Perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18)

David Anderson

In an earlier post, I talked about being careful about forwarding emails. Many forwarded emails I find objectionable have to do with false and/or misleading “facts” and hate-filled rhetoric. Then there is also fear-mongering.

Is Christmas a time to think about fear? This year, I see a connection more clearly than I ever have.

In the past few months, some things have happened that have us all a little more fearful. Just the mention of ISIS is enough to make me look around and make sure I’m aware of my surroundings. Fear is good for survival if it makes you a little more alert, a little more watchful, a little more sensitive to immediate danger. But when fear runs out of control, it turns to panic.

Any good soldier knows you never want to panic, especially when danger is right around the corner. Panic makes you make bad decisions. Panic sees threat where there is none. Panic magnifies a minor threat to the point that it is all you see. Imagine someone who was so afraid of fire they wouldn’t even drive a car. Drive a car? Are you crazy? That engine runs on fire!

Just like wild dogs, politicians smell fear.

They know to exploit it. If they get us scared enough, they can say and do anything, and we will go along. When we are already afraid, all they have to do is magnify it through propaganda. We cannot, we must not, go along with them. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind (2 Tim 1.7).

About 1900 years ago, a group of churches in what is now Turkey were under intense persecution because of what they believed. They were bribed to give names. If that didn’t work, they were tortured. If that didn’t work, they were killed by crucifixion, by fire, by wild animals, or any other method a depraved Emperor or governor might imagine. There was reason to live in fear.

In the midst of that, God said to them,

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love
because he first loved us
(1Jo 4:18-19 NRS).

Jesus Christ was born because God first loved us. Throughout the Bible, God keeps saying, Fear not, because God is love.

Christmas day is over, but the Christmas season continues now through January 6, the Day of the Kings. Keep listening to the angels singing, Peace on earth! Goodwill to men and women!

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Go deeper

33 verses about fear

References

Casting Crowns. I heard the bells on Christmas day.

http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/debbie-mcdaniel/33-verses-to-remind-us–we-do-not-have-to-fear.html

O Little Town of Bethlehem.

Advertisements

I CORINTHIANS 13 – A CHRISTMAS VERSION

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,

strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,

but do not show love to my family,

I’m just another decorator.

 

If I slave away in the kitchen,

making dozens of Christmas cookies,

preparing gourmet meals and arranging

a beautifully adorned table at mealtime,

but do not show love to my family,

I’m just another cook.

 

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home,

and give all that I have to charity,

but do not show love to my family,

it profits me nothing.

 

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes,

attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata

but do not focus on Christ,

I have missed the point.

 

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has

coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

 

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way,

but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those

who are able to give in return

but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. 

 

Video games will break,

pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust,

but giving the gift of love will endure.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

          – Author unknown

from the files of Alma G.

Bonhoeffer, and the death of dualism

“I am not a feminist, an LGTBQ ally, or a believer that #blacklivesmatter in spite of my Christianity. I am a feminist, and an ally BECAUSE of my Christianity. It is my faith that tells me that everyone is important, that everyone matters, and that my call is for the common welfare of all.”
Thanks Megan. I was wondering if I was the only one.

Red Shoes, Funny Shirt

I’ve been thinking a lot about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Listening to the tenor of the debate in this country ratchet up and up and up, as politicians call for rounding up and deporting immigrants without papers, registering Muslims in a database, closing mosques, and now, closing the borders to anyone who professes Islam, it is hard not to feel like we’re in a scary time warp.

Bonhoeffer, after all, faced similar problems.  When the Nazis began forcing Jews out of government jobs, schools and other opportunities, Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth wrote the Barmen Confession, upon which the Confessing Church was built.  Bonhoeffer would spend his life articulating the gospel in defiance of a government that was bent on evil and destruction.

The man was a brilliant theologian, and by the end, before he was arrested, he had been forbidden from speaking or publishing anything at all–so afraid of him was the German…

View original post 646 more words

Before You Forward that Email…

David Anderson

‘Tis the season… for political campaigning. And with it, a bombardment of political ads and forwarded emails. And the kind of messages that get CC’d and Bcc’d tend to be full of inflammatory rhetoric designed to stir up hatred and fear toward the stranger. A lot of heat, very little light. Personally, I “love” the ones that I know are spreading false facts that have already been debunked, which violates one of the Ten Commandments:

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor (Ex 20.16 KJV).

Posting the Ten Commandments in your yard or in a public square does no good if you don’t read them. You might want to say that this or that person is not your neighbor. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear God places no restrictions on who your neighbor is (Luke 10.26-38).

Not bearing false witness. Not spreading lies. Not slandering people. Not spreading rumors that stir up hatred and fear. Not making ad hominem attacks that are long on screed and short on facts. That is basic to Old and New Testament morality. It is basic to human decency and fairness.

Lying lips conceal hatred, and whoever utters slander is a fool (Pro 10:18 NRS).

O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those who walk blamelessly… who do not slander with their tongue [or computer or blog or email]… (Psa 15:1-2a, 3b NRS).

And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved! (Rom 3:8 NRS)

And this verse I think says it best.

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you (Eph 4:31-32 NRS).

So before you forward that email, ask yourself, Does this slander the person or group mentioned? Is it true? Do I know the facts? Does this misrepresent the facts? Remember, slanderers will not abide in God’s tent.

So here’s a good illustration to help you remember:

Before you assume, learn the facts

And in keeping with the passage in Ephesians, Does it stir up bitterness, anger, and malice? If the answer is yes, DO NOT FORWARD to anyone. If you do, then as Paul said, your condemnation is deserved.

Addendum

Here is part of my response to one of those mass emails that indicates the kind of tone I’d like to see during the next 11 months of campaigning.

I have many conservative friends and family. We understand we have disagreements politically – sometimes passionate disagreements – and we still love each other. We share prayer concerns. We participate in Bible studies together. We don’t question each other’s integrity as Christians. We don’t question each other’s patriotism. Being different political parties doesn’t mean either of us loves Jesus or America any less. I promise to remember that from now on and hope you’ll do the same.

How I blew my pastor’s mind

David Anderson

In our Kerygma Bible study, we came across this verse in Hosea:

And the LORD said to [Hosea], “Name [your child] Jezreel;
for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel (Hos 1:4 NRS).

I said this verse surprised me, because it most likely refers to the murder of Jezebel. Most Israelites probably thought killing Jezebel was a good thing, but here it seems God doesn’t agree. Is this the first occasion in the Bible when God told Israel He didn’t necessarily consider it a good thing to go around killing their enemies? Then I asked, “Could this be what Jesus was thinking of when he taught us to love our enemies?”

The pastor said, “This is getting too deep for me.”

I didn’t think I could say anything he’d never heard of, so I was probably more amazed than he was. How did this happen? Let me walk you through it.

Jehu was anointed king of Israel (2Kings 9:1-13)

The year is about 843 B.C. Jezebel is queen, and her son Joram is king in Israel. Jehu is one of the commanders of the army. God sends the prophet Elisha to anoint Jehu king. It was dangerous business to anoint one man king when another was already sitting on the throne, so God told Elisha to take him to a room and speak in private.

Then take the flask of oil, pour it on his head, and say, ‘Thus says the LORD: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and flee; do not linger (2Ki 9:3).

As the LORD instructed, Elisha anointed Jehu king of Israel and immediately fled the scene. The army fell in behind Jehu, and he led them to Jezreel.

Jehu killed Joram (2Kings 9:14-29)

Joram was in his palace in Jezreel, recovering from a battle against the Arameans. From the watchtower, the sentinels saw an army approaching. They sent messengers to ask if they were coming in peace, but the messengers joined the army. The sentinels knew Jehu was leading them, because “he drives like a maniac!” (2Ki 9:20 – one of my favorite lines in the Old Testament).

Despite his injuries, Joram went out to meet him.

When Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” He answered, “What peace can there be, so long as the many whoredoms and sorceries of your mother Jezebel continue?”

Then Joram reined about and fled, saying to Ahaziah [king of Judah], “Treason, Ahaziah!”

Jehu drew his bow with all his strength, and shot Joram between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart; and he sank in his chariot (2Ki 9:22-24).

Jehu went on to kill Ahaziah, king of Judah, who had joined Joram in the fight against the Arameans.

Jehu killed Jezebel (2Kings 9:30-37)

When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; she painted her eyes, and adorned her head, and looked out of the window (2Ki 9:30).

I’ve often heard people use Jezebel as a synonym for “painted hussy.” I think this verse is where that comes from. The window must have had a sizeable balcony, because there were at least two or three eunuchs with her. At Jehu’s command, they threw Jezebel off the balcony, and it must have been a long way down, because some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, which trampled on her (2Ki 9:33).

To secure his position, Jehu went on to kill all of Jezebel and Joram’s kin (2Ki 10).

“I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel”

So in Jezreel, Jehu killed Jezebel in very gruesome fashion. God told the prophet Hosea to name his first child Jezreel, because He will punish the house of Jehu for killing the painted hussy – I mean Jezebel. Here, you need to know a little about Hosea. He was a prophet who married a temple prostitute. You didn’t expect to hear that from the Bible, did you? Not only that, he was sympathetic to Jezebel. That sympathy was gone by the time his second child was born. But for a while, at least, he was a prophet of Israel who was sympathetic to one of its most hated enemies.

Why? Maybe he thought the manner of her death was unnecessarily cruel. Maybe he saw similarities between the hatred directed at his wife and at Jezebel. Maybe he saw the folly of a system where one person could claim the throne by wiping out the royal family. He doesn’t say any specific reason.

But a move toward love of enemies is clear. The wholesale slaughter of Jezebel and all her kin, in Hosea’s mind, was not something God approved. Why else would he say, I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel?

Love your enemies

Once I made that connection, it did not seem a great leap to Jesus when he said,

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Mat 5:44-45 NRS).

Jezebel was as unrighteous as they come. Yet God never stopped the sun from shining where she was. God never stopped the rain from falling – well, except for one 3-½ year period, but that was on all Israel, not just Jezebel (1Ki 17-18). This is one way God shows love, even to the wicked. Even to those who hate us. We want to believe God hates them just like we do, but Jesus throws a great big monkey wrench and jams up those gears. Annoying, isn’t it?

Love your enemies…so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.