Bonus Content from August 18th (Psalm 137)

The following questions were submitted after the Aug 18 sermon.
 
If we are only meant to find home in the fact that God will bring us home, why would God bother to put us on Earth? Why would we continue to live? Are we not meant to work to bring God’s kingdom here?
 
Having our affections set on heaven does not preclude our responsibility in this present time and present world. The apostle Paul himself felt this acutely. In Phil 1:23-25, he says, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.” Paul recognizes that it would be better for him to be executed at the hand of Caesar, for death would bring him into the presence of Christ. But the time of Paul’s death is not of his choosing; it is God’s prerogative. It is not his choice to make; it is God’s. Therefore, Paul will live with abandon in the present for as long as God sees fit for him to be on this earth. Even though the entire orientation of Paul’s life is towards the eschatological future, he nevertheless works tirelessly to proclaim the kingdom of God. So should we. Moreover, we should also not remove ourselves from society and form our own holy huddle. After all, Jeremiah counseled the exiles to seek the welfare of the city in which they are exiles (Jer 29:7). So, we engage society and its culture. We try to redeem it for God’s purposes as far as possible, but we do it while recognizing that our true belonging and identity lies in heaven and with God. 
 
If the world is ultimately not our home, what does that mean ecologically? Does that eliminate our need to care for the planet, because ultimately we should want it to crumble? If the world was created by God, are we not praising God by caring for it and the life in it?

I make a distinction between world and earth. In saying that this world is not our home, I am saying that this world order or this age cannot ultimately be the basis of our hope, identity, and value system. After all, “the world and its desires” are passing away (1 John 2:18). Similarly, Paul notes that “this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31). We, nevertheless, have a responsibility to be stewards of creation and the physical earth.

Should we not care about the wrong [done] to all people in the world, not just those who are related to us, or who are Christians? Should we not want justice for all people, regardless of faith, location, heritage, or creed?

Absolutely. The apostle said, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal 6:10). We should seek justice and welfare for all people. Nonetheless, since we can’t do everything and we can’t meet every need, Paul tells us that priority should be given to members within the church (both local and global). They are, after all, our brothers and sisters in the faith.

This is not a question, but I would encourage the language of victim to be switched to survivor. Victim implies defeat, and loneliness. Survivor is empowering and allows healing and growth.
 
The organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) notes that people frequently ask whether they should use the term “victim” or “survivor.” They note that both terms are applicable depending on the context. They prefer to use “victim” to refer to someone who has recently been the victim of sexual abuse; or discussing aspects of the criminal justice system. They use the term “survivor” to refer to someone who has undergone the recovery process (see https://www.rainn.org/articles/key-terms-and-phrases). Others, however, prefer just to use the term “victim,” arguing that the word “merely signifies one of the roles in a crime or mishap.” The word need not and should not connote defeat. See https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-our-way/201608/why-i-prefer-victim-survivor. In summary, perhaps, it would have been better for me to say, “Through the psalms of lament and imprecation, the one who has suffered sexual abuse is able to move from being a victim to a survivor.”

The following is rephrased as it is the combination of two comments: Survivors of sexual assault are not just women. The use of “she” within the sermon can be diminishing to men who have experienced sexual assault.

Thank you for the above comment. You are certainly right that men can suffer sexual assault; so can children. My use of the pronoun “she” is not mean to disparage the suffering of men who have encountered sexual assault. Rather, it is the recognition that females bear the brunt of it all. According to statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), 91% of victims of reported sexual assault are female; 9% are male. The percentage is thus heavily stacked against females. See https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf

How do we work on not being angry like Jonah when God forgave the people of Nineveh?

Let me rephrase the question as follows: How do we work on not being angry towards people (who have done evil again us) when they repent and receive forgiveness from God? This is a difficult question and it cannot be adequately answered in a few lines. One way to work on our anger is to remind ourselves that we are to forgive just as God in Christ forgave us (Eph 4:32). “The idea is not simply that we have been forgiven, and therefore we ought to forgive, but that God himself, in Christ, has forgiven us, and therefore our debt is incalculable. No matter how much wretched evil has been done against us, it is little compared with the offense we have thrown in the face of God. Yet God in Christ has forgiven us. If we know anything of the release of this forgiveness, if we have glimpsed anything of the magnitude of the debt we owe to God, our forgiveness of others will not seem to be such a large leap” (D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places [Wheaton: Crossway, 2002], 80-81). I am not saying that it is easy to forgive and to let go of our bitterness; nor am I saying that it can be done quickly. Nevertheless, extending grace, forgiving others, and letting go of our bitterness towards those who have done us wrong is part of what it means to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we all taste the wonder and depth of God’s grace in our own lives, so that we might in turn extend grace towards others.