Why Do the Righteous Suffer? – Part One of Two

Why do the righteous suffer? Because calm seas never made master mariner; and the Lord sends rain (good and bad) on the just and the unjust. Yet the rough seas and storms and bad rains we go through are never pleasant. Like St. Paul, there are times when we can despair of life itself. Let us examine what suffering is, and why God allows it.

Here are some of the common symptoms of great suffering, loss, or grief. Not everyone experiences them all, but some people do:

– Flat emotions. Inability to feel anything. Neither joy nor grief touches you. Your face reflects that your feelings are numb.

– Irritability. Desire to be alone. Unfriendliness. Feeling tired all the time. Constantly needing to take a nap. Insomnia at night.

– Loss of interest in your hobbies. Overeating or undereating. Need to medicate – prescription meds, alcohol, tv, etc.

– Inability to cope with the tasks of life, such as cooking, making the bed, cleaning, shopping. Dread of facing the world.

– Bad decisions. Carelessness. Wasting time. Missing appointments. Forgetfulness. Avoidance of planning. Suicidal plans.

– Others have difficulty in dealing with you because you won’t cooperate for very long. You won’t help yourself.

– Uncontrollable crying, grief, and sorrow, or feelings of terrible loss, overwhelm you at times, usually when you are alone.

– You feel angry at God, or frustration with Him. God doesn’t seem to be listening nor caring. You feel despair, no hope.

God Himself suffers – Remember that He rent the Temple veil upon the death of His Son? It also hurts God when YOU suffer! Therefore there is something profound about suffering, if God Himself must suffer.

Jesus suffered — Heb. 5:8, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”

Psalm 119:67 says, 67Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”

Psalm 119:71 says, 71It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”

Psalm 119:75 says, 75I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”

Jesus knew about sorrow:

–  John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” at the tomb of Lazarus.

–  Isaiah 53:3-5,“3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

The mourning is itself a sign that you have godly hope and faith in God: You choose to mourn in a godly way, ie. without anger, only when you believe that God has happiness stored up for you in the future. The Bible speaks of ungodly grief. Paul says, in II Corinthians 7:10, “  10For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”

Those who are truly ungodly have only the sorrow of the world, which leads to suicidal feelings. Those in true despair, who have no hope, may weep; but their sorrow is not in a godly way, because they have no faith that there could be anything better. They weep and gnash their teeth but they do not mourn in the sense Jesus uses the term, for biblical mourning is the suffering of the loss of joy by a person who knows that there can be such a thing as true joy, and values it.

God can and will turn your sorrow and mourning into joy and gladness and dancing:

–  Isaiah 51:11, “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy [shall be] upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; [and] sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”

–  Ps. 30:4-5, “Sing praise to the LORD, You saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.  For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning…. 11You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness….”

God shall wipe away your tears: Revelation 21:3-5, “3God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.”

–  Joseph wept for a season, but God turned all the evil his brothers did to him to good, saving Israel and Egypt from famine.

–  Sarah wept for a season, but God comforted her with a son, Isaac.

–  Hannah wept for a season, but God comforted her with a child, Samuel.

–  Ruth wept for a season, but God comforted her with a husband.

–  Job wept for a season, but when he stopped blaming God, God restored to him double.

–  Jeremiah wept for a season, but God gave him a vision of Israel’s return from captivity.

–  Ezekiel wept for a season, despairing of his life, but God saved him and eventually took him to heaven in a chariot of fire.

 Jesus will mend your broken heart:

–  John 16:20, “Verily, verily, I say to you, ye shall weep and lament, and…ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned to joy.”

–  Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me … he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted….”

Jesus wiped away the tears of many:

–  The widow of Nain, Luke 7:11;

–  Mary Magdalene and Martha at the death of Lazarus, John 12; and Jairus, Luke 8:41.

–  Peter was rescued by Jesus from the Sea of Galilee. Peter was restored when Jesus said three times, “Feed My sheep.”

Mary wept for a season, but God raised her son from the dead.

Jesus wept for a season, for Lazarus; in the garden of Gethsemane; and on the cross; but God raised Him from the dead and gave him us.

–  So turn your ungodly sorrow into godly sorrow. Repent of any unbelief and hardness of heart. Let your heart turn tender as you grieve and mourn your loss, believing that joy does exist and that God is able to restore it to you.

Sometimes you can’t find relief from the pain from those who hurt you until you have forgiven them. Then you can let out all your grief and be healed of your sorrow:

  • When the Japanese invaded Korea, they killed many old and defenseless men, leaving many widows. When Christianity came to South Korea, some of these women finally were able to give up their hatred for the Japanese.       They cried bitter tears as they relived their grief all over again. But after they had shed those cleansing tears which came with forgiveness, a group of these Christian Korean women decided to do a wonderful thing. They decided to knit garments, sell the knitting, and send a Korean missionary to the Japanese soldiers who killed their husbands. Every day, their mourning was comforted by their actions of love toward their enemies! That Korean missionary won many Japanese soldiers to God, and then they mourned for their sins and found healing in their turn through repentance and trusting in Christ.
  • When Corrie ten Boom forgave the concentration camp guard responsible for her sister Betsie’s death, a flood of love and joy filled her whole body. The guard came to her in a revival service in Germany after the war. He asked her, “Can you forgive me? He held out his hand. Corrie said she couldn’t raise her hand at first, but she did. Then, as she took his hand, the hand of the man who had beaten her sister and left her to die, warmth rose up her arm and then filled her whole body and she felt the presence of the Lord all within and over her. That was a great reconciliation, a profound forgiveness, and it pleased God.

What the Bible Says About Concealing and Revealing

To everything there is a season. Sometimes the biblical way is to conceal a matter, but at other times the godly way is to reveal a matter. Here are some scriptures to guide you in situations. This article talks about relationships with your mate, but the principles would apply to anyone with whom you are in a meaningful relationship or covenant.

SHOULD I CONCEAL IT?

There is a time to conceal things from your mate. According to the Bible, here is a list of the types of things you would be better off keeping to yourself:

                1) Keep rash, bitter remarks to yourself. (Proverbs 12:18, There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health. Proverbs 29:20, Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him. Proverbs 12:16, A fool’s vexation is known at once….) Doubt and jealousy are examples of this.

                2) Keep from arguing until you have had a chance to think it through from every angle. (Proverbs 25:8 Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.) Why say something to which your mate immediately fires back the perfect putdown? That will just make you more defensive. No, stop and think before you insert your foot in your mouth!

                3) Don’t put down your mate when they say something foolish. Proverbs 26:4 says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” Matthew 7:1 says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Give them time to think and to retract it later. This includes not showing contempt or harshly judging them for what they did or said.

                4) Don’t keep bringing up the past sins of your mate; that is unforgiveness, and it tends to kill their love for you. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”

                5) Bite your tongue from answering your mate before they have finished speaking and explaining their case. (Proverbs 18:13, He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.)

                6) Don’t always tell your mate everything you are praying to God about. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus says, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Your relationship with God is what will sustain you toward your mate when your mate is not sustaining it. So keep it confidential when necessary, as Jesus advises you to.

                7) Don’t slander your mate — especially if your mate truly wronged you or did something really wrong — to your best friend, especially if they are of the opposite sex. Proverbs 10:18 says, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.” Psalms 101:5 says, ‘Whoever privately slanders his neighbour, him will I [God] cut off: he that has a high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.” In other words, it is plain old hatred when you talk about your mate’s sins behind their back. So don’t do it! Be that loyal!

                8)Never say something you don’t really mean just to get an effect — you may be dismayed much later to learn your mate really took you at your word. We are most tempted to exaggeration when our mate is refusing to act as if he or she hears us. The problem is, they are listening better than we think. We may be truly sorry for blowing things up to make a point.

SHOULD I REVEAL IT?

There is a time to reveal things. According to the Bible, here is a list of the things you definitely should not conceal, but should confess and reveal:

                1) Reveal your plans to your mate. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” This will keep your mate from getting angry, and keep you from falling apart. It is an example of the kind of communication you owe each other. Not telling plans is a symptom that things are really bad.

                2) Don’t hide your successes from your mate. In Matthew 5:15 Jesus says, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” It is a sign of hostility and alienation when you don’t let your mate in on your little daily triumphs that have made you happy with yourself.

                3) Don’t conceal the love you feel when you feel it. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” John 3:20-21 says, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

                4) Let your mate know, tactfully, when you are boiling inside at them; it’s not fair to hide it until it explodes all over them. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus says, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Proverbs 10:18 says, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips … is a fool.”

                5) Tell your mate the truth, and do not hide it from them. Proverbs 4:24 says, “Put away from thee a deceitful mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.” Do you really need to be reminded of the importance to a relationship of openness and honesty? I think not!

                6) Admit your sins to your mate. It’s the only way! Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”

                7) Don’t just tell your mate when you want to make love; reveal to your mate your desire for them in a romantic way that goes beyond lovemaking. Proverbs 5:15-18 says, “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. … Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.”

                8) Admit your weaknesses in good humor to your mate. II Corinthians 12:9 says, “And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” The only reason you wouldn’t want to laugh about your weaknesses with your mate is that they might use it against you. But in a healthy relationship there is a ground rule that one never does that! Get your mate to agree to stop trying to win out over you, so you can admit your weaknesses and become intimate!

God’s Justice vs. ‘Social Justice’ or ‘Fairness’ – Part Two

In God’s kingdom, mercy is voluntary. It is not enforced by any law but the moral law of love. However, even mercy has its element of reaping and sowing. Jesus said, as has been mentioned, that the merciful will be given mercy. If you sow mercy, God will see that you reap mercy. When government intervenes to take from the diligent and give to the lazy, they may bestow what they call social justice – but it is not biblical justice. It is government approved stealing. It ruins people’s morals to give them something for nothing, and to take from those who have just because they have earned it. It makes politicians corrupt.

Jesus calls mercy one of the weighty matters of the law, Matthew 23:23, along with justice and faith. In other words, the law of God is based on justice, mercy, and faith. God has lots of rules concerning mercy for the poor and needy.You can snack on the grapes or corn as you walk through another man’s vineyard or fields. The poor can glean the fields of the rich after the harvest, and a righteous farmer will leave the corners of his fields for the poor.

However, there is no punishment for refusing to be generous. Generosity, as a form of mercy, is voluntary. And God Himself is generous with the poor. In the temple, and on special days, the poor don’t have to sacrifice an ox; they can bring doves instead. But coveting is a sin, whether done by the rich or the poor. But that does not mean that the poor shall be favored in court.

God says to treat rich and poor with the same justice. In Exodus 27:3-6, God says do not favor the rich and wrest judgment from the poor because the rich pays a bribe; but neither shall you favor the poor just because he is poor. They get the same justice in court.

Nothing makes God angrier than when the wicked pervert biblical justice and mercy. See Isaiah 59:1-4, “1Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 3For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. 4None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.” Amos 5:21-24 says, “21I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22Yea, though ye offer me your burnt-offerings and meal-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. 23Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy hymns. 24But let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” When the judges become corrupt, all of society suffers from criminals. That’s when Jesus would get out His whip of cords again.

Socialists pervert God’s word when they take God’s justice to refer to socialism. It does not! In the verses just quoted, justice means the law of reaping what you sow; the measure you give is the measure you get; and violence and stealing is wrong for rich or poor. It does not mean robbing from the hard working wealthy and giving to the dope dealers, shirkers, and bums. It does mean caring voluntarily for the truly needy, but it does not mean creating a government who steals through unjust taxation.

In societies based on God’s justice, the diligent and lazy get very different outcomes. God’s economics is based on “Thou shalt not steal” and “You reap what you sow.” God says neither rich or poor may steal from the other. Both get exactly what they’ve earned. Rich and poor are treated alike.

Furthermore, God’s justice is designed to prevent evil. God requires more than merely an eye for an eye. According to God’s law, if a thief steals one sheep from you, the thief owes you back not one but four sheep. For rapists, the punishment is to be put to death. Based on this principle, U.S. courts awarded punishment money to the states who sued the tobacco industry. If you swear falsely against another in God’s court system, you must pay double what the punishment would have been to one you falsely accused.

God recognizes that some will choose to behave with perseverance and diligence, while others will behave foolishly. Some will work hard and prosper. Others will be lazy and become poor. Thus, II Thess. 3:10 says, “If any will not work, let him not eat.” Letting the lazy starve is the opposite of fairness but the essence of justice. The lazy should not be rewarded for laziness. But what, you ask, about the poor who are not lazy, but injured somehow?

God’s justice also rewards doing good. Proverbs 19:17 says, “17He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” God’s mercy and lovingkindness are part of God’s justice. God rewards those who show mercy to the injured poor such as widows, orphans, and wounded. God’s justice says to individuals that when they give to those they deem needy, God will bless them for it. Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” The welfare system kills our motivation toward mercy and love, because it breaks God’s law against stealing; but God’s justice actually motivates us to show mercy and love.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. (Psalm 33:12) When a society bases its laws on the biblical principals of justice and mercy, and faith in God, it will be blessed. Psalm 43:1 says, “1Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.” We must push with all our might against injustice and sin wherever we find it, regardless of our political views, if we would please the Lord. As elections approach in this year of 2014, let us keep God’s righteousness and justice uppermost in our hearts to guide us!

God’s Justice vs. ‘Social Justice’ or ‘Fairness’ – Part One of Two

               Jesus said, Matthew 7:2, “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” You reap what you sow! St. Paul said, II Corinthians 9:6, “6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” In Galatians 6:7, Paul adds, “  7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Jesus also said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” and in Matthew 6:14 He says, “14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Jesus is explaining how God’s justice works.

These scriptures above make it clear: in God’s kingdom, it’s up to you.  How you behave, how you sow your seed determines what your reward will be – what you will reap. Jesus says, Revelation 22:12, “My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” In Matthew 16:27 Jesus says, “27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” You don’t get saved by your works but by your personal relationship with Jesus; nevertheless, you will be rewarded according to your works. It matters what you do, because according to God’s justice, you can indeed earn reward. St. Paul says, I Corinthians 3:11-15, “11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” You will be saved by your faith in Christ, but rewarded according to your works. This goes for the poor as well as the rich!

Biblical justice means “what you deserve.” Justice means if you earn an A on a test, no one can take it from you. “Fairness,” or “social justice” as the term is used today, means that those who got F’s would be allowed to steal points from you, making both the A student and F student get a C. It may be “fair” but it is not just. Socialism and communism are not based on God’s justice. And it doesn’t work. Perhaps you have heard of the professor who took points from the A students so all would get a C, including those who did no work. The A students stopped working, and everyone in the class flunked even though they had been warned.

Fairness” means equal outcome for all whether they have earned it or not. The children at a birthday party all get the same favors and the same ice cream. This sounds great to the lazy. That is why some are religiously for socialism and communism. Under our American system, however, our society has been based on keeping what you earn. This is why the diligent favor God’s justice and not “social” justice, i.e. stealing. God is for real justice – you get everything you earn, and no one can take it from you without sin.

                “Social justice” or “fairness” means: “Everybody should get the same, regardless of whether they earned it or not.” Communism, socialism and welfare are based on this. But God’s justice is the exact opposite of “fairness.” God’s idea of justice is that you only get what you have earned, i.e. what you deserve. Anything else should be called mercy. The Good Samaritan delivered mercy, not justice. The father of the prodigal son delivered mercy, not justice. However, the unmerciful should not expect mercy! The law of reaping and sowing applies.

Socialism is a form of stealing. God will never bless a system that makes laws to take from those who earn. Taxing the rich unequally in order to bring everyone down to the same level is stupid. It is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. It is not only stupid, but wicked, because it is robbery. Our government behaves wickedly in a multitude of ways, so that 50% of the nation is on welfare and the top 10% of earners are paying 95% of the entire tax burden. God says stealing is a sin, even when you steal from the rich. It is not mercy, but theft, to steal from the wealthy in order to get the votes of those on welfare.

Capitalism is based on God’s law of reaping what you sow. No one has the right to steal from you what you have earned. Where does government get the right to tax? In America, it gets it from the people through representational government. However, the biblical model for taxation is found in Genesis 47:26, “26And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.” And the people said to Joseph, “Thou hast saved our lives.” It would save the lives of many in America if all local, state, and federal government taxes amounted to a total of only a 20% flat tax. Capitalism, in short, is based on God’s laws and not the socialist/communist principles of Karl Marx, who was a Satan worshiper in his private life. (See Marx and Satan, by Richard Wurmbrand, 1986, available on Amazon.)

Yes, many on welfare deserve it! I am sure God is pleased when we take care of those who cannot make it on their own. However, I believe it should be the job of the churches and not the government, because the government always seems to wind up in the hands of the unrighteous. Lord Acton said power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple, and I think Jesus would drive many out of our government today for the same reason. They are corrupt and rob the people who work for a living. If churches were responsible for the poor, it would mean that the poor would be known personally and get personal attention. Corruption would be much less, if not totally absent. The early church’s deacons – and deacons today – are all about caring for the needy. They do a much better job than government has ever done.

SINS OF THE TONGUE: Telling It to the Church vs. Keeping a Confidence – Part Two

WHEN DO WE “TELL IT TO THE CHURCH”

AND WHEN DO WE KEEP A CONFIDENCE?

Public Correction of Sin – Or Slander and Stirring Up of Strife?

Part Two

Dr. Wallace Cason III

The overarching principle is righteousness – the building up or restoring of relationships. Jesus had a reason for saying “love your enemies,” “Love one another,” and “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” His purpose in coming to earth was to reconcile us to God. He is the Prince of peace, not of war. The entire Bible is against strife, and especially contention and strife between brothers – Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strifes, but love covers all sins.” Proverbs 17:19 says, “He loveth transgression that loveth strife.” Jesus still called Judas friend, even as Judas betrayed Him. St. Paul says, Galatians 6:1, “1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” In Romans 14:1, Paul says, “1Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” In Colossians 3:13 Paul says, “13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” In I Corinthians 13, Paul says, love “doth not take account of wrongs.” John says, I John 2:9, “9He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” Real love means ceasing strife and quarreling.

We know there is a time for public rebuke. Paul rebuked Peter to his face – see Galatians 2:14: “11But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?” Also, Paul said in I Timothy 5:20, “20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” Paul did this even though he looked up to Peter, and earlier had sought Peter’s approval.

We know that Jesus laid down how we should proceed when there is an offense against us, or an offense we have committed.Whether we did the offending, or someone else offended us, Jesus’ commands the same action: go to them privately first and try to make it right. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, Matthew 5:23-24, “23Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” That covers when you did the offending. But you must do the same if someone else offended you. Jesus says, Matthew 18:15-17, “15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

We note that Jesus says go directly to the person offended or offending. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus is specific and says “alone.” This means, as I interpret it, that Jesus is advocating confidentiality – first go alone and try and win back your brother or sister. My experience is, we all try and weasel out of this one! We all want to get people on our side and then confront those who offend us – but not Jesus. He says go alone first. Now let’s go back and talk some more about gossip, tale bearing, and slander.

What is the difference between tattling, gossip, and slander? Scripture doesn’t come out with dictionary definitions, but putting it all together, and from a study of the original languages, I conclude: (1) tattling or tale bearing is telling a tale, an unchecked negative story, about someone – without first verifying the facts. (2) Gossip is tale bearing of either positive or negative stories without verifying, for social gain – to become popular as a source of “news.” (3) Slander is deliberately and maliciously telling a negative story you know to be untrue. Slander has the effect of controlling those talked about by humiliating them, and there is a connection with witchcraft in the Old Testament, also known biblically as whispering. Slander, false witness, and tale bearing especially tend to produce strife, something God considers the very worst of abominations (Pro. 6:19). These all have in common an avoidance of the person in the story, not consulting or talking to them, and an uncaring or malicious attitude as to whether the person’s reputation could be damaged by the story. They are forms of hatred, from mild to strong. They all destroy relationships.

John Wesley and his “Holy Club” had a way of dealing with gossip that should be of interest. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A whisperer separates chief friends.” Wesley didn’t want that to happen in his group of friends, called the Holy Club. In 1752, John Wesley and his Holy Club at Oxford University made a covenant, and all six members signed a copy and hung it on their wall: “We covenant,” they said,

                (1) That we will not listen or willingly inquire after ill concerning one another;

                (2) That, if we do hear any ill of each other, we will not be forward to believe it;

                (3) That as soon as possible we will communicate what we hear by speaking or writing to the person concerned;

                (4) That until we have done this, we will not write or speak a syllable of it to any other person;

                (5) That neither will we mention it, after we have done this, to any other person;

                (6) That we will not make any exception to any of these rules unless we think oursel­ves absolutely obliged in conference.”

To whom should the sinner confess? James 5:16 says, “16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” After much study and prayer, I believe the sinner is only required to confess to the Lord and the person or persons against whom he or she sinned. A sinner is not required to confess to the whole world – but if the offense is against the whole church, then the church has a right to hear the confession. We must be careful not to take up a fault against another when we were not directly injured – Psalm 15 warns us that it is unholy behavior to take up a reproach against another, i.e. take sides in a friend’s problem with someone else. This of course goes against everything in our society!

Conclusion and practical suggestions: Proverbs 11:13 says, “13A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” Although there is a time to rebuke someone sharply, that they may be sound in the faith (Titus 1:13), the reason given by Paul in that very passage for the rebuke was, “10For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses….” The rebuke was for the vain talkers. (And Paul didn’t say to rebuke them publicly, either!) Therefore, let us:

  1. Confess our faults one on one, sinner to the one sinned against. (James 5:16).
  2. Avoid taking up a reproach, i.e. taking sides with your friends against someone who harmed them. (Psalms 15:3).
  3. Obey Matthew 18:15, and go directly to the person who offends us, and go alone, before we speak. First verify there is a transgression! First give your brother or sister a chance to either defend themselves – or to apologize and repent.
  4. Obey Matthew 18:17 and only tell it to the church after following Jesus’ steps: first alone, then with a witness, then lastly to the church.
  5. Obey Matthew 5:24, and go directly to the person you realize you have offended, before you even worship again. Nip it fast.
  6. Obey Luke 17:1-3, and forgive your brother or sister 70 times 7 if they repent. This means not bringing it up again – Pro. 17:9 says, “9He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” Accept their word!
  7. Obey Gal. 6:1 and Matt. 7:1-3, and let your first goal be to restore the wounded, not shoot them or condemn them.
  8. Obey Jesus, John 15:17, and love one another. This means not hating, not rejecting, and not avoiding those who have hurt you.
  9. Obey Proverbs 17:9, and in love seek to cover another’s transgression rather than publicly humiliate them and stir up strife.
  10. Cease talebearing! Pro. 26:20, “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”
  11. Obey I Cor. 13 and keep no account of wrongs, even as you rejoice in the truth. Be patient.
  12. Obey Gal. 6:1-3 and bear your brother’s or sister’s burdens, restoring them. Don’t trip them or worry if they are “getting away with it.” Let your goal be their restoration into full communion and fellowship. Be faithful, keep their confessions, and pray for their healing!

SINS OF THE TONGUE: Telling It to the Church vs. Keeping a Confidence – Part One

WHEN DO WE “TELL IT TO THE CHURCH”

AND WHEN DO WE KEEP A CONFIDENCE?

Public Correction of Sin – Or Slander and Stirring Up of Strife?

Part One

Dr. Wallace Cason III

Sometimes problems come up in church because of sin among the church staff or officers. It can be difficult to know when to talk and when not to talk about such matters of conscience. On the side of “telling it to the church,” James 5:16 says, “16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” Jesus said, John 8:32, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” St. Paul said we are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). There is a time, Jesus said, when those things said in secret shall be proclaimed from the housetops, Luke 12:2-3. Jesus said, Matthew 18:17, if the offender won’t listen to you or a witness, “tell it unto the church.”

Yet Jesus remained silent before Pontius Pilate even though it meant His death. Proverbs 11:13 says, “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” And Jesus said to His disciples, John 16:12, “12I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” Paul said, Gal. 6:1, “1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness….,” and he also said, Titus 1:10, “10…there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses….” Jesus did not inquire into the sins of the woman taken into adultery; He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Jesus did not require the thief on the cross to make a full confession of his sins before giving him pardon. The father of the prodigal son did not let his boy confess his sins but took him and restored his place in the family and threw him a party. So the question is: if a church staff member confesses a private sin to the senior pastor, is the senior pastor obligated to “tell it to the church” or to keep the confidence?

The simple solution is to warn every officer in the church that sins affecting their integrity will be grounds for dealing publicly. A church member would expect his admission of a sin to the pastor to be kept in confidence. And even then, there are limits to the willingness of a pastor to keep destructive secrets if there is no repentance. However, if a staff member’s integrity is involved, then the rule prior to hiring should be made clear: you are an employee and the pastor can and will discipline you and even fire you, and other church officers will be told the reason. I am talking about such things as a pornography habit, adultery, stealing, abuse, alcoholism, or lying. You may think of others.

God certainly hates the stirring up of discord, and the creating of strife is sin.  Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “16There are six things which Jehovah hateth; yea, seven which are an abomination unto him: 17Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; 18A heart that deviseth wicked purposes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, 19A false witness that uttereth lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” Proverbs 17:19 says, “19He loveth transgression that loveth strife….” We have to be careful to have restoration of a person uppermost in our minds. Paul says in , Galatians 6:1, “1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

Yes, there are those times when we feel strong obligation to tell the church of someone else’s hidden sin. But you had better be very sure you are not bearing false witness, or slandering another! Slander and bearing false witness are grave sins. God says, Ps. 101:5, “5Whoso privately slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off.” We know that the tongue can lead us into sin, James 3:6-8, “6And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell…the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” God hates “19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren,” Pro. 6:19. 

How then shall we rightly divide the word of truth? When do we remain silent, being faithful to those who have confessed to us in confidence; and when do we speak out concerning matters of someone’s sin? When are we obligated to reveal, and when to hide, the truth? Must we shred another’s reputation in the name of seeking truth? What if the rumors turn out to be false and libelous? This is a matter which has greatly exercised clergy in recent years. The 2004 edition of the United Methodist Book of Discipline (good through 2008) said, ¶ 341.5, “All clergy of The United Methodist Church are charged to maintain all confidences inviolate, including confessional confidences, except in the cases of suspected child abuse or neglect or in cases where mandatory reporting is required by civil law.” (Judicial Council Decision 936). However, during most of my life as a professional minister, up until the year 2004, the Discipline in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000 all simply state, in an even stronger way, “All clergy of The United Methodist Church are charged to maintain all confidences inviolate, including confessional confidences.” Period.

This is why this is such a serious issue. Pastors better tell employees of the church in advance that they cannot expect to have confessional confidences with the senior pastor if those confidences are about destruction of the spoken or unspoken covenant with the church to be a person of biblical integrity in holding that office. In the book The Right to Silence: Privileged Clergy Communication and the Law, (Abingdon Press, 1983), authors John C. Bush and William Tiemann detail how, going back from 17th century England common law up to the present day court system in the United States, the law has sustained the right of clergy to keep confessional confidences inviolate.

However, what if you are dealing with a gray area? What if it isn’t really a matter of law, but of local church ethics? What if a staff member confesses to his pastor in confidence a sin that would get him fired if the congregation knew of it? Or in the case of a minister, what if a pastor confesses something to the d.s. (district superintendent)? I have had several district superintendents tell me of their struggles with pastors coming to them and confessing sin. Some d.s.’s keep it confidential and work with the pastor as long as it is of the nature of a private sin. Other d.s.’s warn their pastors up front that the d.s. will bring them up on charges immediately if they find out anything harmful to the ministry or to other persons.

And let us ask an even larger question: what does the Bible say about the whole issue of when, how, and to whom should a person confess their sins? Who has a right to know the sins of a Christian brother or sister who is an officer of the church, or even a hired staff member? When is a church member right in urging the public confession of a sin before the whole church, for the sake of airing the truth and hopefully bringing healing, or removal of the offender, and when would it be tale bearing or stirring up strife or breaking a confidence? We shall try to answer these questions by consulting the Bible.

We know that confession of sin is good. There is no question that the sinner must confess to God to get forgiveness. I John 1:9 says, “9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Furthermore, if the sinner does not confess, there are consequences: Prov­erbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Everyone reading this should be clear that the imperative to repent and confess our sins is not in question. What is in question, however, in this essay, is when, to whom, and in what manner is that confession best made.

We know that gossip, tale bearing, and slander are sins. Lev. 19:16 says, “16Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.” (New Living Translation) says, “”Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people. Do not try to get ahead at the cost of your neighbor’s life, for I am the LORD.” Pro. 18:8 says, “8The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Pro. 26:20 says, “20Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.” Psalm 101:5 says, “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.” The word “Satan” means “adversary” and “Devil” means “slanderer” or “accuser.” God forbid we should be caught doing Satan’s work for him by accusing or being an adversary! Yet the question still before us is: When is it tattling and not tattling; gossip and not gossip; slander and not slander? We will get to that, but first let us invite the Lord Jesus into our thought process concerning this whole matter of offenses.

Part Two will carry the discussion further.

Why I Love the Police – Part Two

In my opinion, police officers are like angels, and that’s no joke. Here are seven ways from the Bible that show it is true:

(1) Angels and the police are protectors of little children. In Mt. 18:10 Jesus says, “10Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” Police are out there doing their best to protect little children.

(2) Angels and the police protect us all, putting their bodies on the line to protect the innocent and convict the guilty.

Psalm 91:11 says, “10No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” Police are out there trying to keep evil from befalling us and to protect us in our dwellings.

In Matthew 26:52-53 Jesus says to Peter, “52…Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” Police are on call 24/7 to come when needed. Usually multiple cars arrive, although not twelve legions’ worth!

(3) Angels and the police battle the forces of evil.

Numbers 22:22 says, “22Then God’s anger was aroused because [Balaam] went, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside….” Balaam was about to curse Israel, and the angel of the Lord was going to stop it — with a sword. Police also have authority — to use deadly force if necessary.

Jude 1:9 says, “9Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Any police officer will tell you that they are taught to be polite and courteous, even to evil people. They sometimes feel like they are fighting people possessed by the devil, I feel quite sure!

And we mustn’t forget the angel of death who smote the Assyrians, in Isaiah 37:35-37, “[God said] ‘I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.’   36Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.   37So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed….” Police get killed in shoot outs with bad guys. We just lost a police officer in Tupelo when a bank robber came up behind him and shot him.

(4) Angels and the police haul off the guilty and bring home the innocent. In Mt. 13:38-39 Jesus says, “38The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.” Notice that the reapers of both the sons of the kingdom of God as well as the reapers of the sons of the devil. Police bring criminals to the police station in handcuffs, and they also bring the hurt, upset, and wounded to the hospital or to their homes.

In Mt. 16:27 Jesus says, “27For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”  In Matthew 24:31, Jesus says, “30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”  Angels are very important to Jesus. He is their King and He cares for them and brings them along with Him. In the same way, police officers are precious in the sight of the Lord. 

(5) Angels and the police are first on the scene of horror. They pick up the pieces. They minister to the wounded. After the three temptations of Jesus, Matthew 4:11 says, “11Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” Angels minister to those who have been hurt. Police will guard you with their own bodies to keep criminals from hurting you.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Luke 22:43 says, “[Jesus] prayed, 42saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ 43Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” Police officers stay with people in car wrecks or when buildings collapse, and hold their hands and encourage them. They strengthen us to help us endure our pain. Many people have been very glad to see the cops arrive!

When Gabriel appeared to the shepherds on the first Christmas, he said to them, “Fear not.” He said the same thing to Mary the mother of Jesus, “Fear not.” The angels at the tomb on resurrection morning said “Fear not!” Angels are there to comfort and alleviate fear, as well as to bear messages from God. Likewise, police officers feel the burden to comfort the needy and wounded or frightened just as deeply as do firemen or emergency medical personnel. On 9/11, police officers were racing up those stairs of the twin towers alongside the firemen, and also died trying to save people. That wasn’t just comforting; that was rescuing. When you see the police hustling to save you, you say “Thank God!” and your fear lessens dramatically.

(6) Angels and the police have might, and protect what is right; they battle to sustain this nation.

In Ex. 23:20-23, God says, “20“Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21Beware of him and obey his voice; do not provoke him, for he will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in him. 22But if you indeed obey his voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23For my angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.” The police will be an enemy to your enemies! However, if they catch you speeding, they will sure be glad to give you a ticket. They are like wasps or hornets: they will sting those trying to hurt you, but they will also sting you if you transgress!

Dan. 10:18-20 tells of Daniel’s encounter with an angel of God, “18Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19And he said, ‘O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!’ So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, ‘Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.’ 20Then he said, ‘Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia’….” Police officers wear American flags on their uniforms. They aren’t there just to protect local people, but every American — and even visitors in our country, legal or illegal — from evil.

(7) Angels and the police sometimes have to be messengers, to bring both good and bad news. In Luke 1:26-28 we read, “26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’”  Or another example: In Luke 24:4-7, two angels met Peter and John: “4And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but is risen!’”Angels love to give good news; and so do the police. “We found your stolen goods, and here they are!”

In Luke 1:18-20, Gabriel gives both good and bad news to Zacharias the father of John the Baptist: “18And Zacharias said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.’ 19And the angel answered and said to him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.’”  The saddest duties of notifying people of tragedy in their family falls to the police. They not only bring glad tidings, but sad tidings. It takes the heart of a lion to be a police officer!

Wherever our police officers go,

They need to know that they are cherished.

They are our human angels!

Why I Love the Police – Part One

When I was a child, my mother took my brother and me to the movies. It was the Paramount Theatre (proper spelling) in Greenville, Mississippi. It was in the early 50’s. After the movie, Mom discovered that we had a flat tire. We watched as all the other cars pulled away until we were the only ones left in the parking lot behind the Theatre. (Gee, that spelling of theatre looks weird.)

Along came a police officer. He was immaculately dressed, with creases everywhere in his uniform. He had a nightstick on his belt, and a gun, he smelled faintly of cologne, and he was young and handsome and built like a football player. “Ma’am, may I help you with changing your tire?” My mother gladly said yes and thank you. As he got down on his knees and expertly changed the tire, he and my mother chatted. “Have a good night, ma’am,” he said, and continued on his beat. I had stars in my eyes. I now knew what it felt like to be rescued. I was too young to notice that my mother was young and pretty, and too ignorant of my mother’s past to realize that she could have changed the tire herself.

Later in life, I have had many wonderful dealings with the police. I was the volunteer chaplain to the police force in two towns during my career. I rode in police cars, spent hours listening to their life stories, and participated in certain crime scenes. Once, a man was shot in the stomach with a .22 pistol. He was the janitor at a funeral home, and was walking along the street. The husband of the man’s girlfriend came out from behind a telephone pole and shot him twice. When we arrived on the scene, the yard of the man was full of his neighbors, all talking like crazy. The man sat on a chair in his yard, wiping the blood off his stomach with a bloody towel. I knelt in front of him and asked him if he would like me to pray. “Yassuh, I sho’ would.” I prayed. The ambulance came and took him to the hospital. Two days later, he was back in town, much chastened, recovering nicely, and perhaps more chaste as well.

Police officers are people with a thing about justice. They want justice for everyone. This means they really do have a calling to protect the innocent and catch the guilty. I have always taken Romans 13:4-5 to refer to the police: “4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”

Police officers want to remove criminals so that we will all be safe. Although sometimes it feels like they are wasps watching us to sting us for breaking little laws on the roads and streets, they are actually fishing for bigger game. They are like hunters, always hoping to catch evildoers. They have to be paranoid because typically they deal with people who lie to them, or cover up their guilt. Most officers are excellent human lie detectors! Most of them also have training in counseling skills, which means they can get you to feel comfortable and talking to them. This is important at the scenes of accidents when people need emotional comfort, and it is also important for interrogation.

Good police officers have to be like King Solomon. They have to size up juvenile troublemakers and parent them right on the street, or in a store after they catch them shoplifting. They have to see through the situation to what a person really needs. They have to be able to convince a kid that they care, and be like a father or mother to the young in tough neighborhoods. They have to make friends in every neighborhood, so they can be aware of what is really going on in a community. They have to give advice, be a shoulder to cry on, and be willing to help people in trouble. They have to know first aid far beyond amateur level.

Police come in both genders, and come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some like doughnuts. Some don’t. The officers I know prefer tootsie rolls – they aren’t as sticky as doughnuts, have fewer calories, and are made of chocolate.

In one city in which I served, I was giving a speech to all the police officers. I told them that I have never gotten a ticket, and religiously stopped at stop signs and drove the speed limit. To my surprise and delight, all the officers began to make comments such as, “Let’s all do our best to fix Wally up. Wally, we’re making it our purpose in life to catch you and ruin your reputation!” But they never did.

Police officers are like ambulance medics: (1) They most often come to relieve your pain. (2) They come in the middle of the night or late afternoon or early morning, whenever you call for them. (3) They sometimes have to be strict and make you take your medicine. (4) They do the best they can and pray for you when you never know they did. (5) Their greatest joy is to protect you, keeping you safe and sound. (6) They have people over them to whom they must report and give account. (7) Their real pay is your gratitude.

Police officers are like soldiers: (1) They spend long lonely hours, nothing happening.  Then suddenly can come the most intense life-threatening moments imaginable. (2) They have the deepest commitment to their country and their community. (3) They pray that they will be up to battling whatever evil comes their way, with courage and honor. (4) They care for people who sometimes don’t deserve it. (5) They lay down their lives for people who have no idea who died for them. (6) They are underpaid and under-appreciated. (7) Like soldiers, they have biblical authority to carry weapons to defend the good from forces of evil (Romans 13, quoted above).

When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, we in Mississippi grieve like it’s a member of the family. The entire city of Tupelo recently turned out for the funeral of a fallen officer, lining the streets. A large fund was established for the widow and for her children’s education.

A Part Of America Died

By Harry Koch

Somebody killed a policeman today,

And a part of America died.

A piece of our country he swore to protect

Will be buried with him at his side.

The suspect who shot him will stand up in court,

With counsel demanding his rights,

While a young widowed mother must work for her kids

And spend alone many long nights.

The beat that he walked was a battlefield, too,

Just as if he’d gone off to war.

Though the flag of our nation won’t fly at half mast,

To his name they will add a gold star.

Yes, somebody killed a policeman today,

It happened in your town or mine.

While we slept in comfort behind our locked doors,

A cop put his life on the line.

Now, his ghost walks a beat on a dark city street,

And he stands at each new rookie’s side.

He answered the call and gave us his all,

And a part of America died.

A Year in a Brewery

St. Paul, Minnesota, has the one and only Jacob Schmidt Brewery. I worked there for a whole year after getting back from a ten month missions experience in Ancoraimes, Bolivia. I was angry with God, because I was not mature enough to tolerate the cultural rejections that came with the job. Looking back, it was extremely valuable missionary training; however, at the time it just made me miserable. My main problem was too much telling God what to do for me, and not enough asking God what He wanted me to do for Him.

I had finished two full years of seminary before going to Bolivia. I went to United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minnesota, just north of Minneapolis-St. Paul. There was a requirement of spending one year “in the field,” which usually meant being an associate minister in some stateside church. I had a strong hankering to do something more radical, hence the ten months in Bolivia. My wife had given up her acceptance into the Peace Corps to marry me; so when she suggested missions, I said “South America!” Layman’s Overseas Service accepted us as volunteer missionaries working within the Bolivian Methodist Church.

When I got back from Bolivia, I arranged with U.T.S., my seminary, for a year’s sabbatical. They agreed, especially when I asked to take courses during that year. I arranged to work full time at Jacob Schmidt Brewery, but since my shift was at night, I had several hours during the day to do extra field work for extra credit. I volunteered for a street ministry in the Hispanic neighborhood in West St. Paul, working with a community center there. The police set me up with ten juvenile delinquents, and the center gave me the use of a van. We went places and did things, which kept the delinquents (all with police records) out of trouble at least for those few hours. I got a full credit for a course in Clinical Pastoral Education for that, and also for several other clinical pastoral courses during the year’s sabbatical. I spent several months working as a chaplain in Stillwater Federal Prison, Stillwater, Minnesota; as a chaplain in the Minneapolis Juvenile Detention Center; and as a street chaplain working one on one with some young men in their twenties who had been convicted of burglary, encouraging them to straighten out their lives.

A church group in Minneapolis, college kids from the University of Minnesota, asked for some help with their Spanish. They were going on a mission trip to Puerto Rico, and my wife and I helped them learn Spanish hymns and basic cultural rules of courtesy. My wife was getting her degree in education during this time, and I was putting her through school.

Meanwhile, at night I spent a full eight hours a night working at the Brewery. I worked on the bottle house side. I started out doing janitorial work; keeping the conveyor belts with full beer bottles working when a bottle broke or fell; running a forklift; and sitting and watching to make sure that each beer bottle only had beer in it. Sometimes a bottle would have a piece of machinery from the filler – the big round gadget which filled each bottle with beer as it passed by. I made boxes or carton (each of which which held one case of beer) in the big basement using a powerful machine that folded the cardboard and sealed it; and I cleaned out used beer cartons.

Before long, because I worked well without supervision, I got a cushy job: running the pump room. Very exciting for a brewery worker! I worked in a big room covered top to bottom in white tiles. In this room were 13 huge railroad car-sized tanks of beer. The beer was kept at 34°, just above freezing. My job was to hook up fire hoses from the tanks of beer to the pipes which carried the beer up to the filler. In between runs, I would steam clean the tiles with a smaller fire hose. Every so often, the big bosses would come down and ask for a beer. They wanted me to turn on a tiny spigot in the side of a tank of beer – unpasteurized beer has live culture and is really delicious, unlike the pasteurized stuff. So…I was a bartender to the bigwigs!

It’s cold in Minnesota in the winter. One night, around 3:15 a.m., we discovered that it was – 80° Fahrenheit. Those of us getting off had to make a mad dash to our cars, shoot raw ether into our carburetors, and quick try to turn the motor over and start our cars before we froze to death. Anything below -45° is really dangerous, and it was touch and go that night.

Everybody got three breaks every night. After 2 hours, we got 15 minutes off. I drank one beer at that break, and since the bottle house had a walk-in cooler for Schmidt Extra-Special (12% alcohol) for us, I got an Extra-Special. After another 2 hours, it was lunch break, and I downed 2 beers. Finally, after the third 2-hour period of work, I got a final 15 minute break, and downed my fourth beer. I got off most nights at 3:15 a.m.

In the spring, I had an experience with God. For a couple of months, I had been reading my New Testament and the Psalms when not pumping beer or cleaning the tiled floors. I had a little desk, and would light a cigarette and drink a beer while reading. When I got up to smoking half a pack a day, I asked God to help me quit, and He was good enough to do so. I was grouchy and achy for two weeks, but I put them down.

I began to be very tired of brewery work, even though the pay was super good. I began to hint to God that I felt really stupid to have been such a spoiled brat with Him in Bolivia. When work was done, I got on my bicycle, feeling good. I had had 4 beers, and as it began to mist a very light rain, I was riding the few miles home under the street lights on the empty streets. I was happy with God, and began to sing gospel songs. Suddenly, in my drunken happiness, I began a conversation with God. It went like this.

“God,” I said, “I’ve made a mess of my life.” God silently agreed, yup. “Do You have a better plan for me?” Again, God said yup. “Well, what is it? Tell me!” Nope, God replied. “Why not?” God said, “Because you’d just mess it up again.” I knew this was true; I agreed. “So, what is it You want me to do?” I already knew the answer: let Him rule my life. As this dawned on me, I had this sort of daydream in my head in which I saw me driving a car with God as passenger. I stopped the car and switched places with God. At the same time, I heard God say, “Let Me drive.” Down the empty streets I pedaled my bicycle, mist gently falling, having this very vivid conversation with God in my state of inebriation.

I said, “Lord, I’m sinful from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet.” I had heard Oral Roberts say that, and it sounded good. God ignored my flowery speech. I added, “I’m not worth anything.” God said, “You are to Me.” So I concluded, “Then for what I’m worth, I’m Yours. Do with me as you will. Take over all the steering and driving of my life. Even if You have to drag me kicking and screaming, I’m giving myself to You permanently, not to be cancelled or undone, ever. Please take Your rightful place on the throne of my life. I want to do Your will instead of my will, now and forever.” I felt God was pleased.

I said some more stuff about praising Him. I let loose with a torrent of praise. About that time, I felt like a heavy monkey was lifted off of my back, and I realized that I couldn’t smell the brewery on my clothes any more. In fact, it wasn’t on my breath either. I realized that I was actually sober and could think really clearly, as if I had woken up. I told God that I wasn’t going to drink any more. He was okay with that. In fact, I did indeed stop completely that night. It was completely effortless, unlike quitting smoking.

I asked God what He would like me to do. He said, “Quit your job.” I asked, “Tomorrow?” “No,” He said. “Give them 30 days’ notice.” When I got home, my wife was overjoyed. I gave notice to the brewery the next day. For the whole 30 days following, one by one my co-workers would come to me and ask why I was quitting. I explained, “I love Jesus more than this job.” Oddly enough, this impressed them. I got to witness to around 50 of them during that month.

Finally, to top it all off, I lined up my seminary to re-enter and finish my final year, starting the following September. Now I had the summer off. After checking with God, My wife and I asked the University of Minnesota Campus Church members if we could go to Puerto Rico with them. Turns out, they had been praying for that very thing. They also had been praying for me to quit smoking and drinking, which I had done. We went to Puerto Rico that summer, and had a whale of a good time! I’ll say more about those three months of ministry some other time.

Kitchen Diplomacy – Part Five of Five

  • Do like Dale Carnegie. Dale Carnegie had three big winning techniques in talking to people:
    • “Don’t criticize!” Criticism of others shuts off their interest in listening to you. If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the bee hive. Therefore, avoid arguing; never utter the words “you’re wrong”; when you are wrong admit it quickly. Never make a point at your partner’s expense. Never lay blame.
    • “Appreciate!” Become genuinely interested. Listen. Find out how your partner really feels. Care about how they feel! Be sympathetic and empathetic.
    • Bait your hook right.” Fish don’t like strawberries and cream like you do – they like worms. So, when you make your offer or your request, be sure to phrase it in terms of the other person’s interest rather than your own.
  • Do positive things!
    • Flirt! Remember how? You can still do it when you are married!
    • Talk! Come on, open up.
    • Encourage! Why not?
    • Give unconditional positive regard! This means:
      • Attribute the best and noblest motives to your partner. Believe the best.
      • Use reflecting speech: when your spouse is trying to tell you something important about feelings or opinions or relationships, first think hard; then say back to your spouse what you understand they are saying.
      • Use active listening. Ask questions to learn more.
      • Don’t ask rhetorical questions – it puts people on edge.
      • Don’t ask questions with ulterior motives. Ask to really get more information.
      • Don’t interrupt or override your partner.
    • Poke lighthearted fun at your foibles! It will endear you.
    • Create affectionate terms for your partner! “Loves,” “Bee-bee.”

Figure out “where are we now.” Sum up anything that you gleaned or gained from your meeting. Suppose that you were working on a new financial budget because your insurance rates went up. Your mate said, “We have to get the money for higher insurance premiums from some of these other categories in our budget.” So you negotiate. Each of you winds up with $10 less allowance per month to spend on yourselves personally; you will go out to eat less; you will spend less on your clothing budget. But you are still needing $50 a month more and you are out of time, or just tired. So you agree to meet next time to continue figuring out a mutually agreeable solution as to which other categories need to give up money to pay the insurance premium.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Suppose everything went right and you figured out, with each other, the perfect solution. Fine. You don’t need to meet again until something else comes up. Realistically, however, often you won’t work out the answer in one meeting. Don’t get frustrated – you’re working on it! You are already way ahead! You have established a means of communication that is going to work to take away your deepest frustrations with each other! So give it time. Above all, remember to NOT compete, NOT make it about winning or losing. It’s not about being right; it’s about being in right relationship. Just keep meeting. Pray! And see if God doesn’t help you find the answers together. It wouldn’t hurt to pray for His help, by the way.

Do something loving for each other afterwards. Minister to each other. She might cook him his favorite food. He might watch a “chick flick” with her, or mop the kitchen floor (at last). You might make love that night.

Image

Don’t lose hope. Zig Ziglar tells the story of an old man who was wandering in the desert, dying of thirst. The old man ran across an old timey water pump. Beside the pump was an old coffee can, filled with water, covered with a plastic lid. There was a note lying on top of the lid, held in place by a rock. The note said,

You’ve got to prime the pump! You must have faith and believe, You’ve got to give of yourself before you’re worthy to receive.

The old man knew how those old pumps work. There is a leather sealing washer in the throat of the pump. When you push the pump handle up and down, the leather washer moves inside, up and down. If the leather is dry, there is no suction, and this is where priming comes in. You must prime the pump – pour water down its gullet until the leather washer swells up and gets tight in the throat of the pump. Then you must continue to pump the handle. Each time you pump, you move the water in the pipe upward, about a foot each stroke. If the water is 200 feet below ground level, it will take 200 strokes to lift the water to the throat of the pump. If you quit in the middle, the water gradually goes back down the pipe. You must keep up a sustained pumping until the water at last reaches the mouth of the pump. Out pours the cold, clear water! Once you have gotten the water all the way up, it is easy to keep the suction. No more priming is needed. You can get water with each stroke at your leisure.

The old man had a choice: drink the water in the can, and hope to make it across the rest of the desert with an empty water bag and leaving no water behind for the next person; or risk everything on priming the pump. The old man made his decision. With trembling hands he poured a little bit of water into the pump; then a little more, until finally the leather caught. He pumped and pumped, primed and primed. Just as he had used the last of his priming water, he felt a clunk in the pump handle as he stroked. He knew he was now solidly pulling water! He pumped and pumped, hot and exhausted, but not quitting until finally out came cold, clear water in gushes and gushes. He quenched his thirst. He filled his water bag. And he filled the can, carefully putting the note back in place under the rock for the next desperate visitor.

This story is a parable of your life. Are you going to “drink the water in the can,” settling for the immediate pleasure of expressing your hot and righteous anger at your partner but putting your entire future together in jeopardy? Or are you going to “prime the pump,” going for the far better and more lasting reward of improving your relationship? If you choose to prime the pump, realize that you won’t get any reward at all until you have worked and worked. If it takes “200 strokes” to bring up the “water” in your relationship, for goodness’ sake don’t stop at 199 strokes! In other words, after all that work to negotiate, don’t blow it with an argument. Then you’ve lost all your effort. Instead, continue until you get the cool, clear water of right relationship. Continue until your conflict is truly resolved, so you can enjoy your partner.

Happy negotiating!