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Evangelicals & Culpability

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:1-5)

When I first looked into the eyes of my son, I saw truthfulness, curiosity and joyfulness. I saw no deviousness, meanness or selfishness. In that instant it became clear to me that if he acted in a devious, mean, or selfish way, his behavior would have been created by circumstances, not by him. In that instant, I knew what a great responsibility I had to honor and protect his innocence and joy. Jan Hunt

Your infant is not a little angel but a viper in a diaper. Voddie Baucham

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Mark 10:18

All Evangelicals can relate. Sometimes you get this sense of prompting you believe to be of God. Sometimes you attempt to let the moment pass, but the feeling of divine awareness will not give you rest.

I trust this to be one of these times. When I taught, some of my students told would frequently express their shock when I told them my age. Recently, a young female contractor I was working with expressed shock when I informed her I was fifty-eight years old. Maybe she was just being kind, but I will still take the win while I still can, thank you very much!

I deftly segue from the talk about my youthful appearance to confess that I now spend considerable time reflecting on my morality coupled with my humbled realization that there are more days behind than there are in front of me.

I have shared this before, but I will do so here again. In the first portion [10-15 years] of my marriage, I wasted so much valuable time fixating on what I deemed the failings of my spouse. Whether someone could objectively judge my assessment of the problem to be generally or even predominantly accurate could never relieve me of my culpability, no matter how I might determine my culpability to be in the vast minority.

You see, Jan Hunt is the inaugural winner of the Thinking Critically Stinkin Thinkin Award. I submit Brother Voddie has hit the nail squarely on the head once again. I see from a perusal of the internet that this clever line about vipers in diapers did not originate with Voddie, but he is the first person I know to quip it so eloquently, so I am going with him as the source.

Babies are born, no matter how adorable your little sweet appears, devious, mean, and most especially selfish, no matter how much the Jan Hunts of this fallen and biblically illiterate happen to be. Regrettably, this assessment applies fully and completely to my adorable grandson, Malachi Isaiah Falls, no matter how much I wish it were not the case.

Along these same lines, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote what eventually became a runaway best-seller When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Though I have much sympathy for the emotional pain which caused Rabbi Kushner to share his pain and write a book, his thesis is anti-biblical, and a thesis Evangelicals must vigorously reject with full chests[1].

There is no such creature who meets the criteria of good, and there is no baby who is born innocent, with the exception of Jesus Christ [the very reason the Virgin Birth is so fundamental as a Biblical Doctrine of the first order]. So while Jesus Christ was expected to lament about the tragedy that befell those Pilate slaughtered, as well as for the eighteen people the tower in Siloam fell upon and killed, Jesus Christ's response was crisp, direct, and totally unexpected: repent or perish. Why? Because the people Pilate butchered were not innocent, no matter how society might have viewed them as innocent victims. The same fate awaited the eighteen. They were not innocent, so before they perished, they needed to have repented before they entered eternity.

  • No matter how vile the actions of Joseph’s brother were in being jealous and subsequently selling their brother into slavery, no one can biblically classify Joseph as a purely innocent victim.

  • No matter how vile the treatment of members of the first-century Church was, they were still commanded by God’s clear and unmistakable commands to pray for and to love their oppressors, to be at the ready to walk a second mile if commanded to walk one mile, to turn the other cheek if smitten on the other cheek, to give up their cloak if they took their coat.

  • No matter how vile the actions of an immoral government or the victim of seemingly senseless tragedy, Jesus Christ’s refrain is startling and sobering. Don’t fall for society’s insufferable message; you are a victim. Theologically speaking, you are never a victim.

If you are still with me, I have spent this time attempting to ground my thesis. We need to more fully grasp the Sinfulness of Sin contrasted against the Holiness of God. None of us are ever truly innocent or good. None of us are ever squeaky clean. Even if we could ever prove we only had a 1% culpability for a falling out, then it is the 1% of the culpability we need to devote 100% of our time and energy confronting.

I had the opportunity to preach as a candidate to Pastor at a church a few years ago. I chose to preach as my sermon topic The Biggest Problem in this Church is You. In retrospect, pragmatically, maybe that was not the best choice to win and influence people, but you know my animus about the employment of pragmatism, so if I had to do it again, I would make the same choice full-stop, period, and end of story.

If you are married, the sinner whose culpability must matter is wholly you, not your spouse.

If you are in a conflict of whatever sort, the culpability that matters is wholly you, not the other person or persons.

If you find yourself in oppression, fairly or unfairly, the culpability that matters is wholly you, not the oppressor(s).

Evangelicals, we are not free to return evil for evil. In fact, the Bible commands the very opposite:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, “says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9

I end with this confession. I want to obtain a blessing, especially as my earthly pilgrimage comes to a soon termination. When wronged, it is no longer my desire to match evil for evil because doing so does not reflect well on the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Additionally, I only cut my blessings off as a result.

I refuse to present myself as a victim. Jesus Christ astutely replied to the individual who called Christ good, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus Christ was not denying His deity but only demonstrating if people regard Jesus Christ as good, then that is an undeniable claim to Christ’s deity because only God is good.

You and I are not good!

You and I are not innocent!

You and I always bear culpability, even if that culpability is low as 1%!

Goodness & Innocence?

Not me!

Not my grandson, Mr. Malachi!

Not you!

Not anyone who has lived in time and space EXCEPT Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

If you have not done so before, I implore you, the unredeemed sinner, to be reconciled to Jesus Christ today. Jesus Christ is the only hope in this world and the world beyond. He came as the Second Adam and accomplished all the First Adam failed miserably to perform as humanity’s Federal Head.

As always, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.

With fear & trembling,

Ricky V. Kyles Sr. DEd.Min

[1] Rabbi Kushner experienced the death of his son. In his attempt to make sense of the tragedy, Kushner attempted to rationale his understanding of how an all-powerful, loving God could create a world where evil took place. Kushner’s theodicy is outside the pale of Evangelical orthodoxy because it is grounded in the wrong supposition, as no such creature is ever rightly deemed good.

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Gregory Durden
Gregory Durden
19 ene 2023

I read during lunch but don't have time to comment as fully as I would like. Good points made though ...especially in regard to Jan Hunt's comment.

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