And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 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.” (Matthew 5:38-42, NKJV)
The rule of law provides a nation with a justice system while reining in unrestrained wrath against others. For example, the Law of Moses decreed judgment against wrongdoers in accord with the crime they committed, hence, “an eye for an eye…” (Exo. 21:22-25). But the scribes and Pharisees had turned the Law into a tool of personal revenge (Matt. 5:20). Jesus resists such lawlessness, teaching citizens of the kingdom of heaven not to retaliate against the evil person. His apostle would explain, “Repay no man evil for evil…If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; at it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17-19).
As America has undergone nights of violent destruction in many of its major cities, people are asking and answering the question, “Why?” Why did a policeman sit on a man’s neck until he died? Why did this tragedy devolve into such nationwide chaos and destruction?
Some have a ready answer: “Systemic racism” is the problem. There is no doubt that racism is sinful and contributes to many injustices. Yet, not every person is a racist. It is woefully unjust to think and act as if they are. Individuals are making choices to sin. When systems of society make that easier, those systems should be reformed. Personal accountability for one’s choices and conduct is also in order. We cannot blame a system for sins that lodge in our hearts (Matt. 15:18-20). Ultimately, sin is at the heart of the problems facing people and their nations, including America.
So we ask, was it a system or a man who killed George Floyd? Did it all happen merely because of the color of their skin? Where does racism reside, in a person’s heart, or in the system in which that person operates? Have biases and prejudices corrupted the very systems intended to protect and defend us? Are we able to look objectively at these subjects? Or, has the tear gas, generations of mistreatment, ingrained prejudices, and present outrage obscured our vision? Are we willing to heal this nation’s divide with divine truth and grace? Or will we dig in and keep on fighting?
Inspect and correct every system that needs it. But please understand that corrupt hearts produce corrupt systems. Corrupt hearts must be changed to effectively correct any failure of governmental systems (Prov. 14:34). The Bible calls this “repentance” (2 Cor. 7:10-11).
But again, why all the mayhem in the name of “protest?” We offer no quarter or excuse for the actions of police officers in Minneapolis or elsewhere who abuse their power. We protest the utter lack of humanity in the video of Floyd’s death. Neither do we condone the lawless actions by those who are intent on hurting, stealing, destroying, and disabling citizens and our society because they have a grievance.
To respond with personal wrath and revenge against evil is arrogant, for by doing so, we displace God as Judge and trust ourselves rather than Him to correct evil and punish the evildoer. Going the second mile gives us the chance to calm our souls, trust the Lord, and heal a nation.
-Expanded from Sword Tips #1966 (June 2, 2020)
Discrimination is alive and well. This is a lamentable condition wherever it is found. Sadly, the church of our Lord is not free from prejudicial hearts and discriminatory actions toward others -- and yes, it even occurs against fellow Christians.
Discrimination is called “respect of persons” in the Bible. God has none when speaking of His desire for man’s salvation (Acts 10:34-35) and of His righteous judgment of mankind (Rom. 2:4-11). Like as He who called us is holy, we too must cast off every expression of respect of persons in the body of Christ. In Christ “there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). Prejudicial hearts producing discriminatory actions is not the heart of Christ.
In James 2:1-13, the inspired writer meets this issue head on. Incredibly, some brethren were discriminating against people who were coming into their assemblies! So, James sets forth the case that we cannot hold “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons” (2:1). He illustrated his point: A rich man enters your assembly and you heap upon him honor, but a poor man enters into your midst, and you relegate him to a position of reproach (2:2-3). How is this living the faith of Christ?! The Holy Spirit’s assessment of such conduct is given in verse 4: “do ye not make distinctions among yourselves (in your own mind, footnote, ASV), and become judges with evil thoughts?” Here is the danger of treating others in a discriminatory way: One makes distinctions where, in reality, none exist, and thereby becomes a judge with evil thoughts. This is “sin” (v. 9).
Respect of persons must be overcome in our treatment of sinners, too. Jesus warned us of the pitfall of only loving those who love us (Matt. 5:43-48). We must work hard to show “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jas. 2:1) to those who need it the most! I am convinced this is one reason why Jesus ate with sinners (Matt. 9:10). He was showing God’s mercy to them (Matt. 9:12-13). The Pharisees, however, could not tolerate the thought of Jesus communing with publicans and sinners (9:11). Who made distinctions where there were none (were not the Pharisees sinners, too)? Who were judges with evil thoughts? It still remains true that those who show no mercy shall receive none (Jas. 2:13; Matt. 5:7).
James applies the principle that overcomes ill thoughts and ill treatment of others: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (2:8). As we do this, we fulfill the royal law. Such an expression of our faith glorifies the Lord of glory (2:1).
-Reprint, The Spirit’s Sword (Oct. 14, 2001)
You can fool the hapless public,
You can advertise your virtues,
You can criticize the Bible,
You can magnify your talents,
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NKJV)
Paul began a series of exhortations to Timothy with an appeal to pray “for all men.” Jesus had taught to “pray for those who spitefully use you” as an expression of loving your enemies (Lk. 6:27-28). That is not easy to do, but it is the very essence of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Since love focuses on others rather than itself, therein lies the answer to how we can faithfully do this. We need to pray for those who have rule and authority over us. The reasons are apparent (yet Paul reminds Timothy and us of them). Their decisions impact many lives, including Christians. God desires us to lead peaceful lives, flavored with godliness, and infused with reverence. Therefore, supplicate (entreaty) God for them. Solicit God on their behalf for truth, wisdom, and justice to guide them in the affairs of state. Petition the Ruler of rulers, interceding for them through earnest prayers and thoughtful thanks. Paul reminds us that God desires the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Therefore, let us diligently pray for leaders (and all others) so that an atmosphere that enhances the cause of the gospel may prevail on the earth.
-Sword Tips #1965 (June 1, 2020)
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Freedom. People dream of it, defend it, and die for it. Today, American Michael White was freed from almost two years of detention in Iran. Simultaneously, Matteo Taerri, an American and Iranian citizen, was released from prison here. A deal was struck that freed them. Regardless of the details of their cases, I have no doubt both men were happy to be free (“Detained US Navy veteran freed by Iran as part of deal,” Matthew Lee and Eric Tucker, apnews.com).
Yet, there is a far worse prison in which billions remain, often oblivious to the reality of their imprisonment. Slavery to sin is far worse because it has eternal ramifications. No negotiation between nations will free us. We cannot pay a fine to be free. Nobody can execute a successful jailbreak. In sin, we are in grave trouble (Rom. 7:24).
Only Jesus Christ can free us from sin. This freedom is available to every sinner who believes and “obeys from the heart” His gospel (Rom. 6:17-18; Mk. 16:15-16; Heb. 5:8-9).
Here is the freedom Jesus offers in His gospel:
1) Freedom from sin’s death. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). He died so we can live “more abundantly” (Jno. 10:10-11). Everyone who lives and believes in Jesus never dies (Jno. 11:25-26). Are you free from sin’s death?
2) Freedom from sin’s guilt. The guilt of sin destroys peace within and without. King David experienced the agony that sin causes (Psa. 32:3-4). When he confessed his sin, God’s forgiveness removed his burden of guilt (Psa. 32:5, 10-11).
3) Freedom from sin’s shame. The humiliation of sin imprisons the heart and soul as we try to hide from its shame (Gen. 3:7-11). Deliverance from our sins in Christ frees our hearts to rejoice in His salvation (Rom. 5:8-11).
Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free … whoever commits sin is a slave of sin … if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jno. 8:31-36). Freedom from sin is the most valuable freedom of all. That freedom is in Jesus. Are you truly free?
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 06/05/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA