Doing Righteousness

Even before my daughter was born, one of my favorite things to do was to come home at the end of the day and read her a Bible story. Now I will admit it was probably a little strange to start that tradition before my daughter was born, but story time was and continues to be one of the more nonnegotiable parts of my day. I found a Bible story app on my phone and we have been telling her the common Bible stories that Christian children come to know when they’re young. It’s been an unexpected joy to reconnect with some of these stories, and look at them through the eyes of someone in his mid-thirties. I also like to add running commentary to the stories, adding my opinions and occasionally fixing some factual errors (the app is not very good).

This week I read the story of the ten lepers. I recounted the well-worn tale of the ten lepers, how they pleaded for Jesus to heal them as Jesus and the disciples passed through from Samaria to Galilee. I told my daughter about how Jesus healed them in a weird way – by telling them simply to go show themselves to the priest. While on their way to the priest, the lepers found themselves healed. Only the Samaritan turned back to thank the Man who healed them. I was taken aback at Jesus’ response, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” I stopped the story and said to my child, “Sometimes the unrighteous do righteousness better than the righteous.”

As I thought about that story over the last couple of days, some other thoughts came to my mind. I am not as sure as I was a couple of days ago that I can give the Samaritan too much credit for returning to Jesus. After all as a Samaritan, the priests he was running to were in all likelihood not his priests. In fact, from what we know about the relationship between Jews and Samaritans, it is most likely that he would have been rejected on sight at the temple. (How interesting it is then that as a leper he was in a group with Jews. It is amazing how cultural walls break down when faced with ostracism.) There was no other place for that Samaritan to run other than back to Jesus.

This does not necessarily excuse, however, the Jews who did not realize the importance of giving thanks to the One who was God even of the priests to whom they were running. Over my own small objection, it is true that the most “unrighteous” of that group of lepers was still the only one who found his way back to give thanks for what Jesus did. In return, Jesus publicly, before his Jewish disciples, exalts this foreigner and castigates those of his own culture who did not do as this foreigner had done. Over the last couple of days I have thought of all the other ways that the people Christians (and Adventists) look down on as heathen and ungodly have managed to do the right thing while my denomination still lags behind. My church is still segregated, while society is not. My church still treats women called by God as somehow inferior, while my society does not.[1]And to let some Christians tell it, the fact that society has addressed these inequities is a sign that it has fallen away from what God wants, instead of what I believe it truly is – that the church has allowed the world to show it the way of righteousness instead of the other way around.

[1] Obviously, this does not mean that our society does not still struggle with racism and sexism. Rather it is a testament to the fact that our society does not have these prejudices legally expressed.

Jason Hines is an attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7478
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Jason –
You are Just Supposed to Read the story!. Not think about it. And certainly not explain it to your daughter in a modern characterization.
Yes, it is interesting how needs and life circumstances will bond us with persons we would not otherwise associate with.
Thanks for your insight.You are the fist person in my 70+ years who saw a Jewish priest as a hindrance to the Samaritan. Or even getting in to see a priest. As he is an unclean Samaritan to begin with. And they worshiped at a different Mount than Mount Zion.

Just had a thought! Did the Samaritan see Jesus as his Priest?

Surely he heard stories of Jesus being “no respecter of persons” through the rumors.
He certainly had a good up-bringing and was certainly a “gentleman” in behavior.

EDIT 5/27-- Ted
Quite some time back when Spectrum had several articles on Integration of White and Black churches, I noted that the Black Conference Leaders did not like the idea because the Black Conferences were in BETTER Financial shape than the White Conferences. If they Integrated with the White’s it would ruin everything they had built up over time.
This is why there is no response and WHY they remain silent to all the White Folk talking this way. I’m sure the Black Folk have a Word for what the White Folk are doing. Probably has a “not nice” meaning.

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"My church is still segregated, while society is not. My church still treats women called by God as somehow inferior, while my society does not.[1]And to let some Christians tell it, the fact that society has addressed these inequities is a sign that it has fallen away from what God wants, instead of what I believe it truly is – that the church has allowed the world to show it the way of righteousness instead of the other way around."

Yes, it is good to be humble…because this is exactly what has occurred.

Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!

And now we wait for the donkey to speak…

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This article, coupled with the “worship isn’t working”, “problems with church music” articles, falls short of accurately representing the grand scheme of the church. Guys…the sky is not falling. There are always a few maintenance issues here and there but the church is not about to slide into oblivion. The true church will never have anything of any value to learn from the world’s culture. It just doesn’t work that way.

He calls men to be servant leaders of His churches and of their respective homes. This is bedrock truth. A woman can fill these roles is certain circumstances such as that of Debra, or in the case of a single mom, sick husband, but the blueprint outlined by Scripture remains.

But the sky is not falling in on the church because of male leadership!!! In Matthew 16 Christ tells Peter “I will build My church!” Christ is the designer and the builder and the maintainer, not you or I or any feminist, secular culture. The Church is firmly planted, despite Spectrum’s three recent articles. As long as there is earth, there will be church, or more accurately, His “called out ones”. Not even the gates of hell will prevail against it.

Another side of the coin: My atheist neighbor has enough innate moral sense to know that two men or two woman do not constitute a marriage. Conversely, this progressive author was “overjoyed” when he heard that homosexual “marriages” were legal.

Many “progressives” are frustrated because the church isn’t keeping pace with the shifting, liberalizing and devolving culture. Oh well, what else is new?

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Kristan, I’ll respectfully disagree.

Not that the sky is falling because of male headship theology. But, because the church at least as is often expressed in America is focused on itself, rather than on being like Christ to the world.

Conferences care about numbers. A larger church I was affiliated with did a membership roll purge - something that hadn’t been done in decades and the church leadership was called on the carpet for messing up the numbers of SDA’s in good standing that the Conference could report to the Union.

At the church level we are often concerned with trivial things. Arguing about music, debating about who does what. Our time, effort and money is mostly spent inwardly.

Regarding money I often get phone calls from charities. I always tell them “my giving is mostly accounted for, but if you want to send me your audited financial statements I’ll look”. Almost no one does. As a rule of thumb, good charitable organizations devote 70% or more to their mission - doing what the charity was designed to do; and less than 30% on overhead, administration, salaries, etc. And yet, if you look at your local church spending for example. What percentage of the offerings given by members is going to do the work of the church versus is going to overhead, upkeep, local salaries, etc. If your heart is where we invest our treasure, we seem to care about a lot of things and not so much about reaching people.

Kristan, you suggest the true church won’t fall into oblivion. I get that. I might counter suggest that like the Isrealites; God might find that our denomination no longer represents His Spirit in the way we should and the true church might be in fact be people who may lack the Three Angels Message, but instead more perfectly represent the character of Christ. Just a thought.

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The Mosaic system of priesthood had collapsed. Spiritually bankrupt, not capable of encouraging the former lepers to return and give thanks to Jesus. Divine favor had to flow through appointed channels or it was suspect.

In the future, the disciples did not seek out clergy for their spiritual needs. Former priest were not in leadership, with the possible exception of Paul. The early church took this lesson to heart. It was not a clergy driven movement. Are we now in a similar situation? Paid clergy are in near total control of church direction, function and finances. To go around them, disrespect their creed, move independent of their favor—is to receive disapproval with an implied directive for submission or silence.

I wonder if it is inevitable that in time all organized religious movements become sterile. Look at Methodist and Lutherans. Even the early church developed into the Roman Church, clerical and creedal driven.

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The author opines that the church is segregated – one would assume this must be a reference to the existence of black conferences (as opposed to a statement about the existence of ethnic congregations). In any event, where is the outcry from the constituents of the black conferences for desegregation?

Don Livesay made a big splash with some sort of apology for the situation, but where is the implementation of his plan to desegregate? One must assume he has no plan and never did.

Name one official of a black conference who has expressed publicly a desire to integrate said conference with the other conference that shares the same territory. Name for me one official of non-black conferences who has expressed publicly that the conferences should integrate. They do not exist because this is a red herring.

There are reasons for the segregation, and until those reasons are subjugated, they will continue to perpetuate the situation with satisfaction by most all involved. I would hazard a guess that if the black folks want to integrate the black conferences, then it would happen. So perhaps the author should direct his arguments in that direction rather than insinuating that the church is not as perfect as the world is.

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The story of the lepers is interesting on many levels

  1. Why did Jesus even send them to the priests at all?

  2. Why the question regarding the foreigner? What did Jesus expect?

  3. Jesus did not touch them. Why not?

  4. Jesus was actually trying to reach the priests with these lepers. He apparently STILL respected the law and the Jewish system regarding leprosy and used it to try to win those against him.

  5. Jesus was amazed at the faith of this man, and the Centurion. But this amazement did not change his mission to use the Jewish nation and Jews in general to convert the world. He did not choose non-Jews as his disciples, and when a non-Jew asked to follow him (the demonic, Mark 5), he sent him home. So Jesus seemed to have felt his main mission was to the Jews.

  6. Jesus was not afraid to touch lepers and did so on other occasions, but on this one, he, somewhat out of character did not. Why? Again, I think it was to appeal to the Jews leaders. He gave them a chance to see he was not against them, and supported the Jewish system.

I don’t think this is the case at present. I could be wrong, but here in the Lake Union, I don’t think it is the case.

I am from Livesay’s Union. He is a godly man, and spiritual. I did not agree with the apology, for we had not done anything wrong. The issues was from, what, 60 or 70 yrs ago, and he and I were not even alive. I understand the motive behind it, but without black interest in dissolving the black conferences, it seemed unnecessary, and more a result of white liberal guilt. I don’t know of any plan on Livesay’s part to dissolve them. Besides, it has to come from the black conferences, or it would be viewed as an imposition. D. Nelson also seemed to be thinking along such lines, with little action on the black conference either. But to have the white folk bowing and scraping, maybe that is a good thing? I don’t think so.

I pastored two quite integrated white churches, one even having a majority black membership. All were welcome in each church, black or white. We were integrated because the white and black members did not mind. It just happened.

So, when blacks are ready to do away with the conferences, it will be done, not before.

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This week’s SS lesson is on “Idols of the soul” Do you happen to run into church members whose idol is the church institution and get upset when you are critical of the church?
See the following SOP quote.

"Although there are evils existing in the church, and will be until the end of the world, the church in these last days is to be the light of the world that is polluted and demoralized by sin. The church, enfeebled and defective, needing to be reproved, warned, and counseled, is the only object upon earth upon which Christ bestows His supreme regard.—

Look at the title of this article…"Doing Righteousness"
The verse in 1 John came to my mind…
1 John 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

How many are deceived or intimidated into accepting the warped doctrine that it is all done on the cross. That all of our righteousness is as filthy rags, that only the vicarious righteousness of Jesus is worth anything.

Revelation 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

Recently I spoke in Sabbath school about the institutional paranoia about legalism or works. I see that there is more timidity from intimidation than humility demonstrated in the church.

Look who is mentioned first on this list

Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

having served on the Board of the Augusta United Way, I learned first hand that the Red Cross, and Goodwill were the greatest scams. the Salvation Army while guarding a very large reserve fund was near top top of effective organizations. The food bank was also effective. most were only interested in getting their staff funded. Greed and publicity were dominate., The YMCA and YWCA were at each other’s throats unti recently .

I think it is important to add a few more details about the story of the 10 lepers to illuminate this conversation. First, this story is unique to the gospel of Luke so we need to narrow our thinking to the context of Luke’s rather than superimposing a general gospel narrative onto the story. The core theme of Luke is the announcement of the Universal and Present Kingdom of God (as opposed to the eschatological future kingdom). The Present Kingdom focuses on the attributes of connection, community, contentment, and compassion. The radical nature of Luke’s account was that social status had no bearing on who was eligible to become citizen. Samaritans, women, the poor, outcasts, and even lepers had access to the Kingdom.

It is interesting that the other story of a Samaritan that Luke uses is also unique to his gospel. The story of the Good Samaritan is used to drive home to the Jews that a Samaritan could embrace the Kingdom before a priest and Levite. In the 10 Lepers, Luke may be using hyperbole to dramatically emphasize that the 9 Jewish Lepers failed to enter the Kingdom but the lone Samaritan returns as a demonstration that he “gets” the concept of Kingdom Citizenship.

It would also be well to remember that the Gospel of Luke was written in around the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD when the tensions between the Jews and Christ Followers was high. At that point in time, Judaism, and quite possibly Jerusalem was already in ruins. The Jewish religious hierarchy focused on political expediency rather than social justice and they failed as a movement. Luke was clearly suggesting that Judaism was usurped by the Universal and Present Kingdom of God.

Fast forward to SDA’s. From our organizational inception (that many called joining Babylon) we over and over chose political expediency over social justice. That, I argue, is the fundamental flaw of our denomination and the reason we are in a relevancy crisis.

Specific to Dr Hines comments, It was political expediency rather that social justice that motivated the SDA church structure to oppose racial integration of our churches. To say that because the dominant SDA organizational structure is at stasis with the “regional” conference structure today makes it even more socially unjust and politically expedient. Using headship theology to justify discrimination against women is equally unjust. I would say Dr Hines nails it on the head.

Kingdom Citizenship will come from the edges and even from the outside the church.

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an interesting text, interestingly in luke, is:

“For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Luke 16:8.

the context of this verse is money management, but i think it can apply to other areas, as well…it’s a fact that the world has led out in both racial and gender equality…and both of these social changes have been enabled by american democracy, following on the heels of the french revolution, which threw out the bible…

true religion is liberating, but obviously misunderstandings are anything but liberating…

Jason,

First, let’s not create problems when there are none. The Bible doesn’t say that the Samaritan had a problem with the priests that Jesus told him to see. And when the Samaritan came back he didn’t say that he had any problem.

Sure, there was often enmity between Jews and Samaritans but we have to be reminded that Samaritans had a Jewish heritage, were circumcised, kept the Sabbath, recognized the law of Moses, etc… As such, in spite of some beliefs that were heterodox, I am not sure that they were prevented from entering the temple or seeing a priest, above all if they had the right sacrifice. If a Samaritan was ritually barred from the temple or from seeing a priest (for example, if the man had been uncircumcised), Jesus would not have sent him to one as He respected the legitimate ritual prescriptions of the Jewish faith.

Also, I think that the Samaritan’s attitude was commendable.

First of all, the fact that he accepted to see a Jewish priest showed that he was humble (for example, he didn’t let his [nationalist] pride - if he had one - dictate his behavior) which was not the case of many Jews, even the disciples of Christ.

Second, as Jesus said, he came back “glorifying God” whereas the same cannot be said of the other lepers who were all Jewish (by the way, do you think that the Samaritan would have returned glorifying God if he had been rejected by the priest?).

Third, Jesus testified of the Samaritan’s faith in contrast to the so called people of God who didn’t have faith in His Son.

So, contrary to what you said, the Samaritan didn’t come back to Jesus just because there was no other place for him to run to.

No, the Samaritan had a heart filled with gratitude as he understood the importance of what had been done for him in the same manner as the syrophoenician woman, the demon-possessed man, the woman at the well, the Roman centurion also understood and appreciated what had been done on their behalf, contrary to the Jewish leaders who, at the end, rejected the Messiah.

Really???

I am glad that you qualified this statement because it was both misleading and incorrect. As you know, sexism is alive and well in society and it can be observed in the church also when we consider issues like pay disparity for example (but is it because of a religious bias or because of a worldly tendency that crept into the church?). But regarding the question of women ordination, it is misleading to consider that women are being treated as inferior just because they are being denied ordination. In the New Testament, Jesus didn’t choose any woman as apostle. Do we accuse him of treating women as inferior? Of course not. When the primitive church selected the first deacons, no woman was chosen. Are we accusing them of being sexist? It is worth reminding ourselves that the Holy Spirit was working mightily in the church even when the deacons were chosen.

This statement is really based on a particular point of view. While we can safely agree that there are some progress to be made in the church in some areas (pay disparity being the perfect example) there are other areas in which what we call progress is simply in sign of permissiveness and immorality. According to Jesus, Paul and Peter, the world will not become a better place the more we go toward the future. In the contrary, we are warned against a general degradation of the situation within and without the church.

So we should be cautious before saying that the world has showed us the way of righteousness.

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The priest was the umpire. it was nothing until he called it. It was the society that mattered. they were unclean until the priest called it. Christ came to fulfill the law. he honored all the feast days and completed th e Passover. Now the question is do we thank God for our daily bread? or just mumble… Tom Z

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This is one of the most insightful ideas you have ever expressed on the Spectrum blog. I would love to hear Bull and Lockhart’s take on this as well. Wonder if they will do a third edition of Seeking a Sanctuary?

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I think that is a compliment :smirk: