And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
The Bible says, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers...” (1 Tim. 5:1-2). How we treat our elders says something about our values. And, it says something about our respect for God.
Our nation is obsessed with youth. Alas, Ponce de Leon did not find the fountain of youth, and neither will this generation. The youth of today, just like all those before them, will grow old and die (Heb. 9:27).
We are alarmed by the disrespect shown to older people by the youth of today. Not all young people are guilty. Many young people still show respect to their elders. But, many others disdain the aged. They have learned disregard and even contempt for the older generation. They see them as in the way, nuisances, and inconveniences. God deplores such shameful attitudes and the conduct they cause.
Showing disrespect toward our elders displays an irreverent heart. God commanded Israel to “rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32). We all live in the presence of God. If we are unwilling to show kind regard and respect for those who are older than we are, how shall we ever be reverent toward God? We do not love God when we despise our neighbors, including our elders (Matt. 22:37-39).
To treat your elders with disrespect is a sign of prideful arrogance. One should remember that with age generally comes experience and wisdom. It is wise to listen to the counsel of those who have fought the battles against sin and error we now face. Rehoboam’s arrogant refusal to accept the counsel of his father Solomon’s wise men lead to turmoil and division in Israel (1 Kgs. 12:6-15). Youth can learn much from age. Avail yourself of age’s wisdom, but always test it against God’s word (Job 32:6-9; Psa. 119:100).
Respect for our elders begins at home. Children must be taught and be expected to respect their parents. God expects children to “honor your father and your mother,” and He expects parents to train their children to be respectful (Exo. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-4). When disrespect for mother and father is tolerated at home, it will also happen at school, at work, and eventually throughout a nation. If we sow disrespect, we will reap despair and destruction.
Respecting our elders does not mean we follow them into sin and error. We must obey God rather than men, even when it is our father or mother (Acts 5:29; Matt. 10:37). We cannot allow loyalty to anyone to keep us from respecting and obeying God first and always.
-Adapted from the original article, The Spirit’s Sword (April 2, 2000)
Does the end justify the means? More and more people think so. They have little trouble achieving their desired goal by whatever means works. If it means lying to succeed, they deceive. If it means destroying the credibility of an innocent person, they malign. If it means rejecting the commands of God, they rebel.
In America today, innocent unborn life is aborted in the name of choice and women’s rights. Whatever the argued end, the means of killing unborn human life is murder (cf. Exo. 21:22-23; Rom. 13:8-9). In America, over 60 million innocent lives have ended using the justification of freedom of choice and women’s rights since abortions became legal in 1973. The end does not justify the means. (What about the infant’s right to live?)
Violence against property and lives is accepted and advanced by some as necessary means to achieve the end of radical changes in our society. For example, Hawk Newsome, described in the New York Post as “the most influential Black Lives Matter leader in New York,” recently went on the record in support of this philosophy. “I was standing in front of Wells Fargo when it was burning in Minneapolis,” he said. “It was very liberating…Burn man. They only listen when we destroy things. America doesn’t care about people; they care about property” (“NYC Black Lives Matter leader Hawk Newsome on race, activism and gentrification,” Dana Kennedy, New York Post, June 27, 2020). We are solidly for equal justice and equal rights for every person under the law. We know many of our fellow citizens have not always had that. Many still feel the uneven effects of striving for racial justice and racial equality. As Christians, we can do our part to advance equality and justice by loving our neighbors as ourselves and shunning racial prejudice and partiality in all its forms (Matt. 7:12; 22:39). God is color blind, and we must be, too (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 13:8-10). Simultaneously we reject the notion that lawlessness (the means) will produce justice (the end). Of course, it does not. It only divides and destroys. (By definition, lawlessness is unjust and sin in God’s sight, 1 John 3:4.)
The two previous illustrations, snatched from events in our country, show how the “end justifies the means” way of thinking takes hold of many lives while destroying many others. It is not the result of sober thinking, nor does it produce godly conduct (1 Thess. 5:5-8. Such thinking must never find a safe harbor in any Christian’s heart. When the apostle Paul was charged with saying, “Let us do evil that good may come,” he boldly refuted the concept: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 3:8; 6:1-2).
God disapproves of “the end justifies the means” approach to solving problems. God rebuked Moses and denied him entry into the promised land because he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it (to bring forth water) as God commanded him. The “end justifies the means” mindset says, “God must have been pleased since water came out of the rock.” But, God was not pleased with the means Moses used. God called it unbelief and rebellion (Num. 20:12; 27:14).
When God commanded King Saul to destroy the Amalekites, and their possessions, Saul and the people spared king Agag and the best of the animals (1 Sam. 15:3, 9). How did Saul defend this disobedience? He told Samuel the people were going to sacrifice the spared animals to the Lord (1 Sam. 15:15, 18-21). God was not impressed. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king” (1 Sam. 15:22-23).
It is presumptuous and prideful to think our “end” justifies whatever “means” we choose, and leads to even more presumption. If my end justifies my means, then every end is justified by any means! People do what is right in their own eyes, and by doing so, become thoroughly corrupt (Jug. 21:25; Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23; Acts 26:9). To have God’s approval, both the end and the means used to arrive at it must have divine permission (Jno. 8:31-32).
The practical applications of this truth become evident. We do not decide for ourselves the “means” of how the lost are saved. God does. We do not determine God’s moral code. God does. We do not establish the means of going to heaven. God does. For all of these and everything else that pertains to life and godliness, we must listen to and obey the word of God (Lk. 8:8, 18; Jno. 17:17; Rom. 10:17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4).
When the Lord establishes the means to the end, He expects us to use His means to that end (Lk. 6:46; Matt. 7:21). All we believe, say, and do in life must be approved by the One who has all authority, Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18; Acts 4:12; Col. 3:17). Whether it is morality, doctrine, religion, personal relationships, the work, worship, and organization of the church, or any other activity of life, our end must agree with God’s stated purpose (revealed in Scripture, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Therefore, the word of God must also approve of the means we use to reach God’s purposes. To do less is a rebellious presumption that makes ourselves the final authority over ourselves rather than God (Rom. 1:18-32). Remember King Saul.
God wholly rejects rebellion against His will and ways. Those who adopt and apply “the end justifies the means” philosophy will receive a just condemnation for arrogantly rebelling against the Lord (Rom. 3:8). Let us humble ourselves under His mighty hand, assured He will exalt us in due time (1 Pet. 5:6; Jas. 4:10).
Faithfully obeying divinely revealed truth is the proper means to God’s end (Matt. 7:21).
-Adapted from the original article, The Spirit’s Sword (April 14, 2002)
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
In an ABC News interview this week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said he thinks “it is a widespread phenomenon that African American males, particularly, are treated with extra suspicion and maybe not given the benefit of the doubt” by law enforcement (“Barr Believes Unfair Policing of African American Males a ‘Widespread Phenomenon,’” Janita Kan, theepochtimes.com).
Being treated as guilty until proven innocent by law enforcement officers (or any other judicial authority) is abhorrent to the gospel, to our commonality as human beings, to our sense of impartial justice, and to loving our neighbors (Mk. 16:15; Acts 17:25-26; 10:34-35; Rom. 13:8). Evil suspicion is a sin, and that includes unrighteous judgments due to the color of a person’s skin, the nation of a person’s birth, or a person’s gender (1 Tim. 6:4; Jno. 7:24).
The majority of people want to raise their families in peace and share in the benefits of a peaceful society – regardless of their skin color. We entrust law enforcement with the fair and unbiased application of the law to help us have that peace. Loving our neighbors as ourselves demands no less (Matt. 22:39). Distrust grows when those in authority violate their promised impartiality (Rom. 13:3). In turn, when people are defiant and hostile, the justice and mercy of police are severely tested.
Police officers have a dangerous and challenging job. They deserve our respect (1 Pet. 2:17). As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to develop a conscience that respectfully obeys authority (Rom. 13:1-5).
Officers of the law are God’s servants, obliged to treat people with equity, not bias, with respectful fairness and justice, not with prejudice and malice (Rom. 13:4, 6).
God’s expectations of citizens and police officers are tall orders to fill at times. They require hearts and lives that are just, merciful, and humble before God and toward others (Micah 6:8). Be sure your heart is where it ought to be.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 07/10/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA