Bear Fruit For Christ

A few months ago I wrote about the Tamarind tree in front of my house that the leaves and fruit can be used as a spice for traditional dishes and drinks (click here).  The tree is large and very tall, far beyond the roof of our house.  In the rainy season the leaves always grow vigorously and in summer the ripe fruit will fall to the ground.  It’s really fun to pick it up.  I feel like a happy farmer who harvests his work, whereas in fact I have never done anything for the growth of the tree.  In fact, the tree grows by itself.  For dozens, maybe even decades, the tree grew without anyone watering or weeding the surrounding soil.  During that time the tree continued to live and bear fruit.  However, this year something is different.

As in previous years, I was waiting for the ripe tamarind to fall on the ground.  How happy I am, when the wind blows hard and hit the branches of the tree and then heard the distinctive sound of ripe tamarind fruit falling on the ground.  However, immediately my excitement turned to be disappointed because the fruit that looks good on the outside is actually rotten inside.  Why?  What’s wrong?  I looked at the tamarind tree.  The trunk is large and tall, looks tough and strong.  Dense fruit hanging from its branches.  The tree looks healthy and there is no problem, but why is the fruit not as good as the tree’s appearance?  There must be something inside of the tree that isn’t working as it should, because fruit is the result of internal processes.

The condition of the tamarind fruit shows that not always something looks good from the outside, as well as the quality inside.  Likewise with fruit in human life.  People can arrange their outward appearance to create the impression they want, for example to be seen as generous, loving, kind and pious.  But sooner or later, the quality of “the fruit of the person’s life” will show his true spiritual condition.  Regarding this, the Lord Jesus taught through a parable about the tree and fruit.

No GOOD tree bears bad FRUIT, nor does a bad tree bear GOOD FRUIT.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.  People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.  A GOOD MAN brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  (Luke 6: 43-45 NIV)

What is a GOOD tree and GOOD fruit? What is the meaning of FRUIT in human life?  And what kind of people are categorized as A GOOD MAN who brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart?

FRUIT

The fruit comes from the word “karpos” which figuratively means: Everything done in true partnership with Christ, that is a believer lives in union with Christ, like a branch abides in the vine in order to bear fruit.  Christ lives in us and we live in Him so that His life flows through our lives and we produce eternal fruit.  So, the fruit in the life of a believer isn’t all achievements or successes in the world, but what is come out from intimacy with Christ, namely the character of Christ, which continues to be shaped and tested through various life processes.

GOOD

In this passage the word “GOOD” comes from words that contain the meaning: Inspire or motivate others, as an outward sign of the inward good, a noble attitude and honorable character.  In Greek there are several words to describe “good”.  The word “good” in this verse is the higher word, namely “kalon“, which broadly contains the notion of physical or moral beauty that arises as a result of an appropriate response to a process.

The word “good” used for fruit is the same as the word “good” used for trees.  So, tree and fruit should have the same quality.  Not “good” that is just make up but sourced from within.  Its outside appearance reflects the beauty inside.  No manipulation, no acting, no cheating, no fake.  A quality that naturally arises from within, not artificial.

A GOOD FRUIT is not AN EFFORT but A RESULT

Return to the tamarind tree, its disappointing fruit indicates that there is a process inside the tree that isn’t working as it should.  Maybe bad weather is the main cause.  Maybe it’s also because parts in the roots or trunks of the tree don’t function optimally so it can’t distribute nutrients properly.  Whatever it is, once again, fruit is the result of internal processes and the quality of the fruit shows the quality of the tree.  Therefore the most important thing is to ensure the conditions inside, then good fruit will be produced.

REMAIN IN CHRIST

Fruit always impressive because that’s what people see.  But don’t focus on the fruit.  Focus on our spiritual growth.  The key is to build an ongoing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, like branches that must remain in the vine.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15: 4 NIV)

Let’s start with a step: Pray and read God’s words every day.  Then do God’s word in every day of our lives in all conditions.  That’s what it means to remain in Christ.  The life of Christ flows in and through us so that what comes out of us comes from Christ.  Only by remain in Christ, we will bear the fruit of life that pleases God.  Only by remain in Christ, we will become A GOOD PEOPLE who brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart: those whose hearts have been touched and changed by Christ, believers whose lives are empowered by Christ through faith.

Remain in Christ will make our characters, paradigms, values, habits, even our dreams and goals, increasingly transformed into Christ and become like Christ.  That’s the fruit of life with eternal value.  Then. . . if one day we achieve certain achievements, success in career, become rich, or become famous, we will know that all of it is a gift and trust from God.  All of achievements will not backfire for us because our hearts have been changed by God.  And, even if God allows all of that to be lost from us, our faith and hope will not be lost because we have put our faith and hope in the right place, which is Christ.  Our faith and hope in Christ will carry us through day after day in joy and sorrow, in good or bad situations, until we meet face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Vine where we remain throughout our lives. Amen.

 

By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words

Photo Credit: Google Images ( pxhere.com ) edited with pixlr apps

https://karinasussanto.wordpress.com/2019/08/26/bear-fruit-for-christ-guest-post/

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VIDEO Twenty Evangelicals Who Pray with the President

Compelling list of religious leaders who have the ear of the president speaks volumes about our commander-in-chief’s faith

Veteran walks across country for suicide awareness

Tom Zurhellen is trekking 22 miles a day from Oregon to New York to help his fellow Veterans

A man with a hiking staff on a walking trail

Veteran Tom Zurhellen was hoping to write a novel this summer. Instead, he’s walking 22 miles a day across the U.S. to raise awareness about Veteran homelessness and suicide.

Zurhellen is a Navy Veteran who teaches English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He’s breaking his journey of about 2,860 miles into segments of 22 miles a day. The daily goal matches an [outdated] number of Veterans who commit suicide each day.

“I had a year off [for] sabbatical and I was just going to write another novel,” he said. “But then I got this commander job at the Poughkeepsie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 170. I’m a Veteran, but I had no idea how much support was needed by our local Veterans with mental health and homelessness.

“I figured if that was happening in my hometown, it had to be happening all across the country. So instead of writing just another silly novel, I decided to use my sabbatical to embark on this crazy adventure.”


A man and a woman pose together for a selfie in a coffee shop

Air Force Veteran Erin Ganzenmuller and Zurhellen


Maintaining the pace

Since leaving Oregon in mid-April, Zurhellen has doggedly maintained his 3-mph pace through all kinds of weather.

“It was 100 degrees in Sioux City, 98 degrees in Beloit, I hit a snowstorm three or four times, sub-freezing temperatures, so yeah, I’ve seen it all,” said Zurhellen.

His journey brought him along the Hank Aaron Trail, which winds through the campus of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

He kicked off his walk through the Milwaukee metro area in a local coffee shop.

On hand to offer support was Navy Veteran Mike Waddell, who said he had learned of Zurhellen’s walk that morning on Facebook.

“I just figured I’d come down and show him a little love and encourage him, keep him going,” Waddell said. “I think what he’s doing is great.”

Erin Maney, a social worker at the Milwaukee VA, said raising awareness with a goal of prevention is extremely important.

“Every day, Veterans are getting the help they need. They’re doing it for real!”

“I think there’s a lot of media coverage when, unfortunately, there’s a Veteran death by suicide,” Maney said. “But there’s not always coverage when every day, Veterans are coming in asking for help, getting the help that they need, and going on to live meaningful lives. What he’s doing is extraordinary.”

Erin Ganzenmuller, an Air Force Veteran and environmental consultant, thanked Zurhellen.

“I think it’s an incredible journey to raise awareness for struggles that our Veterans face,” said Ganzenmuller, who also volunteers at Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “It’s awesome that he came to Wisconsin.”


A group of people talk outside on a hospital lawn

Zurhellen at the Milwaukee VA greeted by employees and well-wishers


Never giving up

In the early going, Zurhellen thought about giving up, but those days are fewer and farther between.

“There was a time up until about a month ago, I was hitting the wall at about mile 15. And I thought, ‘What am I doing, experiencing pain? It would be so easy to go home.’

“But then I remembered the pain of the Veterans I’m walking for. The people who are dealing with mental health issues. The people who are dealing with homelessness.

“Their pain’s a lot worse than mine. I can go home anytime. It’s like I’m just playing at being a homeless Veteran, but they’re doing it for real. So, when I put in that perspective, it gets a lot easier.”

And with that, it was time for Zurhellen to hit the road and walk another 22 miles—a distance that to him means something far greater than just a number.


Jim Hoehn is a Public Affairs Officer at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

Photos by Benjamin Slane, Milwaukee VA Medical Center Public Affairs.

Original here


 

C. S. Lewis and 8 Reasons for Believing in Objective Morality

January 18, 2019/ Stephen S. Jordan

Photo by Jay Chaudhary on Unsplash

The cornerstone of the moral argument is the existence of an objective moral standard. If there really is a standard of right and wrong that holds true regardless of our opinions and emotions, then the moral argument has the ability to convince. However, apart from the existence of such an objective standard, moral arguments for God’s existence (and Christian theism) quickly lose their persuasive power and morality as a whole falls to the realm of subjective preference. Although I could say a fair amount about what the world would be like if morality really was a matter of preference (consider The Purge), the purpose of this article is to provide reasons for believing in objective morality (or “moral realism,” as philosophers call it).

Because of his continued focus on the objective nature of morality throughout his writings, and due to his unique ability to communicate and defend this concept in a clear and compelling manner, I will rely heavily on the thought of C. S. Lewis below. As I’ve read through a number of Lewis’s books, I’ve identified eight arguments he raises in favor of objective morality. Below is my attempt to list these eight arguments and offer a few thoughts of my own concerning each.

1)    Quarreling between two or more individuals.[1] When quarreling occurs, individuals assume there is an objective standard of right and wrong, of which each person is aware and one has broken. Why quarrel if no objective standard exists?

By definition, quarreling (or arguing) involves trying to show another person that he is in the wrong. And as Lewis indicates, there is no point in trying to do that unless there is some sort of agreement as to what right and wrong actually are, just like there is no sense in saying a football player has committed a foul if there is no agreement about the rules of football.[2]

2)    It’s obvious that an objective moral standard exists.[3] Throughout history, mankind has generally agreed that “the human idea of decent behavior [is] obvious to everyone.”[4] For example, it’s obvious (or self-evident) that torturing a child for fun is morally reprehensible.

As the father of two children, a daughter who is five and a son who is three, I have noticed that even my young children recognize that certain things are obviously right or wrong. For example, while watching a show like PJ Masks, my children can easily point out the good characters as well as the bad ones – even without my help. In short, the overwhelming obviousness that certain acts are clearly right or wrong indicates that an objective moral standard exists.

3)    Mistreatment.[5] One might say he does not believe in objective morality, however, the moment he is mistreated he will react as if such a standard exists. When one denies the existence of an objective standard of behavior, the moment he is mistreated, “he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair!’ before you can say Jack Robinson.”[6]

Sean McDowell relays an example of this when he shares a story involving J. P. Moreland taking the stereo of a University of Vermont student who denied the existence of objective morality in favor of moral relativism. As Moreland was sharing the gospel with the university student, the student responded by saying he (Moreland) couldn’t force his views on others because “everything is relative.” Following this claim, in an effort to reveal what the student really believed about moral issues, Moreland picked up the student’s stereo from his dorm room and began to walk down the hallway, when the student suddenly shouted, “Hey, what are you doing? You can’t do that!”[7]

Again, one might deny the existence of an objective standard of behavior through his words or actions, but he will always reveal what he really believes through his reactions when mistreated. (Note: Here at moralapologetics.com, we do not recommend you go around and mistreat others, as that wouldn’t be a moral way to do apologetics. See what I did there? Rather, we are simply bringing up the mistreatment issue as a way of exposing a deep flaw within moral relativism.)

4)    Measuring value systems.[8] When an individual states that one value system is better than another, or attempts to replace a particular value system with a better one, he assumes there is an objective standard of judgment. This objective standard of judgment, which is different from either value system, helps one conclude that one value system conforms more closely to the moral standard than another. Without some sort of objective measuring stick for value systems, there is no way to conclude that civilized morality, where humans treat one another with dignity and respect, is better than savage morality, where humans brutally murder others, even within their own tribe at times, for various reasons.

To illustrate this point, Lewis says, “The reason why your idea of New York can be truer or less true than mine is that New York is a real place, existing quite apart from what either of us thinks. If when each of us said ‘New York’ each means merely ‘The town I am imagining in my own head,’ how could one of us have truer ideas than the other? There would be no question of truth or falsehood at all.”[9] In the same way, if there is no objective moral standard, then there is no sense in saying that any one value system has ever been morally good or morally bad, or morally superior or inferior to other value systems.

5)    Attempting to improve morally.[10] Certainly, countless individuals attempt to improve themselves morally on a daily basis. No sane person wakes up and declares, “My goal is to become more immoral today!”[11] If there is no absolute standard of good which exists, then talk of moral improvement is nonsensical and actual moral progress is impossible. If no ultimate standard of right and wrong exists, then one might change his actions, but he can never improve his morality.

If there is hope of moral improvement, then there must be some sort of absolute standard of good that exists above and outside the process of improvement. In other words, there must be a target for humans to aim their moral efforts at and also a ruler by which to measure moral progress. Without an objective moral standard of behavior, then “[t]here is no sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’ – it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as ‘the place you have reached.’”[12]

6)    Reasoning over moral issues.[13] When men reason over moral issues, it is assumed there is an objective standard of right and wrong. If there is no objective standard, then reasoning over moral issues is on the same level as one arguing with his friends about the best flavor of ice cream at the local parlor (“I prefer this” and “I don’t like that”). In short, a world where morality is a matter of preference makes it impossible to have meaningful conversations over issues like adultery, sexuality, abortion, immigration, drugs, bullying, stealing, and so on.

7)    Feeling a sense of obligation over moral matters.[14] The words “ought” and “ought not” imply the existence of an objective moral law that mankind recognizes and feels obligated to follow. Virtually all humans would agree that one ought to try to save the life of a drowning child and that one ought not kill innocent people for sheer entertainment. It is also perfectly intelligible to believe that humans are morally obligated to possess (or acquire) traits such as compassion, mercifulness, generosity, and courage.[15]

8)    Making excuses for not behaving appropriately.[16] If one does not believe in an objective standard of behavior, then why should he become anxious to make excuses for how he behaved in a given circumstance? Why doesn’t he just go on with his life without defending himself? After all, a man doesn’t have to defend himself if there is no standard for him to fall short of or altogether break. Lewis maintains, “The truth is, we believe in decency so much – we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so – that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility.”[17]

Although the eight reasons provided above do not cover all of the reasons for believing in objective morality, it is a starting point nonetheless. If any of the reasons above for believing in objective morality are valid, then the moral argument for God’s existence (and Christian theism) has the ability to get off the ground. In fact, if there are any good reasons (in this article or beyond it) for believing in an objective moral standard, then I think God’s existence becomes the best possible explanation for morality since such a standard at the least requires a transcendent, good, and personal source – which sounds a lot like the God of Christian theism.

Stephen S. Jordan currently serves as a high school Bible teacher at Liberty Christian Academy. He is also a Bible teacher, curriculum developer, and curriculum editor at Liberty University Online Academy, as well as a PhD student at Liberty University. He and his wife, along with their two children and German shepherd, reside in Goode, Virginia.

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 3.

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] Ibid., 5.

[4] Ibid. In the appendix section of The Abolition of Man, Lewis provides a list that illustrates the points of agreement amongst various civilizations throughout history. See C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 83-101.

[5] Ibid., 6.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sean McDowell, Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2006), 45-46.

[8] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 43, 73. Also see Lewis, Mere Christianity, 13.

[9] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 13-14.

[10] C. S. Lewis, “Evil and God,” in God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2014), 3-4.

[11] Even if someone’s goal is to become more immoral, he still needs an objective standard to measure the level of his badness.

[12] Ibid.

[13] C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 54.

[14] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 10.

[15] C. Stephen Evans, God and Moral Obligation (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), 2-3.

[16] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 8.

[17] Ibid.

https://www.moralapologetics.com/wordpress/2019/1/18/c-s-lewis-and-8-reasons-for-believing-in-objective-morality

AUDIO Grief Is Inevitable. It Doesn’t Have to Be Inevitably Lonely

Season two of Living and Effective explores the isolating, inescapable nature of grief.

JOHN B. GRAEBER

Listen here

Job’s grief over his family, health, and livelihood feels relatable to so many of us. Psychologist Diane Langberg says that while the death of a loved one is the most poignant loss we can experience, grief is ever-present: “Death meets us around many corners in life.”

In this article, John Graeber offers a look at Job’s inner-life, one that is strikingly similar to our own. For more on grief, loss, and our response to it, check out season two of Living and Effective, available in full now. – CT Creative Studio

“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21, CSB)

You cast me into my grave, but for 140 years, Lord, you have refused to draw the last breath from my lungs. Instead, you have left me a broken shell, a creature wandering landscapes stripped as bare as my heart; gullies awash in sudden storms threaten to drown me. I would welcome the reprieve.

I waited for you to reassemble the pieces of my shattered life, but you would not. I’ve now realized that these shards have become my life, and I exist only along their broken edges, in the empty spaces that cannot be restored. After all, that which you have torn down, none can rebuild.

You took everything I loved, and tore out the foundations from underneath me. You left me adrift, cast upon a merciless sea, where my anguish lay in wait for quiet moments, to curl forth and drag me into the depths. Can you, Lord, holy and complete, understand what it is not to be whole?

In my despair you conjured a tempest like the priest of a lesser god, and from it you questioned my grief. You put this love inside me. Am I not made in your image? Did you not consider what would happen when you breathed your divine spirit into earthly clay? Can you understand the chaos of holding such torment in so weak a vessel? How could one so powerful know the brokenness of a heart burdened with sorrow it was never meant to bear?

For years my soul has lain in ruins around me. Children again you have given to me. But you did not restore those whom you took, and their loss has darkened all of my days. Their absence ever near, ready to overwhelm. Did you know when you allowed this evil that I would be forever altered?

Even in moments of rest, I know the storm will return. The winds will howl and the sea will churn, the hail will pour forth from the sky and beat me into the dust. The lightning will cleave me in two and yet I will live.

Why haven’t you taken my life also? Do you consider it a mercy? I’m still here not because I am strong, but simply because my body does not die.

When my grief was fresh, and the fires of my torment burned fierce and hot, I was told to curse you and die, but I had received good at your hand. Should I not accept the evil that also comes? For you are the Lord my God.

You laid the foundations of the earth.

You store up snow and hail in the great storehouses of heaven.

You give the horse his might and clothe his neck with a mane.

You bind the chains of the Pleiades and loose the cords of Orion.

You could have spared me by your hand, but you did not.

You are the source of my affliction, and your terrors are arrayed against me, but there is no judge to arbitrate between us.

Do you understand that I would have left you? That your name should never have again passed over my lips for as long as I drew breath? But with your hand, you would not let me turn my face from you.

In my many years you have revealed yourself to me, and I am no longer deceived. I understand the true nature of the Lord, and I have seen the depths of the Almighty.

And “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. I will see him myself; my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger” (Job 19:25-27, CSB).

Living and Effective is produced by CT Creative Studio in partnership with the Christian Standard Bible .

John B. Graeber is a writer living in Chattanooga, TN, with work at Curator Magazine, The Blue Mountain Review, Ekstasis Magazine, Glide Magazine, and Fathom Magazine, and featured poetry on Chattanooga’s local NPR affiliate. He is also co-founder of Tributaries, a literary newsletter that explores the inspiration behind great writing. Follow him on Twitter

https://www.christianitytoday.com/partners/christian-standard-bible/living-and-effective/around-every-corner.html

A Prayer for My Stressed-Out, Hardworking Husband

No one gets a free pass from stressful times. As Christians, prayer and the Scriptures are our greatest weapons against this stress epidemic

by Godinterest

 

No one gets a free pass from stressful times. As Christians, prayer and the Scriptures are our greatest weapons against this stress epidemic.

Father,

I praise You for my husband, Your unique creation. Please guard his heart and mind, Jesus. Protect him from temptation and fill him up with the good things he needs. You’ve promised to fill his soul with what he needs and I ask You to do just that.

You are the God of peace, Who heals all our ailments and cares for all those that love and trust You. Lord, You know the many pressures my dear husband has been facing, from both his work and from the family, and Father, I am concerned that it seems to be affecting his health. Lord, this additional stress seems to be making my husband irritable and I know that he is finding it increasingly difficult to sleep at night.

I know that You care about each of Your children and are interested in every area of our lives — and so I pray that You would ease the stress and pressure that seems to be mounting up in our lives and quickly remove it, and please Lord, help my husband to rest in You and to cast all His care upon You, day by day.

Lord, I pray that You would bless my husband’s work. That he would be diligent and prosperous. That You would give him wisdom and discernment. God, I pray You would give him the strength to walk the opportunities you provide.

Thank You, Lord for being there for us and I pray that You would hold us both in Your arms of love,

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Bible Verses to Combat Anxiety and Stress

“I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.” (Psalm 4:8, NLT)”

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)”

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27, NLT)”

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. (2 Thessalonians 3:16, ESV)”

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4, ESV)”

 

Original here

 

The Billy Graham Rule Goes to Court

A North Carolina sheriff’s deputy sues his former employer for religious discrimination after it wouldn’t accommodate his request to not train a female officer one-on-one.
DAVID ROACH AUGUST 20, 2019

The Billy Graham Rule Goes to Court

Aformer North Carolina sheriff’s deputy may be the first to file a lawsuit alleging he faced discrimination for his commitment to the “Billy Graham Rule.”

Manuel Torres, 51, claims in a federal lawsuit that he requested a “religious accommodation” from the Lee County, North Carolina, Sheriff’s Office, where he was employed from 2012 to 2017, after he was ordered to train a female deputy. The training included “the requirement that he spend significant periods of time alone in his patrol car with the female officer trainee.”

A deacon at East Sanford Baptist Church in Sanford, North Carolina, Torres “holds the strong and sincere religious belief that the Holy Bible prohibits him, a married man, from being alone for extended periods of time with a female who is not his wife,” according to the lawsuit filed July 31 in US district court.

The practice of not being alone with a member of the opposite sex other than one’s spouse is called the Billy Graham Rule in honor of the late evangelist, who adopted the policy early in his ministry to avoid temptation and accusations of sexual immorality. While some say the practice demonstrates integrity and protects marriages, others claim it can be discriminatory.

According to Torres’s lawsuit, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office allegedly vacillated between granting and denying the requested accommodation for weeks before terminating Torres “without an explanation.” Torres also claims a colleague “failed to respond” to his call for backup at a “multi-vehicle accident in an unsafe area” because of the requested accommodation.

Howard Friedman, a University of Toledo law professor who blogs about religious liberty at Religion Clause, said he is unaware of any other court cases involving the Billy Graham Rule but noted Torres’s lawsuit “is part of the growing number of cases in which religious freedom clashes with non-discrimination norms.”

“This is a public official who is invoking religious free exercise to avoid carrying out a part of his employment duties,” Friedman said in an email to Christianity Today. “In that context, it is similar to the long-running Kim Davis saga in which a Kentucky court clerk refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

He also noted “a parallel” to a case in which Washington State pharmacists were ordered to dispense emergency contraception pills despite their religious objections.

Robbie Gibson, Torres’s pastor at East Sanford Baptist Church, told CT Torres is “a man who is genuinely trying to walk his faith out in everyday life.” The Graham Rule, he said, is the “best approach” for avoiding temptation and guarding against false accusations of impropriety. Still, after news of Torres’s lawsuit broke, the church’s Facebook page was inundated with negative comments, including some calling the congregation “bigots” and “oppressors of women.”

“You cannot live in a #MeToo world” and “then force people to act and live in such a way that they can be accused without any defense,” Gibson said, as when an employee is told, “I’m going to put you out alone all night long in a car with someone.”

Vice President Mike Pence and former Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Robert Foster are among public figures to draw critique for stating they follow the Billy Graham Rule. Pence faced criticism in 2017 after a Washington Post profile of his wife, Karen, claimed the vice president never eats alone with a woman who is not his wife. A reporter for Mississippi Todaysaid last month it was “sexist” for Foster to ask that a male colleague accompany her if she wanted to ride along with him on a campaign trip.

Despite criticism of Graham Rule adherents, a New York Times poll found most American women and nearly half of men think it is inappropriate to have dinner alone with someone of the opposite gender who is not their spouse. About a quarter of those polled found it inappropriate to have a work meeting alone with a colleague of the opposite gender.

Torres alleges religious discrimination against his former employer as well as two North Carolina police departments—the Apex Police Department and the Silver City Police Department—which supposedly did not hire him after the Lee County told them about his request for a religious accommodation.

The lawsuit asks the court to award Torres $300,000 in compensatory damages plus more than $15,000 in punitive damages. The defendants have yet to file their responses to the suit.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act “requires a reasonable accommodation” in cases like Torres’s, according to Friedman. Yet a female employee who was denied training due to the Billy Graham Rule might also have grounds to claim discrimination on the basis of sex if her trainer was given an exemption.

David Roach is a writer in Nashville, Tennessee.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/august/billy-graham-rule-sheriff-north-carolina-lawsuit.html