Forgive Them

Who is it that you are to forgive? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Forgiveness can be very hard. I remember several years ago when I was employed at Wal-Mart that a girl came up to me who worked there and said something along the lines of, “Nick. You seem like a really wise person. I’m struggling with forgiving someone. Can you tell me how to do it?” I immediately asked “What’s his name?”

“How did you know?”

“It’s always a guy.”

It was a safe bet that I made that turned out to be right. Forgiveness is hard, but it is really the way of Christ. We could say if it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not. It’s extremely difficult. However, if we withhold forgiveness from someone, we are not really hurting them as much as we are hurting ourselves. If someone wrongs you, that reveals something about them. If you refuse to forgive, that reveals a lot more about you.

Now that doesn’t mean as I said that it will be easy. Sometimes, it will take work to forgive and you might have to do it again and again and again. I also want to stress that I am not saying to go to the other person and say “I forgive you.” Of course, in some cases, such as if the person is dead or it could be harmful to you to encounter the person, this is impossible. If at all possible, let them come to you. However, you should be in a position where you are in an attitude of forgiveness and ready to forgive.

Years ago, I wrote a post about “Will your murderer be in Heaven?” There are several great stories of forgiveness in there. I urge you to go there and check it out as there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel here. People have forgiven those who have done great wrong to them.

Yet you could be thinking, “Yes, but this person intentionally did something to me incredibly hurtful. How do I forgive them?” We do that by looking at our example of Jesus. Look at what happens on the cross. You hear Jesus saying “Father. Forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Now we know that they didn’t understand that Jesus was God’s Messiah and actually YHWH with skin on. However, what is understood? Whatever their reasons for doing it, they were intentionally doing it. They weren’t doing it in the sense of saying “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” This wasn’t done accidentally. This was done intentionally and with forethought to it. This was an evil act of malice.

Holding to the deity of Christ also doesn’t mean that you think He knew everything about everything in His incarnation, but being omniscient isn’t necessary to see that this was an act of evil. Christ knew that, and yet what did He do? He sought their forgiveness. He did not forgive them from the cross since they had not repented and forgiveness requires that, but He sought their forgiveness.

When He died on the cross, He died as much for them as He did for anyone else. (I realize many Calvinist readers will disagree with me. I am not interested in that debate, but if you hold to the L in the Tulip, consider that any that were Elect He died for just as much as any others.) He doesn’t love you or I any more than He loves them. That’s a love that’s hard for us to comprehend.

That’s the first point to consider, but then realize what you have done. Whatever someone else has done to you, you have done worse to Jesus Christ. You have rejected Him who has done so much for you. Years ago, a friend said something in reply to the idea that if you were the only one to save, Jesus would have come for you. He replied that if that were the case, you would have killed Him also.

I often tell people to do an exercise. Think of the person who has wronged you. Then think about standing before Jesus and telling Him what this other person has done to you. Oh wait. It’s not just that. Think about standing before Jesus on the cross and telling Him as He is being crucified what this other person has done to you.

Does that make it seem ridiculous to complain about that then? This is not to downplay what you have gone through, but to show that what you have done to Jesus is actually worse than that. This is the King of the universe here and sin is saying “I want to take your place.” We have all knowingly or unknowingly made a claim to want to be God. We have all done directly ourselves the sin that took place in the Garden.

Again, this does not mean it will be easy, but it is possible and not only that, required. Jesus says if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven, and as C.S. Lewis says, there’s no indication He doesn’t mean what He says. This could require a good therapist and/or pastor to work with you on this. That’s fine too. As long as you’re working on forgiving, I think Christ sees that.

There are evil people out there, and it’s easy to look at the evil in them. It’s far more beneficial to look at the evil in us. That’s the one evil that we can directly do something about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Requirement To Forgive

How serious is the call to forgiveness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Jesus’s new Kingdom, forgiveness is kind of a big deal. After all, the only way anyone else gets into the Kingdom is through forgiveness and grace. If you are a recipient of that forgiveness and grace, it follows that you should show it to others.

Jesus later gives a parable illustrating this. We know it as the parable of the unmerciful servant, though perhaps we should also consider it the parable of the merciful master. The servant begs the master for just a little more time to pay off a debt that he must be deluded to think he could ever pay off. The master doesn’t give it, but instead he just cancels the debt entirely. The servant leaves and finds a fellow servant who only owes him a small amount. He demands this servant pay him immediately and when he is begged for time, he throws the other servant in prison. The master finds out and has the servant brought to him and then the same is done to him.

Jesus ends saying that if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. In other words, it must not just be the lip service that is done. It must be real and honest forgiveness. In our world, it might be easy to say something before the cameras that looks really good, but God knows the heart and won’t be fooled at all.

This is something that should give us all pause. If we are not showing mercy to one another for their sins, it is because we do not trust that we have been shown mercy. The unforgiving servant still thought that somewhere he had to pay off the debt. Had he really believed he had been forgiven, he would be able to show forgiveness.

This should give us pause because there is no indication Jesus doesn’t mean what He says. Forgiveness is not optional. It is a requirement. If your brother comes to you and asks for your forgiveness, there is no question about it. You give it. You don’t test. You don’t ask for proof. You don’t withhold. You just forgive.

The Kingdom is to be a place of grace and thus its citizens must be gracious. To not be gracious is to say one would rather inflict suffering and judgment on another instead of showing the love that is required in the Kingdom of God. This is one reason also to believe in the forgiveness of God. To believe God has not forgiven us when we come to Him is to believe that He would rather punish us than to show grace to us.

This is a big requirement, but a necessary one, and maybe if we took it more seriously we would find ourselves becoming a better people. We would be more gracious of the wrongs of others considering how much grace has been shown to us. Maybe that would be the kind of Kingdom most of us would like to live in.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The Madness of Crowds

What do I think of Douglas Murray’s book published by Bloomsbury Continuum? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I ordered this book on Interlibrary loan after I saw my wife’s priest recommended it, and I shortly forgot that I had. When I got it, I was thinking “I have so many books to go through already. Do I really want to go through this?” I saw an endorsement from Sam Harris on the back and seeing as I think the new atheist material is just horrible, that got me even more concerned. Do I really want to go through this? Still, I decided to open it up and give it a shot.

Within a few days, I was telling so many people they needed to go through it as well.

This is one of the most important books on our society that I have read. Murray deals with four major areas today and with some smaller areas that have a major impact. He does not write as far as I can tell from a Christian perspective and actually I gather is a homosexual from what I read. I read through though finding extreme agreement with so much that I read.

Let’s start with the first section he has on homosexuality. He talks about a movie being played in a theater in England that a gay publication protested against so much that it had to go to a new venue to play. The story in the film was about people who used to be same-sex attracted and no longer were.

Murray wrote about taking the main man behind it who helps people who want to be rid of same-sex attraction. He says that he never forces anyone and they come to him and how he said we should take him at his word. He’s not out there trying to eliminate homosexuals from society. He’s trying to help people who want to be helped. We could question his methodology, but why assume base motives of him?

He then goes on to say that gay no longer refers to just who you sleep with. Consider Peter Thiel who spoke at the RNC convention in 2016 and made a remark about the great battle of the day in comparison to past generations was what restrooms can we use? That he was truly representative of the homosexual movement was called into question. Ian McClellan made a statement about Brexit that said that if you were a homosexual, it was clear how you were to vote.

Murray also points out that this view of homosexuality only goes one way in the sense that if someone leaves a straight lifestyle to embrace a homosexual one, they are said to have found their true selves. If they go the opposite way, then they are said to be traitors to the cause living in denial. I wish something had been said about how in the first case it can often leave a family behind that doesn’t really want the dynamic to change.

The next major area to be dealt with is the question of women. This has begun with the idea of women being sexualized, and again, there are mixed messages. Consider how when Harvey Weinstein was found to have a casting couch that immediately women jumped up to complain about the treatment.

Mayim Bialik of the Big Bang Theory talked about how she makes it a point to be modest and dress conservatively, except, of course, when she doesn’t. Murray brought up about her being on Piers Morgan’s show and how he was saying there was an event to honor someone who had died and he thought too many women were using the event to show off their cleavage and he didn’t find that appropriate, Bialik, who is on the panel, gets up and turns her back to the crowd and tears her dress to expose herself to Morgan in protest.

Murray writes about how women have complained about being sexualized, all the while while often wanting to be as sexy as possible. Too often, women want men to notice them and yet at the same time not turn them into object. One aspect of this I was surprised was not mentioned were topless marches. Women who complain about objectification aren’t helping themselves by doing this.

He also says the feminist movement has often gone to an extreme of “Kill All Men” which really doesn’t mean to kill all men for some strange reason. It really means that men need to realize how they behave and bring about change. Who knew? Men are vilified for the crime of being men.

If women want a world where men are not going to notice them physically, it’s really a pipe dream. This is especially so since women buy so many items that are designed to highlight their feminine features and be noticed by men. It is human nature for men to notice beautiful women and this is a power that women have in that they can drive men absolutely mad and make them do things they wouldn’t normally do, a power they can use for good or for evil.

As for believe all women, this seems to go one way. When a woman makes a charge about how a man has behaved towards her sexually that is inappropriate, that is to be believed. What happens when it goes the other way? What if a man complains about a woman? The man is part of the patriarchy and must be dealt with!

There is an interlude after this on technology. Social media has its benefits, but it has also been a problem. Now, anything you say can be found and used against you. A tweet made years ago in innocence can ruin your career today. A person could have made a statement back in the early 2000’s that was opposed to redefining marriage, which was the majority opinion then, and be called into question for it today.

Social media means everything you say can be found for all time and there is no distinction anymore between private things and public things being said. Also, many people say things online that they wouldn’t say in person. It’s easy to do that when the person isn’t right in front of you and you are safe that way.

The next major section is race. Here again we see the same kind of scenario that we saw with women. Charges of racism and cultural appropriation can show up anywhere and someone can be turned into the bad guy immediately. Campuses have had riots over a comment that most of us would see as innocent, but was perceived as racist.

Consider the case of a school where one day a year, minority students were expected to stay off of campus by choice to show the contributions that they have made to culture. Whatever one thinks of this, it is an event done voluntarily by a group to themselves. Then one year they decided to reverse this and have a day where no white people were to show up.

The difference is that the whites were not volunteering. It was told they should do this. One professor sent out an email in response saying that this is not proper and goes against our basic freedoms. Before too long, there were riots taking place with even the president of the college being in a kind of hostage situation and the professor who sent the email was being accused of racism and had to quit his job.

As with Peter Thiel also, race has become more of a political stance than a biological one. Kanye West endorses Candace Owens and then goes and meets with Trump. At this point, it doesn’t matter what you think of any of those three people. The point is that after this, Kanye is said to not be truly black.

By contrast, what about Rachel Dolezal who was a chapter president of the NAACP and whoops, she turned out to actually be white. Her parents are both white. What are we told? If she wants to say she’s black, then she’s black. So Kanye who is truly black is not black, but Dolezal, who is truly white, is black.

The next interlude is on forgiveness with some nodding towards the Christian tradition on this. Can there be any forgiveness in our culture? Someone gets appointed to a government position and everyone scours through their past tweets and Facebook posts to find any dirt that can be found whatsoever and ruin their lives.

I have gotten annoyed thoroughly with the apology culture where everyone has to apologize for everything. Just this morning I read about a Padres player who apologized for hitting a grand slam. Apparently, he was supposed to not get one because when your team has a great lead, you shouldn’t pile on the runs. Ridiculous! This guy plays the sport well and has to apologize for it?

Besides that, it’s easier to think today that these aren’t apologies. They’re a way of saying “Please don’t ruin my life.” Unfortunately, the crowds don’t know forgiveness.

The last issue is transgenderism. One theme in the book regularly is that we make a major change in society, such as many people have done on homosexuality, and before the dust can settle and we can see how this will work out, we’re off to the next one. Murray writes about children even as young as eight being given hormone treatment to transition and they’re not required to tell their parents about it, although their parents sure need to get permission if that child needs an aspirin in school. Parents get concerned and they are told, “Get in line or your child will commit suicide!” What’s a parent to do?

Long time feminists who speak out are condemned. This includes those cases where a rapist in a prison identifies as a woman and then goes to a women’s prison and, well, I think we all know what happened. What about men who transition into women and then compete against women in sports? They do have an advantage from their past. The feminist movement must be beside themselves since they have long complained about men being seen as superior. Now, apparently, men are also superior at women’s sports.

Where will this end? It’s hard to say, but the crowd is not getting any better. More and more people are being attacked for perceived wrongs and the worst motives are assumed every time. Discussion is automatically shut down when one person is said to be on the wrong side of history or a racist or a homophobe or transphobe or sexist or whatever. Such people exist, but why assume they are everywhere? Why not have a real dialogue about our differences?

I really encourage everyone to read this book. It’s incredibly eye-opening and very easy to read and shocking to read. Our society has a lot of problems and if we don’t reverse the trend, it will only get worse.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us

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?

Yep.

You mean that person who was driving drunk and killed my daughter?

Yep.

You mean that person who made false accusations against me and ruined my reputation?

Yep.

You mean that person who sexually abused me in the past?

Yep.

You mean that person who deeply hurt my wife?

Yep.

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?

Forgive them.

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.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Forgive Us Our Sins

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.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: Atonement and the Death of Christ

What do I think of William Lane Craig’s book published by Baylor University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

William Lane Craig is often said to be the #1 apologist alive today. I consider him a friend personally, and yet I honestly haven’t read many of his books at this point. It’s not because I am opposed to him in some way. It’s just that for whatever reason, I haven’t. When I got this book in the mail though, I figured I should see what it was like. Most of Craig’s works I know of have been apologetics works. While there is apologetics in this to a degree, this one is more theological.

I was also curious because I am a fan of N.T Wright and I couldn’t help but think of this being a response in part to his book on the atonement. Thus, I dove in. I will be giving a brief summary of what the book is about and then listing things I liked about it followed by areas that I had some questions about.

The book is divided into three parts. The first is the biblical data, which makes sense. When forming a doctrine from the Bible, the Bible is usually seen as a good place to go to. Craig actually begins in the Old Testament, which I also thought proper, and looks at topics like sacrifice and the suffering servant before proceeding to how this is fleshed out in the new.

From there, he goes to history. What do the Fathers of the church say about the atonement? What was said in the medieval period? What happened after the time of the Reformation?

Finally, we get into probably what is the most unusual part of the book, though interesting and helpful, and that is the philosophy of the atonement. In this, there is not only a look at the philosophy surrounding justice and mercy, but also around law courts. There are several instances of American law cited and questions of topics such as how do pardons work.

So for positives here, Craig is indeed very thorough. Most people would not think of including something like this last section in a book on the atonement, but Craig does. He also does include some words on the New Perspective on Paul. It’s food for thought, but at this point, I am not ready to say the NPP doesn’t work.

On page 206, there is a wonderful paragraph on the necessity of the crucifixion and the resurrection. This helps show the connection between God dealing out justice and God being merciful on us. There is too little of this in Christian thinking today in that we don’t see the difference the resurrection makes beyond “Christianity is true.”

As I said earlier, I appreciate Craig going to the Old Testament. The Old Testament is where our faith begins and too often we dispense of it. Most Christians I meet who are biblical scholars are New Testament scholars. Nothing wrong with being one, but we need specialists in the Old Testament as well.

I also did appreciate the final section. It was interesting looking at the atonement through the eyes of jurisprudence and seeing how modern notions of law can help us see the way the doctrine works. I also appreciate the philosophical objections being dealt with such as penal substitution being immoral.

However, there are some points I wish to raise that I would like to see addressed.

First, when we get to the New Testament data, I think there is an overemphasis on Paul. I am not opposed to Paul, but when you look in the references, you will find more references to Romans than you will to all the Gospels combined. While I do not consider it Pauline, at least exclusively, the same applies to Hebrews as well. On this point, I think Wright does come out ahead since he does spend more time in the Gospels with the direct words of Jesus.

On p. 167, Craig says it seems odd that someone can be forgiven for their sins and punished for their sins. It does, but I immediately remembered King David’s first son with Bathsheba. David was explicitly said he was forgiven, but he was also told immediately that the child born to him would die. It looks like then that David was forgiven and still punished. I would like to see this fleshed out.

I would have liked to have seen more interaction with N.T. Wright. Wright is the most prolific writer who has put out something on the doctrine and while he was cited at times, I would have liked to have seen an extensive interaction with him.

Finally, I thought the discussions of modern law were interesting, but I kept being struck by a concern in that. If we were in England, would we see English law? Would we see German law in Germany? American law is the category we think in, but does it follow that it’s applicable to the biblical doctrine?

I would have liked to have seen interaction with law in the world of Jesus, such as the law of Caesar or the law of the Sanhedrin. How did justice work in those courts? How did Caesar dole out justice and mercy both? Could Caesar give a pardon and how would that work? After all, these are the categories the biblical world was set in. I am not saying that there is no correspondence to modern law, but I can be skeptical. In a future work, I would prefer to see law in the ancient world look at.

That being said, Craig’s work is a great defense of penal substitution in particular, but I think also rightly recognizing there are some elements of other atonement theories. It is quite likely one will not cover everything. Those wanting a good resource on the doctrine of the atonement owe it to themselves to read Craig’s book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Love Your Enemies

How should you treat your enemies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jesus has just told us to respond with kindness to those who insult us and try to hurt us, but now He ups the ante even further. Up until now, He has been telling us what the Law means, but the next saying He quotes is not from the Law. Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 5.

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 children 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Nowhere does the Law command you to hate your enemy, but this was a common thought of the time. If you loved your neighbor, since an enemy wasn’t specified, surely you are to hate your enemy. Nope. You are to love them too. Actually, the Law itself upheld good treatment of the enemy, such as returning his stray animal to him.

This can be really hard at times for all of us. I don’t consider myself having many personal enemies, but if someone hurts Allie, they become my enemy. I was once at a Christian event and I looked up and suddenly from behind, the person in front of me looked like someone who had really hurt Allie in the past. I was filled with rage immediately. I could hardly concentrate on what the speaker was saying. I found out later it wasn’t him, but at the time, I sure was thinking about things I wanted to do.

My usual idea in this case is to do what I want and then ask for forgiveness later.

Just a couple of days ago we had someone knock on our door and with them was someone Allie had been hurt by. They wanted to take us downtown and offered to pay us. I only asked if it was okay with Allie.

It’s really amazing how we think. We look at what other people do so much which we cannot control, and we look at what we do so little which we can control. When I stand before God one day, He is not going to ask me about how other people treated me. He is going to ask me about how I treated other people.

God demonstrates this love. Everyone gets rain and everyone gets sunshine. Anyone can love someone who is good to them as well. Big whoop if you do that. It’s if you can love someone who is opposed to you. That’s a real accomplishment.

Something to note. This does not mean you necessarily put yourself in a compromising position. In a 12-step recovery, you are told to make amends to people you have hurt unless that would hurt you or them. If it is dangerous for you to be in front of a person who could be a threat to you even if you did hurt them, do not reach out to them. You can forgive someone for a wrong, but you don’t have to trust them again.

Those who want some examples of this kind of love are free to check my article on if your murderer will be in heaven, which is one of the most popular ones on this site. As someone said in the comments, right now, Stephen and Paul are together. Radical love is what is required to be a Christian.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Your Enemy

How much do you love God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want you to picture in your mind your enemy. Okay? This is the person you either hate the most or at the least, love the least. Who is this? Well, it could be someone historical, like Hitler. Based on your politics, it could be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or Donald Trump. It could be a former friend or an ex-lover. It could be a family member. It could be someone who hurt your spouse and/or kids.

It could even be yourself.

Now this is a personal theory of mine. I think it’s Scriptural, but like many other theories, I welcome feedback. 1 John tells us that if you do not love your neighbor, who you have seen, you cannot love God, who you have not seen.

My theory is you can only love God as much as you love that person that I told you to think about.

I’m not saying I’m crazy about this theory either. It’s really hard when I think about it. I don’t have a lot of personal enemies I can think of, but when I think of people who have hurt my wife Allie, I do have anger towards them. One of the ways I look at how I see people is I ask how they treat my wife. If they treat her well, all is good. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter what else they do.

Yet even those people that hurt her, I am told to love them.

This doesn’t mean I have warm fuzzies with them or particularly good feelings towards them. It also doesn’t mean that I give up the call for justice. However, I think it is a problem if we want punishment for the sake of punishment itself. For some who have hurt Allie, I pray for their brokenness that they will realize what they’ve done and repent.

If you have delight at the thought of someone going to Hell, you have it wrong. After all, if it were not for the grace of God in your life, you would be going the same way, and that’s a statement that doesn’t care if you’re a Calvinist or an Arminian or anywhere else. All is by grace.

It doesn’t mean also that you have to particularly like that person. It makes perfect sense if you don’t want to be around a past abuser and in many cases, it could even be wise, but it could mean that rather than hate them, you look at them with pity. What are they doing to destroy themselves by their actions? I don’t mean suicidal or self-harm actions, but actions where they are destroying what they are meant to be.

C.S. Lewis once said to not ask if you love your neighbor. Live like you did. We often think love is a feeling. This is particularly true in the area of romance. Many of you see the way I treat my wife on here and some have in person and you would probably think I’m constantly filled with lovely and warm feelings towards my wife.

No. Not really.

But the point is you do loving things anyway and it’s not a feeling of love that grows, but it’s rather a mindset of love. So it can be with your neighbor. If you find yourself genuinely praying for your neighbor, you will come eventually to love your neighbor, provided you come with the heart that God expects you to have.

Again, this is just a theory of mine, but I do think it’s scriptural. I welcome your feedback.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Not Liking Scripture

Should you always enjoy Scripture? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes I meet people who tell me they just look forward to getting up and reading the Bible every day. They just find such great delight and get a new insight every time they read it. Personally, I don’t really believe such people. The more prone someone is to tell me how spiritual they are, the less I am likely to believe them. The more someone tells me what a struggle their Christian walk is, the more I believe them.

Last night, I talked to someone who told me they recently read the Bible for the first time and as a Christian, there was a lot of stuff they didn’t like. I think this is something very real. If anything, I admire it. I don’t think highly of people who read through the text and never have any questions about it or get troubled by it whatsoever.

This person was wondering why Abraham would decide to sleep with his concubine or why Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the promised land. I really think these are good questions. I don’t want to go into them here, but I think they are good questions.

The point I wish to establish with this is someone who is wrestling with these questions is someone who is taking the text more seriously. Sadly, by those standards, some atheists online take the text more seriously than some Christians. The problem is most of those atheists never bother looking for answers to the questions. It just becomes, “I don’t like this, therefore the Bible is wrong and Christianity is false.”

When we read the Bible, we see the blemishes and faults of the characters. It’s not a pretty picture. David, the man after God’s own heart, is a murderer who can’t keep it in his pants. Moses is a murderer with a temper. Solomon, well, we all know how much he loved the ladies. In the New Testament, the apostles many times seem to be bumbling idiots that even Jesus Himself is exasperated with.

But there are also other parts of the Bible I don’t like. I don’t like being told I need to love my enemies. I’d like to do many things to my enemies, but love isn’t one of them. I don’t like being told I have to put others before myself. Personally, I’d love to be at the center of my own universe. I don’t like being told I have to forgive those who wrong me. I think it would often be more fun to sit back and plan a nasty revenge.

These are all things I am told to do though, and when I do them, I find I grow to be a better person regardless. Are they easy? Of course not. If they were, everyone would do them.

And honestly, I think this is the real problem many skeptics have with the Bible, especially in the area of sex. So many times when questions begin to arise, it can be because a member of the opposite sex is involved. If Christianity did not have high standards such as sex only within marriage and marriage is to be for life, then I think it would be more popular to people, but God’s ways are indeed not our ways.

As you read your Bible, realize it’s okay if it’s difficult or boring sometimes or you find things you don’t like. Still, I encourage you to keep wrestling with the text and asking the hard questions. They have been asked for years. However, it is foolish to ask a question and not seek an answer. That’s where too many atheists stop. Go find the answers. You might find that in the end, though you still don’t like everything in there, you respect the text a lot more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Forgiveness

What is the big deal with forgiveness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Forgiveness is always something we seem to struggle with. One of the most popular posts I have written concerns the issue of if someone’s murderer will be in heaven. Also, I have written about if Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven or not. With skeptics, if God punishes sin, He’s in the wrong. If God forgives sin, He’s in the wrong.

When it comes to us, we always think there has to be a catch. No one just forgives. In reality, this is the Christian way. This is what we are all told to do. Why should we though?

To begin with, everyone of us who are Christians has been forgiven. We have been forgiven of divine treason. Whenever we have sinned, we have in essence been saying that we wish God was dead. We have denied something about Him to be true. We have called into question who He is.

That’s a serious charge.

Yet we are forgiven. Forgiveness was offered when we did not seek it. We definitely did not deserve it. We definitely did not earn it. There was no obligation to provide a way of forgiveness to us. God could have let us all go our own way and go to Hell and have it be He and His angels in eternity together and no one could have said, “You did wrong.”

Forgiveness cannot be earned. If it could, it’s not really forgiveness. Forgiveness, like love is a gift. What does it mean?

To forgive does not mean that there are no consequences to the action. There may be. There may not be. You can forgive someone who abused your kids. It doesn’t mean you’re going to hire them immediately to be your babysitter.

What it means is there is no personal debt they owe to you. The relationship may or may not return to normal. Sometimes it does, but it takes time, such as in cases of infidelity.

If we are hesitant to forgive though, it is because we do not realize what we have been forgiven of. We are the person in the parable of the unforgiving servant who refuse to show mercy despite the great mercy that has been shown to us.

If we put a catch on forgiveness, then we are not realizing what we have been forgiven of. Is that risky? Yes. Is it hard? Absolutely. Do we want to push against it? Yep. We have to let go of any desire for revenge or to teach someone a lesson.

As I said though, forgiveness does not mean no consequences. Someone can be in prison and come to Jesus for forgiveness, and they will still be in prison. Someone can forgive someone for murdering a loved one, but that doesn’t mean the state will drop charges. We can choose to forgive. We cannot choose the consequences.

Forgiveness is also freeing not just for the other person, but for the forgiver. It’s a way of ending the cycle of retaliation. It’s a way of letting bygones be bygones and work towards and restoration that can be of the relationship.

I also consider it important to wait for the other person to ask for forgiveness first. The gift of repentance is a great gift to give. That being said, one should always have the attitude of forgiveness. It is not always wise to approach someone you need to forgive. Sometimes, you might not be able to, such as if the person has died. Sometimes, it could be risky, such as if the person has hurt you in some serious way such as abuse. Have in your heart the mindset of forgiving them, but let them approach you before you pronounce forgiveness.

If someone says they forgive you also, try to forgive them, and if they bring it up again, let them know they gave forgiveness. Work on rebuilding the relationship if it is possible. It depends on how much the relationship is valued, but God is in the business of doing things like that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters