July 4, 2014 Broadcast

Gospel in the Trenches

An interview with Douglas Lee

Military chaplains provide support for our armed forces at home and abroad. They are on the front lines both physically and spiritually. Today retired chaplain and Brigadier General Douglas Lee joins Ligonier Ministries president, Chris Larson and our host Lee Webb for an extended conversation about the vital role of military chaplains and how we can pray for them and support them.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    Can Christians 'Do Business' with the World?

  2. article

    Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?

  3. article

    The Second World War

Can Christians 'Do Business' with the World?

Robert Rothwell

In recent decades, a number of prominent Christian organizations and denominations have called for Christians to boycott businesses that are associated in some way with non-Christian ethics. Over the years, these groups have called for boycotts of companies and products such as American Airlines, The Gap, Burger King, Clorox, Crest, Ford, Hallmark Cards, Kraft Foods, Microsoft, the Walt Disney Company, IKEA, Pampers, Target, the Campbell Soup Company, and many more.

Homosexuality and abortion have been the major issues that have inspired these boycotts. For example, some of the boycotted companies give employee benefits to homosexual couples, advertise in pro-homosexual magazines, or donate to pro-homosexual advocacy groups. Numerous companies financially support pro-abortion organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

These calls for boycotts stem from a belief on the part of some Christians that all believers have a moral obligation to boycott any company that supports sinful behavior such as homosexuality or abortion. Their motivation is a noble one, for they are attempting to follow the biblical mandate to obey God's Word and to not love the things of this world (1 John 2:15–17; see Eph. 5:11; James 4:4).

Other Christians argue that Scripture does not place such a moral obligation on all Christians. These Christians point out that the aforementioned commands deal with love of the world's system of thinking—that is, its evil worldview. They say that boycotting any business that is associated with non-Christian ethics in any way goes beyond the biblical meaning of separation and, if taken to its logical conclusion, would require that Christians abandon the world. Christians would not be of the world—which is good—but neither would they be in it—which is not good.

What shall we say to these things? First, let us note that people on both sides of this issue believe that we may not compromise the holy standards of God. We all agree that we must not capitulate to our culture's definition of right and wrong, and that we must resist calls for Christians to redefine biblical ethics.

However, it is one thing to stand strong on what God defines as sin, but it is another to say this requires us to boycott any business that is involved tangentially with sin.

Paul gives an essential principle regarding associating with non-Christians:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you." (1 Cor. 5:9–13)

Note that Paul clarifies some teaching that he had previously delivered to the Corinthians. Apparently, some in the Corinthian church took Paul's admonition to separate from immoral people as a command to separate from all immoral people without distinction. But that is not what he meant. He clarifies his point by saying that the ones from whom we must separate are immoral people who bear "the name of" brothers (v. 11). The Apostle is referring to individuals who insist on calling themselves Christians while living in grievous, impenitent sin. Separation pertains to the visible church. Paul wants the church to present a good witness to the world around her by remaining as pure as possible on this side of heaven. That means removing from the visible church anyone who claims to be a believer and impenitently bears the fruits of wickedness and not the fruits of regeneration. The entire chapter is dealing with a church discipline issue, with a problem among those in Corinth who professed the name of Christ and not every Corinthian citizen.

To be sure, we are to refrain from personal sin and to encourage godly living, but that is different than staying away from impenitent sinners who make no claim to being Christians. The only way to do that, Paul notes, would be to remove ourselves entirely from the world (vv. 9–10). Paul's clarification on the matter shows that he does not want us to remove ourselves from the world. He wants us to associate with sinners—not in endorsing or joining in their sin, but in making ourselves available to them so that they can hear the gospel. This is what Jesus did (Mark 2:13–17), and the Apostles did the same as they took the gospel to pagan sinners (1 Cor. 6:9–11). Therefore, because we are not to separate from the world into a Christian ghetto, we have to participate in the world's economy and do business with our non-Christian neighbors. There is no way around it.

That is all well and good, you might say, but should we not distinguish between non-Christians who promote immorality openly and those who do not, and then take our business to the former? Does not our purchasing from those who promote sin make us responsible for sin because our dollars might be going to the promotion of evil? There are two passages that bear on this subject. In Romans 13:6–7, Paul explains that Christians are to pay their taxes, thereby echoing the teaching of our Lord in Matthew 22:15–22. This is significant because the specific government to which Jesus and Paul commanded Christians to pay taxes was the Roman government, which supported and condoned heinous activities. In fact, Jesus commended the paying of taxes to the very authorities He knew would soon crucify Him. The Roman Empire was not merely non-Christian—it was anti-Christian. And yet, both our Lord and the Apostle Paul instruct Christians to pay taxes to that government. Since Jesus and Paul would never tell us to do anything that involves us in sin, we may deduce from these passages that Christians are not morally responsible if their tax dollars are used for sinful purposes. And if we are not morally responsible for what the government does with our tax dollars, we are certainly not responsible for what companies do with our purchasing dollars. We do not intend to support sin with our purchases; we simply need a good or service. When we buy chicken from a supermarket that supports Planned Parenthood, for example, we are not trying to fund abortion. We just need food for our families.

We are to be in the world, and being in this world means participating in the economies of this world. So, we must respectfully disagree with our fellow Christians who insist that all believers are morally obligated to boycott any company that supports sinful behavior. Therefore, we choose to do business with non-Christians. We choose to live among them. We choose to do so in order that we might call them out of darkness and into light. We do so in imitation of our Lord who did not abandon us when we were His enemies, and who came and lived among us and died for us that we might live.

Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?

Albert Mohler

We are not living in a season of peace. Thinking Christians must surely be aware that a great moral and spiritual conflict is taking shape all around us, with multiple fronts of battle and issues of great importance at stake. The prophet Jeremiah repeatedly warned of those who would falsely declare peace when there is no peace. The Bible defines the Christian life in terms of spiritual battle, and believers in this generation face the fact that the very existence of truth is at stake in our current struggle.

The condition of warfare brings a unique set of moral challenges to the table, and the great moral and cultural battles of our times are no different. Even ancient thinkers knew this, and many of their maxims of warfare are still commonly cited. Among the most popular of these is a maxim that was known by many of the ancients—"the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

That maxim has survived as a modern principle of foreign policy. It explains why states that have been at war against one another can, in a very short period of time, become allies against a common enemy. In World War II, the Soviet Union began as an ally of Nazi Germany. Yet, it ended the war as a key ally of the United States and Britain. How? It joined the effort against Hitler and became the instant "friend" of the Americans and the British. And yet, as that great war came to an end, the Soviets and their former allies entered a new phase of open hostility known as the Cold War.

Does this useful maxim of foreign policy serve Christians well as we think about our current struggles? That is not an uncomplicated question. On the one hand, some sense of unity against a common opponent is inevitable, and even indispensible. On the other hand, the idea that a common enemy produces a true unity is, as even history reveals, a false premise.

We must not underestimate what we are up against. We face titanic struggles on behalf of human life and human dignity against the culture of death and the great evils of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. We are in a great fight for the integrity of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. We face a cultural alliance determined to advance a sexual revolution that will unleash unmitigated chaos and bring great injury to individuals, families, and the society at large. We are fighting to defend gender as part of the goodness of God's creation and to defend the very existence of an objective moral order.

Beyond all these challenges, we are engaged in a great battle to defend the existence of truth itself, to defend the reality and authority of God's revelation in Scripture, and to defend all that the Bible teaches. A pervasive anti-supernaturalism seeks to deny any claim of God's existence or our ability to know him. Naturalistic worldviews dominate in the academy, and the New Atheism sells books by the millions. Theological liberalism does its best to make peace with the enemies of the church, but faithful Christians have no way to escape the battles to which this generation of believers are called.

So, are the other enemies of our enemies our friends? Mormons, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Jews, and a host of others share many of our enemies in this respect. But, to what extent is there a unity among us?

At this point, very careful and honest thinking is required of us. At one level, we can join with anyone, regardless of worldview, to save people from a burning house. We would gladly help an atheist save a neighbor from danger, or even beautify the neighborhood. Those actions do not require a shared theological worldview.

At a second level, we certainly see all those who defend human life and human dignity, marriage and gender, and the integrity of the family as key allies in the current cultural struggle. We listen to each other, draw arguments from each other, and are thankful for each other's support of our common concerns. We even recognize that there are elements common to our worldviews that explain our common convictions on these issues. And yet, our worldviews are really quite different.

With the Roman Catholic Church our common convictions are many, including moral convictions about marriage, human life, and the family. Beyond that, we together affirm the truths of the divine Trinity, orthodox Christology, and other doctrines as well. But we disagree over what is supremely important—the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that supreme difference leads to other vital disagreements as well—over the nature and authority of the Bible, the nature of the ministry, the meaning of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and an entire range of issues central to the Christian faith.

Christians defined by the faith of the Reformers must never forget that nothing less than faithfulness to the gospel of Christ forced the Reformers to break from the Roman Catholic Church. Equal clarity and courage are required of us now.

In a time of cultural conflict, the enemy of our enemy may well be our friend. But, with eternity in view and the gospel at stake, the enemy of our enemy must not be confused to be a friend to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Second World War

R.C. Sproul Jr.

It is natural, though altogether wrong, to think that somehow when we turn the pages that separate the Old and New Testaments that we are entering into more gentle times, that God in the interim somehow became kinder and gentler. We do not see in the New Testament, as we do in the Old, flaming mountains with flashing lightning and earth-shaking thunder. We do not see all the first born of a given nation wiped out in a single night, nor the earth’s whole population, save one family, suffer death by drowning. We do not see Uzzah struck dead for touching God’s ark, nor do we see the prophets of Baal struck down by God’s own prophets. Instead, we meet Jesus. Jesus, we are told, will not break a bruised reed, nor quench a smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20). He is gentle and mild, and utterly determined to bring all His enemies under subjection, to silence every pretender to His throne.

It was when Jesus interpreted law on the mount, at His sermon there, that He first commanded us that we should seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. But it was in Psalm 2 where we are told that Jesus will be given the nations for an inheritance, the ends of the earth for a possession, and where we are told that He will break the rebellious princes and potentates with a rod of iron.

These two perspectives are not at odds with each other. Indeed, they meet together in the book of Acts. Jesus is conquering the world, but the weapons of His warfare are not carnal. If you step back a bit from the book of Acts, you can discern a curious pattern. Just as the book of Joshua tells the story of God’s people conquering the land after a great deliverance, so too does the book of Acts. In both instances, the great leader, after leading the people out of slavery, has gone on to his reward. Moses is taken to heaven, and Jesus ascends to His throne. In both instances there is trouble from those outside the camp. The Canaanites fight against Joshua even as both Rome and the Jews fight the apostles. With Joshua, the walls come tumbling down. In Acts, angels rescue the apostles from the prison walls that keep them in. In Joshua, there is sin in the camp as Achan seizes the plunder of Jericho and is killed. In Acts, Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit and die.

Both books are stories of conquest. In both instances it is Jesus Himself, the Captain of the Lord’s Host, who goes before His people in conquest. The difference is here — Joshua, at God’s command, fights with a literal sword. The apostles, at God’s command, fight with the Word of the Lord. Because we are worldly, we find the Joshua story more dramatic, the new covenant context a toning down of the war. The reality is far different. The warfare is intensifying rather than waning, the stakes growing more deadly. Now it is clear that it is not a question of dead bodies but of dead souls.

For all the parallels between the books of Joshua and Acts, there is this difference as well. Joshua finished his conquest. The land was subdued under his leadership. In the book of Acts, the war begins in Jerusalem, spreads to Judea, and from there to Samaria and the outermost parts of the world. Never, however, has this battle ended. Indeed, it will not end until the end. Jesus is bringing every enemy under subjection. He is conquering the whole of the promised land (the earth), not a narrow strip of land in the Middle East.

It is because the battle continues that we must continue to hear the battle call of our Lord. From that first mount He commanded all that were there that they would set aside all their worldly worries and set their hearts on the battle. He commands of us the same. He has drafted us into His army not as the war is cooling down but as it is heating up. And He has equipped us not with sword and spear but with that spirit of liberty that is ready to die. He has not called us to go out and kill the enemy but to die for the enemy that they might be won. He has called us to follow His supreme example.

The “bloodthirsty” God of the Old Testament, we would be wise to remember, wisely, rightly, executed the guilty. He never practiced an uncontrolled fury. He never punished the innocent with the guilty, for in the Old Testament there were no innocent. The next time we are tempted to fall for that folly that sees God getting soft in the New Testament, we need to remember this: Only once did God kill an innocent man. And that was in the New Testament.

In the new covenant, it is we who are called to be bloodthirsty. We do not subdue His enemies with carnal weapons but with spiritual. Joshua’s soldiers were sustained by the bread from heaven. So are we. Their thirsts were sated by the rock that was struck. Our thirsts too. We must hunger for His body and we must thirst for His blood. We must, if we would conquer in His name, conquer in His way — by dying to ourselves, by picking up our cross.

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