Below is the second chapter, freshly edited, of my book Through the Needle’s Eye. As I said last month, I’m writing only to those who are serious about their relationship with God, or who want to become serious. This month (and next month), we’ll be taking an honest look at Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler, the man who exemplified the proverbial camel who could not make it through the needle’s eye.
That encounter, recorded in three of the four Gospels, calls into question commonly-held beliefs about salvation and the grace God is offering. And for that reason, even if you are not serious about your relationship with God and have no interest in becoming serious, it would be well worth your time to read what follows. What could be more important than the subject of eternal life (the very thing the rich young ruler was seeking)?
Last month, as June’s e-teaching, I sent you the introduction to an old book of mine that I am in the process of re-editing, titled Through the Needle’s Eye: An Impossible Journey Made Possible by God.
I hope that, after reading the Introduction last month, you made the decision to read the remainder of the book as we publish chapters over the coming months. If you did, below is Chapter One, an honest look at Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Fool.
More than a decade ago I wrote a controversial book titled, Through the Needle’s Eye, and subtitled, An Impossible Journey Made Possible by God. Due to the subject matter—biblical stewardship—it was by far the most challenging book I’ve ever written. I did my best to be honest in interpreting what Scripture says, but the problem is, the Bible doesn’t always support what is often taught and believed about stewardship in modern church circles.
So I gritted my teeth as I wrote, knowing that, most likely, my finished product would not end up on the New York Times Best Seller List. In fact, I felt certain that what I was writing would close most every church door that might otherwise be open to my teaching ministry. It was like closing the lid on my own coffin.
So far in this five-part series, we’ve considered how the gospel ends racism, misogyny and abortion, both now, in the lives of all true believers, and ultimately, in Christ’s future worldwide reign. Regarding the subject of this e-teaching, political polarization—something we’ve certainly witnessed during the last election—it is easy to understand why only one political viewpoint will dominate the future reign of Christ. But it is puzzling that evangelical Christians are politically polarized, right and left, along with everyone else, with each side claiming the higher moral ground.
I confess that I—on moral grounds—lean a little more to the right, but I’ve got good Christian friends who lean a little more to the left—and also on moral grounds. Yet we’re all reading from the same Bible.
“Legalized abortion is the greatest human rights violation of our time. It is going the way of slavery and segregation, sooner or later.”
That was my prediction in Part 1 of this series, and it was based on more than just wishful thinking. According to a recent Gallup Poll, “Support for making abortion broadly illegal [is] growing fastest among young adults” (gallup.com/poll/126581/generational-differences-abortion-narrow.aspx). That is a good sign for the future.
Moreover, in 1996, 56% of Americans considered themselves “pro-choice,” while only 33% considered themselves “pro-life.” As of May, 2016, that gap narrowed to 47% and 46% respectively (gallup.com/poll/1576/abortion.aspx).
The “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels, however, fall short of identifying the various stances people hold regarding abortion. The truth is, many people who consider themselves to be pro-choice actually hold views that are pro-life to a degree, and vice versa.
If someone had written an article in the London Times during its first year of publication, 1785, titled, “The End of the Slave Trade,” no reader would have taken it seriously. Britain had dominated the Atlantic slave trade for 200 years. Slavery was an entrenched institution.
In 1787, however, a tiny Quaker and Anglican abolitionist society began working to influence public opinion. They were eventually joined by a born-again politician named William Wilberforce, and in 1791 he introduced his first bill before Parliament to abolish England’s slave trade. That bill was soundly defeated.
Just about every year thereafter for the next 20 years, Wilberforce introduced a motion for abolition that was voted down, a drawn-out battle that is well dramatized in the 2006 movie, Amazing Grace. Wilberforce’s persistence was finally rewarded in 1807, when Parliament voted in favor of abolishing the slave trade. Slavery itself was not abolished by Parliament for another 26 years, in 1833.
It was a 46-year struggle. During the first 45 of those 46 years, the consciences of every British Parliamentarian sided with Wilberforce, but the majority clung to their justifications for slavery—all based on the various lies they employed to suppress the truth. In the end however, the truth, which had not changed in 46 years, prevailed.
Charles Darwin concluded that women were inferior to men. He wrote in The Descent of Man, “males are more evolutionarily advanced than females,” and he believed that children and women had smaller brains and therefore were led more by instinct and less by reason. Darwin concluded: “Men attain a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can women—whether requiring deep thought, reason or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands… We may also infer from the law of the deviation from averages, that the average mental power in man must be above that of women.”
In Darwin’s evolutionary-advanced brain, such thinking was obviously justified. If you are a member of the “more intelligent gender,” you naturally have an advantage over the “less-intelligent gender” to know that your gender is inherently more intelligent.
In last month’s e-teaching, however, I tried to show that the Bible is not so misogynistic. On the contrary, the first female whom God created was custom designed to rescue the first male, turning his “not good” predicament into something “good.” Eve was the original Superwoman. (In fact, when Adam first laid his eyes on her, he gasped and said, “Whoa, man!” No doubt it is from Adam’s stunned reaction, repeated every time he looked at his wife, that the modern word, “woman,” evolved.)
Misogyny is a word it seems we’re hearing more often these days. It is derived from two Greek words, miso, meaning “hatred,” and gunē, meaning “women.” But you don’t have to hate women to be a misogynist, as the modern definition has been expanded to include “the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women (or girls).”
Misogyny is a pervasive evil that has existed from very early in human history, and it is alive and well in the world today. (I’ll shortly provide you with some examples.)
The good news is that misogyny is something that Jesus is in the process of eradicating from the earth. At present, that eradication is limited, because Jesus only transforms those who believe in Him.
Have you ever observed a fly trapped behind your car’s windshield, futilely fighting to find an escape? All of your car’s side windows might be wide open, but it never occurs to that frustrated fly to try anything different than continuing to search for a way through an invisible, impenetrable barrier.
You can’t help but feel sorry for such a fly and, if you are bent towards mercy, you might try to swish him towards an open side window. Most flies, however, will resist your effort to help them, and your attempts only make them more determined to do the impossible. Eventually, they’re lying dead on your dashboard.
The pity we all feel for such frustrated flies is analogous to what followers of Christ feel every day for everyone else. We observe people’s recurring misery and frustration, and we know full well that so many of their problems could be resolved if they would only submit to Jesus. He would forgive them, open their eyes and set them free, fill them with His Spirit, and teach them His ways.
There is nothing like politics to expose sin. First, politicians who run for office are mercilessly vetted (as they should be, of course). Their opponents and the media search for any dirt they can find, and skeletons are dragged, kicking and screaming, out of closets for the world to see.
Beyond that, candidates boast about themselves and rail against their opponents, competing, it seems, for who can take the lowest ground. Not only is their pride exposed, but also their hypocrisy, as they violate the simple moral principle of “let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and “why do you point out the speck in another’s eye when you have a log hanging out of your eye?” They often seem like rats who point their fingers at other rats and call them rats.