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.

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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.

O Lord search me and know me (Psalm 139.23a)

David Anderson

Psalm 139: Beautiful, then What the…!!!!

Just read the Bible. Just do what it says. You hear a lot of people say that. It sounds like an easy approach. It tends to cut through all the bull. The problem is when I just read it, just do what it says, I tend to read it in my own context. But the authors were writing it in their context, not mine. I was reminded of this recently when I read Psalm 139 in a Bible study. During the discussion, we wondered about this passage:

19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me — 20 those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil! 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

(Psa 139:19-22 NRS)

Apart from these verses, this is one of my favorite Psalms. Verses 1-18 are a beautiful meditation on God’s careful watch over the Psalmist. He says God knows his every move, every word, every thought. There is nowhere he can hide that God cannot see him. If you think about this, do you find it comforting or scary? The Psalmist is comforted by it, so that tells us something of his trust in God.

Then you have the verses quoted above. “Kill the wicked…I hate them with perfect hatred?” As a Christian, I think, Jesus taught, “Love your enemies…turn the other cheek…do good to those who hate you…bless those who spitefully use you.” This is one of the most un-Christian scriptures I can think of. For a long time when I read this Psalm, I would skip these verses. Then verses 23-24 conclude with a request for God to search him and reveal any unrighteous way within him. I’m thinking, “How about verses 19-22?” That’s reading it in my context.

But in another context…

In what context was the Psalmist writing? First of all, I feel pretty confident that this Psalmist would not have known any of the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus wasn’t even born yet [Duh!]. The Gospel of Matthew was written hundreds of years after the Psalmist. So is it realistic for him to have my Christian sensibilities? Probably not.

Second and more to the point, the beginning says this is a Psalm of David. Well, scholars dispute whether David actually wrote it, but I won’t go into that here. If it was written by David, the most likely time would seem to be during the years when Saul was chasing him. He had to hide out in caves for long periods of time. That’s another difference between his context and mine. I’ve never had anyone chasing me with his own army and trying to kill me. Verses 19-22 make perfect sense in that context. Even with my Christian ethic, I could easily get sick of it and start complaining, “Oh God, I can’t kill him, but I wish you would.” I might hate my Saul with perfect hatred.

Subject to like passions as we… (Jas. 5.17, KJV)

Reading the Psalm this way reminded me of how human the writers of scripture were. There are many other Psalms that show this very well. This is why if I’m angry at God, I tell Him. You may feel like you have to be respectful to God and hide when you’re feeling angry, depressed, confused, doubtful, but as the Psalmist said, God knows your thoughts before they even form in your head. God knows your words before you speak them. So if you’re angry at God or an enemy or friend, and you say you’re not, A) you’re lying, and B) God knows you’re lying.

God is the one being I always have to be honest with. So even when I’m complaining, it’s probably the healthiest relationship I have. Not that complaining is my only communication with God. I thank God for the good things too. But when I really have to vent my frustrations at God, I’ve found he can take anything I dish out.

Takeaways

  1. God knows everything inside you, thoughts and feelings, conscious and subconscious. God knows all your words and deeds even before you say or do them. Unlike the government’s NSA surveillance, that’s a good thing. So always be honest with Him.
  2. When you come across a difficult passage in the Bible, remember to read it in its original context before coming to any conclusions.
  3. The writers of scripture were just as human as we are. They may not be perfect role models, but their honesty reveals our own weaknesses. God was able to use them – and therefore us – anyway.

What will my next post be? I don’t know yet. Until then,

Grace and peace to you,

David Anderson