How a Just God Can Allow Evil – Part One of Three

Some Examples of Suffering

There are several possible kinds of suffering:

1. Suffering from punishment we deserve: When I was five, I saw my mother wring a chicken’s neck for Sunday dinner. It was very entertaining to see the chicken run without its head. I said to myself, “I bet I can do that!” When my mother left with the first chicken, I took another chicken and wrung its neck. It was very funny to me. But then my mother took me inside and switched me three hard, stinging licks. It hurt! I learned not to wring chicken necks. Perhaps you would argue that I didn’t deserve that spanking, but I know in my heart that I did.

Sometimes we feel that things that happen to us are punishments from God for things we did wrong. We may feel we deserve the punishment. We might be wrong, but anyway, we feel we are guilty and deserve to suffer. Often we are very ashamed and get upset and angry when people hint that we might be deserving to suffer; but deep down, lots of times we secretly agree.

2. Suffering from the natural consequences of our own wrong behavior: This is in addition to the first type of suffering. If I killed all the remaining chickens, I would have to eat chicken for a long time. If I killed my mother, I would have to live without having a mother, because I killed her. If I beat my children and drove them away from me, I would have to live, not only with my conscience, but also with not having my children around. If I smoked and got lung cancer, I might have to die as a consequence of my own sinning against myself. People say, “I have no one to blame but myself.”

We are not going to spend any more time on these types of suffering. But let us look at some more types which we will spend time on:

3. Suffering from Satan and the evil wicked persons have done to you personally: This category includes your and my suffering as victims of all the criminal acts in the world, and from all the sins we commit against each other. It also includes suffering from all the evil social and political situations which exist because Satan succeeded in getting Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden so that sin entered the world. Racism, cruel political tyranny, and schoolyard bullies taking lunch money from innocent victims would all fit here. Murder, adultery, theft, and assault and battery fit here. All pain, suffered by victims of every wicked act, fits here.

Many people feel that all evil comes from the devil. They don’t blame God for any evil. They see Satan as very powerful. Others feel that it is more complicated than that. They feel that the Lord, for whatever reason, lets the devil do evil to us. Some people put all sickness in this category.

4. Suffering from random chance or accidental circumstances: This category includes little children run over accidentally by cars, people getting AIDS from blood transfus­ions, and stubbing our toe on the furniture going to the bathroom at night. All the accidental cuts and nicks we ever got come under this category. Some people put sickness here, instead of under the category of Satanic acts.

Some people feel that all accidental suffering comes from God. If a tornado strikes or if lightning strikes, they call that an “act of God,” implying that God is capricious   He allows accidental evil to enter our lives without caring what happens to us, or if it happens to us. These people don’t see God as very loving at all. They don’t understand why God sends sun and rain on the good ones as well as the evil ones. Before Jesus came, the Jewish theology of the Sadducees taught that the good people are blessed, and the wicked people are cursed, in this life alone – they didn’t believe in an afterlife. They got this from Deuteronomy, chapters 28-30, which says God will bless those who obey Him and curse those who disobey. Then along came Job. Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar argued that God was punishing Job for some hidden wickedness. Job argued, “NO!” But Job did say that God sends evil as well as good (Job 2:10, “Shall we accept good from God and not accept evil?” Finally, concerning Job, there is an interesting passage in Job 19:25-27, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know,  That in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself,  and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job’s sufferings, along with his awareness of the justice of God, caused him to have a clear understanding of the existence of heaven, where all our tears shall be wiped away.

5. Suffering from undeserved punishment: Parents sometimes punish a child mistakenly, and find out later that the child was innocent. Some people feel that God has done this to them, assuming that God is no more wise than an earthly parent. They feel that God owes them an apology.

People suffer when others commit suicide. A suicide punishes all those who loved them. When people are in deep despair, and confusion about the meaning of life, and kill themselves, this can rub off on those they love. The pain can be extremely severe.

When tragedy strikes, either because of wicked persons or because of accidental circumstances, we all tend to ask “Why me, Lord?” or, “Why them, Lord?” We tend to view God as being the cause of our suffering. (And we might be right in some sense.) Then we either blame ourselves unfairly, or we blame God unfairly, thinking He is unjust. That is why I am writing this essay to help you sort through your pain. You will find in the bibliography at the end of this essay some books. Their titles aptly describe the way we often feel; for example, “Where Is God When It Hurts?” and “When Will I Stop Hurting?”

6. Suffering from close hand experience with what evil people have done to others: Perhaps you have never met an evil person or known one of their victims. They exist. The Bible is clear that evil people do exist – their hearts are full of hatred of others, enmity, rejection of God, a satanic desire to rule over or hurt others, self-centeredness, and often a complete disregard for the suffering they cause others. Evil people usually do not suffer remorse, but instead have total contempt for their victims. You may know a victim slightly, or they may be someone you love very much. Evil was done to them so hideous that it has caused you to suffer. God Himself suffers with what evil people have done to others – and it makes Him angry. One of the reasons war is so terrible is that it unleashes evil in people, to do evil to others. Soldiers come home suffering from something we have named Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but civilians often have no comprehension of what it is like – the questioning about the very meaning of life that can be brought on by close contact with real evil. The deep upset. The stress that makes a person brittle and fragile, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

The Problem We Are Dealing With In This Essay

Our question, or problem, is this:

If God is totally good, and loves us perfectly, and if God is totally powerful, then why does God let evil people hurt us? And why does God let evil things happen to us?

Some Shallow Answers to the Problem

1. It is shallow to say evil is not so bad and doesn’t last. Evil can indeed be bad. It can completely demoralize and even destroy persons. Denying that evil can be evil is to deny the truth: evil people randomly picking on us, and evil accidents, can be crushing! Just think of burglaries, street crime, war, cancer, murder, rape, torture, snakebite, and airplane crashes killing children. Evil is really evil, and it really hurts. Evil does hit innocent people. There are evil people in the world who do evil to others. And sometimes people do not ever get over it. Sometimes people die at the hands of evil people. Knowing it hit them randomly doesn’t make it less painful, but rather it increases the pain. People turn to God and ask, “Why me?” Or, “Why the one I love?” Many people live in pain, dread, and anxiety as the direct result of evil deeds by others. You could never convince them that life is just a bowl of cherries. In fact they can feel overwhelmed by evil. I hope you are not one of these people, but if you are, this was written especially for you.

2. It is also shallow to think God is partly evil; the truth is that God is totally good. To say that God is just a little sadistic and doesn’t mind seeing us suffer is to slander God and deny the truth about Him. Job 34:12 says “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” King David says in Psalm 5:4, “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil.” James 1:13 says God cannot be tempted to do evil, nor does He tempt anyone to do evil. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God is love. We will be developing this theme throughout the essay, raising questions about God’s righteousness and innocence. We will then affirm that God is indeed loving, innocent of evil doing, righteous, faithful, and in fact worthy of all praise.

 3. It is shallow to think evil is stronger than God; it is not. Some would say that God means well, sure; but He doesn’t have the power to conquer evil, or else He would do so immediately. They think the devil is close to whipping God all the time. This is not so. In fact God is Almighty Sovereign of the universe and upholds it by His power; absolutely everything in reality exists, moves, and has being because of God. In fact God does have total power and total control over the devil and over evil. God is no wimp. He is firmly in control of His creation. The Bible firmly faces the paradoxical and controversial nature of the situation.

4. It is shallow to think that God doesn’t care. Evil deeds grieve and anger Him. He made Hell for evildoers. Evil people killed His Son, Jesus, causing God great suffering. God suffers from the evil that evil people do to those He loves – and He loves us all. Having said all the above, now let us see the issue as the Bible states it.

TALKING TO GOD – Part Two of Two

My Own Experiences of Talking to God

Directly hearing God’s voice. When I was 14, my Mom divorced my Dad. Dad tearfully said goodbye to me and my brother, and drove off in his car to join the Air Force and live far away. I was crying and walking across the back lawn to the little apartment where our mother had taken us to live. I said, “Well, I guess I don’t have a daddy any more,” and I heard God speak to me in my head, “I’ll be your Father.” I knew God had spoken to me, there was absolutely no possibility of it being anyone or anything else. It was God. He came back to me just as strongly at bedtime. I was crying myself to sleep and God did not touch me, yet somehow I felt that He tucked me into bed. I went straight to sleep.

Another time years later, when I was an associate pastor, again crying myself to sleep worrying about our youth leader leading our youth astray, I heard God speak to me lying in the bed. He just said my name, “Wally!” and I felt His emotions – wry humor at my worrying so, frustration that I wouldn’t let go and let Him handle it, and a loving, calming Fatherly command to relax and stop worrying. Again, I immediately relaxed and fell asleep.

Miraculous signs along with hearing God’s voice. In college, I was rejected by a young woman I had spent two years courting. I wanted to kill myself because she was dating other young men. I had begged God to let me have this girl and told God, foolishly, that I was willing to give up whatever future He had for me if only He would give her back to me. I sat on a park bench, utterly forlorn and miserable and broken because the harder I had tried to get her back, the further from me she got. I said to God, “Well, if You want me to believe in You any more, You’d better show me some kind of sign.” The wind blew in my face. I said, “If that’s You, make the wind blow hard.” It blew hard and trees were swaying every which way, trash was blowing across the ground all around me. I said, “If that’s You, make it stop.” There was this immediate, intense calm in all directions. Everything stopped.

I told God, “If You want to say yes to my questions, blow on the right cheek of my face; if no, the left.” I sensed God’s agreement, and I began to question Him with yes or no questions. My first question was a callous one – are You as mean and hateful as I have been thinking You are?” Noooo, the wind blew on my left cheek. “Do You really love me?” Yessss, the wind blew on my right cheek. I got up off the park bench and began to walk. I walked for nearly 15 minutes, talking to God in this fashion, until I began to get anxious from such close proximity to God. I asked Him to quit and go away because I couldn’t take it any more, and He went away.

Next day, I went at it again with Him, and the next, all week long. Finally, I was talking to Him directly. I said at the end, “You say You love me, but I am too emotionally drained to love You back. But when I get the energy, I will love You back; only all I ask is that You love me anyway until I can love You back.” Immediately it was as if I had a daydream, in which in my imagination I could imagine a giant hand and arm coming from the sky to shake on it, and I felt God’s mind thinking, “It’s a deal.”

Another time I….well, there have been many other times over the years, but only three or four as vivid as the park bench thing. All completely different. All related to me really needing to talk to God and get His response.

Regular communication is important. If you only talk to God when you have a need, that warps your relationship with Him. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount to some people who used His name, “I never knew you.” The way to prevent Him never knowing you is to talk to Him a lot! Let Him in on your life! He can’t say He didn’t know you if you spend your life talking to Him all the time. Letting Him into your heart includes letting Him look over your shoulder, and certainly includes talking to Him about everything. To start talking to Him, just start thanking Him for stuff. If you want Him for your Friend, then treat Him like a friend before you start asking him for stuff.

Interfering Voices

Satan. Satan’s voice is easy to distinguish from God’s. God’s words always give you the feeling of no hurry, a calmness, and there is no sense when God speaks that He is being pushy and demanding or threatening. Satan’s stuff is imitation, very rigidly holy sounding, and it usually requires you to act immediately, demanding immediate obedience, or else. God always gives you the choice; you are free to obey or disobey. Satan can’t pull that off – he has to threaten. After Satan talks, you invariably feel anxious. After God talks, you may feel convicted or reassured, but you can sense even when it is really important that you still can say no and God will accept that no without getting angry with you. If God is angry with you, you will know it; but He still lets you run your own life if that is what you choose. If you have given yourself over to Him, He just quietly reminds you of it, or you are aware, but it is still your decision to follow Him or not.

Your own voice. Just ask yourself when you “hear” or “feel” what you think is God’s answer, “Did I just make that up?” Usually if it is God, you realize after a little thought that you just simply would not have said that to yourself. Sometimes, reading the scriptures, we can misapply a verse to ourselves. But if you will just check with yourself, you will be able to tell – maybe with more practice – whether God is really the one saying it, or if you are just saying it to yourself.

You Can Do This

The more you need to talk to God, the easier it should be. When you really have something important to say to Him, it’s easiest of all. Meanwhile, chatter to Him all you want. Some find it easier talking to Jesus; some, to God. I have learned to talk to both. Jesus likes me to just call Him Jesus, oddly enough; He gets tired of me calling Him Lord, but not doing all He told me to. It is more comfortable for Jesus to just be my friend, and He wants me to call Him Jesus. He wants to know me personally and not professionally, so to speak. Same with me and God. I know He’s the Almighty on the throne, with all power; but He would rather me crawl up in His lap and just be His little boy. I can say anything I want to God, because He knows I love Him and we’re that comfortable talking to each other. Even though sometimes I am bad and don’t listen, He still is patient with me. Only rarely has He warned me that I have gone too far.

Conclusion

Jesus said, John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me….” Try it yourself. Keep trying till you succeed. Don’t go all religious on God or on Jesus. Pour it all out. Then just listen. One of these days, you are going to realize that you really are in touch with God. You shouldn’t expect long speeches from God. Just expect to “read His mind.” He will open His mind to you and you will feel His emotions in reaction to what you are saying to Him. Lots of times now, I just say to Jesus, “Jesus, it’s Wally,” and He instantly knows the whole deal without me saying another word. Then I feel for His mind and know His thoughts directly, with no need to wait for some long drawn out speech from Him. It’s instantaneous. If I missed something, I just feel for His mind again, and there it is.

Talk to Him! Then listen for Him! That really is Him you have been hearing in your heart/conscience! Now start asking better questions! The better your questions, the more helpful His answers will be. He is waiting for you to begin the conversation.

TALKING TO GOD – Part One of Two

Things that Inhibit Closeness to God

Fear. Some people just cannot believe they can talk to God personally, because they fear Him so much they are afraid to get close to Him. They are afraid of rousing God’s wrath. They can’t believe God wants to talk to them personally because maybe He is too busy with ruling the world, or something. They fear interrupting God. Maybe their earthly parents bit their heads off when they were children; perhaps they sought attention at the wrong time in Mommy or Daddy’s mind. Now, years later, many people are simply afraid.

Unbelief. Some people simply don’t believe God can enter their mind and carry on a conversation with them. They think other people are faking it when they say, “God told me…”. Maybe they tried it several times and they didn’t “hear” anything; or couldn’t be sure what they were hearing was God or just their own self speaking. They just assume they don’t have the “gift of prophecy” to hear from God, so they stop believing God would or could want to speak directly to them in their mind.

Guilt. Some people believe God has forgiven them, but really doesn’t like them that much that He would speak to them directly. In this world, there are people who are polite to you but really won’t open up. Perhaps you said something offensive to them a long time ago, or they know something bad about you, and you sense that they really don’t like talking to you face to face. Some people feel that way about God. They know what the Bible says about God’s love and forgiveness, but they can’t really believe in their heart that God would just come right out and talk to them.

Woundedness – anger at God or someone else – unforgiveness. When someone is badly hurt, as for example when they witness a parent commit suicide or get regular beatings from a parent or experience rape by a member of the family, they typically encase their heart in a huge inner scab or scar. They have difficulty understanding the feelings of other people, because they have been hurt so badly that they have lost the ability to be sensitive or empathetic. They have become so focused on their own feelings that they have real difficulty picking up what other people are really like, or are really feeling. They make bad guesses about other people because their heart has been so hurt. They have an invisible shield around themselves to protect their heart, but that same shield that keeps them from hurting also keeps them from feeling other people. They also have trouble feeling God or sensing God’s feelings toward them. They have to have everything spelled out to them. They are crippled in their ability to feel.

Bad theology. Some people have been taught that God is so holy, He gets angry at the least little sin. God has no patience. Better not rile God. Don’t expect any answers when you pray. Others have been taught that God only speaks to super-saints – the rest of us must just guess, read the Bible like reading tea leaves, or hunt verses that sound like something they hope God is saying to them. Still others hunt proof texts to assure them they are doing the right thing. When they pray, they are never sure if God is hearing them or not. And they are constantly seeking guidance from God because they are afraid to just walk up to God inside their minds and ask Him point blank. They don’t believe God wants them to know anything, wants to keep them in the dark about His will. They don’t have any idea if God is willing to fulfill a request, because they cannot sense what God’s will for them might be.

Superstitiousness. Some people think they need a Ouija board to talk to God. They use the Bible like a Ouija board, flipping through it with their eyes shut. (I have done this.) They long to have Urim and Thummim, they long to cast lots. They want a definite answer and are unable to believe they could just talk directly to God, so they practice what amounts to a weak form of magic in order to get in touch with God, kind of like Saul and the witch of Endor. Saul went to the witch to consult Samuel, instead of just directly talking to God himself.

Just never tried it, or tried it and failed. People look for signs, ask other people for guidance, anything but talk directly to God. They just never have been able to make direct contact with God. Huckleberry Finn said that he tried prayer but it didn’t work. He prayed for a fishing pole so he could go fishing one day. Next day, he came upon a fish hook in the dusty road, he said, but God never gave him that fishing pole and line and cork, etc. so he stopped praying to God.

Biblical Examples of Talking Directly and Indirectly to God

Jesus talked directly to God. Moses talked directly to God. Abraham talked directly to God. St. Paul talked to God about the thorn in his flesh. God told him that His grace was sufficient for him. Elisha slapped the Jordan river after Elijah went to heaven in the chariot of fire, and asked out loud, “Where is the God of Elijah?” Hannah knelt at the altar and talked to God, but didn’t get her direct answer from God but rather from the priest Eli. Jacob wrestled with the angel of God and talked to him during the wrestling match. Adam and Eve talked to God directly. King David sometimes talked to God directly, seated in the temple; and sometimes the prophet Nathan brought word to David. Many of the prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, talked directly to God. And Jesus talked to God. Mark 1:35 says, “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed.”

Laying fleece. Gideon laid out a fleece in order to be sure of God’s will. It was a great help to him, and it increased his faith. He literally needed a miracle before he could be sure that God had been the one directing him. Note that seeing the angel of God disappear in smoke was not sufficient for Gideon! One miracle was not enough to convince him. John the Baptist’s father also said, “How can I know you’re for real?” to Gabriel. Gabriel punished him for doubting him. Doubting Thomas needed to touch the wounds in Jesus’ side and feet and hands before he would believe. The Pharisees, you remember, kept asking Jesus for signs but Jesus said if they wouldn’t believe what they were seeing in Him, nothing would convince them. Jesus told the story of the poor Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham and the point was that if they wouldn’t believe the word of God, even someone rising from the dead wouldn’t convince them. My point is: people need and long for a sign to convince them that they indeed have made contact with the supernatural, with God, for real. Even Moses needed the burning bush.

I laid a fleece before going to the mission field. God had spoken to me, I felt, and so had He to my wife. We got a job with a mission agency. Our mission agency was sending us to Colombia, South America, to be part of a church planting team. I wanted to be sure God was the One sending us. I asked God for permission to lay a fleece. I said, “I don’t plan on asking outright for money, but only to go preaching at churches that will have me; and my message will be, ‘God is calling us to the mission field; is He calling you too?’ If You move in their hearts to give, I will know You are calling us for real. If not, I will know it’s all just in my head.” The result was that we received completely voluntary donations sufficient to cover the whole four years we were gone.

Why Do the Righteous Suffer? – Part Two of Two

So then, let’s look at some biblical reasons why the righteous suffer.

Suffering perfects and completes us. James 1:2-4 says, “2My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Suffering brings us to holiness and righteousness. Hebrews 12:10-11 says, “7If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Suffering teaches us obedience. Hebrew 5:8 says,“8though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”The very next verse says that Jesus’ suffering perfected Him, and He went on to be our Saviour.

Suffering tests our faith, and lets the Lord know if we are ready for ministry. Matthew 4:1 says, “1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” As soon as Jesus passed these satanic tests, He began His ministry.

We all deserve suffering since we all have sinned, and deserve death. (Romans 5:8 says, “8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 6:22-23 says, “22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

God lets us suffer to produce righteousness in us and to give us a share in His own holiness. (Hebrews 12:10-11, quoted above). I Peter 4:12-13 says, “12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:   13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

Suffering causes us to keep God’s word. Psalm 119:67 says, “67Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.”

Suffering teaches us to distinguish right from wrong. Psalm 119:71 says, “71It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”

We will come to see that God has afflicted us in faithfulness. Psalm 119:75 says, “75I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”

Suffering is one way God chastens us, proving His love, making us holy. Hebrews 12:6-10 says, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth… for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.”

God rains on the just and the unjust alike, and allows suffering to fall on the just and the unjust alike. In Matt 5:45, Jesus says, “…your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Suffering shows what is in our hearts. Luke 2:34-35 says, “34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;   35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” I Corinthians 3:13 says, “13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”

“GOD SAID NO”

Author Unknown

I asked God to take away my pride,

And God said NO.

He said it’s not for Him to take away

But for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole,

And God said NO.

He said, her spirit IS whole,

Her body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience,

And He said NO.

Patience is the by-product of tribulation.

It isn’t granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness,

And God said NO.

He gives blessings,

Happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain,

And He said NO.

Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares

And draws you closer to Me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow,

And God said NO.

He said I must grow it on my own.

He will help with regular pruning.

I asked God if He loved me,

And He said YES.

He gave His only Son to die for me. And

That’s why I will be in heaven with Him one day.

So I asked God to help me

Love others as much as He loves me.

And He said:

“Ahh! So you finally got the point.”

Our loss causes us to wake up to what it is to be blessed. A Confederate soldier wrote these words after the Civil War:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for help that I might do greater things;

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy;

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy my life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.

I am among men, most richly blessed.

Some encouraging scriptures:

Psalm 30:4-5, “4 Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. 5 …weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Isaiah 51:11, “11Therefore 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. 12I, even I, am he that comforteth you….”

Jeremiah 31:11-14, “11For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. 12Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, …and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. 13Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for he will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. 14And …my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD.”

John 16:19-22, “19Now Jesus … said unto them, …20Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, … and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. 22And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

The Holy Spirit of Jesus will be your Comforter. Just ask Him. Jesus will be there with you through it all.

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.