Monday, March 25, 2013

Realizing Dignity in False Accusation

           Dignity is measured by the extent of one’s ambitious possessions. In the previous blog, I stated that medical conditions seemingly rob one’s dignity; however his position as a child of the living God, seated in Christ with God in the heavenly realms enables him to realize his intrinsic dignity. He does not lose his dignity, even though Satan navigates him into the depths of suffering under the guise of lost dignity. Our tangible ambitious possessions are health, wealth, profession, education, and the likes; one can narrate several instances of abundance or absence of tangibles in varied intensities that entails a gain or loss of dignity.

False accusation is Satan’s assault on man’s character. Satan’s assault displays evil in varied degrees. This blog focuses on false accusations, for many are falsely accused and even imprisoned for uncommitted crimes.1

False accusation is a common malady in school, home and work. A child can be falsely accused for reasons such as lack of effort in poor grades (though the child put in good effort) or theft (a co-student falsely accuses the child of stealing) or indiscipline (a child unjustly punished for another’s mischief). When punishment is rendered to a sinless offender, his/her character is assaulted and dignity abandons them. This is evil.

A specific instance of false accusation is when character is the primary ambition for some. One cannot blame a Christian for possessing and cultivating this ideal, for the Holy Bible shapes the character of a disciple towards being faultless and blameless.

If a Christian’s ambition is to live a holy life, then he will endeavor to be an honest worker. Imagine an honest Christian working in an organization for 20 years with an impeccable record. A reliable source levels a false allegation based on dubious circumstantial evidence claiming he stole a large sum of money. The fact is he did not steal. His superiors mandate him to plead guilty and submit a letter of apology for which they will forgive him. On the contrary, if he continues to maintain his innocence, he has to submit his resignation and leave the organization. He chooses the latter option for he is sinless within that context.

He is sinless and his integrity intact in God’s presence, but some doubt him for they refuse to believe in his innocence. When society doubts, it slanders. This affects the person concerned rather irreparably. Hence, his dignity plunges south and suffers immeasurably. This is a great evil.

            Put yourself in the brutally heartbreaking shoes of Mr. Niranjan Kumar Mandal. Recently Mr. Mandal appealed to the Supreme Court of India pleading for the restoration of his lost dignity. He was acquitted of rape after spending four terrible years in prison. Even though he is innocent, the society continues to reject him and his family after his acquittal. He said, "After the acquittal, I had great hope of getting back to the mainstream. But I gradually found that there was nothing to be happy about...Neighbours looked with suspicion and never allowed their children to mix with my children." 2 This is an incredible burden to carry.

Mr. James Bain’s situation was even worse. In 2012, CNN reported, “James Bain is the longest-serving prisoner to be exonerated by DNA evidence, spending 35 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit. He was convicted in 1974, at age 19, of kidnapping and raping a 9-year-old boy in Lake Wales, Florida.” 1 This is a great evil.

            In the assault of man’s character, there is an accused and an accuser. The accuser generally holds a higher moral position, and the accused is relegated to a lower position.

The person who has been raped (victim & accuser) will be offered a higher moral ground. The rape would rob this person of dignity, but the outpouring of sympathetic support from the society would, to a measure, enable the person to realize his/her intrinsic dignity. However, the accused, in this case, will lose his dignity in the eyes of the society if he is a proven sinner. This is straightforward.

On the contrary, in Mr. Bain and Mr. Mandal’s context, we see a case of two damaged dignities –the brutally raped and the falsely accused. Both these precious people are innocent within this particular context. This is a great evil.

The horrendousness of evil intensifies when we examine the situation from the perspective of the one who leveled the false accusation. False accusations are intentional and unintentional. Intentional false accusation could be due to inherent corruption that deserves punishment.

The unintentional false accusation could be a result of a mental illness. This unintentional false accuser inflicts a colossal damage without realizing that he/she is being a cause of a horrendous evil. This is indeed a sad and a horrendous situation.

Researchers attribute this false accusation to “confabulation.” 3 Confabulation is considered ‘honest lying,’ for the person has no real intent to deceive. “At its simplest, people who confabulate provide information, or act based on information, that is obviously false. These people are genuinely unaware that the information is wrong,” states an article (emphasis mine).4

On the one hand, we pity the individual suffering from a mental illness. But on the other hand, this individual inflicts damage even without realizing it. What a horrendous evil!

Looking at the big picture we see the following situations:

1.      In the case of a false accusation, the “accused” loses his dignity in the eyes of the world for an uncommitted sin – this is a great evil.

2.      In the case of a mentally ill person making false accusations, both the “accuser” and the “accused” lose their dignity in the eyes of the world – this is horrendous evil.

What should we do to deal with false accusations?

Please view the two videos of James Bain 1 & 5. His words are powerful, so I have captured much of his thoughts.

A Christian in the receiving end of a false accusation should know that this is a divine providence, not a random occurrence. Being sinless with reference to the accusation leveled, is mandatory. (Being sinful with reference to the accusation makes the accusation genuine, not false.) We may not know the reason behind our integration into this horrendous evil, but take heart that God has allowed this, so HE will deliver us at HIS time. Acceptance of the situation without anger and not rebelling against God is a healthy approach to endurance. Rebelling against God is always unfruitful.

Joseph was imprisoned because he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39). Prior to this incident, he was persecuted by his brothers. So adversity was Joseph’s middle name. But in due time (2+ years), God delivered Joseph from his suffering and elevated him. Because God delivered Joseph, we can be assured that HE will deliver HIS people at HIS time. As Joseph trusted God during his imprisonment, may we also trust in HIM and be patient for HIS deliverance.

Outside of Jesus Christ one cannot recover and realize his dignity. But we need not think that only those who believe in Christ will realize their intrinsic dignity, for the Almighty God’s common grace sustains all men (Cf. Romans 2:14-15; Hebrews 1:2-3; Matthew 5:45). The Bible clearly states that God is kind to both the ungrateful and the wicked (Luke 6:35, NIV). I submit that this common grace of God will sustain the one who still does not believe in Christ, but whose dignity is seemingly irreparably damaged in the eyes of the world.

Mr. James Bain's Video:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dignity Undamaged

Some suffer from mild physical anomalies such as obesity, short stature, baldness etc. Often our society shamefully compares them with their handsome and beautiful peers. Hence, those affected are besieged by an inferiority complex. To intensify their heartache, media accentuates external beauty in all its glory. This is an incredible burden. These children of the living God are pushed into oblivion because a well-designed body is appreciated as an object of beauty.

            A very short man is burdened when society ridicules him. His burden further intensifies when he fails to secure a job he so dearly desires (e.g. airline steward). He fails, since his short stature is rejected by the airline’s minimum height policy.  

The man’s short stature was designed by God. So, he cannot be blamed, but he still carries the burden of lost dignity. Similarly, people who are obese, highly freckled/acned, or with irregular teeth carry the burden of lost dignity.

            Dignity is a very powerful word. Dignity is self-worth, honor, or respect. The healthy and handsome are more dignified over the unhealthy and ugly. The intensity of deprivation of dignity ranges from mild to severe. The popular, powerful and prominent are more dignified in our society while their less illustrious peers are dumped into the dungeons of ignominy. The world glorifies people with greater dignity.

Sadly, there are more severe hereditary medical conditions such as Schizophrenia, familial Alzheimer’s etc. Those suffering through these severe conditions may not even understand the loss of dignity; however their immediate family would suffer the loss of it.

Here is my understanding of dignity in the form of a basic equation.

Dignity = Man × (nX)

where “X” is one or a combination of: health, wealth, education, vocation, beauty, power, popularity, prominence etc., and
“n” refers to numerals ranging from -10 to 10.

Greater dignity:  “n” = 1 to 10 (1 = average & 10 = superlative)

Lesser dignity:  “n” = 0 to -10 (0 = below average & -10 = invalid)

The dignity of man is directly proportional to “X.” The greater the “X,” the greater is his dignity (self-worth, honor, and respect). Man is highly dignified when he possesses a superlative “X.” When “X” takes a negative plunge, his dignity suffers. If we consider “health” as an example, then a very healthy man would possess greater dignity. On the other extreme, being an invalid with terminal disease would destroy his dignity. This is one facet of dignity.

The other facet of dignity is, when man scales greater heights, his self-dignity swells (he is proud of his achievements). Simultaneously, when he scales greater heights, the world recognizes, appreciates and awards him. Thus his outward dignity – in the eyes of men – swells as well.

Let us proceed to the theology of dignity. Man, able or disabled, is gifted with an intrinsic dignity for he is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). However, mild or severe medical conditions seem to rob him of his intrinsic human dignity. The faulty design of man is attributed to the almighty God. It appears that God who gave man the intrinsic dignity also robs it from him because of his medical condition. Hence, it is imperative to learn the reason behind the apparently lost dignity from God’s perspective, and HIS plan for them to realize their intrinsic dignity.

First, why would God design a human being with medical conditions that apparently destroy the intrinsic human dignity? Dare I suggest two reasons!

1. For God’s glory: One can experience, enjoy and glorify God through prosperity and peril. Lazarus’ sickness was for the sake of God’s glory (John 11:4). Bible does not state that God should only be glorified through prosperity. A twice-orphaned Annie Johnston Flint glorified God through her poverty and terrible sickness, which made her totally dependent on nursing care. It was from her sick bed that she penned the wonderful hymn “He giveth more grace.” She enjoyed God’s grace during her utmost pain, and glorified God through her poems (Cf. 2 Corinthians12:8-10).

2. Because of Sin and Freewill: Ever since the fall (first sin) of Adam and Eve, mankind continues to reel under the burden of sin (Cf. Genesis 3; Romans 8:20-22). Sin and freewill are partners in crime. Smoking is injurious to health says the warning note on the cigarette pack. However, smokers ignore the warning and employ their freewill to smoke. If a pregnant woman smokes, her child is more likely to be born with birth defects, which God allows!

Would these two facts from the Bible answer the second question of how the victims of medical conditions realize their intrinsic dignity?

Fact #1: In Matthew chapter 1, some who figure in the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ are undignified: Judah and Tamar no strangers to illicit sex (Genesis 38), the prostitute Rahab (Joshua 6:25), Ruth a Moabite – a race that originated from incest (Genesis 19:30-38), the adulterer King David (even emphasized as an adulterer through the mention of Uriah’s name in 1:6), King Rehoboam the megalomaniac (Matthew 1:7, Cf. 1 Kings 12:1-24)…Could not have God chosen a better lineage? HE could have also chosen a more dignified place for the Lord’s birth, but HE did not!

Fact #2: As if HIS undignified ancestors weren’t enough, the Lord associated himself with undignified people: the short tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10; tax collectors defrauded their own people, so were undignified, and to add to his plight, Zacchaeus was short), a Samaritan woman with loose morals (John 4:17-18); Christ was known to associate with undignified sinners (Luke 15:2). Significantly, our Lord HIMSELF was accused as an undignified glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34).

Understanding dignity from God’s perspective is vital. God does not view dignity as humans do. Christians do not acquire dignity from worldly prominence, power or popularity (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18). Please recollect the “X” from my equation of dignity. The “X” for a man is JESUS CHRIST or SIN. Sin separates man from God, resulting in his undignified separation from God. If he accepts Christ as his God and Savior, then the righteousness of Christ is upon the believer. The believer then finds his dignity from the one who offers him eternal life, and not just that, he is seated in Christ and with God in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). What a gloriously dignified position! The Christian looks beyond the world, and into his God, for his dignity.

Our mediocre medical condition may degrade our body, but God, by virtue of our belief in Christ, raised us and seated us with HIM in the heavenly realms, unto eternity. Our body will perish, but our glorious position in Christ and with God will never fade or perish (Cf. 1 Peter 1:3-4). This glorious position enables a Christian to realize his intrinsic dignity.

Having said this, Satan is capable of inflicting a vicious attack into the heart of the Christian that can apparently shatter his dignity in the eyes of the world. Stay tuned to read more about this attack of Satan next week.

May God bless us all according to HIS will and pleasure. Amen. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Faith Expressions of a Christian

            If a spiritually relaxed Christian (Chillin Christian) is one who relaxes much after receiving blessings from the Lord, then, I submit to you, there is another - an ignorant one.

            An ignorantly chillin Christian is the one whose faith expressions are obligated attendances to a weekly worship service of a church, daily prayers aimed to please God and receive blessings, and a self enforced participation in Godly activities to receive heavenly brownie golden points. Please allow me to elaborate.

            If going to church makes us a Christian, then going to a garage should make us a car is a bizarre yet humorous quote (paraphrased)! Regular attendance to a church worship service is not salvific. Sadly many Christians live in this quicksand belief to constantly drown themselves and their protégés into ignorance. If a gentleman believes he is saved by virtue of regular church attendance, then he is yet to study and integrate God’s Word in this context. But let us be gentle with this gentleman! Many church leaders intently dump this notion into minds only to have a full show in their church. A packed church whose worship is an unbiblical perfunctory performance is catastrophic. Today, a packed church is considered a spiritual church – a juvenile thought (Cf. Matthew 18:20)! A well decorated, regular church attendance where the body is stationed inside but mind either drifting into unconsciousness or unmindful of worship amounts to zilch.

            "Jesus did not give the Lord’s Prayer with the intention that it would be repeated mindlessly" said R.C. Sproul. Many fall into this sinful and mindless pothole! There are prayers ranted and raved as a frightened ritual, as if God would pour HIS wrath if we did not pray. Then there are prayers splitting the heavens with ocean-load of petitions to satisfy one’s hedonistic tendencies for the present and posterity. Oh, but let us be gentle with this group as well, for there are church leaders who delude people with their greed-centered enticements. They play mind games with their members through veiled threats and enticements to pray more to give more (Cf. Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9; Galatians 6:7b)!

            A few years ago, I heard a very famous evangelist advertise for finances by prayerfully promising donors a place in his golden tree - the more one prayerfully gives, the higher his placement in the tree. A friend once humorously quipped that the pastor who prayerfully preaches material-prosperity gospel is the one who elevates into material prosperity, whereas his abundantly generous and prayerful congregation will plunge into material obscurity!

            Are prayers meant only as rituals to receive material blessings? If your honest answer is yes, then your Bible study needs to roll on the right track, else you will continue your stroll deep into Christian wilderness.

            Every Christian is graciously given spiritual gift(s) (Ephesians 4:7-13 et al.) Unfortunately many of us do not realize that the graciously given gift is to build God’s people for works of godly service. Some assume this gracious gift as a lottery for self-aggrandizement. They use spiritual gifts to build their own kingdom instead of God’s, and wax eloquent about their spiritual successes. Some serve in church programs with blinded arrogance implying God would suffer in their absence. Their motive is to delight God with their competent service because they are so full of themselves. In their distorted fullness, they think their service scores heavenly golden points for a greater reward. Must we not be foundationally involved in Christian ministry out of sincere love for God and man?

            These spiritually gifted Christians strive to erase Luke 17:10 through their vain boast. Instead of unworthiness and servant-hood, they proclaim sole ownership and lordship (Cf. Matthew 20:25-27; 1 Peter 5:3). The body of Christ (church) becomes their playground, Christians their primary victims; thus Christianity morphs into a godless and heartless tyranny!

            We live a lie if our church attendance, our prayers, and our service to God and man are as above. The question is, “where is our heart?”

            But, this is the truth. We regularly attend church worship to worship and glorify God in the community of saints by sharing God’s love and grace. A church worship encompasses preaching and practicing of the glorious “unity in diversity”, and souls are enlightened of God’s presence and activities. Vertical (God-man) and horizontal (man-man) relationships are strengthened in the church, and the community of believers learns and strives to obey the commands and commission of the Lord. The believer grows in holiness so to be presented holy and blameless in the Father’s presence (Cf. Colossians 1:22; Jude 1:24). If our church worship actively integrates these components, then our presence and worship is indeed in spirit and in truth. Our heart should crave for the Lord.

            Worshipping in spirit and in truth is a 24-hour pursuit. Prayer is an integral component of our worship. Thus, prayer is a constant endeavor (1 Thessalonians 5:17); prayer and worship cannot be compartmentalized. We pray to glorify God (Psalms 50:15; John 14:13) and to commune with HIM always. Prayer is an act of love, a desire of our soul to align ourselves with God’s will for our life. We pray in all circumstances for we (are to) love the Lord with all our life. Our heart should yearn for the Lord and HIS will for our life.

            Money is essential for existence, but greed is sinful (Cf. Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5). Giving to a godly cause is a blessing, but giving to receive more is business! We are not called to transact business with God. The Bible preaches sacrificial giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-7). I shall share my thoughts on this subject later.

            Love is foundational to serving God and man (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18 et al.). We serve God only to glorify HIM, but as unworthy servants in utmost faith and cognizance that HE will sustain what HE has begun in us. We serve as empty vessels filled by the Spirit and power of God, knowing all glory and praise is due to HIM alone. As we serve HIM and HIS people, our constant and conscious endeavor is for us to become lesser and for HIM to become greater (John 3:30). We serve as mere donkeys carrying our Lord Jesus in our body, which is HIS temple. All accolades poured out are for the Master but never for the donkey (Matthew21:1-11). We serve for our heart loves God and man.

            Therefore, let us not mindlessly chill, but may we be donkeys on fire for the Lord, this we ask in Christ’s name. Amen. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chillin Christianity

            A dear young man asked me to share my thoughts on a particular aspect of “Chillin Christianity” (a term I fabricated). The Urban dictionary defines “chillin” as a state of being in a relaxed mode or prolonged satisfactory boredom i.e. not in the process of doing anything worth elaborating upon. A “Chillin Christian” is a spiritually relaxed Christian (as opposed to being on fire for the Lord).
            “Chillin Christians” could come in various forms and sizes, but I am going to attempt dissecting a particular aspect the young man asked me to. Let us consider a Christian actively praying for a favor from the Lord. The Lord favors this person. Subsequent to receiving the favor, he cools down his fellowship with Christ. His prayer life and his Bible reading studies dwindles. In a nutshell, his love for the Lord languishes.

            Let me affirm again that salvation is only by grace through faith in Christ. As long as this person believes in the Lord Jesus, his salvation is guaranteed. The “Chillin Christian’s” intensity of love for the Lord is questioned here. Was he in love with the Lord to begin with? If so, why is this love diminishing? What is the future for this person?

            I wholeheartedly believe in the total depravity of mankind. (I am neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian, I am a Christian who endeavors to dig deep into the Word by HIS grace to grow in my love for the Lord.) We are sinners from birth. Even after we are “born again,” we continue to sin (Cf Romans 7:14-25). However, our ardent desire and intent is for our sinfulness to decrease constantly by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we live a life of constant repentance for our continued sinfulness, but with the total confidence that we are saved by grace through faith. The danger is that our innate depravity will tempt us to move away from the Lord even after continually receiving blessings. Our depravity is the cause of our spiritual disease – “Chillin Christianity.”

            The Bible portrays this aspect of our depravity through the illustration of the ten lepers, where the nine forgot the Lord after receiving healing (Luke 17:11-19). The one who remained grateful to the Lord was a Samaritan! Out of ten lepers, only the grateful-one returned to the Lord. Do we belong to the ungrateful-nine or the grateful-one? We should intentionally move into a permanent placement in the “grateful-group.” But how?

            I believe “faith” is the antecedent to “love.” In other words, without faith, one cannot love. We can alternately state that love presupposes faith. Without faith, the ten lepers would not have appealed to the Lord for healing (Cf Luke 17:19). I submit that the depraved mind of the nine ungrateful lepers led them to believe that they deserved to be healed, thus bringing justice into the equation. (The question, “why me, or, what did I do to deserve this sickness?” implies the thought, “I don’t deserve this,” which in itself is a very selfish and a proud opinion of a depraved self.)

            Once we firmly believe that justice was rendered to us upon healing, we evade the need to thank the Healer. Our thought could be, “Well, HE has only done what is just and right, so why do I even need to thank HIM?” Thus, I reckon the ungrateful-nine departed from the Healer’s presence for they were unmindful of HIM, since their depravity caused a proud and an inwardly selfish mind. However, their faith is not to be negated. Even though their faith was in the Lord, their selfish and depraved nature prevented them from loving HIM. The depraved mind loves oneself.

            What caused the grateful-one to thank the Lord? I reckon he believed that he was undeserving of the healing. Here is an attitude that is devoid of pride and selfishness. Thus, the grateful mind refuses to focus inward but focuses outward – to the source of healing. Pride and selfishness are nonexistent in a grateful mind. A Christian desiring a grateful mind should PRAY for a miraculous elimination of pride and selfishness from his life.

            When, through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, we displace pride and selfishness from our life, love sets in (Cf 1 Corinthians 13:5). When selfishness departs, the love that sets in us has an object, which is definitely not the self. The object of our love in this instance is the source of our blessings – the Lord! Thus, the grateful life loves the Lord and longs for union with HIM always.

            Permit me to caution you here. Do we speak the following statements?
            1. “This is my hard-earned money…..”
            In this proud statement, there is a colossal conflict between “my” and “hard-earned.” Who gave us the strength to work hard? Who gives us breath to breathe, sanity to think, and strength to move? Is it not the Lord? So if the very basics of our life are graciously offered by God, how then do we stake claim to anything? Please think about this. An appropriate statement would be, “What I have is God’s money, HE enabled me to work hard….”

            2. “I am so happy that I was able to do ‘this’ and ‘that,’ thank God.”
            Please observe the warped wickedness, insane intellectuality, and pigheaded pride in this statement! The owner of this statement deems himself a spiritual intellect that a “thank God” is added to that statement so to be politically spiritually correct.

            I pray this statement from Apostle Paul would contrast our spiritual depravity. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10, NIV) A diligent reading of this verse would help us understand that the Apostle Paul undermines himself wonderfully to exalt God. Therefore, an appropriate statement would be, “It is by the grace of God I was able to achieve ‘this’ and that.’ I thank God for choosing me, as unworthy as I am, to accomplish HIS will and purpose.”

            If we do not spiritually discern of the Lord, then we will be spiritually depraved. We are called to pray and pray like never before. The Lord will always answer the desperate prayer of a man in need of deliverance from pride and selfishness (Cf Matthew 7:7). The Lord will fill him with his love and power, so that the praying man will be spiritually aligned with the Lord. Thus the desperately praying man will be on fire for the Lord and never chillin away from the Lord.

            May we always pray to continually eliminate our pride and selfishness so to love the Lord and enjoy HIM forever.

P.S: For those of the Christian Universalistic persuasion, here is another point to ponder. If Universalism is true, then it implies negation of “faith-in-the-Lord-Jesus-Christ-for-salvation-of-mankind.” Why even bother to believe in the Lord Jesus, if all are going to be saved? So my question to you is what is the need for Christianity or even the Bible?