The War on Exposition

And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.

~ Numbers 10:9

Know your enemy and know yourself

Sun Tzu was born during the Babylonian captivity of the southern kingdom of Judah, though he was silent on that subject. He probably wanted to maintain his impartiality. He was a Chinese military general, adviser, and war strategist. His name is known to us today because he is credited with writing the classic, The Art of War. His book is a perennial source for strategizing and conflict management, as well as military tactics. Many modern business, marketing, self-help, and motivational gurus have grown rich by repackaging his philosophies and peddling them to those who want to get ahead in life.

Sun Tzu was a firm believer in knowing your enemy and yourself. He warned that failing to know your enemy would lead to as many losses as victories and failing to know yourself puts you in jeopardy in every battle. By knowing your enemy, Tzu referred to knowing your enemy’s capabilities, his strengths and weaknesses. The same holds for knowing your own strengths and weaknesses.

Having a known and named enemy can also be useful for tribal reinforcement. Giving your enemy a name creates a rallying point and defines a target for aiming at. Having a named, common enemy can provide strategic partnerships. Even Pilate and Herod could get along when they were both against the same thing (Luke 23:12). If you’re driving the bus out of town, you can fill the seats with malcontents who will push and shove to board that bus without worrying about where it’s going. But where is the bus headed? That’s the question.
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The Write-In Campaign

And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.
~ 1 Chronicles 12:32

“This is the most important election in our lifetime.”
– Everybody every election year

Four years ago many conservative Christian voters in America faced a crisis choice. Donald Trump was running for president and the Republican party failed to mount any serious challenge to his campaign. We laughed when he entered the race and thought there was no way he would be on the ballot by November. Once all the chads were counted, Donald Trump was the Republican nominee running for president against the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

In the early going, many conservative Christians had vowed on foundational principles they would never vote for Donald Trump. The terrifying prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency, though, spring-fed water at about the midst of that block wall foundation. Directly, Donald Trump wasn’t all bad. He had a way of talking to his political opponents and the liberal media that made us snicker to our buddies. Never mind that spring produced both sweet and bitter water, he was saying some things out loud that many have wanted to say but lacked the courage or opportunity, or perhaps the sense of impropriety.

The prospect of draining the swamp and making ‘Murica great again began to resonate. Maybe some of those economic ideas weren’t so bad. The idea of American Made sounded good and decreasing foreign dependencies wasn’t a hard sell. Building a wall was something that somebody in the Bible somewhere was once in favor of, so that had to be good. Plus, a bunch of liberal celebrities were supposed to renounce U. S. citizenship should Trump win the election. That would be fun. Many embraced the inevitable and thought it was time to hold the nose and pull the lever.

Not HaHa Funny

But then something funny happened. Pinched noses became flared nostrils, supplying the lungs with abundant inflation to bellow full-throated support for Donald Trump. He was embraced and openly promoted. But it got stranger still. No longer were conservative Christians merely hopeful that the President’s policies would be good for the country, many are convinced Donald Trump is God’s choice instrument to restore America.

Some brethren of the more zealous sort are conducting a vigorous write-in campaign for Donald Trump. From pulpits and presses we have listened to Donald Trump being compared to the Persian King Cyrus, who issued the decree allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem. Trump has been compared to famous revivalists and reformers in Israel, like Jehu and Josiah. His “sufferings” have been viewed as messianic persecutions against a righteous leader who would establish justice in the land. The blessed hope of his presidency is the supposed appointment of righteous judges to the Supreme Court so there shall be justice from sea to shining sea. They have thus far stopped short of calling him God’s anointed. Something about that doesn’t set quite right, but they haven’t put their fingers on it yet. That may not be far off though.

The New Crisis

This brings us to the new crisis for conservative Christians. The new crisis isn’t quite like the old crisis. No, no. The old crisis involved a choice for the lesser of two evils … Ah, the lesser of two evils … Those were good times and simpler times. No, the crisis choice now is for the greatest of goods, for the trueness of conservatism. Loyal support for Donald Trump has become the new badge of conservatism and rightness. Never-trumpers today are mocked and dismissed. Such pestilent fellows are fit for nothing but treasons, stratagems, and spoils. The crisis choice is not whether to be a conservative, but what kind of conservative to be.

The deep divides in this country extend to the ranks of conservatives. We have political conservatives, economic conservatives, moral conservatives, and probably many more than I can recall. There is no necessity for any of these to overlap. They can, but they don’t have to. Conservative Christians giving unabashed support to Donald Trump have clearly chosen to move more conservative, whether we call it political, social, economic, moral, etc.

Of course, they must needs find justification in Holy Writ for such exuberance and support for Donald Trump as missio Dei. The great irony in all this is that efforts to become more conservative politically have resulted in becoming biblically liberal. Liberal expositors mishandle, misuse, twist, and even rewrite Scripture to suit their purposes and justify their choices. Such support for Donald Trump has bent and crimped the Scripture and rewritten the biblical narrative to tell us all about what God is doing to save and restore America. Is that what the Bible is about? Conservatives cry out for textualists on the Supreme Court, but apparently textualists aren’t needed in church behind pulpits.

Not About Voting

I don’t care who you vote for in November. Voting is a right, a privilege, and a free choice of conscience. You will account for your stewardship before God, as will I. But, don’t tell me how Donald Trump is “like Jesus” and voting for him is sure to dispatch the signalmen to the middle of America so they can direct the New Jerusalem to set down somewhere between Chicago and New York. Don’t misuse the Bible to tell me how God plans the salvation and restoration of America. Don’t insert Donald Trump into the lines of Scripture so that he runs parallel the heroes of the faith. Be a conservative. A biblical conservative. Conserve the original contextual meaning of the text of Scripture.

How did we all the sudden get so many biblical liberals among conservative Christians? That’s a good question and my first suggestion would be that it hasn’t been as all the sudden as you might think. Mix together a penchant for spiritualizing Scripture, a neglect of contextual exposition, a habit of using the Bible for support, and a strong dose of Americanism, and you have a recipe for all sorts of textual tampering and tomfoolery.

The pulpits in small conservative churches in America left the text decades ago in favor of tribalistic indoctrinations. They’ve been mishandling the Bible this way for years. What is all the sudden about it is mishandling it to justify a politician, as if his presidency is some sort of holy quest.

The pulpits and pews are more attuned to the conservative news outlets than they are the 66 books. The Bible tells us repeatedly not to put our trust in horses and princes, but every four years we’re assailed by professing Christians telling us how this is the most important election and if we don’t elect this or that candidate all is lost.

We all need to calm down and have a long hot soak in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. We need to listen to the story the Bible is actually telling and quit trying to write America and Donald Trump into the narrative of Scripture. Write-ins are for ballots, not for Bibles.

The Bible has things to say to America, as well as it does to China, Mexico, Canada, Zambia, and Chile. However, the Bible is not about America. God has made no covenant with America, nor promised this new land to her founding fathers. Actually studying the Bible will show that America is not a nation per se, at least not in the biblical sense. America is not an ethnicity or family, it’s a melting pot. There is only one man who will establish justice on the earth and cover it with God’s glory. He is the King Jesus Christ. He is God’s Anointed and the Bible is about him.

The Unforgiving Servant

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. ~ Galatians 5:15

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. ~ Galatians 5:15

Matthew 18:21-35

As far as parables go, this one is rather simple and the point is clear. Jesus told this parable in direct response to Peter’s question: “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Peter asked about forgiving our brothers and seemed to have repeat offenders especially in mind.

Jesus answered, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). He then proceeded to illustrate forgiveness with a parable that serves a few purposes. It provides a narrative illustration, which makes an impression. It highlights the basis for forgiveness and concludes with a sober warning to the unforgiving.

Before we look into the parable, let’s have a few words about parables in general. We have to be careful with them that we let them make their point and not try to press them too far. Sometimes people want to pick up every detail in the parable, no matter how minor, and try to tie it to some significant teaching. This can do more harm than good and possibly lead into serious error.

In the parable before us, Jesus is not laying out a whole theology of forgiveness, nor seeking to explain fully how God forgives sinners and reconciles them to Himself. This is an important point to understand, as we will see later on. The context clearly indicates this parable is about forgiveness between men and particularly brothers in Christ. The conclusion in verse 35 confirms this.

At the very least, this parable speaks to the child of God about how we are to handle forgiveness toward others. The parable does not try to get into every possible scenario of offense. We can all appreciate how tangled and thorny situations between people can be. But the point of this parable is clear: We are to forgive one another.
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