Tag Archives: Peace

Race, The Cross, & Christianity

This afternoon, my wife and I watched the moving The Help staring Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, and Emma Stone as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan.

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Emma_Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives — and a Mississippi town — upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. When she arrives home, she finds that her nanny and family’s maid Constantine Jefferson (played by Cicely Tyson) is gone. Skeeter sees the chance of writing a book about the relationship of the black maids with the Southern society for an editor from New York. First, she convinces Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) to open her heart to her; then Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is unfairly fired by the arrogant Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is a leader in the racist high society, and Minny decides to tell her stories after finding a job with the outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). Soon eleven other maids accept to be interviewed by Skeeter that also tells the truth about Constantine. When the book “The Help” is released, Jackson’s high society will never be the same.

Barak Obama, in his new preface to his older book Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, quotes William Faulkner to show that history is never dead. He describes the difference between the time the book was written and the time he was writing the new preface.

The book was published in 1995, “against a backdrop of Silicon Valley and a booming stock market; the collapse of the Berlin Wall; Mandela – in slow, sturdy steps – emerging from prison to lead a country, the signing of peace accords in Oslo.” He observed that there was a rising global optimism as writers announced the end of our fractured history, “the ascendance of free markets, and liberal democracy, the replacement of old hatreds and wars between nations with virtual communities and battles for market shares.”

“And then,” he says, “on September 11, 2001, the world fractures.”

“History returned that day with a vengeance; … in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried – it isn’t even past. This collective history, this past, directly touches our own.”

The United States has been treating evidence of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, and not the causes, since the Civil War. Slavery; “separate but equal”; segregated pools, buses, trains and water fountains; workplace and housing discrimination; and other forms of bias and animosity have served as painful barometers of the nation’s racial health. They have been, however, treated like the pain that accompanies a broken leg. The effort was to treat or reduce the agonizing symptoms of the break rather than fix it.

In our faltering efforts to deal with race in this country, a great deal of time is devoted to responding to symptoms rather than root causes. That may help explain why racism, prejudice, and discrimination keeps being repeated.

The Bible has much to say on racial intolerance in both testaments. The good Samaritan story of Luke 10:25-27 was an attempt by Jesus to expose the wrongful attitude of racial intolerance that existed between the Jews & Samaritans during the time of Jesus. In Matt 28:19 Jesus told his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations and this would include all people groups. Jesus never said to only make disciples of some people groups, he said Òall nations. Also, Paul in Galatians 3:28 condemned racial intolerance in the church. Racial discrimination should not be a part of the true regenerated Christian.

The first thing to understand is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups. God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

Christ Our Peace

 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to stop and repent. “13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, humanity has twisted the Bible to try to justify human fears and prejudices. Some consider the “curse of Ham” to be an excuse to hate those of African descent. Others insist that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and deserve our ridicule. Both views are patently false. The Bible tells us that God’s judgment is not based on appearances but what is on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7), and those who do judge according to appearances do so with evil intent (James 2:4). Instead, we are to treat one another with love (James 2:8), regardless of ethnicity (Acts 10:34-35) and social standing (James 2:1-5). Christian love negates all prejudice, and the Bible condemns racism.

A new year will be upon us soon. What will it take to put our racism, prejudices, and discrimination aside and unite as ONE in Christ Jesus?

Calm down. We’ll be fine even with Trump’s win

You can feel the tension. Strolling down the street, shopping at the corner market, stopping for a bite at the local tavern, friends and neighbors greet each other as usual but avoid the elephant sauntering around like he owns the place.

It’s best not to talk politics even though the election is over.

But when an impudent columnist asked the next fellow in the grocery line — “Have you voted yet?” — and his answer hints at a Trump ballot, neighboring are eyes cast downward, while sparks sizzle in their human casings.

A brief frisson has transpired. Chuckling nervously, we plunge through the door into a cool, sunny breeze, thinking: Thank God this is over.

Will it?

No one knows, but a sense of dread has attached to the “Day After.” This is because after 18 months of rabble-rousing and anger management (not in a good way), we’ve created a sort of Potemkin nightmare of partisan division and revolutionary strife. Never before has this country been so divided, goes the usual chorus of pundits and commentators.

Except, that is, for every other election year since voting began.

Our Founding Fathers, for all their cleverness, were hardly soft-spoken. The Civil War needs no editorial comment. The 1960s weren’t exactly a paddleboat cruise down the Mississippi.

In other words, our politics has always been thus, though with one significant difference. Whereas Paul Revere had to ride several hours on horseback to deliver the news that the British were coming, we never stop receiving news of everything, everywhere in real time that passes before we can stand athwart history and gasp, “Oh no!”

Through media in all its forms, we exhaust and are exhausted by the insignificant. To tune in is to believe that Western civilization is nearing collapse, regardless of who holsters up and swaggers into the White House in January. Which is precisely what you’re supposed to think.

You’re supposed to think everything is falling apart. You’re supposed to believe that life has never been worse.

Donald Trump was right when he said the system was rigged, but not in the way he meant. It wasn’t rigged against him. He’s part of the ecosystem of media, political consultants, producers, politicians and propagandists that were rigged against The People — and it worked just fine.

Everyone’s in on the same game, which is essentially to ensure that The People gobble up what they’ve been serving — and what they served was resentment, fear and anger.

Sure, people are upset about stuff. But what we feel now is mass-produced by a propaganda industry that profits most when people are worked up.

You want a good money tip? Invest in outrage.

As Nov. 9 dawned, Americans were sure to be mad. Those happy with the victor will be re-angry soon enough when they realize they won’t be getting what they were promised. This is the good news. Thanks to the brilliance of our tripartite government, nobody gets to be dictator. And despite what nearly everyone seems to believe, our “broken government” works pretty well most of the time.

With Trump’s win, he’ll be held more or less in check by the House and Senate because that’s the way our system of government is set up. Not even Republicans are eager to follow Trump’s lead.

There won’t be a wall. He won’t impose any religion-based immigration restrictions, because even Trump isn’t that lame-brained. He’ll dress up and behave at state dinners and be funny when called upon. He’ll even invite the media to the White House holiday party. He won’t nuke Iran for rude gestures. He won’t assault women. He and Vladimir Putin will hate each other, respectfully.

Since Hillary Clinton did not win, hopefully she’s not going to suddenly become a lunatic. As a senator, she worked across the aisle and earned the admiration of her colleagues. She, like Trump, honors the troops and they know it. She would have made sure her Supreme Court appointments would protect Roe v. Wade, but otherwise, the jury’s always out. Justice David Souter, now retired, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. both demonstrated the box-of-chocolates rule: You never know (exactly) what you’ll get.

The same, alas, can be said about Trump. Whatever he has projected or promised won’t be reflected in the reality of the presidency. It never is. Whatever he may wish to be, the president is only one-third of the equation — granted, with an armed force.

On a happier note, either way — cue Gloria Gaynor — oh, yes, we will survive.

‘An eye for an eye’?”

The concept of “an eye for eye,” sometimes called jus talionis or lex talionis, is part of the Mosaic Law used in the Israelites’ justice system. The principle is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions: “If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:23–25). Justice should be equitable; excessive harshness and excessive leniency should be avoided.

Exodus 21:23-25 (NKJV)
23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

We have no indication that the law of “an eye for an eye” was followed literally; there is never a biblical account of an Israelite being maimed as a result of this law. Also, before this particular law was given, God had already established a judicial system to hear cases and determine penalties (Exodus 18:13–26)—a system that would be unnecessary if God had intended a literal “eye for an eye” penalty. Although capital crimes were repaid with execution in ancient Israel, on the basis of multiple witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6), most other crimes were repaid with payment in goods—if you injured a man’s hand so that he could not work, you compensated that man for his lost wages.

Exodus 18 (NKJV)

Jethro’s Advice

18 And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back, 3 with her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land”)[a] 4 and the name of the other was Eliezer[b] (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”); 5 and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God. 6 Now he had said to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.”

7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him. And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent. 8 And Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. 9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took[c] a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God. And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”

15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.
16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another;
and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. 19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.

27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way to his own land.

Footnotes:
a. Exodus 18:3 Compare Exodus 2:22
b. Exodus 18:4 Literally My God Is Help
c. Exodus 18:12 Following Masoretic Text and Septuagint; Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate read offered.

Exodus 2:22 (NKJV)
22 And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom,[a] for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”

Footnotes:
a. Exodus 2:22 Literally Stranger There

Deuteronomy 17:6 (NKJV)
6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.

Besides Exodus 21, the law of “an eye for an eye” is mentioned twice in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:20;Deuteronomy 19:21). Each time, the phrase is used in the context of a case being judged before a civil authority such as a judge. “An eye for an eye” was thus intended to be a guiding principle for lawgivers and judges; it was never to be used to justify vigilantism or settling grievances personally.

Exodus 21 (NKJV)

The Law Concerning Servants

21 “Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: 2 If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. 3 If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.5 But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

7 “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. 9 And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. 10 If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. 11 And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.

The Law Concerning Violence

12 “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.

14 “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

15 “And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

16 “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

17 “And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

18 “If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed, 19 if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.

20 “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. 21 Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.

22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

26 “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.
Animal Control Laws

28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. 29 But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him. 31 Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. 32 If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

33 “And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his.

35 “If one man’s ox hurts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the money from it; and the dead ox they shall also divide. 36 Or if it was known that the ox tended to thrust in time past, and its owner has not kept it confined, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall be his own.

Leviticus 24:10-23 (NKJV)

The Penalty for Blasphemy

10 Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. 11 And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) 12 Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them.

13 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

15 “Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.

17 ‘Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal.

19 ‘If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him—20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him. 21 And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God.’”

23 Then Moses spoke to the children of Israel; and they took outside the camp him
who had cursed, and stoned him with stones. So the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Deuteronomy 19 (NKJV)

Three Cities of Refuge

19 “When the Lord your God has cut off the nations whose land the Lord your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, 2 you shall separate three cities for yourself in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3 You shall prepare roads for yourself, and divide into three parts the territory of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, that any manslayer may flee there.

4 “And this is the case of the manslayer who flees there, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past— 5 as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live; 6 lest the avenger of blood, while his anger is hot, pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and kill him, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated the victim in time past. 7 Therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall separate three cities for yourself.’

8 “Now if the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as He swore to your fathers, and gives you the land which He promised to give to your fathers, 9 and if you keep all these commandments and do them, which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and to walk always in His ways, then you shall add three more cities for yourself besides these three, 10 lest innocent blood be shed in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and thus guilt of bloodshed be upon you.

11 “But if anyone hates his neighbor, lies in wait for him, rises against him and strikes him mortally, so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his city shall send and bring him from there, and deliver him over to the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. 13 Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with you.

Property Boundaries

14 “You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

The Law Concerning Witnesses

15 “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. 16 If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, 17 then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. 18 And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, 19 then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. 20 And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit
such evil among you.21 Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth
for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

In the New Testament, it seems the Pharisees and scribes had taken the “eye for an eye” principle and applied it to everyday personal relationships. They taught that seeking personal revenge was acceptable. If someone punched you, you could punch him back; if someone insulted you, he was fair game for your insults. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day ignored the judicial basis of the giving of that law.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counters the common teaching of personal retaliation: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you . . .”
(Matthew 5:38–39).

Matthew 5:38-39 (NKJV)

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

Exodus 21:24 (NKJV)
24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Leviticus 24:20 (NKJV)
20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.

Deuteronomy 19:21 (NKJV)
21 Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Jesus then proceeds to reveal God’s heart concerning interpersonal relationships: “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:39–42).

Matthew 5:38-42 (NKJV)

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Footnotes:

a. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

In giving this “new” command, Jesus is not nullifying the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17).

Matthew 5:17 (NKJV)

Christ Fulfills the Law

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

Rather, He is separating the responsibility of the government (to punish evildoers justly) from the responsibility we all have on a personal level before God to love our enemies. We should not seek retribution for personal slights. We are to ignore personal insults (the meaning of “turn the other cheek”). Christians are to be willing to give more of their material goods, time, and labor than required, even if the demands upon us are unjust. We should loan to those who want to borrow, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (verses 43–48). Enforcing “an eye for an eye” is the magistrate’s job; forgiving our enemies is ours. We see this played out today every time a victim stands up in court to publicly forgive a convicted criminal—the forgiveness is personal and real, but the judge still justly demands that the sentence be carried out.

Jesus’ limiting of the “eye for an eye” principle in no way prohibits self-defense or the forceful protection of the innocent from harm. The actions of duly appointed agents of the government, such as police officers and the military, to protect citizens and preserve the peace are not in question. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek applies to personal relationships, not judicial policy. The principle of “an eye for an eye” is meant as a judicial policy, not as a rule for interpersonal relationships. The believer in Christ is guided by Jesus’ words to forgive. The Christian is radically different from those who follow the natural inclination to respond in kind.

Take for example Jesus’ instructions to us to “turn the other cheek?”

The entire section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which this verse is found can be understood as one where Jesus actually serves to elevate the importance of following Israel’s moral law beyond the letter to the spirit of the law. Much of the material therein complements the nature of His coming characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and longsuffering toward sinners while at the same time affirming the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, we are told to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us and to pray for enemies instead of resisting them. All of this can be generally summarized by saying we need to be pure inside and out and should be as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.

To “turn the other cheek,” does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in mortal danger. Like the principle of the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth in Matthew 5:38, turning the other cheek refers to personal retaliation, not criminal offenses or acts of military aggression. Clearly, Jesus did not mean to negate all God’s laws and injunctions protecting us against violent crime or invading armies. Rather, Jesus is speaking here of the principle of non-retaliation to affronts against our own dignity, as well as lawsuits to gain one’s personal assets (v. 40), infringements on one’s liberty (v. 41), and violations of property rights (v. 42). He was calling for a full surrender of all personal rights.

Matthew 5:40-42 (NKJV)
40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Turning the other cheek means not to return insult for insult in retaliation, which is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Responding to hatred with love just might grab someone’s attention and afford us a chance to share the gospel. When we respond in a manner that is unnatural, it displays the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus was the perfect example because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him.

Matthew 5:38-42 (NKJV)

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV)

Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[b] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren [c] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[d] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 5:43 Compare Leviticus 19:18
b. Matthew 5:44 NU-Text omits three clauses from this verse, leaving, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
c. Matthew 5:47 M-Text reads friends.
d. Matthew 5:47 NU-Text reads Gentiles.

Love Your Enemies

isis-flag

Isis flag: What do the words mean?

The white banner at the top of the flag reads: “There is no god but Allah [God]. Mohammad is the messenger of Allah.” This phrase is a declaration of faith used across Islam, and is known as the shahada.

Underneath is a white circle emblazoned with black writing reading “Mohammed is the messenger of God”, which is meant to resemble the Prophet’s seal, similar to that used to close an envelope.

al-qaeda-flag

Al Qaeda Flag

Jabhat al-Nusra is an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Its flag includes the white inscription at the top of the flag, which is the shahada, or the Islamic declaration of faith. Underneath the shahada is the name “Jabhat al-Nusra” in Arabic. Dec 16, 2014

Shahada

The Shahada (Arabic: الشهادة‎ aš-šahādah audio (help. · info), “the testimony”; aš-šahādatān (الشَهادَتانْ, “the two testimonials”); also Kalima Shahadat [كلمة الشهادة, “the testimonial word”]), is an Islamic creed declaring belief in the oneness of God (tawhid) and the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s prophet.

The Islamic Declaration of Faith

Declaration of Faith (Shahadah) The most basic requirement of being a Muslim is to publicly state the words “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger”, in Arabic, with sincerity and without any reservations.

Love Your Enemies

Michael Berg, whose son Nick was beheaded in Iraq in 2004, told ABC News’ Aaron Katersky on Thursday (June 8, 2006) that he abhors that the U.S. military has killed al-Zarqawi.

“I will not take joy in the death of a fellow human, even the human being who killed my son,” said Berg, who blamed President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales — and not al-Zarqawi — for the death of his son because of what Berg said is their role in making possible the torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

“Revenge is what killed my son,” said Berg. “My son died in a perpetual cycle of revenge that goes on and on, forever. It’s got to stop somewhere. As far as I’m concerned, it will stop with me.”

“I wish the Iraqi people, and the U.S. soldiers who mistakenly believe they are protecting us, good fortune in weathering the upcoming violence,” said Berg.

A man after God’s own heart. So, why did Mr. Berg  declare to the world that “Revenge is what killed my son.” But at the same time stated, “I will not take joy in the death of a fellow human, even the human being who killed my son,”

The Bible has a great deal to say about revenge. Both the Hebrew and Greek words translated “vengeance,” “revenge,” and “avenge” have as their root meaning the idea of punishment. This is crucial in understanding why God reserves for Himself the right to avenge.

The key verse regarding this truth is found in the Old Testament and quoted twice in the New Testament. God states in Deuteronomy 32:35,

Deuteronomy 32:35 (NKJV)

35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.’

 In Deuteronomy, God is speaking of the stiff-necked, rebellious, idolatrous Israelites who rejected Him and incurred His wrath with their wickedness. He promised to avenge Himself upon them in His own timing and according to His own perfect and pure motives.

The two New Testament passages concern the behavior of the Christian, who is not to usurp God’s authority. Rather, we are to allow Him to judge rightly and pour out His divine retribution against His enemies as He sees fit (Romans 12:19Hebrews 10:30).

Unlike us, God never takes vengeance from impure motives. His vengeance is for the purpose of punishing those who have offended and rejected Him. We can, however, pray for God to avenge Himself in perfection and holiness against His enemies and to avenge those who are oppressed by evil. In Psalm 94:1, the psalmist prays for God to avenge the righteous, not out of a sense of uncontrolled vindictiveness, but out of just retribution from the eternal Judge whose judgments are perfect. Even when the innocent suffer and the wicked appear to prosper, it is for God alone to punish. “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies” (Nahum 1:2).

As Christians, we are to follow the Lord Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), leaving the vengeance to God.

How does a man like Michael Berg love the enemies who beheaded his son? Through God’s undiscriminating love to all people

When Jesus said we are to love our enemies, He was creating a new standard for relationships.

He proclaimed to the crowds listening to His Sermon on the Mount that they knew they were to love their neighbor because the command to love our neighbor was a law of God (Leviticus 19:18).

That we must therefore hate our enemy was an inference incorrectly drawn from it by the Jews. While no Bible verse explicitly says “hate your enemy,” the Pharisees may have somewhat misapplied some of the Old Testament passages about hatred for God’s enemies (Psalm 139:19-22140:9-11).

But Jesus replaced this idea with an even higher standard: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). Jesus explained to His followers that they should adhere to the real meaning of God’s law by loving their enemies as well as their neighbors.

By using an illustration of the sun rising and the rain falling on both the good and the evil, Jesus shows God’s undiscriminating love to all people. We, as His disciples, must then reflect His character and exhibit this same undiscriminating love for both friends and enemies. Jesus is teaching us that we must live by a higher standard than what the world expects—a standard that is impossible for us to attain by our own efforts. It’s only through the power of God’s Spirit that we can truly love and pray for those who intend to do us harm. (Romans 12:14-21)

After giving us the admonition to love our enemies, Jesus then gives us this command: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). As sons of our Father (Matthew 5:45), we are to be perfect, even as He is perfect. This is utterly impossible for sinful man to achieve. This unattainable standard is exactly what the Law itself demanded (James 2:10). So how can Jesus demand the impossible? He later tells us, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). That which God demands, only He can accomplish, including the demand to love our enemies. What is impossible for man becomes possible for those who give their lives to Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.

Can We Win People for Christ?

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more . . .” —I Corinthians 9:19

In John 10:35Jesus Christ makes a parenthetical statement that is easy to overlook, and yet it is a foundational principle when it comes to understanding the Bible. He says, “. . . and the Scripture cannot be broken. . .” (emphasis mine throughout).

John 10:35-36 (NKJV)

35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

The written Word of God is another part of His creative work, and in His inspired words, we see the same forethought, consistency, and magnificence that we see in everything that God does. Because His character is true and constant, the Scriptures can never be contradictory. When we encounter something in them that seems incongruous, the defect is only in our understanding, not in what God has provided for us.

The religious tradition that took root and gained prominence after the deaths of the first-century apostles did not hold this principle unscathed, and as a result, formal Christianity today holds doctrines that are an unholy mixture of portions of the Scripture, along with pagan beliefs and philosophies that have been picked up through the millennia. In contrast, true doctrines fit together in a unified whole, each one supporting and reinforcing the overall body of beliefs. Because of this, if one doctrine is changed or misapplied, the consistency of the whole begins to unravel.

A clear example of this is what the Bible steadfastly shows regarding God’s calling and election. Scripture teaches that a man cannot even approach the Messiah unless the Father draws, or calls, him (John 6:44: 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”). In other words, salvation is not available to all people right now. But because not all professing Christians truly hold to the infallibility of God’s Word, many believe that anyone can accept Jesus Christ as his Savior, and all that is needed is for other Christians to win over the unsaved. Sometimes this belief is pure and altruistic, and at other times the belief is shaded by a desire to win a person over to a particular denomination or administrative entity. Either way, the conventional religious wisdom is that we can—and should — “win people for Christ.”

However, this belief does not exist in a vacuum. A person’s understanding of God’s calling is linked with his belief in the different resurrections. It is crucial to the understanding of Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles because these festivals symbolize different physical and spiritual harvests—one early, smaller harvest and one later, much larger harvest. It shapes the understanding of the gospel of the Kingdom and tempers expectations on the effect when the world hears the gospel. If the scriptures about God’s calling are broken, then many other core beliefs begin to break down as well.

 Winning the More

However, one passage seems to suggest that Paul tried to win people for Christ. It is found in  Corinthians 9:19-22:

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as wIithout law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Paul mentions five times here that he is trying to “win” different people, and in verse 22, he writes that he is trying to “save some.” This passage is commonly interpreted that Paul would present himself differently in various circumstances to win people for Christ; he became all things to all men in order to “save” at least some of them. This interpretation fits the general evangelical belief that Christians should do whatever is necessary to “win souls for Christ” and to get all manner of people “saved” before they die.

However, if that is what this passage means, then holy Scripture is broken! Such a reading contradicts numerous other clear biblical statements. For example, as alluded to above, in John 6:44,  Jesus says, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” A little later in John 6:65, He reiterates this: “. . . no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” Without the Father providing an individual an approach to Christ, he cannot come to Him for salvation. The Father must intervene first—human intervention makes no difference.

Acts 13 contains the story of Paul and Barnabas preaching to Gentiles in Antioch. Luke writes in verse 48: “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Even though the apostles preached to many, only certain people believed what they heard because only they had been appointed to eternal life.

John 17:3 provides a basic definition of the eternal life to which some were appointed: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life, then, is not merely endless living, but is the quality of life that comes from having relationships with the Father and the Son—and only the Father determines who will have such relationships during this age. Those who are not appointed to eternal life now will have their opportunity in the second resurrection.

This parallels Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:8 that grace and saving faith are both gifts from God (For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”). He is not beholden to give the faith that saves—that is why it comes as a gift only to some. In fact, in II Thessalonians 3:2, the apostle says that “not all [men] have faith.” An interlinear Bible will show that the Greek contains a definite article— “the”—before “faith”: “not all have the faith.” There is a specific faith, but only those to whom God gives it have it.

Jesus declares, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Claiming Jesus as our Lord has no effect if He does not know us ((23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ verse 23), and as John6:44   shows, the Father determines whether a person can even approach Jesus Christ (44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”).

In Acts 2:38, Peter speaks about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then he says, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call (verse 39). But without that calling, the promise does not apply. Likewise, Jesus declares that many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 20:1622:14).

Many verses mention God’s specific foreknowledge, calling, and election of some and not others (Acts 13:222:14Romans 1:6-78:28-309:1111:216:13I Corinthians 1:91:24-28Galatians 1:65:8Ephesians 1:4;4:1Colossians 3:15I Thessalonians 1:42:124:75:24II Thessalonians 1:112:13-14I Timothy 6:12II Timothy 1:9Hebrews 3:19:15I Peter 1:22:95:10II Peter 1:10Jude 1Revelation 17:14).

Clearly, God has specifically determined who will come into a relationship with Him during this age—and it is not everyone!

If the scriptures are to remain unbroken, either all of these examples of God limiting salvation right now are wrong, or the common interpretation of I Corinthians 9:19-22 misses the mark!

 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NKJV)

 Serving All Men

 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law,[a] that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God,[b] but under law toward Christ[c]), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as[d] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Corinthians 9:20 NU-Text adds though not being myself under the law.

b. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads God’s law.

c. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads Christ’s law.

d. 1 Corinthians 9:22 NU-Text omits

To Win Is to Gain

What Paul means in this passage becomes clear when we understand the sense and usage of two Greek words, those translated as “win” and “save.” In the evangelical world, both of them have taken on lives of their own, but with just a little digging, we will see that no contradiction lies between this passage and the numerous other clear statements.

The word translated as “win” is kerdaino (Strong’s #2770), and its basic meaning is “gain,” which is how it is typically translated. It means “to acquire by effort or investment.” It can mean “to earn” or “to make a profit.” The flipside is that it can also mean “to cause a loss not to occur.”

This word is used infrequently, but the verses that contain it are well known. For example, Jesus uses it when He cautions against gaining the whole world yet losing one’s own soul (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36Luke 9:27). The gain is a physical or material one—it is not speaking of evangelizing the whole world. It also appears in the Parable of the Talents, where two of the servants gain more talents through their efforts and investments

(Matthew 25:16-22).

 Kerdaino is also found in the well-known Matthew 18:15, where Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” The gaining here is not about “winning” someone “for Christ.” When we gain our brother, we are gaining a better relationship. We are keeping a breach in the relationship from continuing. We receive a profit, as it were, by enhancing the connection or bond between us. There is no implication that we are opening his mind to the mysteries of God’s Kingdom. It simply means that after bringing a sin to his attention, if he hears and receives us, then we have gained our brother because the relationship has been restored. There is a similar usage in I Peter 3:1-2:

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”

Quite a number of translators and commentators read into this verse that the example of the godly wife wins the husband to Christ. But Peter makes no mention of Jesus in these verses, nor is he saying that a godly wife has the ability to call, let alone convert, an unbelieving husband. As shown already, God alone retains the power to open a person’s mind and give him the faith that produces spiritual salvation.

This is not to deprecate the power of a good example in the least. Our example is a large part of whether we are upholding the holiness of God’s name or bearing it in vain. Our example gives evidence of our spiritual paternity, for either we will resemble Satan or we will resemble God. When we display the same characteristics as our heavenly Father, He is glorified, and those who observe our good example can see that God’s way of life produces good results.

However, even the very best example will not convert another unless God is also calling him or her. Even after 3½ years of walking and preaching on earth, the perfect witness of the Son of God did not convert everyone He encountered! If a good example were all that was needed, we could expect that everyone who observed Jesus would come to Him—but that is not what happened at all! After His death, there were only about 120 disciples (or perhaps 120 families; Acts 1:15). Obviously, God did not call every person who encountered Jesus—He will call them when they are resurrected.

Clearly, the conduct of a child of God is of utmost importance, particularly in the case of one spouse being called and converted while the other is not. Yet, even if the believing spouse sets a perfect example, “chaste conduct accompanied by fear” will not win the unbelieving spouse for Christ. Instead, the “winning” or the “gaining” in I Peter 3:1 is similar to the gaining of our brother in Matthew 18:15. Just as it may be possible (through our efforts) to have a more profitable relationship with a brother who sinned against us, so it may also be possible for a godly wife to gain the heart of an unbelieving husband, so that he respects her more and begins to let go of his animosity.

1 Peter 3:1-2 (NKJV)

Submission to Husbands

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.

Matthew 18:15 (NKJV)

Dealing with a Sinning Brother

 15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

This is similar to Proverbs 16:7: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” God can cause an enemy to begin looking favorably upon one of His children, and thus the former foe is gained. By our efforts, though, we can only gain a person in terms of the human relationship. We cannot cause a relationship to occur between man and God—only God can initiate that.

In the same way, the winning or gaining that Paul is striving for in I Corinthians 9:19-22 is simply protecting or improving the connection he had with the people he encountered. His gaining of these people was not the same thing as converting them or of opening their minds to the reality of God. He was trying not to be unnecessarily offensive, but the scope of his behavior was entirely on the level of human interaction, not on getting people saved in a spiritual or eternal sense.

Save Some” From What?

This leads us to verse 22, where Paul speaks of “save [ing] some.” Sometimes we have an automatic tendency to think of eternal salvation, or at the very least justification, whenever we hear the words “save” or “saved.” However, that is only one facet of the Greek word translated as “save,” sozo (Strong’s #4982), whose basic meaning is “to make safe.” It can be expanded to mean “to deliver or protect, either literally or figuratively.”

1 Corinthians 9:22 (NKJV)

22 to the weak I became as[a] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Corinthians 9:22NU-Text omits

This word is frequently used in reference to physical deliverance from a dangerous or undesirable situation, and is often translated as “heal,” “preserve,” and “make whole.” When healing people, Jesus would tell them, “Your faith has made you whole. He was essentially saying, “Your faith has saved you”but the salvation was a physical one. The person was saved from a condition of misery.

In the highest sense, a person is not ultimately saved — “safe”—until he or she is no longer subject to death or to sin, which earns death. That is, we are not truly safe until “this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:54). Until resurrected or changed at Christ’s return—until we are “like Him” (I John 3:2), and “death is swallowed up in victory” (Isaiah 25:8)—we are subject to the corruption of our human nature, the breakdown of our physical bodies, and the cessation of life, all things that keep us from being eternally safe. Until we are spirit beings, we will always be in need of deliverance, protection, healing, and restoration. Even the salvation that takes place upon our repentance and the forgiveness of our past sins does not guarantee our future safety, for until we take our final breath, it is possible for us to turn away from God and reject His way of life.

When analyzing I Corinthians 9:22, then, we have to consider what kind of salvation Paul is talking about. Since no man is saved eternally at the point of conversion, he is not referring to eternal salvation. We also know that he could not have meant justification here either, because even an apostle does not have the power to justify. Nor was he given the authority to impart true belief. As we saw, only those whom God appoints to eternal life at this time are going to believe. So that sort of saving is not what Paul is talking about.

Before we get to the full explanation, we need to take a step back and understand how this passage fits with the rest of the epistle. I Corinthians 8-10 relate to the controversy over eating meat offered to idols. Paul’s basic teaching throughout these chapters is that it was far better for the Corinthians to deny themselves a perfectly lawful thing than to risk causing a brother to stumble. Through much of this instruction, he uses his own pattern of self-denial as an example, showing in various ways that he would go without lawful things to keep from causing unnecessary offense.

Thus, if he were interacting with the Jews, he would deny himself things that could be offensive to them but that technically would have been fine. It is not that he would compromise with God’s standards, but he would limit himself for the sake of not turning people away. This is what he was doing to gain them. By these means, he was working for a more profitable relationship. His basic point in the overall context is that, if he were willing to do this to gain people who were not even converted, then the Corinthians should be willing to limit and restrain themselves for the sake of gaining their own brethren. A person who is “gained” is more likely to hear what we have to say, so we may be used to help them in some way.

Seeking Positive Rapport

So what does Paul mean by writing, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”? He may have been referring to their eventual salvation, which he might play a part in, but which he could not actually claim as having brought about. As he had previously written: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase”(I Corinthians 3:6-7).

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NKJV)

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

However, there is a type of “saving” that Paul could have a hand in through his preaching: “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

James 5:19-20 (NKJV)

Bring Back the Erring One

19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul[a] from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Footnotes:

a. James 5:20 NU-Text reads his soul.

James is not referring to eternal salvation or justification. He means making a man safe by helping him to stop a sin. If a person is sliding into apostasy, and someone turns him back, a type of salvation has occurred, for the one who had been going astray is now on a safer trajectory. If an individual helps another avoid or overcome any sin, a type of salvation has occurred because there is always greater safety where sin has been diminished. This salvation is only a shadow of the kind that God gives, but a saving nonetheless occurs anytime protection or deliverance is provided.

Thus, I Corinthians 9:19-22 shows that, wherever possible, Paul practiced self-denial so that he could gain a positive rapport with others. In this way, he might help them because his preaching of the truth could stir repentance in some area. He is not suggesting that through his preaching or example a person would be justified and brought into a relationship with God, but that his life would be better because there would be at least a little less enmity toward God and His way.

Without compromising, Paul kept the door open so that he could preach, and perhaps his preaching would protect or deliver someone in a small way, even if God was not calling the individual. Nevertheless, Paul was not bringing people into a relationship with Christ, nor is he suggesting that we try to do that either.

 

The Pressure to Succeed

So how do I start this story? My heart is racing. I am getting heartburn. I’m not shaking outside, but inside I could make a milkshake. I’m nervous. My mind is going a million miles an hour, yet I am lacking as to what to put down on paper. I feel hot and my palms are sweaty.

I want to write something that will be of help to others, but what do I say? How do I explain my life of failures because I am a people pleaser that wants to be accepted and liked for who I am as well as what I am able to accomplish? If you were to look at my résumé, you would probably shake your head and throw it into the trashcan. More jobs than one should have because I “wasn’t perfect enough to accomplish what was expected of me”, so I gave up.

Failures! The story of my life. My dad was a good man with an extremely high IQ. The one thing you didn’t do with my dad was to pick an argument with him. You would lose every time. You had better have your ducks in a row or face rejection and disappointment because you couldn’t meet his standards. And they were high. If I got a B, he would want to know why I didn’t get an A. If I got an A, why didn’t I work hard enough to get an A+? A “perfectionist” at heart and that’s what was expected of me.

I got through college on my dad’s tailcoats because he spent almost a life time working the stock market. And yes, he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. But that wasn’t me. I loved the fine arts – classical music, dance, art, drawing. I was not and probably never will be business oriented even though at one time my wife and I ran an accounting and tax business. I started college taking courses for a business degree, changed to the fine arts, failed there and went back to the business administration side with a degree in public administration, recreation as a field. Great. NO JOBS were there, so I went into retail.

The gist of all this is the fact that it was the beginning of a very long journey trying to discover who I was and where I belonged. And yes, I’m still running the gauntlet with no success. Why you ask. Because I fear walking out my front door just to go to McDonald’s to get some milkshakes for me, my wife and step-daughter.

I feel safe inside, to a point. It’s like my safe haven where no harm or faulty expectations or demands can get to me. It’s my fortress, my bastion where I can hide from those with needs and wants I can’t fulfill because their expectations are too high. It’s my blanket that keeps the anxiety and frustrations at bay. Sounds ridiculous you say.

Yes, it does. But how do I explain to you the real feelings that are going on inside me? How do I explain something I don’t really understand the whys and hows of? What is anxiety? What is fear? Where does it come from and why can’t I gain control of it to stop it from controlling me and ruining my life? I am taking medications for depression, anxiety, glaucoma, A fib, cholesterol, restless leg syndrome. I’ve seen therapists, psychiatrists, counselors, etc., but they haven’t really done me any good. I am now fully retired and am taking care (am a caregiver) for my wife who has a degenerative/debilitating back disease and my step-daughter who has Down Syndrome, an aortic heart valve and is on blood thinners, and is diabetic.

They need me and there is no escape. I don’t want to run away because they are me and I am them. But the demands are endless; I can’t and won’t walk away from them. God gave me this responsibility for a reason and I have to believe that He will guide me and keep me strong so I can do what is necessary in caring for them.

Believe it or not, I do love life. The struggle, like all who are in the same boat as I am as far as feelings of anxiety and depression, is to find a balance in life where I can cope and heal from these perplexities. One thing I can say that may hopefully resound in your minds and mine – NEVER GIVE UP!!!

Below you will see four sets of verses from the bible. They are in the New King James Version and the New International Version (in case the New King James Version is confusing to some of you). Both Timothy and Paul are trying to tell us not to give up. We are in a race. A race for peace of mind and a fulfilled and happy life. A race that will take everything we have to run and win. A race in which the winners get to hang on to life, not lose it.

Dare to read them and dare to take them to heart. Know that we are not the only ones to have gone through what we are currently experiencing. History attests to that. The bible if full of desperate, anxious, fearful individuals whom God has used mightily. The point is you and I need to find a positive way to deal with what we are experiencing and not to give up just because we think what we are doing is not working. It is, just not as fast as maybe you or I would like it to.

1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV)

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV)

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

__________

 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NKJV)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

__________

 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV)

Striving for a Crown

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

__________

2 Timothy 2:10 (NKJV)

10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV)

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

I can’t give up because God won’t let me. Otherwise I would have been dead a long time ago. So don’t you give up either. Let’s together help one another find that balance in life that will help keep us going no matter what we are experiencing at the time. No, it won’t be easy, but know you are not alone. God is there and I am there if you need a shoulder to lean on. I may need one too and it helps to know that there is one I can rely on.

Dear Love….From Hatred

John Pavlovitz is an “18-year ministry veteran trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus.” He proudly serves the North Raleigh Community Church as pastor of people in the Raleigh area and throughout the world.

John writes a blog called John Pavlovitz – Stuff That Needs To Be Said (http://johnpavlovitz.com). Recently John wrote one of his “musings” called “Dear Hatred, From Love”; posted JULY 19, 2016.

This is a copy of John’s post:

Dear Hatred, From Love

JULY 19, 2016 / JOHN PAVLOVITZ

Dear Hatred

Dear Hatred,

I trust this letter finds you well.

Actually, from the looks of things out there business is booming for you lately. I’ve got to hand it to you, you’ve managed to keep yourself in the news pretty steadily and these days that’s no small feat. Your ability to reinvent yourself is a credit to your persistence and to you knowing your audience. I’ll confess, your brand is a whole lot stronger than I’d realized. Somehow you’ve been able to leverage all that fear out there into a pretty impressive little cottage industry. I see you’ve even secured a Presidential candidate.

To be honest, I’ve been in a pretty deep funk with all that’s happening, myself. For a while I’ve been struggling to find any real momentum; one step forward, eighteen steps back. I’d started to think maybe I was obsolete, like I’d finally become passé; destined to be a dusty relic of the past and relegated to faded t-shirts and power ballads. I was seriously considering calling it a day.

But this morning I realized something: I’m. Freaking. Love. Dammit.

I am the glorious, beautiful response to all the havoc you wreak out there.

I am the relentless dawn that chases away your heavy darkness.

I resurrect all the hope that you seek to destroy.

I am the defiant middle finger raised in the face of death, evil, and your pervasive lie that Humanity is beyond saving.

I am the redemptive song that people keep finding a way to sing together no matter how difficult the days become.

Sure, maybe I’ve had a rough stretch lately, but I’ve been through this all a million times before and I’ve always been able to answer you.

And trust me, I will answer now too.

Let’s face it, deep down we both know how this is going to play out, don’t we? You’ll grab the headlines and make a dramatic statement and chaos will briefly come, and you’ll feel and seem like you’re winning. You’ll get a bit of traction and you’ll celebrate for a moment. But it won’t be long until I rise up and slowly drive back beneath the ground all the terrible Hell that you managed to raise.

Like yeast in the dough I will quietly and silently do the healing work I do; person by person, heart by heart, breath by breath. And then I will be the one dancing.

You’ve probably noticed that I don’t resort to all the bombast and theatrics you’re known for. That may move the needle and make the news, but it doesn’t last and anyway it’s never really been my style. I prefer to just keep going—and waiting. Because the truth is, goodness is Humanity’s default setting, and when people stop to breathe, when they step away from the screaming fray, when they draw nearer to one another they recognize that goodness in the other’s eyes—and then you’re screwed.

People will always return to compassion and mercy because those are the most powerful forces on the planet. And when they do, they find me there waiting. They embrace me and I them.

Yes, you may occasionally corrupt the system, but I am the system. I am the truth that people know without knowing they know it. I am the deepest sacred place the human heart will always seek at its level. When hurting, grieving, weary souls search for rest, I am where and when they finally find themselves home.

So you can have your eye for any eye, and I will keep making peace.

You can demand revenge and I will keep forgiving.

You can spew venom and I’ll turn my cheek.

You can posture and incite with a closed fist, and I will stretch out my open hand.

You can gloat and brag and feel quite pleased with yourself for the momentary terror you’ve manufactured—and I will press firmly into that which endures and defeats it.

Yes, you are powerful and resilient, friend, but you’ll never overcome me and you won’t outlast me.

No matter what unspeakable damage you do, I will bring even greater healing.

And no matter how much you say I will always have the last, loudest word—trust me on this.

Look around you. Look beneath the headlines and the noise.

Look deeply into the eyes of those who get me and see how much they’re willing to do.

My people will not be denied.

You can’t win this one, friend, no matter what you or the papers say.

This place is mine.

Sincerely,

Love.


This is my post in riposte to his:

Dear Love….From Hatred

JULY 25, 2016 / GARRETT SOULEN

Image result for hate love

 

Dear Love……

It’s been a long time since we have met. How are you? I was busy so I couldn’t write you. Now instead of being monotonous I will straight away write you what I feel.

Ok, ok I guess you are annoyed with me. I know the situation right now. This day is what you call in Hindi a “kali yug” (a day of strife, contention). People hate me, but at the same time my name is stable because of this feeling of hate. Yet not all this hate is aimed at me. Some like terrorists, kidnappers or those whose hearts are filled with me and  wanting to take revenge on those who hate me. Indeed, they are the only ones who are filled with me. They want that people should develop a sense of hostility, suspicion and contempt. Isn’t that delightful?  Because of what’s in their hearts, now the people are filled with rage, hostility, hatred and revenge. Me! Filled with me! But don’t be sad, there are also those people in this world who still have endless love and compassion. I know that all the great leaders throughout history have taught mankind that this love is a wonderful thing. You are a powerful weapon which can sweep away all the envy, jealousy and scorn. I am happy for you.

Now, because of the terrorist attacks and killing of police officers that are filling many hearts with despair, feelings of hopelessness, desperation and fear, I am seeing the headlines and feeling the drama and chaos playing out in the streets. But you know what, something really perplexes me. We both can’t exist together. Where there is love, there’s no place for hatred and where there is hatred, there’s no place for love. But we both are important. Ok friend, I know I am creating a situation which is a paradox for you. But just think about it. If God has made sorrow, He has also made happiness; if He has made night, He has also made day; if He has made problems, He has also made solutions; similarly, if He has made you, He has also made me.

Love has been preached from the heights of Mt. Zion to the valley below.  I know I am not good but I am not all that bad either. Yes, only you can heal the world from this sickness. But if there is hatred in the hearts of mankind, there is no love. God does what is  good for His people. If He disciplines mankind because of something he has done wrong,  it is to teach him the message of faith, hope and love and to rely on Him.

So please look at the other side of the coin.

Yours affectionately,

Hatred

Life's Images

Spiritual Warfare

 

There are two primary errors when it comes to spiritual warfare—over-emphasis and under-emphasis. Some blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on demons that need to be cast out. Others completely ignore the spiritual realm and the fact that the Bible tells us our battle is against spiritual powers. The key to successful spiritual warfare is finding the biblical balance. Jesus sometimes cast demons out of people; other times He healed people with no mention of the demonic. The apostle Paul instructs Christians to wage war against the sin in themselves (Romans 6) and warns us to oppose the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10–18).

Ephesians 6:10–12 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This text teaches some crucial truths: we can only stand strong in the Lord’s power, it is God’s armor that protects us, and our battle is ultimately against spiritual forces of evil in the world.

Ephesians 6:13–18 is a description of the spiritual armor God gives us. We are to stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and by praying in the Spirit. What do these pieces of spiritual armor represent in spiritual warfare? We are to know the truth, believe the truth, and speak the truth. We are to rest in the fact that we are declared righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are to proclaim the gospel no matter how much resistance we face. We are not to waver in our faith, trusting God’s promises no matter how strongly we are attacked. Our ultimate defense is the assurance we have of our salvation, an assurance that no spiritual force can take away. Our offensive weapon is the Word of God, not our own opinions and feelings. And we are to pray in the power and will of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is our ultimate example of resisting temptation in spiritual warfare. Observe how Jesus handled direct attacks from Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). Each temptation was combatted with the words “it is written.” The Word of the living God is the most powerful weapon against the temptations of the devil. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

A word of caution concerning spiritual warfare is in order. Nowhere in Scripture are we instructed to cast out demons or even to speak to them. The name of Jesus is not a magic incantation that causes demons to flee from before us. The seven sons of Sceva are an example of what can happen when people presume an authority they have not been given (Acts 19:13–16). Even Michael the archangel did not rebuke Satan in his own power but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9). When we start talking to the devil, we run the risk of being led astray as Eve was (Genesis 3:1–7). Our focus should be on God, not demons; we speak to Him, not them.

What are the keys to success in spiritual warfare? We rely on God’s power, not our own. We put on the whole armor of God. We draw on the power of Scripture—the Word of God is the Spirit’s sword. We pray in perseverance and holiness, making our appeal to God. We stand firm (Ephesians 6:13–14); we submit to God; we resist the devil’s work (James 4:7), knowing that the Lord of hosts is our protector. “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2).

The Full Armor of God

The phrase “full armor of God” comes from Ephesians 6:13-17: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:12 clearly indicates that the conflict with Satan is spiritual, and therefore no tangible weapons can be effectively employed against him and his minions. We are not given a list of specific tactics Satan will use. However, the passage is quite clear that when we follow all the instructions faithfully, we will be able to stand, and we will have victory regardless of Satan’s strategy.

The first element of our armor is truth (verse 14). This is easy to understand, since Satan is said to be the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Deception is high on the list of things God considers to be an abomination. A “lying tongue” is one of the things He describes as “detestable to Him” (Proverbs 6:16-17). We are therefore exhorted to put on truth for our own sanctification and deliverance, as well as for the benefit of those to whom we witness.

Also in verse 14, we are told to put on the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate shielded a warrior’s vital organs from blows that would otherwise be fatal. This righteousness is not works of righteousness done by men. Rather, this is the righteousness of Christ, imputed by God and received by faith, which guards our hearts against the accusations and charges of Satan and secures our innermost being from his attacks.

Verse 15 speaks of the preparation of the feet for spiritual conflict. In warfare, sometimes an enemy places dangerous obstacles in the path of advancing soldiers. The idea of the preparation of the gospel of peace as footwear suggests what we need to advance into Satan’s territory, aware that there will be traps, with the message of grace so essential to winning souls to Christ. Satan has many obstacles placed in the path to halt the propagation of the gospel.

The shield of faith spoken of in verse 16 makes Satan’s sowing of doubt about the faithfulness of God and His Word ineffective. Our faith—of which Christ is “the author and perfecter” (Hebrews 12:2)— is like a golden shield, precious, solid, and substantial.

The helmet of salvation in verse 17 is protection for the head, keeping viable a critical part of the body. We could say that our way of thinking needs preservation. The head is the seat of the mind, which, when it has laid hold of the sure gospel hope of eternal life, will not receive false doctrine or give way to Satan’s temptations. The unsaved person has no hope of warding off the blows of false doctrine because he is without the helmet of salvation and his mind is incapable of discerning between spiritual truth and spiritual deception.

Verse 17 interprets itself as to the meaning of the sword of the Spirit—it is the Word of God. While all the other pieces of spiritual armor are defensive in nature, the sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in the armor of God. It speaks of the holiness and power of the Word of God. A greater spiritual weapon is not conceivable. In Jesus’ temptations in the desert, the Word of God was always His overpowering response to Satan. What a blessing that the same Word is available to us!

In verse 18, we are told to pray in the Spirit (that is, with the mind of Christ, with His heart and His priorities) in addition to wearing the full armor of God. We cannot neglect prayer, as it is the means by which we draw spiritual strength from God. Without prayer, without reliance upon God, our efforts at spiritual warfare are empty and futile. The full armor of God—truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer—are the tools God has given us, through which we can be spiritually victorious, overcoming Satan’s attacks and temptations.

The Belt of Truth (Ephesians 6:14)

The belt of truth is the first piece of the “full armor of God” to be listed in Ephesians 6:10–17. The passage begins with the admonition from the apostle Paul to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” This is the key to understanding the armor of God. All the pieces of the armor belong to Him and come from Him. Truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, and salvation—all are gifts of God to His people for their defense. All except “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (verse 17) are defensive in nature. All are designed to help us “stand against the schemes of the devil” (verse 11). The belt of truth is the first part of the armor listed because, without truth, we are lost, and the schemes of the devil will surely overpower us.

It is fitting that the belt of truth is the first piece of the whole armor of God. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and it is only through Him that we come to God. Therefore, truth is of the utmost importance in the life of a Christian. Without truth, the rest of the armor would be of no use to us because we would not have the Spirit of truth (John 15:26).

In referring to the whole armor of God, Paul invokes the image of a soldier ready for battle. The belt of a Roman soldier in Paul’s day was not a simple leather strap such as we wear today. It was a thick, heavy leather and metal band with a protective piece hanging down from the front of it. The belt held the soldier’s sword and other weapons. The belt of truth of the spiritual armor holds the sword of the Spirit, linking truth and the Word of God (John 17:17). The Word of God is truth.

Depending on the translation of Ephesians 6:14, we are to fasten the belt of truth around us (ISV), buckle the belt around our waists (NIV), gird our waists with truth (NKJV), or gird our loins with truth (NASB). No matter the wording, we are to actively lay hold of the truth and use it. The belt of truth is a crucial piece of defensive armor guarding our inmost being in the battle against the lies and deceptions of the enemy. Without an understanding of truth, we are left vulnerable to being “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). The belt of truth protects us and prepares us for the battle that is part of every Christian’s life.

The Breastplate of Righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)

Ephesians 6:11 exhorts believers to “put on the whole armor of God” in order to stand firm against the attacks of our enemy, Satan (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:12). Verses 14 through 17 say, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The imagery is of an armed Roman or Israelite soldier, prepared for battle. A typical armed soldier wore a breastplate made of bronze or chain mail. It covered the vital organs, namely, the heart, and was fitted with loops or buckles that attached it to a thick belt. If the belt was loosened, the breastplate slipped right off.

When Paul compares the armor of God with military gear, each piece represents a part of God’s strength that He extends to us when we become His children. The breastplate of righteousness refers to the righteousness purchased for us by Jesus at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). At salvation, a “breastplate” is issued to each repentant sinner. It is specially designed by God to protect our heart and soul from evil and deception. Our own righteous acts are no match for Satan’s attacks (Isaiah 64:6). The breastplate of righteousness has Christ’s name stamped on it, as though He said, “Your righteousness isn’t sufficient to protect you. Wear mine.”

We are instructed to “put on” this armor, which implies that we do not automatically wear it all the time. Putting on the armor of God requires a decision on our part. To put on the breastplate of righteousness, we must first have the belt of truth firmly in place. Without truth, our righteousness will be based upon our own attempts to impress God. This leads to legalism or self-condemnation (Romans 8:1). We choose instead to acknowledge that, apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). We see ourselves as “in Christ” and that, regardless of our failures, His righteousness has been credited to our account.

We “put it on” by seeking God and His righteousness above everything else (Matthew 6:33). We make Him and His ways our dwelling place (Psalm 91:1). We delight in His commands and desire for His ways to become our ways (Psalm 37:4; 119:24, 111; Isaiah 61:10). When God reveals an area of change to us, we obey and allow Him to work in us. At the point where we say “no” to God, we open a little crack in the armor where Satan’s arrows can get through (Ephesians 6:16).

As we wear Christ’s breastplate of righteousness, we begin to develop a purity of heart that translates into actions. Wearing this breastplate creates a lifestyle of putting into practice what we believe in our hearts. As our lives become conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), our choices become more righteous, and these godly choices also protect us from further temptation and deception (Proverbs 8:20; Psalm 23:3).

When armor is abused or worn incorrectly, it can malfunction. Likewise, there are several factors that can interfere with the effectiveness of our spiritual breastplate. Carelessness (1 Peter 5:8), unbelief (Hebrews 3:12), abusing grace (Romans 6:1–2), or disobedience (1 John 3:4; Hebrews 4:6) can hinder our ability to stand firm and defeat the enemy in our lives. When we tolerate sin, refuse to forgive (2 Corinthians 2:10–11), rely on personal righteousness (Titus 3:5), or allow earthly concerns to crowd out time for an intimate relationship with God, we, in effect, take off the breastplate of righteousness, minimizing its power to protect us.

We need our breastplate of righteousness in place in order to gain the victory specified in 2 Corinthians 10:15: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” When we quickly reject heretical ideas, idolatry, and the “counsel of the ungodly” (Psalm 1:1) and instead “keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), we keep our breastplate securely fastened.

The Gospel of Peace (Ephesians 6:15)

Ephesians 6:11–17 instructs believers in Christ to “put on the whole armor of God as a defense against Satan’s attacks. This armor includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Verse 15 says, “And with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” The New Living Translation words it this way: “For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.” The gospel of peace is the message that Jesus gave to those who trust in Him (John 14:27; Romans 10:15). It comes with the assurance from God that we are His children and nothing can snatch us out of His hands (John 10:29; 1 John 5:13). It outlines clearly what is required to become a child of God (1 Corinthians 15:1–6; John 1:12; Romans 10:8–10). Any other message is a false gospel.

The word readiness implies constant vigilance. A victorious soldier had to be prepared for battle. He had to have studied his enemy’s strategy, be confident in his own strategy, and have his feet firmly planted so that he could hold his ground when the attacks came. A soldier’s battle shoes were studded with nails or spikes, like cleats, to help him keep his balance in combat. He knew that, if he lost his footing and went down, it wouldn’t matter how great the rest of his armor was; the enemy had him. When we are ready with the gospel of peace, we live with the understanding that we are continually under attack from Satan. Second Timothy 4:2 says to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”

The “peace shoes” that God supplies His soldiers have two purposes: defensive and offensive. In order to defend ourselves against the “flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16), we must have confidence of our position in Christ. We must stand firm in the truth of God’s Word, regardless of how terrifying the circumstances may be (1 John 5:14). We must understand grace without abusing it (Romans 6:1–6), remember that our position in Christ is not based on our own abilities or worthiness (Titus 3:5), and keep our belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness securely fastened (2 Timothy 1:12).

When Satan attacks with a flaming missile of doubt, such as “If God really loved you, He wouldn’t have let this happen,” we dig our peace shoes into the turf of God’s Word and reply, “It is written: All things work together for the good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). When Satan stabs from behind with “Remember what you did?” we dig in more deeply and reply, “It is written: If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

In addition to standing our ground, shoes are also for moving. God expects us to go on the offensive and take the gospel of peace to others. First Peter 3:14 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Sharing our faith is one of the best ways to maintain our own sure footing. God knows that, when we are active in speaking of Him to others, we not only charge into Satan’s territory, but we dig our shoes more deeply into truth and will be much harder to dislodge. When we have “studied to show ourselves approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15), we are ready to stand firm in the gospel of peace no matter what the enemy brings against us (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

The Shield of Faith (Ephesians 6:16)

The shield of faith is part of the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10–17. After summarizing the gospel and giving the Ephesians various instructions, Paul concludes his missive to them saying, in part, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10–11). About the shield, Paul writes, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (verse 16). The ESV puts it this way: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

The Roman shield of the time was called a scutum. This type of shield was as large as a door and would cover the warrior entirely. Such a shield was not just defensive but could also be used to push opponents. When fighting as a group, a phalanx of soldiers could position their shields so as to form an enclosure around themselves, called a testudo (“tortoise”). This was especially helpful to protect against arrows launched from the walls of cities they were attacking. Shields, often made of wood and then covered in hide, when wet, could extinguish flaming arrows.

Clearly, a shield is vitally important to a soldier. It provides a blanket of protection. It is meant to be taken up in all circumstances. It is the first barrier against the enemy’s attack. Often, shields were painted with identifying marks; a Christian who takes up the shield of faith identifies himself as a foot soldier who serves the Commander of the Lord’s army (see Joshua 5:14).

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Verse 6 stresses the importance of faith: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Satan’s attacks can sometimes cause us to doubt God. Faith prompts us to believe God. We give in to temptation when we believe what it has to offer is better than what God has promised. Faith reminds us that, though fulfillment of God’s promise may not be readily visible to us, God is true to His Word. When Satan attempts to plague us with doubt or entice us with instant gratification, faith recognizes the deceptiveness of his tactics and quickly extinguishes the arrows. When Satan accuses us, faith chooses to believe that Jesus has redeemed us and that there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1, 34; Revelation 12:10–12).

Faith is one of the greatest gifts (1 Corinthians 13:13), and it is the means by which we receive grace and come into right relationship with God (Ephesians 2:8–9). It is because we have been justified through faith that we belong to God and have peace with Him (Romans 5:1). Faith is the doorway to hope in God (Romans 5:2). Because we have faith in God, our suffering need not faze us; in fact, we can persevere under it (Romans 5:3–5). The things Satan attempts to use to discourage us can actually become tools in the hands of God.

All believers have this promise: “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Faith is a protective barrier between us and the schemes of Satan. When we believe God and take Him at His word, we remain grounded in truth, the lies of the enemy lose their power, and we become overcomers. In that way, faith is our shield.

The Helmet of Salvation (Ephesians 6:17)

Ephesians 6:17 instructs us to put on the whole armor of God and to “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” When a soldier suited up for battle, the helmet was the last piece of armor to go on. It was the final act of readiness in preparation for combat. A helmet was vital for survival, protecting the brain, the command station for the rest of the body. If the head was badly damaged, the rest of the armor would be of little use.

The assurance of salvation is our impenetrable defense against anything the enemy throws at us. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The idea in this verse is that, as we prepare for Satan’s attacks, we must grab that helmet and buckle it on tightly. Salvation is not limited to a one-time act of the past or even a future hope. God’s salvation is an ongoing, eternal state that His children enjoy in the present. It is daily protection and deliverance from our sin nature and Satan’s schemes.

Because of the power of the cross, our enemy no longer has any hold on us (Romans 6:10; 8:2; 1 Corinthians 1:18). He knows that, but he also knows that most of God’s children do not know that—or, at least, they do not live as if they know. We must learn to keep our helmets buckled so that his fiery missiles do not lodge in our thoughts and set us on fire. Through this helmet of salvation, we can “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

There are several actions a believer can take to keep this helmet fastened and functioning:

1. Renew our minds. Our minds are battlefields. The outcomes of those battles determine the course of our lives. Romans 12:1–2 instructs us to renew our minds by allowing the truth of God’s Word to wipe out anything contrary to it. Old ideas, opinions, and worldviews must be replaced. We must allow God’s truth to continually wash away the world’s filth, lies, and confusion from our minds and adopt God’s perspective.

2. Reject doubts that arise from circumstances. Human beings are sensory creatures. What we cannot fathom with our five senses, we tend to disregard. If we allow them to, circumstances may convince us that God does not really love us or that His Word is not true. It is impossible to have faith and doubt at the same time. God rewards our faith. With the helmet of salvation firmly in place, we can choose to believe what appears impossible (Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:8–9).

3. Keep an eternal perspective. When life crashes in around us, we must remember to look up. Our salvation is the most precious gift we have received. Keeping our eyes on that can help us weather life’s storms. We can choose to live our lives by the motto “If it doesn’t have eternal significance, it’s not important” (see Matthew 6:20; 1 Corinthians 3:11–13).

4. Remember that victory is already accomplished. When we consider ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God” (Romans 6:11), we eliminate many of the opportunities Satan uses to entrap us. When choosing sin is no longer an option for us because we recognize ourselves to be “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 3:9), we effectively cut off many avenues of failure.

5. Find all our hope in Him. Psalm 73:25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but You? Besides you, I desire nothing on earth.” Our helmet is most effective when we treasure what it represents. The salvation Jesus purchased for us cannot share the place of importance in our hearts with earthly things. When pleasing the Lord is our supreme delight, we eliminate many of Satan’s lures and render his evil suggestions powerless.

As we wear the helmet of salvation every day, our minds become more insulated against the suggestions, desires, and traps the enemy lays for us. We choose to guard our minds from excessive worldly influence and instead think on things that honor Christ (Philippians 4:8). In doing so, we wear our salvation as a protective helmet that will “guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7; Isaiah 26:3; 1 Peter 1:5).

The Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)

The phrase “sword of the Spirit” is found only once in Scripture, in Ephesians 6:17. The sword is one of the pieces of spiritual armor Paul tells the Ephesian Christians to put on as part of the “full armor of God” that will enable us to stand our ground against evil (Ephesians 6:13).

The sword is both an offensive and defensive weapon used by soldiers or warriors. In this case it is a weapon belonging to the Holy Spirit. Swords were used to protect oneself from harm or to attack the enemy to overcome or kill him. In both cases it was necessary for a soldier to get rigid training on the proper use of the sword to get maximum protection. All Christian soldiers need the same rigid training to know how to properly handle the Sword of the Spirit, “which is the word of God.” The sword that Paul refers to here is the Holy Scriptures. We know from 2 Timothy 3:16–17 that the word of God is from the Holy Spirit and written by men. Since every Christian is on the spiritual battle with the satanic and evil forces of this world, we need to know how to handle the Word properly. Only then will it be an effective defense against evil, but it will also be an offensive weapon we use to “demolish strongholds” of error and falsehood (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).

God refers to His Word as a sword in Hebrews 4:12. Here the Word is described as living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword. The Roman sword was commonly made in this manner. The fact that it had two edges made it easier to penetrate, as well as to cut in every way. The idea is that of piercing, or penetrating; the Word of God reaches the “heart,” the very center of action, and lays open the motives and feelings of those it touches.

The purpose of the sword of the Spirit—the Bible—is to make us strong and able to withstand the evil onslaughts of Satan, our enemy (Psalm 119:11, 33–40, 99–105). The Holy Spirit uses the power of the Word to save souls and then to give them spiritual strength to be mature soldiers for the Lord in fighting this corrupt and evil world we live in. The more we know and understand the Word of God, the more useful we will be in doing the will of God and the more effective we will be in standing against the enemy of our souls.

Praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18)

Praying in the Spirit is mentioned three times in Scripture. First Corinthians 14:15 says, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Jude 20 says, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” So, what exactly does it mean to pray in the Spirit?

The Greek word translated “pray in” can have several different meanings. It can mean “by means of,” “with the help of,” “in the sphere of,” and “in connection to.” Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying. Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading. It is praying for things the Spirit leads us to pray for. Romans 8:26 tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Some, based on 1 Corinthians 14:15, equate praying in the Spirit with praying in tongues. Discussing the gift of tongues, Paul mentions “pray with my spirit.” First Corinthians 14:14 states that when a person prays in tongues, he does not know what he is saying, since it is spoken in a language he does not know. Further, no one else can understand what is being said, unless there is an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). In Ephesians 6:18, Paul instructs us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” How are we to pray with all kinds of prayers and requests and pray for the saints, if no one, including the person praying, understands what is being said? Therefore, praying in the Spirit should be understood as praying in the power of the Spirit, by the leading of the Spirit, and according to His will, not as praying in tongues.