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The Bible Never Says All Men Are Created Equal

How the New Testament offers a better, higher calling than the Declaration of Independence.

An Anglican man rang me out of the blue the other day to ask if the New Testament teaches “equality.” “Not really,” I replied. “The New Testament mentions equality once or twice, but when it comes to social relationships, it is far more interested in concepts like oneness, commonness, partnership, union, and joint-inheritance. If you make all those passages about equality, you flatten their meaning. And in any case, it’s become a blunderbuss word that means everything and nothing.”

Considering the history of the past 50 years, let alone the last 2,000, it might seem unwise to dismiss “equality” so casually. Thankfully, the New Testament presents a better, higher vision.

Two New Testament texts explicitly mention isots, the Greek word for equality, proportionality, or fairness. In 2 Corinthians 8:13–14, Paul urges the church in Corinth to give generously to the Jerusalem church, “that there might be equality.” And in Colossians 4:1, he tells masters to grant their slaves “what is right and fair.”

Most of the famous “equality” passages use quite different language. Galatians 3:28 doesn’t say that there is no Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female because we are all equal, but because we “are all one in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:11 doesn’t talk about equality between barbarians and Scythians, but rather asserts that “Christ is all, and is in all.” Ephesians 3:6 doesn’t say that Gentiles are now equal with Jews, but rather that we are now “heirs together.” Ephesians 6:9 doesn’t talk about equality between slaves and masters, but rather that both have the same Master ...

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British Government Affirms Christmas at Work

New report details when workers' faith expression is protected and when it can get them fired.

British officials are encouraging the country to put Christ back in Christmas—even in their workplaces.

“There are a lot of myths out there when it comes to dealing with religion at work. I want to put the record straight: It is OK to hold a party and send Christmas cards,” said David Isaac, chairman of the national Equality and Human Rights Commission.

This week, Christians and politicians alike welcomed Isaac’s assurance following the growing prevalence of more generic terminology in public and office celebrations, such as “season’s greetings” and “Winterval.”

“We have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of,” Prime Minister Theresa May responded. “We all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith and also feel able to speak quite freely about Christmas.”

The equality commission also released Friday a new report on anti-discrimination law for British workplaces. The report assessed current government policies, finding mostly reasonable, balanced guidelines for religious expression in the workplace—though employers don’t always follow them.

The assessment highlighted examples of Christian employees who were wrongfully discriminated against at work, including a daycare worker fired for responding to a question about homosexuality and a British Airways employee banned from wearing a cross necklace at the check-in desk. The report concluded that courts rightly ruled in their favor and against their employers.

In other cases, including a local government employee who used her work account to send emails ...

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The Crown: Balancing Family and Calling Is a Royal Pain

The Netflix series focuses on the pressure around the monarchs marriage.

I recall sitting with my mother in my childhood living room and watching Diana Spencer—about to be Princess Diana—walk slowly down the aisle toward the altar and her prince. The year was 1981, and despite my tender age, the princess fantasy did not take hold. Nor did I become a “royals watcher”… at least not until Netflix released its Queen Elizabeth II bio series, The Crown, earlier this month.

Why the change of heart? Maybe it was the promise of seeing Elizabeth, now the longest-reigning monarch in British history, as a young woman. Maybe it was the heady feminist air as the series debuted, just days before the US—it seemed—might elect its first female president. For others, maybe a love for British period dramas is enough to pull them in.

Since I’ve been aware of the royal family, of course, but not particularly interested before, the effect of the series has been something like moving a piece of furniture in your grandparents’ house only to find that behind that bookcase, the wallpaper you’d taken for granted your whole upbringing had at one time been far more bold and colorful than you’d ever realized. It’s enough to make you question the assumptions you’ve made about what sort of stories the walls would tell if they could talk.

The Crown attempts to tell those almost forgotten bits of the queen’s life that transpired before she ascended the throne and took on a relentlessly public life for the next 64 years. It begins with her marriage to Prince Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947 and is chiefly concerned with Elizabeth’s life during her 20s, including her coronation at a mere 25 years old and finding her footing with ...

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Scarlet Hope

Louisville-based ministry shares the love of Jesus with women in the adult entertainment industry

I had been loving and serving dancers in strip clubs for several years when my teammates and I decided to do something special. While we usually just did hair and makeup, on this particular night we decided we would give the dancers pedicures.

We were given our usual greeting as we walked into the club and began setting up in our usual spot near the back of the stage. “The Church Ladies are here!” While we have never called ourselves “Church Ladies,” and, in fact, don’t come from one particular church, for nearly ten years our ministry of Jesus-loving women who go into more than a dozen strip clubs around Louisville every week have been dubbed “the Church Ladies.”

“Is your mom feeling better? I’ve been praying for her this week.”

“How did your husband’s interview go?”

After catching up with the dancers, many of whom we’d grown very close to, we began setting up. We had heated up water in a kettle before we left the house so that when we poured it into our basin it was the perfect temperature for a relaxing foot soak. Then we set out our different nail polishes and the dancers excitedly began picking out their favorite shades of reds and pinks.

In between dances, the women would take turns getting pedicures. My teammate and I loved it; it was the perfect way to serve and love the dancers while also getting the opportunity to talk with them and cultivate relationships that we worked so hard each week to form.

After a couple of hours, we were about to pack up when I saw a woman glancing at us from the corner of the room. I felt the Lord urging me to go over and talk to her, so I walked over and said, “I think I’ve got just enough hot water ...

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News: Why Many Colombian Protestants Opposed Peace with FARC Fighters

Three seminary leaders explain how believers balanced justice vs. grace.

The longest-running conflict in the Western Hemisphere finally came to an end yesterday, after Colombia’s congress approved a peace deal with its largest guerrilla group.

However, in order to do so, lawmakers skipped over Colombian voters, who last month narrowly rejected a similar peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The government has been battling the FARC since 1964, when a group of poor farmers and workers took up arms to resist inequality.

Half a century later, voters in October rejected the measure by the smallest of margins: 49.78 percent voted Yes to peace, while 50.21 percent voted No.

Faced with the choice of peace or justice, many Colombians objected to the government’s willingness to let most FARC soldiers walk free or reduce their sentences. And some evangelical leaders, sensitive to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage, spoke out against the deal’s “gender theory” language among other concerns.

While not all evangelicals voted against the measure, they were widely credited with turning the vote.

The strength of the evangelical vote was surprising in the Latin American country, where 80 percent of the population is still Catholic. It suggests Colombia is joining the rest of the region in the growing numbers—and growing influence—of Protestants.

More evidence of that: The first phone call President Juan Manuel Santos made after the failed referendum was to evangelical pastors, noted Rebecca C. Bartel in a thorough analysis for The Immanent Frame. Santos then met with 14 of them.

“The message was clear: Evangelical Christianity is no longer a fringe movement of Pentecostal garage churches,” wrote Bartel, a religious studies professor ...

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Pastors, Your Sermons Do Matter If You Want To See People Come To Trust Jesus

Every preacher at some point has experienced the painful vulnerability of baring their soul.

For my wife and I, it’s a joy being Lucero’s pastor.

A young, intelligent, and enjoyable mother of an exuberant boy, Lucero has recently abandoned herself fully into the arms of Jesus, a true testament of the gospel’s power to transform hearts from darkness to light.

A few weeks ago she was telling me about her life before Jesus. “Tell me,” I asked, “what happened that finally made you trust your whole life into God’s hands?” (I never get enough of hearing the stories that flow in answer to that question.) Her response, however, took me aback.

“It was you!” she promptly answered. Puzzled, I simply waited for her to continue. Surely, I must have heard wrong. I don’t recall ever having a deep conversation about spiritual matters with her before. She continued:

Yeah. It was you. That Sunday you were preaching from Genesis about how when Jacob was returning to Canaan he had a choice to come back home with God or without God at the center of his life. Then you made a passionate call. You had tears in your eyes. You truly believed that this would be the most important decision that anyone hearing you could ever make … At that moment, I knew! I just knew God was speaking to me. I didn’t ever want to go back to my regular life without God in control. All I could do was surrender my life to Christ. And that was the day I crossed from death to life.

Silence. Shock. Puzzlement. That was my response to Lucero’s testimony.

How could such an amazing life transformation happen, just like that? I didn’t know. She hadn’t told me. The only reason this conversation came up is because she was about to get baptized.

This is a repeated story. The mystery ...

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Sibling Rivalry: From Childhood to the Church

Will they—or will we—ever stop fighting?

“Stop it! Don’t touch me!”

“She started it.”

“No, I didn—”

“Yes! You! Did!”

In our Christian subculture, the words “brother” and “sister” tend to conjure up feelings of kinship, intimacy, and loyalty. This made sense to me once. But then I became a parent.

My children—aged 12, 10, and 7—are not unlike most siblings. They have their “We Are the World” moments: those times that melt a parent’s heart and reassure us that there is hope for the future of humanity. Unfortunately, these moments are interrupted by equally frequent moments of rage, selfishness, and aggression. At times, it feels like the majority of my parenting is devoted to brokering peace between warring parties.

Psychology offers us myriad explanations for sibling behavior—everything from birth order to the need to differentiate oneself from the other members of the family. Sometimes this can create a dynamic that an older granny in my church calls “pick and pluck”: that kind of bickering and agitation that seems to exist for the sheer sake of existing. As frustrating as it can be, though, the task of parenting through sibling conflict has changed how I read the New Testament. It’s also changed what I expect as normal from the church.

Brothers and Sisters

Despite the fact that our everyday experiences teach us otherwise, we’re often tempted to sentimentalize family relationships, including the relationships between brothers and sisters. Television series like Parenthood and this year’s breakout hit This Is Us tap into our longing, not only for parental acceptance, but also for that unique bond that forms horizontally between ...

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How Fidel Castro's Death Will Affect Cuba's Christian Revival

It won't. And that's (mostly) a good thing.

The remains of Fidel Castro are being displayed in Havana as part of Cuba’s nine days of official mourning for the deceased dictator. Many world leaders will not attend the funeral next week for the man who raised literacy rates but kept a rigid grasp on civil rights.

For Cuban Christians, his death isn’t likely to be a sea change in how the island nation’s Communist government approaches religion.

Like most Cubans, Castro himself was raised Catholic, educated by Jesuit priests as a child. He rejected his faith during the 1959 revolution, after the church rejected his movement toward atheism and socialism. Priests were killed and deported, while Christians (and other groups) were discriminated against and banned from joining the Communist Party.

But Castro—and his brother, current ruler Raúl—softened with time. Some credit the Catholic Church and its popes with influencing Cuba’s slow turn from Marxism.

They were also good for religious holidays. Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1998; the next day, Castro reinstated Christmas. In 2012, Pope Benedict visited; soon after, the government allowed Good Friday observances.

This year, Cuba was the site of a historic step toward religious reconciliation: Pope Francis sat down with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana in the first meeting between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox heavyweights since the Christian church split into West and East in 1054.

Even though Castro’s last writings recalled the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark, and God’s provision of manna, the level of his faith remains a mystery, reported Crux.

Despite the tension between church and state in Cuba, Christianity there has been undergoing ...

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News: Why Two Tombs Compete for Jesus' Burial

Historic renovations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre won't change some Protestants' preference for the Garden Tomb.

Beneath layers of ancient marble, renovators at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem say they have found what may be the limestone bench where the body of Jesus was laid after his crucifixion.

For the first time in half a millennium, church officials have allowed access to a tomb even more famous than that of “King Tut,” the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.

However, they can’t say for sure that it is the right tomb.

The official purpose of the historic project is to rebuild the Edicule, the shrine in the middle of the church rotunda which encloses the tomb. Built in the early 19th century over previous constructions, the shrine was in danger of collapse and barely held together by iron girders added decades later.

Beginning October 26 and working nonstop for 60 hours, a team from the National Technical University of Athens removed marble coverings and layers of fill and debris, before finally reaching the revered limestone level at the base of the tomb. They also discovered, surprisingly, that the limestone walls of the tomb were somewhat intact beneath the layer of marble.

“We can’t say 100 percent, but it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time—something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades,” said Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence for National Geographic, which documented the discovery.

But why is this tomb revered, and not one of the other tombs archaeologists have found in the area, which was a quarry before it was converted to a burial place in the first century?

The tradition associated with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre goes back to the fourth century when Helena, the Christian mother of the emperor ...

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Thriving at the Edges of the World

E. Stanley Jones calls us to radical conservatism and a conservative radicalism.

The edges of the world capture our attention. Think of frontiers such as the frozen mountains of Antarctica, the Australian outback, or the Amazon jungle. They are places of great opportunity and, at the same time, filled with unknown threats.

As Americans, we have long been cast in the mold of the pioneer, thriving at the edges. Think of Benjamin Franklin creating the first public library, the Wright brothers taking flight, or innovators such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs bringing us into the digital age. The interesting thing about the pioneering spirit is that it is equally conservative and progressive in its outlook. “How so?” you say.

Well, first let’s define these terms (as delivered by Google):

Progressive: a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.

Conservative: a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.

With these definitions in mind, think about pioneers in innumerable fields who innovated in creative ways. Their drive to come up with new solutions required innovation and progressive approaches. Yet, at the same time, they innovated to conserve their independence, values, and the opportunity to determine their own destiny.

I am sure that not every pioneer felt drawn to each perspective equally, but they both needed to be present to thrive on the edges of the world. It was not possible to affirm only one way of thinking. It was the combination of these two perspectives that made thriving possible. The progressive perspective kept them moving forward into new possibilities, and the conservative perspective kept them grounded in their values. Together, both of these perspectives made these innovators a ...

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Im Trying to Forgive Fidel Castro

As the daughter of a Cuban refugee, I feel torn between hate and grace.

Last Friday, Fidel Castro passed away. World leaders have responded with a variety of statements. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement about Castro’s death that praised Castro’s love for the Cuban people. President Obama’s statement was somewhat neutral and, instead of condemning Castro’s actions, focused on restoring the relationship between Cuba and the United States. President-elect Donald Trump issued the most scathing—and dare I say most truthful—statement, saying, “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty, and the denial of fundamental human rights.”

As a first-generation Cuban American and a Christian, my response has come in the form of a question: How do I respond to the death of a man whom I was taught to hate for so long?

When I was a kid, every night before bed, my dad would tell my little sister and me dramatic stories from his life—how he was blacklisted; how he escaped the island; how he settled as a political refugee in the United States. What every story had in common was Castro, the villainous dictator. He was the man who turned their island paradise into a totalitarian hell where personal freedom was hard to come by and everyone but the politically powerful struggled to have enough to eat. We abhorred Castro and joked about how someone with such a lovely name—Fidel means “faithful” in Spanish—could betray his country and kill thousands. Our bedtime ritual was like the Jewish custom at Purim: During the reading of the story of Esther, the mention of Haman’s name brings boos and hisses. There was no room in my heart for Castro’s redemption, so much ...

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