Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Soft Answer

There's a reason why God says, "A soft answer turns away wrath." (Prov. 15:1)

Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (James 3:5)

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes on Facebook would agree that anger is rampant. For two years I hardly ever logged in, not even to see what's going on with family members. What passes for communication now days has gone far beyond letting our voices be heard or speaking against what we consider wrong.

Years ago I stopped watching the news, choosing to pick and choose what I want to see from different news sources on the internet. News based talk shows are unwatchable. There's little civil dialogue that will enable any kind of open-minded communication. So many have degenerated to the level of an unhealthy rage, frustrated people screaming insults at anyone they believe disagrees. Someone's pushed their hot-button. The problem is that no one is listening except those who agree with the speaker. Everyone who doesn't and might be receptive has been alienated by the condescension and contempt that drip from every syllable.

It's a downward cycle. A person feels disrespected and flings an insult at a group of people who presumably hold a position that offends them. One of that group responds with an equal insult about that person's intelligence. And thus it continues. Soon, more and more people are offended. Innocent bystanders are hit with outrageous rhetoric. Emotions heighten and open minds close. Now, everyone is offended.

There's a place for the full and open expression of opinions. My social studies, government, English, speech and debate classes--back in the dinosaur ages--were full of opinions, even unpopular ones. We were assigned or chose positions. We learned how to see both sides of an issue, how to recognize and understand how people come to their conclusions, and yes, how to counter.  Back then, not so much now days, basic courtesy was essential. During a discussion of a miners' strike, accusations of, "You don't care if your workers die and their families starve!" weren't allowed.

Civility and respect are missing in action. We rage at one another in slanderous words that dare to judge the thoughts, motivations and contents of the heart of anyone who disagrees and then consigns them to a fiery hereafter that the speaker sometimes doesn't even believe in.

Is that really how to win friends or influence people? It certainly won't get our views a fair hearing. So when we're about to post a rant  we need to ask ourselves, (1) what is the desired or expected response and (2) will the post give it to me?

Beyond the practicalities of getting the response we want, words have power. Words can comfort or crush the spirit, even when spoken to ourselves. They can poison the mind and the emotions, both in the ones who speak and in the ones who hear.

There's a place for passionate words and plain spoken truth. In Ephesians 4:15, the apostle Paul instructs us to, "speak the truth in love." It's impossible to make no moral judgments. All of our laws are based on someone's idea of what is right and wrong. The scriptures are full of judgments. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not removing a believer who was involved in continual, flagrant sin. Where we're going seriously wrong is in our attitudes. The wrong kind of judgment is finger-pointing condemnation not of an behavior, opinion or policy, but of a person.

How we treat people matters.

Matthew 5:44  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, 45 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 only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Greatest Love of All

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay one’s life down for his friends.  - John 15:13
Not long ago a friend of mine said that he works so that he will be worthy to be saved by God’s grace. Immediately, something rose in my spirit, and I said to him that no one is worthy to be saved, to which he immediately agreed. None of us are worthy. That’s the entire point of the cross and the shedding of His blood for our sin. We don’t deserve it. It isn’t that many of us haven’t done good things and even tried to follow the golden rule. But those good works cannot make us acceptable to God because His standard is absolute perfect purity.
But why when He loves us so much? The answer lies in the nature of God.  No sinful person could stand in the presence of the power and holiness of God without being consumed. The manifestation of that power and holiness would destroy us. God is that holy. We’re fragile.

It’s not that He’s expecting us to meet a standard beyond our capability.  God wasn’t surprised that Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. In Revelation 13:8, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb (who) was slain from the foundation of the world. He knew before He said, “Let there be light,” exactly what would be required of Him.
Stop and consider the enormity of sacrifice. He, equal with God in His majesty and authority, lowered himself and became like one of His own creation.  He came to people He created in order to complete a new covenant with mankind, knowing that some would reject Him. He didn’t just die for our sin, but He became sin, the total and complete antithesis of His nature. All for those He loved.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! Luke 13:34 (NKJV)