Home > politics > Don’t Be Afraid: Wise Words in the Aftermath of the National Health Care Vote

Don’t Be Afraid: Wise Words in the Aftermath of the National Health Care Vote

March 22nd, 2010
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Excellent words from Dr. Russell Moore:

“Now these three abide: anger, outrage, and fear—and the greatest of these is fear.”

That’s not in the Bible.

But sometimes I wonder if I think it is.

The United States House of Representatives just passed a health care reform bill that I and lots of other Christians opposed. Such legislation should concern us. There are some bad consequences for the weakest and most vulnerable among us, principally unborn children. But should it also concern us that so many of us are talking today about how afraid we are?

Is it a problem that some of us who are tranquil as still water about biblical doctrine and ecclesial mission are red-faced about Nancy Pelosi and the talking heads on MSNBC? Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?

It’s not that I think Christians should be disengaged from issues of justice (God forbid!). It’s just that I wonder if we wouldn’t represent Christ and his kingdom better if we did it with a certain tranquility of Spirit, a tranquility that signals we’re not afraid of the rise and fall of temporal kingdoms and their policies.

Read Dr. Moore’s entire post here.

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Categories: politics
  1. Michael Sullivan
    March 22nd, 2010 at 16:01 | #1

    Right now I think it is a blessing for me to be in Canada. We have what we have. No movement to change it. I don’t necessarily like everything about our system, but the fact that it is what it is keeps me from thinking about it, and just preaching the Gospel which is far more important.

    I pray that all you may have peace and preach the Gospel. Only this will change hearts, as we all know. The battle as “citizen” may be lost to healthcare reform. But your battle has Christian has been one for nearly 2000 years. Forget the former battle (healthcare) and fight the latter (preach to Gospel). And trust in God’s guidance to use all things – even this healthcare reform – for the good of those who love him.

  2. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    March 22nd, 2010 at 23:40 | #2

    Excellent post from Pastor McCain as well.

    In the course of an, uh, exchange, on a blog run by a former Lutheran pastor I had occasion to look at the website of the Catholic archdiocese here to which I am “supposed” to belong — not a word about Jesus Christ, but I sure saw right off what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops thinks of the health care reform bill.

  3. March 23rd, 2010 at 06:43 | #3

    Thank-you for this godly reminder. It further reminds me that the blessing of “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding” was given by the Lord to His Church, for instance, within the Roman Empire, for almost 3 centuries under a government considerably less amenable to the Church than our own. I would guess that our brothers and sisters in Christ in the catacombs did not appreciate oppression but neither did it stop them of telling of Jesus Christ and overcoming evil with good in the care of their neighbors.

  4. Helen
    March 23rd, 2010 at 07:12 | #4

    “Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?”
    While Dr. Moore certainly has a point here, I think that some times we may get too critical
    of those who “supposedly”do not share the gospel. That could very well be a false conclusion and, in our current culture, I believe it is overstating the case.
    It’s really difficult to believe that in our country, with our vast variety of communication, that
    the gospel is not being proclaimed. Perhaps the real “problem” is that many have hardened their hearts to hearing it? In the book of Amos, we read of “a famine of hearing”

    • March 23rd, 2010 at 07:40 | #5

      Couple reactions

      First, I think he is correct when he points out the contrast between the nearly irrational reaction from many Christians to the national health care system and the lack of equal passion for sharing the Gospel.

      Second, I think he is right in challenging Christians to consider how often they actually do articulate and tell the good news about Jesus. This does tend to make us uncomfortable. That is the Law doing it’s work.

  5. Rev. Allen Bergstrazer
    March 23rd, 2010 at 08:46 | #6

    I had an interesting discussion about healthcare during an adult confirmation class last night. We were studying the second Petition and the three kingdoms. Our doctrine is a great blessing to us in times such as these.
    “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

  6. Karyn
    March 23rd, 2010 at 08:49 | #7

    I think Dr. Moore is correct in his rational judgment of how priorities should be assigned in light of the politics in this national health care conflict.

    I must also say that the truth is that I see the good news of forgiveness being shared everywhere I look and if I were asked to tabulate when and how often I’ve shared it myself over a period of time, I try not to count up my own works like that because that is not God’s desire, so my honest assessment is simply that the opportunities present themselves and I guess like most, I ask the Lord to help me do what He wants me to do.

    Helen, precisely true, in my opinion. I’ve said it more than once (I know), but it bears repeating now and then, that when the weight of the law is omitted from, or distorted in preaching and teaching; when the consequences of the law are removed from people’s lives in this society and everything goes, then men can preach the good news of the Gospel day and night, but hearts that are not prepared for it by the weight of the law are hardened, the Holy Spirit is driven away (either temporarily or forever), and they are not able to receive the kind of good news they don’t really believe they need all that much. The fact of the matter is that most people want temporal good news, not eternal good news because most people are not conviced they need any more eternal good news than they already have. I actually think, all in all, Dr. Moore did a pretty good job with this one.

    Although I do not agree with everything that I have heard Dr. Moore say and I have seen some creative assertions or applications in his communications that I would consider potentially harmful mistakes which I would animatedly oppose, I see the gift of his wisdom in his perceptions that he contributes, as well.

  7. Richard
    March 23rd, 2010 at 08:53 | #8

    It IS an irrational reaction. And now I hear some Christians are talking about “civil disobedience” to any national health care system. Lord have mercy. Have we come to this?

  8. Helen
    March 23rd, 2010 at 10:11 | #9

    Karyn,
    ” but hearts that are not prepared for it by the weight of the
    law are hardened,”
    While I agree with post in general, I would add a clarification:
    It is when hearing the gospel and people reject it that their
    hearts become hardened.
    Man, by nature, LOVES the law!

  9. Karyn
    March 24th, 2010 at 04:22 | #10

    Helen,
    I’m not sure what you thought I meant, but alternatively, I’ll put it this way: When a sinful heart is confronted with the consequences of breaking God’s law, together with the solution in Christ, a sinful heart will either soften (i.e. feel the consequences of breaking God’s law, realize its need for salvation and embrace the good news that the Gospel provides) or, it will harden (i.e. reject that solution). But, when the law and the unpleasant consequences of breaking God’s law are omitted, distorted or removed from consciousness, a sinful heart does not realize its need for the good news of the Gospel and does not soften. Just to be clear, by this statement, I am not making any universal judgments about the permanent status of a heart. God will work repentance and faith as He wills.

    Your statement that, “Man, by nature, loves the law” I would have to very much disagree with, however. Take Psalm 1, for example. Verses 1-3 refer to the regenerate man who delights in the law of the Lord. Verses 4-5 refer to the wicked, unregenerate man who does not. Man, by nature, hates God and God’s law. Man, by nature, wants to be god and make up his own rules which are contrary to the laws of God that man naturally despises.

  10. Helen
    March 24th, 2010 at 09:03 | #11

    Karyn,

    What I meant about “man by nature loves the law,” is that he loves to justify himself by thinking he can keep the law, whether God’s law or his own. Therefore, if, for example,
    a person who has been attending worship services where law and gospel is preached, begins to stay away, it is not the law that causes this, but the gospel, since he is told that
    he cannot justify himself before God by keeping the law, although he may very well do so before men.
    Also, the psalm you cite in reference to “delights in the law of the Lord,” the “law” here refers to both law and gospel That is, the Word of God is what he delights in.

  11. March 24th, 2010 at 11:57 | #12

    Moore euphamismistically refers to the abortion of unborn children as “bad consequences,” which really is offensive.

    He conflates the strongly-held views and emotional responses of a pro-life person (whose response is understandible in this case) with a straw man: the hypothetical Christian who is angered by the legislation and yet who doesn’t share the Gospel enough (a shopworn foil if ever there was one). Does he mean a Tea Partier? Which one?

    His approach is legalistic and even admits of Christian Stoicism. He positions Jesus as the great moral Leader and Example, rather than gracious Savior and Redeemer. The Gospel for him is for us to share more of the Gospel.

    In these trying days, we need men with chests–and hearts beating within them. Moore’s undoubtedly needs defibrillation.

    Robert at bioethike.com

    • March 24th, 2010 at 12:49 | #13

      I think you make some good points, Rev. Baker. Here’s my take on Dr. Moore’s remarks.

      I believe the point he is making is a valid one. I am a contributor to a blog site that is dominated by a lot of Evangelicals. I have noticed how passion about the national health care legislation is for many much higher than when the Gospel is discussed. That gets a “oh, yes, that” kind of ho-hum, but ranting and raving against President Obama appears to be more of a concern than the Gospel for many conservative Christians. And, while Dr. Moore’s challenge is discomforting, I do think we need to get slugged between the eyes when it comes to outreach with the Gospel. I have been following Dr. Moore’s blog and other work for years and I can assure you that he does not think the Gospel is sharing the Gospel. Truth be told, I am afraid to say that he is precisely right: there are many Christians who have lathered themselves up into a near-frenzy over the recently passed legislation, who do very little about sharing their Christian faith, and confuse political activities with the work of the Church. I think, given his denomination’s penchant for this, it was a pretty gutsy move on his part to say what he said.

  12. Daniel Gorman
    March 24th, 2010 at 13:16 | #14

    Dr. Russell Moore opines concerning the healthcare bill, “There are some bad consequences for the weakest and most vulnerable among us, principally unborn children. But should it also concern us that so many of us are talking today about how afraid we are?”

    How can a law that requires insurance companies to provide uncapped insurance coverage to pregnant women and their babies and that provides no funding of abortion have bad consequences for unborn children? Logically, wouldn’t the bill have only good consequences for the unborn? Isn’t Dr. Moore fueling irrational fear in order to further his own partisan agenda?

  13. Karyn
    March 24th, 2010 at 13:53 | #15

    Helen,

    I don’t think I’m really understanding the point you’re trying to make in the first part of your last comment. You seem to be interjecting a set of specific circumstances and saying that under these circumstances, the gospel causes a person to stay away from worship services, but I don’t understand why you would be making that claim. If you want to clarify, feel free, but that’s up to you.

    I do want to at least be clear that I’ve not heard anyone suggest that a person who delights in the law of the Lord as described in Ps. 1 would, at the same time, despise the gospel, if you’re suggesting that is an issue. I did not claim that the Psalm refers to someone who delights in the law of the Lord but does not delight in the good news of the gospel at the same time. What I said is simply that the Psalm makes it clear that man, by nature, does not love God’s law, he hates God’s law. Man also, by his sinful nature, tries to work his way to heaven (justify himself) through creating his own laws/rules that he can keep, but loving the laws he creates himself is not loving God’s laws.

  14. Helen
    March 24th, 2010 at 15:20 | #16

    Karyn,
    Basically what I’m referring to is that person who believes that his life,
    good works, being a “good Joe” etc. is what he plans to put before God.
    This is what he really believes. So, when he hears that this stuff is
    nothing before God (as Paul says, “rubbish”) he finds that he’s quite
    angry about it. Instead of repenting and turning to Christ, the only One
    who can forgive and save him, he stops coming to the Divine Service.
    Therefore, it’s not the law that offends him (he wants to keep the law
    and be justified in thinking he’s really doing that!). It’s the gospel that
    offends him, because it wipes out all self-rightousness and he does not
    want to be a part of that.

  15. March 24th, 2010 at 19:31 | #17

    It IS an irrational reaction. And now I hear some Christians are talking about “civil disobedience” to any national health care system. Lord have mercy. Have we come to this?

    It came to this a long time ago. For decades we have had so-called sanctuary cities where law enforcement is prevented from enforcing immigration laws against illegal aliens. Many Christians back this defiance of the law.

    During the Vietnam War there were Christians who urged civil disobedience against the draft. Martin Luther King defied Southern segregation laws, and won a Nobel Peace Prize in part because of it.

    More recently, Christians have also engaged in civil disobedience by blocking entrances to military facilities (most notably recruiting stations), and nuclear power plants. In one particularly obscene example, Fred Phelps and his anti-Iraq War followers regular harass military funerals and gay-pride events (Phelps is pigeonholed by the secular media as a homophobe, but they seem to overlook his equally virulent hatred of the military). In other words, civil disobedience has long been a staple of American Christianity – particularly on the political Left.

    But before conservative Christians take this opportunity to gleefully jump on the civil disobedience bandwagon, they might want to reflect on the strange fruit it has borne for liberal Christianity. Liberal Protestant denominations have been hemorrhaging members for decades, in part due to the increasingly ugly secular politics these denominations seem to prefer. That could be the fate of conservative denominations if they follow the folly of mainline liberal churches in pursuing politics above the Gospel.

  16. Karyn
    March 24th, 2010 at 22:46 | #18

    Helen,

    Sorry to get back so late, I had a few other things to do this afternoon. Thank you for explaining. I would note that a person in that condition (who hears that his works are nothing before God) has just heard God’s law and is reacting to his realization that he cannot keep it, so in that sense, he is offended by God’s law. I would not consider it inaccurate to say that he is offended by the Gospel, either. I do think an important distinction must always be made though, that wanting to keep God’s law is a good thing, it is wanting to be justified before God by works that is wrong. I would also note that the way Jesus responded to those in that condition (i.e. the Pharisees) was to give them a serious dose of God’s law (which is not to say that He left out the good news of the Gospel entirely, but He did not hold back in giving them God’s law) Mt. 12:33-37.

  17. Helen
    March 25th, 2010 at 08:59 | #19

    Yes, I agree. Law AND Gospel, that’s what makes us Lutherans! : )

  18. March 26th, 2010 at 01:44 | #20
  19. Jack
    March 26th, 2010 at 12:18 | #21

    Yes; I think that many have come to that – and worse. I am a lifelong Lutheran; I understand and believe in the separate kingdoms. But the fact is that we must live in the secular kingdom, whether we like it or not. Our children must live here, too, with few resources to help them to cope with issues like the gay teen in Mississippi, etc. We live in this world. As Christians, we draw strength from our faith and our hope of eternal life, But we are still here – as sinful human beings struggling with this world. The actions of the Catholic church (including the Pope himself) in response to allegations of abuse weaken respect for and confidence in the entire Christian church. The ongoing struggle and political backbiting within the Missouri Synod leadership, and the actions of the ELCA to ordain gay clergy, etc., weaken confidence in the Lutheran church. I am frustrated beyond words with the apparent apathy of Lutherans generally, and my own congregation specifically, to wake up, recognize and admit real-world problems, and address them. If I hear one more high-blown sermon with no specific connection to what goes on in our city I may stop attending worship. Too many are living in the clouds well in advance of their own ascensions. I do not want, but will not be the least surprised, to see civil war on at least the scale of 1967-68 in the next couple of years.

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