Tag Archive: human-rights


A blog post about the Zimmerman trial?  I know dear readers, you are accustomed to being on the cutting edge of blog topics!  I do not think anything I write today will necessarily bring anything new to the debate table.  Yet, this post has more to do with working through my own personal interpretations of the Zimmerman trial than it does with changing anyone’s mind on the topic.

I have purposely waited a week to collect my thoughts and attempt to approach the problem with new eyes.  I must admit that I am as flawed as any other person on earth, admittedly more so on many issues, so my initial reaction to things is not always correct.  To be more plain, I struggle with reacting in the flesh rather than in the Holy Spirit.  I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, and sometimes the old nature has a way of making an appearance, especially in my reactions to the mainstream media.

I admit my flaws so that anyone reading this will not assume my personal opinion holds anymore weight than another.  I must also admit my bias before I continue.  I loathe the state of the modern media.  Loathe is perhaps not strong enough a word to describe my distaste for the practices of the day.  I have always believed, and continue to believe, journalism is to be as non-biased as humanly possible.  I qualified that statement with “as humanly possible” for a reason.  I am aware we all carry bias in our sinful hearts.  I feel the modern media has forgone the balanced approach to news and chosen sides on the right and left.  As such, I have no confidence in the media narratives from right or left on the matter.

Oh well, no use lamenting that which I cannot change, so I will end my digression and move onward to the topic at hand.

By now, if you do not know the names George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin, I want to welcome you back to planet earth, particular these United States.  I say that because the only plausible reason you have not heard these names is you are an alien visitor or you were abducted by the aforementioned aliens and have just been teleported back to a cow pasture in Kansas after a one year captivity in a space ship.

The new law of the internet says that anytime you mention an alien, you must post a picture of this guy.

The new law of the internet says that anytime you mention an alien, you must post a picture of this guy.

I will not take the time to recap the entire story, you can find that here.  I will say that on July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was found not guilty by a jury of his peers in the 2nd degree murder of Trayvon Martin.  It has been a topic of discussion over the past month and continues to be a divisive subject for many.  While my typical writing voice with such posts is serious with a splash of humor, from this point forward in the post I will abstain from my usual behavior due to the nature of the subject matter.

I feel I also must preface the following discussion with a disclaimer of intent.  I do not know, as I will elaborate later, what happened on February 26, 2012.  I have no strong opinion to either Martin or Zimmerman, the left or the right, prosecution or defense, etc.  My opinions in this piece are more geared towards the systems that surround us as a civilized people.  It asks for us to make a visible line of demarcation between flawed human perceptions and perfect spiritual truth.

The key problem with the outcome of the trial was the cries of derision at the jury’s decision.  The reactions came from a plethora of sources such as your usual race-baiters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, from pro-athlethes, from pop stars, and every one that runs the gamut in between.  My Facebook feed was littered with family members, friends, and acquaintances on multiple sides of ethnicity, gender, and financial class, opining on the case.  There were cries of a corrupt judicial system or miscarriages of justice on one hand, and as you can imagine, there were cheers of support for a smooth trial and a right verdict.  This is where the case of mistaken identity has arisen.

We have adopted the wrong idea about secular justice, the American Justice System specifically.  Too many people believe that secular justice and truth are synonymous with one another.  They are not.  American justice aspires to lofty goals of equality, truth, and the defense of human rights.  These goals are not always attainable under the man-made system of law.  The American judicial system is administered by fallen judges, tried by imperfect lawyers, and decided by errant jurists.  As a system it is subject to decay and after years of degradation it becomes an anemic shell of its foundational principles.  On a human level, justice does not equate truth, the two can operate exclusive of one another in this fallen society and often times do.  We know this because innocent men have been imprisoned and guilty men have gone free.

The masses cry for justice, yet they do not always want the truth!

Pontius Pilate famously asked, “What is truth?” after Jesus declared to the pontiff His reason for coming into the world (John 18:37-38).  There are no shortages of answers in regards to truth.  For this reason, skeptics have declared “truth” to be subjective.  I write from a Christian perspective, so I accept truth is personified in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Secularists would disagree with my assessment, and my answer to them is write your own blog!  Truth comes forward throughout the pages of Scripture.  Jesus declares that worship must be performed “in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).  He declared Himself “truth” (see 14:6 above).  Jesus prayed to the Father for his disciples’ sanctification by godly “truth” (John 17:17).  Jesus’ claims point to truth being found in God alone.  This concept of truth’s divine source is supported through Scripture (Exo. 34:6; Deut. 32:4; Psa. 43:3; 119:142).

So what is the conclusion to the matter?  I do not think there will ever be a conclusion as long as both sides are embroiled in a quest for justice.  Justice is flawed despite humanity’s best efforts to the contrary.  The only recourse is truth.  The problem with truth is our limited capacity to know truth because we are finite beings.  There is truth, free from media spin, personal feelings, and political agendas in the Zimmerman-Martin ordeal.  The question remains whether the truth of the matter will be revealed.

I pray for Trayvon Martin’s family.  It is not the natural order of the world for parents to bury their children.  The situation is compounded by the tragic events of February 26, 2012.  Regardless of your personal perception of Trayvon Martin’s life, he was a young man that died before having experienced many of the wonders of life.  It happens far too frequently in our world and it is no respecter of race, gender, or social status.  Whatever your perception of Trayvon Martin’s character, good or bad, the fact remains he has no more opportunity to add unto or to take away from it.  A life has been lost and this is a true tragedy.

I know the statistics of murder among juveniles, black on black crime, and dozens of other tragic events that plague humanity.  I find people spout off such statistics as if the numbers somehow excuse or over-shadow individual events such as this one.  All these events are horrific, yet we cannot miss the tree for the forest.

I pray for George Zimmerman.  I do not know the thoughts that were running through his head on that fateful night.  I do not know if he left his vehicle with genuine concern for his personal safety and that of his neighbors.  I do not know if he exited with malice in his heart.  I do not know what unfolded between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman that winter night.  Who was the aggressor and who was the defender? From Zimmerman’s own admission, he discharged his pistol and this resulted in the death of Martin.  Sadly, this is the only truth we know for certain.  Was he justified in the use of deadly force?  According to a jury of his peers, the answer is yes.  Justice spoke and it declared George Zimmerman innocent in the 2nd degree murder of Trayvon Martin.  Was truth revealed in the jury’s decision?  Zimmerman is the only living person that knows with any certainty.

With such uncertainty, in what or whom can we trust?  Our legal system has its limitations.  Our ability to know truth is hindered by our own finite existence.  It is because of this uncertainty that I trust Jesus.  It is because I am finite that I place my trust in an infinite God.  Justice will be served one day because truth, glorious absolute truth, will be revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 20:11-13

“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”

Following is the beginning to a study I have started with my congregation at Grace Bible Church.  I will be preaching through the epistle in the weeks to come.  I plan to post those completed sermon notes and thoughts on this blog in the hopes that it will be of help to my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not attend Grace Bible Church in Gloucester, Virginia.  I will note sources as I use them, but just in case I miss any documentation my key sources will be the following list of books, which will be supplemented with various theological journals as I progress through the series.

Carson, D. A. and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing, 2005.

Fee, Gordon D.  The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1987.

Garland, David E.  1 Corinthians.  Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.  Robert W. Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein, editors.  Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic Publishing, 2003.

Thiselton, Anthony C.  The First Epistle to the Corinthians.  The New International Greek Testament Commentary.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000.

Author

Apostle Paul (1:1)

Audience

Corinthian Believers (1:2)

Purpose and Date of Writing

The epistle was written approximately AD 54 while Paul was at Ephesus.  Paul’s purpose is multifaceted, yet generally speaking, the letter addresses the application of progressive sanctification in a carnal world.  Or to frame it as a question, how can spiritual people live and thrive in a hostile and carnal world?

Corinth—City

  • The foundation of ancient Corinth is dated circa 900 BC.
  • After a rebellion, Rome destroyed the city in 146 BC.
  • Julius Caesar re-colonized the city in 44 BC.  It is this Roman colony that will be the backdrop for the Apostle Paul’s visit to Corinth.
  • With its key location on the Corinthian Isthmus, the city quickly flourished to become a commercial and political powerhouse in the region.
    • It controlled over-land trade between Italy and Asia.
    • The city bridged the Peloponnese to the Greek mainland.
    • Corinth was the home of the Isthmusian Games (an athletic contest second only to the ancient Olympics).

Commentator Gordon Fee says, “Paul’s Corinth was at once the New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas of the ancient world.” 

Corinth—People

  • The city was re-colonized by Roman “freedmen” and tradesmen.
  • There was no landed aristocracy in Corinth since it was previously destroyed by Roman forces in 146 BC.
  • Due to the cities commercial success, the rich became the unofficial nobles in the city.
  • Evidence shows that while the city was located in Greece, practices were dominantly Roman at their core.

The people of Corinth had a famous reputation in the ancient world.  Unfortunately, it was not a virtuous reputation.  The Greek writer Aristophanes (446  – 386 BC) coined the term korinthiazo [kori,qiazw] or “to act a Corinthian” which meant to commit fornication.

Corinth—Religion

  • 2ND century traveler Pausanias describes Corinth as having 26 “sacred places” referring to temples, groves, and possibly synagogues.
  • The Roman/Greek pantheon was extremely popular in the city with temples to Apollo (wisdom), Poseidon (sea), and Asclepius (healing).  A large temple to Aphrodite also rested upon the mount known as the Acrocorinth, but there is debate as to whether it was still in use during Paul’s visit to the city.
  • Since Corinth acted as a bridge between East and West, it was a melting pot for beliefs from both regions.  The mystic religions of Egypt and the Far East found their way into the city, as well as the Roman Imperial cult (emperor worship).

How is 1 Corinthians Relevant for the 21ST Century?

  • Status inconsistency – great division between rich and poor
  • Religious Pluralism—many religions claiming to hold the “truth”
  • Cosmopolitan immigration and commercial trade—culture wars
  • Priority in market forces in business and rhetoric—money was king
  • Emphasis on recognition and perception of honor and shame within a socially constructed world—spin doctoring in the ancient world

I lost faith in the human race many moons ago.  It was not a strong faith, but more akin to the faith of that “Christian” whom can only bring himself or herself to church on Easter and Christmas.  As such, I have stopped asking some questions about popular culture.  I no longer care when and where trends begin.  I have no desire to know who or what a “Snooki” is and even less desire to tweet or blog about it (or him or her).

It is not that I have no interest in American culture, particularly the culture in which I live.  The exact opposite is true.  I love culture and the nuances of customs from one age to another (I cite this previous post as an example).  However, I do not believe we can call the current trends “culture” per se.  The collective secular populace suffers from ADHD in regards to culture to such a degree that Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” quip is a gross over-estimation.  According to James, life is a vapor that is here for a short time and then vanishes (Jas. 4:14).  If that is true of life, what unit of measure can we apply to these modern day memes that disappear more rapidly than a wisp of smoke?

One of the newer memes is YOLO or “you only live once.”  Comedian Jack Black refers to it as, “Carpe Diem for stupid people.”  While I find Mr. Black’s comment funny, I think it is categorically wrong.  Carpe Diem (Lat. “Seize the Day”) gives the impression of productive ambition.  It has long been the motto of optimists that desire to live each moment to the fullest.

On the other hand, YOLO appears to be the maxim of recklessness and poor decision-making.  The equivalent to a redneck, “Hey ya’ll watch this” moment in which you have no idea what is about to happen, but you are sure it is going to end with a trip to the emergency room or county jail.  YOLO turns a mirror upon the current state of American “culture” and it is not a pretty reflection.

The only draw back is you have to empty the lint filter after every trip.

YOLO shows how quickly the youth of our age (and granted even adults who refuse to embrace maturity and personal responsibility) will latch onto a philosophical idea without investing one iota of thought to its application.  I fully expect such reckless behavior from the secular world (1 Cor. 2:11-12).  I stand in slack-jawed awe though when those who claim to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior adopt such drivel as a personal mantra.

The defense against me is plain, “It is just a harmless motto.  There is no reason to get so worked up about it.”  To hold such a position is to claim words are not important.  And, I just happen to disagree with that premise.  Words are important.  If words were not important, I would be out of a job as would a countless number of others who rely upon either the spoken word or written word for their livelihood.

While I do believe words are important, it is a matter of degree. Words lose their power when they are the tools of vitriolic media personalities with a side of delusional.

If words are not important, you have no reason to be upset the next time someone calls you a disrespectful name.  If words are not important, the next “I love you” spoken by your significant other is meaningless.  If words mean nothing, why have you read this far into a pointless rant?  But, the name-calling did hurt, that “I love you” melted your heart, and you are still reading because you believe what I believe—words are important!

Behind all words is an underlying philosophy.  At times, the philosophy is camouflaged by an emotional energy that blinds us to its true intent.  Other times, it is veiled under a superfluity of fanciful words and stylistic phrases that take our breath away, all the while shielding the idealistic under-pinning that gives it support.  YOLO is more the former, relying upon the emotional experience to cover up its poisonous intent.

I find YOLO offensive on two counts.  First, it is a blatant contradiction to the clear teachings of Scripture.  Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  Jesus opening statement to Nicodemus has already created a titanic sized hole in the good ship YOLO.  If Jesus is correct (and I’m confident He is), then you can live twice!  Second, YOLO is the outcome of society’s disregard for personal accountability.  The argument is that existence itself and the perceived singleness of this existence is the only rationale one needs to set aside conscience and good behavior.

With such logic, we can justify even the most heinous of crimes.  If YOLO is our only absolute, nothing is out of bounds.  For some YOLO is a means of justifying destructive behavior that is harmful to self and others.  I suspect for the majority of people it is a process of dealing with the guilt that often comes with doing something wrong.  By saying YOLO, they are slipping into the cultural stream of complacency and the false “everyone else is doing it” mentality.

I cannot say with any certainty that as much thought went into YOLO as I have put into its deconstruction today.  However, that is the key issue with personal philosophy, especially among the general populace.  Personal philosophy has a way of digging its way to the surface without any coaxing.  We may be oblivious to our world view, having given little thought to it, yet to our thoughtful observers, it is a beam in our eye (Luke 6:42).

So how do we move away from such a destructive philosophy?  The key issue is source material.  What are we using as the basis for our beliefs?  If one thinks man is the measure of all things, this humanistic thinking will be the framework for all areas of life.  If Scripture is the guidebook of life it will mold the believer into an image that is an embodiment of its principles and practice—e.g. Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).  So, while you may shout YOLO from the roof tops, which is your human right.  I pray and hope it is not true of you.  Whereas it is true YOLO outside of Jesus Christ, I can assure you on the testimony of God’s Word, You Can Die Twice (Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).

The Maasai tribe, found in parts of Kenya and Tanzania, greet one another by spitting.  When greeting elders, tradition demands a tribesman must spit upon his hand before offering a handshake, thus showing respect.  Men even spit on newborns and fathers spit upon their daughters at weddings.  I have attended many weddings, and while I recall many father’s sobbing as they gave their little girls away, I have never seen one spit upon his daughter.

The Toraja, meaning “People of the Uplands,” are a group that live in mountainous regions of South Sulawesi, Indonesia.  By all accounts, they are fascinated with death.  Funerals in the Torajan tradition are luxuriant events that would more closely resemble the fanfare and pageantry of Mardi Gras than the average American’s vision of a burial.  Noblemen have the more elaborate ceremonies that can last for several days.  For the poor, funerals can be postponed for days, months, even years as the family collects enough money for the event.  In the meantime, the deceased is wrapped in cloth and placed under the family home.  It is believed his or her spirit remains with the family until the funeral celebration and he or she then departs for the afterlife.

Both of these events seem very odd to me.  I do not wish for anyone to spit upon me, and I most certainly did not want a doctor or nurse spitting on my children when they came into this world.  However, these are the traditions of the Maasai and Toraja tribes.  From all the accounts I read, the Torajan rites are a wonder to behold.  I can, from afar and comfortably in front of my computer, respect the traditions of these peoples from Africa and South Pacific Isles.

I think of my own family traditions which may seem odd to other people, especially those not familiar with American culture.  I remember my great grandmother making all of us eat black-eyed peas and collard greens every New Year’s Day.  A single new penny was cooked along with the black-eyed peas and good fortune was supposed to be with the lucky recipient throughout the year.  It is not a tradition that I have brought with me into my own family.  My wife and I are in the process of creating our own family traditions.  We certainly give homage to those before us and even incorporate many from our past into the lives of our children such as family devotions, personal quiet time, and even reading the Nativity on Christmas morning.  If Clemson and West Virginia play one another on a regular basis in the college football season, we will add the tradition of awkward silence in the week following the game (FYI:  It was my year to wear sackcloth after the Orange Bowl).

Traditions make us feel comfortable and connected.  We feel comfortable because we are familiar with what is happening around us.  We feel connected to those with whom we share traditions, whether they are family or friends.  I fully support both of those elements!  Who doesn’t want to be comfortable?  With exception of that crazed uncle your family whispers about, everyone seeks to make a connection with those around them.  Traditions give us both.

There has been a great emphasis upon “traditional values” over the past few weeks.  In truth, the cultural wars of conservatism versus liberalism have been waged in varying degrees for millennia.  The recent firestorm erupted over an American CEO’s honest response to a question concerning marriage.  I have no desire to rehash all of the clichéd accusations and assertions from the Right or the Left on the issue.  But it made me question, what are traditional values?

As I have shared, traditions vary from country to country, culture to culture, and family to family.  The ever-flowing streams of time take their toll upon all things.  Once mighty statues are worn smooth and nations rise and fall.  What is rejected by one generation is embraced by another.  And yes, even traditions come and go as the years rush forward.  With such wide variances of peoples, cultures, and traditions, the concept of absolutes appear unattainable.  Or at least absolutes are unattainable if I confine myself to these fluctuating models of people, culture, and tradition.

  • Job 23:13 – “But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.”
  • Psalm 33:11 – “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations.”
  • Malachi 3:6a – “For I am the LORD, I change not; . .”
  • Hebrews 13:6 – “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
  • James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

I could go on for quite some time citing the many Bible verses that speak of God’s immutability.  What is immutability you ask?  A. W. Pink defines it best when he states, “It is one of the excellencies of the Creator which distinguishes Him from all His creatures. God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in His being, attributes, or determinations.”  In short, God is not tossed to and fro in the various streams of human culture and tradition.

As a Christian, I take hope in God’s immutability.  Positively, I know God’s promises are guaranteed because He is unchanging.  Negatively, I know that God’s warnings are true for the same reason.  The blessings and judgments of God are not based upon what is trendy or politically correct.  He is not swayed by popular opinion or boycotts.  Only He can say, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exod. 3:14).

Traditional values?  I don’t know how to define traditional values.  Those elements that are en vogue today may be socially unacceptable tomorrow.  I have heard the cries already, “You’re just a traditionalist.  You have to change with the times.”  In some instances, this cry is correct.  I enjoy the fact that plumbing has moved indoors and I can drive from one city to another without the need to nurse saddle sores for my effort.  However, when it comes to the Word of God, there is no room for variance on those principles that are as immutable as the God that spoke them.  So for those of you that have branded me a traditionalist or one who fights for traditional values, you’ve got me all wrong!  I don’t support traditional values.  I support biblical values!