Bible, Love, Mission, Politics, Prayer

How To React to Evil People.

Lightstock 169280 xsmall stephen daweOne of the things I enjoy most about the modern world is the ability to see lectures pretty much from all over the world. I have generally loved to attend public lectures at university and similar places because it stimulates my thinking and can get me to consider things from a different perspective than I had before. My penchant for public lectures (and the discussions afterwards) may be one of the reasons I date so infrequently. It’s honestly not that common to meet people who think an evening of, say, thoughts about the implications of Plato’s Republic for foreign policy sounds like a great way to spend an evening, so I often find myself attending lectures like that alone. Of course, COVID has done a number on attending public lectures, but has made it possible to “attend” lectures online, often from places I’d be unlikely to be able to visit myself for those lectures.

Most recently this was a very stimulating lecture on imprecations in the Psalms (I believe he was also promoting a book on the same topic).  As with most very good lectures in Biblical fields, at least for a pastor like me, it has been helpful as I think through some of the things the Church is facing. The speaker contends that our reading of Psalms, where it interprets the imprecations as merely desires for vengeance, are lacking. We need to see that God is still expressing His love and that God’s people are often through the Psalms, in the midst of suffering still desiring the vindication of God through the conversion of the nations to faith in God.

Why does this matter? As I write, someone I perceive as a very evil man is destroying people for no good reason through lies and through a powerful military under his command. What is a Christian to do in a case like this? Admittedly, I am not one of the people facing this evil, though it is hard not to have some indignation as people are killed for no other reason than being on the wrong side of a border and having political and cultural leanings different from other people. Additionally, there may come a day when as a Christian I face similar injustices. How is a Christian to think through these things?

Of course, we should pray for and positively help those who are victims of evil. That is a given.

The problem comes in one of Jesus’ most undeniably Jesus-like commands (and likely His most difficult)

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27–36 (ESV)

There is an argument that goes around claiming that this text is about the oppressed forcing those with power to face them on equal terms (Walter Wink in “Jesus and Nonviolence” comes to mind), but I don’t think that is the point of the text, which seems to be more about actually loving your enemies, which I take to mean, desiring their good. The lecturer’s reading of the imprecations of the Psalms (at least what I understood from his lecture) seems consistent with this. That is to say, we are to desire the ultimate good of our enemies; that they come to know and love God. 

That is the very radical thing we as Christians are called to do with the evil we face: We love our enemies and we pray for those who persecute, or as Paul puts it in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

For that reason, while people I am praying for defend their homes, and people are dying, and I am advocating for our countries help to end this injustice in Ukraine, I am also praying that God would grant repentance to Vladamir Putin and his inner circle. I do think he will have to face justice for what he has done, but I am praying that God would be merciful and that this war would end, not merely with the withdrawal of troops, but with the surrender of Vladamir Putin to the love and mercy of God, as he then orders Russian troops to withdraw from Ukraine.


Academia, False Teachers, Mission, Weather

Online Reading (July 12, 2018)

Heresy: A balanced article on seeing and naming false teachers.

Weather: scientists have cameras recording as a large glacier calves ice into the ocean.

Missions: Eliot Clarke expresses some of the possible pitfalls missionaries face in honour/shame cultures.

Academia and Religion: Scholar J. Budziszewski talks about the question of doing academic inquiry as a Christian at the Veritas Forum.

discipline, Foreigners, Gospel, Language, Mission, SDEWS

5 benefits of hosting a congregation with a different language

Many years ago, I cut my pastoral “teeth” by working as the English-language missionary at a large (by my standards) church in South Korea. It might seem surprising to some that I (who think that churches should ideally not be separated along ethnicity) would have worked at a minority language congregation, but Sangdang English Worship Service was, more than one of my favorite periods of life, it was (and continues to be) a positive force for the Gospel in South Korea and around the world, bringing glory to God, as it tells people the good news of Jesus Christ.


The local church worked to fund a full-time missionary among the English speakers in their own city, and I think they were doing a great Gospel service by doing so.

Here are 5 reasons:

1) It reaches people few others are ministering to. While I do think that a church should be as little marked by divisions as possible, there are clear reasons why a Church might want to reach out to other languagr groups in their area. For English speakers (and, at the time, Russian speakers) in South Korea, there existed very few ways in which community could be built among us, and the fact was that very few of us had any background in the Korean language beforehand. We were isolated foreigners, and for good reason, few facets of the culture were prepared to help us find and develop community, much less become disciples of Jesus Christ and be strengthened in that. The English Worship Service (and the small group ministry, and the many events) welcomed English speakers, and as far as possible, worked to integrate us into the larger Church body.

As an aside, this helped English speakers survive in Korea much more readily, and come to love Korean culture. Where the vast majority of foreign English teachers in Korea tended to remain a year (or less), many people who became part of the English worship service remained in Korea much longer. Learning to love their Korean brothers and sisters more deeply, and to continue to pray for the country long after they’ve gone on to other things. (and if anybody wants to drop a couple of thousand into my paypal, I’ll be happy to go visit Korea again… just saying :-))

2) It fights ethnocentrism. One of the issues the modern Church faces (and the church has always faced), is understanding what parts of what we do as a Church are mandated by God’s call to His children, and what parts are merely cultural. By hosting minority language congregations in the larger church, Sangdang Church placed Christians of different ethnicities in close proximity. Our service ended the same time as the large morning service on the Korean side, meaning that our congregation often ate and talked with Korean Christians. We began to learn many ways in which Korean churches (I think) have better integrated obedience to the Gospel into their weekly worship. One example is the fervent prayer styles of Koreans, but another is the simple fact that Korean churches often eat together after service (thus building much stronger community). We could not have learned that if we had had to simply create a fully English church wholly separate from the Korean congregation. I think it also helped many of our Korean brothers and sisters see how the Gospel was not merely what their pastor said on a Sunday morning, but has a clear global mandate, as sometimes if you stood in the hallway, you could hear the same song of praise to Jesus sung in Korean, English and Russian.


This was different than merely calling people to join in with what you are doing as a Church (which subtlely claims that we are doing the right thing, and the foreigner should just assimilate), it sees the foreign Christian as a brother or sister, who may have things to teach as well as things to learn, and encourages us all to learn from Christ, regardless of our cultural assumptions.

3) It obeys the call to welcome foreigners. Let’s face it, the Bible commands us to be good to foreigners. While many assume that this is merely another way of talking about the downtrodden in a culture, as we see by the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts, God desires to see believers reach out to befriend people who are not like us. That can be difficult given the existence of language barriers, but it is a picture of God’s call to a love that transcends difference to welcome people among us who have real difficulties being accepted in our cultures.

4) It can be a catalyst for global mission. Think for a moment of the kind of people who travel thousands of miles to live in a different culture, and when they get there, look for a Church. Oftentimes, these are at least somewhat motivated and gifted Christians. As a result, a minority language congregation accepted as part of a much larger congregation can often be full of talented Christian disciples who only need some support to grow in the faith and to help others grow in the faith. The people who came to SDEWS were often great Christians I had much to learn from, and who are in mnay different places around the world still ministering the Gospel in difficult places. Of the hundred or so regular attenders we had over the period I was there, a good dozen I can think of off the top of my head, are now functioning as strong discipling Christians in congregations all over the world (including pastoring the congregation I left).
When it comes to workers who remain monolingual in countries where they are expatriates, they are most likely to return to their home countries someday. If they have been discipled and strengthened in the faith, they can function as the most well-positioned missionaries in their home countries when they return home.
Even if they do not return to their home countries, these disciples are the kind of people who have already experienced the difficulties of living in a foreign land. They have already gone through some of the more difficult parts of being a missionary, and so can be uniquely suited to longer term missionary work.


One small-scale ministry of your church can help many people come to know Jesus all over the world. Even as I work here in Newfoundland, Canada, among a secularizing people, part of my ability to speak the Gospel has been strengthened by the work of English ministries of Churches in South Korea.

5) It helps the discipleship of your people – As with many of the things our Lord calls us to do in service to our neighbour, obeying Christ in welcoming the foreigner (not just tolerating foreigners among us) helps immensely in learning from Christ. More than just helping us to learn where our culture blinds us to some things the Gospel says, it is profoundly humbling to allow believers who do not speak your language to become part of you. You accept feeling the inadequacy they feel because they keep failing to communicate, you go through the stresses of misunderstanding one another as you struggle to obey Jesus, and you see the glory of God as He works through others to bring glory to His name. In all these ways, God can teach us to be better Christians by welcoming the foreigner as part of us, even when they do not speak our language.

Keep me in coffee

The author is often highly caffeinated. Keep him that way!


Archeology, evangelism, Islam, Mission, Science, Sports, technology

Online Reading, June 23, 2010

Sports: If I don’t begin with Korea’s advance to the second round of the World Cup with their 2-2 draw with Nigeria last evening, I might get lynched.

Freedom of Religion: Apparently in dearborn, handing out information about Christianity to Muslims is “disorderly conduct“. Some also worry that word choices among the Obama administration may reflect a desire to limit freedom of religion…. nah.

Technology: Of course, this can’t be the beginning of a brave new world dystopia. It’s not like people can track your location through your ipod.

Archaeology: Early drawings of the Apostles are found in Rome.