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Pastoral Letter - 25 Jun 17                                        

Dear Calvarians,        

The headline reads: "Germany's Protestant and Catholic churches pledge "healing of memories" to mark Reformation anniversary." This is a report published by World Council of Churches (WCC) in September 2016 ahead of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

 

The report says that "Germany's main Protestant and Roman Catholic churches have published a 'Common Word' for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 in which they call for a 'healing of memories' of past divisions and for the event to be commemorated in ecumenical fellowship."

 

The leaders of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the Roman Catholic Church state that they want to use the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation as "an opportunity to reflect on the concerns of the Reformers and to listen anew to their call to repentance and spiritual renewal."

 

Pope Francis and Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation also conducted a joint ecumenical service on 31 October 2016 at Lund in Sweden, where they prayed for forgiveness and the healing of the wounds the confessions inflicted on each other over the centuries.

 

Reformation - as defined by one of the leaders - "means courageously seeking what is new and turning away from old, familiar customs." The meaning of the handwriting on the wall is that Protestant churches must abandon our fight for the truth, forgo the doctrines for which the Reformers had fought and gave their lives, and seek new ties with the apostate church.

 

It is events and ideas like these which have gone under the radar for most Christians that spell the need for an continual reminder of the significance and the relevance of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation.

 

For this reason, several Bible-Presbyterian Churches are organising a 500th Anniversary Reformation Conference. This will be held from 9-12 August 2017 at Calvary and Life Church premises.

 

The speaker is Dr Michael Barrett from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Please register early for this once in a life-time conference.

  

If you have been following American politics and some of the harsh and crude rhetoric coming from the politicians (or even some of news and comments from our local scene), it seems that respect and decency is in terribly short supply in our time. Under the guise of free speech, and perhaps under the cover of anonymity in online chatrooms, people spout whatever they want to say with total disregard for the veracity of what they say, and the tone with which they made themselves heard.

 

It seems that in order to prove their point and win an argument, people - even Christians ministers - have resorted to malicious slander and wild accusations, speech which Paul warns us about. Writing to aged women in particular, but applicable to all in general, Paul says that we are not to be "false accusers" (Tit. 2:3), which, by the way, in Greek is the word diabolos, which means "adversary" or "the devil." In other words, to speak maliciously about another person is to do the work of the devil - a serious charge indeed.

 

Paul also writes: "In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection...." (2Tim. 3:1-3).

 

To be "without natural affection" simply means to be devoid of common decency and respect that a person should have for another. Example: it is natural for two persons - even if they are strangers - to show mutual respect to one another from the very outset. To start by being rude and disrespectful is to be "without natural affection."

 

Respect

Respect, therefore, is vital to any relationship, and especially in a marital union. The lack of respect is a serious obstacle to intimacy and a great hindrance in a couple's marriage.

 

How is respect manifested in relationship? Respect is to value another person for who he/she is. When there is mutual respect, the two persons in a courting relationship is free to be who they are. They can be honest. Their opinions are valued. Their differences are accepted. If one is wrong, there is loving and honest confrontation. To do otherwise - either rebuke by harsh words or turning the blind eye - is be disrespectful.

 

Disrespect

Disrespect, on the other hand, stems from a person's sense of his own superiority. His sense of superiority manifests itself in he controlling the other person. Example: a girl would not take no for answer. When the boy wants to do something else which she does not want, she goes into a temper tantrum; she throws a fit; she goes into a cold war; she threatens to walk out; she manipulates by getting the partner to change his mind; she makes him feel guilty about expressing his own opinion.

 

All courtships begin perfectly. But over time, the negatives start to appear. This is a sign that the starting block was faulty to begin with. The two persons in a truly healthy relationship will grow in respect one for another. One author points out that respectful people do not lose respect over time. The level of respect will not wane. Thus, if a person begins to assert himself in a courting relationship, showing increasing disrespect, then, in all likelihood, he has never had true respect to begin with. Time will expose the disrespect and self-centredness that has been latent in the person all these while.

 

There is a saying that trouble goes where the trouble-maker is. A disrespectful person will bring about a disrespectful relationship. Disrespect is caused by self-centredness of the disrespectful person. Ultimately, it is the character of the person. So the way out of such a relationship is not compliance to the wishes of the disrespectful person.

 

Dealing with Disrespect

Not by compliance. Compliance feeds the self-centredness. Compliance creates the idea that being disrespectful has no consequences. In fact, compliance rescues the disrespectful person from his sin and immaturity; rather than help him grow spiritually.

 

Not by retaliation. The spiritually mature person must be able to exercise the biblical principles of love. The Bible teaches us that love "doth not behave itself unseemly" (1Cor. 13:5).

 

By addressing the problem. Disrespect is a character problem. Character flaws do not resolve themselves over time. One does not grow out of a character problem. It has to be dealt with head-on. The most loving way to deal with a disrespectful person is to tell the person his flaw lovingly, and by the grace of God, work with the person to overcome the problem. This would mean holding the person accountable to his behaviour.

 

By saying NO. A simple test is to disagree with the person about his opinion, choice, preferences, and see his reaction. A disrespectful person will manipulate the other person to get his way; such a person is actually more concerned about himself than about the relationship. If that behaviour persists, it will make for a miserable relationship.

 

Conclusion

Love "doth not behave itself unseemly" (1Cor. 13:5). This is one of the key characteristics of a loving relationship. Albert Barnes wrote: "Love seeks that which is proper or becoming in the circumstances and relations of life in which we are placed. It prompts to the due respect for superiors...and it prompts to a proper regard for inferiors, not despising their rank, their poverty, their dress, their dwellings...it prompts to the due observance of all the relations of life, as those of a husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, son, daughter, and produces a proper conduct and deportment in all these relations."

 

The marital and familial relationships are the most rudimentary of all relationships. If a person cannot even behave respectfully to his own wife, or a wife to her husband (whose relationship is established by his/her conscious choosing), how can that person be expected to behave respectfully to strangers?

 

As the Apostle John puts it: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother [or we may read as disrespect his wife], he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1John 4:20).

 

Lovingly in Christ,

Pastor Isaac  

 

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