Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
March 23rd, 2022
“Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.” Psalm 37:27-29 ESV
In light of the recent war in Ukraine, with its heart- and gut-wrenching images of death, destruction, and devastation, I have been appreciating anew the stability, the peace and prosperity, in which we live. While so many of these things can be taken for granted, while ‘first world problems’ of reputation, career advancement, and life satisfaction can come to the forefront of our minds, it is important to stop and be appreciative that our attention can even be occupied with these secondary- or tertiary concerns, rather than “will I have food tomorrow?” or “will my house even be standing tomorrow?”
It is so easy to lose sight of it, but we are truly blessed. While it can certainly be an irksome or concerning difficulty to pay the higher gas prices recently, compared to the scope of struggle & trauma others are having, I hope we can gain some perspective in what constitutes a “life well-lived”.
We have been hugely blessed in this country, under, among other things, our government & constitution, in which “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are held to be basic, guaranteed rights. But those principles take effort to maintain, and no small amount of public debate as to just how those rights are best effectuated to as many as possible.
Over the past couple of days, as I’ve been driving around & doing my errands, I’ve been listening to the congressional hearings for the new Supreme Court Nominee, Katanji Brown Jackson. It has been interesting and enlightening to say the least. Members of opposing parties take turns questioning the prospective justice, but often speak well over her head to either members of the opposing party, or to constituents at large in their home districts, knowing they have a large microphone for several minutes. I’ve heard very broad political and societal assertions being made, and it makes me realize that principles of freedom and democracy are sometimes (even often?) in tension with each-other.
Societal concerns are not foreign to the Bible. Particularly in the minor prophets, God repeatedly urges Israel to pursue social justice, liberty for the oppressed, etc. For example, the prophet Isaiah asserts, in chapter 58 of his book, that the reason the Israelites receive no response from God, despite fasting and making sacrifices, is because they ignore social justice issues and disregard the poor and oppressed. Similarly, Amos exclaims “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (5:24)
So, bringing this to our current day, we have a perpetual 2-party system, who both affirm the general phrase “liberty and justice for all”, but have very different priorities as to how, when, and to whom those principles should be applied!
I, for one, prefer the internal, word-based debates to the external, forced-based ones like we see in warfare. Though at times it’s difficult to know which ‘side’ one should be on politically/socially, I pray we would have strong resolution Spiritually to be on God’s side. Let’s remember that whereas “the thief does not come except to kill and destroy”, Jesus has come “that they may have life, and that they may have it to the fullest” (John 10:10). Therefore, any policy that leads to life, liberty, and freedom is in agreement with Christ, whereas any policy or implementation that limits or harms it is against.
I pray that we would all be “wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) in discerning how to navigate societal issues personally. We occasionally get to vote in a local, state, or federal election, which we should take seriously, but in the meantime between those times, we should be lifting up “…petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
I pray you and your families have a blessed rest of the week.
Pr. Mark Tatum