Animus, Curses, Mistreatment? Love is the Answer (Luke 6:26-28, NIV) by Carley Evans


27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Jesus tells His listeners — those who attend to His Words — to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, and to pray for those who mistreat them. He does not tell His listeners — those who follow after Him — to hate, curse, or mistreat their foes.

The love Jesus calls us to is not lip-service. Love is not saying, “Oh you didn’t hurt me with your cruel words” or “you didn’t damage my life with your unfair actions against me”. Rather love recognizes the harm done and calls on us to turn the other cheek. Love demands we go out of our way to do good in response to evil.

Love does not hide. God tells us that perfect loves literally drives out fear. And, perfect love keeps no record of wrongs, reminds Paul. Love never fails, never angers, never gives up.

We are to persevere in the face of mistreatment. We are never to return an insult with an insult of our own. We are never to be bitter when evil appears to succeed. Rather we are to pray — and we are not to pray for our enemy’s demise, but we are to pray for our enemy’s benefit.

Love desires what is best for the other — always.

 

Save Some of Them (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NIV) by Carley Evans


19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Paul had a fine example of how to become all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some. Of course his example is our example — the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ first transformation was in becoming an infant and growing up into a full-fledged human male, becoming like us, in other words. A slightly later transformation was in becoming a well-educated religious scholar ready to debate and educate His elders in the temple. Yes, Jesus became a Bible Scholar! A later transformation was in becoming like a sinner by joining in the revelry of sinners inside the home of a tax collector — no, He did not sin, but He was not afraid or leery of being seen with sinners. Yes, Jesus became a partygoer!

Paul took Jesus’ example to heart. Paul deliberately did not disassociate himself from others. He did not shun people because they were not Christian, or because they did not fully understand their freedom under Christ, or that they were Jews in lock step with the law, or that they persecuted him for being different from them. Rather he associated himself with all types of people and made himself similar to them in order to gain their respect, their trust, perhaps even their friendship and so save some of them.

We ought to do the same.

Sons & Heirs (Galatians 4:1-7, NIV) by Carley Evans


“4 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

Odd that Paul starts this portion of his letter with the aside, “What I am saying” as if he is fully aware that he has not yet convinced his readers in the church of Galatia of the extraordinary truths that they are no longer slaves but fully adopted sons of God and therefore are no longer under the law.

The law, reminds Paul, was only a guardian — a kind of trustee of a future inheritance –right up until Jesus died on the Cross and was subsequently resurrected and ascended to glory. At that moment, born-again believers were transformed. They were adopted as sons and therefore heirs of God’s promise to remove the yoke of the law by fulfilling every jot and stroke of that law through Christ’s sacrifice.

Once freed from the law, Paul exhorts his readers not to try to put themselves back under the yoke and burden of the law which will only drive them deeply into guilt and shame.

Instead, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV).

Called to Perfection (Romans 12:2, NIV) by Carley Evans


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2, NIV

What does Paul mean when he tells us not to conform to the pattern of the world? What is this pattern? How do we go about this renewal of our minds he mentions in his letter to the church at Rome?

The most obvious pattern of the world is selfishness. Many would use the word, evil. But I would also say that mediocrity is a pattern of our world, an acceptance of a life that is not excellent, but ordinary.

God calls us to transformation. We are to be changed (instantly at salvation and gradually over time through sanctification) by renewing our minds. We are called to be smarter.

How do we get smarter? I would say through the daily and thoughtful consumption of the Word of God. Through the Word, we learn the will of God which is perfection.

Yes, we are called to be perfect.

Paul himself struggled with this call to be perfect. He wanted to be perfect but found this calling impossible.

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:18-25, NIV)

And Paul provides the answer. The answer is a person. The answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus provides deliverance — deliverance from the pattern of the world, from evil, from mediocrity, from the ordinary. He renews our minds through His Word and through His Holy Spirit and transforms us by His Power.

 

How Many Times? (2 Peter 3:18, ESV) by Carley Evans


“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” 2 Peter 3:18, ESV.

In this single verse, the apostle Peter tells us everything we need to know about the good news of Jesus Christ.

Jesus suffered only once.

He suffered and died for sinners, for persons who did not and do not deserve His sacrifice.

Jesus suffered and died to bring sinners to God ( not God to sinners, by the way ).

And how did Jesus accomplish this miracle?

Jesus brought sinners to God by “being put to death” — in other words, by execution which implies a courtroom, a judge and a sentence of death for guilt. Whose guilt? Not His own for He was and is without sin. The guilt that Jesus was sentenced to death for is mine and yours.

So stop pointing your finger at others.

We all alike condemned Jesus to the Cross.

And stop trying to crucify others.

Jesus needed to die only once.

Instead, rejoice! I say it again, Rejoice!

God & Guns


How did the Christian walk get tangled up with gun rights and gun ownership? I’ve wondered this before but recently this question has poked me. How does the ‘far right’ conservative Christian justify carrying and using a gun? (And I don’t mean a gun for hunting; I mean a gun for self-protection, a gun for defending one’s family and home).

I can’t imagine Jesus carrying and using a gun for self-defense. Remember Jesus taking the sword from Peter’s hand on the night of His crucifixion? Peter was defending God Himself, God in the flesh. Who or what could be more important to defend than Jesus? Yet, Jesus warned Peter that those who take up the sword often die by that same sword. He took the sword from Peter’s hand and told him not to strike out at the enemy.

How did the Christian come to believe that it is a fundamental human right to take up arms against another human being? Have we forgotten that Jesus Himself said, “If the thief wants your coat, give him your shoes, too.” (Yes, I know. It’s a paraphrase!) And Jesus also declared, “If he strikes you on your cheek, turn your face and offer him the other one.”

So, if Jesus didn’t care to be defended by the sword, why would He approve of one of His followers defending property with a gun? Why would Jesus approve of killing another human being in self-defense?

Tough questions.

 

 

You Have Heard It Said


Was it November, 2015 when Paris erupted in violence because a handful of human beings decided god was on their side and therefore against the people of that great city? Was it April, 2016 when Brussels became a place of death and destruction because the same handful of human beings decided god was on their side? Was it September, 2001 when that same group of human beings decided god was against the United States of America?
A long time ago and yet today, Jesus said that if a violent man comes against you to strike you, do not resist. In fact, offer him a new target — your other cheek. (Other than Jesus, the only person I know who has done this well is Mahatma Ghandi. Martin Luther King is a close second.)
In the light of human beings who hate so much that they are willing to kill themselves to accomplish killing others, how do we reconcile Jesus’ call to not resist this level of evil?
I heard that on the morning after the attacks in Brussels, people were back at work, refusing to be afraid. And I thought of Jesus’ words, “Do not resist an evil man.” Is Jesus asking us to ignore evil and evil people? I’m not certain that’s possible. How do you ignore someone who is trying to kill you and your family? I don’t think Jesus asks us to ignore evil in others. (We are to resist evil in ourselves.) I think Jesus expects us not to resist evil people — not to take up arms against them, not to go to war against the countries they occupy, not to strike back. Does that make sense? Probably not to our limited minds. Would Hitler have gone on killing Jews if people had not resisted him? Would Stalin have decimated his own country if no one had resisted? We certainly believe these outcomes!
What sort of resistance should we offer against such evil?
I don’t know, but I do know that when I heard that the people of Brussels refused to be afraid, I was relieved. To sow fear is the main objective of a handful of human beings who believe god is on their side and against us — the real people of the world.

“Suffer the Little Children” by Carley Evans


SSPX0369Stephen King stirred me with his tweet about the odd behavior of some evangelical Christians — an almost schizophrenic behavior. Supposedly evangelicals believe God is love and know Jesus warned not to prevent children from coming to Him. Jesus said something akin to “better to put a giant grinding stone around your neck and fling yourself into the sea than to keep one of these kids from getting close to Me.” Yet, some evangelical ( or fundamentalist or conservative Christians ) are up in arms to keep destitute, desperate South American children from crossing our borders.

Well, you might argue, that doesn’t keep these kids from coming to Christ. Really? Are you sure about that?

So, let’s look at another story Jesus told.

Remember the poor man who was fell upon by robbers along a road and left for dead? Remember the supposedly decent human beings who walked right by him, not offering to help him in the least? Sounds a bit like these schizophrenic evangelical Christians who — as Paul laments — see themselves in the mirror, turn away and forget what they are supposed to look like.

Now I include myself among evangelical Christians though I am not willing to align myself with those who call themselves “conservative.” Conservative is almost a dirty word. Conservative can sometimes mean — in my mind and in the minds of many many liberal thinking persons — “narrow-minded”, “hateful”, “violent”, “racist”, “wicked” — well I could go on but then I’d be too “conservative” for my taste.

GOD is LOVE.

He doesn’t ask us to judge. He doesn’t ask us to enforce His Laws — oops. Actually the one Law God asks us to enforce is the one that says “Love others as yourself.”

If we love others, then how can we turn our backs on these children? We can’t, not if we are truly Christian.

“Making Jesus Palatable” ( Isaiah 53:3-4, KJV ) by Carley Evans


He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Jesus, lounging at the table with His disciples and His traitor, shows them a cup and says that they must drink of it – of His blood – if they wish to be in Him and have Him be in them. Then He shows them a hunk of bread and tells them they must eat of it – of His flesh – if they are to be in Him and have Him be in them. The man who sits with them is not a pretty man. His skin though richly dark and olive, is not smooth. And, His eyes are set incorrectly – one slightly higher than the other; one perhaps “lazy.” His black hair is long and unkempt. He has a rough look about Him; as if He’s seen too much of life’s sufferings and injustices. When He stands to walk, His movements are awkward as if a load too big for any man is on His shoulders.

When He asks His friends to eat and drink Him, they obey. Only one leaves because Jesus asks him to go on and do what he must do. For His disciples, Jesus is palatable. They’ve come to know, trust, and love Him as best they can. For Judas, Jesus is utterly unpalatable.

Recently, I caught a headline that a young Christian girl found the Jesus in the film, SON OF GOD “too pretty.” I’m sure the filmmakers were attempting to make Jesus palatable to the un-churched un-believers.

Those of us who are known by Jesus realize Jesus can not be made palatable. His beauty is not of the external. Through the years since His death and resurrection, western artists – for the most part – have painted Him as blue-eyed, blonde, and fair-skinned and handsome, tall, healthy.

I have a strong feeling the Jesus we meet sitting at the right hand of God the Father will look more like the people of the Middle East than we care to believe; and that He will have a ‘wonky’ eye as depicted in some early Christian icons.

Let’s stop trying to make Jesus a physical beauty and remember who He is – the Son of God.

“Making God A Liar” ( I John 1: 8-10, KJV ) by Carley Evans


If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

No, I’m not a sinner. Yes, I am a sinner. But… I’m a sinner saved by grace. Now wait a minute; I’m saved. I do not sin anymore. If I sin, that proves the Holy Spirit is not in charge of me. And if the Holy Spirit is not in charge, then I am not saved. In fact, I am lost. If I am lost, then I am a sinner.

And so on. Circular reasoning?

The author of 1 John writes that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” He adds that “if we say that we have not sinned, we make [God] a liar.”

If we claim to be sinless, “[God’s] Word is not in us.”

What we are to do is:

1) Recognize that we are sinners.

2) Confess our sins which we fall into each and every day.

3) Trust that God forgives these sins and make us righteous by His sacrifice.