Habakkuk - Righteousness by Faith
In a recent interview at BBC, an Anglican Cleric, insisted that the equal opportunities act to be implemented in Britain "discriminates" against Christians in that it will force Christians in businesses to engage with the Gay community against their conscience. Essentially, the Christians Community Leaders want to have the right to discriminate and they considered themselves the persecuted. We have the example of the religious activists demanding our sympathy whilst perpetrating the act of tyranny against gays. Such rhetoric has resulting in much violence against gays, many gays committing suicides out of oppression and many leaving the church and God. It is preposterous that the church claim that they were persecuted but one day, in the future, there will be inevitably a time when the church will be truly suffer repercussions for their sins against gays because too much innocent blood has been shed and lives destroyed and justice must prevail. The bible has many examples of the people of God coming before God asking why injustice is being done to them as if they were wronged and God reply to them was unequivocal.
HABAKKUK was a prophet of the late seventh century B.C., and a contemporary to Jeremiah. On the surface, Habakkuk had a great burden and this burden was perhaps a question that troubles Christians most - why does God allow injustice done by the wicked against the "righteousness"? There was great injustice done against the people of God. Being God's people or Christians does not necesarrily immuned us from judgement. However, we are so cautious when voicing out against Christian leaders even letting them go with great transgressions!. The Law in the natural, does not allow you to escape punishment eg for murder, and God's law will not allow you either. When Habakkuk cried out His "burden" to God, he must have been perplexed when it was God who raised up the very army to come against His people.
The reply by God was most surprising. Not only, He allowed it, it is His work raising up the Babylonian Army to come against Judah. The Assyrians, once the scourge of the Middle East, were only a shadow of their former selves. They were replaced by the Babylonians or the Chaldeans, led by the energetic Nebuchadnezzar. Nineveh, Assyria's capital, fell in 612 B.C. Previously, in 609 B.C., disaster struck. King Josiah, attempting to block the Egyptians as they moved north along the Palestinian coast to aid Assyria, was killed at Megiddo in northern Palestine. In his place the Egyptians set up Josiah's son, Jehoiakim who tried to play the Babylonians off against the Egyptians until he finally exhausted the patience of Nebuchadnezzar. In 605 B.C., Babylon defeated Egypt. Jehoiakim, who apparently had been content to be a vassal of Egypt, transferred his allegiance to Babylon, but rebelled after three years. In 598, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem and it was probably during this bitter siege that Habakkuk poured out his questions before God.
As if not understanding God's reply, Habukkuk's continued to tactfully question God, firstly by establishing that the righteousness of God who would not let sin go unpunished and secondly asserting that the Chaldeans were a terrible people, far more unrighteous that Judah. So how could God used an evil nation as His tool of judgment against a far more righteous nation?. God's answer for Habakkuk is that the Chaldeans who made violence as a lifestyle God will turn against them and they will be put into utter shame (Hab 2:16,17). Therefore sin would not go unpunished especially when it involves violence and bloodshed against the innocent. Many a times Christians have asked God, why does God allow Christians to persecute Gays? The answer just as the same for the Chaldeans is that there will be judgement at the right time. The many deaths, oppression, and pain suffered by Gays in the name of religious tyranny, God will avenged. As Christians leaders even in Singapore and the Golbal South continue to launch their militant rethoric against gays, God will take them to task for it but in His time. Even drop of blood shed and every tear cried a thousand years ago when the relgious community started their crusade against gays will be remembered and be accounted for.
God sent judgment upon Judah most reluctantly. Under Law, Justice had to prevail but there was much grace and mercy. In 2 Kings 24:2-4 after repeated warnings against Judah, it finally came to judgment where God could not any more pardon the innocent blood being spilled in Jerusalem under Manasseh. King of Judah (696-642 B.C.) who was a son of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:21). He turned Judah into idol worship of other religions and but the final straw came when Hezekiah killed those who refused to worship the idols. The Sins of Manasseh was unforgivable. So, both Judah and the Chaldeans were subject to subject to judgment for tyranny and call upon themselves woes for plunder (2:6-8); becoming rich and famous by unjust means (2:9-11); building towns with blood (2:12-14); degrading one's neighbor (2:15-17); and idol worship (2:18-19). There is a point of Grace at the Cross of Calvary, but there is also a point judgment when we commit bloodshed against those that are innocent.
The Church has committed great injustice against queer people. Lives has been destroyed when people are denied relationships, companions, or even sent to death because of their sexual orientation. Gays were ostracized from the church even until this very day, it is considered as unnatural and a sin. Many as a result of the church stand have discriminated against gays from fundamental rights of existence due to criminalization of homosexuality to the denial of marriage. The Church has insisted on their right to carry on this injustice and tyranny. Morally there is no option for justice and repercussions against the church. Every crime committed against Gays, every gay who died persecuted by the church and society must be accounted if God is truly a righteous God. Therefore, the clock for judgment has been ticking for a thousand years. Fortunately, we do not live not under the dispensation of the Law, but under grace and Christ actually paid for the sins committed horrendously by the church irrespective of whether the church repents. This is pure grace and nothing but the blood of Jesus. Yet "judgment" will come, not from God, but the result of our misuse of the bible and religion to come against Gays. We shut the doors against gays and made them outcasts, using the Bible against them. By our misuse of the sacred word of God, it will make the Word of God void in the sense that our moral witness to the Gospel will be forever compromised just as an unrepentant adulterer has no moral or spiritual right to talk about marriage. The Word of God will and have gone forth around the world, but there comes a time that it will not be heard above our obsession with gays. Unrighteous forces will come that will limit Christians groups and their special privelages as much as they have tried to limit the basic rights of gays.
At the end of the day, Habakkuk receives a revelation way before his time, a revelation that even the church today may not fully comprehend. Habakkuk came to the conclusion that being just and righteous is not attained by comparison with others or Judah comparing itself with the Chaldeans in the good works that they did, it is trusting in faith that God will be our salvation. That trust in God is best exemplified when God seemingly do not answer, when our enemies come and conquered and destroyed the land and our livelihoods. What we so laboriously sowed into the fields, and all our hard work came to no fruition - lost and taken away and worst still seemingly by a hand raised by God. Yet, those who live by faith will rejoice knowing that God is their ultimate salvation. Our Salvation then depends not on the works that we do, the works that we sowed even into the kingdom of God, but determined by Faith that God will be our Salvation in the power and justification of the resurrected Christ.
Habakkuk had great influence on the apostle Paul. Habakkuk's declaration that "the just (righteous) shall live by his faith" (2:4) was taken by Paul as a central element in his theology. As he did with many Old Testament passages, he used it with a slightly different emphasis. Through Paul, this passage came alive for an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther, setting off the Protestant Reformation, one of history's greatest religious upheavals. Thus a so-called "Minor" prophet had a major influence on those who followed him.
What is the message of Habakkuk to the GLBT community? For us, literally, the people who is called by God, Christians, just like the Chaldeans have plundered our nation. In Asia, Homosexuality is still a criminal offence with jail and even death sentences although in some more benevolent countries such as Singapore this is not proactively pursued. Gays are suffering from AIDS, depression, suicides, discrimination, and persecution. We constantly attacked in the media and denied our basic rights. Yet, the National Council of Churches in Singapore had the audacity to call upon the Government to further strengthen the Penal Codes against Gays. As Gay Christians, we are called to have faith, to live by faith trusting in God that our victory, our salvation, that one day that equality and justice shall prevail. We will overcome, not by our strength for how you fight against an army a hundred fold stronger, but because Christ is with Us. And miracles are seemingly happening with our Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew opening doors.
As I write, news come that at one of the church at Expo famous for its magic shows that a Cell Group Leader stated that there is no place for a gay person who recently outed himself unless he repents. In another church at Suntec, the Pastor was asked privately about the gay issue, in which he said with wisdom that all are welcome (at least privately) and that he is not God to judge them. It is judgment of God against the church that the senior pastor there should be fearing for Gays will get their rights sooner or later for the gates of heaven will be open to all, and if we do not stand publicly for the rights of Gays then the moral voice of the church and the light to the rest of world will be greatly impacted. We need God's Grace and Mercy like never before. Otherwise, when Gays come out of the closet, the church will go into one.