Panem et Circenses. It’s a Latin phrase that translates “bread and circuses.” It was coined by a Roman satirical poet who was appalled at the apathy and self-centeredness of Roman society at the time. It has also been used as the theme of a popular book series, The Hunger Games. The idea is of a populous that has given up the privilege and responsibility of governing themselves in exchange for full bellies and entertainment. We see this in our society everyday. Most people are completely disengaged from the political process, have no idea how our system works, and couldn’t care less who might be the best candidates. Most of those who are engaged are supporting either the candidate that entertains them with his boisterous and defiant speeches or the candidate who offers free stuff. Either way, they don’t seem to care how much they’re lied to or how much power they concede as long as they get lots of stuff and have their ears tickled.
Sadly, we see this trend in churches as well. Most people attend a particular church to be entertained, or to have their needs met, or both. In the process they neglect their responsibility to serve others and grow in their faith. They also miss out on the privilege of being used by God to shape their church, their community, and the lives of individuals around them. Being a disciple of Jesus is a call to action as well as a denial of self. It is the opposite of panem et circenses as we work together to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.
I read this morning that Disney is threatening to boycott the state of Georgia if they pass The Free Exercise Protection Act. This is a bill that provides protection to faith based businesses and groups that refuse services that violate their religious beliefs. Critics refer to it as an anti-gay bill. When I first read this I thought to myself: if Disney wants to discriminate against an entire state in the name of tolerance, they have every right to do so, just as the baker and the wedding photographer have every right to pick and choose their clients. But that got me thinking. So often in our society today, especially with this issue, why is it that person B is expected to modify their behavior and make any accommodation for person A, while person A is not expected to modify anything or make any accommodation for person B? Add to this that person B is a Bible believing Christian and person A represents any secular, unbiblical agenda in our society today. This is a growing reality for believers, but we should not be surprised. Why did Paul speak against homosexuality, prostitution, adultery, and other sexual immorality? It’s because in Roman and Greek society those things were perfectly acceptable. Christians in the first century were not persecuted because they were trying to force their beliefs on others. They were persecuted because they wanted to be different. They wanted to be disciples of Jesus Christ, living lives of holiness in accordance with God’s will. Add to this their message of the Gospel that exposed the sin and depravity of society and offered people an alternative to hollow, man-made solutions, and their presence became intolerable. This same intolerance will grow today and in time will become outright persecution. However, as it has throughout history, this will be the refining fire that revives Christ’s church and fuels the message of His death, resurrection, and redemption from sin – the only hope for our world.
In Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses sets before the people of Israel a choice: life or death. They could choose life by submitting themselves to God’s will or they could choose death by rebelling against His will. This choice is fully realized in Jesus Christ: choose life by believing in the One who gives life or choose death by rejecting Him. Sadly, the followers of Islam have chosen death and this choice was on full display in Paris. Many people say that Islam needs a reformation but that is exactly what is happening. ISIS and other groups are reforming modern Islam by returning it to it’s violent and bloody roots. What we see today is not a metaphor or an esoteric idea, it is a real choice: life or death. As believers in Jesus we must not fall for the moral equivalency of the Left and the lie that “we all worship the same god.” Instead, we must stand against this religion of death and any religion or philosophy that rejects Jesus. Are there times when nations must take up arms to defend themselves? Absolutely. Are there times when even Christians must defend themselves and their families? Absolutely. Will there come a day when Jesus returns and executes God’s judgment on the earth? Most assuredly. However, God’s judgment is for those who have already chosen death. As believers we must embrace life and boldly proclaim the life giving Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.
Reprinted from the Dec 2015 newsletter.
In the 2008 election a particular candidate (who shall remain nameless) garnered a large following by telling people what they wanted to hear. Those on the other side of the political aisle grumbled in frustration because no one seemed to pay attention to his ideology, his past record, or, perhaps most importantly, his character. Now we are approaching a new election cycle and the shoe is on the other foot. A particular candidate from the other party (who shall remain nameless) has garnered a large following by telling people what they want to hear and once again no one seems to be paying attention to his ideology, his past record, or, perhaps most importantly, his character. Thinking about this, I can’t help but wonder how many people approach God the same way, telling Him what they think He wants to hear saying, “Lord, Lord,” while hoping their past record, their character, and, most importantly, their unbelief will be overlooked. While I think fully vetting political candidates is important, this does cause me to stop and think about what would happen if God fully vetted me before being allowed into His presence. Knowing all the things that would come to light, there is no way any of us could stand in His presence. Thankfully the Father, by His abundant grace, looks past our track record because of our faith in Jesus Christ. When we stand in the presence of the Father we will be clothed in the righteousness of the Son and our sins will be remembered no more. Politicians will never change their stripes but as believers in Jesus we can look forward to a time when we will be transformed into the likeness of our Lord and Savior.
What is true? What is real? Two classic questions of philosophy intrinsically linked together. Over the years I have seen a clear pattern emerging in society: first deny truth and then you can deny reality. For years we have been taught that there is no such thing as absolute truth – truth is relative, what is true for you is not true for me. Now we are seeing the inevitable outcome of this: an acceptance of the absurd and a total denial of reality. What would have once been regarded as insane is now seen as the new normal and those who say, “Wait, that’s not right!” are regarded, at best, as nutty and intolerant. We are fast approaching a time when no one will be able to tell what’s real and those who try will be criminalized. This, however, is nothing new for believers. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has always defied worldly perceptions of truth and reality. To Jews it was a stumbling block, to Greeks it was foolishness. Even Pilot asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the great I AM – ultimate reality and the source of existence. The world must always deny truth and reality in some way because an acceptance of truth and reality would be an acceptance of Jesus. As believers, we know what is true and what is real and even though we may not fully understand God’s design, we can look forward to a day when all will be revealed. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12