Pleasure In Death

As of May 1 ,2011, Osama bin Laden has been confirmed dead in an address given by United States President Barack Obama. He was killed in an operation based on U.S. intelligence, and reports claim large crowds had formed around the White House singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “We Are the Champions,” among other things. This is a major accomplishment for President Obama’s national security team; it is a large symbolic victory; and it is an event that has been a goal of both major political parties.

But I won’t be joining the festivities, and I would discourage anyone wearing the name of Christ from celebrating the death of this man.

For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.

– Ezekiel 18:32

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles…

– Proverbs 24:17

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

– II Peter 3:9

God’s nation of priests is not a bloodthirsty people. It is not a vengeful people. It is not a murderous people. Yes, Osama bin Laden did wrong in this life. He caused pain to many. He reaped violence as he sowed violence, but Christ died for him as much as He died for me. I, in turn, am no more worthy of God’s mercy than was Osama bin Laden.

Christ died for the sinful, for the outcast, for the unworthy. While He lived, Jesus sat to eat with sinners of many varieties. I truly believe God is saddened at the loss of bin Laden’s soul as He would be with any other soul lost to our true enemy, and I can no more rejoice over this death than I could rejoice over the death of a loved one. While I admit to a certain carnal sense of finality, there is no joy where no hope is found. Therefore, instead of lifting up our voices in joy over the death of a lost soul, let’s instead work to lift each other up to the standard Christ set for us in His life and ministry.

Loving Controversy: Revisited

Recently, I spent some time looking at the problem with loving controversy. That, along with some other stuff I’ve recently read online, prompted me to write a bit about online arguments on my personal blog. This, of course, brought me back here and studying about a Christian’s attitude toward arguing. Before I jump into some scripture, I want to give you some of the background that keeps this in my mind, so you understand where my concerns are coming from. Please note, I’m going to open up here and let you have a peek into the real me. If that makes you squeamish, close your eyes until you get to the third heading.

The Backstory

Like any good online citizen, I don’t only blog. I also belong to a couple of online communities. I don’t jump onto every social network available, but I’m active in three particular ones:

  • Pleonast. This was my first social network. It’s supposed to be like MySpace for Christians.
  • Twitter. I joined Twitter shortly after is opened and have made several new contacts through it.
  • Facebook. I was most hesitant to join this one. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

In all of these networks, I link to my various blogs when I post something new. I’ve noticed a troubling pattern, though. Whenever I post something of a spiritual nature, it gets few hits and few responses. In contrast, whenever I post something that even remotely touches on the topic of politics, it gets a lot of hits and numerous responses – mostly negative because, I’ll admit, my personal political philosophies are contrary to those of many Christians. I want others to understand where I’m coming from, so I write, not necessarily caring whether or not I change any minds. I just want to share a different perspective.

By the way, do you see the problem yet?

Spelling It Out

All of my friends on Pleonast consider themselves Christians. The vast majority of my Facebook friends consider themselves Christians. I think my only substantially non-Christian community is Twitter, and I link to few of my spiritual posts there. (Specifically, on Twitter, I only link to the posts that I author myself.) The expected outcome, then, would be that posts on spiritual matters would receive the largest amount of hits, for the vast majority of my contacts consider themselves to be spiritual individuals.

That doesn’t happen, though. If I track hits from Facebook alone, one of my political posts will generate ten to twenty times the hits of a spiritual post. In fact, a post I recently wrote about my favorite Obama myths generated more traffic from Facebook in a day than this blog will generate in a couple of weeks – and I link two or more posts from this site every week on Facebook. Let that sink in for a bit. One silly post about Obama easily outpaces the collected effect of four posts on this site – among a primarily Christian audience!

Here’s the problem in a nutshell. It’s not like my Facebook or Pleonast friends are unfamiliar with my political views. It’s not like I link only posts I think will be (unintentionally) controversial while withholding those that would be edifying. The conclusion is that many of my fellow Christians are ignoring spiritual nourishment but willfully pursuing content they already know will rile them. They are seeking out reasons to be angry.

What Do We Seek?

What are you seeking when you are online? Research? News? Distraction? God’s word has a few things to say about the things we seek in this life.

  • Proverbs 2:4 encourages us to seek God’s wisdom as a treasure.
  • Proverbs 8:17 says those who love God seek Him unendingly.
  • Matthew 6:33 calls on us to seek God’s kingdom before anything else.
  • I Corinthians 10:24 and I Thessalonians 5:15 say we should seek ways to help and benefit others.
  • Colossians 3:1 tells us we should seek things above.
  • I Peter 3:11 encourages us to seek and relentlessly pursue peace.

We’re good at this when we’re at worship services. We may even be good at this when we look for books to read or choose activities with our Christian friends. When we embark into that hive of scum and villainy that is the Internet, however, all bets are off. The Internet has a profound affect on Christians, and it’s seldom a good one.

We are quick to remind our children that they are still Christians when they are at school. We easily remind each other that the workplace doesn’t negate our Christianity. We know that we still have to behave like Christians when playing sports. We would do well to remind ourselves that we are also still Christians when online. If we truly reflect the name we wear, then what we seek online will closely resemble the things we seek when we open our Bibles.

Again, I can’t help but come back to Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Do we seek what is true online? Do we pursue that which is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy? Or are all bets off the moment we launch our favorite web browser? Is the Internet merely a place to waste our times with our favorite games and yell at people who don’t see eye-to-eye with us on every worldly issue? Put another way: what would Jesus browse?

The Final Word

This kind of stuff has almost caused me to abandon this blog more than once. I wonder why I bother when not even those who consider themselves Christians can spare a moment to read something edifying while they go out of their way to seek controversy. In fact, I only link to this blog on Pleonast now, and I seldom visit anyone else’s page. Too much negativity and arguing exists there. What’s the point? Why do I keep banging my head against the wall when I see so many fellow Christian seem so disinterested in God’s word when they are online?

You might notice I haven’t said much about Twitter. Again, I only link to this blog on Twitter when the post is original to me – not when I’m sharing my notes of someone else’s lesson. Of my Twiter followers, only a handful identify themselves as Christians, but here’s the thing. One link on Twitter outpaces Facebook traffic by a factor of ten. Here are people who, by and large, have never met me face to face. Many of them don’t share my religious views, yet more of them visit this blog than my friends and family on Facebook. That keeps me going here: the knowledge that I’m reaching someone in some small way.

What are you seeking from day to day? What do your activities look like online? Do you spend your time looking for political controversies? Do you look for arguments to join? Do you seek out reasons to be angry? If you are, just stop it. Exercise a modicum of self-control, and reject the negativity and distractions of this world. Instead, seek out things that will edify you. Do this, and the will to argue will dissipate. Seek out things that generate peace and unity. Let your online habits be as nurturing to your spiritual growth as your church attendance. Seek Him first.

Taking Joy in Tragedy

Over the course of the last twenty-four hours, I’ve been trying to digest the information surrounding the murder of Dr. George Tiller while he was serving as an usher at his Wichita church. That he was murdered was not entirely unanticipated. He had already been attacked once in 1993, and, prior to that, his clinic had been both blockaded and bombed by activists. He is the sixth victim of vigilante justice on the American abortion scene since the early 1990s – and those are only the attempts that “worked.”

I have little concern that my brothers and sisters in Christ will attempt to repeat this heinous act. My concern is the attitude we might take. Already, I’ve heard quips and comments like:

  • “He got what was coming to him.”
  • “His death was as bloody as his life.”
  • “He was pro-choice, and someone CHOSE to end his life.”
  • “I’m glad another baby-murder is off the streets.”

Dr. Tiller was no more or less deserving of judgment or death than you or me. Romans 3:23 states that all are guilty of sin, and chapter 6:23 calls death the natural consequence of sin. (Both passages then appeal to Christ’s blood as that which can redeem us from such a fate, but that’s another post.) Hebrews 6:4-6 specifically talks about the effects of a follower of Christ sinning – it is the same as putting Christ through another crucifixion. God takes sin seriously, and passages like Revelation 21:8 that lump lying and murdering into the same category. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. Let us not be quick to condemn another, for, in doing so, we condemn ourselves.

Based on scriptures like Psalm 139:13 and Jeremiah 1:4-8, I believe that God does recognize an unborn infant as a living being. I do believe that killing an unborn child is wrong. I am what is commonly referred to as pro-life. However, God is pro-life beyond the womb. All life is precious to Him. Doesn’t II Peter 3:9 read that God wants all to have the opportunity to come to Him? Doesn’t Romans 5 reveal that God was willing to send His Son on our behalf while we were undeserving? Doesn’t Jesus say His mission was to seek and save the lost in Luke 19:10? We should take no joy or satisfaction in the death of Dr. Tiller. We should only feel sympathy for his family and regret at needless violence claiming another life.

I Corinthians 13:6 states that a loving Christian does not rejoice in wrongdoing. If we rejoice in this death, we disregard love. In disregarding love, according to I John 4:8, we disregard God. Let us be very careful in the attitudes we take and the comments we make regarding this act of violence. Remember the love we want from our Father, and let our words and actions reflect that love in turn.

A Law Unto Themselves

Sometimes we wonder if there is a double-standard with God based on a couple of passages. One is I Corinthians 5:9-13 as Paul deals within tolerated sin within a congregation. One part of the argument makes it sound like it is okay for some of the world to live one way while Christians are held to a different standard. The other is Romans 2:13-15 where Paul speaks of those who are a law unto themselves, not knowing the gospel of God.

A Law Unto Themselves

We have a tendency to think of God’s word as two parts – the old and the new. This is reinforced by Hebrews 8, where the author speaks of a first and second covenant. The first covenant was specifically between God and Israel based on the obedience of Abraham (see Galatians 3:16), and it was delivered at Sinai after the escape from Egypt. The Old Testament then primarily focuses on that relationship between God and Israel, but Christ came for all nations.

In Hebrews 1:1, we are told that God once spoke to His creation in a variety of ways, and this is evidenced in passages like Genesis 4:3-4, Genesis 5:24, Genesis 6:8-9, Genesis 11:5, and many more, even carrying into the books of history and prophecy. We cannot know how God dealt with every godly individual, but He made Himself known to those who would follow Him, so how does this fit with the passage in Romans 2:13-15?

Romans 1:18-24 describes how much of the Gentile world had originally rejected God despite their opportunity to know Him, and Romans 2:11 reinforces the concept that God does not demonstrate favoritism. Verses 13-15 then refer to a general sense of morality contained within all mankind. Cornelius of Acts 10 is a good example of this. To be a law unto themselves is not citing a self-creation of standards as much as it is naturally following God’s code of morality without being consciously aware of that adherence.

Our Application

In Romans 2:2, we are reminded that God’s judgment is true and just. If I know what God expects of me, then I have the responsibility to follow it. In this context, God has the same expectations for everyone – whether they choose to follow Him or not. How does the reconcile with I Corinthians 5:9-13? Paul is simply reminding us not to be harshly judgmental with those outside the church who may be unaware of God’s expectations, but we should, in fact, be concerned with sin within our walls.

God cares for His entire creation. Remember Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute; Ruth the Moabite idol worshipper; the Assyrians in Jonah; Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel; and many more examples. John 3:16 reminds us that Christ came for all men, and we should have the same concern. Galatians 3:23-29 makes it clear that God sees no racial or gender-based boundaries, and John 14:6 records Jesus stating that all can come to the Father through Him. God’s way is open to all. There is no double standard for Christians and non-Christians. He is no respecter of persons, and He wishes all to repent and follow Him.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Where No Case Exists

Recently, a small set of billboards have cropped up around the country claiming the Bible accepts homosexuality as a lifestyle. Three verses are cited – II Samuel 1:26, Acts 8:26-40, and Matthew 8:5-13. Unfortunately, none of these passages back up the claim.

II Samuel 1:26:

I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

This is the most convincing of the examples because of the lack of nuances in the English language when it comes to “love.” The Hebrew word here is ‘ohab, which carries with it an idea of affection or deep friendship. It does not necessitate a sexual relationship. David’s use of the kindred term ‘ach or “brother” here reinforces a family-like relationship rather than a sexual one, and this brotherly relationship is, to David, deeper than any lovers he has taken to this point.

Acts 8:26-40

…And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship…

The argument here is that a eunuch is likely gay.

This just doesn’t line up with the standard definition of “eunuch.”

eunuch |ˈyoōnək| |ˌjunək| |ˌjuːnək|<br />

noun

a man who has been castrated, esp. (in the past) one employed to guard the women’s living areas at an oriental court.

Matthew 8:5-13

…And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, saying, “Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.”

And Jesus saith unto him, “I will come and heal him…”

Was this servant really the centurion’s gay lover? The Greek word for servant here is ophelimos, meaning one who is helpful or profitable. This is obviously an employee/employer relationship and nothing else. He must have been a good servant, but nothing else is implied here.

The Harmony of Scriptures

I Corinthians 14:33:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

This quote specifically refers to a confusing and contradictory atmosphere in worship, but I think it speaks to a broader truth. There is no duplicity in God. His will is consistent, so if we’re going to justify homosexuality through David (accepting that he was a man “after God’s own heart” in Acts 13:21-23), we have to reconcile this with Leviticus 20:13:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

(Please note the distinction that God calls out the action. He does not call the person an abomination. There is a difference.)

When it comes to the New Testament, remember I Corinthians 6:9-11:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Even if the eunuch or the centurion were gay before accepting Christ, Paul makes it pretty clear in this passage that such lifestyles are left behind afterwards. We were these things until we were washed, sanctified, and justified.

Conclusion

We are not to judge others unfairly (Mathew 7:1-2). We are treat all people with kindness and respect (Galatians 6:9-10), and Jesus always began teaching people where they were developmentally. However, respect for an individual does not necessarily mean approval of all his or her choices. The Bible’s message is one of love and peace, but we cannot haphazardly lift scripture out of context for personal justification – whether we are trying to justify doing what we want, hating who we choose, or loving in ways God has not ordained.