Tag Archives: culture

Covenantal Anesthesia

Today, we prevent unwanted pregnancies not by abstinence but contraception. No discipline; no problem. Do whatever feels good. Promises made in the dark remain unkept in an age where words and actions are disconnected and often in complete opposition.

Today, we avert the consequences of other ungodly acts such as homosexuality through medicine and contraceptive methods. Lying and litigation are acceptable means by which to achieve objectives. These aren’t God’s ways or representative of His love, which equates to justice and mercy. His speech results in action; He has always done what He says He will do. This was the posture of the early Church: speech-action that mirrored their faith and produced good works accordingly. Their speech and actions were indistinguishable.

Second-century Christian and Church leader Justin notes this of his contemporary Christians: “… community doesn’t consider people true Christians if they simply quote Christ’s teachings but don’t live them.” (Justin, 1 Apol. 16.8 by Alan Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, 15). He also lists the saying of Jesus under four categories: sexual ethics, actionable/charitable love, patience, and truth-telling. (ibid.) Many early Church leaders reported that the Christians lived among the non-Christians in community eating, drinking, and working beside them. However, their charity, honesty, and purity as well as patience under trials and hardships set them apart and made an impact that attracted those around the Christians to desire to learn of God’s kingdom and join the faith. Not so today in a world of watered-down preaching full of funny stories and anecdotes framed by entertaining music, coffee, and donuts; no so in a world where churches become the most expensive light-killing lampshades on the planet by hiding and entertaining consumers.

Today, the Western Church looks mostly like the world: same behaviors and worldviews; similar lack of patience, unrepentance, unforgiveness, divorce statistics, selfish driving habits, litigation, financial irresponsibility, and so-on. Why? In my experience as a minister, researcher, and writer, a driving factor is the lack of choice where a covenant with God is concerned.

Removing the consequences of immorality, lying, etc. through contraception, litigation, and ungodly laws can lure us into believing that the lack of consequences imply acceptance. Similarly, and in my experience, Western Christians are lured into believing that God exists to serve them and that prosperity is the goal because covenant and consequences have often been removed in the Church. Churchgoers are anesthetized by receiving a half-baked gospel where, if anything, a silent and personal ‘sinner’s prayer can save them without reciprocation. They are told there’s nothing they have to do – Jesus did it all! No self-discipline, no charity, no sacrifice, no two-way marriage-like covenantal response. No consequence for the pleasure-seeking individual uninterested in communal care who practices behavior antithetical to God’s ways. No accountability. No ongoing spiritual formation or discipleship (Barna, The State of the Church, 2016, for instance: https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/). What to do?

There can be a fix – a positive change that once again draws others to our faith. Turn off the anethsiea of a covenantless gospel; stop entertaining and teach. Hold Christians accountable for ungodly behavior and gently train through discipleship. Move out of the church buildings and live out faith among others in our communities whether at work, play, or dwelling so that they may see our good works, patience, and purity and wonder just as the ancients did.





Donuts and Electric Guitars?

We know from the Old Testament that Israelites praised God with instruments and voices (e.g. 1Chronicles 15:16) as the whole earth will one day (Psalm 66:3-4). And, according to Paul, the first-century Church also sang songs together in praise and worship (e.g. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

There are two ways to handle music in church: listen to the music and enjoy it, which may make us feel good but does nothing for anyone else. Or . . . we can actively participate in singing and playing as instructed by the Bible. This outward expression is a great way to adore, honor, and revere our God and Christ! After all, true love (agape in the Greek) is actionable and the kind of love we’re meant to have for God and our fellow humans.

There’s some concern these days around the use of multimedia and the replaying of Christian entertainment during church services as a form of praise and worship. Whether there’s reason for concern depends on the intent of the performers and hearers.

Are the sessions prideful regurgitations of Christian top-40 music meant to evoke the same kinds of emotions you’d find in a bar over weepy love songs or among lighter-waving teens in a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert 35 years ago? Or, is the music truly a vehicle for outward-bound praise of our Lord and savior?  Only the performers and listeners know for sure.

As a praise and worship lead guitarist for roughly 34 years, I can honestly say I’ve seen it go both ways, although the trend seems to be moving away from a participatory worship to more of an appeal to the senses (in my experience and opinion).

Just remember that obedience to God’s commandments is the greatest form of true worship – assigning ‘worth’ or ‘value’ to our God. According to the Bible, this is what God desires over religious activities, and Jesus said this is how we prove we’re His. No amount of donuts in the foyer, weepy worship band music, electric guitar solos, or church programs will save us from God’s wrath to come. However, obedience out of faith will.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Tattoos & Piercings: “Holy Inking, Batman!”

Question: “Is it a sin to get tattoos or body piercings?”

Is this more of a cultural than sin-related question? What drives an individual to ink or pierce their bodies? Could the intent (motive) itself be sinful? What does the Bible have to say about tattooing or piercing?

There’s been an incredible explosion in the number of people getting tattoos and multiple piercings these days. So, I’m not surprised at having been asked whether either is sinful. Anyone looking for a definitive sin line in the sand won’t find it here, as intent and culture make it impossible to draw one. This doesn’t mean that getting tattoos or receiving piercings isn’t related to sin, but the actions would most likely be manifestations of underlying sinful behavior such as pride, arrogance, or rebellion.

I mentioned that intent comes into play here (as it does just about anywhere!). Why an action is done is important to understanding whether it’s sinful. For instance, someone may get a tattoo to commemorate the life or death of a loved one. Someone else may have meaningful Scripture tattooed on their body for remembrance or some kind of witness. Is this sinful?

On the other hand, a minor may illegally and immorally receive tattoos or piercings out of rebellion against their parents or because of vanity.  Or, someone may get piercings in particular places for the purpose of enhancing sexual experiences or satisfying a narcissistic, prideful desire to stand out through the use of tattoos or piercings. Of course, these are but a few examples of what may be innocent intent on one hand and sinful desire on the other.  So, what does the Bible say about these activities? How could someone contemplating a tattoo or piercing determine whether they should follow through with the act? Let’s examine them one at a time.

Piercing. The only direct biblical reference to piercing is that of the Old Testament piercing of a slave’s ear by their master (cf. Exodus 21:6 and Deuteronomy 15:17). The Old Testament mentions earrings, but these may have been slipped on and not necessarily inserted through holes in the ears. Because there’s no way to tell for sure, references (e.g. Exodus 35:22) shouldn’t be used in support for or against ear piercings.

Tattoos. This one’s a bit trickier, as God specifically forbade the Israelites from gashing or marking their bodies.  I’ve heard it said that God was just talking about doing this in commemoration of the dead; however, look at the text and you’ll see that the tattoo warning comes after the mention of the “the dead”.

You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves . . .

Besides the biblical warning against tattooing, there are no benefits to the act. You’ll also find definite disadvantages and risks:

  • Permanence. Tattoos are relatively permanent, although today’s technologies may help in removing most evidence of inking.
  • Negative perceptions. These could come from potential friends, spouses, or employers. Why risk not getting an ideal job or missing out on close relationships for the sake of making a statement? You’ll likely find, though, that this isn’t quite the risk it once was; perceptions have changed somewhat as tattoos become more popular.
  • Roadblock to an effective witness. Presenting yourself as an inked Christian could have a detrimental effect on spreading the Gospel or invoking confidence in others. But, as with the ‘negative perceptions’ bullet above, the risk of a roadblock, while valid, may not be as viable as in the past.
  • Risk of infection. This does happen as a result of unsanitary conditions and equipment.

Summary: Unlike piercings, which seem to have no prohibition or permanent effects, tattooing carries a biblical warning and risks while sporting no apparent benefit. Also, the motive behind inking or piercings can be sinful – especially if born of sin such as pride or rebellion. Sinful motives (no matter what the action) should be repented of.

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!