Psalm 10

One cannot go through life without having to deal with evil in the form of two-faced people.  It’s just part of the human condition to experience it.  The O’Jays sang about such persons in their 1972 song, Backstabbers: 
(What they do!)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place
The back stabbers (back stabbers)
(They smile in your face)
All the time they want to take your place.
 
            The psalmist knew such people all too well.  “They curse and tell lies, and all they think about is how to be cruel or how to do wrong.”  Outwardly they feign friendship while inwardly they sneer and plot how to destroy.  But the reality is that God sees all of it, both inside and out.  And God will act.
 
            Meanwhile, until God dispenses his will on both the evil and the good, the righteous remain hopeful and confident that their cries are being heard and that divine protection will prevail.  “You listen to the longings of those who suffer.  You offer them hope, and you pay attention to their cries for help.”
 
            It was the Apostle Paul who said: “Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  The way to face down the presence of hard-hearted people is to:  1) cry out to God in prayer; and, 2) not be passive or take revenge, but actively work for good.  If we can encourage one another with these two things, it will go a long way toward spreading God’s kingdom in our communities.
 

 

            Just God, you defend those who are vulnerable and in need.  You will act so that no one on earth can terrify others again.  Shoo the bullying ways of Satan away in order for your benevolent kingdom to take root in the church and the world for the sake of Jesus.  Amen.

The Evil of Dehumanization

 
 
            I understand I am just one voice.  But it is a pastoral voice.  It is a voice that seeks to uphold the best of biblical ethics and human dignity.  Because every person (and I do mean every person) on planet earth is created in the image and likeness of God, each individual human being is a person of worth and deserves respect as a person.  People do and say terrible things every day.  But this never alters the biblical reality that God’s image has left or taken a vacation, or that someone deserves a pejorative label which stigmatizes and ostracizes them from the human family.  For the Christian, the supreme ethic of life is love.  We hold to the Great Commandment:  to love God and to love one’s neighbor; all other commands of Holy Scripture hang on these two bedrock commands, upheld by Jesus himself.
 
            Therefore we must all ask ourselves if we are living our lives and loving others in this world as intended by our Creator and Redeemer.  In these past few days I have had conversations, read social media posts, heard pundits and prognosticators analyze and predict, conceive and conjecture, all upon the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.  Some have been ennobling and heartwarming; others have been full of fear, ignorance, and lack of reason.  There is such a constellation of issues, fears, and problems to unpack and deal with that I do not nor cannot even begin to try to do such a task.  I only want to bring at least a small bit of light to the shadows of the human heart which inevitably tries to dehumanize others who do not agree with his/her opinion and group-think.
 
            There is no lack of people who persist in dehumanizing LGBTQ individuals and gay communities.  For example, one man told me yesterday in a matter-of-fact manner that the Orlando shooting was most likely a judgment from God upon homosexuals because of our government’s straying from godliness.  Those in LGBTQ circles are quite familiar with this kind of speech.  To label it correctly:  hate speech – dehumanizing speech.  When people of any particular kind of group, whether gay or not, are mowed-down like animals and then looked upon by another group as being nothing but animals, then we have become the apple eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
 
 
 
            Whether anyone agrees with same-sex marriage and life or not, we must come to grips with the fact that the people who were killed were human beings created in God’s image.  Therefore this was a tragedy.  If mass killings of people are to be kindred to God’s judgment, then mass murder of the unborn and mass killing of American soldiers would also be a judgment.  In other words, going down the path of claiming to know whom God judges is, at best, a journey of extreme hubris, and, at worst, germinating the seeds of a future holocaust of killing. 
 
            In the ancient context of Scripture, eunuchs were a sexual minority and excluded from most everything to do with the worship of God.  Yet, Jesus upheld their inherent worth, the apostles welcomed them into the family of God, and the prophet Isaiah foretold this would be the situation (Matthew 19:8-12; Acts 8:26-40; Isaiah 56:3-5).  Suggesting that eunuchs or any sexual minority simply be wiped off the face of the earth as not deserving of existence is more than disturbing.
 
            Yet, the light must also be shed upon those who would vilify all evangelical Christians as backward patriarchal homophobes.  When any person or group just paints a wide swath of labeling a large subculture of persons as having nothing but hate, as being monstrous, then they must come to grips with their own poverty of spirit and embrace the real love which Jesus has demonstrated and offers.
 
 
 
            No matter what side one falls on there is absolutely no biblical precedent or place to dehumanize another person or group of people, period.  Christians and churches need to stop acting and reacting to the parts of culture and society they don’t like and start living and loving like Jesus by building relationships with a broad spectrum of groups and individuals.
 

 

            It falls to the churches of this land to initiate love and to live above hate speech.  I admit that many do not have a good track record on this.  And I further admit that I have observed an eerie silence from far too many of them, as if nothing of particular consequence has happened.  This is a small and very meager attempt on my part to offer something of the loving Christ to others.  For, the church is nothing at all if it isn’t all about Jesus and his gospel of grace.

Psalm 5


             The God whom Christians serve is not a god who delights in evil.  In fact, God hates evil with a passion.  This is a good thing.  The Lord is most certainly the God of grace.  But mercy has no meaning unless there is sin.  God’s justice is an extension of his mercy.  In today’s psalm, the psalmist laments the evil of the world and finds solace in the righteousness of God.  In a world where rapists get a slap on the wrist, terrorists are found all around the globe, and politicians run amok with people’s approval, I am more than glad that God does not contend with evil and that I can find refuge in him from all the massive crud of the world.
             Notice the pervasiveness of evil:  “For there is no sincerity in their mouth; their heart is corrupt.  Their throat is an open grave; on their tongue are subtle lies.”  It is not a stretch to say that we have an egregious situation in the two leading political candidates in America; they could well be characterized by this description from the psalmist.  It is even more lamentable that far too many church members have mouth, heart, throat, and tongue issues that damage the Body of Christ.
             What to do about it?  Rely on the justice and mercy of God.  “Declare them guilty, God; make them fall by their own devices.  Drive them out for their many sins; for they have rebelled against you.”  Trust in not just a nice idea; committed belief in God is absolutely necessary for life, spiritual health, and peace in this fallen world.  We can all do our part by living a humble penitent life, attuned to the holy God who will not put up with evil forever.
             Just God, you know the hearts and tongues of every person on planet earth.  Holy God, either save them by grace or take them away so that righteousness might dwell in every corner of your creation.  Amen.