by Wes White
If we are going to say that Exodus 16:4 makes the seventh-day Sabbath the “Test Commandment” for ancient Israel and for God’s people today, then we also have to examine what God says in Judges 2:21-22.
“I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.”
If we are going to be consistent in our biblical exegesis, it then becomes difficult to deny that Judges 2 includes a test of all the Commandments (not just the Sabbath) because this Scripture directly quotes God.
Further, if we then believe that Judges 2:21-22 applies to believers today as well as the ancient Hebrews, there seems to be a definite tie-in to what Jesus said about the church on the night He was betrayed. In John 17, Jesus prayed that God would protect the Church as they were IN the world, but not OF the world. So, it’s all about whether God’s chosen people will obey Him or be influenced by Satan’s world. Simple stuff. It’s not rocket science.
And herein lies the problem. We in the church can’t always agree on when our actions reflect our being OF the world or when they reflect our being IN the world but not OF the world.
For example, some in the church say we should take the side of those who promote nativity scenes on public property and help them battle the secular atheists who want these images removed. A non CGI Church of God minister told me, “We should side with the fundamentalists on this issue even if we end up helping to mix paganism with the birth of Christ.” Such an approach implies there are only two approaches. Such an option boxes us into only two choices and that we must select the lesser of two evils. Such an approach implies there is no third option which is to say, “Both sides are wrong and (as Christians who are IN the world but not OF the world) we chose to just stay out of the fight.
Years ago, I attended a different Sabbath keeping denomination. In our local congregation we seemed to see a lot of young people joining the military one summer. And after each enlistment was announced to the church, it was followed by congregational applause. After several of these incidents, I asked, “I thought the Church taught against carnal warfare and military involvement for our people. Why all the celebration over military enlistments?” I was told, “Military enlistment is not good for our kids. They will not be able to keep the Sabbath most of the time. They may have to kill people. But this is better than their joining gangs and getting in trouble with the law.” Again, why were the young people convinced into thinking there were only two choices and that they should choose the lesser of two evils? They were not being encouraged to consider a third option which was to live godly lives of obedience and love.
Recently, I heard that Adolph Hitler had removed pictures of Jesus in German churches and had replaced Jesus’ picture with that of the Fuhrer himself and that he was wrong to do this. I believe this statement is incorrect on several levels. First, I have not been able to find any historical backup that this ever took place. Maybe it did, but I can’t find it from any reputable source. And second, sure Hitler was evil and perhaps the most evil person who ever lived. However, we in CGI believe that putting pictures of Jesus in our churches is evil because it is a violation of the second Commandment. Further, most supposed pictures of Jesus are in no way accurate regarding what He really looked like. But once again, we are asked to take a side on an issue that we have no need to take part in. We are asked to choose which is more evil: Idolatry or pictures of an evil dictator. We are asked to choose the lesser of two evils when there is a third option: Staying out of a worldly battle.
Several years ago, a minister in a non CGI Church of God tried to convince me that it was my Christian duty to vote. I explained to him, “The last time I voted was in 1980 when I voted for Ronald Reagan. After the attempted assassination on his life, Nancy Reagan hired an astrologer to determine his new travel schedule. The First Lady wanted the President to travel only when the stars determined it would be most safe. When I found out about Mrs. Reagan’s actions, I was horrified that I had helped put a man into the White House whose wife brought witchcraft and divination into the top levels of government. I wondered whether or not I should have instead voted for Jimmy Carter who (as far as I could see) tried to live the Bible and to this day still teaches Sunday-school class at the Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. The minister acknowledged that so many of the people who run for higher office are seriously flawed, but that that I should vote anyway so I “…can pick the lesser of two evils.” (His words.) Nonsense. There is a third option and I have chosen it. I just don’t vote. The CGI does not condemn or condone voting. We are neutral on the issue.
Every time we fall into the trap of choosing the lesser of two evils, we fail the test of being IN the world but not OF the world. We should stay out of these fights and, instead, concentrate on preaching the love of Jesus and God’s Commandments. Don’t get boxed in to believing there are only two options. There is ALWAYS the option of obeying the Scriptures and living a godly life.