Christ’s famous words, “give unto Caesar what is for Caesar and give unto God what is for God” was important clarification to Christians on how to be good citizens. Christ knew His Kingdom was not of this world but He also knew that Christians live in the temporal world. Under such conditions, certain things must be given to God for spiritual salvation, but there were also duties to give to lawful authority.
The Christian citizen is thus not only brining the joy of the good news to the world, but also existing within society, obeying its laws and contributing not only at a spiritual level but also at a social level. Christians share their many talents with their community and nation and serve as examples of good moral character while obeying and serving their nation. Whether it is as mere citizen or political post, a Christian is meant to obey law and represent just cause within society.
A good Christian citizen while obeying just law and serving as a good civic and moral example also pushes for just and good social reforms through the proper legal and peaceful channels. The good Christian protects the rights of others, opposes unjust laws that discriminate and impose suffering on others and protect the right of the weak. Obviously abortion is a key issue here in regards to an unjust law that must be opposed through civic and legal discourse. Those who take upon public office have a dual duty to both their faith and state. While they cannot allow religious based ideals to overwhelm those who believe differently, Christian political leaders must adhere to the moral natural law in all legislation. Those who break from those fundamental truths that bind all humanity, for the sake of secular glorification, fail both their duties as a statesperson and Christian. Again this is why all Christian political leaders MUST oppose abortion legislation and denounce it for the evil it is.
A Christian hence is called to represent Christ in the nation and promote social morality. This is done through voting according to conscience based on Christian ideals and also by supporting and promoting social justice to all. While Christians may disagree with current social laws, they promote change to truth through peaceful measures that reflect the example of Christ. Christian citizens also stand up against anti religious laws that look to remove reference of God to society. The constant attack of atheism is found in society and this atheism looks to remove the freedoms and expressions of God in the public square. The Christian citizen is called to peacefully battle this insult to God.
A good Christian citizen will also avoid extremism and nationalism. Christian citizens will promote love of country and patriotism, but they will not support nationalistic values that place value over others of different race or creed. In a pluralistic society, Christians while promoting the teachings of Christ, nonetheless, respect the values and opinions of others. They do not look to force the teachings of Christ on others, but look to gently teach by word and example.
A Christian citizen however never places civic duty over the duty to God. When the state over steps its boundaries, like Christians who endured death centuries before and in communist nations today, the Christian citizen stands up for religious freedom and the teachings of Christ at the expense of even one’s own life. This is an unfortunate reality for many nations under communist control who denounce religious freedom and expression of one’s own personal worship. In these cases, the Christian is called to duty to God first and overthrow of the evil government.
There should never be a conflict between being a good citizen and a good Christian in a democracy and just republic. When balance is given to both, Christianity can flourish and add to the value of the secular state by producing good citizens that respect law and the social needs of others.
Love of nation is never a bad thing. In fact, it is a prerequisite of any good person. It places the love of neighbor over oneself which is a central teaching of the faith. Christian citizens hence are always willing to sacrifice for their home and fellow citizen.
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Pastors, Priests, Ministers and Pastoral Caregivers can all face burnout. It is human nature to burnout if over worked, or bombarded with other needs. It is important to also care for oneself and ensure enough sleep, rest and spiritual retreat is given. It is also important to identify signs of burnout and how to properly deal with it. God’s grace can go a long way but our human bodies need an occasional spiritual and physical retreat.
The article, “Pastoral Burnout and Spiritual Direction” by Kelly Edmiston looks at how pastors can identify burnout and deal with it. She states,
“I spent years ministering out of an empty tank. As a car can only coast on fumes for so long, I was puttering out. And this puttering took years. In this season of “puttering”, I embraced a “fake it until you make it” philosophy in the name of being “faithful” to the calling on my life. But the truth was, it no longer felt like a calling. It felt like a burden. I know now that I was suffering from pastoral burnout.”
Whenever evil, plague, war, death and disaster befall society, various reactions emerge spiritually within the community; From the secular atheist, a cynical mocking of the all good God; From the doubting faithful, a existential dilemma of faith and reason; From the faithful, a twofold reaction, one of faith supplied with reason and prayer, and the other, fueled with a faith devoid of reason and careless actions.
The primary and first question deals with evil and a good God. The cynical atheist will mock the faithful for believing in a God that allows disaster and plague to befall creation. The atheist will offer a false two fold conclusion that either God is not all good to permit evil, or not all powerful to prevent it. What is being ignored is the fundamental fact that humanity through its own choice lives in a fallen world. Free will chooses evil, not God. The price of being autonomous is evil. It is something that God in his all omniscient mind found well worth the price of evil. The price for His sentient life forms to choose good or evil.
This choice of free will plays a key role why evil exists. God did not create evil nor does He will it, nor does he not have the ability to control it. God permits it for a greater cause, humanity’s autonomy and overall eternal life outside the temporal world. While this does not address the day to day hardships of disaster and plague, it does illuminate a path beyond this valley of tears.
In Christianity, God does not abandon His creation. Instead, God Himself, takes upon human nature, binding to His Divinity the the Person-hood of Jesus Christ. Jesus accepts the cold of the temporal world and opens Himself to the pains of disaster and plague. Jesus allows Himself to be the sacrifice for all sin and bears its ugly face, but before that, He also endured the pains of this world and the suffering of loss, grief, death and tragedy.
Christianity presents an excellent answer to the problem of evil. It presents a God, who does not watch from a distant throne, but one who enters into the human condition and suffers with His creation as an act of free will and love.
While this question will not answer the disbelief of an atheist it at least answers the supposed riddle of a good God and evil. God is clearly good and His reason for permitting evil is clearly understood.
The doubting faithful represent the second response to spirituality and disaster and plague. The doubting faithful question why God permits them to suffer. Some may understand the theological response listed above, while others may not, but the doubting faithful, begin to doubt God Himself, His existence, and even their own faith. When plague or disaster strikes humanity, they wonder if God is there or if even God can hear their prayers.
They doubt the value of prayer. They begin to doubt if God can perform a miracle and save others from disaster. They question their prayer’s worth. Why pray if God will not act? The doubting faithful see prayer as a contract not a covenant. If prayer is not answered, then either God is not there or their prayer is insufficient. This leads to a poor understanding of suffering and grief in Christian spirituality.
Prayer when offered as petition definitely has a request but when the end of that request becomes the only driving spiritual force then the prayer is open to only one’s will and not God’s will. One should pray with the fervent attitude of deliverance, but if that physical deliverance does not come, one should not doubt God’s presence or one’s lack of one’s own spirituality. Instead, prayer while seeking one’s desired end, should also seek God’s end. It may seek conclusion but must be open to a conclusion that is not what one desires. Prayer must seek God’s presence to help carry one through grief, disaster and plague, whether cure or deliverance is given or not.
If a prayer is not answered according to one’s will, it does not mean God cannot perform miracles, or that God does not care, but it means that God has a different path and will than one’s own. One must instead believe that God knows best despite the suffering. One must instead, imitate Christ, who accepted the Father’s will even if it meant His own death. One may rejoice in the miracles that can occur, but if they do not, one must rejoice silently in God’s plan, no matter how painful or confusing it may be.
Ultimately, the spiritually doubtful, must re-evaluate their own spiritual life and the true essence of prayer, if they wish to understand why God answers and not answers some prayers.
Finally, in disaster and plague, one can see the two responses from the faithful whose faith is not suppressed but strengthened in times of chaos. The first response is one of prayer and reason. The second, is a prayer and faith devoid of reason and careless action.
The first response is the response of the church faithful. It understands the theology of good and evil, one’s role in it and the role God plays in answering prayer. The faithful pray in covenant with God, knowing that God will always be present physically and spiritually in their lives. The faithful believe miracles can happen but are also prepared to suffer and offer suffering through Christ to God the Father. They are willing to prayer but are also equally willing to carry their cross.
The second response though is devoid of reason. It challenges reason and in many ways tests God. Like those who handle serpents as a testimony of faith, these individuals will disregard precautions in time of plague in the name of faith. They will congregate together in Jesus name despite a contagious virus and will question the faith of others for believing bad things can happen. While the bible and church history is full of stories of God preserving individuals from illness or disaster, there are also equally many stories of disaster.
While it is possible that during reception of communion that Christ would preserve a person from a contagious virus, it is also possible that the virus still could infect. This is based on multiple issues regarding the person’s spiritual state but also the will of God. It is unadvised to tempt God unless God Himself has appeared to oneself. To boldly take dangerous actions within the spiritual community is not only unsafe and illogical but also not Christ centered.
In some cases, one has seen saints survive disease in care of others, while in other cases, history has witnessed saints who have died for those they cared for. Hence, acts of faith against logic and reason cannot be presumed to be immune to natural consequences. Yes, God can miraculously prevent the transmission of a virus during Communion, but it does not necessarily happen. This is why in times of plague, the Church while optimistic, always errors on the side of caution. Services, masses and gatherings are closed during times of plague because the Church does not wish to tempt God. This is not a lack of faith. If God so chose to command faith, He would, but if He does not, following reason and safety in no way invalidates faith.
Instead, God expects obedience. Obedience to ecclesiastical and civil authority over one’s own ideas.
Hence, prayer and reason is the proper response to any disaster or plague. It is measured with faith and believes in miracles but it is also measured with reason and obedient to authority in time of crisis and disaster. Prayer in times of crisis is not a useless endeavor but carries great merit and can produce great things, but ultimately is tied to the will of God and not one’s own will. It is a prayer of covenant and not contract that seeks to imitate Christ.
Bad things can happen to the most devout, even in one’s most deepest prayer, so one should not take heart that one’s prayer was not answered. Instead, one should understand that like Christ, miracles can occur, but when they do not, one must be ready to suffer like one’s Master. Christ suffered, He grieved and He offered His will to the Father. Christians and followers of Christ are asked to accept no less. The world denounced Christ and Christians can expect no less than their Master.
During disaster and plague, pray, pray and pray more. Expect great things but also expect suffering if it is God’s will, but know no matter the outcome, Christ will be with the suffering in this fallen world.
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The redemption by Christ is referred to in Theology as Soteriology. Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice which gave humanity a second change and a rebirth. It opened the founts of heaven once again. The blood of Christ energized the channels of grace to humanity. It reconnected the life of humanity with the Creator.
The historical incident, where the perfect man represented humanity as its high Priest, as a perfect sacrifice, being God as well, allowed humanity to repay the infinite debt of the sin of Adam. Where Adam said no, Christ said yes. Jesus hence offered reparation for our sins and brought humanity salvation.
The article, “5 Ways the Death of Jesus Saves You” by Lesli White looks at how the death of Jesus plays a pivotal role in our salvation. She states,
“To be saved, or born again is to accept the plan of salvation that Jesus offers us. In order to understand salvation, it’s imperative that we understand the death and resurrection of Christ which points to our salvation. The son of God was made human, and during His earthly life, he lived a perfect life, and died not because He wanted to but because we needed salvation”
Hence the sacrifice of Christ was a necessity. A sacrifice was needed. One that was perfect and offered atonement for the infinite debt of sin. Only a person could represent the offending party, but only a God could cover the infinite price. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity becoming man, or as scripture says, the Word became Flesh was the moment in history when God and man became unified in one person. Two natures that existed in perfect harmony.
Through the Incarnation, humanity was open to redemption. It is through Christ, and his mother Mary’s yes, that Adam and Eve’s curse was removed from the human race. Through the fonts of Baptism which are fueled through the Blood of Christ, original sin would be removed from the world one person at a time. Through one’s faith realized through Baptism, all are born again in Christ and put on Christ.
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Materialistic society is always seeking for more or the very best and always concerned who has more or who has less. This type of behavior is contrary to the Gospel and Christian values.
In the parable of the workers and their wage, Christ referred to a generous employer who paid a number of employees for a fair day’s work. The project not nearing completion by mid-day required more work, so he hired additional workers to finish the job. Upon payment, the initial workers harbored resentment to the employer for paying the fellow employees who worked only half the day the same wage.
This parable points to how people naturally are always looking at what others receive instead of being thankful for what they have or possess. The natural inclination to want more or be envious of others possessions is a fruit of the society of materialism.
Materialism seeks to enhance one’s life without gratitude or spiritual enhancement and instead makes objects man’s final end. This can only lead to disaster in a fallen world, where objects are far from infinite and can be stolen or taken away at any moment.
This false philosophy of materialism that seeks the object as the end itself fails to quest man’s search for complete happiness because it places man’s hope in false idols that cannot satisfy man’s deeper needs. It also induces a misery upon those who prescribe to it. Always looking what another person possesses or seeking more and more is quite a compulsive waste of energy that can only lead one down a path of unhappiness.
Christ, in his parable, rebuked the workers who complained to their employer about his kindness and generosity to others. He reminded the disciples that people must be content with what they possess and be thankful for it to God.
Materialism eliminates any chance to be content or thankful in this life. Its empty promises of possession never can fill the needs that drive man, but only diverts man from his true purpose and end with God. When one seeks false ends of illusion, one will never find true happiness but only find despair and misery
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Ignation Spirituality is an excellent meditative and spiritual way to communicate with God and understand his will and design for you.
This article looks at how Ignation Spirituality is spreading beyond the Jesuits who teach it
The article, “Jesuits aren’t the only ones teaching Ignatian spirituality”, by Lou Baldwin states
“When one thinks of Ignatian spirituality, it is only natural that one connects it to the Jesuits – the Society of Jesus. After all, St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuits, and in fact many Jesuits are engaged in retreat work including the famous 30-day retreat based on the saint’s Spiritual Exercises.”
Our fallen nature makes it hard for us to change. Living a Christian life is a gradual change over time. For this reason God is patient. The article below covers this and is good also for Christian Counseling training for those who wish to help others
Rick Warren: God Understands You Can’t Change Overnight
“When God makes spiritual changes in one’s life they often occur gradually, not instantly, says Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren.”
Good article about ashes and how they remind us of where come from and where will go and the reality of this earth. If you would like to learn more about Lent, then continue to read about various Lenten traditions and articles. Also, please review our Christian Counseling Training Program
A beautiful message for all those who believe in God brought by Francis to war torn Africa. The Pope is father to all, even beyond Christians, and his words of love promote peace for all
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