Publication:Pastoral Letter, July 2018
Dear Friend in Christ:
We live in times when it seems that anger and vindictiveness are becoming social norms in many places. Its affecting families, friendships, neighbors, and even churches. Personal peace seems to be more elusive; stress and strife often lurk around the corner. Is there hope for America and other nations experiencing this? I believe so; let me share why.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed by Germany and the Allies (British Empire, France, United States, Italy, and others) on June 28, 1919, ending World War I. The treaty placed all of the blame on the loser, Germany, and sorely penalized them politically, economically, and militarily. Germany was under an impossible debt and in a desperate leadership vacuum. Their resources had been stripped away.
Then, one of the darkest figures in history emerged, Adolph Hitler, and eventually World War II and the Holocaust followed. Was Germany responsible? Were they to blame? In a major part, yes. But did blame solve the problem or make it worse? The second war was worse than the first. After World War II, the Allies acted differently. They helped to restore, rather than blame Germany, which now has the strongest economy in Europe and is an ally to the other nations, instead of a bitter enemy.
The destruction of World War II that was caused in part by blame, does not end at World Wars. It goes down to the personal level, individual lives, families, businesses, communities, and even nations. It is having a serious affect upon our nation, a house divided and polarized.
Blame is the assigning of guilt and often leads to condemnation, anger, and strife. Is there fault, responsibility, and the need for justice? Yes, of course. But outside of our judicial system how should we as believers handle disagreements in a way that doesn’t lead to further conflict?
Blame is Satan’s wrecking ball of destruction that brings polarization, anger, and strife. He is the “Accuser of the Brethren.” This is the tool that destroys lives, marriages, churches, communities, and nations. The question is not “Is it justified?” The question is, “Does it work?” It works for the Devil but do we really want to help him? It did not work for our first parents, Adam and Eve, and it has not since.
When blame is placed upon someone, the “Blamers” get to feel better about themselves. “It is not my fault!” Shame is transferred and pride takes its place. The shamed are tempted by anger, resentment, retribution, and other issues. The enemy of our souls works both sides.
A terrible example of this evil process is the U.S. Civil War (which was brutally uncivil). Over 500,000 of our finest were slaughtered. All races and classes suffered. Then came the “Klan”, another corporate Hitler. The spirit of polarization and blame still lives among us. Was there cause for all of the bloodshed and anger in the Civil War? Of course there was. Was there guilt? Sure there was! Did that war solve all of our divisions? I think not. It would have been wonderful if costs were considered prior to action and better solutions had been revealed. Sometimes that seems impossible, but is it?
Remember when Jesus walked in Israel? Israel was dominated by Rome and a Roman soldier could demand an Israeli to carry his load for a mile. Jesus said, “Carry it two miles” (see Matthew 5:38-48). In fact, the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) seemed like a fantasy to most Israelis; they didn’t get it and many of us still do not. The second mile? We should review what happened to Israel as a result of not getting it. It could happen to us.
Jesus was and is not an accuser; He is a forgiver and teaches us to do so (see Matthew 18:21-22). The scriptures are full of instructions to forgive (see Matthew 6:14-15; Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:31-32). Jesus ties His forgiveness to how we forgive others (see Matthew 6:12-13). And I believe that He ties our forgiveness of others to our not being tempted and, ultimately, deliverance from the evil one.
Jesus went beyond forgiveness to take our guilt upon Himself (see Isaiah 53). The innocent suffered for the guilty in order to redeem the guilty. Those who embrace what He did for them will confess their own fault, and confess their faith in Him, get a clean slate, and even are counted as righteous before God! God shows us that blame does not work but grace and faith do (see Psalm 130:1-4).
Even on the Cross, Jesus preached when He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” His act was perfectly consistent with the nature of His life and teaching—and the very nature of God. If you want to know how Jesus felt toward sinners, consider His treatment of the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11). If you want to know what He thought of unforgiveness, read the story of the man who was forgiven much, but then refused to forgive a man who owed him little (see Matthew 18:21-35).
Interestingly, when the woman was caught in adultery, it was the religious leaders who picked up stones; but Jesus, the innocent, stood up for her, the guilty. Polarization doesn’t work; grace does. So, is there a way out of the blame game? Is there the possibility of forgiveness and redemption? Are there eternal as well as earthly rewards if we “get it?” Yes there is, if…
If We Care
Before we blame, we should ask ourselves, do I care about this person? Is what I say going to help them? It’s true that some people want to harm but they will have to live with the results. Winning teams, winning companies, and winning churches don’t blame. They own it together. They encourage, give hope, and learn from errors. Care creates a redemptive culture.
If We Are Seekers
Problems and failures will either drive us to blame or to seek answers. They will cause us to divide and destroy or unite and prosper. They will cause us to criticize or empathize. If we empathize with those in trouble, we will seek answers that bless both us and them.
Adventurers, scientists, and good athletes are not satisfied with what they already know; they are curious, driven to make things better. Real Christians are seekers. We owe our blessings and comforts to yesterday’s seekers. The future will reveal if those of us now are truly seekers. Seekers ask why? How? Why not? They are always disturbing the status quo and moving forward.
If We Develop a Strategy
Good results are not luck; they happen by intention and purposeful action. Owning our errors, sins, and shortcomings is a start, but the past is not for living in; it is for learning from. I suggest finding friends who have moved beyond their past to help us move beyond ours and learn from the strategies that they employ. Even more, I suggest a lot of prayer and listening. The best strategies are revealed—epiphanies. The best ideas come from the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
If We Actually Do It
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Did you ever think about doing something and later think you did it?—but actually didn’t do it? I have. Thinking and doing are not the same.
The teacher asked the class, “Five frogs were on a log and three decided to jump. How many were left?” “Two!” They answered. “No. Five!” She said, “Deciding to jump is not the same as jumping.” Too many “frogs” are still on logs. Good strategy not acted upon is no good. Even prayer will not make it good if we do not act upon it.
Many years ago, I was with a group of leaders and we had prayed about a plan of action, and believed that God had answered. As we were closing the meeting, one person spoke up and said, “Let’s ask the Lord that we will follow through.” I refused and some were perplexed at my refusal. I responded, “God gave the plan, we give the action.” There are too many prayers about what we should already be doing. Yes, we need God’s help, but there is no help until we act. When military commanders give orders the troops don’t say “OK, I’ll pray about it.” Jesus is the Lord of armies.
If Results Motivate Us
The future comes quicker than we think. Do we want a good one? What kind of eternity do we want? Now is the time to ask those questions. Life can get better if …
The Bible offers thousands of promises. Jesus taught us what makes Heaven, and how we can enjoy some of it on earth— “As it is in Heaven.” We use to sing a little song: “Every promise in the book is mine, every chapter every verse every line, O I’m trusting in His Word divine, every promise in the book is mine.”
I believe that God loves us and that is what motivates Him. He wants better for us, sent His Son, gave His Word, and sent His Spirit to help us enter His promises and rewards. But if we want to reap, we have to sow. If we want more, we must be faithful with what we have. If we want mercy, we must give it. And if we don’t want blame or condemnation, we must not give it or we will reap what we sow. We need to stop blaming and start repenting. But what if blame comes your way?
If You Get Blamed
I have been controversial most of my life, in school, college, seminary, and especially in ministry. If I were to write my life story—which I will not—I would title it, “I Didn’t Mean to Cause Trouble.” I became a “Charismatic Southern Baptist” in 1964, and I traveled the world telling my story. Soon after, I began to teach “Covenant” soon after and “Discipleship.” Some very good things happened and some not so good. I got blamed. I was told by a great man, “Charles, you are too defensive!” Who me? Yes, I am afraid so.
Is there ever a time to stand and fight? Yes there is, but that is for another letter. For now, let me say that we will not need to fight so often if we remove the blame from our lives. I do pray that we can learn together how to do it better—family, relationships, community, forgiveness, our mission and life itself. So, here’s to that!
Thank you so much for standing with us in prayer, in giving, in friendship, and so many other ways. This has been a wonderful, but intense year thus far. Our May CSM Gatlinburg Leadership Conference focusing on “Celebrating the Goodness of God” was one of the best we’ve ever enjoyed. We have already set the dates for next year: May 14-16, 2019 in beautiful Gatlinburg. Keep watching our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook Page and @CSMinPublishing on Twitter for more details. Of course, we will have updates in our monthly Pastoral Letters and at CSMPUBLISHING.COM.
In this season, we have seen many wonderful miracles, including healing. We have also seen some dear friends graduate from this life into Heaven. This has been a season of tears, and also laughter, but in all things, its a time of great grace. Please continue to remember us in your prayers and in your budget as we serve the people that God has called us to serve, across North and Central America, and all around the world.
We love you and thank God for you!
Scripture references: MATTHEW 5:38-48; MATTHEW CHAPTERS 5-7; MATTHEW 6:14-15; COLOSSIANS 3:13; EPHESIANS 4:3132; MATTHEW 6:12-13; ISAIAH 53; PSALM 130:1-4; JOHN 8:1-11; MATTHEW 18:21-35