Worth Reading - 4/24

For centuries, the Armenians lived in relative peace in the Ottoman Empire. The Koran’s stance towards non-Christians is inconsistent. At some points, it advocates the persecution of all non-Muslims (kaffirs), but in others it advocates tolerance for Christians and Jews, as they are “peoples of the Book.” The Ottomans applied the latter passages with regards to the followers of Abrahamic religions in its millet system, which gave religious minorities self-rule.

This ended abruptly in 1894-6, when Sultan Abdul Hamid II massacred at least 200,000 Armenians and occasionally Greeks and Arab Christians in his attempt at Islamizing the Ottoman Empire. By 1908, the Young Turks overthrew Hamid’s autocratic rule and introduced constitutional democracy. The Young Turks were nationalists and religious chauvinists. Although they detested religion and wanted French-style laïcité for Turkey, they turned Islam into a marker of national identity. On April 24th, 1915, the Young Turks began the mass murder of up to 1.5 million Armenians, whom they saw as an obstacle to the creation of an ethnically and religiously homogenous state and whose pro-Russian sympathies they distrusted. This was the twentieth century’s first genocide.

In his Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response, Peter Balakian argues that Abdul Hamid’s massacres sparked the “first international human rights movement in American history.” Throughout the nineteenth century, American Protestants sent missionaries to Armenia, finding the already-Christian Armenians more willing converts than the Muslim Turks. The missionaries set up a college as well as many schools and a hospital. Thanks to these missionaries, Armenia was a familiar name to many Americans by 1894.
We all know busyness. Everyone is busy. And everyone complains about being busy. Busy, busy, busy. Busy is a buzzword (even phonetically). Most of us have grown fairly comfortable with busyness.

But to call busyness (meaning a frenetic, distracted lifestyle) “moral laziness” suddenly makes us uncomfortable. It means that busyness is not something that merely happens to us. It is something we choose. As objections begin to rise in our minds, it is helpful to remember what Jesus said to busy Martha: “Mary has chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:42). Martha, you have chosen something else.

So why do we choose busyness? Prof. Hindmarsh says that too often we make it a “statement of self-importance.” We use busyness as way of telling ourselves and, maybe more importantly, others how essential we are. Busyness is a way of posturing our significance. Ouch. I’ve done this.
Baptism is how you publicly identify yourself with Jesus and with his people (Acts 2:38–41). It is how you visibly signify that you are united to Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1–4). It is how you become identified before the church and the world as one who belongs to the Triune God (Matt. 28:19). It is how you publicly embrace Jesus as your Savior and submit to him as Lord (1 Pet. 3:21).

Baptism is where faith goes public. It is how you nail your colors to the mast as Jesus’ disciple. Therefore baptism is how a new Christian shows up on the whole church’s radar as a Christian. Baptism is like a jersey that shows you’re now playing for Jesus’ team. Because of this purpose Jesus has assigned to baptism, a church may publicly identify itself only with those who have publicly identified with Jesus in baptism.
The cross of Jesus satisfied the condemning wrath of God against us (Romans 3:21-26). Now, through faith alone, we step into the circle of divine acceptance forever. But Hebrews 12 also reminds us that, precisely because we are now God’s beloved children, he will discipline us along the way. Our justification and adoption are not at stake. That was settled at the cross, and we received our full reinstatement with the empty hands of faith. Now God is deepening us in our sanctification, which includes painful disciplines. That is the “wrath” the prophet spoke of in 2 Chronicles 19:2. It means that our Father is not emotionally detached as he grows us up. It means he is emotionally engaged. When he disciplines us, his heart graciously feels fatherly indignation, grief and anger as part of his love. If, when we offend him and harm others, God felt nothing but a placid equanimity, could we even trust his heart? He is really connecting with us.

The cross removes God’s condemning wrath. It does not remove God’s disciplining wrath. Condemning wrath sends a sinner to hell. Disciplining wrath prepares a sinner for heaven. God is psychologically complex enough — even human fathers are complex enough — to cherish his erring child and to chastise his erring child, both at the same time, plus more, with the various emotions appropriate to every aspect of the relationship.