I Cry Out ‘Violence’ (Part 5 of 5)

To summarise this series, if you remember or just prefer to read the summary rather than each separate post, we looked at the not-so-comfortable passages in the Bible where violence and hatred is endorsed by those who are deemed as Godly people; people after God’s own heart. We dealt with three questions:

1. Why did these people speak like this?

2. Are we allowed to speak like this?

3. Why has God kept a record of this?

Firstly, we saw that people in the Bible, whether in the Old Testament or the New, are not perfect. They got angry, they felt rage, they weren’t favourable towards their oppressors and they sometimes wished harm on those who were torturing and mocking them. That isn’t to be condoned. In fact, when those same people were given power to execute their violent and merciless wishes, they relented and forgave. They were convicted in their own hearts and, instead, dealt with their oppressors in love and kindness.

Secondly, we pulled the cover away off some of our otherwise hidden agendas and noticed that our questions of permissibility aren’t a seeking after a more holy life but, rather, how far can we go and still be in the green zone, the okay zone. What we ended up realising is that God calls us to draw nearer to Him and be like Him rather than put a fence and tell us, “Just don’t go too far.”

Thirdly, and finally, we pondered the question of why the Bible would keep a record of the sins of its heroes. The simple answer was that God did and does not show favouritism. The records He kept were recollections of what really happened not dramatised stories.

I hope this series answered some questions out there. More so, I hope this series fulfilled its purpose of making us desire more to read and enjoy the genuine truths and lessons we find in the pages of the Bible when we embrace them rather than explain them away.

God bless you.

I Cry Out ‘Violence’ (Part 4 of 5)

As we reach our final question, we come with an understanding that people in the bible are not perfect and it is not ok to speak as they sometimes did, be it in the Old Testament or now. One question still lingers in the back of our minds though and it’s this, Why has God kept a record of this?

You would think it may have been far less embarrassing to speak about people in the Bible without having to explain their mistakes. Think of the conversations you could have had with those who ridicule the Bible for being so proud of it’s “scarred heroes” as one preacher once called them.

Why not hide the blotched areas?

The answer to that is simpler than you might think. Contrary to what some may tell you, the Bible is not a record of perfect people whom God chose to use for His work. It’s sad to see how some can be so fooled into believing that God favourited one nation over others and destroyed everyone else but them because of a favouritism or biased disposition. Read the Bible and see for yourself, the harshest judgements came not to unbelievers but to those who claimed to be for God and yet lived outside of His rules.

What the Bible records is not a filtered documentary seeking to make imperfect people look good. It is an honest recollection of a vast number of broken people who were aware of their frailty. They saw their wrongs. They were willing to be broken and remoulded.

You see, that’s why God calls David a “man after [His] own heart”, not because David never sinned or out of an immature opinion on David’s life with no foreknowledge of what he was going to do later in life. In fact, it is in the New Testament that we read about this reputation of David (see Acts 13:22). The reason I believe he earned this reputation is because, for the most part, David was obedient and when he was confronted about his sins, he was repentant.

The same goes for you and me. God’s opinion of us does not stand on irrational favouritism. He won’t blot out our sins just because He likes us. We don’t earn any right to our own pleasures and sinful proclovities simply because we call ourselves Christians. We ought to face the reality of our frailty, desire correction, love teaching, be quick to repent and strive to grow.

I Cry Out ‘Violence’ (Part 3 of 5)

One particular theme I feel we often try to dance around is that of “permissibility”. Am I allowed to listen to non-Christian music? Am I allowed to swear? Am I allowed to dress this way or that? Am I allowed to go to this place or another? Does the Bible allow me to do… and we follow it by a vast number of things. Where is the line drawn? Or, in other words, how far can I go and still be in the “okay” zone?

That’s the question we’re dealing with in this post, Are we allowed to speak like this? Are we allowed to hate? Are we allowed to wish evil on others when in difficult circumstances?

Whenever I think of what’s allowed or not, what’s permissible or not, two of the first passages that come to my mind are from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. The first is,

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.

– 1 Corinthians 10:23 NLT

And the second is like it but slightly different,

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.

– 1 Corinthians 6:12 NLT

In both passages I find that Paul is concerned with two problems — you may have already noticed these if you read the two verses in their context — sin that is internal and sin that is external. Sin that begins in my heart and flows out to affect others, such as sexual immorality and slandering, and sin that begins outside of me yet puts my integrity in danger, such as drunkenness, being cheated, being wronged, and being tempted.

[Edit (29.05.2017): To further explain my point here, I see two kinds of sin that Paul discusses. The kind that I commit which may become a stumbling block for others and the kind that others commit which provoke me to compromise or let my guard down]

Paul mentions three pointers in these two passages:
1. Not everything is good for me
2. Not everything is beneficial for others
3. I must not become a slave to anything

If only Paul had given us a key to understand what he means by those. Perhaps he has. Within the same passages, a little more reading unveils the mystery, if there ever was one.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble…

– 1 Corinthians 10:31-32 NIV

That, I think, gives us a clue to the first and second pointers of Paul; but what about the third? Well,

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God…

– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Before I tie this together and give my final answer, I want to share two more passages:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

– Hebrews 4:14-16 NASB

And also

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

– Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB

To understand Paul’s three pointers, we need only to look at Christ. Consider this whenever you do or are about to do something;

  1. How does this make me more like Christ?
  2. How will this encourage others to want to be more like Christ?
  3. Since I have been bought with a price, the blood of Christ, I have but one Master. I cannot, and should not, serve any other than Him.

So, are we allowed to speak of hate and wish evil on others? If the question were simply of permissibility then sure. However, is it Godly? Absolutely not! Is it Christ-like? Not even close.

I Cry Out ‘Violence’ (Part 2 of 5)

There are some people who are of the opinion that the mistakes and sins of the prophets of old should not be preached about or spoken of, especially at the hearing of those who don’t believe the Word. I find it crucial that we talk about it.

The first question I’ll be tackling in this series is: Why did these people speak like this?

Take another look at the verses I mentioned in the previous post:

“Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies.” – Psalm 139:21-22 NASB

“How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.” – Psalm 137:9 NASB

Why did God’s people ever speak like this? Shortly and simply: because they are human beings, just like me and you, who sometimes slipped.

There is absolutely no point in justifying the words or explaining them away. The people who wrote the Psalms and the prophets we read about in the Bible were not perfect people and we are reminded of that continually.

Some may wish that David never slipped or Abraham never lied or Job never doubted or John the Baptist never questioned but the reality is that they did.

Others may wish that verses like those above weren’t ever recorded, but they were. What we should be focusing on are the more important questions; as an example, does that mean that they were violent people? According to the Bible records, we have to say no.

Using David, again, as an example, we have an account of an opportunity he had when he could exact his vengeance on someone who was after his life. King Saul wanted David dead. In a long chase after David, King Saul takes a rest and David finds himself in a position where he can get rid of Saul once and for all. Instead, he is forgiving and tears a piece of Saul’s robe as proof of what he could have done. That alone burdens his heart with guilt.

Can you believe that the same person who wrote about this strong and violent hatred can be forgiving and merciful or even be so sensitive?

What about the sons of Korah? Can you believe that the ones who wrote Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God…”, and many others, also wrote the violent words concerning the crushing of children against rocks?

We can possibly excuse it and say, “This was the Old Testament” but we’d be making a grave mistake. Does the God of the Old Testament condone hatred but then change His mind in the New Testament? To say that, we would have to dismiss the whole book of Jonah that speaks about a prophet who was so angry with God because of His patience and grace. Read his words,

Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

– Jonah 4:2 NASB

In fact, so much of the Old Testament is put aside because we don’t understand it.

You see, when David, or the Sons of Korah, or others like them, were under oppression or were fleeing for their life, they were afraid, some even angry towards their oppressors. They allowed their situations to govern their choices.

However, when those same people were granted the power to do as they had wished, their response was that of forgiveness and mercy and love. When David finds out that there is still a descendant of King Saul alive, he deals with him in the most respectful and loving manner. Read about King David and Mephibosheth.

We look at the Old Testament and cringe at some of the things we read. What we should do is look into our own hearts. Have you ever spoken to a Mexican about the Spaniards? Or a Palestinian about Israelis? An Armenian about the Turks?

We are far more ruthless than using mere words of anger; we don’t only hate with utmost hatred, we hold grudges, we build stereotypes, we rouse others and build hatred in them also.

Why did people in the Bible speak words like the ones we read? Because despite their commitment to God, they still sometimes fell. They were afraid and they got angry; but when they could carry out their terrible judgments, they held back. I am not condoning the language used, but I do hope that even if we are ever hurt by anyone that we are willing to be forgiving and merciful when called to step up to the plate.

I Cry Out ‘Violence’ (Part 1 of 5)

When you read a passage like that of Habakkuk 1, you tend to favour the prophet’s response. There is wickedness all around him and he cries out, “Violence!” He says, “The law is ignored and justice is … perverted.”

It’s the sort of response that you expect from a Biblical character, right? This disapproval of all the unrighteousness.

I often think we do a disfavour to many of whom the Bible speaks. We hold them in such high regard that when we read about them messing up we are forced to either reject their life’s work or, worse, question the Bible for approving of such sinful people.

Look at someone like David. We love talking about his triumph over a giant so much so that newspaper articles, news bulletins and even sports commentators refer to the incident to explain their stories or opinions. “It’s a David vs Goliath case!” Regardless of that fact, though, we can never tie two realities concerning David:

1. God says that David was a “Man after [His] own heart.” – Acts 13:22

2. However, David sinned horrifically – 2 Samuel 11

We are faced with a conundrum. Do we reject David? Do we hide his sin? Or do we try to explain it away and say, “God said that about David long before David sinned with Bathsheba …”? This isn’t the topic we’re discussing in this series so I’ll leave my opinion on the matter for another post.

The topic that I’d like to focus on with this new series is another that some people like to avoid. We read certain verses in the Psalms that we simply cannot associate to Godly men and women; so we explain them away.

I’m talking about verses like the following:

“Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies.” – Psalm 139:21-22 NASB

“How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.” – Psalm 137:9 NASB

 I think it’s safe to assume that I’m not the only one rising up and crying out, “Violence!”

We don’t like to discuss these passages, let alone read them; yet, they’re there, but do we understand them?

The questions we will discuss are:

  1. Why did these people speak like this?
  2. Are we allowed to speak like this?
  3. Why has God kept a record of this?

As always, feel free to share your opinions as we go through. No passage in the Bible should be dismissed; let us embrace it and understand it.

The Things of Which We Do Not Speak

Isn’t it strange what we allow for ourselves but deny others?

Not too long ago, I sat with someone who said to me, “So, Richard; why a blog? I’ve always seen people who write blogs as up-themselves.”

I’m not sure what the blogging communities out there think about that statement but I suppose there probably is some truth to that. I mean, it’s like saying, “Anyone who has an opinion and shares it is arrogant”. To some degree, that is true. In fact, anyone who has any world view that they claim to be the truth is arrogant in that they believe themselves to be right, and everyone else who oppose them as wrong. If that weren’t the case, you wouldn’t be so adamant on following that world view, right?

However, if I tell you that my opinion is that you are arrogant for having an opinion and telling it, what does that make me?

To be honest, I had titled this post differently but courtesy reminded me to behave myself.

Not that I need to justify why I have a blog but, nevertheless, the reason why I do is because I would like to address topics in the Bible we usually run away from. The head covering was only one of them; but, what about the harsh talk in some of the Psalms, the graphic writings in the Song of Songs (or of Solomon, as some call it), or women being denied preaching, or Jesus saying we should hate our parents, or that time when He called a lady a dog or Herod a fox or the Pharisees a brood of vipers? Do we understand what all of that means or are we too afraid to ask? Worse, are we too afraid to discuss it? We tend to categorise certain subjects as the “Things of Which We Do Not Speak”.

While many prefer to filter their messages out of fear of losing a following, I’m happy to be seen as “up myself” in sharing my thoughts on why the Bible mentions these things. People have questions and it is our duty to give them honest answers, regardless of how difficult or awkward it may be.

Unveiling the Veil Subject (10 of 10)

It has been an interesting little journey which has finally reached the end. We looked at eight different questions concerning the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 that discussed the head covering.

In summary, we saw that the head covering that Paul was referring to was indeed a physical object which was worn not as a cultural tradition but a Biblical teaching that is closely knit to the order that God has placed in nature, in marriage and the spiritual realm.

As we conclude this study, or rather my understanding of the passage, I want to make a few remarks; some that will express my thoughts, some of disappointment, and even some that may seem like they’re undoing the first 9 posts. All in all, I hope to remain summarized and to the point while also sharing my gratitude to all who have read through the complete thought process.

The Verse not Discussed

For those who have read the passage and followed through with my posts, you may have noticed a verse that I skipped over and didn’t mention. There was a reason for that and that was because I left it for the conclusion.

Of the many different opinions regarding the head covering, there are some I understand and others that I completely reject. Of the ones that I reject stands the opinion that a lady who doesn’t wear the head covering is not a true believer.

Andy Bannister once, in an unrelated topic, made a passing comment regarding “the danger of letting your rhetoric run away with you.” In other words, in trying to persuade someone to agree with our belief or understanding, there is the danger of going overboard by making assertions that we don’t really agree with.

No, the head covering neither qualifies you for salvation nor disqualifies you from it. I don’t think I need to explain this further than to mention the verse I purposely kept out of my previous posts:

However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

– 1 Corinthians 11:11 NASB

The keywords there are, “in the Lord”. To explain this briefly, in God’s perspective, man isn’t easier to save, man isn’t better, man isn’t greater, man isn’t closer to perfection, man isn’t in any way more privleged than woman when it comes to salvation. Both are saved by the blood of the one perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ, and only through faith in Him. To believe otherwise is to believe another doctrine, definitely not the Bible.

Does this Undo This Whole Study?

In short, no. The reason why it doesn’t undo it is for the purpose of the head covering. It is required as a duty
1. Before the angels
2. To show that the woman is in submission
3. Because just as her hair covers her, her head covering covers the one under whose submission she is

Even though we are not saved by our works, the Apostle James makes it crystal clear that our works ought to walk hand-in-hand with our faith. If our faith is in Christ, we also must keep His Word. James gives the example of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his own son, Isaac. Was this sacrifice going to save him from anything? Absolutely not! His obedience, however, led him to learn a lesson that was to be a reminder to everyone after him; God never requires child sacrifices! His Son is to be the only ever human sacrifice and that sacrifice is the only perfect one.

What About the Many Christian Women Who Don’t Wear a Veil?

How dare they?!

I’ll try to say this as honestly as I can, with my understanding (whatever it’s worth).

I believe that in every obedience there needs to be conviction. Without a conviction and understanding, obedience is empty. Look at Cain, a person who wholeheartedly wanted to present the Lord with the best of his crops. They were rejected but he was not. Nevertheless, he became angry and God told him simply:

If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.

– Genesis 4:7 NASB

His sacrifice was out of pride not humility, it was out of duty rather than conviction and obedience. It was empty.

There are many families out there who wholeheartedly worship the Lord in many aspects of their lives. As far as they know it, they are not compromising in their walk before the Lord. However, they don’t believe that the head covering is required.

Wearing the head covering when you have no conviction in your heart to do it, becomes an empty duty. However, if you understand the purpose for the head covering and have a conviction in your heart that the Apostle Paul mentioned it so it would be obeyed and yet refuse it, you cannot use the excuse of, “I have no conviction so I won’t wear it.”

Let your heart be honest before the Lord. If you are yet to understand it completely but are genuinely wanting to obey Him, ask Him to explain it to you. If you walk out of an honest prayer with the Lord convinced that the head covering is not required, please don’t wear it!

Live your life before the Lord, as far as it depends on you, genuinely, honestly, wholeheartedly, humbly and in awe of Him. Be sensitive to His heart. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God …” as Paul says in Ephesians 4:30.

The Disappointments

Through this study, I was quite disappointed with the way some people have reacted (Christians). In fact, I was shocked to see that the disagreements did not come regarding the head covering, which I was expecting, but against biblical fundamentals.

Suddenly, some passages of the Bible were not to be taken seriously, some passages were only applicable for a culture and not us, some passages of the Bible were dismissed because of certain interpretations of the “Greek”.

I understand that some may disagree with me regarding the head covering, and that’s fine. I like to think that I am teachable and would love to be corrected and educated further. What I will never understand are the excuses that people use to plainly dismiss a passage in the Bible.

No teaching in the Bible is for one culture and not the other. If a teaching applies to one person, it applies to all. No teaching in the Bible is a silly comment that we can just bypass. If it is mentioned, we ought to understand it and obey it based on our genuine conviction. No teaching in the Bible should be dismissed simply because of our preferred interpretation of what “The Greek says…”

Rather than say,

Aha! This Greek word could mean this, therefore don’t worry about the passage!

Why not think,

Wait. This definition of the Greek words completely dismisses the passage, surely I’ve misunderstood the words. Let me see if there are other definitions.

If an understanding of a passage leads you to disregard a Biblical teaching, as a genuine believer in God, it is your duty to study it until you understand its application and requirement before the Lord. Should there be no conviction, that’s fine, otherwise, do it!

On either account, never ever dismiss it by using horrible excuses.

Again, my disappointment did not come from a disagreement with the head covering, but a refusal to agree that Biblical teachings, if applicable, are to apply to all people equally and do not depend on our preferences.

Finally, be careful with the pride and arrogance that so often comes with understanding and knowledge. Be teachable, always, and yet never compromise.

May God bless you all and thank you, once again, for reading through. Please, I beg you to make your comments, share your thoughts, explain the way you see the ideas I share on this blog. I love to learn and can’t ever seem to get myself to stop. May God richly bless you.