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His Master's Voice
|Copyright © 2006 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Love and Spiritual Gifts (this is part three of a continuing series of posts on love)
Love is the philosophy of intentionally choosing to do good deeds for someone else's benefit. Love is obedience to Christ. Love is the sum of all the Scriptures.
Chapters 12, 13, and 14 of 1 Corinthians are all about the use of spiritual gifts in the church. Chapter 12 explains that spiritual gifts are talents and abilities given us by the Holy Spirit expressly to assist and nurture other Christians.
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7)
If one has an ability or talent which he is spending to satisfy his own ego instead of employing it for the benefit of other Christians, then it is not truly a spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are given for building up the body so it is equipped for service (Ephesians 4:12), for the common good of the church.
Just about everyone in the church has a different gift from the Holy Spirit. And each person ends up with a different ministry and outcome in the use of their gift (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). So we are to esteem others as important in the body because they work to use their spiritual gift for the common good.
Working for the common good is called love. Yet, having a talent or ability, or even doing "good works" is pointless if one lacks love (1 Corinthians 13:3). In other words, if one is selfish and is motivated by his ego (Philippians 2:3), his pleasures (James 4:3), or becoming adored by the church (3 John 1:9), then his deeds are valueless to him. Such a person lacks love.
One's motives determine whether their good deeds are loving or not. Selfishness is the true antithesis of love, not hate. Love is doing good things for the goal of benefiting others. Selfishness is doing things to benefit oneself. Selfish ambitions, spending ones talents for ones own pleasure, seeking adoration from the church, that is the embodiment of self-centeredness.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3)
Love is patient toward others. Love is kind toward others. Love is not jealous of others (wanting what others have so that it can be spent on myself).
Love is not arrogant about myself (in other words, selfish). Love does not brag about myself. Love is not unbecoming and indecently acting out just to get attention for myself. Love does not pursue its own self interests (which is what the phrase "love does not seek its own" means). Love does not allow oneself to be provoked to anger or to the point of exasperation, or to become frustrated all because it does not get want it wants for self.
Love does not keep a written or mental list of wrongs that others have done against me--in other words, love forgives others and releases them from their debts which they incurred against me, released for their spiritual benefit. By contrast, selfishness keeps a detailed list of wrongs and social obligations so that others will always feel indebted to me, so that I can get my selfish way in the future.
Love never lets me rejoice when sin wins, even if it seems to benefit me in some way. Love always rejoices when the truth is made known, even if that costs me money or prestige.
Love patiently endures difficult situations (in the Greek it literally says: love covers over the sins of others) so that others may benefit and that God may be glorified. Love believes and credits others with acting in love (until it is proven otherwise), believing and hoping that others are working with the motive to benefit God and others by their actions.
Chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians is all about the loving use of one's spiritual gifts in the church service. One overriding principle is given: "What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." (1 Corinthians 14:26) Let all your loving uses of spiritual gifts have this motive and this outcome, to edify others.
Love is acting out of a motivation of benefit for God and for others. Selfishness is acting out of a motive of attempting to gain benefit (position, pleasure, wealth) for myself from my "good deeds." Love is using one's spiritual gifts--spiritual abilities and talents--so that other Christians can be edified, equipped, and built up so that they too can do the same for others. Love is our duty, our spiritual service of worship, because love requires us to present our bodies in service to Christ and to others, for their benefit, for God's glory.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Romans 12:1-3, 9-11)
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Pursue Love (Part Four of an ongoing series of posts on love)
Recap of Parts 1 through 3
The sum of all Scriptures and all prophecies is: "give love." God lavished love on us in so very many ways. Our single greatest obligation is to give love back to God with all our might (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:28-33). Our second greatest obligation is to love others.
Love is a philosophy (a way of thinking and a set of principles) that guides us into deliberate and thoughtful action. In fact, it would be proper to think of biblical love as intentionally doing deeds that benefit others. Spiritual gifts are only valuable when the motive to use them is the motive of love, selfless benefit to others, the edification of the saints. All of 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us that when spiritual gifts are used to produce good deeds but from a motive of selfish gain, then those deeds become worthless and one ought to question whether they have truly exercised a spiritual gift or a self-pleasing talent.
Love is a Pursuit
Love is also a pursuit. "Pursue love." (1 Corinthians 14:1a) Love is the seeking of good for others. "See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people." (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
Not all "lawful activities" or philosophies one can imagine are valid as human pursuits, and some things are not even necessary to pursue. For example, one never has to pursue that which one already posses. It is never necessary to seek for that which is in hand, and in hand in infinite abundance. Therefore, we do not pursue pleasure (hedonism) because God has freely given us pleasures too numerous to count, and they continuously fall into our hand whether we seek them or not. As
Perhaps the most profound of differences exist between pursuing love and pursuing pleasure, the very essence of the difference between giving and getting. Our pursuit of love is a pursuit to give of ourselves for the benefit of others. Contrast that with a pursuit of pleasure which is a desire to get; get things and sensations for our own benefit. It is the very difference between love and selfishness itself.
That is not to say that pursuing love is always unpleasant. Indeed, one of the many results of giving love can be pleasant feelings, and this is perfectly acceptable. But when the pursuit for pleasure is the motive for good works, outstripping the motive of love (doing good for the benefit of the other person), then one has passed from love to selfishness--love does not seek its own self-interests (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Aside from pleasure, some extraordinary gifts from God also do not require ongoing pursuit. Salvation--once one is reborn, can never be pursued again--it is a gift given only once (Hebrews 6:4-6). The sealing of the Holy Spirit is also a gift given us a single time only (that is not to say that the we are not continually filled by the Holy Spirit, but we are sealed with Him only once-Ephesians 1:13).
Many Biblical Pursuits
Of course, love is not our only God-ordained pursuit. Scripture tells us that an entire array of spiritual attributes, in addition to love, are also not perfectly in hand or mastered by man and thus require our lifelong pursuit. We must pursue righteousness, because we still do not live our lives in an entirely holy manner (Proverbs 15:9, 21:21). We also pursue the things that make for peace, for we have not yet achieved peace between all believers on this Earth (Romans 14:19).
Other lifelong pursuits include:
So too we must pursue love because we have not yet perfected giving love to God and demonstrating love to one another. We have also not mastered always seeking "after that which is good for one another and for all people" (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
What an amazing and noble goal to pursue: "…always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people." Always seek to give love to all people; pursue giving away love.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
The Element of Emotion in Love (Part Five of an ongoing series of posts on love)
Recap of Parts 1 Through 4
Giving love (doing good for others) is the highest command and the key motive behind the efficacy of the Spiritual Gifts. This philosophy of giving away love is called the pursuit of love. The lifelong pursuit of love is the sum of all Scriptures.
The Element of Emotion
While the primary definition of love is "being obedient to God and doing good for all people" (2 John 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Revelation 2:4-5) there is also an element of emotion buried inside love. That element of emotion is sometimes called "affection" or "fondness."
Love, of course, is not synonymous with affection, for love is much bigger than that one emotion. Love is first and foremost a choice, a choice to do good for others, even our enemies, after which affection may or may not follow. Still, affection is often one component part of the larger whole called love.
In Deuteronomy 10:15 we find that love and even the element of love called affection are both choices, acts of God's will.
"Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 10:15)
for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "the older will serve the younger. Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (Romans 9:11-16)
Love - The Choice As It Applies to Marriage
As a practical implication of this doctrine--the doctrine that love and affection are choices--the common complaint that "the love has gone out of our marriage" is suspect and probably inaccurate. A person decides who to love and of whom to be fond. Some people are truly easier to love than others, however, once a marriage covenant is made (or rather, once a person has purposely chosen to enter into a marriage contract) they have declared their intent and commitment to be loving toward their selected spouse for a lifetime. "Falling out of love" with one's spouse is a veiled way of saying "I have decided to stop being loving to my spouse and have also decided to walk away from the agreements I made on the day when we married."
Often, people confuse lust with love or affection. This is a grave error. Lust is a desire, a desire that entices and can never be sated. If the person who lusts entertains and contemplates that desire, allowing it to carry him along, he is tempted by that lust. Lust, when one consciously decides to act on that desire, results in a sin (James 1:13-15). This is not so with love. Love always deliberately considers what actions are best for God's glory and are best for one's neighbors. Lust cannot do this, it is merely a desire for getting pleasure from that which one can not or should not have. Lust must be forcibly put out of mind while love must be intelligently nurtured in the mind.
Love, and the actions of love, do not simply happen. Love must be made to happen. Love is a choice. Affection and fondness are emotions that can be chosen, and often follow along after one has acted in love toward another.
Love - The Choice As It Applies to Enemies
Similarly, loving one's enemy is an act of one's will. A conscious choice. Perhaps the sub-component of "affection" is not active in such love, but the aspects of love that extend goodwill, kindness, and good deeds to one's enemies are more to be desired than affection and must be put into action.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
"Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same." (Luke 6:31-33)
To love is to "do good" for the one loved. Even the enemies of God, those whom He hates and who hate Him, to those very same enemies He extends such acts of loving kindness as providing the same sunshine, refreshing rain, food, and air as He provides to those whom He loves. In that sense, it is fair to say that God loves His enemies (for He does good to His enemies) while at the same time He also hates them, their lack of faith, and their evil deeds.
Indeed, if God chooses to love, He can also choose to hate.
All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels. (Hosea 9:15)
The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates. (Psalms 11:5)
Yet, even though He hates the souls of the wicked, His enemies, He extends to them love in the form of life and the good treasures of this Earth. His mercy and love ranges so far as to patiently endure the acts and the mocking of the wicked so as to ensure that all His elect--even those of His elect who are still sinners and are still at enmity with God--have time to answer His call and repent.
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22)
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9)
Choosing to Love One Another
If God is willing to shed mercy on those who hate Him, and if God loved the unlovely and the sinner, and if God performs acts of loving kindness even to those whose souls He hates, ought not we, as Christians, love in like manner? [Oh, how I do wish that I were able to live as one who is known as someone who genuinely loves, yet, I know just how desperately far I am from that goal. Praise God He is patient and merciful toward me, a sinner saved only by His grace.]
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)
Finally, it must be noted that "everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." The unsaved are full of various affections, but affection is not love and so should not be confused with, or mistaken for, love. Love is the act of doing good to others, even to one's enemies. Love is the motive to build up and edify others. Love is obedience to Christ. Love is the sum of all Scriptures and all prophecies. Brothers and sisters, we ought to love one another in deed and action.
[Note: the above essay was originally posted as a blog entry which I wrote and put online July 8, 2006. As such, it was subject to public commentary as is customary with blogging. As a practical matter, I normally delete the comments entered on the blog site when building this essay archive. If you wish to read the comments posted by others about the essays, you are invited to go online, read them, or post your own comments.
However, on a few occasions the comments and perhaps my own responses to the comments are so core to understanding the essay, or the implications of the essay, that I have chosen to incorporate them, as I have done below.]
Comments to the July 8, 2006 post entitled: The Element of Emotion in Love (Part Five of an ongoing series of posts on love)
Begin Comment 1:
When I read in the Word, God "hates" it wakes me up due to how much we hear preached about God's love. In Preachers that tickle the ears of the believers talking about all of God's love and acceptance they leave out about God's hate for sin and consquences. They to share what come before forgiveness which is human repentance and turning from sin. In ways do humans become prideful and bold to the point on increasing God's wrath and they continue to blatantly display and encourage others in sin all the while talking of God's love and acceptance in a false way? What am I talking about? I met some of the nicest people as I walk in life. Yet, I run into gay pride and Christians at the same time. My heart grieves in the contradication of gay pride and Christian at the same time. My heart yet greives again with those men and women sleeping around in church unmarried condemning the previous at the same time. What is the difference? What is God's reaction?
When you brought up marriage the above came to mind. In church I find that there is not much difference with men who go to church or men who don't go to church when it comes to carnel love by what women they pick and destructive ways that follow. Unfortunately, I have been shown more respect by men who claim not to have a relationship with Jesus that those in church claiming to be with Jesus. In ways lust rules and valued as much in or out of the church.
Loving enemies: Does loving your enemies mean in action that others looking from the outside of your life can't tell the difference of your enemies and friends in your life by the way you act toward all that you know? Yet, living that way is huge in action due to chosing to act in a loving way to enemies or friends takes an active relationship with God that is strong. I know I fail in this. Yet, when it is seen by others who are watching your life it is one of the greatest witness ways to witness and be an example of how God loves to others.
God gave me a gift at birth that has enabled me to be challenged to love people more. I have a birth mark on the side of my face. I have spent so much of my life in church and find that those in church can be the cruelest in unkind words behind your back in groups. At times, when you wipe tables or tasks during a fellowship they can talk about you and think you can't even hear them talking about how disgusting, your worth, or whatever you area. Alone in bathroom stalls are places that you hear more than you want as groups come in to talk. Rejection has been huge as words cruel that cut like a knife to the heart. Yet, it has been a challenge to love these people that say one thing to your face and another behind your back. To love and treat these people like you have never heard these words spoken to you is a challenge. Yet, at the same time it can be a witness to visitors you bring to the church whether they come with you or on your own. People repeat others words to you. Knowing the words of others and still acting in love toward these people is a strong witness for God. Turning the other cheek takes strength as you continue to love and serve including church leaders. Yet, without chosing to love the consquence can be a root of bitterness that grows and destroy so much. Bitterness is not of God and you must chose to love to fight it. Forgiveness and love goes together hand when it comes to enemies. Who are enemies? Those that discourage, reject, make fun of, ridcule, and use you for what they can get out of you? I'm just skimming the surface of my thoughts that you bring up as I read your posts when I have a few minutes to think.
Your posts are wonderful as you apply actual applications of scripture, actions, and situations of what love is. Yet, I refer to what God gave me as a gift so I can relate and love others more who are rejected for other reasons. It is a gift that shows true charactor of people and who they really are. Sad truth to find in my life in experience is that those outside of church and don't claim Jesus in a relationship can be much more kind and accepting of me. They are the ones that are upset as they hear it themselves from "church" or "christian" people can say of me but see the witness of actions from me to these people. Again, it is has been a gift in witnessing. Yet, ....... Good news is that when people get older that looks mean less and less due to some wisdom finally starts getting in the decision making and actions. Yet, the gift God has given me at birth has challenged me to love more during my life. It is has to be a choice and actions to follow. Worth has to come from God not what others think. Yet, I'm still human and can be discouraged at times when my focus falters. Again, you are right, it goes back to pursuing!!!
Comment One Posted 7/9/2006 at 5:28 AM by Whatisfaith
Begin Comment 2:
Your post above tugs at my own heart. Those of us who name Christ ought to be the most kind and loving (they will know we are Christians by our love), yet we are not, and I know I am not. Your entire post is thought provoking, and convicting.
Your closing remark rings so very true: Our worth has to come from God, not from what others think of us. When we sit alone in our rooms or beside a lonely pond, and the fears and hurts of the day intrude on our minds, and we are tempted to think, "what good am I, why am I here?", it is then that we need remind ourselves that God has placed us here, for His reasons, according to His good judgement, according to His righteous plan which only He really knows. Our goal is not to pump ourselves up, but our goal is glorify God, to fear God, to obey God, to be of useful service to Him which is our spiritual service of worship. We owe Him our lives and our eternal souls, He is both creator and savior. And while it is hard, we must rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer, if even a little, for His name's sake.
Comment 2 Posted 7/9/2006 at 2:45 PM by C. W. Booth
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Angry, Sorrowful, and Zealous, But Still In Love (Part Six of an ongoing series about love)
Love is the biblical philosophy which commands men to engage themselves in the lifelong pursuit of intentionally doing good to one another and to glorifying God. Love is the sum of all Scriptures.
Affection, being both a choice and an emotion, is but one small subcomponent of love. Love's larger whole is comprised of deeds focused on doing good to others for their sake.
Emotions as Motivators to Action
Yet, love also envelopes an entire range of other emotions. Just like good deeds, emotions involve the use of our hearts, minds, and physical strength, while assuming that our emotions are ruled by, and dedicated to, loving others.
One way to think of emotions is in the role of motivators. Emotions motivate us to action. The Holy Spirit uses our human emotions to give us the energy to convert biblical principles into physical action.
For example, we see someone crying in sorrow over a loss. We apply our minds to Scripture and realize we are to strengthen the knees of the weak and steady the hands of the feeble (Job 4:4, Hebrews 12:12), encourage the depressed (2 Corinthians 7:6), and sympathize with the sorrowful (Hebrews 10:34, 1 Peter 3:8). Therefore, the Spirit enables us to spend our emotions on the sorrowful by weeping with them when they weep (Romans 12:15).
Similarly, anger over a sin imposed against a brother Christian or against God can give us the physical energy-rush to act while at the same time the anger temporarily dulls us to the potential dangers and the public outcry that might come with defending one's brother or publicly standing up for God. Jesus, in anger, through the vendors out of the temple by making a whip and driving them away.
All emotions are useful as motivators to take physical action. Each emotion enables different mental and physical abilities.
But even anger must be properly channeled and controlled. Love is that control. Anger must not be acted upon without first asking, "What actions would love for God and love for man take in this situation?" Love for God compels us to act on our anger, but to act without doing anything sinful (Ephesians 4:26). Love is the doing of only good to another while being perfectly obedient to Christ's commands. Love glorifies God while doing no wrong to another, even when one is angry.
Emotions can be spent selfishly for oneself, spending them on one's own pleasure. Or, emotions can be spent in loving service to God and to others. As motivators, they enable righteous action, but they can also be wasted just to make ourselves feel good.
Zeal. Zeal is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm charges our bodies and enables us to work in the service of God and others, or, enthusiasm can be entirely funneled into sensations of feeling good with no beneficial outcome for others. When someone is zealous during a Christian rock concert, they may jump up and down, scream, and cry tears of pleasure for the wonderful sensations that the music brings them. That is an example of wasting zeal on one's self, spending it on pleasure.
Yet, zeal for God and zeal for fellow Christians results in good deeds that benefit the saints on behalf of God's glory. We become people zealous for good deeds, if we are people of love.
who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:14)
and not only by [Titus] coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. (2 Corinthians 7:7)
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:13-16)
So then, whether you are zealous (enthusiastic), or whether you are rejoicing (reflecting zealous gratitude back to God), or whether you are sympathetic and sorrowful, whatever your emotional state, channel that energy through your mind so that God's Spirit may use the Scripture to motivate you to love and good deeds.
I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1 Corinthians 9:23)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
"After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.' " (Acts 13:22)
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Do all the will of God in the strength of Christ for the sake of the gospel to the glory of God, including, using your emotions in the service of love.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Loving Action--The Goal of All Emotion (Part Seven of an ongoing series about love)
Love is the biblical philosophy which commands men to engage themselves in the lifelong pursuit of intentionally doing good to one another and to be glorifying to God. Love is the sum of all Scriptures.
Emotions, as sub-components of love, play the role of motivators. Emotions motivate us to action. The Holy Spirit uses our human emotions to give us the energy to convert biblical principles into physical action.
Emotions Are Never the Goal, They Are the Means to the Goal
When emotions arise, it is because we have been touched by an event, something we have read or heard, or our inner mind has awakened to a thought. Such events evoke emotions. Emotions provoke action.
Emotions produce in us physiological changes which equip us for various actions. Anger raises our metabolism and subdues our fear response, making us stronger and bolder than we would be ordinarily. Fear makes our bodies ready for flight and heightens our alertness to dangers, accentuating our visual and hearing centers.
Shame and embarrassment cause us to become weak in the knees, flush in the face, and sensitive to feedback from others--it is a humbling emotion. How we deal with shame and embarrassment in our heart and mind will direct our next set of actions, either toward humility or toward prideful outbursts.
As with almost every aspect of human life, God calls on us not just to use our emotions, but to control and focus them toward loving and practical ends. For example, we are not to be men with lifestyles of anger nor quick to become hot tempered, however we are permitted to "be angry without sinning". We are also not to become creatures who live in fear of men, but rather fearing God alone, although, short term fear such as that which Christ experienced when He sweated blood is acceptable. (Luke 22:44 uses the word "agony", agonia in the Greek, which literally means "great fear"; fear probably induced from anticipation of having to be punished for the sins of the world while the Father momentarily must "forsake" the Son. It is this agonizing fear that prompted Jesus to ask God, "if possible, take this cup, this suffering of the cross, away from Me. Yet, not My will, but Yours be done.") Momentary fear, like momentary anger, is acceptable, so long as we do not continue in it and sin as a result of it. Experiencing a brief emotion is not a sin. What we do as a result of our emotion is the real issue.
Similarly, sorrow over sin leads us to take the action of humbled repentance, or, it leads to another emotion, anger and regret at being caught.
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
When love (doing what is best for others and for God) is the controlling filter through which we pass our emotions, good deeds enthusiastically pursued are the outcome.
For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! (2 Corinthians 7:11)
Scripture even dictates some of our loving actions which must be taken as a result of the emotions we feel. Sometimes the love is demonstrated toward God, sometimes, toward our neighbors.
Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises [to God]. (James 5:13)
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, (2 Corinthians 7:10a)
For you showed sympathy to the prisoners (Hebrews 10:34a)
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)
What Do I Do?
At the next onset of emotions, consider asking this question of yourself, "What biblical act of love is God attempting to produce through me by sending me this emotion?"
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Knowledge Makes Arrogant, But Love… (Part eight of an ongoing series about love)
We are to speak the truth to one another in love. This means speaking the truth to someone else for their good and for their benefit which glorifies God. Sometimes however, even with the intent of teaching properly, we teach falsehood. One such sad example is:
Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. (1 Corinthians 8:1a)
The above "quotation" is a partial thought, a fragment of an argument taken out of its context. From this incomplete thought Christians have wrongly taught that there is a contest between love and knowledge, and when given a choice, Christians should always err on the side of pursuing "love" (which they assume to be affection, peace, and sensitivity to not offend the feelings of others) and leave truth unspoken, embracing willful ignorance over knowledge.
There is no such tension or contest between love and knowledge. Paul informs us that "we all have knowledge" about the subject he is introducing. However, knowledge by itself, absent of the motive of love, is insufficient for anything except making a person proud.
But knowledge combined with love edifies. Edification means "to build up someone verbally" using knowledge, instruction, reproof, encouragement, or hymns.
In other words, knowledge spoken in love is always for the goal of edifying a fellow saint. Knowledge kept to oneself results only in pride. Such a proud person might think to himself, "I have more knowledge than that person, so that makes me better than them." A loving person will say, "My neighbor needs to hear this knowledge to help him grow in the Lord and I would be unloving to withhold that knowledge from them."
In context, 1 Corinthians 8 is all about eating food sacrificed to idols. Christians who lack knowledge (who are weak in understanding of the Word) assume they cannot eat meat that was possibly once sacrificed to idols--they starved due to their lack of knowledge. Yet believers who are strong in knowledge know idols are dumb rocks, and so long as one is not actively participating in an idol's worship ceremony (which involved eating the sacrificial meat in the idol's presence at its temple) then eating the meat left over from such a service is perfectly acceptable, for God is the only God and has blessed this bounty. If one had this knowledge in Rome, he ate; if one lacked this knowledge in Rome, he starved. (For more about the subject of eating meat, you are invited to read the article entitled:These Essentials: Abstain from Idols, Blood, Strangled Meat, Sex--Understanding the Prohibitions of Acts 15.)
Recall 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. "Good" deeds done without love are those deeds where the person was not motivated by a desire to give benefit to others but by their desire to get acclaim for themselves through their seemingly high-minded and very visible actions. Love, and loving deeds, are not motivated by self-interest (1 Corinthians 13:5). Love is motivated by the desire to edify others (1 Corinthians 14:26).
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Knowledge is in the employ of love. Knowledge does not fight with love, knowledge works under the direction of love. Knowledge edifies in love when it speaks the truth for the purpose of edifying others.
Love without deeds is simply impossible. Love is never ineffectual, it never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). Love is never present without the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Knowledge without love is knowledge left unspoken, it does not edify because it is not communicated. Knowledge without love is only good for boosting the ego of its silent owner.
Love will never allow a fellow Christian to starve, physically or spiritually, merely for lack of knowledge.
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:22-23)
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:14-16)
Pursue love. (1 Corinthians 14:1a)
Find knowledge (Proverbs 8:1, 9-14)
Does not wisdom call, And understanding lift up her voice? .[Wisdom's utterances] are all straightforward to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge. Take my instruction and not silver, And knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels; And all desirable things cannot compare with her. I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Trumping Love (Part nine of an ongoing series about love)
Card games often have something called a trump. A trump card, when played, automatically beats all other cards. This powerful card is the ultimate dominant card in the game, nothing beats it and no one can question or counter the trump.
Christians have created three verbal trump cards by which to outplay anyone who might speak a truth to them in love. Why are trump cards desired? Some people do not desire to hear the truth, especially truth that they may find unpleasant, even if it is meant for their own benefit. So they carry these three trump cards with them, ready to slap them on the table at the slightest hint that uncomfortable truth may be displayed.
Sadly, all three trump cards are inventions of man, alchemized from abuses of Scripture. Trump cards do not exist in the Scripture, and all Christians are expected to pay attention to the truth. Nonetheless, these trump cards often prevail.
Trump Card One: "You're Hurting My Feelings"
Also known as "The Tyranny of The Offended," the hurt feelings card can be played at virtually any time for any reason, or for no reason. If someone attempts to correct your theology, you can just say, "You're hurting my feelings by accusing me of having wrong theology." Immediately, this places the original speaker on the defensive, even implying that the original speaker is sinning with his words, for after all, they are words that have injured another person's feelings.
When someone uses the "you're hurting my feelings" trump card, they are usually sinning. Love does not get its feelings hurt by others (someone who loves is not provoked to anger or to hurt feelings -- 1 Corinthians 13:5). Love easily covers over such imagined "offenses" (Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8). Worse, such a person intentionally does not want to hear the truth, again indicating they lack love because someone who loves rejoices when the truth comes out, not when the truth is suppressed (1 Corinthians 13:6).
When giving a public teaching about how legalism is an unloving practice Jesus hurt the feelings (offended the sensibilities) of some Pharisees. His own disciples brought it to His attention that His words were offensive. He did not apologize. In fact, Jesus turned back to the Pharisees and said, "Yes, and the Pharisees are also blind heretics who lead the people astray." (Matthew 15:14)
Hurting someone's feelings by telling them the truth kindly, and in love, is not a sin, nor even an offense for which an apology or restitution is required. It is the responsibility of the hearer to regard his own heart and evaluate the truth of statements heard. If the statements hurt the hearer's feelings, it is an indication that his own heart is not right with God. One who loves the speaker is not offended when the truth is spoken, and is not provoked to anger by the truth or by the speaker, and if he is, he immediately covers over the offense in an attitude of love.
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." (Mark 11:25-26)
Trump Card Two: "You're Angry"
Emotions are God's mechanism by which He uses His Holy Spirit to turn circumstances and His Word into vital action within each of us. Being sinned against makes us angry. Watching others sin against God makes us angry. Angry enough to take action. It surely made Jesus angry at His fellow man--"[Jesus] looking around at them with anger" (Mark 3:5a)--the word anger here meaning "violent and wrathful passion."
That the one speaking the truth is temporarily angry or passionate does not give the listener a trump card or some kind of excuse not to listen. He may not say to the speaker of uncomfortable truth, "Sure, what you say may be true, but since you're angry you're the sinner and you have to repent of your anger and your angry tone of voice before I will listen to you."
Some Christians have made an art form out of verbal manipulation. They commit genuine sins against a patient person over an extended period of time (maybe even years), then, when the one who has been sinned against for so long is motivated to respond to yet another sin (perhaps motivated by his righteous anger), the sinner pushes all the right verbal buttons coaxing the person to raise his voice in long-coming frustration. Then the sinner calls public attention to the patient man's "obvious anger problem" so as to excuse his own sin while actually causing disgrace to fall on the patient man. That is a wretched, sinful, and improper form of manipulation.
Whether spoken in anger or not, the truth is not to be ignored. A man of passion speaking truth for the benefit of another, even speaking a rebuke, is speaking in love and is not "trumped" by his passion, emotions, or even tone of voice.
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:25-27)
Trump Card Three: "You're Divisive"
Titus 3:10 tells us to avoid a factious man after two warnings, and then have nothing to do with such a person.
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:9-11)
Any Christian who has come out of a cult, legalism, or a church where the elders are dictatorial or "lord it over the flock" understand how this passage is improperly leveraged against students of God's Word. Any person who offers an interpretation of Scripture that differs from those who would be the authorities in the church is unceremoniously labeled "a factious man" and is shunned. Not "disciplined" so as to seek his repentance, but shunned, so as to cut off the man from contact for all time with the "faithful." In "discipline" the goal is the restoration to fellowship of the sinner following his repentance; in shunning the goal is permanently withdrawing communication with a troublemaker.
Yet, Titus 3 is not advocating shunning. Nor is it even advocating disciplining someone who holds a different interpretation of Scripture. It is a warning that someone who creates a true faction, who advocates splitting the church membership and actively works to rally the remnant around some kind of new doctrine (usually named by him or for him) is to be formally charged by the church under the rules of Matthew 18. Such a person is a schism-maker, a faction-builder.
Such a person is not intent on sharing God's Word for the benefit of other Christians. They are intent on creating a following after their own novel precepts and unique philosophies. They are often recognizable by their siren call to all believers that only those who adopt their label are fit to be called Children of God or to see the Kingdom of Heaven. As label-bearers for "the cause" or "the movement," they eventually split from their churches and join themselves to others who are obsessed with the study of the faction-maker's body of work.
That any Christian should assign the label "factious man" or "divisive" to another solely on the basis that such a person speaks an uncomfortable truth to them is simply unconscionable and is being very unloving.
These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. Keep yourselves in the Love of God. But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly- minded, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:16-19)
There is no valid Trump Card which gives a hearer a free pass to avoid hearing truth. One whose feelings are hurt misunderstands the very basic elements of what it means to love someone. One who retreats behind such tactics as name calling and accusations of "you're too passionate" or "that's a divisive thing to say" when the truth is spoken to them lack love of the truth and have no love for the speaker.
Speaking the truth in love is always for the benefit of the hearer. The truth edifies, even if it hurts. It builds faith, even as it compresses the ego. Ultimately, the truth yields all that is good in growing the fruits of the Spirit within a person. But only if the person is willing to hear.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Sacrifices of Love (Part Ten of an ongoing series about love)
What Is the Greatest Love Possible?
What is the greatest love possible? You might be tempted to quote John 15:12-14. And you would be right to do so.
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12-14)
For a man to lay down his life for his friends is the greatest love one human can have for another. Yet, even within this passage is a hint of what God values as the highest form of love that a man can have for Him: you are God's friends if you do what He commands.
Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22)
Recently, one man incorrectly concluded in his book that obedience to God is not love nor is it even the definition of love, but merely the evidence of love. If love were nothing more than a nebulous ethereal feeling, an emotion of affection welling up spontaneously, then one might be justified in saying obedience plays no part in defining love. However, biblical love, as God defines it, is an act of our will, a set of choices we make that we will act upon. Biblical love makes our affections and our emotions subject and subservient to our conscious intent and the influence of the Holy Spirit within us.
"And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it." (2 John 1:6)
This is love, not simply an evidence of love, but this is love: that we live our lives in obedience to Christ's commandments. Love requires action or it is not love. Therefore, acts of obedience define love and not merely the evidences of it.
Christ, Our Example of Sacrificial Love
If laying down one's life for his friends is the greatest love one man can have for another, then Christ is our example of the greatest love.
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)
Jesus was our example of humble servitude to God. We are to have the same attitude which Christ presented to us as the perfect example, an attitude of humility in service. Our goal is to please God in all that we do, not to please ourselves. God is pleased when we are humble enough to love Him obediently, sacrificially.
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. (John 10:17)
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:3-13)
Sacrificial Loving in the Extreme
Two men exhibited sacrificial love in the extreme. If the greatest love is give one's life for a friend, then how great a love is it when a man offers to give up his eternal life in exchange that others might be saved? Both Moses and the Apostle Paul attempted to barter away their salvation (their eternal pleasure) in exchange for the salvation of the Jews.
On the next day Moses said to the people, "You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.". Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, "Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin--and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!" (Exodus 30:30-32)
I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5)
God's Expectations for Christians
Surely God has graciously explained to us what we too must do to imitate Christ's humble attitude of sacrificial service.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:1-5)
Spiritual Gifts do not become "spiritual" until one uses the talents bestowed on him by God to work in the service of others. In other words, until one serves and edifies the church, he has not exercised his spiritual gifts. This is duty, using one's body as a living sacrifice of love to serve Christ and His church.
Husbands and Wives
Sacrificial love extends to wives and husbands, just as it does to serving the rest of the church in an attitude of humble servitude.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. (Ephesians 5:1-2, 22-30)
To understand Ephesians 5 is to understand that Christ gave up His life on Earth as a sacrifice for us and that we are called to do the same. Wives must be subject to their husbands just as the church is subject to Christ. How is the church subject to Christ? Is it in loving obedience? Is not "obedience" a key element in the word "love"?
Husbands are to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church. He protects the church from sin and from harm, He provides for the church, He listens every time the church prays, He nourishes the church, He is an example of sinless leadership.
Love sounds like hard work. It is. Yet it is also a light burden compared to the alternative. Imagine love without the sacrificial quality. Imagine love without obedience or humble service. In other words, love stripped of all that makes it love becomes hollow affection, like a tree whose core has rotted, producing no sheltering leaves, ready to topple--an image without the substance.
Love without the qualities of obedience, humble service, and sacrifice is not truly agape love at all. And when agape love is replaced by empty affection, the tree falls during the first hard wind, the good is gone from it, no one is edified, no one is protected, and no one will know we are Christians. No one can see affections but everyone can see the intentional acts of service generated by willful and sacrificial love.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Al-Qaida Calls for Holy War Against Israel -- What Else Is New?
Today's headline in the online news read: Al-Qaida Calls for Holy War Against Israel. So, what else is new?
How it all began
When Abraham was called by God to father a new nation in the land now called Israel, Abraham became impatient that his first heir was not yet born. Abraham "solved" his problem by impregnating a woman who was not his wife. That woman gave birth to a son who became the father of all those we call Arabs today. And that same son hated Abraham for what he had done to his mother, and that same son had his own sons who also hated the offspring Abraham eventually had through his rightfully married wife, and many Arabs today continue to hate all Abraham's non-Arab descendants (those which comprise the nation of Israel).
Tiny Israel is but a pinprick of a nation compared to the numerous and vastly larger, wealthier nations which surround her. And all those nations which surround her are homelands for uncounted millions of Muslim Arabs who follow the ways of Islam. Hatred abounds for Israel (Abraham's offspring via his wife) among that vast population and huge land mass which surrounds her.
Of course, it must be noted that most of the formal governments of these Arab homeland nations are not officially hostile toward Israel anymore. However, many of these same nations appear to freely sanction, harbor, and support immense freelance terror organizations who have but one goal: destroy Israel and any country that would assist her. What a sad irony of history, that the descendants of one of Abraham's sons wishes to utterly kill off all the descendants of his own half-brother, also a son of Abraham.
Al-Qaida (or Al-Qaeda)
Al-Qaida is one such terrorist organization. It is not a government, nor is it a country. It is merely a group that formed itself together just to launch terrorist raids in the hopes of some day removing Israel (and all Jews) from the planet, while also dissuading other nations from helping Israel. Al-Qaida once prospered in Afghanistan under the protection of the Afghan government until the US-led alliance of nations militarily removed the hostile Afghan government and hunted down the Al-Qaida terrorists for killing three thousand souls in the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon.
Hezbollah is another such terrorist league. The countries of Lebanon and Syria give Hezbollah protection and allow it to organize and carry out paramilitary strikes against Israel from their borders. Hezbollah purchases expensive and powerful weapons on the world arms market (using donations it receives from rich sympathetic Arabs) and daily fires rocket and missile attacks into Israel's civilian cities from behind the protection of Lebanon's border.
Many of Hezbollah's bases and munitions centers are reportedly "hidden" in the basements of Lebanon's civilian apartment complexes , schools, mosques, and hospitals under the assumption that Israel would never fire upon such targets. Largely, Hezbollah was correct, until Hezbollah began taking Israeli soldiers captive and carrying them back to Lebanon. Israel invaded Lebanon both to recover their soldiers and to break the cycle of the daily missile attacks. The government of Lebanon may cry foul at being invaded by Israel, but no one takes such comments seriously given that Lebanon permits and encourages terrorists to own and fire such lethal ordinance at neighboring countries from within their own country.
Hamas was also a terrorist organization with but one goal: destroy Israel and remove the Jews from the Middle East, returning the land of Israel to Arab rule and Arab occupation. After Israel graciously granted some locally-born Arab peoples land inside their tiny nation of Israel on which to establish a new independent state called Palestine, the Palestinian Arabs voted to elect Hamas as the new government of Palestine. Needless to say, this act of betrayal against Israel has resulted in additional unneeded bloodshed. Hamas, now the official governing body of Palestine, continues to operate as a terrorist organization within the very borders of Israel, planning and carrying out bombings of civilian population centers. No one can hope to believe that Israel will continue to allow a terrorist organization to function with impunity inside their own country. It is only a matter of time before Israel forcibly removes Hamas from Palestine and, thus, from Israel.
What Should a Christian Do?
Is Israel's invasion of Lebanon as part of their effort to recover their missing soldiers and to stop the daily missile attacks against their civilian cities the beginning of the end times or the start of the tribulation? Maybe yes, maybe no. But how should we as Christians live in light of these events?
For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you." Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:14-17)
Why does God seem to delay the coming of the end of time? So that all His elect may be saved via the preaching the cross to those who are yet still in their sins. Make the most of your time, for you know what the will of the Lord is.
But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:7-9)
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Blame-shifting in Beirut
Some of Beirut's citizens have protested the Israeli military response. They protested by storming the U.N. building and trashing the clerical offices. This is a classic case of blame-shifting.
Blame-shifting means to remove the blame from yourself and place it on another person or persons. Literally, you are shifting the blame to others whom you hold responsible for whatever problem, circumstance, or punishment that has befallen you. When you blame-shift, you declare yourself innocent of wrongdoing and you declare another party culpable and wholly responsible for your victimization.
In married life and in family relationships the urge to blame-shift is ever lingering. "It's your fault I was late to that appointment." "Of course I ran out of gas on my way to work because you did not refill the tank when you drove yesterday." "The only reason the dog got run over in traffic is because you did not restrain her by the collar when you opened the front door to let me in." "The only reason we don't talk anymore is because you always use that tone of voice that I just hate, so blame yourself for my cold shoulder."
To be sure, there are sometimes incidents where only one person is truly singularly and wholly guilty of inflicting wrong on another person. Even then, the guilty party can easily sway himself into shifting the blame elsewhere. Man has an enormous propensity to rationalize and excuse his own sin while holding others utterly responsible for a lesser offense.
Facing up to one's own guilt, or even merely admitting one's own responsibility in an act that ended badly (though no evil intent may have been originally countenanced), is key to breaking the blame-shifting game. When blame-shifting occurs, and you hold others accountable for your own damaging actions, you never have the opportunity to repent, reconcile, or make restitution; after all, those who are "innocent" do not need to repent, do they? So you rob yourself of the ability to come to God and to others with clean hands, hiding the dirt of your guilt in the palms of your tightly clenched fist where you think no one can see. All the while your relationship with God and with your neighbors deteriorates.
Of course, the citizens of Beirut appear to not notice that they are responsible to one degree or another for the Israeli military action occurring in Lebanon. The citizens of Beirut allowed their government to become partially populated with Hezbollah terrorist leaders--where were all their protests when such men of violence sat themselves at the seat of governmental power? Why do not the Lebanese people protest against the Hezbollah munitions dumps which are intentionally placed under civilian apartment buildings? Where are the Lebanese protesters who decry Hezbollah's daily missile strikes at Israel's cities, towns, and farms?
Tolerating hatred and evil in one's government and keeping a mute mouth about the murderers who dwell within a population can have the same ultimate outcome for the ordinary citizen as if each person were also himself a hate-monger or terrorist. Those who are the targets of hatred and terrorism will sooner-or-later be forced to defend themselves (as Israel does now), or, the world community will avenge their deaths against the countries who originated and sponsored the terrorism (just as Nazi-led Germany and Al-Qaida-led Afghanistan experienced).
Most often, blame-shifting only works to fool the blame-shifter and the undiscerning.
(Note: as Christians, our hearts also ache to see so many civilians suffering in both Lebanon and in Israel, regardless of who started what.God's purpose is not to make man suffer, but to bring men to Himself. Join with me in prayer that even now some will be saved in Beirut, throughout Lebanon, and in Israel itself.)
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