“In Any Translation, God is GOD” ( Leviticus 19:18, Many Versions ) by Carley Evans


Vincent van Gogh, 1890. Kröller-Müller Museum....
Vincent van Gogh, 1890. Kröller-Müller Museum. The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In every translation, God reminds us that He is God — the LORD, the Lord, Jehovah, Yahweh. He states this at the end of the verse in every translation. Usually the most important point in a statement comes at its end. So, let’s agree that the key element in this command is that we remember and recognize that God is God! Next, in order of importance, is that we treat others — whether our friends or our neighbors — as we treat ourselves. Finally, we are not to hold grudges or seek revenge or remember and remind others of their wrongdoings. We are to forgive, in other words. Here is the same verse in a variety of translations; read each carefully.

“Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people; but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am Jehovah.” (ASV)

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (ESV)

“Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.” (HCSB)

“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” (KJV)

“Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am the Lord.” (NCV)

““‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (NIV 1984)

“Thou shalt not seek vengeance, neither thou shalt be mindful of the wrong of thy citizens (nor shalt thou remember the wrong-doings of thy fellow citizens); thou shalt love thy friend as thyself; I am the Lord.”(WYC)

“Seek not revenge, nor be mindful of the injury of thy citizens. Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself. I am the Lord.” (DRA)

“Don’t seek revenge or carry a grudge against any of your people. “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am God.” (MSG)

 

“Mercy: The Highest Standard” ( Colossians 3: 13, NCV ) by Carley Evans


English: Nablus image in Palestine, Never Forg...
English: Nablus image in Palestine, Never Forgive, Never Forget (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.”

Paul says to put up with each other. He says put up with your friends’ faults, your neighbors’ mistakes, your enemies’ wrongs. He reminds you to forgive the other person “because the Lord forgave you.”

I ask you — what’s more critical: to hold the other to a high standard of behavior or to forgive the other for not reaching that high standard?

I maintain Jesus comes to earth to give us the highest standard which is mercy. James tells us that “mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 3:13, NIV) He writes:

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” (James 3:12-13)

Yes, Jesus tells you to be perfect because your Heavenly Father is perfect. But God’s perfection is attained not by your groping efforts or by your demand for good behaviors, but through the mercies of Christ on the cross. The blood of bulls and goats are not able to appease God’s wrath; only mercy is capable of bringing you to holiness.

Therefore, Jesus says:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 7:27-28, NIV)

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that… But love your enemies, do good to them without expecting to get anything back.” (Luke 7:32-33, 35; NIV)

“Do good…without expecting anything…” Ultimately that is the Christian life : being merciful.

“A Certain Naivete” ( 1 Corinthians 13: 6-7, KJV ) by Carley Evans


Allegorical personification of Charity as a mo...

Charity, continues Paul is not thrilled with sin and falsity; rather charity rejoices in the Truth. Charity stands up under the weight of “all things.” Charity believes “all things;” charity hopes “all things;” charity endures “all things,” lasting forever. Paul writes to the church at Corinth that charity:

 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

A certain naivete exists in the heart of the Christian — we must resist evil, but at the same time not let it embitter us. We must hope for the change that must come to all men and women and children if they are to put evil behind them. We must keep charity in our hearts for each of God’s creation. Jesus says:

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37, KJV)

The next time someone runs a red traffic light while I am making a left turn on my yellow light so that we nearly collide, I’m going to trust God’s judgment and leave my bitterness out of my naivete.

 

“Ready To Forgive” ( Psalm 86:5, KJV ) by Carley Evans


In Brooklyn this fall, my daughter and I attended a street fair centered around the arts — In one particular open air building, several people were giving away large, colorful bags. A few other people were handing out orangeade and lemonade sodas — for FREE! We were even allowed to come back for seconds — yes, the sodas were very good! on a hot day in New York.

David the psalmist sings:

“For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”

Of course, the difference between the street givers and the Lord is immense — the street givers are actually advertisers; they expect you to purchase their products at a later time and in great quantity. They hope this, anyway. On the other hand, God truly gives. Yes, He has expectations. His hope is that you will accept His gift so He may have a relationship with you through His Son, Jesus via His Holy Spirit.

And no need for seconds — this relationship lasts your lifetime and His!

“Open Wide Your Hearts” ( 2 Corinthians 6: 13, NIV ) by Carley Evans


One of the most difficult aspects of human relationships is maintaining an open heart to the other person. Perhaps the person on the first occasion you open your heart stabs it or pricks it, either to break it or to cause it to bleed. You’re bruised or even battered by this attack. How do you keep your heart open to that person?

Look at Paul for a moment. He writes to the church at Corinth,

“We speak freely to you, Corinthians, and open wide our hearts to you. We do not withhold our affection from you, but you withhold yours from us. As a fair exchange — I speak as to my children — open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13, NIV)

I find it bewildering that brothers and sisters in Christ close off their hearts to one another in direct violation to the command to love one another. I find it horrifying that brothers and sisters in Christ proclaim to hate or dislike one another because ‘he doesn’t believe in…” or “she practices this…” or whatever excuse comes to mind.

Paul says to the Corinthians:

“Make room for us in your hearts. We wrong no one, we corrupt no one, we exploit no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” (2 Corinthians 7:2-4)

Paul, with great kindness, tells the Corinthians of his pride in — his encouragement from — his joy because of –, and his special love for — them. Now, though he hurt them in his earlier letter, he tells them to open their hearts again to him, as his heart remains open to them.

Father God, help us to truly forgive ourselves and others so that our hearts may remain fully open to the other. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

“Always A Consequence” ( Acts 5: 1 – 10, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Familiar with the expression ‘I’m my own worst enemy’? God does not punish us when we fall into a sin — that punishment fell upon Jesus as He suffered and died on a cross. But, though God forgives and forgets our sin, a consequence always follows. Some consequences are relatively minor; others are devastating.

Ananias and Sapphira, when learning that Joseph — you know, Barnabas — has sold his field and given all the monies to the disciples to help the needy among the brothers and sisters in the Lord, decide to do the same. However, rather than tell the truth, they lie. They pretend they are giving the whole amount gained from selling their piece of property. When confronted by Peter, Ananias falls down and dies. Later, Sapphira is given the opportunity to ‘come clean’ so to speak. But, she lies — telling Peter that the monies given represent the entire price of the property. Peter tells her bluntly she is going to die. And she does.

Seems like punishment, doesn’t it?

But, I maintain it is not. Rather, their deaths are consequences. For all we know, Ananias had a heart attack and Sapphira a stroke upon being confronted with such a public shame. Imagine it: the entire church body is “sharing everything.” (Acts 4:32) And, “there are no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:34) Barnabas generously shares all he has gained from selling his field. Ananias and Sapphira are jealous — they want the attention and acclaim Barnabas obviously receives.

This couple lies to God, the Holy Spirit. As Peter says, “How can you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look!” (Acts 5:9)

Public shame, pride, and their unforgiving spirits — yes, their unwillingness to ask for and receive forgiveness — these kill Ananias and Sapphira.

“All My Sins Behind Your Back” ( Isaiah 39: 17, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


In a poem addressed to the Lord God Almighty, Hezekiah praises Him, writing: “Your Love has delivered me from the Pit of destruction, for You have thrown all my sins behind Your back.”

This same king, perhaps only a few days later, has a visit from the son of Baladan, the king of Babylon. Merodach-baladan brings letters and a gift because Baladan has heard that Hezekiah was sick but is recovered from his illness. Hezekiah is so happy with the gift he shows off his entire treasure house. “There is nothing in his palace and in all his realm that Hezekiah does not show them.”

When Isaiah tells Hezekiah, “Hear the Word of the Lord of Hosts: The time will come when everything in your palace and all that your fathers have stored up until this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will be left” and warns that even some “descendants who come from you will be taken away”; Hezekiah is pleased because this isn’t to happen during his lifetime.

Here’s a man who is deathly ill, recovers by God’s grace, praises God for “throwing all [his] sins” where they are not seen or thought of any longer — who, only awhile later, is foolish and cowardly, quickly forgetting the nature of his God.

Isaiah writes, “Comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” “See, the Lord God comes with strength, and His power establishes His rule. His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him. He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers His lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those who are nursing.” (Isaiah 40:1-2, 10-11)

For whatever flaws and faults Hezekiah carries with him, he is nevertheless carried gently by His Savior in the folds of His garment. His iniquity is pardoned, and he receives double from the Lord’s hand. His labor is ended. Most importantly, the reward of the Lord is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him. Without Jesus Christ the Shepherd, the lambs only wander.

Let us be grateful our God has “thrown all [our] sins behind [His] back!”

“Reconciled” ( Genesis 33: 8, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Jacob sees Esau coming toward him with 400 men at his side. Quickly Jacob arranges his children among Leah, Rachel, and two slave women, perhaps in an effort to protect as he puts Joseph in the rear position. He goes on ahead, bowing seven times as he approaches his brother, Esau. Jacob, by bowing seven times, is telling his brother that he sincerely regrets earlier deceptions and is ready to submit to the older of the twins.

But Esau surprises Jacob, hugging and kissing him. Together, they weep as they reconcile.

When Esau sees the women and children, he wants to know about “this whole procession” and what it means. Jacob answers that his intention is to “find favor” with his brother. (Genesis 33:8) Esau tells Jacob to “keep what you have.” He says that he “has enough, my brother.” (Genesis 33:9) Jacob says he has seen “God’s face” in the face of his brother and so pressures Esau to “take my present” “since you have accepted me.” (Genesis 33:11, 10) Esau relents and accepts the gift Jacob brings him — now, what is this gift?

I suspect it is the two slave women and their children who are first in the procession. Jacob gladly gives these persons to his brother so as to appease him and show his gratitude for his forgiveness. We know Jacob does not give away Rachel or Leah or his children by them; but he gives Esau something of value, something Esau sees. “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?” (Genesis 33:8) Esau even attempts to leave some of his own people with Jacob, in a kind of tit-for-tat exchange, but Jacob protests, “Why do that? Please indulge me, my lord.” (Genesis 33:15)

So, they part reconciled; Esau going back to Seir and Jacob going to Succoth.

“What Jesus Does” ( Jude 9, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Even the archangel Michael when debating with Lucifer about the body of Moses dares not “bring an abusive condemnation against” the devil but rather says, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9, HCSB) And we are told to leave room for God’s revenge rather than seek it on our own. God declares, “Vengeance belongs to Me; I repay.” (Deuteronomy 32:35) “No one can rescue anyone from My hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

The right-wing extremist in Norway — whether a nominal Christian or not — obviously did not leave room for God, either for God’s love or His wrath. Instead, he murdered innocent young people and attempted to assassinate the prime minister and harm the government of his own country.

Our nature is to judge and criticize one another, but Jesus tells us, “Do not judge, and you are not judged. Do not condemn, and you are not condemned. Forgive, and you are forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) Jesus tells us, “I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

Then, once you restrain yourself from judging the other, once you forgive, once you love and do what is good, once you bless and pray for those who are evil; then God, who sees, is pleased. For you are doing what Jesus does.

“Hot Anger And Steadfast Love” ( 1 John 1: 9, Psalm 86: 5; ESV ) by Carley Evans


God makes it crystal clear that He is holy and just. In Him there is no darkness. He makes it even clearer that He is merciful. Throughout His Word, He speaks of and shows off His great hatred of disobedience, sin, and waywardness. Simultaneously, He speaks of and shows off His willingness and great desire to forgive, restore, and love those He calls His own.

Our part is believing these two truths regarding the nature of God. Believing in God’s wrath necessarily leads to fear, but “perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) Our fear is rather awe of God, a marveling of God’s ability to “forgive the iniquity of Your people; You cover all their sin. You withdraw all Your wrath; You turn from Your hot anger.” (Psalm 85:2-3) “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.” (Psalm 85:11)

Jesus proclaims, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins; I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Luke 5:24)

“If we confess our sins, [You] are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.”