Tag Archive: sin

Love your enemies

i came across this article titled, ‘Loving Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’ [one of the suspected terrorists involved in the recent Boston Marathon bombing] shortly after it happened and it really made some strong points in terms of our role as Christ following people in the wake of such a horrific disaster.

the author, Adam Mabry, starts off by highlighting two opposing reactions which are equally unhelpful:

‘The first is the xenophobic, racial, and even religious hatred of my Muslim neighbors. The other is the willful ignorance of the religious connection to these terrorists acts—the blind assumption that all religions are created equal. Neither is good. Neither is truthful. And more importantly, neither is Christ-like.’

Adam then draws upon the ideas in Romans 12, without specifically quoting it, in terms of the need for us to be living with transformed minds or as he puts it, ‘Christians must have Christian minds.’

And then he continues to give four examples of the kind of minds Christians need to have [and i encourage you to follow the link at the end and read the original article in its wholenessity]:

[I] Christians Should Believe Christianity is Right

Certainly not a PC statement to begin with and one we seldom hear much of today, but I completely agree with him. If we are following Jesus it is because we believe Him to be who He said He was and about what He said He was about – it’s not simply because we feel like it’s a fun idea to pursue while everyone else pursues their own equally fun ideas.

‘To quote Tim Keller, “It is no narrower to claim that one religion is right than to claim that one way to think about all religions is right.” It just won’t work to say, “All religions, faiths, and belief systems are equally valid, and if you don’t agree you’re a bigot.” The idea falls in on itself because, in making a claim that exclusivity is wrong, you’re excluding the exclusivist. Darn that logic, ruining all our fun.’

[II] Christians Believe Loving our Neighbor is Right.

‘If Christians really believe Christianity is right, then we’ll be fiercely committed to Christ, who commanded us to love our neighbor. How did Jesus interact with those of different religions?’

[III] We should believe in sin.

‘We shouldn’t wring our hands and have to qualify our hatred of evil. Jesus didn’t. When we see evil in the world, call it evil. When we see evil in the church, call it evil. When we see evil in other religions, call it evil. If Christians, who are supposed to know Truth, cannot identify evil, we merely demonstrate that we are wrong, ignorant, or complicit with the evil we won’t name. This does the world no favors.’

[IV] We should believe in grace.

‘Part of the problem with the culture war was that it went about loudly labeling what was wrong but only quietly proclaiming what was right. If we believe Christianity is right then we will invite everyone everywhere (including our Muslim neighbors whom we love) to experience the grace extended to humanity by Jesus Christ.’

That is just the heart of the article but you can read the rest of it over here.

What I liked about it was that it held strongly to the heart and substance and essence of what following Jesus is meant to be about without sacrificing any of the Grace, Love and Forgiveness that we are meant to be about either. Too often today it feels like people feel trapped into picking one side at the expense of the other. Jesus never did that and we should not have to either.

There is a way to condemn the evil, while continuing to love evil people who are as in need of a Saviour as we once were [and probably still are].

‘For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.’

i mean, that’s quite an intro already, right? and possibly carries a profoundly deep message in terms of really getting our minds around the fact that David, altho he had messed up horribly, still ends up at the feet of God, rather than simply trying to hide or run the other way… where do you end up when you are caught up in the depravity of sin?

‘You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart
You, God, will not despise.’ [vs 16-17]

and there we see that David really gets it – he starts at the point of his brokenness and failure but realises that it is not the outward motions that God is after – it is not about performing the right religious activities or rituals – God wants to know and see that he has truly changed – God is interested in the heart…

‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.’ [vs 1-2]

this is the start of the Psalm – David appeals to what He knows of God, who he knows God to be – He appeals to God’s ‘mercy’ and His ‘unfailing love’ as well as His ‘great compassion’.

Note that David is asking for mercy, not justice. Which is a thing most of us do much of the time i imagine. David knew that calling for justice for his actions would mean his life. But knowing the God he serves, he knows deep down that even though he doesn’t deserve it and possibly might not even feel like he has the right to even ask, that God is all of those things and will likely respond with much mercy and grace and undeserved forgiveness and new life.

and then he speaks those words that Keith Green turned into such a brilliant and haunting song:

‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. [vs 10-12]’

this could be a daily prayer to start the day with… the search for a clean heart, the joy of really knowing God’s salvation and a spirit that is willing for whatever opportunity is placed in front of you…

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

i posted a Bonhoeffer quote the other day on the book of facings and the tier of twit that got an insanely hectic amount of likes on it, and despite it being a deliberately Christian statement, a fair amount of those likes were from people who would not label themselves as such:

‎’Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.’ [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

clearly what Bonhoeffer says is something i have said and written about a lot in recent years but i think he just completely nails it with the words he uses here – he’s not just saying ‘let’s be known less for what we are against than what we are for’ which is a chant i have taken up more vociferously in recent times…

he says “it is less about cautiously avoiding sin”

where ‘avoiding sin’ becomes the focus and so much care, energy and effort is put into making sure we don’t step over the line. what that means is we have to have a line and have it drawn firmly into the ground and be very much aware of who is on this side of it and who is on that side. and speak loudly and often judgementally into all those who are not on the right side of the line as we have deemed ‘the right side’ to be.

us versus them.

the biggest problem with this being, that more often than not, this is done with the absolute minimum of Love and Grace for those who are more the ‘them’ and less the ‘us’.

Bonhoeffer goes on to talk about ‘courageously doing God’s will’.

so not just trying to do more good than bad. but being intentional and courageous in our living out of God’s will. things like Godly confrontation [calling things in people and situations, in Love] and accountability, practices like unity, genuine hospitality and unconditional Love and Forgiveness. owning up to our crap. seeking life transformation [and not just fish-giving!] in those considered ‘the least of these’ and more.

actively following Jesus instead of passively calling myself a christian but looking not too different from all those around me.

‎’Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.’ [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

i wonder what the world would look like if the church started taking this more to heart?

this may be a guy thing… but i’m not convinced [it’s just more underworld with the ladyfolks but maybe there will be a brave one or two to confirm? hmm?] but it goes a little something like this…

when i fart it is cool. when you fart it is gross or creepy.

when i pick my nose it is cool. when you pick your nose it is disgusting and gross.

now i can’t claim to have a particularly higher grade or haute couture brand of gas or snot… i mean i’d like to think that, but i’m pretty sure it’s the garden variety type… so there has to be something else going on here… and i suspect it is a matter if contextual perspective.

because it is me, i am okay with it…

which is very similar to sin… my sin not so bad, yours pretty gross, disgusting and unacceptable…

i imagine as long as i view life like that i will see myself as better than you.
i will see my sin as less needing attention and dealing with and speaking out and walking away from.
i will think yours hurts me a lot more than mine hurts you.

and probly a bunch more, but that’s enough to work at for starters.

practically it plays out differently because i can just make sure i am all alone when i engage in fart and snot and be able to be okay with it because it is mine…

my sin however, is a complex entanglement of private and public, internal and external, obvious and creatively subtle and i suspect is never solely mine.

that is all.

i know it’s early days, but already this is proving to be an exciting exercise for me and one of the benefits of working through the psalms is discovering ‘new’ ones… i am not saying someone has been sneaking into my bible and adding in new psalms when i haven’t been looking but often when we read the bible we stick to the passages we know well and like and avoid the harder ones or even the books with weird sounding names we have to use the index to find…

so with psalms it is often 23 or my favourite 34 or 121 and 139. it is great to go through one by one because i will get to those psalms in turn, but i will also discover some classic gems along the way…

and on to psalm 7:

this feels similar to the point i made about psalm 5 where David is saying things i’m not convinced his life can back up… certainly things i’d be a lot more nervous to utter… in verses 8-9 he says, ‘Let the LORD judge the peoples. Vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure — You, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.’

So David is asking God to judge him according to “my righteousness” and “my integrity” – again, this must have supposedly been written before the whole Bathsheba incident when David would not have been clamoring for those to be the measure points. I know, for my life, as much as i strive for personal righteousness and integrity, that i often fall short. i miss the mark and get it wrong a lot of the time which negates my righteousness. and i have really strong feelings on things like pirating movies/music and telling ‘little white lies’ but am not as strict when it comes to breaking the speed limit or some other things like that so personal hypocrisy in what i stand for and how i live it out often does surface which takes out my integrity from time to time.

so i am not convinced i would want to appeal to God to judge me on the basis of those two things. reminds me of the definitions of mercy and justice: justice is getting what we deserve and mercy is not getting what we deserve and i generally am super amped to lean towards mercy [especially when it comes to parking tickets and speeding fines if i deserve either of those]

i think the last phrase of that verse sums it up – ‘the righteous God who probes minds and hearts’ – God knows. And knowing that God knows [as David gets a lot more familiar with after the Bathsheba incident] i am a lot quicker to meet Him in a place more reliant on His righteousness and integrity than my own.

then the second thing that stood out for me was the language used towards the end which is just some great and explicit imagery that conveys well what he is speaking about – ‘Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment. Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made. The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads.’ [16-18]

Reminiscent once more of the depiction of sin in James 1 – ‘When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.’ [13-15]

And the message that is loud and clear is don’t give time to sin. The imagery of conception and birth refers to a pretty substantial time length – 9 months – and so the idea is that the person involved has entertained and nurtured temptation/sin until such time that it has become a destructive force. We need to kill sin at the root and deal with it as quickly as possible when it emerges or the effect it has on us will be devastating. Keep a short account with God – don’t go to sleep at nite with unconfessed sin lingering, because that way it is too easy for it to grow and give birth…

[To continue on to Psalm8, click here]

[To return to the start of this series on Psalms as well as some other Bible things, click here]

so a quick recap then:

# everyone has sinned and as the bible says “fallen short of the glory (or high standard) of God”
# the wages/punishment/outcome of sin is death (both now in various areas, but also spiritually and eternally at the end)
# on Easter Friday, the man many believed had come to save the world is lying stretched out on a cross, dying an agonising death.

# one of the statements Jesus calls from the cross is “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”
# a second statement from the cross is where Jesus asks one of His followers John to look after His mother
# a third statement occurs when Jesus grants salvation to one of the thieves dying on the cross alongside Him, who acknowledges Him and Jesus tells him “this day you will be in paradise with Me.”

but this is where the twist occurs:

# Sunday arrives, the third day, a significant number to God as witnessed throughout the Bible and as spoken of by Jesus while He was alive and the women who are heading to the tomb to anoint the body with traditional herbs are surprised by an empty tomb and the news that Jesus is alive

# various of His followers witness Jesus alive over the next few days – He speaks to them, walks with them, even prepares a fish braai on the beach for some of them and finally He sends them off with a mission [“Go and make disciples of all mankind, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”] and then, before their eyes, He is taken up to heaven.

# in John 3.16 Jesus has spoken one of the most well-known passages of scripture to Nicodemus the pharisee who visited Him at night – “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

# and so yes, we all have sinned and are all due the penalty of death that is spoken of in the Bible. But God in His love has made a way [which still satisfies His justice] of coming Himself and taking on the punishment in our place [as evidenced throughout most of the Old Testament when an animal was sacrificed in the place of a person and why Jesus is referred to as the lamb of God, fulfilling that same duty] so that we do not have to die.

and so the bottom line of the Christ-following faith is this – God is offering a gift, the gift of life – when Jesus was here He spoke about bringing “abundant life” or “life to the full” which speaks both of life now on earth as well as life after our physical bodies die – and you either choose to receive it [acknowledge Jesus as God and bow your knee and life to Him] or reject it [and one day be turned away by God] – the choice is yours – it is a free gift on the one hand, but also a gift that costs everything [nothing you can do can earn you the gift, hence it’s free, but God calls for you to follow Him with everything you have, and so it is costly]

the choice is yours. choose life.

‘Then Jesus said, “If anyone would follow Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” [luke 9.23]

so for anyone out there not familiar with the Christian faith, this is what this holiday is all about in the shell of a nut:

# mankind is sinful – this is a pretty easy one to verify – read a newspaper, watch the news, hang out with yourself for a 24 hour period or anyone else that you like or specifically some people you don’t – you don’t need test tubes in a lab to verify that we are not perfect, none of us – we mess up, we hurt people, we hurt ourselves, we do stupid things, and we often fail to do good and right things

# the punishment for sin is death – this is a harder one to verify [our reasoning is ‘because the Bible says so’ and that is enough for me, but it may not be enough for you, and that’s okay, this is where faith and belief start to kick in] although i would say not completely. if you follow the natural progression of sin in someone’s life it always leads to a death of some type – death of trust, of relationship, of good health, of life possibility etc. however, we are talking about a spiritual/eternal death – we believe that one day every person will stand in front of God and be judged and that those who have not dealt with their sin will receive an eternal death or punishment

# that paints a pretty bleak picture because if all of us have sinned and the punishment is death, that means we all have to die – if the story ends here, we’re all in a lot of trouble and that is kind of the picture of Good Friday – Jesus Christ, who many believed to be the Messiah who had come to save the world [many of the jews believed He had simply come to free them from roman control and persecution] hanging on a cross, dying the worst kind of death known to man. It all looked like a bit of an epic universal fail.

[which is why you should not stop reading here – it gets better – click somewhere over here]

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