“Whoa! Wait a minute! That isn’t how the song goes!” “That song tells us that they’ll know we are Christians by our LOVE”. Indeed, “love” is what the song says…but when I look at our world -and that includes church leaders and church goers – what I see are a lot of haters.
We are so good at surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who agree with our ways of thinking and doing that we have begun to deceive ourselves that our ways are the right ways.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12
But that applies to some other man, right? That other guy who is doing things wrong…
Some Proverbs 16 nuggets of wisdom to consider:
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.
5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.
11 A just balance and scales are the Lord‘s;
all the weights in the bag are his work.
18 Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
20 Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
21 The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
22 Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it,
but the instruction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
25 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
27 A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.
28 A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.
29 A man of violence entices his neighbor
and leads him in a way that is not good.
32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
How does anyone think that we will help, instruct or enlighten with hate? How did we conclude that our type of sinning was the only type to be forgivable? How did we determined that we are qualified to be administrators of God’s justice?
…not only that we were qualified but that it was our rightful place to be judge and jury over one another? How can we be so arrogant to say to fellow Truth seekers that we are Right and they are Wrong?
God through the Holy Spirit is the One with the authority to change people…when they are ready! In God’s perfect time. And God through the Holy Spirit will be the one to speak to each of us…through Love.
I want to describe a scene for you. Maybe your own life experiences will come to mind as I do.
I am invited to be a part of a gathering of women because we all love God.
And God is with us. I feel His presence while we sing and pray. I love these women. I do. I am happy to be among them and feel fortunate to live in a place where I am free to come together and outwardly praise God. I am excited to hear the Word of God spoken and taught.
And then it happens.
The beauty of the time is broken. At some point it always is. The Pure, True Love that is as Real and tangible as a kiss, an embrace, a breeze or a cool drink… gets replaced by something unsatisfying…unsatisfactory. Some would call it self-righteousness. Some would call it ignorance.
I call it hate.
You know that Religion is not the same thing as Knowing God. Religion is a man-made construct.
The world Religions and all of it’s Upholders are completely out of control…running rampant and plowing over and under anything that opposes their beliefs. Loud Personalities persuade us with their interpretation of what the Bible tells us. But we can read the Bible too! We don’t require an interpreter! What does God speak to you? Why would we choose to listen to some other person tell us what God says and what God means when we can hear directly from God?
Are we too busy? Or lazy…or have we been told that we are insufficient for the task…that we are not schooled and trained? Jesus used fishermen to fish for men. Jesus’ only requirement was that they follow him. Who are we following?
Why do we need opulent sanctuaries and golden goblets and pipe organs. We are worshiping the ceremony. We are worshiping the worship. Our church building and rituals and denominational beliefs and Religious Leaders are a golden calf. Where is God in this business?
Would Jesus worship in these shrines? Would he agree with the fancy froo-froo? Would he appreciate the messages of prosperity preaching…or hell-fire and damnation…or a watered down message that keeps everything G-rated and pleasant? Heaven forbid we should offend! Or speak the truth if it is hard to hear.
It is an R and X-rated world. It is violent and perverted. We are at war with evil…including evil attitudes that pose in sheep’s clothing and choir robes and that preach love and forgiveness from the pulpit but their life is filled with bitterness and hate. This duplicity is deadly to others… and to themselves. As quickly as they draw people to them with their outward show of love and acceptance, they repel once that facade is seen past. The wizard behind the curtain has been revealed! And once the trust of a new believing heart is broken…once the person who was supposed to see God sees a fake man posing for God instead…their taste for seeking God is spoiled.
That is what we do. We are supposed to be God’s hands and feet…but we use our fingers to point out the speck in the eye of our hurting brother…and we use our feet to kick him when he is down.
I love “church”…but it isn’t the building or the process. It isn’t the candles and the acolytes and the service and the sermon. It is the people who have come there to find and love and worship God together.
I love the love.
But I am so saddened by the hate. And it is there. And it is even uglier than the hate outside of the church doors because we expect to see evil in the world…but we hope for something better in the refuge and sanctuary of a house of God.
I want to build a church. I want it to be called “Simple Church”… a house for believers who don’t need anything but God and each other to worship. Nothing but the Bible and our voices.
Friends, Religion is a virus that keeps infecting and infecting and infecting. It cleverly mutates so that it stays alive..always adapting… always active.
We falsely believe that we have matured in faith and in our relationship with and knowledge about God… We refuse to consider that we are anything like idol worshipers or child sacrifice-rs or heathens or hedonists.
But what do we value above all other things? Did “my relationship with God” pop into your head first? What did? That is your idol.
What do we let control our kids?
What thoughts control Our minds? Our bodies?
Do we gorge ourselves on sweets and meats and drinks? Do we give into our whims and our desires? Do we sit passively in front of the television and accept that every image that we see and every commentary that we hear to be God’s truth?
And if we deny ourselves, are we proud of our willpower…our “self” control? Do we look down on people who are not as strong as we are…who we see as weak? Do we help them…do we pity them…do they disgust us?
Do we feel good about keeping the rituals and rules? Do we scorn those who fail to do the same?
We are just like the self-righteous people in Jesus’ day! We are modern day hypocrites and pharisees.We don’t hear his message….and if we do hear it, we don’t believe that he is talking to us…we think the message is for someone else!
Pharisees didn’t follow Jesus because they were so caught up in the rituals and rules. We may not have the same rules and laws and rituals, but we are the same kind of people…the kind that had Jesus killed because he was a threat to their way.
Once upon a time we were little children our welfare was completely dependent upon our connection with our Provider. We were protected through an acquired immunity. The virus of Religion was kept at bay when we were inside to boundaries of Eden. We knew God then. Truth. Love.
Now a False virus of has touched us all. It is insidious and pervasive We don’t recognize it for what it is.
This virus is set to destroy.
The only way to survive it is to see it for what it is and agree that it must be eradicated. But to rid ourselves, our contaminated self must die. We must trust that we can be made New. That is hard. We have to recommit to it over and over and over…because the virus in a new form TRIES to come back again and again. So we must stay attentive. And we must stay strong.
Do you see symptoms of the disease? They are everywhere. In some cases they are hideously obvious…but mostly it isn’t easy to see from the outside.
People are drawn together because of their similar manifestations. They form groups that praise each other and encourage each other and assuage each other’s doubts. They actively recruit others who are like them. They become bold and feel confident as their numbers of membership increase.
It isn’t a new thing.
False Religion has always has run rampant…like a virus. That is why God wiped out the world in Noah’s time. That is why God wanted His Chosen People to be set apart and not do the things that the rest of the world did… God wanted His People to be different than the people of the world.
God wanted His People to be a model for obedience and sacrifice. It was important that they be diligent…prepared…ready for the day that WOULD come…that was planned from the beginning.
They would need to know exactly what to do. They would need to have a reference for why the Temple was so important and why sacrifice was so important and why atonement for sin was so important. The devil thought that we belonged to him, friends. The devil did not account for what God was planning to do through this group of humans.
God would come down here on Earth to us through this Chosen group. Literally. And He would be the perfect sacrifice that was required to ransom us from death.
God told Moses and His Chosen People exactly what kind of Tabernacle to build down to the smallest detail. God would reside in that tabernacle and then in the Temple until we were ready to have Him live in our heart.
And God told Moses and His Chosen People exactly what behaviors are acceptable and what are not acceptable… 613 Laws and Commandments that were VERY SPECIFIC regarding proper types of offerings; proper priestly duties; appropriate foods; appropriate hygiene; eating blood; sexual relations; respect for parents; keeping the Sabbath; loving our neighbor; and on and on.
These can be found in Leviticus.
But now all of the laws are written on my heart.
Before we were ready to be with Him and Know him, God’s people had to understand many things.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke,though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34
The Old Testament Law given to Moses required that rituals and sacrifices were performed.
I am going to say something to you now that might be startling.
I am not one of the people who lived during the time of Moses. I did not worship in the Tabernacle or in the Temple. I never read Leviticus until two days ago nor have I ever tried to keep those Laws.
I haven’t had to memorize the 613 Laws because God is faithful and I believe that He has put His law within me. He has written His law on my heart. It is on your heart too.
I am glad to be able to read the Old Testament…to know about these faithful people who wanted to know God and who understood the importance of following His direction and keeping a record of all of these things so that we can understand who we are and Whose we are and what that means.
I was born to a Baptist dad and a Methodist mom. That doesn’t make me a Christian though! Some people have the misconception that we inherit our faith. If we go to church on Sunday and Wednesday…or maybe just Sunday…or maybe just Christmas and Easter…
“…grandmother loved God and sang in the choir… grandfather loved God and read the Bible… the main characters are Adam and Eve and Noah and Jonah and David and Goliath and Mary and Jesus and his disciples…
…Grandma and Granddaddy seemed to be intimate friends of Jesus…”
But does that mean that we have ever met Jesus? Do we really know anything about Him that isn’t tainted and tarnished by all of the misconceptions and false teachings?
What have you heard about Jesus?
Second-hand… or third or fourth- hand stories don’t usually convey a very accurate account.
I tell my children not to always believe what they hear.
What is the source of the information? Did they check and double check for themselves and see if what they think they heard measures up to what they see and hear and discover for themselves?
It is easy to be lazy and adopt the beliefs of the masses without doing our own due diligence!
I live in the South were just before I was born there was rabid hatred. There still is in some places… and with some people…it just isn’t as acceptable or legal anymore. But it is still here.
Jews…or Germans…or Japanese…or Northerners…or Native Americans…or Blacks…or Mexicans… Depending on where you are from you may have a whole other list of people that were or still are persecuted.
What about adulterers? fornicators? people who have sex outside of marriage? What about people who “sell” sex to secure a comfortable lifestyle: money, a nice car and house, a big diamond ring? What about people who have sex with children? What about those who view pornography? What about people who have been married more than once? I could go on and on with these sexual deviations. Do any of these apply to you? Do any of the people that you love fit into this category? Do you watch HBO? Do you go to the movies? Is your mind pure of all unclean thoughts? What kind of sex do you think is permissible within marriage? Are you appalled at the things that some people do? Are these things detestable to you?
Do you hate these people for being base or vile or perverted ?
Do you persecute them?
Have you slept with a woman who is having her period? Have you eaten bacon? pork chops? rabbit?
Have you eaten rare steak? Calamari? Shrimp, crab, lobster? Have you touched an animal carcass? Or a bodily excretion? Have you been around people with skin rashes or lesions?
You are unclean. You have done what is detestable.
For some of the sins you have done, the penalty should be death. Under the Old Testament Mosaic Laws you should very likely be killed or in the least banished.
Did you know that?
Why do we hate homosexuals so vehemently? Why are we judging them on the same Mosaic Law that we conveniently discount in our own living?
Is it because Paul admonishes the Romans and Greeks…Romans and Greeks who have sex with boys and girls and animals? …Romans and Greeks who do anything to slaves that they wish with no repercussion?
Paul would admonish me to be quiet right now too because I am a woman and should know my place. Paul was AWESOME! But he was a man of his times.
But Jesus? …”Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever.” Hebrew 13:8
Jesus had women disciples who ate with him and traveled with him and financed his ministry.
Jesus allowed a woman to kiss his feet and wipe her tears with her hair. She was broken. She was sorrow-filled. She wanted mercy.
Pharisees and teachers of the Law were appalled that she would be so bold and brazen and break so many laws that forbid women and men from touching.
Jesus didn’t care what they thought…he only cared how she felt.
That is love.
Do so many people hate Homosexuals because of the Account in Genesis 19? … what happened in Sodom when God sent 2 Angels to to rescue Lot before that city was destroyed?
Please read this entire chapter friends.
This is about wicked, evil people. The men who surrounded Lot’s house were vile rapists who did not care who they used and abused. But Lot did not care either!
God showed mercy by sending Angels to Sodom to rescue Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The wicked men of the town surround Lot’s house and tell him to send out the visitors (men who are really Angels). In verse 8 Lot says to the men who have surrounded his house, “Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
The Angels pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door and then struck all of the wicked men outside blind.
And then in the morning when the angels urged Lot to leave, Lot “lingered” and the Angels had to “seize” Lot and his wife and two daughters and force their escape. Lot’s wife is told not to, but she turns to look back and turns into a pillar of salt.
After leaving the city of sin, the daughters now live up in the hills of Zoar alone with their dad Lot. Their mother is dead and there are no appropriate suitors around, so the girls decide to get their father drunk and get pregnant by him.
The first night the oldest succeeds in her incestuous scheme. The second night the younger does the same.
And we, our world today, focuses on the crazy, evil townsmen (Homosexuals?)
I would argue that they were EVIL people who would attack anyone or anything…even Angels! That is not a homosexual…that is and EVIL person. That is a story of EVERYBODY being sick with sin.
What about a similar account in the book of Judges? Look at Judges 19:20-30.
We find a traveling man who has taken shelter in the home of another man. Let’s take up the story at verse 22:
22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.
27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.30 And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”
Are we really supposed to read this and believe that this horrific scene of injustice is a story about the sinfulness of homosexuality?
These men who surround this house are animals. They are murderers. Their wish was to abuse and use and harm. And the owner of the house allowed it! He contributed to it.
These are stories of the error of everyone. Of every single person EXCEPT for the Angels and the woman who was sacrificed.
How can we proportion blame or call any of the sins more or less vile than another?
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
Ezekiel 18: 30-32
How good is God that He doesn’t want us to die for our sins! How good is God that He made a way from the beginning for us.
It isn’t a coincidence that God required proper sacrifices…blood sacrifices. His Chosen People had to be obedient in that. Jesus was obedient in that.
It isn’t a coincidence that at the moment of Jesus’ death the curtain that separated God’s Holy place from us in the Temple ripped completely in two. Because of Jesus nothing could separate us from the Love of God.
There it is again.
Jesus did not tell us to disregard the Law and the Prophets. How could we understand the significance of all that took place in the Life, Death and Resurrection if we don’t understand that Jesus was the only one who could satisfy the law. Before Jesus we were all subject to the Law. And we all failed.
I am not a Jew and I do not live under the Old Testament Mosaic Law…thank you, God! It should be clear that no man can keep the law both outwardly or inwardly except a perfect person.
That is not me. Or you.
Hypocrites and Pharisees of this very day…they think that they are doing a good job of being good.
Is that you? I don’t know? Ask yourself. Are you without blame… are you worthy to cast a first stone at anyone else?
Hear the words of Jesus
Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you,Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Love Your Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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 do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
How can you be perfect? You can’t.
But you can ask Jesus to be your sacrifice. He already saved the entire world. That means you.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ” (Matthew 11:28-29)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21)
There it is again.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
There should be no patience for the practice of the Law without a Spirit of Love.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depends all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
This is who we are: Confused. Wrong. Mislead, Misguided and Mis-Guiding.
We are Haters. We are Hypocrites and Pharisees and Legalistic Know-it -Alls
We have forgotten what Jesus was… the embodiment of Love.
Is your finger pointing at someone? Are your life and actions and hate pointing people away from God…or toward God?
Step back, friend and take a look at yourself.
What do you see…hate or love?
You are made to be the image-bearer of God. God is Love.
That does not mean that we are to love evil and darkness…we cannot. But the way that we will change it is not with evil and darkness in return. The way that we will change it is by Love.