April 5, 2023
Welcome to The Equipped on this Holy Week! Today, we linger in the memory of the crucifixion and anticipate the glory of the resurrection!
As always, our goal at The Equipped is to provide a concise and easy-to-digest way to stay aware of the world around you while remaining focused on the True and the beautiful. This week's "news" is particularly challenging to that goal, which in turn highlights the importance of our aim together as a community.
You are a valued member of The Equipped! Let's dive in to The True!
Born on a Battlefield
You were born on a battlefield. You probably don’t need any convincing of this fact, as the evidence is all around, but God’s Word is clear about the fact that our world is hostile to His Truth. It’s why Ephesians 6 encourages us to, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Make no mistake, while we are to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9), we live on a battlefield, and we must behave accordingly.
Given your place on a battlefield, you need clarity about who, or what, you are battling. Our text says we battle “against the devil’s schemes” and “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Talk about an intense description! But even with all its intensity, there is a pretty plain and simple truth that emerges from the description:
You do not battle against fellow image-bearers. You battle FOR fellow image-bearers!
Spend some time in God’s Word today testing this assertion. I invite you to start with Ephesians 6:10-20, Matthew 5:43-48, and 2 Peter 3:9, but there are countless other relevant passages, and, if you will spend time testing this truth using God’s Word, I think you will walk away encouraged to engage your battlefield in a whole new way. It is certainly true that some image bearers are wreaking havoc and destruction on the earth. It is true that we are to stand against those actions. But my friends, we ultimately battle FOR the redemption of all souls. It is the natural outpouring of the work first done for you and I--undeserving sinners--on the cross.
We were born on a battlefield. But our battle is not against image-bearers. It is FOR image bearers!
Note: You will hear a plethora of breathless voices today telling you to get animated in one direction or the other over this story. Let’s together—across our varied opinions—approach it differently. Let’s first do our best to state the facts as they exist, then plainly acknowledge the variety of motives and narratives that surround the story, and finally and most importantly, let’s consider our role as Jesus followers.
First, the facts: Former President Donald Trump was arraigned yesterday in New York City after a grand jury returned an indictment on 34 felony charges. The underlying charges allege the former President falsified business records relating to payments made to a woman who claims to have had an affair with him. The former President pleaded not guilty to all charges. It is the first time in U.S. history that a former President has been formally charged with a crime. Like all criminal defendants, former President Trump is entitled to a presumption of innocence and a robust airing of his defense in a court of law.
Next, the motives and narratives: There are numerous signs that political motives played a role in the decisions and actions of those on both sides of this proceeding. On the one hand, while no person is above the law, the investigations into the former President have been relentless, and the current charges center on actions that usually do not result in a conviction, or even charges being filed. In perhaps the most analogous case, former vice presidential candidate John Edwards was acquitted in part, and a jury could not reach a verdict in part, on very similar charges. This has led many to believe that the current charges speak more to politics than they do a legitimate criminal violation. On the other hand, the existence of political motives and the unprecedented nature of the charges do not automatically invalidate the charges. Nor do they validate the underlying actions.
Finally, the Role of a Jesus Follower: So what are we as Jesus followers to do with this convoluted situation? Let’s start with Proverbs 18:17, which says, “In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone else comes forward and cross examines.” If you and I are going to walk out this challenging principle, we will first need to consider with an open mind the side of this argument we find distasteful. If you are favorably inclined to former President Trump, have you considered the substance of the underlying charges advanced by the grand jury? If you are personally opposed to the former President, have you considered the consequences of bringing criminal charges against a former President? Both of these factors, and many more, must be considered if we are to have a perspective that embodies the principle of Proverbs 18:17.
Put another way, it is critical for Jesus followers to view justice through a biblical lens rather than through any of the human lenses you will surely be encouraged to take up today. One side will tell you, with some merit, these charges are only being brought out of political motivation, and that there is a grave danger posed by a justice system fueled by politics rather than rule of law. The other side will tell you, with some merit, that every charge returned by a jury of peers must be answered according to its substance in court, irrespective of the prominence of the defendant. As Jesus followers, we should resist taking either of these views without consideration of the other. That does not mean subscribing to a middle-ground conclusion in every situation. It does mean, however, a fair consideration of the underlying facts and arguments, including those presented by image-bearers we find distasteful.
It won’t be easy, but we can do this together.
A New Member of NATO
Finland is now the 31st member nation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), after it completed its ascension process on Tuesday. Both Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but Finland’s ascension process has outpaced that of its neighbor to the west.
Analysis: The addition of Finland to NATO is significant for at least two primary and interconnected reasons. First, Finland has 830 miles of uninterrupted border with Russia. Prior to Finland joining the alliance, NATO had just 754 miles of significantly disjointed border with Russia (much of which was around Russia’s isolated Kaliningrad region).
Next, Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty states that, “an armed attack against one . . . shall be considered an attack against . . . all.” Therefore, by dramatically increasing the amount of border directly dividing NATO from Russia, and given President Putin’s penchant for incursion and expansion, there is an increased likelihood of future direct conflict between Russia and NATO countries.
As Jesus followers, we should desire and work toward peace. But, as we’ve established, we were born on a battlefield, and, while we fight for the redemption of souls, the war that rages often includes literal war here on earth. We are not isolated or removed from that reality, and military conflict often includes a measurable degree of an oppressor/oppressed dynamic. When this occurs, we should recognize the eternal value of every soul, but also stand in unequivocal defense of the oppressed. (Ps. 82:3; Is. 1:17)
Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has been arrested and imprisoned in Russia. The charges, which are widely believed to fabricated, are related to espionage, and Gershkovich’s detainment is initially set for a duration of two months while the investigation is conducted. President Joe Biden insisted that Russia should “let him go,” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to release both Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, who has been detained by Russia since 2018 on charges the U.S. says are without merit.
Analysis: Just as political motives find their way into domestic legal matters, they also invade international scuffles. It is highly likely the detention of both Gershkovich and Whelan have as much to do with Putin’s view of the U.S. as with the underlying charges in each case. We as Jesus followers should stand with the oppressed in these situations as well, and should vocally insist that governments—even those not our own—meet a clear burden of proof in order to deprive a fellow image bearer of inherent liberty.
“It will be a haven for those who need it.”
I was at the dentist for a teeth cleaning—hardly a place I was expecting to find beauty—when the dental hygienist said those words about a mountainous tract of land she had just spent much of her life savings to purchase. She went on to tell me that it was the first and most significant step toward fulfilling a lifelong goal of living on land that would also offer a safe home and haven to mothers and children who need one.
It is a theme we talk about a lot here at The Equipped. We all have the capacity to create and facilitate beauty in our corner of the world. It often takes planning, discipline, and courage, but if we cultivate beauty, it can be a haven for those who need it!
The skirmishes on this battlefield can easily paralyze us with fear, but the Good News is liberating and transcendent for those who stand on it! As we work to stay aware of the times, let's do so in a way that does not captivate us, but rather in a manner that exudes power, love, and sound reasoning!
Remember to linger with your Savior this Holy Week!
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