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Not only does it never stop – it increases. Our society’s decrease of civility has become more than a snowball rolling downhill; it’s now like an avalanche. (1)
When was the last time you heard or read a news story about a current political issue that didn’t mention heated opposition – opposition that was fierce and vengeful – opposition that was more personal than philosophical – opposition that spewed revenge rather than reconciliation?
And it’s not only infected our politicians. Most everyday crimes are committed as acts of revenge, relationships are fractured because of desire for revenge, workplaces are shattered by former employees for the sake of revenge, reputations are destroyed because of revenge. People go after one another to put other people in their place, to knock them down and “get even.”
Many are pleading “Let’s end it!” But to no avail. It falls on deaf or plugged ears, bumps up against hard, hate-filled hearts. It becomes easy to throw up our hands in despair and put all our energy into bemoaning the current state of affairs, or even to just give up and accept that “It’s just the way it is.”
But there is another alternative. We can choose God’s way.
In my book A Nation Under God – Reflections from Jeremiah (2) there is a chapter on godly leadership. Here’s a small portion.
“First, a godly leader has a dedication to the principle of righteousness. “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right.” (Jeremiah 22:3) As Proverbs puts it, “Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:12) Godly leaders have a heart for God and His ways. They value and pursue righteousness so they choose daily to cooperate with God. Consider David. King Saul was unjustly pursuing David. Twice David had opportunity to capture and kill King Saul – and who could blame him? But David knew that doing so was not right by God’s standards so he refused to do so. He knew he was accountable to God. Leaders of nations are ultimately accountable not to the electorate, the lobbyists, or the campaign contributors, but to God. A. W. Tozer stated, “… there can be no tolerance of evil, no laughing off the things that God hates.” (3)
The prophet Daniel well illustrates the principle – he was told to eat what the king served but “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” (Daniel1:8) Godly leaders must act on godly principles. When godly principles cease to matter then religion, truth, honesty, and integrity cease and begin to disappear.”
No wonder Paul wrote “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15) As we are now seeing, when these things disappear the avalanche occurs. Certainly godly leaders are an important part of the road to recovery. But more important than even godly leaders is you and me. We, too, need to be godly. We need to make a difference in our spheres of influence, whether big or small. The Bible is clear and emphatic in telling us how to do so. Here’s just a partial list.
1. “…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
2. “…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
3. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34,35 & 15:12,17; Romans 13:8)
4. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)
5. “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
6. “Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)
7. “…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
8. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)9. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)
10. “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)
11. “…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
12. “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)
13. “…Forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you…” (Ephesians 4:32)
14. “…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
15. “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
Sounds wonderful, but admittedly it’s hard to live this way. But Paul tells us how. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) ‘Out of reverence for Christ’ because “To the vilest and most deadly charges Jesus responded with deep, unbroken silence, such as excited the wonder of the judge and the spectators. To the grossest insults, the most violent ill-treatment and mockery that might well bring indignation into the feeblest heart, He responded with voiceless complacent calmness. Those who are unjustly accused, and causelessly ill-treated know what tremendous strength is necessary to keep silence to God.” (4) And that strength comes from Jesus.
So let’s end it! Starting right now! With me! With you! ‘Out of reverence for Christ.’ (5)
(1) Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash
(2)A Nation Under God – Reflections from Jeremiah, Rev. Curry Pikkaart, © 2018 Rev. Curry Pikkaart, Amazon, p. 49
(3) Tozer – Quoted by J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership, Chapter 10- https://onegriphigher.com/books-im-reading/spiritual-leadership-oswald-j-sanders/
(4) Streams in the Desert, Mrs. Charles Cowman – February 10
(5) From Graphic Stock
In recent months I’ve been thinking and studying about judgment – wondering if God is in the process of carrying out judgment in our midst. While doing so, I recalled an incident in my life from many years ago.
As a teenager, not long after receiving my driver’s license, I drove through a red light. Since I was right by the police station there were 2 officers in police cruisers on hand to witness my action – one of which instantaneously pulled me over. He was very nice – even as he ticketed me. But here’s the rest of the story. My ticket required me to go to juvenile court to face the judge – who just happened to be my father!
Today I boast about it – not because he let me off the hook, but because he practiced what God required. **
My father acted in steadfast love. He didn’t beat me down, or throw me out of the house, or scold me. Rather, he loved me enough to treat me fairly, as he would anyone else. He knew the system he used and oversaw was redemptive – it was designed to help people like me get back on track and move ahead more responsibly and safely. In doing so, he acted justly – I had broken the law and there was a judgment to be rendered, a penalty to be enforced, a price to be paid. I received the same assignment most other first time teen offenders received. (I was told to write a 250 word essay on the responsibilities of a teenage driver. This standard ‘punishment’ showed steadfast love to all who walked through those court doors in similar situations.) And my father demonstrated righteousness. He did what was right, what the law demanded. He recused himself from handling my case and turned it over to a colleague. No one could say I received preferential treatment. Only now, so many years later, have I recognized the true source and motivation behind my father’s actions and attitude. He understood God.
For God JUDGES WITH STEADFAST LOVE, JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS.
• God judges with steadfast love. Steadfast love – kindness – is the driving force and underlying characteristic of all God’s actions. Psalm 136 is one long boast about God’s steadfast love. Twenty-six times God’s people utter this refrain: “His steadfast love endures forever.”
• God judges with justice – He is a God of justice. “I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears it tingle. For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods…” (Jeremiah 19:3-4) He condemns the wicked. He vindicates the righteous. He will bring every deed to judgment, whether open or secret. It is true, God is slow to anger. Yet he will not leave the guilty unpunished. He is known for his justice: “The Lord is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.” (Psalm 9:16) He loves justice. “For the Lord … loves justice; the upright will see his face.” (Psalm 11:7) He gives justice to all the oppressed: “The Lord judges in favor of the oppressed and gives them their rights.” (Psalm 103:6 GNT).
• God judges with righteousness. He does what is right, what the law demands. “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:15-16)
So to boast about steadfast love, justice, and righteousness is to boast about the lavish gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16).
No wonder the Psalmist concludes Psalm 2, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
“O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry;
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;’
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.” ***
*This blog is an excerpt from Pastor Curry’s book A Nation Under God. (Still under construction)
**Picture from https://ref.ly/logos4/MediaTool;FormatId=1920;MediaItemId=191357-4410652–;ViewMode=Edit ***G. K. Chesterton