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Weekly Word

Monday
Oct162017

The Cry of 'No H8'-III

Luke 6:32-36.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 15, 2017.

As the news exploded several weeks ago about the film producer Harvey Weinstein, we have had a new example of the hypocrisy that often parades in full view in this world.  He was supposed to be a great champion of women’s rights and all along many knew that he was using his power to trample the hearts and minds of young women.  Yet, most said nothing, and some even enabled him all the while decrying these things in the lives of people that they did not like.  For whatever reasons Harvey Weinstein has gone from a protected status to persona non grata, it is safe to say that Hollywood is riddled with many more like him.  It is not just Hollywood and it is not just sexual abuse.  The system of this world is riddled with hypocrisy.  No matter how loudly this world touts the principles of love and compassion, we must always recognize the human tendency to overlook the sins of those we like and highlight the sins of those we do not.  Whenever you lift the rug, you find all manner of evils that have been swept under it by the perpetrators and by those who are in their good graces.

Now some may scoff at the words of Jesus to love your enemies.  However, if you need a good reason to accept his wisdom, you only need to hear his heart on the subject and then honestly look at the world around you and inside of you.  So we pick up where we left off two weeks ago in Luke chapter 6.

Only Loving Those Who Love You

After telling us to love our enemies, Jesus gives us the reasons for doing so.  In verses 32-34 Jesus lists three actions that are really just three ways of saying the same thing: loving, doing good, and lending.  As we move through this I will use the action of love to focus all of them, since it is the key virtue and the argument can be made that the other two are just facets or ways of loving.  In the passage about love we are told that “even sinners love those who love them.”  Something that may seem shocking to people is the fact that Jesus uses a verb form of the famous Greek term Agape (unconditional love).  Thus sinners have agape for those who give them agape.  The idea that we can unconditionally love those who unconditionally love us is itself a logical mess.   It is self-canceling.  Yes, people do it.  But Jesus is pointing out this is not really agape love, in fact it is not really loving others.  Similarly, his point is that sinners do good to those who do good to them.  Also, sinners lend money to those from whom they will get the same back.  Such a virtue is no virtue at all.  It is simply a form of moral indirect action in which people actually love themselves.  It is not moral to build feedback loops that give us what we want.  We should love people regardless of what they do to us because it is the right thing to do.

Now Jesus prefaces each of these by saying that to do such things is no credit to the person because even sinners do that.  Now, on one level, we can see that Jesus is calling us to do something that sticks out from the world around us.  Our righteousness must exceed the “righteousness” of those around us who are not living for God.  In fact, much of our love in life is done in situations where we are receiving some of it back, sometimes more and sometimes less, but always some.  Jesus is not saying that it is bad to be loved back.  However, he is pointing out that the motivation of most is that they only love those who love them (from their judgment).   But, notice such a love is of no value to God.  We might believe it has some relative value to us as humans.  But such a selfish love does not truly help people.  It only allows us to continue down a destructive road of self-love.

As I said earlier it is illogical to say that you unconditionally love those who unconditionally love you because there actually is a condition.  This is the mantra of the world today and of our own heart if we allow it to be.  “As long as you unconditionally accept me, I will unconditionally accept you.”  However, there will always be conditions that change with the passing fads of time.  In the past Christians were told that they needed to be more accepting of adulterers, and then it was homosexuals.  Today the vice de jour is transgender people and the idea of fluid gender.  You see, yesterday you were accepted if you accepted X, and then X+1, but today it is X+2.  Unless you get on the right side of this ever changing line then none of your previous “love and acceptance” matter.  This is utter hypocrisy.  Our modern age loves to pillory and castigate the generations that have gone on before us, as if we have attained a far higher virtuous plane.  Have we really?  To our credit, we can say that society has gained some wonderful things and gotten rid of some horrible things.  But we haven’t become more virtuous as a people.  It is just no longer in style or socially acceptable to have slaves, or to be rich at the expense of your workers, or to abuse women.  Yet these things happen all day long and are often covered up by people who project a pristine moral image.  So have we really become more loving than previous generations?  I do not believe so.  In fact, 1 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”  He is saying that on one hand they will be unloving, but on the other hand they will love pleasure, money and themselves very much.  To the degree that we love ourselves, we are unable to love others.  Why don’t we take some time to go over some hypocritical situations that look godly on the outside, but deny the power of true godliness (which is repentance from sin).

Examples of Hypocrisy

At this point I will give credit to Nicholas Senze, Director of Faith Formation at St. Vincent dePaul Catholic Church in Arlington, Texas, for some of the illustrations to follow.  He has an article online called The Hypocrisy of the Modern World, with CrisisMagazine.com. 

Our businesses, political parties, universities, media, and even religious groups create ideological “echo chambers” that simultaneously declare a commitment to diversity and open dialogue, all the while silencing any who contradict our biases with honest discussion, even to the point of firing or casting out those who do so.  Everything is nice as long as you toe a particular line.  But if you don’t the claws come out.  They are a fuzzy bunny one second and a salivating werewolf the next.

As a Christian florist in Washington State is drug through a lengthy and costly public trial for not doing the flowers for a same-sex wedding, there is no similar public outcry or government charge (where are you Attorney General Bob Ferguson) when Christians are kicked out of a Seattle coffee shop and denied service.  This was not done because they were proselytizing on the premises, but because they had been seen handing out leaflets against abortion in the local area.  Hypocrisy.

We often talk about defending the helpless and tout our virtue to the heavens.  Yet, we are silent and enabling when it comes to a human pregnancy.  We will spend gobs of money to travel around the world to stop female circumcision and yet can’t get out of bed when babies in the womb are being slaughtered across the street.  How can such a disparity exist?  It does because it is socially acceptable to chop up a baby in the womb, suck its body parts out, and throw them in the trash bin (unless of course there is money to be had).  In Roe V. Wade the court based its decision upon its inability to answer the question, “When does life begin?”  Now that we have an avalanche of evidence of when life begins, still the silence is deafening.  In fact now we talk about when one actually becomes a person and has personhood.

But, it gets worse.  This thing that isn’t a person yet, however, does have a sexual orientation, all the while its gender is still fluid.  Our illogical statements are never resolved.  But are just left to hang there as a tribute to our hypocrisy.

We cry wolf about the violence of those on the opposite side of the political spectrum, while remaining silent or even encouraging (wink, wink) of violence of those who fight our enemies.

We are told to curb the appetites of food to the point of either banning or taxing to death certain foods.  We are all to be Spartan athletes in training, so to speak.  But, speak of curbing sexual appetites, and you will be called all manner of expletives, and told to “get the government out of my bedroom/womb.”

Now from a Christian standpoint we must be honest about one thing.  If we define hypocrisy as not living up to the ideals that you profess to have, then we are all guilty because of the weakness of human desire.  Even Mother Theresa fell short of her own ideals at times.  The Christian should never pretend sinlessness, but rather rely upon repentance and forgiveness.  The problem with the world is not sin, but rather a hard heart towards repentance.  Hypocrisy is at its worse when it allows itself to do one thing, while forbidding it to another.  We see this everywhere in our “virtuous” society.  In fact the case can be made that while we are making the outward structures of our society look more “godly,” we are powerless to fight the onslaught of inner desires that are destroying our nation.

As we go back to our passage, we are told in verse 34 that if we love our enemies, do good to them, and lend without expecting anything in return, then we will be Sons of the Most High.  The obvious reality is that if we do not do these things, but instead follow the lemming path of the world around us, then we are not Sons of the Most High.  Instead we take on the image of a different father, who is the god of this world, Satan.  Christians must not only follow Jesus in word, but also in deed.  This involves rejecting the “love” of this world (as it models and defines), and a “love” for this world (the inner seduction towards its systems).  God does not quash all objectors and withhold from the wicked all good things.  All around us we see the goodness of God coming to the righteous and the wicked alike.  This is not proof that God likes what they are doing, though it feels that way at times.  It is only proof that God is love.  However, there is a day of judgment.  Though God is kind, He must eventually judge.  Thus, He has given us this life to live and then the judgment.  In His mercy, He lets us all enjoy the good of life and also suffer that has been created by people.  Christians must love others regardless of what they do, because we are making a choice of who we want to be our father.  Who do I want to become like?  We can do so knowing that God will make all things right.  To love your enemy is not to approve of what they do, but rather, to trust that God will deal with them justly.  It is not to pretend that what they do is okay, but rather, to speak the truth in love (for their good rather than for their bad).  We must relinquish the desire to control others, and instead control ourselves from the inside out.

I have skipped over the fact that Jesus says that those who listen to Him and love their enemies will be deserving of great reward.  So will I trade great reward from God for the trinkets that I can get from people in this life?  Harvey Weinstein promised to make young women famous if they would only satisfy his perverted desires.  He also bullied those who rejected his advances.  This is not love.  Everyone who is picking up stones to pound Harvey Weinstein, should take a hard long look in the mirror.  He is a man who has lived a life of loving himself alone, and no one else.  Is that you?  Is that me?  Are you only loving those who love you back?  Isn't that simply loving yourself by extension?  We cannot live by the world’s ethic and find great reward.  Only those who turn from the wisdom of the world and follow the wisdom of Jesus will find such.

No H8!- III audio

Friday
Oct132017

The Cry of 'No H8'- II

Galatians 5:19-21; Proverbs 26:24-28; 1 Peter 4:7-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 08, 2017.

Last week we talked about the Christians duty to love their enemies and to reject hatred.  We are called to live our lives by the truth and the love of Jesus.  This is easier said than done when destructive events happen in the life of an individual or a group.  If we were to investigate the roots of those destructive events within the perpetrators, without doubt we would find hatred in all its forms.  Many events are physically destructive: bombings, shootings, kidnappings, etc.  But, hatred may also target a person for political destruction, relational destruction, destroying someone’s business life, or social standing within any group.  These things can be just as devastating in the life of those affected as if someone had tossed a bomb into our life.

Those who suffer at the hands of hate can easily give in to the desire of the heart to hate back and to get even.  Why does Jesus teach that this is wrong, and even further that we must love them?  Well, let’s go under the hood of hatred (so to speak) and walk through some of the biblical reasons why God is dead set against using hatred to accomplish justice.

Hatred is a work of the flesh

In Galatians 5:19-21 we are given a list that is referred to as “the works of the flesh.”  This list is contrasted with the “fruit of the Spirit.”  Hatred is in the first list, which is clearly not exhaustive.  Thus the source of hatred cannot be found in the Spirit of God.  It is found within the sinful nature of us humans.  We are the source.  It is easy to blame everything, but ourselves.  However, God’s Word does not leave that option open to us.

Last week we defined hate as an intense ill-will towards another person or group.  Though this is a motivation of the heart, it always leads to outward actions of some sort, even if it is merely avoidance.  So when a person first embraces the inner advances of hatred, it may seem innocent and justified at the time because we haven’t done anything, yet.  Human courts at this point in time do not hold people accountable for thoughts and feelings.  In fact it would be impossible to do without error at this time.  They are held accountable when the hatred breaks out into an illegal action.  Yet, God has gone on record that he will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16).  So we should not sit comfortably just because we “haven’t done anything.”  God calls us to a higher “righteousness” than not doing certain things.  Like a seed, hatred will not remain static.  It is extremely industrious and your flesh will keep pushing you until the wicked fruit of hatred is brought to maturity.

Now, the problem here cannot be solved with a law.  No law, whether from God, or mankind can get rid of all hatred.  We would have to get rid of all people.   Scientists are working on ways to figure out how to read people’s minds and thoughts.  But even if we were able to identify it with our technology, the truth is that all people at one time or another have thoughts or feelings of hatred.  There is much in our inner life that surface in our heart and yet we mentally reject as acceptable and something we want to embrace.  We would have to have a world where everyone is connected to an Artificial Intelligence that can alert the authorities to an outbreak of hatred within a person.  Such a world would be chaos instantly.  God’s Word does not point us back to the Law as a solution for our salvation.  The Law is helpful for helping us to see that we have problems.  But, it is powerless to help us heal or to give salvation.  At the best we can only cut off those actions of hate that rise above the surface.  However, the roots will grow increasingly large under the surface.  Your flesh wants to hate.  It will be drawn to that direction.  But, the Holy Spirit wants to lead you towards loving people in truth.  So the answer is to repent of our sins and turn to the Spirit of God for direction.  It requires saying, “No!” to our flesh and, “Yes!” to the Spirit of God.  Yet, even this is not the foundation of our salvation.  The foundation of our salvation is the fact that Jesus paid the price for our hatred and other sins at the cross.  Those who repent of their self-justified life and put their faith in Jesus have their guilt removed from them.  They are freed to follow the Holy Spirit and become progressively more like Jesus.  Now let’s look at a couple of proverbs to help us pull apart some of the inner workings of hatred.

Hatred deceives everyone

In Proverbs 26:24-28, we are reminded that hatred is deceptive.  When it happens in our heart, we embrace a life of deceiving others.  Because we fear others knowing what is in our heart and mind, we become deceptive in our life with others.  This can be simply for tactical advantage, or it can be because we know it is wrong and we fear others knowing about it.  Thus we are told that hatred masks itself or disguises itself.  We create a false persona towards those we hate, but it is often impossible to separate this false persona from the people we love.  Pretended love, pretended fellowship, pretended concern for truth, justice, and the good of all, are all deceits that make things worse for all.  Yet, it looks loving on the surface.

In verse 24 we are told that the hater “lays up deceit within himself.”  Hate is a growing thing that we can harbor in our heart.  Every day a person can be making more and more deposits of hateful thoughts and emotions.  You cannot harbor these things without deceiving yourself.  You may at first understand that there is something wrong with hating.  But if we allow it to remain and grow we will become hardened to love and become convinced of the “noble causes of justice” that our hatred drives us to pursue.

We are also told that those who plot the harm of others will eventually be caught in their own plots.  Like Haman in the book of Esther, they will be hung on the gallows that they made for someone else.  I know that there are people who are consumed with hate and seem to get away with it all the time.  They have mastered the art of hatred.  However, it will get them in the end.  Don’t let yourself be fooled.  If you pursue a life of ill-will towards another, no matter how justified, you will find yourself standing before a holy God who will be just as stern with you.  Hatred promised you justice, but didn’t tell you that you would also be hung on your own petard.

Hatred stirs up strife and discord

Another proverb about hate versus love is found in chapter 10, verse 12.  The Apostle Peter quotes part of this proverb in 1 Peter 4:7-8.  So we will look at both. Here is the proverb.  “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”  Proverbs 10:12.  This statement about hate is very straightforward.  It will not leave well enough alone.  It stirs up strife and discord, first within the individual that gives in to it and second among those around us, who are often innocent bystanders.

Why is hatred so discordant?  It is because hatred has the ability to watch people like a hawk, and to watch the situation for any favorable edge to bring about the demise of another.  It seeks any occasion: of fault for accusation, of open ears for gossip, and of imagining the worst motives for others.  It does not remain solely focused on those who initially stirred it up within us.  Like a wounded animal, hate becomes a weapon and way of life that lashes out at anyone who gets too close.  Any person who is willing to listen becomes a sounding board for our inner discourse.  This litany of errors of the other person may have some truths in it, but hate drives us to propagandize such errors into far more than they usually are.  It always consumes us with the worst possible motives of our target.  In this sense hatred truly becomes neurotic.  For every time it is correct in its analysis, there are dozens of errors in our own thinking, and harsh judgments.

In this way hatred is the opposite of a peacemaker.  In the beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God.”  This will not be true for the person who embraces hate.  Instead of being a source of life and hope in a situation, the person of hate makes it worse and cuts off all hope of making peace.  They have become not like Christ, but more like the devil.  Now the passage in 1 Peter 4 only quotes the love side of this proverb.  He reminds believers that love covers a multitude of sins.  This is not the same as covering up sins.  This is not about avoidance, but about forgiveness.  Love forgives and moves on.  But hatred will never forgive and never moves on.  Peter warns believers that the end of all things is at hand, or near.  In other words, he is reminding them to love because the time of judgment is near.  Hatred makes us blind to our own coming judgment.  We can only see the judgment that we desire on the other person or group.  The judgment of God is coming upon this entire world, and we will want to be on the right side of that judgment.  The ends you were pursuing will not justify the means of hatred that you employed when you stand before Jesus.  Only the person who has trusted His way and followed the Spirit of God, who rejected hate and embraced love, who let the words of life flow through them to be a channel of the life of God, will be justified in that day.  Hatred blinds us to just how ugly our own sin is, and how dangerous a position we are in before God.  We become like the man, whom God forgave a gazillion sins, who then goes out to not forgive another who has sinned against us 100 times.  We undercut the mercy of God by our own lack of mercy.  It is only just that a person who has fed on hatred their whole life, be given hatred at the moment of their own judgment.

Peter also mentions the need for serious prayer.  The prayer is called serious in the sense that it is sober.  The restraint is in reference to our flesh and inner life.  God is not interested in prayer as a movement of your lips and the recitation of particular words.  He wants serious, sober prayers that are honestly wrestling with the inner life in response to the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  If you have been injured and hurt, do not embrace hurt.  Rather, through prayer, lay your petition before God.  Through prayer, calm your tumultuous heart so that you can talk with others about what has been done to you.  Through prayer, reject the tendrils of hate that seductively wrap themselves around your heart and let God’s Spirit replace it with His love.  Ask God to help you to guard your own heart and to love as He loved.  Trust completely in the justice that He has promised all who follow Him, rather than the deceptive promise that hatred gives to us.

No H8!-- II audio

Monday
Oct022017

The Cry of 'No H8'- I

Luke 6:27-31.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 01, 2017.

There has been a surge of protest movements that have demonstrated with signs saying ‘No H8.’  Of course this stands for ‘No Hate.”  Some of them have been entirely peaceful and represent a sincere desire for what they believe is hate to come to an end.  However other protests have become violent and hateful against those whom they are calling haters.  Which begs the question, “How can you say that you want a world without hate, while hating certain people?”  Typically the answer is something along the line that is a practical solution.  Hating haters is okay because it gets rid of the “bad people” and then we can all go back to being loving.  This kind of self-defeating logic can never lead to Utopia, just as sitting in a circle and singing Kumbaya also fails.  Hatred is one of those things that looks horrible on others, but often feels so right when we are feeling it.  We often feel justified for our hate of another person.  They did this, or that, said this, or that.  This sets us up for centuries of going after the “haters de juor,” like a dog chasing its own tail.

It is important to recognize that hating is something that all humans are capable and frequently do.  If you are truly going to fight hate then you are going to have to start with yourself.  Hatred has a feeling side of it that can be just as passionate for the harm of another person, as love can be passionate for the well being of another.  However, it also has a very, cold, rational side to it, in which a person has a heightened sense of another person’s faults and a perceived judgment and punishment that they deserve.  Often these judgments are overblown and twisted by the emotion or passion of hatred.  Thus, in our quest for Utopia, humans have to deal with this area of hatred because it is a problem that has roots in the hearts of every human being. 

So just how does someone come to hate another person or group?  Yes, it can be learned, but that cannot be the main answer.  To blame parents or a culture is the same as the problem of where evil comes from.  We end up in a series of regressions.  Who taught the first person who ever hated to hate?  If we say the devil, we are still left with the question, who taught him?  Did God teach the devil to hate God and mankind?  This is absurd.  Thus, free agents are quite capable of coming to hate out of their own ability, although it is often exacerbated by the world around them.  We must stop blaming everyone else for why we are so angry.  Yes, they may not be helping and in fact encouraging you to hate, but that is a cop out.  No one makes you hate.  It is something that you are tempted to embrace from within your own heart.

As Christians, we can admire the call for “No H8,” whether it comes from other believers, other religions, or even atheists.  This is something we should all want.  Imagine a world where there was no hate.  God doesn’t want any of us to hate.  Yet, we must be honest with ourselves as to the true sources of hate, which is bound up in the heart of every person on this planet.  It is a human condition.  Only the truth of Jesus can set us free from its seduction.

Jesus commands us to love others

The passage we are looking at today has Jesus telling those who will listen to him to love others.  Elsewhere he call this the 2nd greatest commandment- coming behind loving God with your whole being.  We will find in this passage two aspects.  We are to focus on our own hate, rather than using the hate of another as an excuse.  Also, this command is about actions rather than feelings, more on that later.  Now it is possible to love some people with our human ability.  But we cannot love everybody on our own.  Jesus rejects the idea of only loving those whom you find loveable.  This kind of hypocritical love is a hallmark of all of the world’s cultures and systems.  “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your’s.”  Most people who try to “love everybody” find that there are some people who are just jerks and they cynically give up on love or even on humanity.  But Christians are those who know that what is impossible with us is possible with God.  With the help of the Spirit of God we are able to love everybody.

So what about the situation where we are taught to hate by parents or our culture?  This passage opens up with the phrase, “But, I say to you.”  It is clear that Jesus is contrasting what he is saying with something else.  Luke does not record this.  But Matthew’s account in Matthew 5:43 proceeds this phrase with another sentence.  “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”  In the days of Jesus, the people of Israel were being taught that they were to love their neighbors (as stated in the Law of Moses).  But they were also taught to hate their enemies.  The Law emphasized loving your neighbor, which makes sense.  They are the ones who will help to protect you from enemies.  Self-preservation demands such alliances.   However, not all neighbors are neighborly.  Thus, they end up on our enemy list.  In fact a person can end up on our enemy list because they are not acceptable religiously.  Thus the powerful story of the Good Samaritan is told by Jesus to purposefully mix these ideas of race, religion, enemy, neighbor, hate, and love in a way that shows our hypocrisy.

Jesus stands firmly against those who teach that it is okay to hate, for any reason, even if that person is our enemy (vs. 27).  Jesus gives the statement to love your enemy in a command form.  If you are going to truly be his disciple and learn from him then you are going to have to reject the tendency to hate those who “deserve it,” and love them instead.  This doesn’t just go against the standards of most cultures, it goes against our own personal standards.  Who is on your “enemy list?”  How did they get there, or what did they do?  Sometimes people have done things to us personally that were hurtful.  Other times they are part of a group that has either harmed my group or caused me personal hurt.  Lastly, maybe they have done nothing to me or my group, but you simply have been taught that they are your enemy for reasons that have little connection to you.  What is interesting here is the fact that Jesus uses present tense verbs in verse 27.  Here is a translation that emphasizes the present tense.  “But I am saying to you, be loving your enemies, and be doing good things to those who are hating you.”  Jesus is not talking about being nice to someone who hurt us 20 years ago, i.e. forgiveness.  He is teaching something far more radical and, in fact, far more impossible.  Can we really love people and do good to them even as they are hating us as an enemy, even as they are doing hurtful things against us?  It is wrong to hold grudges over sins of the past.  However, Jesus is speaking about the fresh sins of those who are not asking for our forgiveness.  Hurtful actions stir up noble feelings of injustice.  But, they also stir up ignoble feelings of anger, hate, and rage.  There is a whole spectrum of hateful actions, of which some are passive-aggressive and others are aggressive-aggressive.  Regardless, Jesus calls us back from the brink of the chaos of hate.  Hate compels us to jump off the cliff of restraint and surrender to its powerful forces.  But Jesus calls us to step away from hate and to step towards love.

How do I love my enemy?

This is the impossible ask, that only the Spirit of God can help us to accomplish.  So what does it look like to love one’s enemies?  Jesus starts with the general principle, but then moves to more specific situation.  I said this earlier, but I want to emphasize it again.  Notice that Jesus is not commanding us to have loving feelings towards those enemies who are doing hateful things.  The command is about our actions.  It is natural to hate and not love those who hurt you.  Jesus is not commanding us to feel something.  But, to control those inner feelings and make a choice to obey his command instead.  In fact, when we acknowledge our own hate and anger, but refuse let it control our actions it does something to our heart.  I am not talking about stuffing emotions or ignoring them.  But rather recognizing the dangerous path they are compelling you to follow and choosing a different one.  It doesn’t cause our heart to have warm fuzzies for our enemies.  But it does change our perspective.  Suddenly, we can see the other person and their hate as a person who is in bondage to their own feelings of hate and hurt, aperson who will have to stand before Jesus one day and give account for all the hateful things that they did.  In fact everyone in the world has been hurt in many ways and could be controlled by the hate that comes out of those hurts.  Hateful actions will always hurt.  That cannot be changed and we should never pretend otherwise.  However, we can refuse to be controlled and derailed by that hurt.  We can rise above the beastly level of simply responding to hurts by lashing out, to the spiritual level of hearing the voice of God calling us to a better way, “Love them back.”  In a sense we are making a choice of who we want to be like, Jesus or the devil.  Hurt and hate call us down a path of becoming like the devil, no matter how justified.  But the love of God calls us back to the path of becoming like our Creator, like Jesus.

So let’s go down the list of actions that give us a quid pro quo for the hateful actions that might be done against us.  The general is that we love those who are our enemies and do good to those who are hating us.  Thus the principle is to counteract hate with an action that is connected to the harm done and yet is truly for the good of the other person.  Vs. 28 gets more specific.  What about when someone curses us?  We are to respond with a blessing.  Cursing involves using our words to either verbally abuse someone or even to cast curse or hex upon someone.  If they are using words to try and harm you then respond by using words to bless them.  The second part of this verse uses a word that also has the idea of verbal abuse, such as threats.  Instead of threatening them back we are told to pray for them.  Right away I can hear everyone of our inner hearts saying with dripping cynicism, “O, yeah, that ought to do it.”  Remember, Jesus is not telling us what to do to stop our enemies or to make their hate stop.  The response that he gives us is not to stop them, but the proper response to them.  So what would you pray for your enemy?  Yes, our flesh is tempted to pray for lightning bolts to strike them or the earth to open up and swallow them.  However, this is clearly what Jesus is saying.  Rather, you would pray that God would open their eyes to what they are and where they are headed.  Pray that their soul would be delivered from the hatred that holds them under its control and the judgment that they are rapidly approaching.  In verse 29 we have the famous turn-the-other-cheek statement.  Now this verse is often misunderstood.  Jesus is not talking about self defense when you are physically attacked by another person.  A person can defend themselves, without becoming engulfed in the rage of hate.  Being struck or slapped in the face was considered a great, public insult.  The emphasis here is on refraining from retaliation.  When you are deeply and publically insulted you tend to strike back in kind.  It is easy to be nice to people until they cross the line.  We then feel justified in making them pay.  If you are insulted, then you are not to insult back.  But, rather, you are to prepare yourself to handle further insult.  Thus, a Christian prepares for further insult, rather than plotting assault.

Jesus keeps going.  At the end of verse 29 Jesus refers to a person who takes your cloak, to which we are to be willing to give up our tunic (or under coat) as well.  Though this may appear to our eyes to be about theft, the wording ties it back to debts that we may owe someone, and even lawsuits in which we are required to give up the collateral for our loan.  The point about the cloak and tunic being taken brings a very specific idea to mind.  Only a poor person would put their cloak up for collateral.  But only a hard-hearted person would actually take it.  In fact the Law of Moses restricted the seizing of collateral that was considered basic to a person’s well being.  Thus to seize a person’s cloak and coat would be considered an unreasonable, and heartless act.  It is easy to absolve ourselves of any error when we collateralize something that we cannot afford to lose.  I was desperate.  Yet, Jesus calls his disciples to be willing to give up even our very basic needs to pay off our obligations.  Why would he command this?  Instead of relying on our rights to avoid payment, we are to be willing to lose everything in order to be square with others.  Though it is unreasonable to take a person’s protection from the environment and cast them out on the street, believers know that they have a Father in heaven that cares for them.  In fact, Jesus told us elsewhere not to be anxious in such moments.  He tells us to put God’s kingdom first (i.e. obey what God asks of you) and that God will take care of your basic needs (food, shelter, and clothing).  So this is really about an act of faith just as much as doing something loving to the other person.   We are quick to use the sins of others to absolve ourselves of the obligations we have, and even to sin back against them.  Christians are able to endure the unreasonable, because of the greatness of our God.  Truly, we are never desperate.  We may be desperate in our circumstances, and we may feel that there is no hope.  But, our God has pledged himself to take care of us.  Can you lay your desperations at the throne rather than taking them out on those who make you desperate?  Only God and a confidence in His care can enable you to do it.

Verse 30 starts out with the imposition of people asking you for something.  Christians are called to be giving people, rather than stingy.  As a general rule, we are to help people who ask us for help.  That doesn’t mean they get to set the terms of how you help.  But essentially we should give to those who ask of us.  However, sometimes people borrow or ask for loans that they don’t pay back or never intend to pay back.  In such cases Christians should not hunt them down and try to force payment back.  In fact Jesus gives us a different path.  If someone borrows from you then you need to prepare yourself to never see it again.  Similarly if you lend to someone, you need to do so while never expecting repayment.  I know that this sounds stupid to many.  However, Jesus is not talking about a blind giving that just keeps giving and giving.  Rather, He is speaking to those areas of our heart that do good, as long as it isn’t going to cost us.  When people take advantage of our goodness, we get angry and harden ourselves.   Jesus is not just calling us to loving feelings, but to that hard path of crucifying our flesh that wants to hate, and choosing love, all the while the other person does not.  We should give without expectation.   Frustration is the source of much of the hate in this world.  Jesus says to quit expecting from people and start trusting in God.  This will make you a much better person and a much happier person.

Jesus ends this section by restating what has come to be called The Golden Rule.  Do to others what you would want them to do to you.  He doesn’t give this up front as a plan A.  It is the plan period.  In the face of an enemy that is doing hateful things to us, Christians are called to do back to them what we would want them to do to us.  The Golden Rule is not about winning friends and manipulating people, er… I mean influencing people.  When it doesn’t work, our flesh wants to jump to a different rule and a different plan.  So why in the world would we give goodness to people who don’t deserve it? Basically it is because we don’t want to become a casualty to hate ourselves.  Yes, a person may have made themselves your enemy, but you have an even worse enemy yourself.  The devil wants to use the sin of others to plant the seed of bitterness and hate.  He will use that to destroy your soul at the expense of your eternity.  You are going to lose to one of these enemies.  You can’t win both.  If you sacrifice the long term so that you can feel better in the temporary then you might destroy your earthly enemies.  But, then again you might night.  However, if you surrender the fight against your earthly enemies to God, and pay them back love for hate, then you are guarding your heart against the spiritual enemy.  You sacrifice the temporary in order to gain the eternal.  Do you want a world of No H8?  Then choose to quit hating even the hateful.  Overcome their hate with counteractive actions of love rather than more hate.  You cannot defeat hate with more hate because in the end you will be defeated internally, and eternally.

No H8! audio

Friday
Sep292017

The Feasts of the Lord

Pastor Robert Specter of Rock of Israel Ministries shared on Sunday morning, September 24, 2017.  This is a worthy ministry that has a heart for the Jewish people and works to proclaim Jesus as HaMashiyach.

We spent the morning learning how Jesus fufilled and will fulfill the Feasts of the Lord listed in Leviticus 23.  During his first coming Jesus fulfilled the spring feasts and will fulfill the fall feasts at His Second Coming.

Passover-  Jesus is our Passover Lamb.

Unleavened Bread- Jesus is the bread from heaven, without sin, that is provided by God to satisfy the need of our soul.

Firstfruits-  Jesus is the firstfruit of those raised from the dead.  He gives us promise of the resurrection to come.

Weeks or Pentecost-  Jesus is the sender of the Holy Spirit to enable God's people to bring in the harvest.

Summer break-  This is the period that we are in now.  A time of no feasts, where the people are busy working in the harvests.

Trumpets- The sound of the trumpet will announce the rapture of Christians to be forever with the Lord.

Atonement-  A time of national repentance for Israel as they look upon the one whom they pierced and weep.  A fountain of cleansing will be opened up by Jesus at His Second Coming to bring salvation to the nation of Israel.

Booths or Tabernacles-  Jesus will dwell with us throughout the Millennial Kingdom and on into the New Heavens and the New Earth.  We will dwell with Christ in permanent, glorified bodies as opposed to temporary earthly bodies.

May God help us to be about our Father's business during this season of work.  We must work while it is yet day because the night is coming when no man can work.  Amen!