Why does Abraham get told to sacrifice Isaac? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
In Genesis 22, God calls Abraham to go and sacrifice his only son to Him. What is going on here? Nothing in the text has indicated that God accepts human sacrifices. Sure, the gods of Canaan and others do, but not YHWH. The fact that we see that should strike us right at the beginning. This is supremely out of character.
It’s interesting that this is one rare state where we don’t see Abraham giving some pushback, but we can assume there was some. If he gave pushback on every other incident, why not this one? What was it that was making this request so hard? Was it just the sacrifice of the son?
Isaac was the son of the promise. God has had a habit in Genesis of keeping His promises to Abraham. His wife wound up giving birth at 90 and he was there to witness the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Nothing in the text then indicates Abraham was mentally ill. Being mentally ill doesn’t make a 90 year-old woman pregnant.
Isaac wasn’t just the son of Abraham. He was the promised son of Abraham. Abraham had been told that it was through Isaac that his offspring would be reckoned. Isaac would be the one through whom Abraham’s legacy would continue.
Kind of hard to do that if the son is dead.
Nevertheless, Abraham does obey. Notice also what he tells his servants. He assures them that he and his boy will return to them. Abraham is confident even here that somehow, Isaac will be brought back.
Now what about Isaac? Was this child abuse? No. Isaac at this point would have been a strapping teenager with a Dad nearly 100 years older than he was. Had Isaac wanted to, he could have easily taken down Abraham in a fight. In our world, we often think of Isaac being psychologically scarred, but in his world, survival everyday was a part of life and death was always just around the corner. You could say Isaac would do this for an afterdeath experience, but at this point in Biblical history, very little if anything had been revealed about such a state.
We know the story. Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac when the Angel of the Lord stops him, the Angel who I take to be an early appearance of Christ Himself, and tells him not to sacrifice Isaac and reveals a ram with his head in the thicket. (Yes. A male lamb with its head caught in thorns. That should sound familiar.) That ram is sacrificed.
Then the Angel says “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Was God ignorant of the state of Abraham’s heart?
Of course not. We already know through Scripture that God knows the hearts of men. God knew that Abraham’s descendants would be captives for 400 years in another year and mistreated there. The position that God doesn’t know the future would prove too much. Based on other events in Genesis, we would have to say God doesn’t know the present either, such as how many righteous people are in Sodom and Gomorrah or whether Adam had sinned or what was going on at Babel.
So what is going on? God is speaking in a way Abraham can relate to. He is not speaking to teach deep theology or metaphysics. What is going on is a review of sorts. Abraham had proven his faith to be true. He had proven that he believed God could even raise the dead, quite astounding at that point in time.
It is also a reminder of the faith we are to have. If Abraham can believe God can raise the dead even long before Jesus, how much more should we believe in what God can do after the resurrection? There is no reason none of us can have faith in God like Abraham had.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
What difference does it make to say that God is simple? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
In the last post, I explained simplicity and what it meant. I also pointed out this has been a historic position so even if someone disagrees, it should not be disagreed with lightly. There are objections and I will likely get to those next week, but for now, let’s ask what difference does it make. Is this just something that a theologian can stick in their hat for a trivia game or does it have a point?
It’s the latter. Everything about God has a point.
When we look at the early church, they lived in a world where monotheism was not the norm. You had gods in polytheistic gods and normally, these weren’t really gods, but just really powerful beings. Zeus was seen as the king of the gods in Greek and Roman thought, but even he had a beginning and he ran in terror from his wife many times. We could consider them to be like superheroes you would read about in comics today.
None of these are an ultimate explanation. Each of them needs a cause. When we get to Scripture, it’s radically different. Right at the start we read “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” John says “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
Did you catch that?
None of these have an origin story for how God came to be. God is just there from the beginning. The Bible in itself is not meant to be an argument for the existence of God. It’s to tell us something different. It has God right from the beginning and it makes no sense to say how He came to be. He never did. Why does the Bible never explain this explicitly? Because it’s not meant to be a philosophy book either.
We can say God says His name is “I AM” which indicates that He has eternal existing, but that is just simply stated. Moses never gets a philosophical treatise on the matter. He’s not supposed to. These are the matters left for us to work out and explore some, which we should. If two lovers love each other, they want to know everything they can about the other. If I love a game or a TV show, I look into it and try to find out more about it. I am reading through the complete Peanuts collection right now and when I see a new character in the strip, in a quest for information, I look up information about that character online.
If you love God, you will want to know more about Him. The Bible is not meant to answer these questions. He’s left them for us to explore.
So what does this matter? It gets us into the very nature of God. If we understand the nature of God better and realize that God is not just a really powerful creature, that definitely helps in dealing with the whole foolish “I just go one god further” objection from atheists. The other gods normally rejected are just superhero gods. None of them are the grounds of reality for the most part. Of course, even if one goes with a God who is fully simple, religions like Islam and Judaism are still in the running. Mormonism, on the contrary, is ruled out.
Also, God is not a combination of things. God is not a being who has goodness and power and love. God is these things. This shouldn’t surprise us as we get a clue in 1 John that says “God is love.” God does not merely have loving qualities as we do. God is love. Note that that cannot be reversed to say “Love is God.” Love does not have the attributes of God. God has the nature of love.
This also means God is totally different from the rest of His creation, which is meant to be. Isaiah was right in the section starting at chapter 40 with the whole challenge to the false gods. When you realize something like this, many new atheist objections, including the classic “Who made God?” fall to the wayside. Note also that many of these objections were being answered before they were even being asked. Skeptics today hardly ask any questions Christians didn’t ask themselves for centuries.
God is not a conglomerate. He is one being. He is not made up of parts. You can’t put attributes together in a metaphysical blender and get God. He is truly unique.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
What do I think of Beau Adams’s book published by Crossover Communications?
I don’t know a single human being who has lived a substantial amount of time on this Earth who doesn’t have something they’ve looked back on and said, “How could I have done something so stupid?” That includes me. That includes Pastor Beau Adams, who wrote this book. I also think it’s really refreshing to see a pastor openly use words like stupid.
Pastor Adams takes his material from the book of Proverbs and looking at Solomon, who sadly also did stupid things to mess up his life even after acquiring so much wisdom. Of course, none of us will be perfect at this and we will still make stupid mistakes. Still, at least we will have some advanced warning and hopefully, we can make less stupid mistakes. Adams gives us seven basic categories.
The first is to not get caught up with the wrong crowd. We all know that bad company corrupts good character. Today we hear a lot about race relations and one aspect of this we hear about often is fatherlessness in the black community. This really is a problem because when young men don’t have fathers or at least father-figures, what do they do when they want to know they’re men? It can often be gangs.
The antidote to this? Choose friends who are going to build you up and not bring you down. This doesn’t mean just choose friends because of what they will do for you, but make sure your friends are friends of noble character.
The next is thinking we know it all. Just yesterday, I was in dialogue on Facebook with an atheist who was being tripped up by Thomistic philosophy. I was blunt telling him he wasn’t familiar with what he was critiquing and recommended he read Feser’s Aquinas, especially since Feser used to be an atheist himself. He told me he was tempted to respond to my last point, but thought he might say something foolish again and so would go and read the book and then come back.
Props to you. Really. Props to you.
Too many of us don’t go that route, and it shows. A Christian can argue against evolution and they don’t know how to do a Punnett Square. Note fellow Christians that I am not telling you to not argue against evolution if you think it’s false, but I am telling you to come with an informed position. If you aren’t informed, you come across like a Christ-myther who only reads Richard Carrier.
The secret is to avoid thinking you know it all. This doesn’t mean you have to study everything as no one can do that, but it means you really try to only talk about what you have studied. Study also refers to not just watching YouTube videos. Read books.
The next is an obvious one. Sexual immorality. Yesterday, I got a message from someone asking if you were to preach on something apologetically oriented for two months and wanted to avoid race and politics, what would I preach on? My answer came immediately. Sex and marriage. The person responded saying that it did need to be for two months. I told him that should last for two years. Our youth especially get six days a week of the world’s view and we only have one day a week and we don’t even say anything.
Sexual immorality can easily ruin your life. How many pastors have fallen because they got too close to the opposite sex, including Ravi Zacharias. It can all start more innocent enough, but every relationship with the opposite sex needs to be guarded closely.
Now as I go through this, I realize I could say more about each point, but then I realize that would get lengthy and you need to have something to get you interested in the book, which you should read. Other topics include laziness, dealing with debt, controlling your tongue, and handling anger.
Pastor Adams’s book could be seen as having a harsh tone to it, but the whole of the book speaks with a pastor’s heart. He’s begging you to not make these mistakes. Some of these might be easier to recover from, as most of us have lost our temper at one point. Others are much harder, such as when we fall into sexual sin. I still get a sting anytime I go through my library now and see a Ravi Zacharias book.
Final word then is simply to get the book. You’ll likely learn something from it and hopefully you can put it into practice. You want to avoid doing something stupid after all.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Should you roll the dice? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Yesterday, I am browsing Facebook and I see someone ask if gambling is a sin. I see most people jumping in and saying yes, immediately, but I am contrary I suppose and have more questions about the matter. It starts with asking what is really gambling.
We could just say it’s playing a game of chance, but is that simple enough to explain it? After all, while luck is involved, there is some skill and strategy involved in games like Poker and Blackjack. If that is the case, could we say the stock market could be a form of gambling as well? After all, one has no guarantee that a stock will shoot up, like GameStop for example, and one could really lose everything and some people have.
How about this scenario? You’re at home one day and there is a knock at your door and there are some small school children there. They are selling raffle tickets to do a fundraiser for their school. The prize is a big screen TV. Now you have a good TV, but the ticket only costs a dollar and it goes toward a good cause. Do you buy a ticket?
How about also you get together with a few friends for a Poker night? You get together and you have a maximum bet everyone can make and you just play cards. Most of the time, this isn’t done so some person can get rich. It’s something guys mostly do just so they can hang out together and the chance adds an element of fun to it.
We could get even more technical here. Let’s suppose you go to an arcade, which used to be a really popular hangout in the past and I even worked at one for awhile. Now you could put some quarters in a game that will offer you some moments of pleasure but nothing beyond that. On the other hand, you could also put it in the crane game, a game of chance, and see if you could win something that you could keep.
There were times in the past I know I won Allie something in a crane game. Long before that, one time I was at a bowling alley with a friend who was telling me that he wanted to win a stuffed elephant in a crane game there to give to a girl and he had spent $5 and not had any luck. I put in a couple of quarters and managed to win it for him immediately.
In the past as a teenager, I remember my Dad and I would sometimes drive up to Kentucky from Tennessee. The drive took a couple of hours both ways. We would have about $20 with us and we would just play scratch-off games together. It was never about winning. It was just about an excuse to get to travel together and have some bonding time. I still remember one time we actually won $50 doing this and just stopped at a place called Oasis Pizza on the way back.
So as you can see from this, I am not 100% opposed to gambling. So what would I recommend here? Good stewardship. If you have money for entertainment purposes and want to use it here responsibly, I don’t really have a problem with that.
What about Scripture? Well, it says nothing yea or nay. Casting of lots was more about divining the will of God. We also know the soldiers gambled for the clothing of Jesus, but that doesn’t make it evil any more than the soldiers standing guard around condemned criminals would mean police officers shouldn’t stand outside of jail cells.
So the principle is more about how you use what you have. If you are going and betting your life savings or your wedding ring to gamble, then you have a problem and need to stop. On the other hand, we could compare it to drinking. If you can drink responsibly and not get drunk, then I don’t have a problem with social drinking and I see gambling the same way.
So if you want to get together with the guys and play Poker, I don’t have a problem. If you go to Vegas and have a couple of spare bucks and want to even try a slot machine, go ahead. If you think you could get addicted however, you might want to step back from doing that and consider some other hobby. I would say if you want to play a game of chance, it’s better to play one where you have a reasonable chance of winning, aside from buying a ticket to a raffle just to support a good cause more than actually winning anything.
Have fun with what you do and do remember this is side money. Make sure you have done your charitable giving first and provided for your family. Then if the goal is to just have fun mainly, then do that and enjoy the company of your friends.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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What do you do when it’s hard? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Sometimes, it’s really hard to be a faithful follower of Christ. Yesterday for me was one of those days. In the middle of playing a favorite online MMORPG, I had a number or rude comments made about my gaming ability that I can still remember. Normally, I would write those off fairly easily, but with other events going on in my life, it was partially Queen Jezebel’s sniper bullet to Elijah.
Fortunately, to help with that, a couple of good friends of mine assured me jerks exist everywhere even in the gaming community and they had encountered them as well. Most players are nicer than that, but sometimes a few bad apples spoil a bunch. I’m not talking about when friends get together and as friends play a game against each other and give friendly insults. I’m talking about real ones that take place.
Then as I go to bed last night, it was one of the hardest times I had getting to sleep in a long time. I’m still not sure how I did it. I found myself wrestling with various fears about my future, uncertainties, and temptations in the present. I look and wonder what my future really holds with so many what ifs. Already, I hear Gary Habermas now in my head telling me as he has before “What if it’s not?”
But trust can be hard sometimes. I use trust because I prefer that word to faith since I think trust is a better translation of faith. It’s really hard because I know through my own studies the goodness and love of God, and yet in my own life at the time, He doesn’t seem good and loving. My head knows he is, but when the anxiety is gripping you, that can be extremely hard to realize.
As I ponder it this morning, I wonder if sometimes our expectations can be too high. After all, a favorite prophecy of Jesus is Isaiah 53 where He is said to be a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, you can see in the Gospels the sadness of Jesus. Jesus is sorrowful over Jerusalem not repenting and weeps at the grave of Lazarus.
A passage I find most revealing is in the Garden before the crucifixion where Jesus is said to be overwhelmed with sorrow, even unto the point of death. That’s some intense sorrow. It’s not just Jesus. Paul himself had the sorrow as well. Consider Philippians 2:
25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.
This is a letter about joy, but I wonder how many times we just read through this section. Paul is talking about anxiety and having sorrow upon sorrow. How many times was Paul lying in a jail cell and wondering about the church that he loved? He was in a position of sorrow and yet had more sorrow possibly to come.
And he was in a jail cell. Talk about being in a place of uncertainty. Paul certainly knew what this was like. The same thing happens in 2 Corinthians 1. This is a passage that mentions comfort so many times. However, right in the middle, what do you see?
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
And this morning for my morning reading I read Joshua. Many of us know the common saying in Joshua 1. “Be strong and courageous.”
You don’t need to say that to someone who is feeling strong and courageous.
I can’t help but think too often in Christianity we often think we can’t be candid so much with our struggles. Now I am not sharing everything here because I do save many struggles for people I do know personally, but the struggles are real, which is even harder when you’re involved in apologetics and try to be a man of reason as much as possible.
As someone told me last night, it’s not that time heals the wounds you have. It doesn’t. You just get more used to the terrain so you can better navigate through it. Nothing will erase the past after all. All I can do is hope fore the future.
There will also always be suffering and something I can turn to for depression. In turn, if I can turn to it, there will always be something good. I was trying last night to be thankful for things, but it was honestly difficult. It was one of the first nights I had had like that in a long time. They happen every now and then.
Why say this? Because I also think it’s important for you to know that in many ways, I’m just like you. Too often leaders like to act like they have it all together and they really don’t. I can’t help but wonder if this could have contributed to the fall of Ravi Zacharias or anyone else.
This is also something the church needs to improve on. We can be so busy in wanting to hold up a persona that really, the church is one of the last places people who are hurting really want to go to. Consider this. Sinners and people suffering were not afraid to approach Jesus. If they are afraid to approach us, we are not being like Jesus.
So right now, things are hard and there are a lot of struggles, but I am determined to make it through matters. I am dealing with fears and temptations, but so is everyone. We can look at Jesus and how He faced it and said “But He’s the Son of God.” Sure, but Son of the same God that we serve. He is just as much working in us and for us.
In the meantime, I do appreciate any prayers and encouragement. Many of you have no idea how far it goes. Thank you for all you do for me and Deeper Waters.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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Are you doomed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
There are some passages of Scripture that scare Christians. One such passage is in Matthew 12. Personally, I think some passages should scare such as passages on judgment that will make us take sin seriously, but sometimes, there is an unnecessary fear. Consider again, Matthew 12.
30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
This is one of the most common questions I get from Christians where they are convinced they have committed this sin. I can speak as one who has been there before as well. If you think you’ve committed this sin, then it’s like a death sentence where you can live your life, but you’re hellbound forever after that.
As I said, I get this question several times and every single time, I am convinced that the person has not done this. The moment they tell me they are sure they have committed this, I am usually sure of the exact opposite. Why would I say that?
Because if you care about a sin you have committed, that is the work of the Holy Spirit in you. It is the people who are doing wrong and thinking that they are fine that concern me. It is the person who is convinced that they do not have a problem that I usually think does really have a problem, especially if so many around them are telling them they are doing something seriously wrong.
So let’s look at some scenarios here.
If someone is in a sin and they are actively resisting the Holy Spirit, does that mean they have committed this? No. If it did, most all of us would be guilty because we have all done actions that we know that we shouldn’t.
So what if you one day say something in anger against the Holy Spirit? No. That wouldn’t do it either. Keep in mind that when the words are said by Jesus, Jesus has the Pharisees telling the people that Jesus who is healing by the Holy Spirit is doing so by the devil.
And yet even then He does not say that they have committed this sin.
So what is going on with this sin? The reason it is unforgivable is that it is not a one-time action. It is a lifetime action. If you are going to be forgiven, you have to believe. You have to be willing to repent to God and confess that He is Lord and you are not.
If you cannot do this, then you cannot be forgiven, because you will not agree that you are doing wrong and you do not turn to the one person who can forgive you. It is something eternal. How else can we be sure of this?
Because otherwise, you are also saying you have a sin that you could confess to God and He says “I would rather punish than forgive you.” That’s not the way God is at all. If you confess, you are forgiven.
Christians should definitely be concerned about sins in their lives, but they shouldn’t be concerned about sins they haven’t been committed. If you contact me about this sin, expect a similar reply. I generally have no reason to think you have done this. It’s those who are sure they are fine despite evidence to the contrary that concern me.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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What do I think of Jerry Pattengale’s book published by Worthy Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
The Bible has been used to teach good moral lessons to people for thousands of years. We can look in American history at the McGuffey Readers which helped teach children how to read and taught them how to live well based on the Bible. There is even the old story about an atheist debating a theist (I don’t remember if he was a Jew or a Christian) and the theist asked the skeptic, “If you found yourself in the streets of the city late at night and your car broken down and you saw a door open to a building and out came ten big, burly men heading toward you, would it or would it not make a difference if you knew that they were coming from a Bible study?”
Humorous, but we get the point. This makes the Bible sound really good, and I think it is naturally, but unfortunately, we also know that all good things can be misused. The Bible has been a tool for wonderful character development, but too many have misused it.
This book looks at the misuses and asks if the Bible is at fault. Were these people doing a proper interpretation of Scripture or were they misusing it to justify actions that were definitely evil. We move throughout time even looking at present situations in this book.
A lot of these I had never heard of. Some I had and these were obvious ones, but the reading was still interesting. The KKK is one we have all heard of, but to hear the way they interpreted the text was quite interesting. Even the biggest critic of Scripture should realize the point of Jonah and the whale is not that a Jew is so repulsive that a whale has to vomit him up.
Another one I had heard of was Andrew Hamblin. This is a guy I dealt with years ago when I moved back to Tennessee the first time. He holds church services involving the handling of poisonous snakes where they take literalistically the passage about taking up serpents. Strangely enough, they don’t drink poison from what I normally see. Not a shock but a number of people have died in this practice.
A number of these cases I have never heard of. Some older readers might have. These included a cult group in Michigan called the House of David and a figure known as Prophet Jones who chose to use the Bible to make himself rich. I am certain some readers remember the latter from their own lifetime.
There are also cases of misreading the text in apocalyptic fervor. Thankfully, nothing like that happens today. No one today is doing anything like using the Bible to try to determine when the “rapture” will take place. Oh. Hold on. Someone is handing me a note here….
In history there were cases that were just bizarre. You had the Phibionites who were apparently drinking actual blood in the Communion service. Not only was it blood, but it was menstrual blood at that. The group also had orgies holding wives in common. Big shock that this group tarnished the name of Christianity.
Some Protestants including myself think that Catholics and Orthodox have gone way too far in their treatment of Mary, and we can debate that, but we would all agree that Tanchelm of Antwerp in the 12th century definitely went too far. This is a guy who in a church service actually married a statue of the Virgin Mary. Again, we should be thankful we are past the day and age where this happened and people no longer want to marry strange objects like statues and….wait….I’m being handed another note….
Many bad readings have very disastrous results. Two major examples are the killing fields in the Crusades and the treatment of the Aborigines in Australia. Both of these led to the destruction of various people on a mass scale.
At the end of each chapter, Pattengale explains the interpretation that was thought to be biblical in the first part. After that, he points out how the misuse actually departed from Biblical Orthodoxy. Then he gives the type of problem that took place and what the antidote would be.
I consider this a fascinating way to look at Scripture and a book like this begs to be a continuing series as there are even more instances we can use, but this one is a good start. Not only do you get good interpretation, you also get a look at history showing movements most of us haven’t heard of. For example, there were many cult groups in Christian history and I hadn’t heard of the Phibionites that I remembered.
I would like to see this book dealing with other issues that are hot button issues. What about slavery in the time of the Civil War? What about modern day sex scandals? How do modern politicians on both sides of the aisle misuse the Bible?
I hope Pattengale will continue this pathway. It’s one that needs to be dealt with and we need to keep in mind Augustine’s rule. You never judge a philosophy by its misuse. May we never judge the Bible by its misuse.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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How serious is forgiveness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
You know, up until now, the Lord’s Prayer has been pretty good. You treat God as God. You ask for His Kingdom to come. You seek His daily bread. You ask for forgiveness of your sins. It’s been good. These can be hard, but many of us can like them.
Then right after asking for forgiveness, Jesus changes the game a bit with this saying.
“As we forgive those who sin against us.”
Wait a second.
If I want to be forgiven, I have to forgive them?
You mean that person who cheated me out of that financial deal?
You mean that person who was driving drunk and killed my daughter?
You mean that person who made false accusations against me and ruined my reputation?
You mean that person who sexually abused me in the past?
You mean that person who deeply hurt my wife?
Do you see a pattern forming here?
There are no exceptions. If we want to be forgiven, we have to forgive. There is no loophole in this. It is like the parable of the unmerciful servant. If you do not forgive, there is reason to think that you do not know forgiveness yourself.
One of the most popular blog posts I have done is one based on a weak atheist meme (Sorry for the redundancy) called Will Your Murderer Be In Heaven? In it, you will find wonderful stories of Christian forgiveness. I urge you to read it.
Now forgiveness doesn’t mean that you return to things as if they never happened. They did. You can forgive the babysitter for hurting your child. You do not have to hire them again. You can forgive the person who sexually abused you. You do not have to go on a car ride with them or be alone with them. It mainly means you are releasing your hostility and anger against them.
In many ways, I honestly do not like this teaching. I think I’m not alone. If someone hurts Allie, the first thing going through my head is not “How can I forgive and show love to them?” The first thought is “Where can I hide the body?”
Some of you have seen me on Facebook with this. I have a zero tolerance policy with those who insult my wife on there. My first action is to immediately go after them for that and make sure everyone knows this is something you don’t do again. I remember being at a conference once and I looked up and from behind, the person in front of me looked exactly like someone who hurt Allie deeply once and I was honestly filled with rage.
What does Scripture command me to do?
I hate it sometimes. I really do, but I have to work on that. I have to work on sacrificing my hostility towards them.
Something important I recommend also is not going up to a person and saying “I forgive you.” Instead, wait and talk to them first if need be about it. See if they ask it first. If they don’t ask for forgiveness, don’t suddenly pronounce it. That can rob them of the gift of repentance. However, you should be in the spirit of forgiveness even if they don’t ask it and in your own heart have forgiven the person. It will be a much better gift to them to get to ask forgiveness and hear you say it.
And as Lewis says, Jesus gives us no loopholes. If we do not forgive, then we will not be forgiven. He means what He says. It is a high calling to us and we’d best follow it as Christians.
Think about that person today. Ask for help forgiving them. Realize that if you were at the foot of the cross with this person, it would be ridiculous to tell the Lord about everything that person did to you. You have done worse to God.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
What does it mean to forgive? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
C.S. Lewis has a brilliant essay in the Weight of Glory where he talks about our idea of forgiveness and what it means. When we talk about forgiveness, he thinks we more often mean not forgiveness but excusing. We want God to understand the circumstances behind what we did and say, “No big deal. You’re off the hook.”
It is a big deal though. Every sin to some extent is a form of divine treason. It is a denial of God’s knowledge because you act like He doesn’t know it. It denies His omnipotence because you say He doesn’t have the power to judge. It denies His omnipresence because you say He doesn’t see it. It denies His goodness because you say He won’t do anything against you. It denies His truthfulness because you think He’s holding out on you. We could go on through the list. Every one of them is this.
So what do we want God to do? We want God to say “I know you didn’t mean any of that. Let’s still be friends.” Now there are unintentional sins to be sure, but let’s face it. We all have times that we do the wrong thing and we know it’s the wrong thing and we do it anyway. Those times, we don’t really care. There are times we want to do the wrong and then ask for forgiveness later.
But there is no excusing what we do. It cannot be done. There is no justification ever for doing the wrong thing. That’s why it’s the wrong thing. There are circumstances where it’s understandable why one did it and one can always point to good motivations or good results from doing it, but if it is wrong, then the good that can come and the good motivations do not matter.
Not only that, there will always be something seen to be good in it. “Well, my wife wasn’t fulfilling my sexual needs, so I turned to pornography.” “Well, my family was going broke, so I decided to mess with the books a little bit when doing our taxes.” “Well, I’ve been incredibly lonely in my marriage, so I decided to have an affair.”
Having needs met or providing for your family or overcoming loneliness are not bad things, but there are good ways to deal with those issues and wrong ways and if you go the wrong way, then it is a sin. There is no excusing it. There may be things around it that can be excused, but the sin itself is still wrong.
It doesn’t need to be excused because it can’t be. It needs to be forgiven. It needs to be seen that first off, it is a big deal. It needs to be shown that real damage has been done to a relationship. In human terms, it could be marriage and family, friendship, co-workers, or just your neighbor you don’t even know.
You did something wrong. That’s it. No justifying it. It needs to be faced that you have caused harm in a way that has no justification for it. You have done something against God Himself and undone the goodness of redemption in some way.
You participated in what led to the crucifixion.
Yes. This sin needs to be seen in all of its wickedness. Only then can you realize what forgiveness means. Forgiveness means you realize God could throw the book at you. He could sentence you to hell forever. He could banish you from His loving presence. I don’t care what your doctrine of hell is at this point. Everyone who is a Christian agrees that whatever happens, it’s something you don’t want. God does not owe you forgiveness like that. He does not owe you His loving presence. You owe Him everything.
And yet, that is what makes forgiveness so incredible. God still looks at you and makes it clear that you don’t deserve forgiveness. He is not improved by forgiving you. If anything, forgiveness was a cost to Him. Still, despite all of that, He says He’s going to forgive you and restore you to proper relationship with Him. You are still a child of His.
Forgiveness means that God is telling you you are still in the family. There may be consequences still, but none of those consequences include you losing your place in the family. You’re still one of His. You are forgiven. God does not owe it to you, but He has promised it to you if you come and sincerely repent.
It’s still there today. You can be forgiven. It is truly a big deal.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)