Wednesday, November 20, 2019

No More War

This month we celebrated Veteran’s Day. The day is meant to celebrate the work and lives of those that have served in the U.S. military. The need for a military in this world is unfortunate and undeniable. Conflict and violence have been a part of the human experience for nearly as long as humanity has existed. In the Bible, it goes as far back as the story of Cain and Abel, where Cain slew his brother out of jealousy and envy. While wars may be fought between nations and not individuals, the truth is they often begin because of the same things that cause petty fights between people. Greed, jealousy, hatred or to put it all more simply, sin. Our sinful nature doesn't just put us at odds with God. A lot of the time, it puts us at odds with each other, and all too often we allow our conflicts to devolve into the worse actions and people die as a result.  God hates violence. The violent nature of people was what angered God enough to want to destroy most of humanity. 

God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. - Genesis 6:12-13
As we know from the story, God stopped short of completely wiping out humanity. Because of Noah’s goodness, the human race was given an avenue to continue, but it wasn’t long before the violence of Man reared its head again. In fact, much of the Old Testament revolved around war. War was such a central part of human society that in guiding the Israelites, God had no choice but to essentially support the Israelites in war. War was unfortunately necessary for the Israelites to claim their promised land. It was necessary for them to protect themselves from enemies. And on the flipside, it was often used as punishment for the sin of the Israelites. To be more accurate, more than once, because of their sin, the Israelites found out how bad war could be when they didn’t have God’s support.

One might point out that it was mainly the Old Testament that was so violent. The New Testament had no wars and the violence was relatively limited in comparison with the exceptions of what was directed to Jesus and many of the Christians that followed. The New Testament focused more on love and the Christian directive to spread love along with the truth about Jesus. Still, make no mistake, even in the New Testament, it was made clear that mankind had not moved past its violence and probably would not in the near future. Jesus himself made that much clear. When he spoke of the things that would happen before he returned, he said:
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. - Matthew 24:6
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t expect an end to the madness. Ironically, the Old Testament gives us one of the clearest indications that one day, we can expect to move beyond the violence. When Isaiah told his vision of the time when the Lord comes back, he said:
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. - Isaiah 2:4
That day has not yet come, and no one alive knows when it will come. So for right now, we have to expect that the horrors of war will continue, and we will need brave people that will stand and fight. Those people should be honored. We all have values, faith in something, and a nation in which we live, but not all of us are expected to fight and potentially die for those things. It takes courage to do so even when you have God on your side.

We can’t stop with just honoring them. We must also pray for them. We need to pray for their safety and lives. We need to pray for their families who share their sacrifices and hardships. We need to pray that even when they engage in the violence that God abhors, that they carry Him with them and do all things in his name according to his will. We need to pray that those who lead and are in command of the military make the right choices and use war to protect and save and not simply to destroy. Most of all, let us pray and thank God for his love in spite of our violent tendencies. We should all look forward to the promised time when we will no longer need to honor veterans because there will no longer be a need for people to live their lives preparing for and fighting wars.

Chris Lawyer
Image Courtesy of TeePublic

Monday, November 11, 2019

God Hates

God is a loving creator and ruler. As Believers, that is central to our desire to follow him. It’s something the Bible tells us pretty specifically.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. - 1 John 4:16-18
God is the source of love and we are instructed to follow his example and also be loving. That being the case, the idea that God can hate may seem like a contradiction. However, under careful consideration, most Believers should find that there is no conflict in this revelation. After all, we all understand that God hates sin. We’ve all heard the saying “God hates the sin not the sinner.” That sounds nice, but is it really true? Does God really not hate sinners?

Like most popular sayings attributed to the Bible, that saying is not actually Biblical and is not completely faithful to what the Bible says. What some might find to be an unfortunate truth is that God actually does hate sinners. The Bible tells us so. Proverbs 6:16-19 says:
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
This set of verses is written in an interesting way. It draws a distinction between what God hates and what he finds detestable. Most of us would probably believe those feelings to be the same thing. The other somewhat odd thing about the verse is that it doesn’t specifically state which of the seven things named is simply something God finds detestable and not something he flat out hates. So, there is some ambiguity there. Five of the things listed are the body parts that are used to commit certain sins. One may argue that in those cases, the Bible is speaking symbolically and is talking more about the tendency to commit certain sins or the mechanism behind what causes us to sin. However, two of the things named are more specifically called out to be types of people - those that lie and falsely accuse others of wrongdoing and those who cause discord within communities. We know based on the numbers given, God finds both of those types of people to be detestable. However, we also have to acknowledge that God also hates at least one of those types of people.

Some may look at that set of verses and say the meaning seems a bit unclear. Maybe there is some room for interpretation there, but other verses are more clear.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest. - Psalms 5:4-6
The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. - Proverbs 16-5 
In the Psalms verse, David is clearly proclaiming that God hates everyone who sins, and both verses repeat the theme that God particularly despises violent, dishonest and proud people. So where does this put us with God? We all sin from time to time. Does God hate all of us? Not exactly. Notice that all of the above verses come from the Old Testament, the part of the Bible the precedes a very important series of events - the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

At that time, sin separated humanity from God. God held wrath towards us and our relationship with Him was anything but friendly.
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! - Romans 5:10
Paul is telling us that, at one point, God viewed us as enemies because of our sin. Is it so surprising to think that he may have hated those that indulged in sin? Most people understand what an enemy is, and most can understand the feeling of hate one might feel towards his or her enemies. That said, we have to be careful when equating God’s feelings to ours. Yes, the Bible tells us that God hated sinful human beings. Still, there is a silver lining. The Old Testament tells one story after another about how the Children of Israel indulged in wrongdoing, yet God was always with them. Even if he hated the evildoers, he never fully abandoned them. And yes, all of us humans are born in sin, and that makes us God’s enemies, but instead of just being done with us, he devised a plan to save us that involved the sacrifice of his Son.

You see God’s hate isn’t like ours. No matter what negative feelings he had towards us, he couldn’t help but want the best for us and do the best for us. That’s love. Even when hating, God loves. What if we were like that? People will always rub each other the wrong way from time to time. We will always fall short not only in how we live according to God’s wishes but also in how we interact with each other. We will get mad with each other, and honestly, depending on what happens, we may even come to hate others. But will we have the typical human hatred where we want nothing but the worst for those that we oppose, or will we hate like God and use our negative feelings to open up an opportunity to save? That’s a question that each of us has to answer for ourselves. However, before we even get there, we have to make sure that we truly accept salvation, the gift that God gave us. He gave us a way to escape his hatred and go from being his enemies to his beloved children. Make sure you’re on the right side of that, and do your best to help others get there too. If God’s love is unbelievable in its greatness, what must his hatred be like? It’s best not to find out.
Chris Lawyer
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