Tag Archives: Russia

When Putin Prays

This week, Russian President, Vladimir Putin shocked many by praying for America because of our moral degradation. So I started to write an article to thank him and to scold American Christians for our backsliding. There’s just one problem – Putin.

I simply can’t line up with those who are congratulating him. This is a man who is guilty of severe human rights violations. And the country he leads is responsible for promoting atheism, trying to stamp out religion, brutally murdering over 200,000 clergy and believers, and destroying over 40,000 churches, mosques, and synagogues. In light of his actions, his offer of prayer seems shallow and political.

But it did remind me of something I wanted to do a long time ago.

Once upon a time, I wanted to write an article called, “In Defense of the Pharisees.” Then I remembered that Jesus called them a “brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs.” So I came to my senses. But I am convinced that there was a time when the Pharisees had the right motivation.

You see, the Pharisee sect arose out of difficult circumstances. The Greeks were practicing Hellenization, (forcing every culture to accept Greek language, customs, and religion). And those who stood firm on God’s laws became known as the Pharisees. But their respect for the law soon grew into something vile.

Fast forward to today, Christians. After all, history should be used for our learning, and there is a huge WARNING sign posted: don’t be like the hypocrites!

Jesus confirmed that the teaching of the Pharisees should be followed carefully, but not their lives (MT 23:3). In other words, what we are teaching Biblically might be correct, and it should be followed. But there might be one big hindrance to people hearing God’s Word…us!

Will we avoid the hypocrisy of a Putin or the Pharisees? Paul reminds us that people are saved when we watch our teaching and our lives (1 Timothy 4:16). And if we do so, perhaps people will, once again, desire to ask us the reason for the hope we have within us (1 Peter 3:15).

Perfect Asylum

In a bizarre, live version of “where’s Waldo,” the world has been following Edward Snowden’s travel itinerary with great interest. If you aren’t aware, Snowden was a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He leaked information about top-secret surveillance programs to the press, and was charged with espionage and theft. Snowden sees himself as a hero, but the government sees him as a fugitive and wants him brought to justice. The problem, though, is getting to him before he gets to one of the countries that has offered him asylum.

Asylum is an old idea. In fact, in the bible (Joshua 20), there were 6 “cities of refuge” that carried with them the idea of asylum. In those days, if someone had murdered another person, their blood relative might become an “avenger of blood” and try to bring that person to justice. However, if the death was accidental, and the fugitive could make it to one of the cities of refuge, they could call upon the leaders of that city to help them.

Of course, a lot has changed in the world of refuge. The real purpose of asylum in scripture was to make sure the accused had a fair trial. In the bible, the one who was fleeing had to stand trial and receive asylum (if innocent) or punishment (if guilty). Today, asylum seems to be a way to avoid justice. Today’s “cities of refuge” seem to be China, Russia, and now Venezuela.

Nevertheless, there is only one true place of refuge.  I thank God that, in Christ, we have a refuge far greater than a city or country! If you want to have your sins washed clean, there is only one way to do so – become a child of God and live in His refuge. It is unclear how history will judge Snowden, but each of us will stand before the judgment seat in order to be judged for the deeds we have done in the flesh. Those who are in Christ will have protection because we are covered by one in whom there was no sin. Perfect asylum!