January 27, 2019
1 Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
Psalm 139:21-22 (NIV) 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Do these verses have anything to do with each other? I think so. We’ll come back to the connection shortly. I once had a non-Christian say to me “I thought you Christians don’t have any enemies. Right? Why would you … if you follow Christ?” Well … actually … we certainly can and do have enemies. In fact, being hated because of our faith and even harmed does give us enemies. And we see enemies of righteousness all around us. So, the issue is not having enemies but how to respond to our enemies. Especially how to keep from developing hearts full of hatred every time we read of things totally ungodly.
Many readers of this blog interacted and admitted to real frustration, even contempt and low-level hatred when Governor Cuomo celebrated his state’s new law. Now, in New York, it is easier than ever to kill the unborn. Even up to birth. And Mr. Cuomo was proud! If he is not a personal enemy, surely he is an enemy of all that is Holy despite his claim to fidelity to the Catholic Church. So, what to do with these feelings of anger and distain for such a man and his actions? Especially since the Lord Jesus Christ said to love him? A few more thoughts on this.
FIRST: As Christians, we do not want to be haters and people filled with fury. That is one of the reasons the non-stop news world we are living in can be emotionally unhealthy. Hourly reminders of evil in the world can darken our spirits and make us unlovely and unloving. So, we must make sure our hatred is hatred of the unholy and remember that we too can be unholy.
SECOND: We should be savvy about what the psychology people call “Habituation.” We all experience this. You become accustomed to your neighbor’s barking dog or a difficult colleague at work. You become “habituated.” It’s often a good thing and one of life’s common-sense realities. But ask any combat veteran who killed others and they will usually say, in some manner, it became easier. Those who have engaged in torture often say they simply did it without conscience. Some years back, a project at Yale University measured how people responded when asked to perform acts of cruelty. The majority started out with great uneasiness. By the end of the project, many if not most were doing so without hesitation. (The recipients of the pain were not actually experiencing it but the people causing the pain did not know that.) Those inflicting the pain simply became habituated to what they were doing and no longer found it morally reprehensible.
That’s what happens in the radical pro-choice movement. Those who support killing the unborn have become habituated. They all know what it is. They’ve all seen the pictures of mangled babies. The senators and congressmen and governors. They know. Everyone has seen a sonogram by now. THEY KNOW! Yet, they continue to support and even celebrate the killing of these innocents. Why? Because they have become habituated to evil and wickedness. Like the Nazi guards who simply carried out their orders.
Here is the big question: how can this happen? For that, we return to Paul explaining the demonic activities that were SUPPORTED in the early church. He said these were people: “Whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” (1 Timothy 4:2) HERE IS THE AMAZING EXPLANATION: “Seared” is the Greek word “cauterod-zo” from which we get “cauterize.” A surgeon might cauterize an artery and the blood stops flowing! A cauterized conscience does not work! It is stuck. The normal healthy flow of God-given moral values is cut off. In short, when I watch an otherwise decent family man like the governor, I am watching someone who has been habituated to an evil position and whose conscience, on this issue, does not work.
In thinking about this, we are reminded of how brutally and indecently our Lord was treated. Yet, from the Cross he prayed:
Luke 23:34 (NIV) Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
They were ignorant of who Jesus was. The governor does know what he is doing but, with a seared conscience cut off from the flow of Holiness, he is rendered ignorant of sin. He is, in a sense, helpless like the she-camel in heat. So, yes, his actions are repulsive but how are we to react? Ok…
THIRD: Some Suggestions for all of us starting with me … when struggling with the sins of people:
Remember, we have boards in our own eyes. Our Lord pointed out that it is always easier to see the speck in the other person’s eye; we do need to look in our moral mirrors frequently.
Matthew 7:5 (NIV) 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
We must ask God to show us what He wants us to work on. Interesting that the Psalmist who said, “Do I not hate those who hate you Oh God?” also said:
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Remember that there is good in most people, even those we are tempted to hate. Jehoshaphat was the King in Judah around 850 BC. His moral record was quite uneven, and God sent a messenger named Jehu to speak to him. I like what he said:
2 Chronicles 19:1-3 (NIV) 1 When Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem, 2 Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you. 3 THERE IS, HOWEVER, SOME GOOD IN YOU, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God.”
There is good in even the “worst” people.
Remember that our best response to pain when viewing evil is to pray for the evil-doer. In this case, I often pray by name for those leaders who promote abortion. Perhaps God will raise up their consciences. Even if he does not, it’s hard to be filled with hate when you are praying for someone.