Matthew 5:21 & 22 says:” You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hellof fire.”
Okay, so I realize that talking about hellfire and damnation doesn’t necessarily get this devotional off on the most pleasant of starts. So let me make a bit of a clarification. My focus here is to simply point out that anger towards people, resulting in insults and name-calling, is not encouraged in the Bible. Cool?
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me just dive right into a growing trend I’ve noticed and perhaps you have also. This phenomenon stems from our present-day culture. It has become increasingly intertwined with our everyday Christian culture and causes us to be conformed to the age in which we live. No doubt that social networking, video-sharing sites and blogs have made it even easier for Christians to be guilty of rudely calling out the foolishness of others.
Now I understand that there are times where we, as Christians, will need to approach a dear brother or sister in the Lord about sin. In one of my previous devotionals, “Be Yourself,” I actually touched on how Matthew 18:15-17 instructs us on the proper way to confront sin. It starts with approaching the person face-to-face… not knocking them off their feet with a nasty tweet.
If you don’t quite know what I’m talking about, just pull up any video on the web about Christianity or Jesus and you’ll find just as many nasty critiques from Christians as you will from atheists and evolutionists. On Twitter and Facebook, you might have noticed how bold and brash some Christians can be in their convictions. Even the meekest of saints can become someone totally different online because, well, they just can! What’s to stop them? This power to comment with little or no consequence is not only troubling to see and harmful to that person’s character, but it’s contaminating our witness as Christians in today’s world.
Who’s getting your goat these days? Is there someone in your life that doesn’t seem to be making good decisions? A close friend or someone you’ve separated yourself from because of their lifestyle? Maybe someone in the public eye like, I don’t know… a famous pastor perhaps? The President of the United States?
Whatever the case, John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." So, the next time you get ready to speak your mind to the masses, stop and think about the overall outcome. Once you’ve had a chance to cool your jets, consider how you can address this issue in love.
You’ll probably be really glad you did and may actually have a positive impact on the situation.
For Further Reading
"Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. -1 corinthians 10:23-24 (NIV)
Anyone who has been a Christian for an amount of time has probably experienced an unfriendly encounter with another believer. It’s just inevitable. People have bad days, become influenced by the wrong things and make the wrong decision sometimes. Christians, in our culture specifically, also have a tendency to be very judgmental... and that is probably a bigger problem than most of us realize.
In recent months, I’ve seen really strong arguments online about a variety of issues. Here are a few:
-Can someone watch certain movies or listen to certain kinds of music and still be a Christian?
-Can someone drink an alcoholic beverage from time to time and still be a Christian?
-Is it God’s will for all Christians to be rich?
-Should Christians take medicine for illness or trust God for healing?
-Why did God create people that He knew would go to hell?
As you read some of these, you probably immediately formed an opinion based on what you have found to be “true” in the Bible or in your Christian walk. Maybe you have spent countless hours stewing over and standing for one of the sides to these arguments because you feel so strongly about them. You could be one of the few people who don’t get caught up in such arguments and, for that, I salute you. But, regardless of who you are, there is a very important lesson to learn from all of this.
God has made it perfectly clear in the Bible that it is His will for Christians to be a light to this world. He has called us to be a people who draw the lost to Him, who share the Good News with those around us in order for them to be reconciled to Him. Those who are not Christians should look at us and see a group of people who love one another. This we know.
However, there are some things that we do not know for sure. We have not been given the ability to look into the hearts of other Christians and know what motivates them. It is absolutely impossible for any of us to walk in the same shoes as those around us come to the same conclusions about the issues of life. But isn’t it funny how sometimes we still try?
Is Harry Potter something that Satan could use to pull a believer closer to him? Perhaps, but I think that he would be far more likely to use something or somebody far more unlikely to do it...like another believer. Could a Christian become addicted to alcohol and do damage to himself and others around him? Yes, but could a Christian also practice moderation and shame the devil? Definitely. Did God create people that He knew would go to hell? If so, does that really change the way we have been called to behave and minister to those around us? Absolutely not.
Everyone has their own perspective on what is beneficial or what should be permissible. This week, step outside of your regular circle of Christian friends and create some bonds with some Christians that you may not see eye to eye with on all the issues. You might be surprised at just how much God will use that to grow you. You might just find that you receive something far more valuable than the satisfaction you get when you’ve proven your point: a friend.
1 John 3:11-24
Have you ever had someone tell you to, "Just be yourself and everything will work out"? It sounds so simple doesn't it? "Be Yourself." What does that even mean? After all, if we could simply "be ourselves," then wouldn't the world that surrounds us be a lot different?
I often wonder what friendships would be like if we could simply be who we are inside; to not feel so much pressure to be less or more of an individual than we think we are supposed to be. One thing I've begun to focus on in recent months is being the same person everywhere I am no matter who I'm around; but that's a lot easier said that done.
Don't get me wrong. I realize that none of us are exempt to sin. 1 John 1:8-10 says this: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
Can you see how not dealing with sin appropriately keeps us from being ourselves? Behavior like this causes us to trick ourselves into thinking we are someone who we really aren't. When we ignore or hide sin, it breeds all kinds of issues, not only in us, but also in the body of Christ.
So how should sin be handled? How can you "be yourself?" Well, here are 3 things that will certainly get us going in the right direction: Confession, confrontation and forgiveness.
We all know that we are supposed to confess our sins to God, but what about confessing our sins to one another? Where does that fit into the picture? The answer lies within James 5:16, which instructs us to, "...confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." Why isn't the confession of sins more of a focus in the church today? Shouldn't we be doing this every chance we get if it results in "healing and righteousness?"
Secondly, there is confrontation. Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17 that, "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church..." Notice that this scenario starts with someone taking the initiative to point out the sin. Also notice that this person risks not only putting his friend in an uncomfortable situation, but also being humiliated in front of others if he is wrong about his assessment. It's easy to see why the church struggles with this; it's not a simple solution.
Lastly, we have forgiveness. After discussing confrontation and confession, doesn't forgiveness make a lot more sense now? There is a very good reason why Jesus instructed us to forgive, "seventy times seven times " in Matthew 18:22. Jesus knew we were going to be surrounded by sinful people because we live in a sinful world. Rather than avoiding it, we need to be brave enough to be the one who chooses to forgive sin unconditionally and infinitely. Our reaction to sin determines the impact it is able to have on us. Who knows? Our reaction may even be so powerful that it may stop that sin in its tracks before it affects others too!
I'm totally convinced that this is how we should be handling sin. And since sin is "at enmity with God" then shouldn't we be doing everything we can to remove it from the bride of Christ? Shouldn't this be a primary focus in our lives rather than striving for what we can gain in life? Jesus is waiting for a bride with no blemishes.
Today, just take about 15 minutes and ask God this simple question: "God, how is the sin in my life keeping me from being who you have created me to be?"
1 John 1
I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.
Last night, I went to a college basketball game with my wife and kids. For the first time in a really long time, I was overwhelmed with a sense of not fitting in with those around me. As we sat and waited for the game to begin, my discomfort level steadily increased with every college kid that filled that arena. The clothing trends, the blaring hip-hop music and the comradery between the students took me back to a place in time that I tend to block out. As I drove home, I couldn't help but ponder all the pressures of my teenage years.
Now don't get me wrong, I love to reminisce about the good ole days just as much as the next guy. I think we all have at least a few fond memories that cause us to close our eyes and think about the things that we really miss. For example, if you are anything like me, there will never be a better era for music than when I was in high school.
Grunge bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots were still cranking out mainstream hits. Bands like Incubus and Rage Against the Machine were at the forefront of what would soon be called the Nu Metal movement. And I was still faithfully rockin' that same green flannel shirt from middle school. Yep, those were the days…
The good memories are something that I revisit quite frequently at this point in my life. After all, I am in my 30s now, and I am getting a gray hair or two in the old beard. I even noticed the other day that I'm starting to make strange grunting noises when I sit down or stand up, like I'm in pain or something. What's up with that?!?! I also have a teenager living in my house, which never fails to take me back to all that teenage drama. My point is: it's fun to think about the fun stuff, but usually not so fun to relive the not-so-fun stuff.
For me, the not-so-fun side of high school was being the loner. Now I'm not talking about that super cool James Dean or even that Arthur Fonzarelli kind of loner/rebel. See, I was always the guy in high school who didn't really fit in with anyone; at least, I never felt like I did anyway.
It's funny because I don't tend to be that way anymore. Since I became a Christian in 2002, I feel like I've slowly become more confident in who I am. I don't tend to be so concerned about how other people perceive me, but rather try to understand that everyone has been created differently; that all we have control over is ourselves and how we choose to interact with the other 7 billion people on planet earth.
So, last night as I drove home from the game, I asked God to help me learn from what I was feeling. Why was I so uncomfortable and so bitter towards these strangers? What was it about this event that made me so judgmental towards people who I knew absolutely nothing about? It's funny because I didn't get a direct answer from God. All I can tell you is that I had a peace about what I was feeling. The sin within myself that had stunned me just a few hours prior had now been covered by the promise of my Savior. It was no more a part of my life than that hideous green flannel shirt my wife threw out years ago.
The difficult things in life, past, present of future, all pale in comparison to the joy we have found in Jesus Christ. In Philipians 4:11-13, Paul said, "…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
Today, my hope is that, no matter how good or bad our circumstance is, that we choose to focus on the strength that is available to us in Christ.
For Further Reading
Philipians 3 & 4