Category Archives: Messiah’s Messenger

How Christians Should Treat One Another in the Midst of Political Turmoil

Things are heating up politically here in Wisconsin. Republicans against Democrats. Democrats against Republicans. State senators “hiding” in Illinois, the governor answering prank calls, tens of thousands of people protesting in Madison, yes, the political machines are moving, and there isn’t any sign of it slowing down soon.

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What I have been observing on all sides of these issues is hatred, vitriol, and presumptions about motivations that are certainly uncharitable, and very often slander or worse. And we are not talking about the “other” people. I am talking about Christians, even members of our own congregation. The conversations happen in bible classes, on the phone, on Facebook or Twitter, and really anywhere that people gather. I’m quite certain I have been as guilty of it as anyone.

All of this begs the question: what does it mean to be a Christian in these times? How am I to treat someone with whom I disagree? What if I believe their behavior is not only wrong politically, but is sinful? How am I to interact with them?

The Scriptures are quite clear on this. Let’s start with the Eighth Commandment and Explanation:

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

Note a couple things from this commandment and explanation:

  1. This is not about faith or lack thereof. This commandment is how we are to treat fellow human beings, always and everywhere. Period. There is really no such thing as how we are to treat fellow Christians versus how we are to treat unbelievers. Love does not see political or racial divisions. It does not discriminate between believers and unbelievers. God did not come into our flesh to save those who agreed with Him. He came to save the lost, the rebelling, the haters and backbiters. He came to save us. And because of this, how we treat one another is a reflection of what we believe about how God should treat us.
  2. This is not about motivation. I’m sure this will come as a surprise to some, but people can be jerks. Politicians can lie. So can unions. So can political action groups (either organized or self-appointed). So can Christians. So can I. So can you. If the commandments only applied when the other person had proper motivation, the world would be an even more wicked place than it already is.
  3. This is not about reciprocity. Anytime we are talking about the Law, there is always a tit-for-tat sense about it in our minds. “I will not do this, if they won’t, either.” That’s not Christian. It’s tempting, but it’s not right.
  4. Slander means speaking about another person in such a way that hurts their reputation. This applies to presidents and governors, labor and management, men and women, parents and children, siblings, friends and the like. If my goal is to hurt another person, then I am in the wrong. Please note, I am not saying anything about the issues or the content of the arguments at all. I am simply saying that if my goal is to hurt another person, that is against God’s Word, regardless of any political motivation or affiliation.

So if this is what we are not supposed to do, what are we supposed to do? Again, the Scriptures have the answer for us:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

This is not a blanket “always look on the bright side of life” approach on the part of St. Paul. What he is saying is the positive side to the 8th Commandment. Rather than focus on the negative, why not look to the good? You will live longer, and will be much more at peace in the process. Here’s another:

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9

As a Christian, we are not to flaunt our rights in such a way that others may fall away from the faith. How I say things and approach issues in the political (left hand kingdom) realm speaks volumes as to what I believe about God and how He works in the world. And again:

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Proverbs 31:8

None of this is an argument for quietism, or political head-in-the-sandedness. We are obligated to look out for the well being of our neighbor. I am my brother’s keeper. How I go about showing love to my neighbor may be different than how you go about it. But make no mistake about it: that is your job as a Christian, and mine. I am not speaking politically here in terms of social welfare state versus free market, or anything else. I am simply saying that I have a responsibility as an individual to care for those around me, to speak up and defend those who cannot defend themselves, and to show mercy to my neighbor, because God has had mercy upon me.

Finally, I would be deeply suspicious of anyone that argues “the bible says we must side this way” in a nice, simple and unambiguous fashion. How we are to treat one another is clear in the Scriptures. We are to love one another. What is not at all clear in the Bible is how that translates into political practices in a representative democracy (republic) such as ours. We can disagree. We may have deeply divergent views on the political future of our state. That is okay. The Church is big enough. We can take it.

So in summary, this is how I would commend you as fellow Christians to behave in our time of political turmoil:

  1. Don’t concern yourself with motivations, secret plots, conspiracies and the like. Human beings will always operate in these ways, and today is no different than a hundred years ago.
  2. Do concern yourself with what the issues actually are, and not the personalities involved.
  3. Remember that Christians of goodwill can disagree on how love is to be shown to the neighbor. This does not mean someone who disagrees with you isn’t a Christian. It means that they understand things differently that you do.
  4. Our unity in faith is immeasurably more important than our unity in politics. If you have found that political agreement is more important to you than who you will be spending eternity with (or where!), then I would suggest your priorities are out of whack and need serious examination.

I hope this is of benefit to you. God bless us all in in these interesting times.

 

Pastor Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Thursday of Sexagesima

March 3, 2011

Advent Protection

December generally stinks for me on a personal level. I know, that’s not a really chipper pastor admission to make, but there you have it. Kathryn and I have had two miscarriages during this season, and December serves as a foreboding for January. Nearly bad memory I have about depression has its triggers in December and January. So for me, December always creates a longing to get away, to escape from my memories and to try and find someplace better. I want it to be better. I want to embrace the joy of the season and be happy, but it doesn’t play out that way very often.

That is why I love the collects, or short prayers of Advent. Each one of them has its own emphasis, but the first one really wraps it all up for me. Here it is:

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (LSB, Collect for the First Sunday in Advent)

What I so often forget is that in many ways I am my own worst enemy. My sinfulness is always at the door, always creeping around and trying to draw me into the traps which only Satan can lay for me. And tragically all too often, I succumb to those traps and temptations.

We don’t think of sin really as dangerous or or destructive, but it is. It threatens our relationship to God, to one another, and seems into every facet of our lives. Satan and sin are always at work, always trying to figure out what and who they can devour next. I don’t say this to cause fear, but first of all as a warning. We should never be surprised when sin messes things up. It is what sin does, and worse.

What this collect (prayer) reminds me of so beautifully is that God’s protection rescues me from my sins. No matter how badly I have screwed up. No matter how much I have contributed to all of my own problems, God is there for me. We pray that God would stir up His power to rescue. And God loves to answer prayers more than anything else.

He will deliver you from the threatening perils of your sins. He will deliver you. Perhaps one of our Advent Psalms puts it best, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15)

This Advent I would encourage you to sit back, recognize your own weaknesses and shortcomings and sinfulness, repent and receive God’s gracious word of forgiveness. But also recognize the weakness and sinfulness of those around you. They are trapped just as you are. God can use your forgiving words to make a difference in another hurting sinner’s life. What could be a better present than that?

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Come quickly, make haste to deliver me. Amen.

+The Lord be with you+

Pastor

Praying in school

Praying in school

““Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9 ESV)

It’s the start of a new school year! And what an exciting year it is. Christ Lutheran Academy is now at Messiah Lutheran Church, Little Lambs Learning Center has the beginning of their re-tooled pre-school program, and Sunday School starts up on September 12. I love fall. It is the season of new beginnings.

Here at Messiah Lutheran Church, every day is a day of prayer. Morning Prayer (Matins), Afternoon Prayer (Vespers), the Divine Service, school openings and closings, pre-school chapels, there is always somebody praying around here!

It is entirely appropriate that we spend so much time in prayer at our schools, because prayer must be taught. Praying does not come naturally, or if it does, these prayers will quickly run out of conversation with God, and will degenerate into talking either to ourselves or at least about ourselves. So how do we teaching praying at Messiah Lutheran Church. Let me count the ways:

  1. We teach praying by doing it. Lead by example. At home or at work. Before meals or after. When you get up and when you go to bed. What we actually do as adults teaches far more than anything else.
  2. We teach praying by giving the words. Just like a child repeats words back to their parents, in the same way a student repeats the words of prayer back to their teacher. These words may be the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, the collects (prayers) of the church, or praying for various needs. But we teach children how to pray by giving them what to pray. They will learn and build upon that foundation throughout their lives.
  3. We teach praying by being diligent yet patient. Moses in Deuteronomy six exhorts us to be diligent in teaching prayer. Holy persistence, I would call it. That kind of persistent work means that we must also be patient with our children, our parents were patient with us. It means giving them the time they need to learn the words. It means going slow enough so that they can follow and eventually lead. It means praying for God’s guidance as we pass on the faith once delivered to the saints.

That is how things tick around here at Messiah Lutheran Church every day. It is a new day, a new year. Receive what God has to give you in His Word, and say it back to Him in words of prayer!

+The Lord be with you+ 

Pastor Todd Peperkorn

From Messiah’s Messenger, September 2010

Praying for your enemies

““But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:26 ESV)

We have spoken mostly about how to pray, as well as praying in different contexts or groups (alone, in your marriage, in family, etc.). Now it is time for us to turn to an even harder topic: praying for your enemies.

It is pretty easy to pray for people you like or love. It is almost natural to intercede on behalf of people whom we care for. But praying for people we dislike or even hate, that is another matter altogether. When you hate someone, you wish ill to happen to them. You don’t want what’s best for them. You want them to get what they really deserve. In the same way, it’s pretty likely that there are those who dislike or hate you. They probably don’t want what’s best for you, just as you don’t for them.

This is both wrong and sinful. God desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, and His love is for the whole world, not just people who like him (John 3:16). Just as God’s love extends to all, our love should extend to all as well.

Saying “this is not easy” puts it pretty mildly. The whole point of hating someone is that you want nothing to do with them, or you want what is bad for them. You hate someone because they have hurt you, because your jealous of them, or for some other reason. Hatred is really the exact opposite of love in this case. It is what we do by nature, and have done so since Cain murdered Abel.

But God invites you to take a different path than the path you may take by nature. He invites you to become like Him, to love the loveless so that they might lovely be (to quote the hymn!). This will not come easily, because it goes against your nature. But there are several good reasons to do this:

  • It is right. God loves you, even though you don’t deserve it. Because of God’s love for you, you are now free to love your neighbor, and that frankly begins by praying for them.
  • Praying for your enemies frees you of their control. Hating someone is work. They are controlling your emotions, your reactions to them, and your entire disposition. They may not know they are doing this, but they are. By praying for them, you are handing over your hatred and their wellbeing over to God, where they both belong.
  • Saying the words in prayer will help to change how you view your enemies. Prayer changes you, because God always answers prayer. If you pray that God would take away your hatred for this person, that is what God is going to do. It may not happen as quickly as you’d like, but it will happen.

So when you are struggling with what to do with that one person who makes you crazy, that one person whom you can’t stand (and you know who they are!), pray for them. God will hear. It will be good for them, and it will be even better for you.

+The Lord be with you+
 Pastor Todd Peperkorn

From the May 2010 Messiah’s Messenger

Prayer and the Family

Prayer isn’t something that just comes naturally. Prayer must be taught. Our Lord Himself demonstrates this when He teaches the disciples how to pray. He says,“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:9 ESV) We know that God both hears and answers our prayers. We know that it is a great benefit and blessing. But thanks to our old sinful flesh, we pass on our desire to hide from God and refuse to talk to Him. Our children learn not to pray from us.

Praying as a family can be almost as hard as praying alone or praying in your marriage. In some respects, it is even harder. How do you find the time? What if I don’t want to pray? What if the kids are acting up or there’s a game on that I want to watch? The reasons not to pray seem to go on and on.

The great thing about the Christian faith, though, is that it is never too late. Each day begins anew. Things can and do change. They can get better. How important is that to remember, as we bask in the glow of the resurrection!

So then, let’s get to it. Here are a few simple steps to help make prayer a part of your common life together as a Christian family:

  • Do it. Nike got it right. You don’t debate whether to brush your teeth or eat breakfast in the morning. Christians pray. It’s that simple. Think through how to make this a habit . It typically takes about six weeks to establish a habit. Give yourselves that six weeks. Make reminders. Put a note on the steering wheel or on the fridge (or on the remote control!). Make a commitment that as a family, we are going to pray together once a day (plus meals, which we will cover next month).

  • Keep it simple. The Lord’s Prayer and Luther’s Morning or Evening prayer would be a great place to start. We’ve done that for years in our family, especially while our children are young. But by making that a part of our life as a family, it has slowly been ingrained into us and our children.
  • Teach the words. Children learn how to speak from their parents. They learn how to pray from their parents, too. Give them the language of faith. Be deliberate about it. By being deliberate about it, you are telling your children that this is important, and that it is worth learning and doing. Start with the Lord’s Prayer, and then work your way out to other prayers.
  • Give yourself the context to succeed. You know your own family. When are they going to be the most likely to actually hear and pay attention? Nine o’clock at night? Right after supper? Right after breakfast. Each family is different. I would encourage you to think about what is prime time for your family, and then figure out how to work prayer into that prime time. If your children are tired, crabby and just want to either go to bed or fight with each other, that may not be the best time to work on praying.
  • Don’t despair! It is very easy to get discouraged with children. It’s work. But it is totally worth it.

This is a gift you can give to them that will literally last forever. Pray for patience for yourself and your spouse. Pray for your children, that they learn how to receive God’s Word and speak back to Him what He has given to them.

The blessings will flow from this. Believe me. I hope you’re ready!

+ God be with you +

Pastor Peperkorn

[From the April 2010 Messiah’s Messenger