Saturday, 21 January 2017
Friday, 25 November 2016
It says in Proverbs1 that a fool has no desire to understand, merely to express his own opinion. Proverbs2 also says that those who hate correction are stupid. When we speak the truth, do people often seek to test or understand what was said or what was meant? No, like the fool in Proverbs they express their opinions about you, or why you are “just wrong”.
The cost of not speaking the truth is higher, because to love is to speak the truth.3 Not loving one another is akin to spitting on God and the sacrifice Jesus made for us.4
Thursday, 23 June 2016
Since the universe popped into existence, people have been debating even that. Along came post-modernism, with it’s singular commandment, “thou shalt not reason”, and the same people agreed to disagree, only now in silent judgement instead of robust discourse. “What is truth?” asked Pilate, and purged his consciousness of reason.
50 days later, Peter laid the truth bare, for all and sundry to hear. Paul had what today would be called a nasty habit of going to the synagogue to reason with the Pharisees. If that falls short of convincing you that standing for the truth is a part of the Christian life, perhaps the words of our Creator will suffice: “Come, let us reason.”
We’re born again. Born again into life with One who called Himself the Truth. We are not afforded the luxury of flipping the circuit breaker to your grey matter. Heart, soul, and mind are expected to be powered up and tuned in to the One whose glory is our sole purpose for existence.
The Devil, I’m sure, got wind of this, and engaged in a flanking manoeuvre. Instead of muting the immutable message we carry, he seems to have aimed his charge at our character, seeking to gain advantage from the injury of insult. Some, alas, have turned their tails at this tactic, and the truth – the Truth – suffers, though never for long.
Set in antithesis we see the Truth (Jesus) and the liar of old (satan). All truth, it follows, belongs to Jesus; All falsehood, to satan. Reason is Christ’s. Fallacy, satan’s.
On that ground, we can (must!) argue the truth in any area of life, from Life eternal, to politics, to taxes, to abortion, to same sex marriage, to gun control.
“Oh. That’s where this is going? Gun control?” thought half my audience, moving pointers towards the big red X.
Short answer: no, not exactly, but it does fall into the same discussion.
See, if we accept that all truth is Christ’s, and that in mirroring Christ, we are to stand in the truth, we must also come to terms with the responsibilty we have to argue. At some point, each of us may have a choice between silence, and nailing 95 thesis to the church door. A time when we dig in our heels, lay the cards on the table, and say, “Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God!”
And if we accept that all truth is Christ’s, and that this is the truth we are to present, we quickly realise that we are free to openly state that abortion is murder, that same sex relationships are a dodgy knock-off of the real deal, that the State has zero authority to enforce laws contrary to morality, and that each and every one of us has the God-given right to defend ourselves and our families.
The coherence of Christianity also covers the fallen state of this world. They say ignorance is bliss, but the Christian is called to be in touch with reality. We don’t get to stick our heads in the sand, to go through life on autopilot, ignoring the data which filters in through our eyes, ears, noses, and fingertips. We don’t get to ignore the reality that the world in which we walk, is strangled by a dark fog; a bleak, hard, ruinous world, pierced intermittently by little dots of light where ever a Christian happens to be. We don’t get to ignore that out there, in the dark fog, are hideous creatures cowering in nooks and crannies, waiting to pounce; hissing at us when our beam of light finds their faces.
Jesus said two things: “The darkness hated the light” and, “Do not hide your light under a bushel.” Then He said, “don’t act surprised when the darkness hates you too.” If Christ is the Light, and we are all bringing His light into the world, how desperate must Satan be to snuff out the flame in each of us?
Conversely, Christ told us to love one another. In complete contrast to the vehement hatred coming our way from the world, we are told, “love one another, as I (Jesus) have loved you.” I won’t expand too much on this. A friend of mine wrote a fairly comprehensive piece on it, which you can find here.
I will add this, though: we’re many grains, made into one bread. We’re born again, not to be an isolated island, but into the body. A house divided against itself, cannot stand. It is akin to cancer, for one body part to depsise another, and hence Paul tells us to “put off all envy, malice, and division” as being carnal and unbecoming of the born again. In James, we’re told to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
In the context of debate, what does that look like?
Does it look like love, to twist the words of someone, and force them to defend themselves? Does it look like love, to smear a persons name for something they have written? To take a second hand account of their opinion as if it were their own, and trash their name for it? To even entertain hearsay and what Scripture calls “backbiting”, without stopping to ask, “Is that what they were saying?”? To come to a discussion without being open to the idea that, as a human in a broken world, you just may be the one who has it wrong?
When you argue – and note that I use the word argue in the definition of presenting a case for or against something, rather than the term “bicker” and “quarrel” - do you look more like the example set out in James, or like the fool of Proverbs 18:2, who is not interested in understanding, but only in giving voice to his opinion?
Do you read what is written, before commenting? Do you let someone finish speaking, or do you cut them off before they finish? Have you asked for an explanation where you are unsure? When someone speaks, is your first thought about the person speaking, or about the words they are say?
And while we’re being introspective, would you enjoy it if you were treated in the way you treat others? Are you “doing unto others”?
Going further, do you provide good reason when you are in disagreement with something which has been said? Is your reasoning sound? And why does that matter anyway?
Well, if we’ve accepted that truth is Christ’s, and that fallacy is Satan’s (bearing in mind that the word “fallacy” is quite literally the opposite of the word “truth”), our only option as those born again into the truth, putting on the new man, leaving carnal things behind, is to reject fallacy. Reject falsehood. Reject sloppy thing. Reject logical fallacy.
Seek truth. Seek clarity. Embrace the Light.
What then, shall we all become robots, psychopaths, or androids, devoid of emotions? Shall we break everything down to ones and zeros? Reject the very real emotions with which we were created “in His image”?
Obviously not: we know that God made all things “good”, not just “good enough”. There is a perfect standard, even for emotions. The flip side of this is that, while we are living on this side of the Second Coming, we must accept that we cannot measure up to the perfect standard, so it is just as possible to be wrong in our emotions, as it is in our thoughts. Just like we need to “hold every thought captive”, we find we need to compare our feelings to a perfect standard.
If then, our feelings can cloud our reason, and our pride may blur our discernment, shouldn’t we constantly be checking if we are being good reflectors at every moment, doing everything we can to make sure that our emotions are not what is preventing us from “speaking the truth in love?”
I’ll not say that I’ve got it right, but I will take as example a recent experience. In the last week, I was having a fairly intense debate with someone, on social media, and both of us argued with vigour, and with passion. Both of us presented our case, for or against. But we discussed the topic. And only the topic. And midway through, the person who I was having this argument with had the audacity to tell me that he was praying for me. Instantly humbled, I did the same, and I gotta tell say: it’s awful hard to go after a person when you’re praying for them.
So, what then? Pray for everyone you argue with? Who has time for that? I mean, we’ve got time to talk to our workmates about some idiot on the internet, but who has time to say a quick prayer for him?
Imagine how we could grow, if argument meant trying to find the truth, instead of being seen as divisive. Imagine how much closer the body would become to each other, if we managed on the one hand, to be sensitive to the feelings of one group, while on the other also managing to become open to the reasoning of the other group.
Imagine we all actively aimed to find the perfect balance of truth and love. Don’t you see? It’s not a dichotomy! It’s not one or the other! It’s both! Perfect truth, perfect love; Perfect reason, perfect emotions.
That’s the new man we’re meant to put on! That’s the postion we’re redeemed to by blood. What we were bought for. Why we were made bondservants of Christ and heirs to salvation. That’s how we come to “love one another”.
Are you going to settle for anything less?
Monday, 6 June 2016
We can’t touch it, yet we can feel it; is it real?
We can’t see it, but we see the effects of it; what does it look like?
We might say we love our family, parents, husband, wife, kids, boyfriend or girlfriend, and friends; we also might say we love camping, chocolate, music, our jobs, exercise or food.
We use the one word for so many things. English only has one word for love, and this, I believe, leads to the confusion and the lack of a clear understanding. In Greek there are four words that are translated into the word love in English. I believe that exploring this will help us to understand what love is.
The four words are: Agape, Phileo, Storge and Eros. I will like to go over each word.
AgapeThis is the love God has for us. It is the moral love, charity, the love for all. It is the love that makes us care when someone we don’t know falls over.
God is Agape. This is the perfect love that all other love is based on. We fail to achieve this fully.
So what does Agape love look like? In a word, it is selflessness. Self-sacrifice is focusing on what you are losing. Love [agape] is focusing on other people more than one’s self. If you are thinking about what you are giving up, your focus is on yourself and not the other.
The main thing about Agape is that it comes from action, not a warm and fuzzy feeling or emotion. It is the actions which flow from love that we may not enjoy or even suffer for. God so loved [agape] that He gave His Son. This doesn’t feel good, it’s not like it would be enjoyable; it was the loving thing to do. Christ so loved [agape] that He gave his life. He didn’t want to die; He died and suffered for us out of love [agape]. He did what God wanted. Like a mother who is up all night cleaning the vomit from her child: she doesn’t exactly want to do it - no doubt would rather sleep - it’s not something she would enjoy. That is a true act of agape [love], it is action not a feeling.
We can now see agape love is a choice. It is an act of will and not emotion or feeling. This is why God commands us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). He is not telling us to “have warm and fuzzy feelings” for them. He is telling us to obey Him and treat them in love for the sake of their long term profit.
We know that we love (agape) God by the fact that we keep His commandments. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me…” (John 14:21a). There are some Christians who say that they love [agape] God, but how they conduct themselves and their lifestyle is contrary to the will of God. They mistake their feelings of affection for God, for true agape love. Jesus made it clear when he said: “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching…” (John 14:24a).
The “loving” thing to do is not always easy, and true love is not always “mushy sentimental feel good emotion”. There is often a cost to genuine love. For example: punishing criminals to keep people safe is loving but not easy or pleasant; Asking someone to leave because their actions show they persist in flagrant sin is loving, but it is never easy (1 Cor. 5:1-5). It is not to say that agape love cannot have feelings attached with it; ideally the loving thing to do, should also be what we want to do. We are to be known for our love to one another (John 13:35)
PhileoThis refers to friendship, associate, cherish, neighbour and objects.
“To have a special interest in someone or something, frequently with focus on close association; have affection for, like, consider someone a friend.” This is also the love that exists after a relationship (romantic, boyfriend/girlfriend) ends.
Due to only having one word for love in English, this phileo love manifests itself in the form of terms of endearment, such as: mate, dude, bud, man, dear, darling, and girl. You may even hear females call each other babe, darling, or gorgeous. It also come across with “I love ice cream”. It would probably be better if it wasn’t translated into the word “love”, but was translated to "cherish" or "respect". Phileo is a love of strong emotion, or a deep friendship. You can agape your enemies, but not phileo them.
The difference between agape and phileo becomes very clear in John 21:15ff, but unfortunately it is lost in almost all English translations. After being raised from the dead, Jesus met Peter. Here is the short version of what they said to each other.
Jesus: Simon…do you love (agape) me more than these [fish?].
Peter: Yes, Lord; you know that I love (phileo/cherish) you.
Jesus: Simon…do you…love (agape) me?
Peter: Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo/cherish) you.
Jesus: Simon…do you love (phileo/cherish) me?
Peter: [Grieved] “Lord…you know that I love (phileo/cherish) you.”
StorgeThis is the love and affection that just naturally occurs between parents and children, it can exist between siblings, and exists between husbands and wives in a good marriage.
It occurs in Romans 12:10 in the word, philostorgos, which is a compound word made up of philos (the noun form of phileo) and storge. Romans 12:10 is a very important verse, directing us to be very loving and kind to each other.
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;”
Storge is unique; Ask any parent and I am sure they will all tell you this type of love just happens instantly. They probably would not be able to tell you when it happened.
I am not going to go into Eros, but what is true for the other three loves is true for Eros. For more info read Song of Solomon.
What does this mean in practice?In 1 Corinthians 13 it talks about love, the word it uses is agape. We can use this to understand what love should look like. How we should act and to see when people are not being loving.
”Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
“Love does not envy”
Envy is coveting; wanting something you don’t have, whereas jealousy is of something that belongs to you. In Exodus 20 it says that God is jealous. He is jealous of our attention. It belongs to Him, so when we give it to other gods, His jealousy is provoked, or aroused. You are jealous of your husband’s or wife’s attention and envious of someone’s car or boat etc.
This means we need to stop insulting others over the things they have that we are envious of. We need to stop insulting people because we are envious of the confidence they have, that they are better at soccer then us, we think they are better looking than we are. The insulting of each other needs to stop: it’s not loving. Strong people lift others up weak people bring others down, we need to stop being weak.
Love “does not seek its own”
This means saying “if you love me you..” is not love, but emotional manipulation. It is not selfless. It also means we should not worry about who is right or wrong, but be focused on what is right. Even if we are wrong it doesn’t mean the other view is right. We should look past our own feelings and emotions, and ask "What is the truth? What does God want?"
If you are dating, and feel like you need to earn their love, get out. If you are married, get marriage counselling. That is an unhealthy relationship and is likely to be emotionally and mentally manipulative and abusive, and could end up being physically abusive.
Love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth”
This is saying you need to speak the truth in agape (remember this is not always easy to do). If someone is doing something you don’t agree with you need to speak up, in love. If you don’t, you are a silent witness and are just as guilty as if you were doing it. It also means white lies are not loving, and yes, sometimes the truth is uncomfortable to receive and people may feel hurt. The passive aggressive behaviour that is prevalent needs to stop, it is not loving it is cowardly. We need to call people up on it, and speak the truth even if it’s hard to do, out of love.
Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” We are commanded to love, which tells us that there is never a good reason not to show or give love to someone; love is never wasted. If love could be wasted, then it could also be earned and would no longer be a gift. We did not deserve Gods love when He sent His son. We did not earn Gods Love, nor did we earn our parent’s love. All love is a gift we don’t deserve. We do not, can not, earn it. Accept the love that people give to you freely, as a precious and beautiful gift. Love is not wasted or earned. It is freely given.
We need to love our self to love othersWe are commanded to agape love all people by God. In Mathew 22:39 it says “You shall Love your neighbour as yourself”. I ask you this: if you hate yourself, can you love your neighbour? And is not hating yourself breaking the 6th commandment (kill)? You must love yourself in order to love others. Have you ever thought “I don’t deserve to be loved” or “I’m not good enough”? You would be right. We are no better than Hitler, Nero, Rahab, Saul, Attila the Hun, Hosea’s wife, or Ted Bundy. Like everyone else we all deserve to spend eternity in hell. It is only through the grace of God, which He gives us in love, that we are saved; not because we are “good enough”.
Proverbs 13 talks about discipline and says “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves [agape] him disciplines him promptly” it uses agape. My point is that if a child does something stupid and you point it out, but fail to do so in love there is a high chance they will grow up believing they are stupid. Parents, do you tell your children they are or did something stupid, dumb, or silly more then you tell them they are loved, or that you love them?
We need to stop being self-absorbed. Stop thinking about how ugly, stupid or useless we are. We are all a zero out of ten. We all fail to keep the commandments. Instead, focus on other people; focus on lifting others up. Stop thinking about how you look, and if people like you. Stop looking at others and wishing you were as good looking, as confident, as talented.
Youth, lift each other up. Call out the hypocrisy and the cowardly behaviour. Defend your fellow youth who are being picked on. Help each other, motivate each other, and challenge each other.
Imagine: "What would the Church be like, if everyone was lifting each other up instead of pulling each other down?"
Yours in agape,
Jared den Harder
Saturday, 27 June 2015
"And the Word became flesh..." John 1: 14
"So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them." Genesis 1: 27
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Genesis 2: 24
"He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?" Matthew 19: 4,5
Wednesday, 29 April 2015
In the months leading up to, and through the hours in the wake of, the execution of convicted drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran, social media and the mainstream news have been flooded with the opinions of many. On the one hand we have those who fully support the execution, and on the other hand we have those who laud mercy as the superior standard.
It is a topic surrounded by emotions, and there are some terrible arguments being used by both sides. So, what are we to think?
Mercy is better:
But how is it better? And is mercy at loggerheads with justice?
I suggest that this cannot be the case: without the standard of justice, mercy is meaningless. Unless you know exactly what it is that you deserve, there is no value in getting the opposite.
This is precisely the case of the Cross. God's justice demands that payment be made for all that we have done wrong. Each and every one of us deserve no less than an eternity of suffering for each and every single slight against the infinite holiness and majesty of a perfectly good God. And this is precisely the standard which gives the merciful death of Christ its value.
Further to this, as if the death of Christ is not compelling enough, if we take the stance that mercy is better, we cripple ourselves as a nation. Should we abolish gaols altogether? Merciful freedom is better than just incarceration.
They were rehabilitated:
Yes, it seems that they were. However, actions still have consequences, and these are not necessarily removed by a change in character. The consequences of a promiscuous life include several sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are devastating to the bearer, but these diseases remain, regardless of whether or not the previously promiscuous person has begun a life of celibacy.
The two men had also become followers of Christ, and without detracting from this beautiful conversion, it bears mention that these are not the first two men to suffer consequences of crime after they are saved. We go back to the Cross, and we see a man repent next to our crucified saviour, even admitting that he deserved to be there while Christ did not, and we hear the words of Jesus, "Today you will be with me in paradise." It was not, "you are free, get down from the cross and go your merry way", it was "bear the consequences in this life, I will bear them in the next."
It is also worth noting that, while they sung hymns before the firing squad, these men were killed while in His Name, but not for His Name.
Were they? I've read and heard many times that these deaths were needless, pointless, and that the Indonesian government did not need to go through with the executions. But does it hold up?
I suggest that the opposite is true. Much like a parent does not want to (or get pleasure from) punish their child, and much like God does not wish for men to perish (see 2 Pet 3, if you think my theology is a bit off there), so the Indonesian government does not, necessarily, want to execute people, or take any pleasure from it.
But they did not have a choice. Much like the parent who has set a boundary to never be crossed, and much like God telling Israel "Jericho is mine; take from it and be destroyed", they didn't have a choice but to follow up the crime with the consequence of discipline. They were put in that position by the two men.
When a child accepts the risk of a punishment and crosses the line, when Achan, with full awareness of the punishment God had declared for disobedience, took from the spoils of Jericho, they take upon themselves the responsibility for the consequences. The same applies to Chan and Sukamaran.
What goes up, comes down. Throw a rock up into the air, and be standing underneath it, and it will hit you in the face. It's not that the rock hates you, or does it out of spite; the rock is just following the rules, and you experience the exact consequences you took upon yourself when you hoisted the rock into the air.
Their country, their laws:
This argument is usually used by lefties, in defense of other cultures.
"Oh, it's their culture to behead homosexuals, Christians, and Jews."
"It's their culture to mutilate the female anatomy, to have child brides, and to beat women."
"It's cultural to separate people based on castes."
Bemusing, then, to see the same reasoning used by conservatives - Christians, no less!
This kind of thinking is a product of relativism, and can be boiled down to the point where it is impossible to say that anything is either right or wrong, even in our own country.
Obviously, the opposite is true: we do not need to accept unjust laws. We rail against abortion because it is an injustice of the highest degree. We oppose same sex marriage because of the injustice (among other things) which follows, to children and society. The Americans had a revolution, sparked by an injustice in tax, by law. Daniel refused to give up prayer to YAHWEH, as it was an unjust law. Same applies to his three friends who were thrown into fire for refusing the unjust command to worship a gold statue. Clearly, we can and must rebel against bad laws, so to say "their country, their laws, mind your own business" is not a good argument to make.
So, what do we think then?
I can only tell you what is known for sure, and let you make up your own mind.
What we know, is that Chan and Sukamaran are responsible for their own punishment, even death.
We know that they were saved, and that (as far as we can tell) they are in paradise today, alongside the repentant criminal on Golgotha.
We know that they shared the gospel with fellow inmates, and reportedly saw others, even on death row, saved by Christ.
We know that justice, as hard and unpleasant a concept as it may be, was metered out in this life; that the sword to limit crime was used, and that the line once set still sits in the same spot.
So, we can mourn that sin entered this world, and through sin, death. We can weep that Andrew and Myuran were contaminated by the same original sin, the same total depravity, as the rest of mankind. But we can rejoice that these two men did not die in their sin, but Christ. We can jump with excitement at the mention of their impact on other inmates. And we can dance in the knowledge that, like Chan and Sukamaran, our consequences - our hurt, our sickness, even death itself - may remain a little longer in this life, but they have already been defeated, and removed forever by the blood and broken flesh of Christ on the cross.
Monday, 9 March 2015
Why make sure you've got the facts, when you have a perfectly plump and juicy bit of gossip, right?