[forthright] Children of the Lord

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 05 Feb 2011 07:09:00 -0200
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: FIELD NOTES

Children of the Lord
 by Michael E. Brooks

  "You are the children of the Lord your
  God; you shall not cut yourselves nor
  shave the front of your head for the dead.
  For you are a holy people to the Lord your
  God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a
  people for himself, a special treasure
  above all the peoples who are on the face
  of the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:1-2 NKJV).

There are in extreme eastern Nepal a number of refugee
encampments where over a quarter million people have
lived for decades. The inhabitants of these camps are
ethnic Nepalis who had lived for generations in the
small mountain kingdom of Bhutan, just north and east
of Nepal. They departed Bhutan because laws were
passed which forbade their wearing of traditional
Nepali dress and practicing other cultural traditions.

The refugees feel that they are persecuted and treated
unfairly. The Bhutanese, however, explain, "We have
watched small independent countries around us become
filled with immigrants from other countries (notably
India) and eventually when the immigrants outnumbered
the original population, they voted to renounce
independence and become a state of India. The citizens
of the original country lost their nation. We do not
intend to allow that to happen to us."

Understand that I do not know enough about the history
and details of this situation to have an opinion on
who is right, or whether Bhutan's treatment of the
Nepalis within her borders was justified. One may have
much sympathy with both sides. But this situation
illustrates perfectly an important Biblical principle,
one taught in the verse cited above.

God's laws are not arbitrary. They are designed to
produce and maintain a distinctive people, one
belonging to God and taking on his nature. Moses makes
it clear that even cultural practices, such as how one
mourns the dead, may be significant in preserving
one's identity.

God's people are different. Just as the true God is
much different from any idol or deity conceived by
man, so those whom he takes as his own must be
distinctive. Christians live differently from those in
the world around them. They act differently, talk
differently, think differently, and worship
differently. There is great distinction in their
dress, their relationships, their attitudes, their
goals, and their dreams.

As Israel demonstrated many times, over the centuries
between Moses and Christ, when one fails to maintain
distinctive behavior, one loses all other important
distinctions which define his identity. Idolatrous
Israel after the reign of Jeroboam I was
indistinguishable from the Canaanite tribes. Both
groups worshiped Baal and other idols. Both groups
practiced religious prostitution. Both groups dressed,
spoke, thought, and acted in essentially the same
ways. Though Israel gave lip service to its
traditional identity as the people of God, their
profession of faith in him meant nothing.

Tragically, we see the same principle in action today.
Moderns claiming to be Christians are often virtually
identical to unbelievers in speech, entertainment
choices, dress, ethical behavior, and moral decisions.
They accept sin in their own lives and that of others
as natural and inoffensive. They expect God to
accommodate their culture, to accept the thinking and
choices of a worldly society.

The Bible is plain. God has called his people out of
the world (2 Corinthians 6:17). Jesus stated that his
disciples would be so separated from the world as to
cause the world to hate them (John 15:9). This is not
a separation of space (isolation) but rather one of
kind and nature.

We must follow God's law diligently for at least two
reasons. One is to establish that separation from sin
and unbelief. That is, we obey his laws to become
different, to gain our identity as God's special
people.

The other reason is to demonstrate our true nature as
that people. Moses said to Israel that they would act
differently from the nations around them because of
who they were. If we are God's people, our nature
reflects that of God himself.

We are different from others, therefore we live
differently. It is just that simple.

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