Force Majeure

One of my favorite terms I studied while in law school was the contract clause known as the force majeure.  This clause in the Latin literally means “greater force” but is known primarily as the Act of God clause.  The purpose of this clause in contracts is to eliminate liability of a party should some unforeseen or uncontrollable act take place that would eliminate the fulfillment of one parties obligation in the contract.  This clause normally covers things that we would call natural disasters but can include things such as wars or the involvement of third party shortcomings.  The force majeure clause provides pardon of fulfilling a contract due to the unnatural intervention of some third party. 

One thing that I always find amazing though is that many times when these acts of God or natural disasters occur, many Christians don’t look at the event as an excuse to stop acting or not fulfill their obligations (I hesitate to use that word).  To many in the Christian community, force majeure is a call to action.  I think about the Christian response to such recent events as Hurrican Katrina, the Haitian earthquake, or the tsunami that devastated Thailand.  I know personally many people who offered money, time, or service* in order to relieve the pain and suffering that these natural disasters brought with them.  That is not to say that only Christians respond in such challenging times.  Just as I know Christians who helped in these relief efforts in the name of Christ, I know atheists who helped as well in the name of human rights and goodness. 

I have long felt that when one of the most devastating unnatural disasters to hit the United States of America occurred though, many Christians dropped the ball.  After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in New York City, Washington D.C., and PA occurred the Christian community was faced with a nation looking to them for guidance.  Those who lived through these events can easily recall the resounding thud as the knees of our country dropped in prayer and seeking for a God that could provide understanding for the pain our country felt.  At a time when the whole country was crying out for God, there was a response from many Christians that was not beneficial though.  When the whole nation was looking for God, the American church took a “come to us” approach rather than going out to them.  There was talk of church attendance sky-rocketing as many citizens went to their neighborhood churches hoping to find the answer of why 9/11 had happened. 

So why did it not stick?  Why did the main evangelical churches fail to remain flourishing?  My theory is that people did not remain in those churches because they were not hearing the gospel from the leaders of those churches.  The pastors and preachers in many of these churches were all so involved in teaching moralism, legalism, or trying to be relevant that when people were literally being called out to hear the gospel, they did not hear it.  In some churches there were sermons trying to explain the fundamentals of the Islamic faith (how dare we teach the first word of Islam from our pulpits) and making pleas that “not all Muslims are that way.”  In other churches there were sermons based on pop-psychology lessons of coping with the grief felt because of the attacks.  Where were the sermons that stated that 9/11 happened because all of mankind is sinful and that the death, fear, dread, and hopelessness is nothing more than birthpains as those who believe in Christ are birthed into a new life?  Where were they?  Few and far between is where they were.

The result:  look at today’s American Christain landscape.  When a nation looked to the churches of this country for Jesus, they did not always find Him.  Instead, through man-ordained grief and counseling ministries, it was thought prudent to just “accept them as they are,” and not work to convince people of the truth that is found in scripture.  Talk of Christ being the only way to righteousness was scaled back as was apologetics.  Rather than quickly dismissing thoughts and talks of doubt regarding matters of scriptural authority, a much wider “what does it mean to you” attitude was taken on in Bible study.  This “spirit” of openness not only led to people not fully understanding the might and power of Christ, but also has led to what we are seeing more than ever now, a belief in some interconnected, multi-faith world in which one faith is just as valid as the other. 

This attitude and failure to teach the gospel of Christ alone fueled a growth and is redefining the American church as you read this.  The smaller, non-denominational churches before 9/11 were not only rarely seen or heard from, they were hard to find.  However, if you look across the Christian landscape today what you will find on television, in bookstores, and all over the internet is the new American Christianity.  This was just not the case before 9/11.  9/11 not only killed thousands of Americans, it may very well kill American Christianity (i.e., the terrorists main goal).  With leaders such as Brian McLaren enjoying phenomenal success with his new book A New Kind of Christian the churches that have founded and been part of making America what it is dwindle away, seeing lower and lower attendance.  Fewer and fewer preachers and teachers are willing to stand up and say “THIS IS THE WAY, THE ONLY WAY.”  The Bible is now looked upon to be translated as what one feels it says at that very moment rather than translating in the grammatical-historical sense.  That way is considered too rigid and does not always show an open embrace of love and compassion in the world’s eyes.

At a time when the whole country was looking for God, the churches in America let them down.  People were told to find their own God and make whatever you find in the Bible “work for you.”  The church, the kingdom, the “keeper” of the words of Christ gave license to people to go and find whatever their itching ears needed to hear to feel better about not only 9/11, but their entire sin filled life.  As if the church were being led by cowardly lions unwilling to boldly and loudly proclaim their beliefs, men stood in pulpits unwilling to state what every Christian should know.  Because of the sins of Adam and the sins of our own, every person must taste the sting of death.  We get no say on when it comes.  For those who died as Christians on that horrible day, it should have been a time of rejoicing for they were set free of a body of flesh and decay.  What many in the church were afraid of was to state that the people who died on that day who had not accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior lived outside of the covenant Christ established with man.  This covenant promises that when your life ends, you will meet eternity and judgment.  As Christians though, we have the ultimate force majeure written into this contract.

The covenant that God established with man was to love Him with all of your heart, mind, and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself.  If your aim is to please Him then this is what you must do – all the time.  Sadly, no man prior to or since Christ has ever met this standard while here on Earth.  To agree to the terms of this contract is to agree to keep the entire law of God (Gal. 5:3).  Therefore, the contract that God set up for man was not one that man could keep.  Enter the ultimate force majeureGod sent the ultimate clause for man to this Earth.  God’s contract was follow my law precisely or perish but due to his own act, an act of God, we are set free from that contract.  Because Jesus came to this Earth and lived a sinless and blameless life only to be murdered by the hands of man, we are set free from that contract with God and allowed to live in His grace.  Because of Christ, our obligation to live perfectly is no more.  This force majeure allows us to break free from the old covenant and reside in the peace and hope that is found in the new covenant (Heb. 9:15) set forth by Christ. 

Sadly, just as Jude 4 promises, many have taken this hope and corrupted it.  Ignoring the passages that tell of only one way, only one truth, this clause has been skewed and taken advantage of all in the name of worldliness and love.  That being said, let those of us who believe in the truth set forth in scripture and the authority that teaching the word alone gives, stand up.  The force majeure has set us free from fear of this world.  Let us never again be looked upon as the church that sat idly by in response to horrible events as synagogues of Satan (Rev. 3:9) popped up around our nation worshipping not Christ alone, but self, youth, moralism, and other Gods.  Just as 9/11 sent men to their knees to find God, there will be other calamities that beseech us.  Let us next time not look at these times as a moment to open the doors and greet as fellow grieving Americans, but rather a time to more boldly than ever proclaim the gospel, Christ crucified for the repentance of sins, their sins, our sins, your sins, my sins.  As long as this Earth stands, acts of God, both natural and unnatural will occur.  My hope is that next time, rather than being relevant to what the world wants to hear, we accept the challenge to teach what God wants them to hear.  He allowed this nation to be shaken to it’s knees for a reason.  Who out there truly believes it was to spark a revolution within Christianity that allows people to place all gods on the same level as our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus and to make the holy scripture a book not meant to be taken literally?  Perhaps next time we will be more faithful.

*I found it to be pleasurable to be part of the Kingsville Church of Christ family when it provided food, counsel, and gospel to the Katrina refugees that were sent to our local community college.

~ by dvdbrumley on February 24, 2010.

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