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Devouring Ourselves

Proverbs 19:11 – It is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.

roar-3528376_1920Let me just apologize up front for any toes I might step on with this blog.  I will try to tread lightly, but sometimes the truth can weigh heavy.  I don’t think anyone who listens to the news can help but notice how divided we are becoming as a nation today.  Every morning when we turn our televisions on, it seems some new offense has occurred and some new turmoil has developed.  It’s the world we live in, and I get that.  And I know the world is going to behave like the world.  My concern is that Christians seem to have become so caught up in the affairs of the world today, that they are exhibiting the same behavior as the world exhibits toward them.   We seem to have forgotten that we are not citizens of this world anymore and that “our citizenship is in heaven and we await a Savior from there.”  (Philippians 3:20).  God’s word says we are to be “ambassadors” for Christ here.   An ambassador is an official representative on behalf of one country to another.  We might live in “the greatest country in the world” but we are citizens of and represent an even greater one; one not of this world.  Our only cause in this world, as ambassadors for Christ, is the cause of Christ and we need to be careful of involving ourselves in anything that doesn’t have that cause at heart.

11 Timothy 2:4 cautions, “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.”  We are here to be soldiers for the cause of Christ alone, not the “civilian affairs” of this world, and everything we do in pursuing that cause must be done in such a way as to please our commanding officer.  We are not here to defend some self-righteous cause of our own.  In fact, when it comes to defending ourselves against personal offenses done against us, we are instructed in God’s word not to.  Proverbs 19:11 encourages, “It is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.”  We are from a kingdom that says, “love keeps no record of wrongs.”  I am not saying that those who break the law should not be subject to the law, but I am saying that we are not to dredge up any and every offense ever done to us and seek recompense for it, just so we can be a part of some “movement” someone has created.  We need not fear that evil men will get away with evil; they do not.  “For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”  (Hebrews 10:30).  We aren’t to seek out vengeance for ourselves, but are to leave it to the one who judges justly.  Jesus did no less.  God sees all, he knows all, and he judges all.  That includes us, by the way, and God’s word cautions, “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment!”  (James 2:12).  We must carefully consider just how much a pound of flesh is worth to us, while keeping in mind that we might owe a pound or two ourselves.

As Christians, we must remember that we are from a kingdom whose ways are not the same as those of the world we live in.  I fear we desperately need a refresher course on those ways today.  The kingdom we are from forgives men their trespasses, knowing there is a higher judge who has forgiven their own and who warns, “If you forgive those who trespass against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, your Father will not forgive your trespasses.”  The definition of trespass, by the way, is “offense.”  The kingdom we are from turns the other cheek when someone spites them, knowing the one they serve turned his for them.  The kingdom we are from tells us we must “not resist an evil person” and “if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  And, “if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”  We are from a kingdom that says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” and reminds us, “if you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”  We are from a kingdom that says, “it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God” and “if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”  We are from a kingdom that does not keep count of forgiveness.  The rabbis in Jesus day taught that people should forgive those who offend them – but only three times.  In Matthew 19:21, Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Jesus if seven was enough times to forgive someone and Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven,” meaning that we shouldn’t even keep track of how many times we forgive someone.   God’s word reminds us, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”  We are from a very different kingdom, with a very different set of rules from the one in which we now reside, and the one who set forth the ways of his kingdom fully expects those who are citizens of it to follow them.

God’s word in James 4:1 cuts to the heart of what causes much of the division in the world today:  “What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  We are more prone to take our grievances into our own hands rather than to put them into God’s.  And when we do pray, we pray with the wrong motives at heart.  We pray for ourselves, for what we want, with our desires and our good at heart, not God’s or our fellow man’s.  The motives of our hearts are usually inward toward self, rather than outward toward others.  We wastefully “spend” our prayers on what will please us, not God.  God’s word instructs, “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”  (11 Timothy 1:24-26).  Brothers and sisters in Christ bite and devour one another over racial, cultural, gender and political differences almost on a daily basis today.  I have watched as in righteous indignation, demands are made for retribution toward those who innocently spoke words with no deliberate intent of harm or malice at heart.   While it is true that we should be sensitive in the words we speak, we should also refrain from being overly-sensitive to the words others speak, and not try to make something out of nothing.  Song of  Songs cautions, “The little foxes spoil the nest.”  It is often the “little foxes” that cause the biggest problems and we have a lot of  little foxes of offense stirring things up today.  I have watched women grow hostile toward men in response to a “movement” and I have watched men grow hostile toward some women who, in all honesty, are a bit hypocritical in their inclusion of themselves in that movement.  I have watched race turn against race in response to unforgiveness and “keeping record of wrongs.”  I have watched brother turn against brother in response to a political opinion or agenda.  I have watched lives be “devoured” and ruined, all due to a spirit of offense and unforgiveness.  As James wrote, “My brothers, these things ought not be so.”  Galatians 5:15 warns, “But if you bite and devour one another, be careful lest you be consumed by one another.”  The word consume means “to destroy.”  I’d say that just about sums up what we are witnessing all around us today.  Lives are being destroyed.  We tell ourselves we are doing these things to bring awareness and sensitivity into this world, but in truth, the spirit of offense we are witnessing today has only resulted in an overly-sensitive, easily-offended society who live in constant hostility toward one another.  Those who are Christians in this world have forgotten that, “there is neither Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all in all.”  We are not a race, a gender, a class, or a political party.  We, as Christians, are all members of Christ’s body, so in a sense, when we bite and devour one another, we are only harming ourselves.  This scripture reminded me of an old Spanky and the Gang television episode I once saw.  In the show, Spanky and his “gang” had gotten into trouble about some mischief they had gotten themselves into and a man said to them, “If you were my kids, I would punish you good.”  To which Spanky’s sidekick, Buckwheat, replied, “If we was your kids, we’d punish ourselves!”  I can’t help but see a bit of an analogy here.  The devil is roaming about looking for someone to devour while we are just devouring ourselves.

As a nation, we have forgotten that “united we stand and divided we fall.”  Or as Jesus put it, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Our nation is standing on shaky ground today and you can almost feel the shifting beneath your feet.  We are either contributing to the shaking or the steadying of it.  Kind of reminds me of when an earthquake first begins to happen.  It starts with a little shaking, then cracks begin to form, and then the ground opens up and consumes everything into itself.  Another definition of the word consume is “absorb.”  Words are like sponges.  They either absorb people into their hate or they absorb them into their love.   A spirit of offense gives birth to hatred and hatred absorbs others into itself.  Just like the cracks of an earthquake, hatred opens up its mouth and consumes everything into itself.  James 3:9 laments, “With the tongue, we praise the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”  We have become so obsessed with defending our political opinions and personal causes today, that we are willing to bite and devour our very own brothers and sisters in Christ to do so.  But make no mistake, if this is about winning, nobody wins here but the enemy.  James 3:2 cautions, “For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things.  If any one does not offend in speech – never says the wrong thing – he is a fully developed character and a perfect man.”   If we are honest with ourselves, I don’t think any of us have yet reached that “fully developed character” or measure up to being that “perfect man.”  In this day of heated arguments, proud opinions, and personal causes, we would be wise to remember the words of James 1:19, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  Slow to speak and slow to become offended in anger.  If we could only master those two things, what a change we might see in the world around us.  Before we get so caught up in the things we see going on in the world today and find ourselves being more quick to speak than we are to listen, and more quick to be offended than we are to forgive, maybe we need to take a step back and ask ourselves:  “What kingdom am I from and whose rules am I following?  “Is it the devil who is roaming about seeking whom he may devour, or am I doing his job for him?”  “Are we, like Spanky’s old friend Buckwheat, saying to the one who seeks to devour us, “No need to devour us, we’ll just devour ourselves!”

SWALLOWED UP

I awoke one morning and turned on my T.V
To a world filled with turmoil as far as the eye could see
People were arguing passionately over this or that dispute
Some people spoke unwisely and were promptly given the boot!
While others in hypocrisy simply bit their tongues and shook their heads
Pretending they had never spoken words they should not have said
Forgiveness wasn’t offered and no place for compassion was found
And healing words of mercy fell deaf upon the ground
There was so much effort going on to avoid stepping on toes
That no one dared to speak the truth lest they cut off their own nose!
So heavy was the hatred that fell upon the land
That I began to feel a rumble upon the ground which I did stand
The earth began to tremble and the ground began to shake
And then I saw a crack begin to form like a long and slithering snake
It spread from home to home growing wider along its way
And seemed to feed upon the strength of all the people’s rage
I tried my best to steady the ground beneath my own feet
And noticed the cracks began to close with the words that I would speak
I wanted to warn others of the danger we were creating
And that we must stop the quarreling that was causing this great shaking
But no one seemed to listen and no one seemed to care
And no one seemed to feel the need to bow their heads in prayer
For no one seemed to be able to tear their eyes and ears away
From the turmoil upon the T.V they fed upon each day
And then one day it happened right before my eyes
The earth opened up and swallowed all the hatred inside
There was no more quarreling and there was no more offense
And there was no more demanding of rightful recompense
There was no more hate and there was no more strife
And all the things of death were swallowed up by life
There was only peace as far as my eyes could see
When I finally got up and turned off my T.V
And when I opened up God’s word and let it speak to me
All across the land, love was all that I could see.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering.”  (Colossians 3:9-12)

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