You come home late at night ready for a good night’s sleep. But you can’t find your key and don’t have your cell phone. You try to reason and tamp down the panic that is starting to surface. It is almost totally dark and you start to imagine all sorts of dreadful scenarios. At first you are angry at yourself and the situation, then in gradually mounting increments you experience—concern, worry, suspicion, fear and finally terror. Now try to imagine your 1st Century brethren in Christ whose fears were genuine as they hid in caves and catacombs.
Sometimes fear is like the above illustration in that it hibernates and increases until the adrenaline kicks into the fight or flight mode. At other times it seems to pass through all those stages almost instantaneously. There seems to be a very tenuous line between confidence and peace and fear. All the platitudes of those not involved in the cold, paralyzing reality of the moment usually ring hollow when we are the ones passing through the “valley of the shadow of death.” (Ps 23:4)
How then should the Christian cope with such a perverse enemy as death? As always, they rely on God’s promises. When confronted with the actual physical death in battle, God says to the children of Israel, “…do not be fainthearted, afraid or terrified, The Lord your God will fight for you…” (Dt 20:3) (Dt 1:21) When Pharaoh tried to kill Moses, he was afraid but God rescued him. (Ex 2:14-15) Christ’s apostles were afraid of death in the winds and waves but Jesus asked, “…why are you so afraid?” right before he calmed the storm. (Mt 8:26) Jesus also told the synagogue ruler, Jairus, not to be afraid, just believe, and then healed his daughter. (Mk 5:36)
It is not only in life or death situations that we hear God saying, “Do not be afraid.” In our daily struggles with Satan and other humans He continually tells us not to fear. “Let not your hearts be troubled” (Jo 14:27) “The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6) “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” (Ps 27:1) In many other verses God reassures us that He is right there with us. (Ge 26:24) (Ps 56:3-4) etc. Even if our life should be taken, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Mt 10:28) He will be there to transport our soul to glory. (1 Thes 4:16-18)
Diversity and/or conformity can be very contentious actions if they are mandated, whether by governments (limiting free speech on campuses) or religion (Sharia law). Without curtailing choice, both can be good things. Most people enjoy learning about different food, dress, languages, and even ideas from those outside their own culture. Chaos and anarchy would rule if each person refused to conform to national, state, and local laws.
Diversity is a very Biblical concept. The Jews were not a totally monolithic people. They absorbed and intermarried with other cultures. Hagar was the Egyptian servant of Sarai and had a son named Ishmael from the seed of Abram. (Gen 21:9) Ruth was a Moabitess who married Boaz and whose descendant was King David. The members of the first Christian church were from many nations. (Acts 2:5-11) God has always loved the Gentiles (non-Jews) and had a plan for their inclusion into His church. (Is 49:6) (Acts 11:18) (Acts 13:16) (Rom 3:29) Jesus said the gospel was to be preached to the whole world before the end will come. It seems that heaven will be a very diverse place. In fact, whosoever wishes may come and drink of the free gift of the water of life. (Rev 22:17) (Rom 10:11-12)
All of these diverse, joyous souls in heaven will be those who have yielded their stubborn will to Christ and conformed themselves to his pattern. (Rom 12:2) (1 Pe 1:14-15) (Eph 1:11) (1 Tim 1:11) Paul tells us that we should all speak the same thing. (1 Cor 1:10) Peter adds that what we speak has to conform to the oracles of God. (1 Pe 4:11) Nevertheless, we can be diverse in disputable matters (Rom 14:1) if we are making every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification. When we look around us during a worship service in the Lord’s congregation we’ll see a wonderfully diverse group all striving to conform to Christ’s image and commands. (Jo 14:15) (Jo 15:17)
I am basically ignorant of many aspects of my culture—math, science and music to name a few. I know just enough to know I don’t know much. I could learn so much more of the universe should I choose to invest the time, effort, and perhaps money toward that goal. However, I willfully choose to enjoy other areas of life such as language. Therefore I am ignorant in the sense of refraining from noticing and regarding information—ignoring it. The real meaning of ignorant is lack of knowledge, uninformed and unaware rather than being dull of mind and wits as it is sometimes used nowadays. Those who willfully ignore become ignorant or lack knowledge or learning about a particular subject.
When this attitude is present in one’s spiritual life it is much more dangerous than in the secular area. It might lead one to be, “ignorant and unstable and distort the scriptures.” (2 Pe 3:16) Others could store up wrath from God because of their “stubbornness and unrepentant heart.” (Rom 2:5) Those who are ignorant of God need to, “come back to their senses.” (1 Cor 15:33-34) One cannot be like the scoffers who followed their own evil desires by ignoring God’s patience concerning his coming again. (2 Pe 3:3-9) Paul told some would-be prophets, “…what I am writing is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.” (1 Cor 14:37-38)
IF one ignores or outright rebels towards God’s eternal power and divine nature, that one is without excuse (Rom 1:20) and has, “refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thes 2:10-12)
Finally, some good news. If one is not delighting in his wickedness nor willfully ignoring God’s commands, he can rejoice and take comfort in the scripture that says, “He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray.” (Heb 5:2) God did not ignore ignorance in past times but He did overlook it until now when He commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) We can follow such an example by, “….having patience and overlooking an offense.” (Pr 19:11)
Nearly all of us has seen the figurine of the 3 monkeys—See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil. It seems to exemplify the attitude of many celebrities, politicians, athletes, and ordinary people when dealing with mistakes, embarrassing behavior and sin. Toby Keith, the country singer, had a hit with the song “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” There are at least 3 wrong types of attitudes that allow people to “move on” and distance themselves from bad behavior and sin—Justify it, Ignore it and Deny it.
Truthfully, it is nearly impossible to unsee, unhear, unspeak or undo the past. Humans have tried different methods of avoidance such as monasteries, convents, and caves to try to keep from committing sin in the first place. But monks, nuns and hermits still have to deal with their thoughts of the past.
In today’s society it is harder and harder to avoid seeing and hearing evil on a daily basis. Speaking evil is more of a personal decision yet hard to suppress. (Js 3:6-12) Rather than trying to repair the past we can replace it.
The Christian RX for these 3 evils is a proactive course. We have to acknowledge the sin, have it forgiven and then adopt the new mind and new life spoken of by the apostle Paul. (Rom 12:2) Our thoughts should now be on the qualities of: truth, nobility, right, purity, loveliness, whatever is admirable, excellence and praiseworthiness. (Php 4:8-9) We no longer have to dwell on our old mistakes and sins because God doesn’t. (Jer. 31:34) (Heb 8:12) No more justification that “Everybody does it” or “It’s not as bad as what others do.” No more claiming it never happened or completely ignoring it. We don’t have to force the toothpaste back into the old tube, we now have a new tube and can MOVE ON.
During World War II most Americans supported the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation of their country. Depending upon one’s perspective, resistance can be a positive or negative action. We would probably feel justified at opposing, withstanding and striving against any government or corporation which attempted to unjustly deprive us of rights or possessions. On the other hand, we might consider some military groups who used violent resistance against a fairly elected government as terrorists instead of a resistance movement.
Christians are told by God to obey and pray for those in authority even when they don’t share our moral beliefs. (Rom 13:1-6) (Tit 3:1) (1 Tim. 2:1-2) (Heb 13:17) We are allowed to obey God rather than men as Peter and John did in Acts 4:19-20.
Satan is an enemy whom we can and must resist. When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil for 40 days, he resisted by quoting scripture. (Mt 4:1-11) However, Luke writes that the devil only left Christ until an opportune time. (Lk 4:1-13) James tells us to resist the devil and he will flee (Js 4:7) but he will always be prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Pet 5:8) Peter knew this first-hand because he had let Satan use him to tempt Jesus. (Mt 16:23) (Lk 22:31-32) The devil used Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) and, of course, Judas to do his evil deeds. (Lk 22:3)
The Lord said to Cain just before he killed his brother Abel, “…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must resist it.” (Gen 4:7) In Revelation (3:20) we read of another door at which Christ knocks and promises to come in and eat with whomever will open the door for him. How tragically sad that most people resist opening this door and readily open the one behind which Stan is crouching. It often seems as if mankind welcomes and embraces rather than resists temptation.