Focal Passage: Numbers 25:1-13
Jacqueline Lapsley, associate professor of Old Testament,
Princeton, tells of an incident described several years ago by the then general
secretary, Setri Nyomi, at Princeton University. He spoke of a meeting of the
World Alliance of Reformed Churches that was held in a historic Reformed church
in Ghana, Africa.
He and a group of church leaders were stunned to learn that
for centuries this church had been the site of worship, yet had also been built
directly over a holding pen where slaves were being held before their transport
to the Americas. Nyomi asked what it was in these worshippers’ reading of
scripture that “did not equip them to deal with the injustices taking place
seven feet below them!”
Somehow, as in today’s passage, they had learned to compromise
their faith and understanding of God’s Word, ignoring their responsibility in
living it out. There is a very arduous path we as believers must walk in
affirming the gracious love of God and yet recognizing the gravity of God’s
On the one hand we celebrate and declare God’s patience and
love for all people and yet should not ignore His antipathy towards all that
separates people from Him — i.e., their sin.
Thus in light of this challenge of demonstrating God’s love
and God’s “jealousy,” do we compromise the biblical truth when we encounter the
world or do we lovingly confront the world with that truth?
Sadly, as a former international missionary and a director
of missions, I have encountered those congregations who have lost sight of
God’s calling upon them (His mission) and have stated to me that even though
they know that they are wrong on a certain racial, moral or ethical issue (and
disobedient to what scripture implores), they would not reconsider or respond
positively to God’s leading.
They would gladly close the doors of the church, rather than
open themselves to reaching and transforming their whole community for Christ.
In reality, God accomplishes his will regardless of whether
we respond obediently or rebelliously.
In the midst of the compromise of the German Church in the
time of Hitler, Dietrich Bonheoffer challenged the believers with these words:
“Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not
his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who
is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedience and responsible
action and in exclusive allegiance to God — the responsible man, who tries to
make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.
“Where are those responsible people?”
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