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Letter From America: "The Test"

Ronnie Bray tells why he will not forward a despicable "Test'' which is going the e-mail rounds.

There is an e-mail called, "The Test," that supposedly tells of an event staged to determine which members of a congregation were Christians and which were hypocrites. The e-mail says that 86% - another version has 99% - won’t pass it on. I stand with the 99% that won’t, and here’s why!

"The Test" was administered one Sunday morning during worship service when a couple of men dressed in black and shouting wildly like terrorists, burst in and threatened the congregation with assault rifles, asking, "Who’s ready to take a bullet for Jesus?"

A handful put up their hands to be slaughtered ‘for Jesus." One of the bullies said, "The rest of you head out or you’ll get a bullet too!" It is told that most of the congregation fled.

Then one terrorist said, "Alright, pastor. We’ve got rid of the hypocrites, now you can carry on with your service!"

The e-mail asks the reader, "Would you have taken a bullet, or would you have run away like the hypocrites?"

When I first read that I knew that "The Test" was not godly, and here's why. The invitation to be saved and enter heaven is not just directed to those brave enough to let violent idiots shoot them ‘for Jesus.’ ‘Hypocrites’ are seldom bad, but are frequently weak. Yet, weakness is not sinful, and Church is not reserved for non-hypocrites, and here's why.

God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the wise. When a person turns to Christ he or she is not made immediately perfect. Perfection is required [Matthew 5:49], but perfection is a process that will not be completed here on earth. We will take a closer look at three of the so-called hypocrites that left the church that morning.

Cissie Peterson sings alto in the choir. Her voice isn't as good as it was twenty years ago, but she loves to sing and praise God from the choir pews. She is a good Christian lady that has spent the last forty-seven years looking after her husband who was stricken with a debilitating disease that robs him of many physical and most of his mental functions.

Cissie loved George and has taken care of him with very little respite for almost thirty years. The only time she is away from him is on those Sunday mornings when the choir has been asked to sing in the worship service.

Cissie saw the men, and although she wasn't afraid to take ‘a bullet for Jesus,’ she thought of her dependent husband at home on his ventilator, knowing that unless she was back there in 25 minutes he ran the risk of dying from asphyxia, and so she ran.

She ran as fast as her arthritic legs could carry her. She ran so fast that she injured her knee and spent the rest of her life hobbling around on a walker or leaning on the furniture. When she learned she had been the victim of a cruel trick, she readily forgave the misguided terrorists, and cared for her husband until the day he died. She died ten days later of a broken heart.

Which one of you will cast the first label "Hypocrite" at Cissie? Don’t look at me, because I won't!

Another ‘hypocrite,’ according to the villainous author of this abysmal piece, was Alfredo Ruiz, a young man with Downs Syndrome who enjoyed singing in the choir and never missed a Sunday unless he was too ill to attend. Alfredo’s mother was a widow, a shut-in, that only got out when the weather was good and her son could push her wheelchair along the street into the park to watch the children playing, and to enjoy the flowers and birdsong.

Alfredo was a Christian and he would he happy to ‘take a bullet for Jesus.’ But, if he did, what would happen to his mother? Who would take her to the park and sing lullabies to her when she could not sleep? He knew that he had to remain alive to look after her, and so he ran home.

Who will call Alfredo a hypocrite? Will you? I won’t!

Then there was a deaconess whose name is Jean Barlow. Jean was in her fifties and ran a private rescue shelter for neglected and abused animals. Her attention to the animals was costly and most of her limited financial means went on veterinarian bills and food for those creatures she nursed back to health before finding good homes for them.

Jean had been a life-long Christian raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord by her parents in a small town. Since she was a small child she had loved and cared for animals, and had devoted her life to their welfare. Some folks around town thought that she was crazy and said so. Jean understood that she must have seemed that way to them and took it without taking offence.

Her devotion to her Christian faith marked her out as a go-to person whenever any of God’s creatures were in need of any kind of help, whether four-footed or human. She had almost as many needy and downhearted people knock on her door that doubt had enclosed or else danger threatened.

She was always available to render what assistance she could in such a kind way that she was trusted with the closest secrets of their hearts and never failed to provide aid and counsel.

When the ‘hypocrite classifiers’ burst into the church that Sunday morning, Jean heard their barked instructions, looked into the muzzles of their deadly AK47s and immediately thought of the sick animals at home. Slowly, deliberately, unafraid and with her head held high she walked past the aggressive incursors and went home to tend her charges.

Would you call Deaconess Barlow an hypocrite? You can. I cannot!

Jean Barlow died soon afterwards of heart failure. No one knew that she had a troubled heart because all they could see of her heart was its undeviating goodness. If she knew about her sick heart she never spoke of it, for her calling was to serve others, not to be served.

I now address those responsible for this e-mail directly, including those that foolishly and unthinkingly contribute to its continuation by forwarding it because they think it sums up the Christian message. It doesn’t, and here’s why.

In the first place, there is no such test for Christians in all the pages of holy writ. The direct message from the pages of the Holy Bible, whether from Almighty God, Jesus Christ, or from inspired writers is that whilst the faithful will love God and Christ to the extent that they will readily surrender their lives should need arise, their highest calling is to live for God and Christ, and to spend their lives serving them, and serving those in need.

There is no call to die to prove one’s attachment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, although many have suffered martyrdom at the hands of impious authorities because they refused to subordinate their fealty to God to less worthy objectives.

Secondly, there is no provision in sacred scripture for Christian leaders or followers to set tests to determine an individual’s commitment to the Christian faith. Christians are commissioned to express their faith and let their lives prove their professions of faith in Christ are sincere. Any that seeks to impose a life or death test has overstepped the limits of human decency, and cancelled divine requirements, replacing them with their own petty rules.

Thirdly, the terrorists, for such they are, by judging those that exited the church as hypocrites assumed a power and position that God has reserved unto Himself and to Jesus Christ. They shoved God off His judgement seat and presume to speak as if they were God, and to condemn those whose hearts they did not know.

It is evident from their conduct that they were not privy to the inner thoughts of those they drove away that Sabbath morning. God tempers his judgements with love, mercy, and understanding. These terrorists gave no evidence of grace, love, or understanding, and failed to apply the pattern of Jesus and perceive their hearts.

Any that forwards disturbing and reckless e-mails shares in the darkness that inhabited the minds of the terrorists, either directly or through their unthinking complicity with Evil.

Paul wrote, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear." That being so, who gave the spirit of fear evident when barbarians entered a sacred place? If it wasn’t God, who was it? Who is it that sends fear to believers?

It is shameful that any Christian stoops to such evil, either by inventing it, or as helping hands by circulating this malicious fabrication.

If only Hypocrite-Seekers would follow Jesus Christ rather than dog the hoof prints of the likes of Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, who was responsible for the torture and deaths of possibly as many as four hundred women. His methods cunningly resemble those of the Hypocrite-Finders General that violated the chapel in the e-mail account.

Matthew Hopkins began his sinister pursuit of Witch-Finder General in 1644 by interrogating an elderly one-legged woman by the name of Elizabeth Clarke. By the time was through with his savage torture, she had given the names of thirty-one others as her accomplices in witchery. It is worthwhile considering how many accomplices Hopkins would have named as his partners in Witchcraft had he had been subjected to the same treatment he dished out.

Hopkins used sleep deprivation to great effect. In the case of Reverend John Lowe, vicar of Brandeston, he had him 'swum in the moat,' deprived of sleep and rest for three days and nights, and made him to walk continuously rest until his feet were bleeding. Lowe, a septuagenarian, recited his own funerary liturgy on his way to be hung.

Hopkins extracted declarations of witchcraft from old women, especially ones with pets. "Faith Mills, of Fressingham, Suffolk, admitted that her three pet birds, Tom, Robert, and John, were familiars who made a cow jump over a pigsty and break a cart. She was hanged."

Hopkins used trickery. It was said that ‘witch spots’ did not bleed when pricked with a sharp object, and would stab at such marks with a knife that had a spring loaded retractable blade. The victim would appear to have been pierced with the trick knife but would not be marked, and that was taken as visible and sure proof of her sorcery.

What is evident in the cases of the Hypocrite Finders and the Witch Finder, is that both cynically employ trickery. Each of them also employed torture by putting their victims in fear of their lives, which lies at the heart of terrorism.

However we view these twin evils, we find a depth of wretchedness that grates on the sensibilities of decent people regardless of their religious leanings.

Matthew Hopkins eventually succeeded in repulsing enough Christians to have his ministry curtailed as his vocation was finally seen for what it was: a fiendish, cynical, and devilish enterprise.

It is that Christians will open their eyes to recognise that stories like "The Test" are affronts to God, slurs on frail humanity, and also antithetical to Christian virtues at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that they will dispatch such tales to the rubbish bin where they belong until the 99% stands solid and Christlike at 100%.

Copyright © 2010 – Ronnie Bray
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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