(Also known as the Letter of Jeremiah)
So following what I said a couple weeks ago about slowing down, I figured I’d go ahead and run through the last chapter of Baruch and see where we end up. This chapter doesn’t have any references linked as “positive” to the New Testament, so we’ll be able to skip that portion of the discussion when I get to the conclusion. So I’m going to meander about this chapter and see if there’s anything worth commenting on before I take on whether it should be included in canon.
Because of the sins which ye have committed before God, ye shall be led away captives into Babylon by Nabuchodonosor king of the Babylonians. So when ye be come unto Babylon, ye shall remain there many years, and for a long season, namely, seven generations: and after that I will bring you away peaceably from thence.
Now shall ye see in Babylon gods of silver, and of gold, and of wood, borne upon shoulders, which cause the nations to fear. Beware therefore that ye in no wise be like to strangers, neither be ye and of them, when ye see the multitude before them and behind them, worshipping them. But say ye in your hearts, O Lord, we must worship thee. For mine angel is with you, and I myself caring for your souls.
Today, we live in an age where we are surrounded by sin. If were in an insular culture that adhered to God’s laws, it would be a great deal easier for us to abide by those rules. I don’t know if this letter should be considered canon, I’m just now starting in it (as I have everything else), but what I do know is that in this portion of the passage there is a lot of truth for Christians in America.
Fundamental Christian Americans often try to impose their values upon American Politics. Things that come to mind are: Wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade, standing against same-sex marriages, insisting that Christian Prayer becomes common-place in politics, that our nation’s leader has to be Christian (and even then, only if they agree with a particular set of Christian beliefs), that sex education shouldn’t be part of the school system, the list goes on. Just because America has a large population of identifying-Christians, doesn’t mean America is a Christian Nation. In fact, a founding father who may or may not have been Christian, made that abundantly clear with his letter to the Danbury Baptist- which is were we get the term “separation of church and state”. The exact wording he used was
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship,” (Jefferson, 1802) (emphasis mine).
Just as it was in early Christianity and for the Jewish people during the Babylonian exile, we live amongst people which are not of Christian origin and commit all kinds of sin that God is against. It’s not hard for us to find evidence of violations against each of the 10 Commandments in our society, and at least two are considered completely acceptable by many Christians (the Biblical definition of adultery- coveting your neighbor’s stuff and the Biblical definition of adultery).
From the onset, this letter seeks to remind the captives that they will be amongst non-believers, but that doesn’t give them an excuse to violate the law themselves. This isn’t much different form what Paul says in Romans 13:1-2 :
“God is the One who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power. So those who refuse to obey the law of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow.”
Think about the implications here- God allowed the governments to pursue those things which even He considers sinful. So what right do we have to force Christian doctrine (which isn’t even completely agreed upon across the board- for example, many Christians support our LGBT brothers and sisters, and are even pro-abortion, believing that the Bible does not condemn them) over an eclectic approach that best suits the population?
The argument for that might be: God is notorious for Mass Punishment. Well, yeah, in the Old Testament. But there isn’t actually a legitimate example of Him delivering mass punishment in the New Testament, unless you count Revelation…which either has or has not come to pass. As we haven’t had a recorded prophet go on record to illustrate God delivering Mass Punishment since Christ’s Resurrection, we’re left with a strong lack of evidence supporting God’s use of it. This passage, combined with the evidence in the New Testament should make it pretty clear: Your sin is your sin- God will deliver His judgement when He decides to.
I kind of went on a tangent there, but to circle back: Be responsible for your own actions before God, those around you are responsible for theirs. And do not mistake this truth: We all fall below God’s standards, so what’s the point in judging your neighbor?
Jefferson, T. (1802) Letters between Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists. Retrieved from https://billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/primary-source-documents/danburybaptists/
P.S. Hope you all are finding something fun to do this Independence Day! I know it might be hard for many of you, but keep your spirits up.