The Rightness and Legality of the Emancipation Proclamation

[Today marks the 215th anniversary of the day Abraham Lincoln gave formal notice of the the intent to free all people held in slavery in states still in rebellion to the government and Constitution of the United States. A post from the archives.]

In the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln ordered that all slaves in Confederate controlled areas were set free. Some say Lincoln overstepped his presidential authority, arguing that slavery was allowed under the U.S. Constitution.

They’re wrong.

One of the oldest rules of war (although to say that war has rules is a bit counter-intuitive) is that armies and governments exercise dominion over captured enemy property, even private property. That is what Lincoln contemplated on September 22, 1862, when he issued this preliminary order:

That on the first day of January [1863], all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free … .

The delay from September to January was designed to allow States in rebellion, or portions of those States, to cease rebelling against the United States and take themselves out of the Proclamation’s scope. (Lincoln letter of August 26, 1863, to James C. Conkling.) The order only extended to property of those living in areas governed by the Confederacy.

A central tenet of the Confederacy and its slaveholders was that the people held in slavery were property. They objected to anyone interfering with their property rights. But just as armies appropriate property from conquered people, this order declared the necessity of terminating the property rights of those in Confederate held territory for the purpose of advancing the cause of the United States.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln “as Commander-in-Chief … and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion” issued the Emancipation Proclamation enforcing the September order:

I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

The Emancipation Proclamation
(Wikimedia)

The proclamation made the war effort explicit in several places, including this invitation to join the battle:

And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed forces of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

William H. Carney, Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor (Wikipedia)

In 1864, Lincoln estimated the number of black soldiers and sailors exceeded 130,000 men, and said those who joined the Union’s cause in any way were owed what had been promised in preserving their freedom. (Lincoln letter of August 17, 1864, to Charles D. Robinson.) Lincoln’s sense of duty to the freed people was tested more than once.

Several politicians and civic leaders argued for peace with the Confederacy through compromise. Some sought reunification by reinstating the status quo on slavery before the war. Others were willing to recognize the Confederacy as a separate nation that could make its own decisions on slavery. Lincoln would have none of it, pointing out more than once that without slavery there would have been no war and with it there could be no real peace. He considered it his duty to preserve the nation, not preside over its fragmentation.

Keeping Promises

Lincoln felt his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States required every lawful effort to preserve the union governed by that constitution. He also considered himself honor-bound to keep the promises of the Emancipation Proclamation.

This sense of duty to keep your promises reminds me of Jesus’ words:

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all … . All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37.)

A paraphrase might be: “Say it if you mean it, don’t say it if you don’t mean it, and follow through on your promises.”

Jesus knew what he was talking about because it is his job to keep promises. In fact, the Bible tells us that when it comes to God’s promises Jesus is the one who keeps them all.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20.)

God promised to set people free, and did it in Jesus Christ. (Luke 4:18-21.) Just as Lincoln ordered the army and navy to take part in guaranteeing the freedom of the slaves, now we get to take part in Jesus’ ministry of freedom.

Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:35-36.)

Freedom indeed. There’s no going back.

***

*For those who insist the Civil War and Confederate Battle Flag were about something other than slavery, I have this response: The Civil War Was About Enslaving Black People.

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Jesus Conquered the Law, Sin and Death

Toward the end of his letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul wrote:

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57.)

This trio of death, sin, and law leads to the main point – Jesus gives us victory over all three. This is not the only time Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth about the fact that following the law leads to death. In a later letter we read:

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, … will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? (2 Corinthians 3:7-8.)

The ministry engraved in stone refers to the 10 Commandments, representing all of the written law of the covenant God made with his people at the time of Moses.

Paul minces no words in saying this is a ministry ministry that brings death. Yet he also told them that Jesus has overcome both the law and death, and that there is a more glorious ministry of the Spirit under the New Covenant, a ministry of life and not death. This is the ministry Jesus announced:

The Spirit gives life … . (John 6:63)

and which Paul spoke of in saying:

… through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2.)

So if there is no power over death in following the law but only in the ministry of the Spirit, what does this new ministry look like in a person’s life? This is difficult for people to grasp when they’ve been taught that the way to prove faithfulness to God is by following rules and checking them off the list.

The new way to live is not by rules, though, but in love. This is what Jesus got at when he said:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40.)

His brother James summed it up like this,

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (James 2:8.)

and Paul stated in similar fashion:

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14.)

Recognizing the Ministry that Brings Life

When it comes to knowing what this ministry of the Spirit – this ministry of loving others – will look like in a person’s life, it looks like this:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23.)

Why is there no law against this fruit of the Spirit? Because the law that leads to death – a death which would interfere with such things as love and kindness – has been overcome by Jesus, whose Spirit is in you now.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh [that is, trying to fulfill the Law] but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9.)

If you belong to Jesus, you are called to live in the victory over the law, sin and death. You can now live in the Spirit of God who lives in you.

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Renewing Your Mind Isn’t About You

What comes to mind when you read Romans 12:2 and see the words “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”? It probably means more than you think, and the point of the verse isn’t necessarily about you.

Bringing Opposites Together Makes a Powerful Combination

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632)
(Wikipedia)

One overarching theme of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome is that both Gentiles and Jewish people are part of God’s plan to build his people. He starts to develop this theme in the opening chapters and returns to it over and over. By the time you read chapters 10 and 11 it is clear he considers this joining of Gentile and Jew into the  people of God to be one of God’s main goals.

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Romans 10:1, 16.)

This failure to believe the gospel is not fatal to their salvation, though. The interplay between Israel and the Gentile believers is not over.

Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.If some of the branches [Israel] have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.(Romans 11:11, 17-18.)

This back and forth between Israel and Gentiles which began in chapters 1 and 2 has reached a climax in chapter 11 which then results in this outpouring of praise which includes an interesting line about the mind of God:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36.)

Then the reader soon comes to the verse about renewing your own mind.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2.)

What is the pattern of the world Paul refers to here? In the context of all the chapters leading up to this point, it appears to be the pattern of looking at people as either being on the inside or the outside, as either being us or them. And what is this about God’s own will? It is to see all people, whether Jewish or Gentile, as being in the same family.

The New Way of Thinking Fulfills God’s Eternal Plan

Paul says to stop thinking the old way – the world’s way – and renew your mind about it. The world may divide people up, but God brings people together. He grafts them into the same tree, to use Paul’s metaphor.

Old olive tree in Karystos, Euboia, Greece (Wikipedia)

The point of renewing your mind becomes clear as you read on. It is about dropping a sense of superiority and accepting one another.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:3-5.)

This sense of superiority – sometimes even a sense of entitlement – is still “the pattern of this world” that you see around you every day. It is this which Paul cautions against. Change the way you look on others and you’ll change the way you act toward others. These go hand in hand, as the lead-in to verse 2 shows.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2.)

Change the way you act, change the way you think, and in all of it be humble because it is all part of God’s plan and not your own. As for what this looks like in your life, Paul provides a list of actions* at the end of chapter 12, culminating in:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21.)

This is the evidence of a renewed mind, one that no longer divides people into us versus them but sees everyone as someone God desires to bring into his family, someone you can be good to.

So renew your mind to God’s plan and live out that reality.

***

*Paul’s guidelines for living with a renewed mind:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21.)

***

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The Last Shall Be First

“God doesn’t give half the population a monopoly on leadership, self-sacrifice, or provision.” Emma brings good insight to what leadership means for women and men in the kingdom of God.

Liberated

There’s a school of thought that asserts true men prioritize providing for and protecting others, true women happily accept men’s leadership, and any reversal or blend of these roles departs from God’s design for the sexes.

Of course, men should protect and provide for others, leading as Christ led. But men and women bear God’s image equally. The Bible contains many examples of women protecting and providing for children, other women, and men*. There are also plenty of examples of women leading and prophesying to mixed audiences**.

God doesn’t give half the population a monopoly on leadership, self-sacrifice, or provision. God calls all His children—women included—to those responsibilities. When encountering tough choices, hard decisions, or the call to sacrifice, women should not look around and wait for a man to come along and make that decision for them, or do it for them. Women ought to lead as God directs…

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Men are Not Lords over Women – overcoming the unbiblical savior complex

A recent commenter on this blog relied on this passage for the lordship of husbands over wives:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24.)

There are a number of good resources for understanding this passage correctly, such as Marg Mowczko’s Ephesians 5:22-33, in a Nutshell and Patrick Franklin’s Ephesians 5:21-33: How Paul Turns Headship on Its Head, but let’s take the commenter at his word and look at what this passage would then mean for him.

Don’t stop halfway – continue on to being a savior, men!

The commenter – as do many others who read the passage superficially – insists wives are to submit to husbands, so it’s worth looking at what the next part of that passage says about a husband’s responsibility to a wife. By the commenter’s reasoning, verses 22 to 24 mean a wife’s role is to submit to her husband as the church does to Christ, that is, since Christ is Lord over the church in all things so the husband is lord over the wife in all things.

The husband’s role isn’t limited to lordship, though, if that commenter is being intellectually honest about verses 25 to 27.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27.)

As those verses put it, the husband is to give himself up for his wife just as Christ did the church. Here is how Christ carried that out:

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8.)

The lordship commenter now needs to decide if he is ready to carry this out. Is he ready to die to save his wife in that very moment his wife is in rebellion against him and his lordship? And is he ready to do it in the most unglamourous, humiliating, and debasing manner possible, just as Jesus did for his people?

It doesn’t end there. Verses 25-27 also say that this is all tied in to the salvation Christ brings. So the lordship husband is not only ready to die a humiliating and perhaps unappreciated death for his wife, but also responsible for her salvation into holiness. If the lordship husband requires his wife to submit because his relationship to her is like Jesus’ relationship to the church, then he needs to go all the way in being Christ to his wife.

This turns the husband into a savior. That’s blasphemy.

Reading the Bible like an Ephesian

The Ephesians never would have read the passage the way. It’s not only because they would have been reading it correctly: as a passage using marriage to illustrate something greater rather it being a passage using the church and Christ as an illustration to govern something lesser. It’s also because they would have just read these earlier words from Paul in the same letter:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6.)

Wives – just like husbands and single women and single men and children and widows and widowers – have one hope, and it’s not in their husbands being their personal savior. It’s in the One Savior.

Jude honed in on this when he wrote:

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25.)

It is Christ – and Christ alone – who is our Lord and Savior who died for us all and presents us holy and without fault.

Which means that reading verses 25-27 as putting this responsibility on the husband is nonsense. And by the same rules of reading, it also means that using verses 22-24 to put on the wife a responsibility to be submissive to her husband because the church is submissive to Christ is nonsense too.*

But the next time someone tells you wives have to submit to their husbands because that’s what the church is supposed to do for Jesus, ask them if the husband is ready to do everything – every single thing – for his wife that Jesus did for his people. If not, the inconsistency is clear. If so, the blasphemy is clear.

Let’s all just submit to one another as Paul intended to advise. After all, that’s what he said in leading off the passage that extended not only to married couples, but also to parents and children and slaves and slave-owners.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21.)

That’s the way to relate to one another.

***

*How to read the passage as the Ephesians would have read it? That is a whole other blog post, and happily it has already been written by Marg Mowczko in Paul’s Main Point in Ephesians 5:22-33 where she explains the chiastic structure of the passage and how it would have been apparent to the original readers.

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Happy 5th Anniversary on the Blog!

And it all started five years ago today with a post called Risky Behavior. As one kind person commented, that first day was like throwing a blog-warming party. Here’s a look back on the past half decade.

Coming To This Place to Party Can Be A Bit Dicey

Some posts seem to be party central here. The ones that have gotten the most comments and traffic are:

  1. Being a responsible Bible reader even if a famous pastor says you should just take his word for it,
  2. Why I gave up on convincing atheists,
  3. A post on the fallacy of Biblical womanhood,
  4. Another on why women are better than ladies any day, and
  5. Why school shootings have not convinced me to carry a loaded weapon.

Who do I think I am to be writing on subjects as important as Scripture, firearms, gender politics and faith (or lack thereof)?

I’m just me, that’s who.

And that scares me when I stop to look at myself.

Many times we say that we give God all the glory for where we are, or what we have. But we are mere pretenders, publicly displaying modesty while secretly relishing the praise for ourselves. So cleverly deceptive in this art are we that we can convince even ourselves. (Aimee Byrd, Housewife Theologian, p. 234.)

Is there no hope for a blogger like me, one who is apt to relish the praise for myself (because, after all, if I don’t relish it who will)? Yes.

But we are more likely following our calling when we recognize our complete incompetence and utter dependence on God through Christ. … With my own materials and my own efforts, I only end up building the Tower of Babel, but if Jesus Christ has called me to be a part of what he is building, I have full confidence that “he who began a good work in [me] will complete it until the day of Christ.” (Id.)

What if?

This reminds me of the question “What if I threw a party and nobody came?” but I’d change it to “What if I threw a blog but nobody came?”

Doesn’t matter, that’s what if.

God is always with me. Can you come up with a better guest list for a party than that? Or a better list of readers than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Yet I still get caught up in numbers of readers and views and comments and likes and shares and …

  • “Why hasn’t anyone visited the post I wrote? No one has commented yet, and I published it a whole three and a half minutes ago!”
  • “Where have all the readers gone? This site was getting a ton of traffic earlier today. I wonder if people stopped reading just because it’s past midnight and most people decided to go to bed. Don’t they know that reading my blog is way more important than sleep?”
  • “Twitter, Facebook … Facebook, Twitter … where are people most likely to see my writing and then click to read it? Why can’t someone tell me?!”

Deep breath, deeeeeep breath. In fact, try the very Breath of Heaven, the Spirit of Christ himself. Because counting on acquiring things without counting on God is foolishness.

So let me count up what I’ve acquired with God these four years of blogging:

A better understanding of grace.

Several new friends who come by to visit and who I get to visit at their blogs.

The knowledge that God has used this year to show me (and others) who he is through my writing.

Thanks for coming to the party.

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30 Years Married – an anniversary post

[If today’s post gives you the impression I love my wife, you’re correct. Today is our 30th anniversary and to celebrate I am re-running this post that appeared on Valentine’s Day 2013.]

Valentine’s Day 1987

Our first Valentine’s Day was supposed to be a romantic affair. I planned a meal for just the two of us, something I would cook in my then-girlfriend’s kitchen and we could eat by candle light, gazing lovingly at each other. When I arrived around 5:00 that Saturday night to start with the pots and pans, though, I was met with a change of plans.

“A friend from out of town just called. He’s in Sacramento with a flat tire and doesn’t know his way around, and his spare is shot too. I told him I’d be there as soon as possible.”

“OK,” I said. “Let’s go.”

“You’re not mad?”

“Flat tires happen.”

So we drove into Sacramento and down to the south side, about a 25 minute trip. On the way, she filled me in that this was a guy she knew from Young Life leadership, and it turned out her phone number was one of the few he had in our area and she was the first person to answer when he called. I also got the impression that he originally called thinking she could put him up for the night while he tried to find a tire place that would be open the next day, a Sunday.

By the time we got there, he’d been able to contact another friend he could stay with. He apparently figured out that she had plans and he didn’t want to intrude any further. Still, he needed a ride to their place. It turned out that their place was all the way across town on the north side of Sacramento. Another half hour or so in the car and we were dropping him off at their door.

This left us even further from our starting point, and it was 45 minutes more before we got back. All together, with driving and talking and picking up and more driving and dropping off and driving still more, it was after 7:00 when we made it back to her place.

We got take-out for dinner.

Valentine’s Day 2013

My wife and I were watching television and a Hallmark commercial came on. You can bet that this time of year, their commercials are focusing on one thing and one thing only, Valentine’s Day. This one was no exception and it hit all the sappy sentiments imaginable: tell me you love me, tell me I’m beautiful, tell me we’ll grow old together, and more.

The commercial ended and I mimicked the first couple of the sentiments to my wife there on the couch: I love you. You’re beautiful.

She looked at me and asked about the third line, “We’re not going to grow old together?”

I laughed and said, “We’re already growing old together!”

Soon the commercial (Someone You Love Has Something They Need To Hear) came on again and I decided I’d go through the whole list for her this time. Why not? It would be a shame to waste a perfectly good sappy commercial.

I love you.

You’re beautiful.

We’ll grow old together …

… in sickness and in health.

You’re still the one.

I need you.

You’re my superhero.

I’ll never let you go.

I miss you.

The thing is, by the time I finished reciting this litany of sentiments to her there on the couch, I realized that I wasn’t just mimicking a sappy commercial. I meant each and every one of them, from the first I love you to the last I miss you.

I love her more now than I did on the day we married, and she is as beautiful to me now as ever.

Growing old together with her is a life’s dream of mine, and we’ve had our share of sickness and health and good times and hard times.

She is the one for me, and God knows that she is the one I need in so many ways. I figure that’s why he’s put us together.

My wife is my superhero, able to do things that I could never do.

I never do want to let her go, and miss her when we’re apart even when I’m just out running a quick errand and about to see her again.

Yes, each and every one of that sappy commercial’s sentiments has a place in my heart. I rejoice in my wife, who is a blessing from God every moment of my life.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

***

And Happy 30th Anniversary too.

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The Facts Are in the Questions – a look at courtrooms and faith

Getting the Preliminaries Right

I had no experience as a judge when I started. That’s to be expected. Becoming a judge is how one learns what it is like to be a judge. But I also had relatively little experience as a lawyer, having been an attorney less than eight years when I was appointed by the governor to the bench in 1995.

Me in 1995. I don’t look this young anymore.

And when it came to criminal law, I had no experience since my first year of law school when I took a semester of basic criminal law. So what assignment did I ask for when I took the bench? Criminal law. I figured if I messed up it would be put down to being the new guy.

A typical day for a judge in a criminal assignment includes the preliminary hearing. This is where the prosecution has to put on sufficient evidence to show that there is a reason – or probable cause – to go to trial. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but it’s up to the judge to make the call. The amount of evidence presented is almost always quite a bit less than would be presented at trial, sometimes only the arresting officer testifying about the circumstances leading to the arrest.

Of course, if a judge says the case can go to trial the standard there is much higher. Juries can – and do at times – find that the evidence does not prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. I remind the jurors at trial that the fact we are there for trial is not evidence that the person is guilty. They can rely only on the evidence presented at trial through witnesses and exhibits. It may or may not rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. So a person held over for trial by a judge after a preliminary hearing may very well be found not guilty by the jury at trial.

But back to the preliminary hearings, where the judge and jury have to follow the same process: make no conclusions until after all the evidence is in and you have an opportunity to deliberate on it. I found that when I started conducting preliminary hearings I would often think I knew exactly where things were going. I would have to remind myself to keep an open mind and wait for all the evidence because experience soon taught me that the direction of evidence could change dramatically from one point to another in the hearing.

It’s a lot like the advice private investigator Maisy Dobbs received from her mentor, Maurice Blanche:

“Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.” Maurice’s voice once again echoed in her mind. “As soon as you think you have the answer, you have closed the path and may miss vital new information. Wait awhile in the stillness, and do not rush to conclusions, no matter how uncomfortable the unknowing.” (Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs.)

It’s good not to rush to conclusions.

The Uncomfortable Unknowing

The uncomfortable unknowing can seem unbearable at times. In hearing a story, reading a book, or watching a movie we might say we’re on pins and needles. We  positively ache to know what will happen.

This comes in real life, too. Interviewing for a job, wondering how someone will respond to being asked out on a date (or wanting to be asked out), waiting for grades on final exams to be posted – everyone has experienced life’s repeated uncomfortable unknowing.

And it comes in faith as well. There is much we do not know, yet we’re told to live in faith anyway.

 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

A painting by Enrique Simonet, 1892, showing Jesus with his followers on the Mount of Olives (Wikipedia)

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. … Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 22:3-4, 42-44.)

As we wait we still experience the ache, the uncomfortableness, what Paul calls the “inward groaning.”

… we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:23-25.)

We should not reject this discomfort, but patiently experience it as a part of the path. It is the journey we are on with Jesus that leads to an eternal truth, the total redemption not only of our spirits but also our bodies in the new creation to come. After all, when Jesus says all he means all.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5.)

Write it down. It’s true.

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Men Need Women to Mentor Them at Work and in Ministry

[An archived post on work and ministry for Labor Day.]

When I graduated law school my mentor at the firm I worked at was a woman. When I got on the bench and had been a judge for a while, I mentored a woman who joined the court. Gender qualifications were meaningless both times.

Gavin Peacock at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood argues differently.

In the 1980s as a young Christian and professional footballer (that’s soccer to the uninformed!) I saw older players mentoring younger ones. One experienced star player took an interest in me. He encouraged and corrected my game, and he developed my character.

One of the great needs in the church today is for men to mentor other men in the things of God—a distinctly masculine mentoring in the face of a culture that does not value manhood. God designs the church to grow under the protection and provision of biblical men. But they will not simply appear. Men of God must cultivate men of God.

(The Desperate Need for the Mandate of Masculine Mentoring)*

Mr. Peacock’s call for mentoring is fine. His call for masculine mentoring is hogwash. It’s apparent in the aspects of mentoring he argues are essential:

  1. Presence
  2. Teaching and Testing
  3. Character and Example
  4. Wisdom and Patience

None of these are specifically masculine. The Bible shows women and men both being present in people’s lives, teaching, giving good examples, as well as being wise and patient.

Mr. Peacock then specifies two goals of mentoring: maturity and holiness. He insists that these are required in men so that the church does not suffer:

The need for masculine mentorship is desperate because a dearth of men is the death of a local church and the family. Men were made to take initiative and cultivate life and godliness in those under their care.

True manhood is cruciform loving leadership, like the true man, Jesus: who took initiative for God’s glory, and despite the shame, overcame sin, Satan, and death on the cross, rising again to give life and redeem masculinity itself.

This conclusion is the most troubling. He speaks of true manhood as being an emulation of Christ. Where does this leave women? It apparently leaves them not needing to grow in Christ’s likeness in those areas Mr. Peacock identifies as specifically pertaining to “redeemed masculinity”.

This leads to the astonishing conclusion (astonishing to anyone who has read the Bible) that there are supposedly aspects of Christ’s life that are thus irrelevant to women because only men are to emulate Jesus in these “masculine” endeavors. I imagine CBMW would deny this by saying all of Jesus’ life is relevant to women, just not directly. They’d say the relevance reaches women but only through men.

The problem with that assertion is that the Bible nowhere says “Jesus died so that men can do this and women can do that.” It does say that Jesus sets everyone free from the limitations that came by sin. (Hebrews 9:15.)

Everyone means everyone, women and men. Free means free, so that none of us are bound by sin’s limitations.

So where did Mr. Peacock get the idea he can place limitations on what it means to grow in Christ?

I think it’s his lack of experience. He was in a profession made up exclusively of men in his sports career, and he is now in a ministry where women are never allowed to lead men. Mr. Peacock has a narrow understanding of the Bible because his experience in life has been narrow as well.

There’s a way to fix that.

He needs a woman to mentor him.

***

*My thanks to Kathi Bonham for bringing Mr. Peackock’s post to my attention.

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The Color of Your Skin, Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, and the People of God

[Updated from the archives.]

This past Monday marked 54 years from the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his speech with the famous repeating line “I Have a Dream.”

March on Washington, 1963 (Wikipedia)

I was only three years old in 1963, so a personal memory is beyond me. But I remember the Civil Rights Movement that continued to unfold in the ’60s and ’70s. Voting rights, affirmative action, the unequal drafting of people of color into the military at the height of the Vietnam War – I remember all of these from the news, in the lives of families around me, and from the protests that often appeared on the street as we’d drive into San Francisco. You see lots of interesting things when you grow up fifteen minutes from the Haight-Ashbury District.

One thing I saw repeatedly in the High School I attended was a wide variety of skin colors. People went from the darkest hue to the palest pastiness imaginable. (Where did I fall on the spectrum? Let’s just say I firmly anchored the pasty end.) The high school band was a great place to see the variety, and when we held a band potluck fundraiser you were as likely to see lumpia and collard greens as enchiladas and a Jello salad.

My high school band in the early 70s, with my older sister on the far left of the top row. (Source)

Together we made a diverse table of food, much like our skin colors made for a diverse bunch of musicians.

Color and the People of God

The kingdom of God includes people from every nation, tribe and tongue. (Revelation 7:9.) It’s clear that membership in God’s kingdom under the New Covenant isn’t limited to people of one particular race or color. As Paul said:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28.)

This isn’t just a New Covenant phenomenon either. When some Old Covenant leaders tried to denigrate a woman just because she had different color skin, God put a stop to it immediately. (Numbers 12. More thoughts on that passage here.)

It’s clear, God does not deliver his love based on what color skin someone has.

Yet I think God loves color. After all, we certainly are a colorful bunch, we humans. There are innumerable shades from one person’s skin to the next. For that matter, there are shades aplenty just in looking at the skin on a single person’s body.

You want more proof that God loves color? Consider the lilies of the field, because as Jesus said they look more splendidly colored than any clothing we can create. (Matthew 6:28-29.) And God wants us to be creative in our use of color as well. When he instructed the Israelites on how to build the tent of meeting for their camp in the wilderness, he told them to bring yarns of many colors, die the animal hides red, and use a variety of colorful gem stones as well.

Color, then, seems to be very important to God.

Yes, God doesn’t look at the color of your skin in considering whether to bring you into his kingdom. Yet still he looks on the color of your skin … and does so with delight.

All those skin tones, colors and shades are precious to God. Even more so, the people wearing those tones, colors and shades are precious to him.

As Dr. King said:

Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering “I Have a Dream.” (Wikipedia)

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream that one day … little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

And when this happens … we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands … .

The point isn’t to erase color, but to erase the barriers that people put up based on color. God delights in all his children. Should you do any less when looking at the people he brings into your life each day?

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