God’s People : They always seem the same.

Christianity is seen by many as bigotry, prudishness and narrow-mindedness. Christians are seen by some as a threat to “freedom” in a Western Contemporary society that is all about the individual. Often the approach of atheists is “That’s fine for you, as long as you don’t force your beliefs on anyone else.”

Youtube vlogger Cristina Rad essentially states that she is against religion, as it puts limits on society, propagates discrimination and has a negative influence in many ways. You may have picked up on this if you watched QandA on Monday.
It’s interesting to look back in the history of the church. Before the “church”, there was still “God’s people” under the Old Covenant; the nation of Israel. I found it very interesting to read through Ezra 4 yesterday, and see how not much has changed.
The story is like this; God’s people are in exile in Babylon. Under king Cyrus, they are given back their artefacts and so on, and told that they can go back to Jerusalem to build a temple to God. So God inspires and empowers a bunch of his people to come out of exile and start building him a temple. They are scared of the people around them, but they stick to their work, sacrifices etc.. That’s chapters 1-3.
In Chapter 4, a bunch of kings and the like from neighbouring lands are against the building of the temple, so they send the King (by now Artaxerxes) a letter, trying to halt the operation. 
It’s unclear exactly what the motivation of the surrounding nations is, but for some reason they don’t like the temple being built. It may be for the reasons they set out in the letter, or these reasons may just be assembled to suspend the construction based on some other hidden motive. 
What’s important is this;
  1. For some reason, people are opposed to the honouring of God. They find fault with God and his people, branding them God as wicked, or evil.
  2. They appeal to the king to stop the temple being built, because they say it will result in less funding, and so on. They do a grand load of butt-kissing and suggesting that the nation will be damaged if God’s people are allowed to worship. “The detriment of royal interests” etc.
  3. They refer to a long history of sedition in Israel’s past (uprising, discontent etc).
Whether this third statement is true or not, they clearly thought it was apparent in history, as did the King, as he pulled the textbooks off the shelf, and decided that the nations were right. This suggests a few things.
  • Honouring God, and the work of God in Israel, seemed strange and threatening to outsiders. This may be because they follow an authority and power that the kings cannot contend with.
On the other hand, maybe their claims were not merely ignorance and their own darkness/worldliness.
  • At some level, there was historical evidence that the Israelites were a discontented, seditious nation. Basically, they are a nation of inconsistent whingers.
If that is the case, then it’s pretty clear that God doesn’t choose his people in accordance with their virtue, with their history, or any human reasoning. Which is a comfort.
You look at the history of Christianity and you see institutionally supported racism, sexism, slavery, even torture, murder and genocide, and it can be pretty easy to have doubts along the lines of the Atheist opposition: If God was Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient, then he would not allow such things to be done in his name. It’s pretty easy to look at the crusades and be frustrated by the way that the church and it’s failings misrepresent God.
On a personal level it’s the same; we fail to glorify God because we are still, somehow, caught up in sin. 
I guess it’s a comfort that we know that even though we screw up, even though our history is bad, even though we are opposed from outside, that God doesn’t choose us in accordance with that sort of criteria. He chooses us to be his by his grace, and calls us to him. 

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