Last time I was before you, I talked about Troubling Times in the Kingdom. That addressed how our country appears to be in a state of moral decay. Sin is all around us and even our government is encouraging and condoning sin.
I summed up with the following charge: [slide]
But, when government sins, we need to stand firm on our faith and service to God.
I ask you to choose today whom you will serve. And then proclaim to all those around you whom you will serve. [new line]
The time before that I presented what we can do in our church makeover by getting all our ducks in a row and joining in to be part of God’s plan.
One important part was: [slide]
We protect ourselves by standing firm in our faith against Satan and evil. The devil and evil will flee when we do this.
There seems to be a theme developing. That is to stand firm in our faith. [slide]
We need to stand firm in our faith. We need to resist sin. We need to do our part of God’s plan.
In doing our part of God’s plan and standing firm in our faith, we often have to defend ourselves. We need to stand our ground and not give in to the attacks.
In doing so, many Christians fall into a well-hidden trap. Satan is ingenious when he designs traps for the unwary Christian and he has created an insidious trap of bigotry.
As we stand firm and protect our faith, we ignore the disguised trap that will suddenly snap its jaws around us at the slightest breath on its hair trigger.
As we learn about this trap of bigotry, we first need to know exactly what bigotry is. [slide]
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines bigot as:
- 1 : the state of mind of a bigot [slide]
- 2 : acts or beliefs characteristic of a bigot
It seems to me that when Merriam joined up with Webster, something became a little less clear. So, let us look at a family.
[Archie Bunker and Edith at piano slide]
Meet Archie Bunker. Archie and his wife Edith, were God-fearing Christians.
Archie lived with his wife and daughter, along with her hippy boyfriend in a multi-racial neighborhood. Both his neighbors, a white family on one side and a black family on the other were always stopping by and were treated like family. In fact, the show was called All In The Family.
This presented a problem for Archie. You see, Archie was a bigot. He tried his best to hide it, but at nearly every turn his inner feelings were revealed,
One particular episode sticks firmly in my mind. Archie got a second job as a cab driver and just happened to get Sammy Davis Jr. as a customer. Sammy forgot his briefcase and later made arrangements to pick it up at Archie’s house.
They wind up talking about how Archie’s daughter thinks he is a bigot. Many things happen and the show ends with Sammy Davis Jr. wanting a picture of Archie and himself.
Look at Archie’s expression when the picture is taken. Yes, Sammy Davis Jr. winds up giving Archie a kiss of thanks.
Archie’s expression reveals his inner feelings
So, we go back to Merriam-Webster again: [slide]
Here is the definition of a bigot:
A person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.
We might add to this definition religious groups and sinner groups as well.
Bigotry has been around for thousands of years. In fact, there are many places in the Bible where bigotry against a particular group of people is rampant. In fact this bigotry still exists today.
I’m talking about a group that has been hated for thousands of years. [slide]
Turn to Luke 19:1-7 (NIV)
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.
2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.
3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.
4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”
6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'”
Tax collectors have been the most hated group of people, even in Jesus’ time. We can see that the people were very bigoted against these taxmen.
They were, for the most part, dishonest thieves that collected more than was required and enriched their own lives. Everyone hated them. The people were even bigoted against anyone who would have the audacity to even eat with the tax collectors.
Jesus embraced the tax collectors just as He did with all sinners.
Look what happened. Jesus sat down to a meal with Zacchaeus and treated him kindly. We do not know exactly what happened during the dinner, but afterwards Zacchaeus gave half his fortune away to the poor and then offered to give back four times the amount to anyone whom he had cheated.
This wasn’t the only time that Jesus was caught dining with Taxmen. [slide]
Turn to Mark 2:13-17 (NIV)
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.
14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.
16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Here, Mark shows the bigotry of the Pharisees, who were the important teachers of the Mosaic Law. Jesus explains that the taxmen and sinners need saving.
Levi is the Hebrew name of this taxman. Many know Levi as the Apostle Matthew. Matthew is Greek for the Hebrew name Levi.
Now, I previously mentioned that Satan cunningly sets a potentially lethal trap of bigotry for Christians. I would find it hard to believe that any of us here are like Archie Bunker or the Pharisees.
However, there are much more subtle forms of bigotry in which we as Christians can become entrapped.
Take the Westboro Baptist Church. What may have started out as a protest against sin is now totally out of control. [slide]
They are even protesting the wrong group of people. [slide]
Westboro is practicing hatred along with intolerance. It appears that they have become bigoted and have become entrapped by Satan. What may have been good intensions at first has become a display of hatred and bigotry.
So, I have a question to ask you [slide]
What would Dog do?
That’s not a typo or another case of autocorrect gone berserk.
It’s not even a way to show my favoritism of dogs over cats.
This is a real-world example of how a Christian can deal with sinners, and yes, maybe even tax collectors.
Meet Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wife Beth. [slide]
Dog knows sin. He has spent time in prison for drugs and other crimes.
Dog turned himself around and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
Along with his wife Beth, they own a bail bond company in Hawaii. They are also bounty hunters.
Dog hates sin. He also hates criminal behavior. In his business, he gets to hate criminals even more because they jump bail and can cost him tens of thousands of dollars when they do.
If people skip out on their court hearings, Dog and his family will track them down and return them to jail. He is really good at tracking down the bail jumpers. He also earns money when he captures someone else’s bail jumpers.
Here is a typical tracking job.
Dog and his people gather before they go on a hunt and pray for their safety and for a successful hunt. After they capture the person, they search them and destroy any drugs that would have gotten the criminals additional time and charges if they had been turned into jail with that stuff in their possession.
Dog the Bounty hunter hates criminals, especially when they are attempting to cost him a lot of money.
Now, once they capture their bail-jumper, they talk with them and show love and understanding before taking them to jail. They pray with the offenders if they will let them and also offer to talk and work with the criminals once they get out of jail.
Despite criminals hurting Dog or fighting him, Dog still treats them with brotherly love, even as he wipes their faces with the chemical that helps neutralize the pepper spray.
After they turn the criminal into the jail, they gather and thank God for a successful and safe hunt.
We can do this when we stand our ground and deal with sinners. We do not need to hate and despise those sinners we run into.
There are even more subtle traps that Satan can set. The apostles even fell for this evil trap. Luckily, Jesus saved them. [slide]
Turn to Mark 9:38-39 (NIV)
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me
John and some of the apostles came across a man who was casting out demons. What was strange about this encounter was the fact the man was attributing the power over the demons to Jesus and the demons were obeying his commands and leaving the people.
This man was performing miracles in the name of Jesus, but John knew this man was not one of the followers of the apostles. On top of that, John made the mistake of telling the man to stop performing miracles.
See, John’s mind was closed to anyone who was not one of his group; he was letting some bigotry show. In John’s mind, the apostles were the true followers of Jesus and their job was to spread Jesus’ teachings.
I can just imagine John’s inner thoughts. How dare other people take on this task! How dare others use the name of Jesus to perform miracles!
Jesus observed this and stepped right in to correct John. “Do not stop him.” Those are pretty strong words coming from Jesus toward one of his appointed apostles.
Then Jesus goes on to explain. This man was performing miracles, but there was something special: they were being performed In Jesus’ name! [slide]
Jesus said “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me”
It was apparent that God provided the power for this man to cast out demons and that man professed that Jesus was the reason he was able to do this. This man had God’s approval, the miracles were performed and Jesus got the credit. This man was testimony that Jesus was of God to all who saw these miracles. He was spreading the Good News.
Jesus tells John that anyone who is performing miracles in the name of Jesus cannot speak bad, or evil of Jesus.
There are people who call themselves Christians that despise other Christians who don’t follow their particular flavor of Christianity. We can find them among every Christian sect.
Just try putting a mixture of 1,000 each of a mixture of Baptists, Calvinists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and Church of Christ members in a room and see how long it takes for bigotry to emerge.
We can imagine all the one-upmanship that starts as everyone tries to show their works as Christians are more valuable or are more true to Jesus and his apostles. Soon everyone will be in competition and get distracted from the real goals of spreading the word of Jesus and ministering to sinners and taxmen alike.
By falling into the well-disguised trap, Satan would wring his hands with glee. He may not get to collect these Christian souls, but he would gain a lot more souls who were not saved due to the reduced effectiveness caused by the bigotry amongst the various denominations.
It does not even have to be different denominations of Christians for this bigotry to emerge and create havoc. It can happen within a church.
I know of a Pentecostal church that was torn several times over the worship music. Can you believe that the worship music hurt the church? Well, it was not the worship music that caused the schism, but the church members themselves.
They had a whole horn section and a great percussion group. They had a gospel group that sang the sweetest harmonies you can imagine.
Then someone decided to change to a hard rock and roll format and the gospel group was disbanded. The horn section dwindled and church members left while others joined.
These changes seemed to happen every couple of years with disastrous results among the congregants.
Jesus embraces all who profess his name with their hearts and approves the miracles performed in His name. Jesus does not care which of the Bascom-Robbins 41 flavors you prefer, as long as you follow His word and give Jesus full credit for the miracles.
Jesus doesn’t care what worship music you prefer. Jesus only cares that you worship. Jesus does not like bigotry in any form.
Sometimes the Christian church has forgotten these words of Jesus: “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me”
Just look at a simplified chart from Wikipedia that shows how Christianity has diverged. Not even a quarter of the Christian denominations are shown.
It is easy to see how those words of Jesus are sometimes forgotten.
We need to make sure that we don’t denounce the miracles that others do just because they are not a member of our group or church. We need to be careful and not fall into a trap where bigotry takes over.
Remember, everyone whose actions are truly performed in the name of Jesus are on our side. They may not have every single belief that we have, but they do have the beliefs that matters: they believe in Jesus and they give Him the credit.
Just remember these words of Jesus:
“No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me”
Let us pray.