin, Texas, one of 12 children. Her father died in a wagon accident when she was a young teenager, and her mother stayed on the farm with some of her sons for many more years—just sustaining the family, not accumulating much materially.

Mom and Dad married in June 1945, both of them with what we today would call good marketable skills. Dad had chosen extensive technical training in electronics over college. He was first a radio operator for Braniff Airways, then worked for Bendix, training people to repair the fantastically popular, newly affordable televisions.  When they moved to Fort Worth with their toddler son (me!) in 1949, they rented a small 900 sf house. Shortly after the twins were born in 1950, they bought their first house—a modest two-bedroom frame home in a new neighborhood—very middle class for the 1950s.

Dad worked hard, managing the Electronics Department for Leonard’s Department Store—the Macy’s of Fort Worth in the 50s. Mom stayed home and had child #4 in 1955. We were now a family of six in two bedrooms and one car, but we had all we needed–not everything we wanted—pretty much like everyone that we knew!

In 1958, we moved to a new 1300 sf  three-bedroom house near the new Christian school (FWC)—a big stretch financially for our family. The house payments were $74/month and tuition was $10/month per child.  We couldn’t really afford it, so when I was in the 7th grade, I started working off my tuition by sweeping classroom floors after school each day, a job I continued until I graduated from high school.

The 60s were hard on the family. Dad’s health began to fail to the point that he lost his job. Mom had gone to work shortly before #5 was born in 1961. We kids were pretty much on our own to figure out money for college—or not! But that was pretty normal too.

When Dad died in 1989, he left Mom less life insurance than the funeral cost, but the house was paid off and with no large outstanding debts, her income from teaching during the day and working at Foley’s at night, enabled her to live modestly.   We teased her that she took advantage of her Foley’s discount so often that she probably lost money by working at Foley’s.  She was of that generation that just could not pass up a big discount or a great bargain—even for things you didn’t really need right then—because you might need it later and you might not have the money for it then.

So, for the last 20 years of her life, Mom accumulated—nothing expensive, nothing even of great sentimental value.  Between Foley’s and garage sales, Mom accumulated!

Now she was not a hoarder like you see on TV, but she did have a hard time throwing anything away.  She was very generous about giving things to people if she thought they would like it—but she didn’t give things away, just to clear out space—nothing.

So now that she is gone, that is our task.  So much of what she collected over the years is completely valueless now—shells, rocks, newspaper clippings, shoes, clothes, cheap pictures of The Last Supper, fingernail clippers, pens, books—yes, even books.

That’s one of the transformative things that I’ve learned. No one wants old books—not rare books—just old books. My dad was a voracious reader, He had hundreds of books, many James Hilton paperbacks, Mathematics for the Millions, Fort Worth Christian Lectures, English-Spanish Dictionary, Complete Concordance of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and on and on.  He loved those books; I loved them too!

And I’m sitting in my office looking at a whole wall full of my books now, thinking to myself, “Why am I saving these books? My kids will have to go through them, just like we are, and they will have to throw most of them away!”

And then I sit in our living room and look around at the little brass table that we found at an estate sale in Germany, and the two end tables that we splurged on in Oklahoma City when we first moved back to the States, and the light fixture that Sherrylee found in the antique store in South Dakota, and the many baskets that she likes to decorate with. OK, that’s just stuff!

But what about the beautiful rug that we paid good money for in Turkey, the silver that I gave to Sherrylee as a wedding present (actually only a couple of place settings), the little nutcrackers that we’ve had since our days in Germany, the etching of the Marktkirche in Hannover or the Matrushka dolls made to resemble our family from Russia????? This is not “stuff!” These are from our LIFE! These are our history! Grab the pictures! Find the home movies! That’s what we save from the fire!!

The garage sale at Mom’s has been a good reminder to me that we are going to leave it all, that someday our family pictures will be hanging in Cracker Barrel, that what we are so emotionally attached to is, in truth, just stuff to those without our memories.

If you don’t really believe that moths and rust don’t eat up all your earthly “treasures,” just come to our garage sale on Saturday!

Romans-13Probably because of the flurry of recent candidacy announcements along with the terrifying thought of two years of presidential campaigning, but I’ve been involved in two or three challenging conversations/discussions in the last few days specifically on the role of Christians in the political process.

Last Sunday night, for instance, our small group met for a study of Romans 13, where Paul makes the following extremely challenging statements:

  • “Those who are in positions of power (authority) have been placed there (established) by God.” (v.1)
  • “So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.” (v.2)
  • “The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good.” (v.4)
  • “Give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” (v.7)

As if that were not clear enough, he wrote similar things to Titus in Chapter 3:

 Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

Among whole rooms full of mature Christians, we did not have very much agreement on how to apply this Scripture.  Our questions began with the Bonhoeffer dilemma of whether as a Christian he had either godly permission to conspire to assassinate the maniacal head of Nazi Germany—or perhaps even the obligation—then we proceeded to the “right” to break the law and sit in the front of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama!

Some argued for differences if Christians live in a democratic society where resistance to authority is allowed within measure. But that exception only underlines questions about Christians in Communistic countries, monarchies, hegemonies, or even failed states with tribal warlords who exercise authority?

And do these Scriptures only apply on a national level? What about the state level, city level, employer level, family level?

Isn’t the real question, what is St. Paul really talking about?  I don’t have all the answers to these very difficult questions, but I do have some observations about a few things that seem pretty clear to me.

First, authority (government) is not a bad word! You may not like some particular form of government, but God has always organized His people, and they have always been required to submit to that authority—for their own good.  The earliest authorities were Moses and Aaron and those who rebelled against them were swallowed up by the earth itself (Numbers 16). After Joshua, God raised up judges (Judges 2:16) as the local officer of God among Israel.

Perhaps the worst moment in Jewish history is described at the end of the book of Judges, when the Holy Spirit records, In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). (If this sounds good to you, you need to re-read the Old Testament.)

Secondly, God’s intent is that authority is used for the good of His people. Neither Jesus nor Paul nor any of the early Christians lived under governments that were benevolent to Christians. Quite the contrary, both Jesus and Paul lost their lives to “authorities” as did many Christians.  And the Old Testament is full of examples of God punishing nations (kings, generals, nations) for their unrighteousness—for abusing people rather than doing them good.

Thirdly, the larger context of both the passages in Romans and Titus is that Christians should act with love towards all and for the good of others. Look at all of the admonitions leading into the command to submit to governing authorities:

  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse! (12:14)
  • Live in harmony with one another. (12:16)
  • Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. (12:17)
  • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (12:18)
  • Do not take revenge. (12:19)
  • If your enemy is hungry, feed him. (12:20)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.  Does it help you to read these sentences together instead of pausing because they are divided by a big chapter heading?

Paul runs the whole idea together in the Titus passage as well:  Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

I don’t have all the answers to the biggest questions these passages raise, but I do think that I know what Jesus would say to American Christians heading into another season of presidential campaigning:

“Don’t slander anyone!  Be peaceable and considerate.  Be gentle toward everyone. Bless, and do not curse.”


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