Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Of course I love my neighbor... except that person... and that one...

13 In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property. 14 When you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not cheat one another. 15 When you buy from your neighbor, you shall pay only for the number of years since the jubilee; the seller shall charge you only for the remaining crop years. 16 If the years are more, you shall increase the price, and if the years are fewer, you shall diminish the price; for it is a certain number of harvests that are being sold to you. 17 You shall not cheat one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 25:13-17)
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16-17)

Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor. Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Deuteronomy 5:20-21)
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)
In summary... your neighbor is everyone. You do not cheat him. You do not bear false witness against her. You do not covet anything he has. And you show her mercy, helping her in her time of need. Always. Everyone.

Thus ends the lesson.

God bless!

Friday, February 27, 2015

God Seeks to Destroy Oppression - Christianity Seeks to Continue It

Ok, so perhaps the title of this post is a little untrue. At least, in theory. The first part is correct though. God does not want His people oppressed. In Exodus 3 we find God recognizing they are oppressed by the Egyptians and decides to lead them out of that oppression. In several other places, in both the Old and New Testaments, we find verses regarding oppression:

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him. (Proverbs 14:31)
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9)

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. (Psalm 72:4)

do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. (Zechariah 7:10)

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:5)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
And I could come up with a few dozen more verses saying the same thing. We are not  to oppress anyone, and God is with the oppressed.

Christians Oppress

I apologize for anyone I offend with that statement. Well, actually, I don't apologize. Why? Because if you're offended, than you're most likely guilty of being an oppressor.

And now that I've probably had 1/3 of my readers close this article, and then other 1/3 head directly to the comments to leave some scathing response...

How many of you have witnessed someone doing any of the following (or been guilty yourself of any of the following)?

  • Blaming a woman for being raped? 
  • Blaming a woman for being physically or emotionally abused by her spouse?  
(note: Both of the above include thinking/saying "well if she hadn't been wearing that...", "if she hadn't been drinking...", "if she'd just obeyed him...", "why is she staying with him?"...)

  • Insisting that women cannot be Pastors, CEOs, in the military, etc.?
  • Told a young lady she needs to lose weight, or have long hair, or should dress prettier, or should wear (or not wear) makeup, or anything else, with the reason being "to attract a guy" or "get him to like you" or  "to avoid being an old cat-lady"?

  • Heard a story on the news about a crime (theft, murder, rape, etc), and immediately assumed the criminal was black? 
  • Heard a story about a cop shooting a black person and immediately assumed the victim "deserved it"? 

  • Saw a woman in the grocery store with a bunch of children, paying with an EBT card (food stamps), and figured she is jobless and purposefully living off the system? 
  • With the above, considered that she probably kept having more kids just so she could get more money? 
  • Saw a man with the woman and assumed he's a slacker?
  • Believed that her family should not continue receiving help from tax payers? 

  • Tried to deny rights to homosexuals? 
  • Tried to deny rights to illegal aliens? 

  • Walked across the street when coming up on a homeless person? 
  • Assumed that homeless person enjoys his life, and is only looking to spend any money he gets on booze? 

  • Snubbed any of the people listed above for who they are - female, poor, homosexual, homeless, black, etc? 
  • Felt that any of these people do not deserve certain rights you and I have? 
I could go on for several pages, but you get the idea. And, I will admit that, sadly, I am guilty of a couple of these.

But, back to Christianity seeking to continue oppression... 

I can't count how many arguments I've had with people regarding women and the Bible. Women cannot be pastors/preachers. Women must be submissive to man (and especially to husband). Women are to be at home barefoot and pregnant. Many Christians believe all of this. They do not recognize it as being oppressive - or, if they do, it's allowed because the Bible supposedly says so.

Homosexuals - we're not to have anything to do with them. They should not have the same rights as the rest of us. They cannot marry. They cannot raise children. I even had a couple people tell me that we should execute them all so as to protect the people of God. Again, these Christians do not see this as oppressive. They see it as our responsibility as Christians to deny homosexuals anything.

And as for poor people? Many Christians I have met and talked to believe that these people are only poor because they are lazy. God would bless them if they'd only try a little harder. God would pull them out of poverty if He thought they were worthwhile. And since they're still poor, obviously God does not see them as worthwhile, and therefore as Christians, we should not either.

Our "right" to oppress is NOT Biblical

I don't care how many times you quote what God sees as sinful - He never... EVER... gives us the right to oppress the rights of others based on who or what they are.  We are to always reach out in love and equality.

And, when we see others being oppressed, we need to speak out. None of us can truly be free in this world so long as others are being oppressed. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Justice Depends on Who You Are

I read a story just a few minutes ago about a mother who got called into the school because her daughter punched a boy. He'd been snapping her bra strap and eventually unhooked it. When nothing else worked, the girl punched him. His parents and the school were horrified - at her actions, but not what he had done.

There was picture on Facebook earlier this morning with two pictures side by side, each of a different college graduate breastfeeding her baby. The black woman picture had a headline of how the image stirred up controversy, whereas the white woman received comments of how adorable the picture was. I couldn't find the picture, but did find an article about these photos.

And we've all heard the stories of cops who kill or get too rough, because they can - often being more violent with minorities. Or rich people who basically get off with a slap on the wrist for crimes that would land a poor person in prison, or dead.

Justice has been Perverted

Sexual assault, harassment, violence, murder, etc - they're all criminal acts. But how we dish out punishment for those acts has been perverted by the justice system. Those who are white, male, wealthy, and/or powerful get a slap on the wrist or people simply turn a blind eye to the actions. Blacks (or other minority races), females, the poor - they get harsher punishment, and even worse - are immediately assumed guilty, even of actions committed against them.

And we don't just see this in the criminal system. It's found everywhere. It's found in the way each of us treat others, as can be seen by the reactions and comments the two breastfeeding college graduates received.

Injustice is even found in our Churches!

I remember when I was a young teenager, being abused regularly by my parents, turning to the pastor at my church. He sided with my parents. He told me to honor them, and that I must have done something to deserve it; and then he told them everything I had said in confidence.

Or what about the priests, pastors, teachers, etc who molest young children? The acts of these supposedly Godly men are covered up, and the children are ignored.

Or what about how we, as Christians, treat those who are not Christian? Or who do not hold the same beliefs as we do (i.e. how many treat those who are gay Christians)? The treatment I have seen these people receive - which some Christians have actually claimed is 'justice' - is horrific. 

God's Justice

learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
Throughout the Bible, we see God protecting the "minorities." We see Him consistently telling us to help and defend them. We see Him consistently smacking down those who are selfishly rich, arrogant, prideful, etc. We see His wrath being aimed at those whom our current justice system protects. We see His love and patience being aimed at those whom our current justice system condemns.

Do horses run on rocks? Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood (Amos 6:12)
James Burton Coffman quotes  Arnold C. Schultz (from the Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 835) in a commentary on the Studylight website:
"There is a spiritual and moral order in the universe that is just as impossible to ignore as the natural order. It is as senseless to pervert justice as it is to expect horses to run on the rocks, or for oxen to plow on rock."
And yet this is exactly what we have done. And so long as we continue to pervert justice to fulfill the desires of the rich and powerful, we can never have peace in this world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Always a Slave

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
I truly believe that we are all children of God. It does not matter our social rank, our age, whether we're male or female, what our sexual orientation is, whether we're black or white or pink with purple polka-dots. We all are equal in the eyes of God, and should also be equal in the eyes of man. We are all "one in Christ Jesus." Each of us, regardless of these things, are all allowed the gifts given by God - grace, mercy, peace, love, forgiveness.

All of us, that is, except me....

"I think the reason you continue to get me to stop forgiving [you] is because you cannot forgive yourself... You have bound yourself so tightly that you’re strangling yourself. Jesus has already loosed those bonds. Your only job is to live in to that reality... are you so important that you refuse to forgive someone (in this case yourself) despite the fact that God – the creator of the cosmos – has already done so"
 The above are parts of messages sent to me by a very dear friend not long ago while I was in the middle of a melt down/temper tantrum. I really did not address his comments at the time. I didn't want to address them. He, quite frankly, pissed me off. And it wasn't because he was attacking me (he was not), but rather because he was right.

"There is no longer slave or free."

I saw a meme the other day that said:
"Jesus removes the enslaving power of shame, guilt and regret - and replaces it with unending love." 

There is no longer slave or free. We're all simply one by His love and in His love. I rarely have a problem believing and living this when it comes to other people. I have forgiven (more than once) those who hurt me in the past. They're only human, and still God's children. So why do I (and perhaps many of you) still remain enslaved to feelings of shame, guilt and regret? Why do we not turn that same understanding of being "only human, and still God's children" towards ourselves?

It's actually a fairly easy answer - at least in my case. I don't deserve the love and forgiveness of God. I don't deserve to have these chains loosed. Things I have done... things I continue to do... things I have allowed to be done...

And, the truth is, I don't deserve anything from God. Neither do you. Neither does the rich man, nor the poor man. Neither does man nor woman. Black nor white. Gay nor straight. And yet out of His unending love for all of us, we are all still given love, mercy, forgiveness, and many other blessings. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as slaves or free and instead start thinking of ourselves as united in Christ Jesus.

As my friend stated: "Jesus has already loosed those bonds. Your only job is to live in to that reality." We need to live in that reality with ourselves, and with others.

God bless!