All posts by pcpjwriter

PCPJ is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world.

Why Didn’t Jesus Denounce Military Service?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

A common objection to the claim that Jesus and the authors of the New Testament were opposed to all forms of violence is that neither Jesus nor anyone else speaks out against it. When soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do in response to his message, for example, he told them not to “extort money,” not to “accuse people falsely,” and to be “content with [their] pay” (Lk 3: 14). He didn’t tell them to leave the military. In a similar fashion, when Jesus encountered a distraught Centurion, he healed his servant and praised his faith without saying a word about his leadership role in the violent and unjustly oppressive Roman-governed army (Mt 8:5-13Lk 7:1-10).

Along the same lines, without commenting on his military service, Mark reports that a Centurion confessed faith in Jesus when he witnessed how he died (Mk 15:39). And this same attitude gets carried over into the early church. Indeed, the first Gentile who came to Christ in the book of Acts was yet another Centurion. As Peter preached the Gospel to this man and his household, the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they were all baptized without a word being uttered about this man’s military service (Acts 10:44-8).

From Augustine to Aquinas to Luther up to the present time, these episodes have been frequently cited to justify Christians serving in the military. Continue reading Why Didn’t Jesus Denounce Military Service?

Sweden’s Bizarre Questions to Christian Asylum Seekers

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Pastor Christian Mölk

by Christian Mölk, originally posted on his blog.

In 2015, 41,000 asylum-seeking Afghans came to Sweden. Many Christians opened their homes and churches and welcomed asylum seekers with open arms.

Many asylum seekers saw the love of the Christians, and they became part of the Christian community. In their desperate situation and dream of a new and better life far from war and poverty, they sought Jesus and found peace, forgiveness, and salvation.

Since a person who has left Islam cannot be deported to Afghanistan, the world’s second most dangerous country for Christians, the Swedish Migration Board needs to decide whether the converts are genuine Christians or not.

That pastors certify that the converts are genuine Christians, baptized, and active members of a congregation, is not enough to be regarded as genuine Christians.

Continue reading Sweden’s Bizarre Questions to Christian Asylum Seekers

One Common Myth about Spirit-Filled Christianity

by Andrew K. Gabriel.

Some Christians believe the myth that those who are really Spirit-filled will always experience victory. This belief is a cousin to the idea that if you have enough faith you will always experience health and wealth.

Just as faith doesn’t guarantee a life free of disappointments and hardships, the Spirit-filled life is not a life free of disappointments and hardships. Jesus is the epitome of spirituality, but he never became an earthly king. Instead, “through the eternal Spirit [he] offered himself unblemished to God” so his death might give us life (Hebrews 9:14).

In the Bible, “the one who is victorious” (Revelation 2:11) may suffer and face poverty (v. 9). Their victory is that they resist their culture’s anti-Christian values and are “faithful, even to the point of death” (v. 10). And their “victor’s crown” is eternal life, not achieving success in the eyes of the world around them (vv. 10–11). Continue reading One Common Myth about Spirit-Filled Christianity

Why Did Jesus Say He Came to Bring a Sword?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Jesus said: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34). 

Some, both modern scholars along with church leaders since the fourth century, have used this passage as evidence to argue that Jesus is not altogether non-violent.

When we place Matthew 10:34 in its broader context, it becomes clear that Jesus’ teaching not only does not condone violence on the part of his disciples, it actually rules out all violence. As Jesus is preparing his disciples to proclaim the Good News of the arrival of the kingdom of God throughout the region, he warns them that he is sending them out “like sheep among wolves” (Mt 10:16, cf. vv. 5-15).

Continue reading Why Did Jesus Say He Came to Bring a Sword?

Pentecostals, the Church and Justice

by Elizabeth D. Rios, Ed.D. D.Min (ABD).

Pentecostalism has often been accused of being withdrawn from social and political concerns due to an either/or mentality that erroneously makes people feel like they have to choose between evangelism, personal salvation and political engagement.  When we look at the Pentecostal movement in its early days we see that there not be such an ultimatum to choose. It is not either/or but both/and.

In my research, I found that in addition to this mindset, lack of knowledge by those in positions of power in the church on things such as how justice is biblical, how civic advocacy is not the same as political campaigning and even their own Pentecostal history has contributed to the passivity of Pentecostals to take a step toward advocating for justice. Interestingly enough, the Pentecostal movement has always thrived among the underprivileged and its success was in how they made leaders out of the very people overlooked and undervalued in society.

Dr. Raymond Rivera would often quip in his office at the Latino Pastoral Action Center in NYC, Pentecostal churches turned the janitor into the Pastor and the housekeeper into the Deacon. This in itself was a prophetic and political activity which challenged power structures and hierarchies, as they elevated the lowly and raised up the oppressed. The Pentecostal church in and of itself stood as not only a beacon of hope but a political declaration to surrounding culture that through the power of the Holy Spirit, they made treasure out of what society deemed as trash.

Some churches are known for having produced leaders that went on to make significant contributions to the movement and in their communities, other churches were known to produce leaders that shook the very foundations of their cities by involving themselves in movements of peace and justice, and still others were so passive the community did not even know they existed.  What I’ve found to be true is that this happens because some pastors used their pulpit and classrooms for discipleship that focused not only on who they were being made into as new creations but how they were expected to live out Christ-center practices as citizens. Thus the church in the life of a believer is crucial for their formation not just spiritually but civically. Essentially, where you go to church matters.

Researchers Nathan Todd and Anne Rufa stated, “Understandings of social justice do not develop in a vacuum, and many social settings such as families, schools, and religious congregations provide a rich context for social justice development.”* Therefore, I argue that the church is pivotal to the making of justice crusaders.

However, a pastor, planter, leader does not know what they do not know. Unless exposed to Pentecostal history that discusses the origins of Pentecostalism as a movement of the marginalized in a variety of contexts, they will buy into the nationalistic ideology that has pervaded our westernized view of evangelicalism. If not taught about how in the early 1900s the move of the Spirit was very much political in nature by empowering disciples to stand against inequality while being victimized themselves, they will believe the narrative always taught, evangelism is the only purpose of the church.

Dario Lopez Rodriguez states,

“The God of life is the God who loves and defends life, and liberates human beings from all oppression. In this sense, for Pentecostals who have been liberated by God from the chains of oppression, it should not be strange that they be involved in the defense of the dignity of all human beings as God’s creations. This is a concrete form of living in the Spirit, and for this reason, they must denounce all forms of personal, social and structural sin.”**

Hence, Pentecostal pastors and leaders, use your worship services, your education rooms, your table fellowship as labs not only to hear about how God is working in the lives of your people but to pastor and teach them how to think and act in today’s world from a Jesus centered, practice-based perspective. In this way, discipleship becomes a means of political engagement and people energized by the Spirit are formed into defenders of human dignity committed to both spiritual and social transformation. The rise of the both/and movement has begun.

Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Rios is the Founder of the Passion Center, a justice-oriented faith-based community helping people stand up and live out the gospel mandate of loving God, loving themselves and loving their neighbor in Miramar, FL. Find out more at www.ThePassionCenter.org and www.ElizabethRios.com

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ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

References


*N.R. Todd and A.K. Rufa, 2013. “Social Justice and Religious Participation: A Qualitative Investigation of Christian Perspectives.” American Journal of Community Psychology 51 (3/4): 315-31, accessed November 12, 2018 doi: 10.1007/s10464-012-9552-4.

**Dario Lopez Rodriguez, 2011. “The God of Life and the Spirit of Life: The Social and Political Dimension of Life in the Spirit.” Studies in World Christianity, (17.1) 1-11, accessed September 4, 2018, doi:10.3366/swc.2011.0002.


Cover photo: Rural church in South Africa, by Micael Grenholm

The Pentecostal “Angel of Mercy” During the Armenian Genocide

by Darrin J. Rodgers, originally posted at AG News and Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

An estimated 800,000 to 1,500,000 ethnic Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) were systematically rounded up and killed by Ottoman authorities between the years 1915 and 1918. The Armenian Genocide, as it came to be known, is the second-most studied case of genocide, following the Jewish Holocaust.

Newspapers around the world reported on the suffering endured by the mostly Christian Armenians. Right in the midst of the conflict was Maria A. Gerber (1858-1917), an early Pentecostal missionary who had established an orphanage in Turkey for Armenian victims.

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Gerber was born in Switzerland, where she was raised with 11 siblings by Mennonite parents. As a child, she did not have an interest in spiritual things, because she saw her mother weep when she read her Bible. She thought that Scripture must be the cause of sadness.

Gerber was a carefree child and loved to sing and dance. But, at age 12, she was stricken with multiple ailments, including rheumatic fever, heart trouble, tuberculosis, and dropsy. The doctor’s prognosis was not good — Gerber only had a short time to live.

Fear gripped Gerber’s heart. She had never committed her life to the Lord. She knew that if she died, she would not go to heaven. Gerber cried out, “Jesus, I want you to save me from my sins.” Immediately, she felt peace deep inside her soul. She was ready to die.

But God had other plans for the young girl. Gerber quickly recovered from her incurable illness, much to everyone’s surprise. Gerber’s mother had been so confident that her daughter was on death’s doorstep that she had already given away all of her clothing. Her mother scrounged around and found clothes for Gerber.

Gerber shared her testimony of salvation and healing at school and in surrounding villages. She found her calling. She read Matthew 28:18 and sensed that verse was meant for her: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Gerber’s faith deepened as she blossomed into a young woman. She received training as a nurse, but in her heart she wanted to become a missionary. In 1889 a remarkable revival featuring healing and speaking in tongues came to her town in Switzerland. In her 1917 autobiography, Passed Experiences, Present Conditions, Hope for the Future, Gerber recounted the rapturous praise and numerous miracles that occurred in that early Swiss revival.

The young nurse wanted training for missions work and, in 1891, she headed for Chicago, where she attended Moody Bible Institute. By the mid-1890s, she heard about massacres of Armenian Christians that were occurring in the Ottoman Empire. Gerber and a friend, Rose Lambert, felt God calling them to minister to the Armenian widows and orphans.

Gerber and Lambert arrived in Turkey in 1898 and began working with the besieged Armenians. They began caring for orphans and purchased camel loads of cotton for widows to make garments for the orphans and for sale. Donors from America and Europe began supporting these two audacious women who had ventured into very dangerous territory to do the Lord’s work.

Gerber, in particular, found support among wealthy German Mennonites who lived in Russia. In 1904, they funded the construction of a series of large buildings to house hundreds of orphans and widows. Zion Orphans’ Home, located near Caesarea, became a hub of relief work and ministry in central Turkey. When persecution of Armenians intensified in 1915, resulting in the extermination of most Christian Armenians from Turkey, Zion Orphans’ Home was ready to help those in distress.

Gerber identified with the emerging Pentecostal movement as early as 1910. This should not be surprising, as she had experienced her own Pentecost 21 years earlier. The Assemblies of God supported her missions efforts, and numerous letters by Gerber were published in the Pentecostal Evangel. Assemblies of God leader D. W. Kerr, in the foreword to Gerber’s 1917 autobiography, wrote that he had known Gerber for 26 years and that her story will encourage readers “to greater self-denial and a deeper surrender.”

Gerber suffered a stroke and passed away on Dec. 6, 1917. Gerber’s obituary, published in the Pentecostal Evangel, stated that she was known as “the angel of mercy to the downtrodden Armenians.”

It would have been easy for Gerber to ignore the persecution of Armenians. The massacres were on the other side of the world. She could have stayed safe in America or in Europe. But Gerber followed God’s call and spent almost 20 years ministering to refugees who faced persecution and death. Few people today remember her name. But according to early Assemblies of God leaders, Maria Gerber personified what it meant to be Pentecostal.

Read one of Gerber’s articles, “Great Results Seen in Answer to Prayer,” on page 4 of the Dec. 4, 1915, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Divine Love: The Supreme Test,” by Arch P. Collins

• “What Think Ye of Christ?” by M. M. Pinson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Read Maria A. Gerber’s obituary in the Jan. 5, 1918, edition of the Pentecostal Evangel (p. 13).

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Darrin J. Rodgers has served as director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC) since 2005. He earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and a juris doctorate from the University of North Dakota School of Law. He previously served at the David du Plessis Archive and the McAlister Library at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of Northern Harvest, a history of Pentecostalism in North Dakota. His FPHC portfolio includes acquisitions, editing Assemblies of God Heritage magazine, and conducting oral history interviews. His wife, Desiree, is an ordained AG minister.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Jesus and Nationalistic Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Throughout the Old Testament, we find Israel spoken of as God’s “chosen nation.” The Israelites were to be a nation of priests whom God wanted to use to unite the world under him (Ex 19:6). Since nationalism and violence inevitably go hand in hand, as Jacque Ellul and others have noted, the covenant God made with Israel naturally included protection from their enemies in exchange for their compliance with his law (e.g. Deut. 27-28).

By the time Jesus came on the scene, however, Israel had fallen into exile. For most Jews, this could only be explained as an aspect of a covenantal curse. They were being punished because of their disobedience. Though they were in their land, they were yet in spiritual exile. (This is the argument made throughout the work of N.T. Wright. See his The New Testament and the People of God, pages 268-272.) Yet, based on a number of OT prophecies, most Jews continued to look for a future Messiah who would restore Israel’s loyalty to Yahweh, lead Israel in a military conquest over her Roman oppressors and make Israel once again a sovereign nation, thereby demonstrating to the world the supremacy of Yahweh and their own chosen status under him. In other words, many if not most Jews of Jesus’ time wanted and expected a militaristic and nationalistic Messiah.

Though Jesus’ miracles gave people reason to believe he was the Messiah, he refused to play this role. In fact, though it is deeply woven into the OT, Jesus repudiated Jewish nationalism and the violence that came with it. This much is clear in his inaugural sermon given in his hometown synagogue. Jesus read from Isaiah 61, a passage that declared that God’s anointed one would bring good news to the poor, set captives free and declare the year of the Lord’s favor. Amazingly, Jesus announced that this prophecy was in the process of being fulfilled in him (Lk 4:18-19). Continue reading Jesus and Nationalistic Violence