6-3-2016 Hatred Without A Cause

David said, “They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without a cause” (Psalm 109:3 NKJV).  “Without a cause” means “uncalled for, not needed.”  This very verse described Jesus (John 15:25), whose message was, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 NKJV).  But, some then, as some today, spread the “Roots” of hate. Solomon said, “Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18 NKJV).  No one is following Christ who cannot pray to God, “forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4 NKJV).  Root out racism, of every color, by bringing all hearts to Jesus “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14 NKJV).

This is Johnny Polk, with “Words of Wisdom” brought to you by the Oneida church of Christ.

#forgiveness, #hatred, #racism, #roots, #slander


12-30-2015 Labels Are Not Arguments

The Devil doesn’t deal with truth and its defense, but retaliates with lies, labels, slander, and blasphemy. Since “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 NKJV), preaching God’s Word brings forth a torrent of misrepresentations. Preaching: “baptism doth also now save us” from 1 Peter 3:21 brings the slander of “water salvationist;” or, Jesus’ statement, “He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female'” in Matthew 19:4 brings the blasphemy of “homophobe;” or, after Jesus raised a widow’s dead son, we conclude with the crowd, “‘A great prophet has risen up among us’; and, ‘God has visited His people’ (Luke 7:16 NKJV), would label us “Islamaphobes.” “Whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18 NKJV).                                                                                     
This is Johnny Polk, with “Words of Wisdom” brought to you by the Oneida church of Christ

#blasphemy, #homophobe, #islamaphobe, #labels, #lies, #slander, #water-salvationist

Job’s Friends, Labeling, and Us

We label items to help us account for them and use them efficiently. Both leaders and office workers use carefully named folders (computer and traditional) to organize their material. Labels help to find and also help us to understand. The packaging for food and other commercial items will inform us what is inside, whether it has been inspected, what risks it poses to us (proper use, calories, fat grams, etc.), and how to dispose of it after use. Labels sometimes confuse or misdirect. Signs on dumpsters that state, “This is not a dumpster,” clearly misinform. A dumpster (a large container for item disposal) is a specifically designed piece of equipment. The sign-maker perhaps should have written, “This dumpster is for recycling only. Do not place trash in it.”
We also label people. Soldiers wear uniforms that often have their names and ranks affixed. Soldiers who have trained in special skills may wear badges that identify those skills. Workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries wear uniforms that identify their employer, their name, and their place within the organization. Prisoners today often wear brightly colored uniforms that identify them as such. We may also describe people according their height, weight, skin pigmentation, religious preference, and a variety of other variables. During Jesus’ ministry, a disciple tried to label someone by asking, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born…? We sometimes label people verbally with derogatory descriptions.
Friends of the biblical character Job also labeled him. They said, “Wicked man (Job 15:20),” “blustering wind (8:2),”deceitful (11:11).” We ourselves find it easy to criticize those friends even when, if we reflected, we might have done the same as they. Job rebuked them for their labeling of him. To reinforce the righteousness of such rebuke, God himself berated the frustrated advisors of Job. We spot some of their mistakes easily. They misjudged Job’s character, despite having known him for years. Job reminded them in the twenty-ninth chapter of Job how his words had commanded the respect of community leaders. Job had rescued the poor and championed the cause of strangers. He had clothed himself in righteousness and justice. Job’s friends no longer remembered those days. The Job they saw before them deserved rebuke, or so they thought. His loss of family, his financial devastation and physical suffering compelled them to conclude that Job must have sinned greatly to warrant such severe punishment from God.
Job’s friends struggled because their worldview did not allow for a series of catastrophes devastating a righteous person. We too struggle today when we encounter new situations or meet people who challenge the categories we use to label people, events, and religious doctrines. Job’s friends, despite their faults, actually did a few things right. Before they castigated him, they wept with him, tore their robes, and sprinkled dust on their heads to show their grief over his situation. They sat silently with him for several days. They failed, however, to listen; they failed to consider that the origins of Job’s suffering might be more complex than they imagined. They spoke from ignorance.
Some labels accurately define what they describe. Poison warnings on bottles save lives. Jesus sometimes labeled people, calling some religious leaders “hypocrites” and a devoted disciple who didn’t quite understand his master’s mission “Satan.”
Labels can destroy lives. People sometimes harm themselves after being labeled wrongly by people who did not know them, or envied them, or just had wrong information. Labels can destroy ministry. Judaizing teachers labeled Paul. I observed on on-line discussion in which a preacher asked if a church fit a one-word (label) description. An intriguing aspect of the ensuing discussion was that subsequent contributors had different definitions for the label or even admitted their confusion as to what the questioner meant by the term. Ignorance makes labels dangerous. We may not know what another believes.
Job’s friends started well. They grieved with him. They sat silently with him. Still they did not truly understand Job. If only they had listened. Will we?

#church-of-christ, #discipline, #gossip, #jesus, #job, #labeling, #listening, #slander, #wisdom


Psalm 140 Deliver Me From Evil

A Psalm of David that recognizes how evil surrounds someone trying to live right. Paranoia involves fear without facts – this Psalm, however, deals with facts that give ample reason to be aware and careful! “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Peter 3:17).

Verses 1-5 pray for preservation from evil men;

Verses 6-7 reassert confidence in God;

Verses 8-11 pray for persecution on the wicked;

Verses 12-13 remind the upright of their reward.

Verses 1-5: God is asked to “Deliver me” “from evil men; “Preserve me from violent men;” “Keep me” “from the hands of the wicked.” Jesus taught His disciples to pray “do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). “Evil men” are those who: plan it in their hearts; gather for war; hone their tongues like serpents; speak venomously. Psalm 140:3 is quoted in Romans 3:13 to help describe sinners in need of Jesus Christ. Little wonder that John the Baptist (Luke 3:7), then Jesus (Matthew 12:34; 23:33), called their generation of Jews a “brood of vipers.” “The wicked” are those determined to “make my steps stumble;’’ hidden a snare to tie me up; “spread a net;” “set traps,” all designed to stop a faithful person from being faithful!

Verses 6-7: David’s God hears his supplication, provides strength to save, and protects his head in battle.

Verses 8-11: If the wicked are unpunished, their pride swells. Solomon would later say: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). David’s prayer is that: their evil words are turned back upon them; they are consumed by fire; their slander goes unproven; evil men fight it out with the violent men! Worldly people “slander” the message of salvation: “For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come?’–as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:7-8). “Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18).

Verses 12-13: Regardless of the opposition, God will prevail on behalf of the “afflicted,” giving “justice for the poor,” being thanked by the righteous, and receiving the upright to “dwell” in His presence.

All Scriptures and comments are based upon the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

#bible-study, #book-of-psalms, #daily-bible-reading, #evil-men, #faith, #god, #obedience, #prayer, #sin, #slander, #violent-men, #vipers

Slandering the Authorities (Part 4)

In this series we have stressed that Christians should both submit and give appropriate honor to earthly authorities. Furthermore, we are to pray for our leaders and speak evil of no one. Slanderous tongues should not belong to genuine followers of Jesus!

But this leaves a serious question unanswered: How should a Christian respond to wickedness he sees in the lives of his contemporaries (i.e., whether they are his neighbors or the civil authorities)? The Bible is clear that he should not speak evil of anyone (which would include evildoers!). What is he to do then? Should he simply ignore the wicked behavior and remain silent concerning it? Is there a way in which Christians can stand against evil in a respectful, God-approved fashion, without being guilty of slander or becoming bitter? The answer is a resounding yes.

In addition to the Scriptures we have considered thus far in this series and the example of Christ Himself, let us consider two other biblical examples that are worthy of our emulation. I believe these examples show us how we, who are striving to be holy, can respond to wickedness without becoming guilty of slander.

II Peter 2:9-11 – “Then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.”

Two characteristics that identify those who walk according to the flesh are that they “despise authority” and “they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries.” Let that sink in, friends, and may we not be guilty of either! Those who do not show respect and speak evil against authorities (which are appointed by God) are unjust and will fall under God’s judgment!

The angels of God, however, who are mightier and more powerful than any mortal, will not slander those who do evil. What gives us the right to do so? Pride makes us think we are something special, but even if we were something great, slander would still have no proper place in our lives. The angels know their proper place; they know that only the Lord can condemn those who do evil. May we learn from their example!

We have another example that will further teach us not to slander: the archangel Michael. When he was arguing with the devil–Satan himself–Michael did not slander him. Now, who is more evil in the Universe than the father of lies (cf. John 8:44)? No one! Who is more deserving of being slandered than Satan? No one! But even a leader among angels would not bring himself to slander or condemn Satan! That, to me, is incredible. Jude 9 reads – “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!'” And there’s our answer as to how we should speak to evildoers: Don’t slander them, and leave all condemnation up to God. When you are tempted to speak evil of anyone, restrain yourself to four powerful words – “The Lord rebuke you!” In the end, all condemnation and vengeance is in God’s hands anyway, not ours. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).

When Paul was desiring to return to Corinth and help the church there, he said – “For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish…that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (II Cor. 12:20, ESV). It was Paul’s prayer that the Corinthians did not fall prey to these sins. He feared such might be present in their lives, and I fear such is present in the lives of too many Christians today. What would Jesus find in your heart and life if He returned today? Make sure slander has no root in your heart and no place on your lips!

#authority, #slander

Slandering the Authorities (Part 3)

We have been contemplating how Christians should view and treat earthly authorities. Paul has clearly stated that we should both submit and give appropriate honor to them. We must also follow Jesus’ example of not reviling those who mistreat us, even if they are earthly authorities.

It must be understood, however, that simply avoiding a sour attitude and slanderous speech against earthly rulers is not enough. The New Testament also instructs us to pray for them! Consider I Timothy 2:1-4:

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

We are to pray for our leaders, particularly in two fundamental ways: (1) That there might be stability while they govern (which will benefit all people desiring to live tranquil lives), and (2) That they might come to a knowledge of God’s truth, believe, obey, and be saved. Notice that Paul gives this advice regardless of how moral or immoral the leader may be! Christians should pray for the spiritual well-being of their leaders as well as their own physical well-being while under the authority of the leaders.

If one truly petitions God on behalf of his leaders, he will not be quick to slander those same people (cf. James 3:9-12). This is certainly one reason why Jesus instructs His followers to pray for those who persecute them (cf. Matt. 6:44). It is harder to mistreat or speak inappropriately against one for whom you are genuinely praying.

Titus 3:1,2 is also relevant here – “Remind them to be subject to the rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” The Christian is to speak evil of no one! Paul could not have worded that prohibition in a broader fashion. Now let’s make application. Is it proper for us to slander the wicked? No. It is proper for us to slander our enemies? No. Is it proper for us to slander the earthly powers that be when they don’t do as we desire? No. It is wrong to slander anyone for any reason. How could Paul be any plainer? “Be subject to the rulers and authorities…obey…speak evil of no one…be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” Friends, slanderous tongues belong to sinners, not saints!

Although my observations are limited and could therefore be mistaken, I believe slander is a sin that isn’t talked about very often in the brotherhood. However, the New Testament writers have made it clear that Christians must not speak evil of others–period. In addition to the passages we have already read, consider two more:

Ephesians 4:29-31 – “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
I Peter 2:1 – “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.”

We will conclude this study in our next lesson.

#authority, #slander

Slandering the Authorities (Part 2)

In our prior lesson, we began considering how Christians should view earthly authorities. Paul was clear in stating that we should both submit and give appropriate honor to them. Peter echoes Paul’s commands in I Peter 2:13-17:

“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to the governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men–as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

It is easy to submit to and honor a civil leader who is righteous, but the New Testament doesn’t command our submission and honor in only that case. We are to obey and respect wicked leaders, too! If the government uses tax dollars to murder the unborn, for example, we must still pay our taxes. If the government supports immorality like homosexuality, we must still show proper respect with our words toward the one in authority. We can disagree respectfully without being slanderous! We do not have to like or approve of a civil leader’s agenda in order to honor the office he holds. Remember, the authorities that exist are appointed by God! Christians must not personally engage in wicked behavior, and we do have the duty to disobey civil authorities if they try to force us to commit sin (e.g., Acts 5:29).

In America today, we are blessed to have much freedom, even though many of our civil leaders do not uphold godly values. I am unaware of Christians in our country being forced by the government into committing sin. Thus, our duty is simple: obey and show proper respect. Based on personal experience, I would speculate that more Christians struggle with the latter than they do the former. Disciples of Christ generally are outstanding citizens (that’s the way it should be!). They pay their taxes and faithfully comply with government regulations. However, while these individuals rightly submit to the government, their attitudes and speech sometimes convey bitterness and slander toward their earthly authorities. This is not good since God has commanded us to “Honor the king,” or, in our case, the president, members of Congress, governors, etc. We must honor in both word and deed, but are we doing that?

Some might be inclined to think that it was easier to obey and honor worldly authorities back in the first century when Peter wrote I Peter 2:13-17. That is simply untrue. Christians in that day faced extreme persecutions from unbelievers and civil authorities. Yet even in the face of this persecution by the government, Peter still tells us to submit and give honor. Historical lore tells us that Peter died at the command of Nero who murdered countless Christians by lighting them on fire to be the torches in his garden and feeding them to lions for sport. Peter knew of the challenge involved in both submitting to and honoring civil authorities, yet he still wrote what he did under the inspiration of God!

It’s easy to give in to the urge to despise our authorities when they don’t do what we desire and slander them with our tongues, but this is sinful. To reject or despise authority is ungodly (cf. II Pet. 2:10; Jude 8). Jesus did not despise authority when He was brutally beaten and unjustly crucified by the Romans (e.g., Acts 8:32). He is truly a perfect example for us to pattern our behavior and speech after – “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (I Pet. 2:21-23).

We will continue this study in our next lesson.

#authority, #slander

Slandering the Authorities (Part 1)

Special thanks goes to Andrew Swango, a friend and faithful brother in Christ, for sharing some thoughts with me on authority and slander. I have adapted his work for presentation here and split it into several parts. Part 1 is presented below.

Emperor, King, Queen, President, Prime Minister–these are just a few of the many titles used by earthly authorities. No matter where people live, there is an earthly authority over their nation or tribe. Undeniably, not all leaders are equal in terms of influence, ability, intellect, or morality. Some seem only concerned about their own legacy and retention of their power. Others, even with their flaws, are more noble-minded and genuinely do their best to serve their constituents. Perhaps you are wondering: Why should followers of Jesus Christ spend time contemplating earthly authorities? Since we are to set our minds on things that are above (cf. Col. 3:2), of what concern to us are temporal, earthly leaders? The answer to these questions is simple: The Bible has something to say about how we treat the authorities over us. Christians are called to view the earthly powers that be in a specific way.

Although each person is under various civil authorities, the New Testament is clear that there is a spiritual authority that trumps all worldly authorities and His name is Jesus Christ. Jesus’ authority is given to Him by God the Father (cf. John 17:2; Matt 28:18). Jesus, the supreme ruler, is greater than any authority here on Earth. Ephesians 1:21 speaks of Jesus as “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” Not only is Jesus above all earthly authorities, but these authorities are created by and for Jesus, and He sustains them all (cf. Col. 1:16,17). When Jesus stood before him silently, Pilate affirmed that he possessed the power to crucify and the power to release. Jesus replied to Pilate – “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11).

Jesus is above every emperor, king, queen, president, and prime minister. But what does that mean for us? Christians must submit to Christ ultimately, but in the present age we also find ourselves under the authority of worldly rulers. What should our attitude be toward these civil authorities? Paul has much to say about this matter in Romans 13:1-7:

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain, for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

Since there is no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by Him, God must have a role in the establishment of every worldly power and its leadership. This is a significant point to ponder. Every nation will be used as an instrument of God to accomplish His will. This is true whether they are good or bad (though the good nations invariably last longer; cf. Prov. 14:34). Civil authorities are God’s servants. We see this throughout the Old Testament as God used pagan nations to discipline the Israelites. Today, God calls each Christian to submit to whatever government he finds himself under. We are to obey civil authorities since to resist them (“God’s ministers”) is to resist God! Furthermore, Christians are to pay taxes and tolls as well as give honor and respect to those whom it is due. We owe these things to earthly authorities, even when our leaders are wicked and we would prefer to withhold both our money and respect.

We will continue this study in our next lesson.

#authority, #slander