Sojourners and Slander

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I was first exposed to Sojourners at college, and my impression of them has always been negative. It was the obvious disingenuousness of the whole thing that irked me; why should such an overtly leftist publication pretend to be bipartisan? Were they fooling anyone? What had such messaging to do with the Christian faith, and why should it be promoted at a Christian college? Maybe the fact that I was studying rhetoric made me especially attuned to the duplicity of ‘GOD IS NOT A REPUBLICAN…or a Democrat.’

Sojourners is still around, and nothing on their website suggests a Christian centrism. They seem quite sold to the left; maybe they don’t pretend otherwise anymore. As such, they present a compelling picture of how putting politics in the center makes us vulnerable to buying into the culture’s lies.

Case in point, an article that caught my eye a little while back: “#DEFUNDTHEPOLICE BECAUSE THEY WON’T REFORM THEMSELVES“, by Chanequa Walker-Barnes. It addresses issues of police brutality and reform, with the headlined perspective of supporting the defunding (possibly even abolition) of police. A careful analysis might draw attention to the one-sided argumentation about a complex issue, and a theological analysis might address the basic naivete of thinking that fallen humans can do without law enforcement (as an aside, the writer is a professor at McAffee School of theology, for whatever that may indicate about that institution).

But I will highlight a single statement, and the point that can be drawn from it: “We live in a militarized police state wherein law enforcement officers view themselves as our overlords and conquerors rather than as servants and protectors of the public.” Unless Walker-Barnes is utterly ignorant of the diverse reality of American police, that statement is slander. Even if Walker-Barnes is ignorant of the American police forces, it is difficult to believe that the editorial team at Sojourners is so ignorant; and, barring this vast ignorance of reality, they have willingly published a slanderous accusation against the police force. But perhaps the editors can defend themselves with a ‘the views in this commentary do not necessarily represent the views of Sojourners‘ disclaimer? No. They highlighted this very statement of Walker-Barnes’ article on the sidebar so that readers could tweet it.

What place has slander in a Christian publication? None. But that is what happens when worldly ideologies infiltrate and influence your thinking.

An instructive warning for Christian institutions, and even churches, in America today.

Not Forsaken

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“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10, ESV).

            Building on the theme of the previous verse, this passage emphasizes the reliability of God because of His steadfastness and mercy.  It is one thing to know that God is powerful and has defeated the wicked and another to know that God is righteous—but still another to know that God can be called upon and relied upon by the needy.  God is strong to save, but can someone so weak presume upon the Almighty?  May a sinner take refuge in the shadow of the Most Holy?            

God is a shield and comfort for those who seek Him.  Though He is all-worthy, He takes notice of us and He keeps His promises to us.  Our part is to believe, to turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith; God can save, and He offers His covenant of grace to all who come to Him.  Trust Him, and do not be afraid.  God does not forsake those who seek Him.

A Stronghold

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“The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9, ESV).

            In this song, David expresses his gratitude to God for deliverance from his enemies (vv.1-4).  God is mighty, and His sovereignty is displayed in universal governance over the powers of the world (v.5); He has totally triumphed over evildoers (v.6).  His sovereignty is expressed in verse 7, “the LORD sits enthroned forever”, which works out in His righteous judgment upon the earth (v.8).  In this setting, David expresses his confidence in God’s power to save and deliver those who trust in Him.            

God is mighty and merciful.  We should turn to Him in trouble, and call on Him in distress.  He cares for the vulnerable; He shelters His children.  When we take refuge in His almighty power, nothing can happen to us that is outside of His control.  It is a blessing to know that, if we belong to Jesus Christ, then no matter what we go through, we are safe in the Father’s hands.

Majestic and Merciful

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“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1, ESV).

            Here is the outpouring of the heart in praise to God for His glory and splendor.  The first sentence is repeated in the last verse of the psalm, verse 9, bookending the whole poem with praise to God.  David’s adoration of the Lord is focused on God Himself, His supreme majesty, but seen especially through the lens of God’s work of creation.  At the center of this marvelous creative work is man; but the praise is not centered on how wonderful mankind is, but how awesome that Almighty God should so honor man.  God’s grace weaves together with His splendor in the theme of this exuberant psalm.            

How awesome is the Lord God Almighty!  His wonders are seen all around us, in the vastness of creation and the beauty of the earth, which glows with the splendor of its Creator.  And, as David says in this psalm, how marvelous that God Most High should care so much about us (vv.3-6).  When we think of the grandeur of God, it gives us all the greater sense of the wonders of His mercy.  The Lord of all the universe has loved us, and reached down to us so that we could be with Him forever.

In Safety

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“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8, ESV).

            After describing his confidence in the Lord’s deliverance, David proceeds to extol the way of righteousness, warning against sins of anger (v.4), and calling people observe true devotion and rely on God (v.5).  In the midst of a corrupt world God is there, and blesses his people with joy (see vv.6-7).  The psalm finishes with this verse (v.8) and its statement of blessed confidence.            

We can rest in God’s fatherly care.  Though the world abounds in reasons for sleepless nights, restless turning, worry, fear, and grief, God’s children can take comfort in His presence, peace, and strength.  Whatever the circumstances, if we belong to Him we are safely in His hands.  Commit to the Lord your sorrows and fears; God is able, God is wise, and God will watch over you.

His Own

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“But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him” (Psalm 4:3, ESV).

            David began the fourth Psalm with a plea to God to hear his prayer, twice repeated with a reflection on God’s past mercy between (v.1).  Men are dishonorable and deceptive (v.2); but, he declares in this verse, God is faithful to those who love Him.  Thus, David is assured that God will hear his plea and once more have mercy upon him.  The past faithfulness of God, and the character of God, combine to make the basis for the psalmist’s assurance.            

People let us down, but God is wholly reliable, wholly righteous, wholly good.  Those who follow Him can have the utmost assurance that He will never falter or fail.  All who belong to Jesus Christ have been set apart as God’s own, and given the wonderful privilege that Jesus communicated to His followers when He taught them to pray: the privilege to call upon Him as Father.  Our Father hears us when we call.  Lift up your heart to Him today.

God of Salvation

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“Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!” (Psalm 3:8, ESV).

            David has seen God’s deliverance, and he is confident that he will see it again.  God has sustained him (v.5), and so he takes courage, even against overwhelming odds (v.6).  This final statement encapsulates the theme of the psalm: “Salvation belongs to the LORD”, God is able to save.

            God is able to save.  We never need to fear, because in any and every situation, God is strong to deliver His people, to lift them up in His way and His time.  Those who belong to Christ may rest in His strength, and in this word of peace; we are in His hands, no matter what.  “Salvation belongs to the LORD”.

The God Who Hears

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“I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill” (Psalm 3:4, ESV).

            Knowing that God is his protector and hope, what is David’s course in the face of danger?  He calls out to God for deliverance; and the wonderful news is that he can report God’s care for him.  God is his shield, and has not failed to preserve him from his enemies.            

The Lord hears those who cry out to Him for help.  When trouble comes, turn to God and trust His power and wisdom.  Make your sorrows and fears into prayers to God Almighty, who is able to save, restore, and heal.  He who delivered David from his enemies can deliver you from any danger—and His final deliverance is promised to all who belong to Jesus Christ.