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Archive for April, 2015

What Did Jesus Mean “Love Our Enemies?”

Jesus did not wish to encourage domestic violence or other abuses when advising us to love our enemies or turn the other cheek. God doesn’t desire those who seek to follow Him to live in guilt because of any confusion regarding His ways. The Bible surely is not advocating a spouse continue to allow their partner to beat them or that soldiers cannot protect themselves in times of war. War with your enemies may be necessary to either protect yourself or others abused by evil dictators. Jesus certainly challenged the Pharisees who were giving God a bad name.

What did Jesus mean when He said: If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek; if someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt (Mt. 5:38-48, Luke 6:27-36). These illustrations must be taken somewhat figuratively or Jesus’ guidance would lead to nudism. Jesus’ audiences often only aspired to follow the letter of the law or love only those who loved them. The law can guide but Jesus came to change hearts. The law can condemn adultery but lust is a form of betrayal as well. The law cannot speak to forgiveness or showing mercy.

It is natural and appropriate to seek vindication from enemies (i.e. Rev 6:10-11). It is supernatural to show grace and forgiveness to those who seek it. Compensation is often impossible. Reputations that have been stolen for a time cannot be returned or childhood memories erased. How can one pray for enemies? We can hope they seek forgiveness, rather than continue to harm others, and stand ready to forgive. Jesus simply was saying there are times to show mercy than seek justice. There are times to not demand being treated as we want to be treated.

The Bible is not contradictory when it says to love your enemies but have nothing to do with divisive people (Titus 3:10). Uh, our enemies may have a touch of divisiveness in them from time to time. Jesus obviously had certain audiences in mind when He encouraged loving your enemies. The Bible often warns followers to confront one another morally and if they refuse to listen withdraw fellowship in hopes this leads to change. But, our enemies are often those who may not have tasted or understand Jesus’ life changing message. We may only convince others of our Creator’s love by demonstrating God’s unimaginable love.

God would want us to use our brains and not feel guilty when we must protect ourselves physically or emotionally. I may give a brief talk to parents about the radical idea that they must love their teenagers the way they wished their parents had loved them at that age despite all their crazy behaviors. We must choose our battles. In a brief talk I may not address that parents must show tough love sometimes for the sake of change, such as if drug use or bullying is involved. God is capable of guiding our actions individually in hopes of leading others to God.

Jesus expected us to use our common sense in difficult relationship situations. But, our natural inclination sometimes is to demand vindication or not go the extra mile. Allow God to tug at your heart. Seek the wisdom of others. Make the very best decision you can at the time and have no regrets. God doesn’t want us living a life of guilt or always looking back wondering if we did the right thing. Attempt to show radical, unimaginable love in hopes of impacting the world for good as Jesus did.

Did God Approve Of Land Grab And Genocide In The OT?

Certain questions about Old Testament morality may need to be answered if some are to follow or respect the Creator of the Bible. As an adult I am not going to follow my parent’s advice blindly if I don’t respect them. Did God initiate land grab by encouraging the unprovoked aggression of the Israelites against the Canaanites? Did God desire genocide by insisting on the killing of women and children during war times (i.e. I Sam. 15:3)? Future generations may look back on the 21st century and understand why certain nations invaded lands inhabited by those who seek to gain power only to eventually destroy others.

God is very willing to defend His actions morally, but surely God gained credibility when He did not stop Jesus’ undeserved suffering though having the power to do so. A writer doesn’t often record all the details of the story they are telling as those who lived closer to the times understood certain things to be true. God ordered Noah to build an Ark before setting out to destroy the entire earth and all that lived on it. Genesis says nothing about God allowing anyone to enter the Ark with Noah’s family, but Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Pe. 2:5). God is always hoping people will respond to a message to turn away from evil. God would have welcomed anyone on the Boat if they believed in Noah’s God and saw the need to change.

The place in the OT story that talks about utter destruction doesn’t always convey what leads up to such actions. An entire read of the OT suggest “driving out” references are far more numerous than the “destroying” ones. We read passages where God orders the Israelites to conquer the land and destroy all within it, but that was likely the final dictate by God. The OT speaks often of driving out the Canaanites from their land (i.e. Num. 21:32; Deut. 11:23). Driving out and wiping out are exclusive behaviors in war. Expulsion often precedes annihilation.

Expulsion and annihilation are not always merciless. Gradually driving the Canaanites out of their land and into neighboring nations where they would be the minority would force them to change their ways (Exodus 23: 27-30). Corruption though can infiltrate a society so much that adults not fully engaged in evil behaviors may carry on the barbaric behaviors in future generations. There may be a better place after death more merciful than abandonment, starvation, disease, or slavery by enemies if only the adult evildoers within the culture are destroyed. The Flood was not doing evil that good may come; it is ridding of the cancer that can eventually destroy any good for future generations.

God willingness to take less aggressive behaviors initially is not fantasy according to the beginning of the story when Abraham was told his ancestors would inherit the Promised Land where the Canaanites lived. God said  to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation…I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”(Genesis 12:2-3). You can’t be a blessing if the only plan is to annihilate. Deuteronomy 12: 10 says: “But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in safety.” God is always willing to live in peace with those of different beliefs.

But, would the Canaanites who sacrificed their children to supposed gods be willing to live peacefully together? Evil seldom does. Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities in Canaan, was full of gangs that attacked people for fun. We must give God and governments the power to kill those who intend to kill others. God has never forced His beliefs on others unless necessary for the protection of others. God will stand up to evil for the protection of current and future generations. God has been a respecter of freedom of beliefs from the very beginning for eternity. And I can assure you Paradise is not a lustful adventure for men at the expense of women.

What Is The Big Deal About Easter?

One has to wonder if something really happened 2000 years ago as to why we continue to celebrate Easter. It is often the one day of the year people who don’t normally go to church attend. I am not advocating people start going to church. I am just wondering if it may make a difference in your life if you become convinced Jesus really did come back from the dead. Wouldn’t that validate Jesus’ claim to be God and His message that God is dying to have a relationship with you.

If someone today proclaimed they would resurrect from the dead after three days and fulfilled their promise, we might listen than declare them a lunatic. It takes just as much faith to believe the Romans, who were aware of Jesus’ claims (in fact Herod was so concerned about a predicted Messiah that he had firstborns killed), would leave the tomb unguarded so Jesus’ followers could then take His body away and claim Jesus had risen from the dead. The tomb was guarded because of Jesus’ prediction (Mt 27:62-66). Secondly, the Bible recorded Jesus was seen after His death by over 500 witnesses, most of who were living (I Cor. 15:3-8). What writer who claims to represent God records the resurrection as a fact with people alive who can dispute.

Finally, the most compelling historical evidence is that over the next fifty years after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ disciples were willing to be beaten, persecuted, and suffer a martyr’s death without renouncing their conviction that they has seen Jesus’ bodily resurrection. C’mon! Some people will give their life for what they believe may be true, but no one gives their life for what they know is a lie. Christianity relies on an event that has already happened, while many faiths rely on a promise for the future that may or may not be true.

God wanted to come in the flesh through Jesus, but the Creator was not like other OT gods who demanded the sacrifice of children for their own ego. Jesus didn’t die to appease God’s anger and honor so God could then love us and forgive us. Jesus forgave people before His death. The Cross was not meant to change God’s attitude but our attitude toward God. Jesus walked in our shoes, even facing undeserved suffering, to gain credibility and influence. God went to great means to convince us of His unimaginable love. Jesus’ by example sought to influence us to avoid paths of destruction that lead to regrets. Few may die for a good person. Jesus died to convince all of God’s unconditional love for them. What kind of Creator does this!

Maybe Jesus really was God if He resurrected from the dead. Forgive pushy followers who don’t wait for an invitation to share their excitement of a relationship with their Creator. You may wonder why we followers act so badly sometimes if we believe the way we do. Imagine what we would be like if we didn’t know God. Saving one’s life for Jesus was not giving a get-out-of-hell free card. Jesus simply wished to convince us that selfishness leads to regrets and destruction. Jesus by example attempted to encourage us to love others as we wish to be loved as this leads to true freedom. The Gospel simply is that God loves you unconditionally and seeks to help you listen to your heart for a better life and world. A close relationship with my Creator has helped me be a better man, husband, father, and friend.

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