Is Gossip A Benign Sin?

Many of us (probably all of us) have either engaged in gossip in one form or another, been the victim of gossip, or both. What is gossip? And is it really that bad? The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.”

That speaks to me of ‘intent’. I understand that there are times when we may need to share or process with a confident to help us think through personal issues with other people. But if the ‘intent’ is to take privileged information about people and proceed to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it, then that is gossip rather than counselling or healthy processing. And let me say that in my experience, gossip rips apart friendships, slanders good names and leaves scars and hurts that can (& often do), last lifetimes.

 In the book of Romans, Paul reveals the sinful nature and lawlessness of mankind, stating how God poured out his wrath on those who rejected his laws. Because they had turned away from God’s instruction and guidance, he gave them over to their sinful natures.

God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1:26-32

I don’t think that it should go unnoticed that the list of sins includes gossip, murderer and homosexuality, (among other sins) as being in the same category. Think about it… gossip is seen as serious as murder in the eyes of God. That should say something to us. The fact is that the sin of gossip is one of the sins that is used to characterize those who are under God’s wrath even saying that death is the deserved outcome. That’s pretty heavy news if you ask me.

And yet it seems much too often that the heinous sin of gossip is somewhat acceptable, or at least not worthy of being dealt with seriously in the church foyer or prayer group. It’s almost like we think of gossip being a benign sin.

But what would happen if we approached gossip the same way we would approach someone willfully and openly engaged in other sinful activity such as homosexuality or murder? We would absolutely deal with those scenarios in all seriousness. If so then why is gossip seemingly overlooked?

I believe that it’s part of our old natures to do so. We easily recognize stealing, anger and jealousy as sins, but we often don’t consider that gossip is also a sin. Sin is anything that goes against God’s will and his laws. To commit sin is to transgress or disobey these laws. The lust to sin dwells in our human nature deeply. In other words, it is contaminated and motivated by the sinful tendencies that dwell in all people as a result of the fall into sin and disobedience in the garden of Eden.

Problem might be in the fact that we don’t see gossip as a sin… or at least as a ‘big one’. (Which by the way is an oxymoron because there are no big or little sins. All sin is rebellion against God and all sin is serious enough in God’s eyes that it deserves the death penalty).

Here’s the thing. No sin can be considered ‘benign’. As in any sin, the results of the sin of gossip are horrendous even if we don’t think we see it: Division, strife, suspicion. Satan is all about division. He loves any opportunity he gets to break down the church family and crate disunity. It is incredible what gossip tears down. The Bible even tells us that, “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends”– Proverbs 16:28

Many a friendship has been ruined over a misunderstanding that started with gossip. Those who engage in this behaviour do nothing but stir up trouble and cause anger, bitterness, and pain among friends. Sadly, some people thrive on this and look for opportunities to destroy others.

And when such people are confronted, they deny the allegations and answer with excuses and rationalizations. And rather than admit wrongdoing, they blame someone else or attempt to minimize the seriousness of the sin, even going so far as to say things like, “Oh, I’m only sharing because I’m concerned for them.”I’ve even heard people use prayer for others as an excuse to gossip. “I’m only sharing this with you so that you can pray.”

Here’s what the bible has to say about the dangers of gossip and the potential hurt that results from it. “A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts” – Proverbs 18:7-8

 And in 2 Timothy the Apostle Paul likens it to a messy stinky disease.“But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” – 2 Timothy 2:16-17 

So How Do We Counter This Sin?

Certainly, a key to battling this sin in the church is by growing in love for one another. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

To be free from gossip, we need to grow in love. Are our words building up bonds of love, or are they tearing down? “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” – Matthew 12:34

If our mouth is quick to speak evil of the others, what does this tell us about our hearts? How much love do we have, really, if we are so eager to talk about the others behind their backs? When we have a genuine love for the others, it simply isn’t possible to gossip about them. All grievances and complaints against them disappear.

Often the love chapter in 1 Corinthians is used as a text at weddings. Truth is that though this text can be appropriate for weddings, the intent of the context of this passage speaks to us as members of the body of Christ and in our dealings with each other. Read it again, but this time read it with the picture of someone who has wronged you or is frustrating you in the church right now.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 Think about that person now after reading this with them in mind.If this is the kind of love we have for them, the mere thought of speaking against, or of gossiping about them in secret should be terrible! We need to pray to God for help so we can grow in love and show goodness and kindness towards them.

That way then, if we think someone is doing something wrong, we can pray for that person and God will show us how we can help. Perhaps we can go to the person in a spirit of love and ask them for clarification, rather than muddy the waters with gossip. It’s nearly impossible to harbour evil thoughts or to gossip against someone we are praying for. By sharing this love, we can help to bring peace and rest.

Maybe, instead of us doing the gossiping, we have been invited into a conversation where people are speaking badly about someone else. “Hey, did you hear about what he did?Let it die with you! “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” – Proverbs 26:20 

If we accept everything we hear about the others as fact right away, it shows how close the sin of gossip is to us. Even letting the idea run around in our minds is the first step on the path towards division and strife. Lies spread like wildfire.

If we allow any gossip to continue, we are just as guilty as the ones who brought it up. We need to search our hearts and ask if we have a willingness to fight against this. Do we want to be finished with this sin? If that’s where we find ourselves then we can’t allow these thoughts and actions to live when we know that they need to die. Instead we need to learn how to comfort and edify one another.

 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29 

Our mouths can be used to bless and uplift others, or they can be used for great wickedness, in speaking evil and slandering the others. “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.” – James 3:10The question is which way do we choose to use our mouths?

When we take up the battle against gossip, we can become an example for others. We can radiate a spirit so strong against gossiping that people will know that it simply isn’t acceptable and helps set the pattern and the cultural DNA in the church body of gracious speech and loving hearts.

Let’s learn to guard our tongues and refrain from the sinful act of gossip. “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbour, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” – Proverbs 11:12-13

If we surrender our natural desires to Jesus, he will help us to remain righteous. So, let’s all choose today to follow the Bible’s teaching on gossip by keeping our mouths shut unless it is to build up. And let us instead choose to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbour (who incidentally includes my church brothers and sisters), as ourselves.

“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.” – Martin Luther

Are We Guilty Of Embracing The Cult Of Judgmentalism?

One of the accusations thrown at Christians is that we are amongst the most judgemental people in the world. Interestingly enough that accusation comes equally from churched folks as it does from the none churched. Why do we have such a reputation? I don’t think that we aim to judge others – or ourselves, rather I believe that we simply don’t understand grace. For that matter I wonder if we actually believe in grace?

Before I get a few nasty notes let me say this first. I do believe that we need to make character and situational judgment calls. I’m not against judging in the right circumstances and appropriate ways. What I am talking about is ‘judgmentalism’. I believe that there is a huge difference and that I’m not simply splitting hairs. I wrote on this judging thing in another blog which you can check out by following this link:  https://thesavagetheologian.com/2017/10/30/to-judge-or-not-to-judge-what-does-jesus-say/

It’s almost like we are embracing a cult of judgmentalism instead of embracing the gospel of grace. Some time ago a Christian friend came to me in distress. He’d had too much to drink while out with some friends. He’d known them for years and would regularly drink in moderation with them, but on this occasion, he’d lapsed in his self-control. As far as he was concerned, he’d just blown several years of witnessing to them.

We have a prayer ministry offered every Sunday at the end of the service, called the connection corner. We were thinking about how we could encourage more people to make use of it, when one lady said, “Well I’d never use it. I’d hate for other people to assume that I had a problem.” Seriously? Unfortunately, it was serious.

Both these incidents reveal an underlying malaise in many of our churches. I’m not sure we really believe in grace. We do, in the sense that we teach it and assent to it in our confessions. But perhaps we don’t, in the sense of really living it. The issue, I suspect, is something of a misstep in our formula of what it means to live for Christ. It’s like we think we’re Jesus’ PR agents. “If I look good, then Jesus looks good.”So, we hate the thought of not looking good. That’s what Christian failure looks like to the average person I think.

Here’s our problem though. If this mindset of being Jesus’ PR agent permeates a whole church family, our life together becomes a matter of performance. What results is a bunch of underperforming, over expecting Christians putting on their best Christian masks, taking deep breaths, and then heading out to church wondering how long they can keep this charade up. It becomes unbearably exhausting. I know – I’ve done this too many times in the past.

Listen, if Christian parents adopt this mindset, parenting becomes about trying to perform well in front of the kids, making sure they only see the highest standard of Christian behaviour from us. This may be a common way of thinking, but it’s disastrous. It leads to hypocrisy. The reality is, we’re not good, and we can only keep up the façade for a little while before the cracks begin to show.

We all know that our little mini-me’s see it right away anyways. They know what we’re really like and can immediately tell when we try to put a Christian sheen over it. And when we really make a mess of things, the last place we want go to is a church gathering. We’re supposed to look Christian there, so when we know we can’t remotely pretend things are together, it’s easier simply not to go. Best to keep the mess away from the other well put together folks – except that they’re not.

All this is a sign that while we may be professing grace, we’re not actually inhabiting a culture of grace. We’re not Jesus’s PR agents, and he is not our client. We are broken men and women, and he is our Saviour. It’s not the case that I need to look good so Jesus can look good; instead I need to be honest about my colossal spiritual need so he can look all-sufficient so that Jesus can look awesome.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t need to look good so Jesus can look good. In fact, the true reality that I need to wrap my head around is that I need to get really honest about my messiness of life and my colossal spiritual need in order that Jesus can look all-sufficient to everyone else around me.

Bottom line is that I don’t increase so he can increase; Instead I need to speak and live like John the Baptist who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30. Decreasing means being honest about my flaws, not embarrassed about them. But imagine the difference this would make to our witness. Rather than thinking I have to constantly be looking good and shiny, less sinful than every non-Christian I know, I am instead liberated to be myself, warts and all, so that I can show that my confidence is not in me.

So instead of my friend beating up on himself or for that matter me beating up on my friend who had too much to drink, he now has an amazing opportunity to be an authentic witness to Christ – not by pretending we Christians don’t have any sin, but by demonstrating what we dowith it.

If it’s about performance, then my friend really has blown it and will be too embarrassed to see his friends. But if it’s about repentance, and about forgiveness, then he gets to model that repentance and to show brokenness about sin and sheer relief in a Saviour. That’s the gospel after all.

Envision the difference this would make to our church life. Rather than having a stigma about being anything less than spiritually holy, we can come together as a group of people who are open and free about our colossal spiritual needs. The assumption stops being “We have to be good if we’re coming here,”and instead becomes “You have to be a real mess to show up here – thank goodness I’m not the only one.” Which do you think sounds more inviting? Which is going to foster deeper confession and public repentance?

Imagine a church community that repents often, forgives freely and extends grace continually as a matter of habitual living. Instead of feeling embarrassed about going forward to receive prayer, that would invite us to experience the joy and relief of knowing we’re all ultimately in the same boat. Grace, then, becomes not just a formal doctrine but a felt reality.

We should foster our discipleship machine’s in such a way that the DNA’s of our church gatherings become places where no one is too low, too far gone, too needy – too anything – to worry about not fitting in. Our testimony should not be “I was a mess, then Jesus showed up, and now I’ve got everything together,” but “I was a mess – and I still am – but I’m a mess who belongs to Jesus, a mess he is committed to sorting out. He came to me, has stuck with me, and continues to be my all in all.”

I resonate with John Newton who said, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world – but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

 So Christian friend, let’s give up this cult of judgmentalism and let us live out the gospel of grace. We’ll all be glad we did.

How Can Christians Impact A World Opposed To Jesus?

The world is celebrating ‘Pride month’ as I write this. Parades, putting on display a show of open rebellion to God’s design of sexuality are promoted as normative family celebrations.

I see several posts on FB that call out to embrace this vision. Posts declaring “Love is Love” showing pictures of same sex couples, or pronouncements stating how we must end any dialogue against same sex relationships, is common place and sadly many of those posts come from church folks.

I write this while sitting on an airline flight, and the magazine in the seat pocket in front of me highlights and presents Pride as achieved through the embracing of the LGBTQ community as though it is the most natural thing to do.

The key article in the magazine is titled  Pride & Joy and is speaking to the pride and joy that has come from the steps made to normalize the gay lifestyle in Canada. Over the past 20 years in Canada, ‘Pride day’ has shifted to become ‘Pride month’. The anticipation and expectation is that society is quickly moving to ‘Pride life’ all year long.

Not only that, the anticipation & expectation is that we will and or must all agree with that vision and if we don’t we are branded as homophobic, accused of hate speech, considered bigoted, old-fashioned or seen as narrow-minded zealots.

For those who hold to the biblical understanding of marriage being instituted by God as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman for the purpose of companionship, encouragement, sexual intimacy, and procreation. And who believe that sexual intimacy can only be enjoyed and expressed in the marriage relationship, how are we supposed to respond to the neighbour who doesn’t hold to the word of God and this biblical vision?

Can we have an impact or are we too late?

We can get upset post angry or derogatory comments ‘back at em’ on our FB posts, we can try to argue people into the kingdom. We can attempt to be ‘louder’ than the world around us. I have seen and heard much of that approach. But here’s the thing. I don’t think that anyone is listening. And even if they are, they’re not caring about our opinions.

I’ve discovered that one of the reasons people aren’t listening is that we are trying to answer questions nobody is asking. And so instead of stopping to listen to our angsts, we are being shut out.

Think about it. Do you think the average non-believer cares if they’re being biblical? Or that they aren’t following your Christian world view? Why do we continue to expect none-Christians to act like Christians? Christians themselves have a hard-enough time trying to act like a Christian.

Paul said in Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1:18-32

According to Paul, people can’t help having a distorted image of themselves, including their sexuality because of mankind’s sinful propensity to choose ‘idols’ instead of God. Man continues to see distorted images instead of the perfect image of God through Jesus.

So How Can Christians Impact A World So Opposed To Jesus?

It seems that to many, the greatest sin one can commit is the sin of “offending.” We guard our words, our actions, our attitudes, in case others become offended and turn away.

However, I really believe that if Jesus was around today, he would be called intolerant and even a ‘hater’, not because he sought to be divisive but because he wouldn’t be one of those who’d follow the crowd or bend to what is popular.

Sure, Jesus was about love… he cared for those in need and he obviously cared for those on the fringes and those folks who didn’t fit the religious standards. But he was also about truth and about ‘going & sinning no more’.

The average person couldn’t figure him out, which is why later on he lost the majority of his followers. Jesus was divisive, not because he was a jerk, but rather because of what he stood for. As a result he was different then everyone else… and it ultimately cost him.

Fast forward to our world and it seems that most of us work extremely hard to make sure we’re not seen as divisive and different. (Or if we do, we do it more as a badge of honour in our ability to ‘shake up the cultural tree’ than to do it to be Christ like). Either way, if we find that our ‘discipleship’ is acceptable to the masses, and if it doesn’t cost us something, then I think we’re doing it wrong.

The call of discipleship is, fundamentally, a call to allegiance. And as such, Jesus refuses to be an afterthought, a diversion, or a hobby in the lives of those who claim to be his disciples. It is an all or nothing thing, which includes giving up everything to follow him and standing apart from the masses even if that means being unpopular when the masses go opposite God’s way. If we’re not willing to do that – then can we be called a disciple of his?

Listen to these statistics… First, the average family has the television on for over 7 ½ hours a day – that’s just nuts! But then according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, those aged between 8 and 18 years old spent an average of 53 hours per week using electronics.[i]

That’s mind blowing enough, but then add to that the admission that most of us don’t spend more than 10 minutes a day in God’s word let alone spend any time praying other than over a meal. Wow! That should bring us to our knees. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the church in the West is weak.

Get Grounded 

So, what do we do? It is vital to make Christ the first priority of every aspect and every decision in our lives if we expect to grow in relationship with him and then as a result impact the world around us. The Psalmist tells us how to make that happen. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:3

If you have ever seen a satellite picture of the Nile River in Egypt you will appreciate the picture it shows. The land is rich and lush with life along the banks of the flowing river, but as you move away from the water, life becomes scarcer and scarcer, the green turns lighter and lighter until soon all that’s left is a yellow desert. The focus of the picture though is of the green where there is of a continual flowing of refreshing waters that give the tree life, producing the greenery.

The water of the river flows 24/7 and as a result the tree is able to suck up all it requires to live and not only to live but to flourish and produce fruit just like a blessed man (and woman) who is ‘grounded’ by thirst quenching water and nutrient enriched soil.

I’ll admit that if there is one thing that bothers me as a preacher, it’s when people leave a morning worship service after getting their 40 – 60 minute fix of ‘God’, telling me on their way out to the car (and lunch) that they’re excited about living for Jesus because of what they’ve heard and experienced.

That part doesn’t bother me and in fact that is awesome. What bothers me is when I discover later that many of those very same people will, by that same evening, continue to struggle with the very things that they were so sure were conquered after getting excited at church on Sunday morning. I honestly believe that they want to change but don’t or can’t. They want to get close to Jesus but aren’t – Why?

Here’s why… You can’t be watered 40-60 minutes each week and expect to be strengthened, there must be a continual watering. A tree will die without being watered. That is why we need to get involved in reading God’s word daily. Follow Jesus daily, get involved with your local church community, places where you can be helped and be held accountable. As the church, we are meant to be a community to build each other up in our faith, continually, not just once a week.

Don’t expect to grow and feel close to Jesus if you are isolating yourself from others who can speak into your life, or if you aren’t putting yourself in a position to learn from his teachings which we get from reading his word and praying and learning how to pray.

Discipleship isn’t a Sunday thing it’s a lifestyle. God wants full custody… not just weekend visits.

 

In Acts 2 we see that the early church met daily and as a result they became grounded in Jesus Christ, and when persecution came the church grew and didn’t fall apart. They were strong and healthy and produced fruit just like the blessed man we see in Psalm 1.

So, let’s be honest with ourselves. We can get all worked up about how this world is going to the dogs and get all bothered about how the church doesn’t seem to have any teeth to combat sin, or for that matter too much teeth, but then not be willing to do what it takes to make Jesus the first priority and seek out what it means to be grounded in him… If that is us, can we actually expect to have an impact?

[i]http://www.zdnet.com/article/study-american-kids-spend-7-5-hours-per-day-using-electronics/

Is Suicide The Unforgivable Sin?

I love travel documentaries and one of my favourites has been, “Parts Unknown” on CNN hosted by Anthony Bourdain. You can imagine my surprise when I heard that Anthony was found dead by suicide this past Friday June 8th2018. According to his mother, Anthony had everything to live for. “He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this,” Gladys Bourdain told the New York Times.

Another celebrity, Kate Spade, sounded happy the night before her body was found in her New York City apartment last Tuesday morning. “There was no indication and no warning she would do this,” her husband Andy Spade said in a heart-wrenching statement published in the Times.

For more than four decades Antoon Leenaars has tried to construct a theory to explain why people kill themselves. Among his findings is that those who die by suicide are often tragically gifted at concealing their true intentions, even from themselves. “We find it in the suicide notes and in the psychological autopsies,” said Leenaars, a Windsor psychologist whose archive of more than 2,000 suicide notes is believed the largest collection of its kind in the world. “There’s both a conscious and unconscious intent to be deceptive, to hide, to mask,” he said.

I think that’s why, for the most part, we are often surprised when someone takes their own life. I haven’t personally experienced a close friend or family member commit suicide, yet I have been around many others who have had close friends or family take their lives, and I can tell you that it can be terribly confusing and heartbreaking. For the friends and family of that person who has taken their own lives, grief can be like a wild animal inside, thrashing to get out. There are times It won’t be contained, spilling out in sobs and screams, while at other times it turns inward, causing those left behind to desperately examine every interaction over the weeks and days preceding their loved one’s death, wondering what they could have done differently. It’s a terrible place to be.

Does the bible say anything about committing suicide?

Is suicide the unforgivable sin? Does the person who self kills go immediately to hell? Within the church community, this controversial topic has unfortunately often been addressed in emotional ways, not through biblical analysis. For example, for those who grew up Roman Catholic the prevailing view is that suicide is definitely a mortal sin, irretrievably sending people to hell. Influenced by the arguments of Augustine and Aquinas, this belief dominated through the Reformation. This of course causes much angst and problems for the survivor to process through. As a result, the approach is most often an emotional one. Besides this traditional position of the Catholic Church, we encounter three others:

1) A true Christian would never commit suicide since God wouldn’t allow it.

2) A Christian may commit suicide but would lose his salvation.

3) A Christian may commit suicide without losing his salvation.

As purposeful as those statements are, we still need to ask what the Bible, not tradition or opinion says. As much as we don’t have all the answers, let’s begin by talking about those truths we do know as revealed in God’s Word.

We know that humanity is totally depraved (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-18). Of course, we should understand that this doesn’t mean we’re as evil as we could be, but rather that every human capacity – intellect, heart, emotions, will – is tainted by sin. We also know that even after regeneration, a Christian is capable of committing any sin except the unforgiveable one. We see the unforgivable sin mentioned in Mark 3:25-32 and Matthew 12:32. A study of these passages leads us to the conclusion that they are referring to the continual rejection of the Holy Spirit in the work of conversion, ultimately referring to a committed unbeliever.

I think that it’s important to remember as well, that a believer is quite capable of taking the life of someone else, as David did in the case of Uriah, without this action invalidating his salvation. After all, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has forgiven all of our sin – past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:11-18). Still, suicide is a serious offense against God because it represents arrogant violation of the gift of life the Creator has given. However, if a genuine believer is theoretically capable of taking another’s life, why is it impossible to conceive he or she could ever take his or her own?

The truth is that the sin a Christian will commit tomorrow was forgiven at Calvary – where Jesus justified us, declaring us positionally righteous. He accomplished this work through one single offering that didn’t need to be repeated again. On the cross Jesus didn’t make us justifiable; he made us justified (Romans 3:23-26; 8:29-30).

Granted, some point out that Scripture contains no instance of a believer committing suicide, while it includes many cases of unbelievers doing so, thus coming to the conclusion that believers simply don’t (won’t) commit suicide. But this is an argument from silence. Scripture doesn’t explicitly mention many things in life. Moreover, some hold suicide robs a Christian of her salvation because it doesn’t provide an opportunity for repentance. But if you were to die right now, would there be any unconfessed sin in your life? I think that we could only say that yes, of course there would be.

The sacrifice that covers the unconfessed sins we have remaining until death is the same sacrifice that would cover a sin like suicide. Suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven anyways. If an unsaved person commits suicide, she has done nothing but “expedite” her journey to hell. However, that person who committed suicide will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ, not because she committed suicide. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:18

We should also point out, however, that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart the moment he died. Some people have “deathbed conversions” and accept Christ in the moments before death. It is possible that Anthony Bourdain could have had a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy, we don’t know, but if he did, we can know that God’s mercy would have reached him even there.

Back to our original question. Issuicide the unforgivable sin? If we’ve established that a Christian is capable of committing any sin, why can’t we conceive that someone could commit the sin of suicide? And if we believe Jesus’ blood is capable of forgiving any sin, wouldn’t his blood cover this sin too? The wonderful truth of the matter is that if Jesus’ sacrifice has made believers perfect forever (look up Hebrews 7:28-10:14), could any sin remove their salvation? Based on scripture, I’d have to say a resounding no – including suicide.

Further to this point, if someone like Moses (and Job, and Elijah, and Jeremiah) came to a point where he wished God would take his life, couldn’t a believer with schizophrenia or extreme depression, who lacks Moses’ strength of character, make this wish a reality? Martin Luther believed that a true believer could be oppressed by demonic powers and thus driven to the point of suicide. The suicide of a believer is evidence that anyone can struggle with despair and that our enemy, Satan, is “a murderer from the beginning” – John 8:44

Having said that, on the basis of Scripture, history, and the experience of God’s people – as well as the indwelling Spirit and the means of grace in the church – it’s most likely that suicides will be rare (though not impossible) for genuine believers.

How should we respond to a survivor?

Even still, when a suicide does occur, we should seek to comfort, not accuse. Instead of identifying the horrors we should seek to comfort the hurting. Our chief focus should be on that about which God has said much (salvation), not on that about which he’s said little (suicide).

Sometimes the best thing we can say to a survivor (friend or family member of someone who took their own life) is NOTHING! In fact, sometimes the best reaction is no words at all, but a hug. There is much comfort that comes with the caring presence of friends, and the assurance others are praying for them. Even still, if you do feel led to say anything, here are some examples you can use that I have found helpful as I have come along side those who are hurting.

“Tell me a favourite memory of…”

“I love you, and my prayers are with you.”

“How can I help you today?” (Following through with errands, grocery shopping, cleaning, going to church with them, etc.)

“I am so sorry for your loss. Words fail.”

“I’m here.”

The best advice to anyone who wants to comfort a suicide survivor is: “Show up, let them see you care, and respect the griever’s right to feel bad for a while (guilt, anger, sadness, etc.). Too many survivors reported “friends” who avoided them altogether after their loved ones’ suicides rather than to risk saying the wrong thing. Please don’t do that, because that hurts most of all.

Can A Follower Of Jesus Be Homophobic?

A common accusation thrown at the (conservative) Christian community is that we are homophobic. Is that true? Are Christians really homophobic?

Often, we Christians are tagged homophobic because we identify homosexual behaviour as sin. But the fact is that the term homophobic is in reality a term often used by homosexual supporters to deflect genuine criticisms. Without question, there are people who have sadly developed an irrational hate of homosexuals and who are prepared to use violent actions to inflict suffering upon someone who identifies as gay.

“We Christians have sinned
in at least two major ways
when it comes to reaching the
LGBTQ community”


However, the problem is that much too often the homophobic label is placed on anyone & everyone who opposes homosexuality as a legitimate option for humanity. As a result, any Christian who is convicted in their heart that homosexuality is an unnatural sin is associated with violent lunatics who hate for hatred’s sake.

Having said that, there is still a homophobic stigma that we wear. And I believe we have that stigma in part because we Christians have sinned in at least two major ways when it comes to reaching those in the LGBTQ community.

On the one hand, some have laid aside God’s clear teaching that homosexuality is a sin in a misguided attempt to show God’s love. But love stripped of truth is not love – its deceit.

   “Truth stripped of
compassion is not love
     – its hypocrisy”


The other way we have sinned as a Christian community has been a neglected compassion or even a condescending attitude toward the LGBTQ community while feeling ‘righteous’ in our conviction as we hide behind ‘truth’. But truth stripped of compassion is not love – its hypocrisy.

Does this mean that we can’t or shouldn’t answer the arguments presented by the LGBTQ community to save us from the homophobic label? Should we just smile, nod politely and ‘live and let live’ to keep the peace? I believe that we must absolutely answer away! How else will the truth be made known? But remember that we must speak the truth in love. 

Discussion Points

There are many arguments and discussion points that are brought up in the media. For sake of time and space I’ll only share a couple of the bible’s responses below. After all, the purpose of this post isn’t to answer all the questions but to foster conversation and discovery. My hope is that this will only be a starting point for all of us to dig deeper, ask more questions and discover what other things God may have to say about this subject.

I was in a conversation recently with a friend who said, “Jesus didn’t speak about homosexuality, so he’s at least neutral if not open to it. What Jesus doesn’t condemn, we shouldn’t condemn.”

On the surface this may sound plausible; however, the problem with this argument is that this is an argument from silence. The fact is that silence doesn’t take place in a vacuum.

Should kidnapping be allowable too? After all Jesus never said that kidnapping was a sin, yet I’m sure that all of us would agree that stealing children is wrong.

It’s true that Jesus didn’t address homosexuality directly, but he did speak clearly about sexuality in general, specifically addressing and defining marriage in Matthew 19:4–6 & Mark 10:6–9 using both Genesis 1:26–27 & Genesis 2:24 to explain it. 

“At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” – Matthew 19:4-6

Here Jesus defines and affirms marriage as between a man and a woman, a reflection of the fact that God made us male and female to care for creation together.

If Jesus had believed in a broader definition of marriage, then here was his opportunity to present it. Yet he didn’t. Rather he was solidly affirming the male – female relationship as it had been established with the very first couple, Adam & Eve.

Another argument I have often been presented with is about the fact that we no longer follow the OT laws such as eating certain types of food, or having tattoos, or wearing clothes with mixed material. The argument is that if that’s the case then why should we accept what the OT says about same-sex relationships?

When we take a serious look at the context of those passages being disputed, we discover that some of those laws dealt with the issue of uncleanness tied to the temple and worship. The important piece to understand is that these restrictions mentioned aren’t moral laws, rather they are purity laws or restrictions that distinguished Israel from the surrounding polytheistic nations who were morally loose and sacrificed certain types of animals (and in some cases, children) as part of their worship.

Add to that, we don’t see the continuation of these purity laws into the NT era and in fact see that God declared the OT rules of clean versus unclean as null and void when the Gentiles came into the fold (Acts 10:9–29).

However, it is different when it comes to sins such as drunkenness, greed, homosexuality, gluttony, idolatry, etc., because with these sins we find that every single OT and NT text that mentions them mentions them negatively. This shows a continuity of thought and practice which spans OT to NT in belief and practice.

“The good news for a gay man or woman
is the same good news for a straight man or woman.
Homosexuality isn’t the chief sin; unbelief is”


Back to the original thought. Can a follower of Jesus be homophobic? Fact is a Christian following the teachings of Jesus Christ can’t be homophobic, even while having one fear regarding homosexuals. The Christian should have the fear that anyone practising a homosexual lifestyle (along with anyone living in disobedience to God) will suffer eternally if they decide to reject the only means of salvation – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The good news for a gay man or woman is the same good news for a straight man or woman. Homosexuality isn’t the chief sin; unbelief is, and thankfully Jesus has an answer for that.

“… do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

The Church & Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria (or gender Identity disorder) is fast becoming an accepted standard in our world and is quickly being eliminated as a classifed disorder at all. An individual may now identify as ‘male’, ‘female’ or ‘other’ on many, if not all government forms today. Transgenderism currently finds protection within the law of the land… at least north of the American/Canadian border.

In Canada, Bill C-16, was recently introduced that updates the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. It also extends hate speech laws to include the two terms, making it a hate crime to target someone for being transgender.

Jordan Peterson, Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of physiology at the University of Toronto, jumped all over it, “I will never use words I hate,” Peterson wrote, “like the trendy and artificially constructed words ‘zhe’ and ‘zher.’ These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century.”

Some applaud Jordan Peterson, while others decry his position. Lines have been drawn, opinions shared, accusations made and unkind words are being thrown left and right. For myself, no matter my personal opinion about the ‘gender’ issue, I am first and foremost a believer in treating people with a value and respect that I’d hope to receive for myself. We shouldn’t need a law to force us to respect other people.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that this blurring of the gender lines is sin and a problem. I do believe that it is certainly sin and needs to be called for what it is. It is controlling the hearts and minds of people, damaging society along with the individuals who are caught in the lie that says their self-worth is found in their sexuality or sexual identity. It’s not! Self-worth can only be found in Jesus Christ. And one of the ways we discover our self-worth and true identities through Jesus is in the celebration of the sexes as God created them, male and female.

However, this never gives a Christian licence to demean someone who might struggle with sexual identity or identifies other than their birth gender. In fact, as disciples of Jesus Christ, our churches should be the safest place to talk about, and struggle with gender dysphoria. Yet too often, our churches have been anything but safe – and that’s something that Christians, including me, need to repent about. The Bible challenges churches to reflect and represent Jesus by reaching out to transgender and gender dysphoric neighbours with loving grace-filled hope.

I’m not sure that the average church is living out that challenge though. Having said that I believe most churches would like to. So, the question begs to be asked; To live like that, what would we need to be more like? If we lived like that what would we look like?

We must be a caring people

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

If a self-identified transgender individual walked into your church, would this person be greeted? How about invited for lunch? How about invited back next Sunday? Our response to those who identify as transgender must be absolute and sincere, “You are welcome here. You are loved.”

That’s because we believe that all people matter to God. As a result, we must seek to intentionally engage all people with an effort to move them toward God, while relating to them where they are at in every stage of life and spiritual journey. The mission of every Christian is to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ within their circle of influence. This needs to be characterized by genuine friendships; actively doing good deeds; sharing a personal witness; & dependence upon prayer and the Holy Spirit’s convicting /drawing work.

Sadly though, too often our churches give the impression that the Son of Man came to seek and save the squeaky clean, not the lost. To combat this requires us to be transparent about our own struggles and failings. The antidote to this impression is to embrace the compassion that Jesus extends to each of us – and in turn extend it to others. We need to live lives that habitually repent often, forgive freely and extend grace continuously.

 We must be a listening people

As the bringers of light to a dark world and as representatives of Jesus who declared himself as the way, the truth and the life, we must boldly stand for truth and declare the way. That must never change. However,  I wonder if, in our fervour we too often believe we can just declare the truth to the world and think that our job is done. “Good job boys… that’ll tell em.”

We work hard to make sure we have our truth or theology and apologetics down pat and then act as though we can simply give the ‘right’ answer, or the so called ‘Sunday school response’ to all the cultural problems being faced, believing then that the ‘issue’ will be cleared up, much like a home remedy for a spiritual head cold. But the problem is that many aren’t looking for head answers because they’re crying out to us from the heart. God made us with both heads and hearts that come with real thoughts, real feelings, and real desires.

I wonder if we sometimes forget that it is real people living in our neighbourhoods, interacting in our work spaces, sitting in our gatherings, and having real struggles. What do they hear in our conversations? Do they hear people trying to understand them or do they hear the dismissiveness of someone who has never really stopped to consider how they feel? Of anyone on this earth, we should be known for being the ones who seek to understand their heart. This takes work, because sometimes, instead of coming up with the ‘answers’ we should spend more time being silent while honestly listening. In order to sincerely affect someone, we need to first listen to their heart.

 We must be a gracious people

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” – 1 Timothy 1:16 

To truly understand mercy is to understand that I am an unworthy recipient of God’s mercy, and that but for the grace of God I would be not only a sinner but a condemned sinner. In consequence, I must endeavor to reflect in my dealings with others something of the mercy God has shown me.

Grace is an essential part of God’s character and is closely related to his benevolence, love, and mercy. Grace can be variously defined as “God’s favour toward the unworthy” or “God’s benevolence on the undeserving.” In his grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously. As the recipients of God’s grace, Christians are to be gracious to others.

If our churches are marked by one thing, let it be grace – the grace that always welcomes, always goes the extra mile, always forgives, and is extended continuously. We were meant to be a place of grace – a place where everyone, no matter background or struggles, finds homes open and family offered, a place where people are listened to and loved rather than stereotyped and lectured. If you’re a disciple of Jesus Christ, God is calling you to that ministry.

Why We Should Talk About Hell

A while back I read Rob Bell’s book ‘Love Wins’ and it caused me to re-think a lot about how I view hell, even causing me to have some concerns about what I had been taught all my life. That fallback position to go back to ‘what I’ve always been taught’ isn’t the best standard to judge the legitimacy of an idea, though, like comfort food, can be a good starting point. I will admit that I even had some doubt about what I believe. What is hell? What is its purpose? Is it a place? Is it forever? Should we fear it? Does it cause people to turn away from God? Does it make it hard if not impossible for us to share the love of Christ with someone else? Is it a problem for Christianity?

I think that the whole idea of hell is one of Christianity’s most offensive doctrines. Peter Kreeft writes: “Of all the doctrines in Christianity, Hell is probably the most difficult to defend, the most burdensome to believe and the first to be abandoned.”

 Many are repulsed, sickened and appalled by the idea of an eternal place of punishment, especially if someone suggests that includes themselves, friends & family. “Hitler maybe, but not my grandmother.”

Because of these angsts, many Christians will avoid the topic of Hell altogether. We don’t hear it talked about from the pulpit in may churches anymore and it isn’t usually a part of the conversation around a shared meal. We don’t want to rock the boat maybe or we think that Hell isn’t a required subject when sharing the gospel.

I propose however, that we need to talk about Hell more than we do. I believe that it is integral to the Gospel message and is doing the church a disservice when we hide it away as though it is the crazy uncle we’re embarrassed to talk about.

So, I did what I always do when faced with a spiritual and / or theological question. No, I didn’t ask Siri or head to the theological depths of Wikipedia, I went to God’s word… and even more specifically the Word made flesh. If we want to answer the question of hell, then we need to look at Jesus and what he had to say on the subject.

He’s a great place to start for a few reasons. The first is that people in the West think Jesus is a pretty good guy so if you want to help others understand a particular subject it helps if you can ‘name drop’ someone they like. Oprah likes him, at least the non-confrontational Jesus, and Deepak Chopra has even written books about Jesus as a great mystic and guru of Eastern religion.

In our culture we find that Jesus isn’t painted with the same brush as that angry, vengeful, cranky God of the Old Testament who hadn’t matured out of his confusing puberty years yet. But when God finally grew up and entered his college years in the New Testament, he reemerged as the party guy named Jesus. Good times! Parties in Cana, lots of talk about love and compassion and grace, and of course helpful spiritual sound bites. Selfies all round!

The problem with this view though is that it’s not true, which is another reason why I find it helpful to go to Jesus. We get most of our understanding of hell, not from the Old Testament, but from Jesus own words. When you start reading the Gospels, you find that Jesus speaks about hell more than anyone else. About 13% of his teachings and half of his parables are about hell, judgment, punishment, and the wrath of God.

Jesus talked about hell and it follows that we should too. First though, how do we reconcile a Jesus of grace & mercy & love with a Jesus’ of wrath, punishment & hell?

I think that number one, we need to see that interwoven with the love of God is his mercy that requires justice. If a judge pardons an unrepentant child abuser without any good reason, we wouldn’t applaud his mercy and see it as an act of love, particularly when we consider the rights of the victim (and the safety of potential future victims). Mercy without justice is reckless and dangerous. True justice requires adequate payment for the crime or crimes committed.

“When a person goes through rape or child abuse, she needs to know that there is a God of such holiness and beauty that his reign can tolerate no evil.” – Tim Keller

Even if someone got off because of a loophole in the justice system, we’d call it “Injustice!” Why? Because we have something within us that tells us that injustice is wrong. It’s a universal belief that we know it has to be paid for.

If God is truly just, then there is punishment for offenses committed.

Yet, many people will demand God show them mercy while still refusing to love that very same God. “I will not follow you and obey your commands –  but don’t send me to hell.” However, the facts are that God’s mercy & love are inseparable.

The other concern I needed to address after reading Rob Bell’s book was the idea that hell was symbolic as opposed to a real cavernous abode of fire and brimstone… so I went back to the Word of God to see what is revealed there.

Some people get confused and will deduce that hell can’t be a physical place because of how it is described. For example, when scripture describes hell, it speaks about “eternal fire” “unquenchable fire”. But it also says that hell is a place of utter darkness.

So, what is it?

It’s all the above. It is fire, darkness and a real place hung in real time. Yet, because of our culture, we often imagine the fire and darkness as literal flames and literal inky blackness. Instead we need to understand the language was used to help us understand the magnitude of the place.

For example, when the bible speaks about a God of unquenchable fire, we don’t imagine him being a big ball of literal fire. Rather we understand that it’s giving us a picture of his holiness.

Likewise, when we read that God has blinded the eyes of the unbeliever in John 12:10, we don’t expect to see a bunch of unsaved people on the roads driving around with dark glasses on because they’re literally blind all of a sudden. We know that it’s speaking of their spiritual condition.

At the same time, in Luke 16, Jesus speaks about heaven and hell as being real places with hell as a place of separation from the presence of God. Yet it wasn’t utter darkness in a physical sense since the Rich man could see Lazarus (albeit through sweaty eyes). However, think about the following; Since God is the source of all spiritual light, and all joy and all wisdom and all love or good thing of any sort, and since we were originally created for God’s immediate presence, it is then only before him will we thrive, flourish, and achieve our highest potential.

So, if we were to lose his presence totally, that’d be the deepest darkness of the soul. Without his light, we can only expect the loss of our capability for giving or receiving love or joy and finding any kind of satisfaction.

Add to that the picture of fire which speaks to its nature as a degenerater, something that deteriorates to ash everything it touches. Even in this life we can see the kind of soul deterioration that self-centeredness creates.

We know how selfishness and self-absorption leads to piercing bitterness, nauseating envy, paralyzing anxiety, paranoid thoughts, and the mental denials and distortions that accompany them.

We see this process in a small way in addictions such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, and pornography. First there is the degeneration, because as time goes on you need more and more of the addictive substance to get an equal kick, which leads to less and less satisfaction.

And then add the bitter darkness that isolation brings we had talked about in the Rich man’s situation, as increasingly you blame others and the surrounding environment or circumstances in order to justify your behaviour.

With that in mind ask the question:

“What if when we die we don’t end, but spiritually our life extends into eternity?”

With that picture in your mind’s eye you can see that Hell is the fire or the deterioration of a soul by living a self-absorbed, self-centred, angst driven, anxiety filled, blame shifting life – going on & on forever.

“Yeah, but I’m not all that bad. I haven’t murdered somebody, I’m not a drug addict, I don’t look at porn – often. I only get mad at ‘stupid’ drivers, God will be fair and let me into heaven.”

Jesus didn’t say the greatest commandment is to not murder, or to not commit adultery, though he did say that if you had anger in your heart you’ve committed murder, or if you’ve ever lusted after someone other than your spouse you’ve committed adultery.

But what Jesus did say was that the greatest commandment was, “to love God with all your heart soul and mind.” There is no greater evidence of the inability of man to obey God’s law than this one commandment. No human being with a fallen nature can possibly love God with all his heart, soul, and strength 24 hours a day. It’s humanly impossible.

Even without considering the sins we commit daily, we are all condemned by our inability to fulfill this one commandment. Further to that, the Bible declares that everyone sins, and that all sin is ultimately against God.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” – Psalm 51:4

Those verses are sobering enough, but then also understand that those who go to Hell aren’t going to be suddenly sinless and perfect. Those who go into eternity without Christ will be confirmed in their decision to not follow him while on earth.

Jesus said that there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in Hell. The gnashing of teeth isn’t a picture of someone who is in sorrow and repentance but rather a picture of a continued defiance toward God.

In Hell there will be no repentance.

So, unless you surrender your life to God in this lifetime, you will not only be living in disobedience to God for 70, 80, 90, or 100 years, you will be in disobedience before him for eternity – which requires an eternal penalty.

Why did Jesus speak about hell more than anyone else in the Bible? Because he wanted us to see what he was going to endure on the cross on our behalf so that we might choose heaven – so that we might choose God.

On the cross, Jesus’s sacrifice was scarcely describable: this bloodied, disfigured remnant of a man was given a cross that was perhaps recycled, likely covered in the blood, feces, and urine of other men who had used it previously. Hanging there in immense pain, he slowly suffocated to death. All the while knowing he could end the suffering, but choosing not to for our benefit.

But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was the separation from the Father that Jesus felt, a separation that was like hell itself. “My God, my God,” he cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46

An eternity without God is hell.

Without the cleansing of sin that he provides, and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit who lives in the hearts of the redeemed, loving God to any degree is impossible.

But, when we receive the free gift of salvation offered by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are cleansed from sin and receive the Spirit of holiness to do the impossible. That being, a transformation of our hearts and minds to love God as we have been commanded to do, and as a result heaven becomes our home. This is great news!

That is why we talk about hell, because it allows us to talk about Jesus and his sacrifice… it allows us to make Jesus known, it brings clarity to the Gospel message about why Jesus died, and it lets us brag up our Saviour in order to bring him all the glory he deserves.

What Is The Cure For Evil & Suffering?

Why does God allow evil? If God has the power to prevent evil and desires to prevent evil, why does he still allow evil? Why isn’t he doing something about it? If God created the world the way it is today; he wouldn’t be a God of love, but rather an evil God.

These are some of the questions posed, sincerely and not so sincere, by many people. Sometimes they are used to bolster arguments against God and sometimes are asked in a sincere quest to ‘understand’.

We might not have any easy answers (if any at all) about why God allows evil and suffering, but we can know the ultimate cure for evil, suffering and death – his name is Jesus. When asking questions of such importance, I believe that the best place to find answers is found in God’s word. That being the case, let’s look at five truths found in God’s word, that if embraced, will be a source of encouragement for the Jesus follower.

God didn’t create a fallen world

 The first truth to embrace is that God didn’t create the world in the state in which it is now, instead evil came as a result of the selfishness and sinful disobedience of human beings.

The truth of the matter is that God is a God of love and his desire was to create a person and eventually a race that would choose to love him. However genuine love can’t exist unless it’s freely given through free choice. Mankind was given the choice to accept God’s love or to reject it which made evil a very real possibility.

The thing is that if God hadn’t allowed for the possibility of evil, mankind would be serving God out of obligation, not choice. He created us as real human beings with the ability to love and follow him – or not. Unfortunately, we chose the “not,” and brought sin and evil into the picture.

If Adam and Eve had only obeyed God, then they may have lived on earth forever, walking with God, tending the garden, working together, no mosquitos. But after they sinned, they were just not on the same page with God anymore. That’s because God can’t tolerate sin, having no sin within himself.

Maybe we should just blame Adam and Eve for the evil in the world. After all, they blamed each other and the serpent; however, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23

I think that it’s safe to say that, had we been in the garden instead of Adam and Eve, we would have sinned in the same way. Now, because of the fall, the world is chaotic and abnormal. Things are not in the state that they should be in. Nature is not always kind and there is conflict between each other. Health issues, hunger issues, abuse issues… none of these conditions were true before the fall when God created it all good.

God knows what’s best

The arguments go something like this: If God is good, then maybe he isn’t powerful enough to deal with all the evil and injustice in the world since it is still going on. Or, if God is powerful enough to stop wrongdoing, yet all-knowing and so must know about the pain and suffering inflicted, then he must be evil since he’s not doing anything about it, even though he has the capability.

The truth is that God knows what’s best even when we don’t. Although the Bible informs us how and why evil came about, it does not tell us why God allowed it to happen. However, we do know that God is all-wise and all-knowing and that he has reasons for allowing things to happen that go way beyond our understanding.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

All one has to do is read Job to see that no one understands the depth of wisdom and knowledge possessed by God. We are not his counselor! He does as he pleases and we are left to praise him for what he does!

That would be a good lesson for us all to learn as we go through life. We need to stop trying to figure out the ‘why’ of everything and start simply learning to trust God by faith. He knows what he is doing, we don’t! He sees the future and knows what is best for now and then, we don’t!

God has a plan

In the middle of all the evil and suffering, one thing becomes abundantly clear. God has a plan to redeem fallen mankind. The salvation Jesus provides attests to his goodness and love, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

The Bible clearly reveals the devastating effects of sin and the hopelessness of man in solving his own sin problem. Because of this ‘sin situation’ we find ourselves in, a proper understanding of the doctrine of sin is essential to understanding God’s remedy for it.

Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world” – John 12:31, which means Satan has been allowed a certain amount of authority over this world. The blame for the evil in this world should be placed squarely upon Satan. Much is written about the devil – he comes only to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). He is a fierce enemy and a liar and a murderer.

By contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. God’s plan was to send his son to earth to die in our place because we could never hope to take care of our sin problem and defeat the devil on our strength, wisdom or terms. It had to be through God’s sinless son.

Though evil is here and it is real, it is temporary because of Jesus. Jesus is Goodness incarnate. Evil will eventually be destroyed. This is the hope that the believer has. After all, our God is the God of justice, and he will one day make all things right (Revelation 21:5). Because of Christ, we have the promise of Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

There is a new world coming in which there will be no more tears or pain because all things will be made new. Paradise lost will be paradise regained.

God is delaying for us

Some ask, “That’s all fine and good, but a truly good God would eliminate evil today.” My question is, “But then, are you ready to be eliminated, since you – like me – are to some degree evil?” The truth is that the total annihilation of evil is a part of the plan. There will one day come a time when God will judge the sin in this world and make all things new.

Great news if you are already counted among those who have repented of their sin, but what about those who haven’t yet made things right with God? The great news is the fourth truth to embrace, which is that God is purposely “delaying” in order to allow more time for people to repent so that he will not need to condemn them. God’s desire is that for all of our sakes we would obey him that it might be well with us.

 “Oh, that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” – Deuteronomy 5:29

Instead, what happens is that we choose our own way, and then we blame God for not doing anything about it. That’s the heart of sinful man.

But Jesus came to change our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, and he does this for those who will turn from evil and call on him to save them from their sin and its consequences.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Just picture the Sinless One who created everything, willfully hanging on a cross and spilling his blood for the sin of those who put their faith in him. Jesus proves God’s love. “Love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” – 1 John 4:7-8.

God has experienced suffering

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to evil, pain and death – yet God had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. He can demand nothing from man that he has not demanded from himself.

He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it absolutely worthwhile.

Yes, God suffered too. It’s easy to forget that the Holy God of the universe chose, out of love, to humble himself, become one of us, and ultimately to suffer in ways none of us every will (or ever could imagine) in order to purchase our redemption.

As a result, he can not only forgive our sins and freely give us salvation, but also sympathize with all we’re going through.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16

God does prevent and restrain some acts of evil. Thankfully so, because this world would be MUCH WORSE were not for God restraining evil. At the same time, God has given us the ability to choose good and evil, and when we choose evil, he allows us, and those around us, to suffer the consequences of evil.

So in the end, rather than blaming God and questioning him on why he doesn’t prevent or eliminate all evil, we should be about the business of proclaiming the cure for evil and its consequences – Jesus Christ!

Five Ways to Respond to the Horrific Church Shooting in Texas

On November 5th 2017, 26-year-old Devin Kelly burst into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and killed (at least) 26 people and shot approximately 20 more. The youngest victim was reportedly two and the oldest was in their 70s. The pastor’s 14-year-old daughter was also murdered. This little town near San Antonio is reeling in agony. For them, this tragedy is Apocalyptic in scale.

Families were decimated, an entire community for the rest of time will be remembered as the place where it happened. No doubt, this little hamlet of civilization has been flooded with news agencies from around the world, agents with the FBI and ATF, ambulance-chasing opportunists of the worst varieties, and well-meaning helping hands (who often get in the way). Whenever schools resume, they will need an army of people trained in crisis therapy. Life will not get back to “normal” in this town for a long, long time – if ever.

I don’t know if anyone is able to tell us the real motive behind the shootings yet. We don’t know with certainty if it was religiously motivated or not, but if it is an attack on Christianity,  is it to be expected?

Whatever the reasons, we do know one thing… It’s evil. How do we (Christians) respond in the face of evil? As disciple’s of Jesus we need to go to our master to find out. Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.”

Tertullian, one of the 2nd century Church Fathers wrote that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church”. This implies that the church grows as others see the way Christians respond to death. The martyrs’ willing sacrifice of their lives leads to the conversion of others. Could we see the beginnings of a regrowth of the church through the blood of martyrs?

Last year was the worst in the past 25 years for the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors, a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries.

It was just two and a half years ago that nine people were murdered during a Bible study at a church in Charleston, S.C.  How did Christians in Charleston react in the face of evil? They said to the shooter, “I forgive you.” This is not natural. It is supernatural. But it’s what Jesus commanded, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you…” – Matthew 5:44

Persecution doesn’t just come from a person bent on murder. We have recently witnessed boycotts and even legal actions taken against Christian bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for same sex couples. I’ve personally witnessed anti-Christian graffiti on church walls, employees being fired for pro-life stands, subtle and not so subtle undertones of intolerance in the media, or outright abuse of power in the government.

In the June 21st, 2014 edition of the National Post, journalist Rex Murphy wrote an article that spoke to a very troubling issue with regard to the suppression of personal choice based on conscience, religious or otherwise. Rex said, “Elected Liberal MPs are under Justin Trudeau’s direct order that, in any legislation that touches on the abortion issue, they must — mindless of their faith, their previous professions on the subject, or their conscience – vote the “pro-choice” dogma. Pro-abortion is the party line. And it is the only line allowed.” – full article can be found by clicking on the following link: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/rex-murphy-in-justin-trudeaus-world-christians-need-not-apply

My question is how are we Christians supposed to respond to the growing anti-Christian sentiment and in some cases the growing outright persecutions?

I am convinced that what we are seeing are events in our world that we, as Christians nearing the return of Jesus Christ to this earth, need to understand will increasingly become an expectation rather than an exception.

That being the case then, just how should his followers respond? In answer to those who say we need to protest or seek revenge I would like to point us back to the words of Jesus himself, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36

So… what is our response to the horrific shootings in Texas? There are many more, but allow me to share five.

1) PRAY

No matter how frequently such persecutions occur and increase, our first response should always be the same: turn to God in prayer. After the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting in 2012, Scotty Smith provided a model for how to pray in the midst of pain:

“Dear Lord Jesus, we abandon ourselves to you tonight—we come running with our tears and our fears, our anger and our anguish, our lament and our longings. We collapse in your presence, with the assurance of your welcome, needing the mercies of your heart. Some stories are just too much for us to absorb; some evil just too great to conceive; some losses beyond all measurability. We need your tears and your strength tonight. That you wept outside the tomb of a beloved friend frees us to groan and mourn; that you conquered his death with yours, frees us to hope and wait. But we turn our thoughts from ourselves to the families who have suffered an unconscionable violation of heart and all sensibilities. Bring your presence to bear, Lord Jesus, by your Spirit and through your people. May your servants weep with those who weep and wail with those who wail. Extend your tear wiping hand—reach into this great tragedy with an even greater grace.”

2) GRIEVE

As Christians, we are called to weep with those who weep. That was one of the identifying markers of Jesus. “Jesus wept.” – John 11:35. Yet in times of tragedy we just might be tempted instead to try to explain away and justify rather than to simply be silent and grieve with those who are grieving. When a friend or co-worker is weeping it’s hard to say, “I don’t know, I don’t understand.”

The truth is, we want to know. We want to bring comfort and we want to “fix it.” But in our attempts to “fix it” we can forget that there’s a real person in deep sorrow. Your friend, coworker, or relative is not a project to be fixed – they are real people who at those moments just want and need love. Most often without words… more often only with your presence. A hug along with the words, “I’m so sorry” can be the most therapeutic and amazing words and actions that your friend needs at that moment.

3) LOVE

The death of anyone should lead to grieving, whether they were the victim or the perpetrator. Loving is not easy especially if it for the ‘murderer – the offender. It’s a sacrifice, but we need to remember that Jesus did it for us. When he came to rescue us, we were all lost in sin. We were “risky” for him, even to the point of crucifixion. Yet he entered into a world filled with filth, and willingly laid down his life in love. This is how we share Christ with those desperate for saving grace.

4) HOPE

I think that we Christians should certainly support certain policies and solutions that we believe can foster peace, however we should also be realistic about the root cause and the ultimate solution. We need to always be quick to recognize that the root cause of violence and hate is sin. The shooting of these folks is First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs TX, is a heart-wrenching reminder of the devastatingly painful and absolutely brutal result of sin. At its most fundamental sense this tragedy is rooted in a rebellion from God. The fact that people had to die in this church is a testimony to the vicious recourse of sin. The Scripture is clear that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Knowing this should cause us to look away from superficial hope during these times of tragedy.The Scripture tells us of Jesus who himself being God became a man with the expressed purpose of defeating sin & death by disarming sin of its power. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of the most-high God, who is Sovereign and good, able to save sinners from the deadly enemy of death. It is Jesus who gave his life as a sufficient sacrifice to pay the death penalty due to rebels like us. He died upon the cross and rose victoriously from the grave. His resurrection from the dead is the proof that death and sin have been defeated.

5) MEANWHILE…

Yes, we continue to live in a fallen world where evil flourishes. However, one day when the Lord returns, evil will be defeated forever. And that is the hope Christians have. Meanwhile, let us pray for those who are persecuting the church and for those who are controlled by evil. And let us live so that others may know Jesus who sees with the eyes of compassion and gives us all a hope for a future where there will be no death or evil. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:43-45

When a Loved One “Comes Out”

 

Dear sister, perhaps you just received some surprising news.

It could be that your son just showed up at the front door and said, “I’m gay.” Perhaps your sister introduced you to her partner today. Or maybe the friend you’ve known for years tearfully revealed she’s struggling with same-sex attraction. It could be that someone you know is “transitioning,” going by another name and gradually changing their appearance to reflect the opposite gender.

If any one of the scenarios above resembles yours today, you may be feeling despair, ashamed, frustrated, wounded, confused, guilty, betrayed . . . or even angry with God. But in the midst of your emotions and uncertainty, God’s Word offers hope-filled answers for you today.

Seven Truths to Consider

1. Being “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow
to become angry” is always a wise reaction.

It is easy, when emotions are high, to either lash out in anger or (in the name of love) to start throwing out Scriptures toward your loved one. Though sharing truth is right at its proper time, consider it may not be the first thing God is asking you to do. In the heat of the moment, the Bible gives us another way to respond—the way of wisdom:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19–20).

The Lord, through James, tells us that a quick, emotional reaction will not change your loved one’s heart. Instead, your efforts to listen to them patiently may be what God uses to help them.

Their decision to tell you probably wasn’t made overnight. It’s more possible that they’ve been wrestling for a while . . . and have been experiencing some deep pain. They may even be expecting you to reject them. Letting them share honestly lets them know they are heard and loved—and will actually help you minister to them better. Their situation may not actually be what you assume, and the Scriptures you initially think they need may not be helpful for their struggle. Are you willing to wisely listen before you speak?

2. Regardless of their choices, your loved one is
made in God’s image and has value and worth.

Here’s some deep, beautiful doctrine: God has graciously placed the imago Dei (image of God) in every person (Gen. 1:27). From the Garden of Eden, each man and woman has been given the privilege of reflecting God and His glory in Creation. Yes, sin—including sexual sin—has caused that image to be displayed imperfectly. But every human being is endowed with the gift of dignity, value, and worth in the eyes of their Creator.

That’s true for the ones who seem most violent and inhuman and the young baby who cannot yet consciously choose to disobey God’s law. Our enemy wants you to forget this truth so you’ll reject and disrespect your loved one . . . because Satan hates God and all who bear God’s image.

Your son changing his name or your cousin coming to Christmas dinner with a same-sex partner doesn’t mean their value before God has diminished. His Creation ordinance still stands—and with it, our need to show all people respect as bearers of God’s image. Recognizing this does not mean approving of all your loved one’s choices, but it does mean approaching them with an attitude of respect.

3. Your and my sin (and need for the gospel)
is the same, no matter our temptations.

We will never fully value and demonstrate the beauty of the gospel until we recognize our own neediness before God. Paul writes about this in Romans. After explaining that God has given His people spiritual advantages, he writes this:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a giftthrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:21–24, emphasis added).

If you hold to the biblical teaching on sexuality and don’t struggle with the same temptations, it can be tempting to look at your friend or relative with disgust. But do you look at your own sin and feel as repulsed? God has offered you grace in Christ—His overwhelming gift of love and blessing—because you needed it and couldn’t earn it. Your sin, whether it’s gossip or overeating or anger, needs God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace as much as your neighbor’s—and that is true if they do practice homosexuality.

If you’re thinking, I do recognize my neediness . . . and it’s overwhelming!, here’s hope: Your neediness is exactly what qualifies you to help others. As you experience your weakness and God’s grace in it, you can then be a humble, effective vessel of God’s mercy toward your loved ones.

4. According to Scripture, embracing their
same-sex desires isn’t God’s best for them . . .

This is one of the hardest truths of Scripture: God is not honored by sexual relationships between people of the same gender. If you’re reading this post, you may already embrace this truth (or you’re wrestling with it). You know verses like Romans 1:26–27, where Paul describes these acts as “dishonorable” and “contrary to nature.” You’ve read the lists of sins elsewhere in the New Testament where the practice of homosexuality is listed as a mark of unrighteousness (1 Cor. 6:9) and “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10).

Yes, homosexual acts are sinful. This statement is true, but it’s very tempting to just stop here. There’s more to the story—and it requires more than simply throwing out Bible verses without love as grenades. (Do you see the ellipsis on the header above? Let the next truth finish the thought.)

5. . . . but obedience to God’s commands
and design can be a very hard road.

Consider the implications for your loved one to follow Jesus in their sexuality:

  • They may have to give up someone they are deeply connected with.
  • They may have to give up their community and identity.
  • They may face deep loneliness.
  • They may have seasons of depression and feeling unloved.
  • They may face misunderstanding in the Church and outside.
  • They will probably battle desires that cannot be fulfilled obediently.
  • They may never have a family or children of their own.
  • They may not be able to enjoy the physical intimacy of sex.

Jesus said following Him would be difficult and full of self-denial (Matt. 16:24). You probably feel some of that “cross of discipleship” each day—praying for a prodigal, feeling rejected by friends who want to gossip, submitting to an unwise decision of someone in authority. Let your experiences give you compassion toward your loved one. If they’re struggling against their desires, look at that list and be willing to ask questions about their fears and pain. And if they are pursuing a same-sex relationship, consider that those may be some of the reasons. Can you enter into the difficulty with them? Is there a way, as their mom or sister or friend, that you can you help provide for some of those needs?

6. God desires and is able to restore what
is broken by sin’s curse—including our
sexuality, but it may not happen in this life.

After that last point, you may be feeling heavy-hearted. But there is hope. God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). With this truth in your pocket, you can look at your loved one and think, If Jesus is their Savior, He can change them.

That said, while praying and hoping, we have to avoid creating an idol called “completely free from temptation.” God’s plan for your loved one, even if He draws them to Himself, may not mean they’ll experience automatic transformation. They will still struggle with temptation (probably even same-sex attraction). God may have marriage in mind for them; He may not. They could be on a long road of both victories and failings. But the goal is the same for all who follow Christ, whether they experience homosexual feelings or not. God’s purpose for His children is always their sanctification and His glory—not attraction to the opposite gender.

The redemption of our bodies (and your loved one’s sexuality) will not be complete until the day Christ returns. But take heart: In that day, there will be no sin, no temptation, no sorrow, no loneliness, and no pain for all who belong to Him. So as you trust the Lord with your loved one’s situation, remember that He is able to turn it to good, and for His people, He will.

7. Showing Christ-like love means sacrificially seeking
your loved one’s welfare while pursuing God’s glory.

This is where it gets practical and personal. Your loved one (like all of us) needs community, a family . . . and hope. Where better to experience these things than around your dinner table, in your church, and in the everyday stuff of life? This is especially important if they’ve already experienced rejection from others. As you long for their restoration and walk with them, your friendship and love are the most beautiful gifts you can give . . . because it reflects the heart of Jesus.

Our Saviour ate with both the religious and the prostitutes and swindlers of His day. Remember that Jesus didn’t make a distinction in welcoming people into His life based on their behavior, temptations, or lifestyle, as we’re often prone to do. All sorts of people were welcome at His table, because that’s where He taught and displayed the gospel. When the Pharisees questioned Him on the company He kept, He was bold and unashamed:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12–13).

Consider this: If our meals are more of a meeting of self-righteous religiosity than a welcoming feast to a motley crew, are we really reflecting the heart of Jesus? When a loved one says, “I’m gay” or “I’m struggling,” should we not do the same as Christ did—showing hospitality to those who need a family, making room at the table for the outcast, and demonstrating mercy toward sinners?

Perhaps this last truth is difficult for you—it may raise questions in your mind about the implications. Yes, it looks messy. But grace rarely comes in when things are washed-up and clean. You may end up sitting by your loved one’s side in the hospital after a suicide attempt and making room for them in your home (as Rosaria Butterfield once did).

Let’s be honest: Your church friends may judge and look askance at you when your daughter, in a short haircut and men’s clothing, walks through the door. As you show love and share your table with your loved one, you may face the same rejection as Christ did from the Pharisees. But remember, our Lord says, “I came for the ones (including us!) who need my friendship and salvation.” By sacrificing your comfort in this way, you can be God’s means of showing Christ’s grace in the world.

Also know that loving and welcoming does not negate any of the other truths above. We must seek God’s best for our loved ones, which always means honoring Him first. We are never to sacrifice truth, but we also are not to sacrifice love. First John 3:18 says it best: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

As you work through your own emotions and choose to show Christ’s love, rest in the comforting truths above. And consider . . . our sovereign God is working behind your friend or relative’s confession. They’re sitting next to you for a reason; perhaps you are in their life “for such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins is a musician by training, a writer by calling, and a child of God by grace. Her passion is helping people find abundant life in Christ through life-on-life discipleship and the written word. She serves with the Revive Our Hearts team in editorial services. When she’s not writing, you can find Hayley chasing adventures in libraries, on hiking trails, and through deep conversations.