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Yom Kippur/ The Day of Atonement (Lev 16)

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Today (9/13/13 beginning at sunset) the Jewish people, and many Messianic Jews, celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Like most Jewish feasts the traditions of today are not the same as they were in Biblical times due to the absence of the Temple, but there is rich meaning in the events that were to occur on this day.

The Day of Atonement is the only ‘sad’ feast, and the only one that requires a 24 hour (from sunset to sunset) fast. Why is this feast different from the others? Because this is a day of repentance for all of Israel, and there are sacrifices prescribed for the priests, the leaders and the people. No one is without sin, and those who hold a position of respect are required to do more to repent.

This is the day when the high priest, who has washed and remained awake all night so that he may not sin accidentally, goes behind the curtain of the Temple and sprinkles the blood of bulls and goats (guilt offerings for the priests and people) behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, and it is hoped that God would give him a message for the people. In the year that Jesus was crucified, God did just that, and the message that Caiaphas received was that it was better for one man to die for all the people. (John 11:50-51) (He, of course, misunderstood what was being said exactly, but that is another story…)

On the Day of Atonement two goats are brought to the Temple. Lots are drawn and one goat is sacrificed while the other becomes the scapegoat. A bull is also sacrificed for the sins of the priests. These sacrifices are unique because although the blood of the animals is sprinkled seven times on the altar, as well as in the Temple, the entire animal is burned outside the camp, rather than on the altar itself. This imagery fits with Jesus, who is our lasting atonement, being sacrificed outside of Jerusalem as well.

The other goat, known as the scapegoat, has a red ribbon tied to its horns. The Talmud reports that a portion of the ribbon was then cut off and placed on the Temple gate. By morning it would turn white indicating that God had accepted their sacrifices. (After Jesus’ death the ribbon ceased turning white.) The scapegoat is then taken outside the camp and let go to signify that the people of Israel wish to have their sins taken as far away from them as possible. Since the goat occasionally wandered back into the city, it became customary to drive it off a cliff to prevent its return. But Biblically, it is to go free.

Now the Day of Atonement only removed one’s debts to God. Fixing relationships with others continues to this day to be something that requires getting up from the altar and going to another for forgiveness. This is why, when we come to Christ and our sins are forgiven, we may go to heaven (since our relationship with God is fully restored) but there are still consequences and relationships that need to be rebuilt here on earth. The sacrificial system at the Temple, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which replaced it, are for repairing a relationship with our Creator. Our debts to others require paying the debt, or asking for forgiveness from others. And God believes fixing relationships with others is so important that He tells us to leave our gifts (offerings) at the altar and deal with the people we have hurt before doing anything extra for Him. (Matthew 5:24)

Today the Day of Atonement is a day of reflection and asking forgiveness. Since there is no Temple, and since Jesus’ sacrifice makes the need for additional sacrifices obsolete, the blood of bulls and goats is no longer necessary. Examining your relationship with God and others however is always a good idea, so if you wish, put aside time on this day, and fast from sunset to sunset, and allow God to show you how you need to change.

Scapegoat references: http://www.calvaryoxnard.org/studies/nt/Mark/The%20Torn%20Veil.htm

http://www3.telus.net/public/kstam/en/temple/details/evidence.htm

Repenting Like a King (of Nineveh)

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In Jonah 3 we see an excellent example of how to repent and escape an almost certain judgment.

Nineveh was a city known for its cruelty. No matter what you have done in your life, you have likely not done as much as these people had. Killing brutally was a way of life, and Jonah had a reason to be scared.

And God sent an imperfect prophet, one who had run from the assignment, and one who had been recently spit from a fish onto their shores. He was likely not as clean as one would like (there is no mention of his baggage being spit out too), and if questioned he would likely reveal his weaknesses as a leader. There was every reason for the people not to listen to this man, yet they did.

And the king listened as well. He arose from his throne (took action). He humbled himself (laid aside his royal robes). He put on sackcloth and sat in ashes (performed deeds that at that time showed he was sorry). Then he issued a proclamation (He explained to the people under his authority why it was good to do what they were already doing. He encouraged them in their repentance.)

The question is: Do we repent in this manner?

Or do we instead:

-Make excuses as to why the person bringing this to our attention is not worthy to be listened to. Or worse, begin to criticize and harass them publically to all who will listen.

-Refuse to change and find excuses to believe we are fine the way we are.

– Refuse to humble ourselves because of our position, or because we do not want to look weak. Other people may apologize, but what would it look like if the pastor, elder, parent etc did so.

– Refuse to do things that demonstrate our repentance. We may say we are sorry, but often we forget that actions speak louder than words. When there are no acts of repentance (doing nice things for the person you hurt etc), it is often hard to believe that someone is truly sorry. Words are easy, it is your actions that tell who you truly are.

– Neglect to encourage the people under our authority to follow our example. Leaders are examples to those under them whether they do what is good, or what is bad. For this reason it is important to allow those under you to see you are repentant, to know that you are acknowledging that what was done was wrong even if it was done by the leadership and to explain your motivation for repentance. A leader who fails to do this will often have followers (or children) who begin to repent, but then return to evil because they do not see why it is truly important to change, since their leadership does not seem to be getting on board.

Repentance is hard, especially when one is in leadership (even if that leadership is just parental). But, if you do not wish for those under you to follow in your bad example, you must show them, and explain to them, what repentance is and why it is important to do it when we realize we have messed up.

So What Is Rosh Hashana?

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   Rosh Hashana is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. Before coming out of Egypt the Jewish people, like those around them, began their calendar year in the fall. God instructs Moses to change this practice, and the Jewish year changes to begin in the spring, just before Passover. But, like many of us commonly do, the Jewish people compromise with God, and begin using two calendars, a religious calendar, which began in the spring and a civil calendar, which began in the fall. Later kings were officially put into office at the beginning of the civil new year, in the fall, which explains why some kings seem to be king, and then are being put into office a wee bit later in the Bible. (Though there are sometimes other reasons for this as well, such as a region, but not the whole nation, accepting the person as king up until this point.)

Rosh Hashana falls on the same day as the Feast of Trumpets. During the Feast of Trumpets the shofar  (a ram’s horn) is blown throughout the day. It is a day of assembly (where the Jewish people come together for food and fellowship) when no work is to be done (a day off). (Num. 29:1)

The Feast of Trumpets is a unique holiday since it is the only one that occurs at the beginning of the month. Since the Jewish month began with the first confirmed sighting of the sliver of the moon, this is the only holiday that leaves people guessing which day it will actually occur on. For this reason many believe it to be the foreshadowing of the rapture.

The Jewish people also believe that, on this holiday, a person’s name is placed into one of three categories. He (or she) is either written into the Book of Life for the upcoming year, is exempt from the book of life, or finds themselves in an in between state. Those who are ‘on the fence’ so to speak, have ten days, until the Day of Atonement, to repent and get their name added to the Book of Life. For this reason Rosh Hashana is a day to reflect and examine your past deeds and motivations, and if necessary, repent wholeheartedly. (Remember: This is not Biblical, but instead belief that has arisen surrounding this holiday.)

Many traditions have also arisen to help celebrate this holiday. One is to visit a stream, or river and empty your pocket lint into it, indicating that you wish to start the new year ‘clean.’ Small children will fill their pockets with pebbles along the way, and they will skip or throw them into the stream for entertainment.

Another tradition is the eating of apples with honey, signifying a wish to have a sweet new year.

Many Biblical events are also said to have happened on this day. They include:

-The first day of creation

-The (almost) sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham

-The giving of the Law from God to Moses at Mount Sinai

-The day the daily offerings resumed at the Temple during the time of Ezra

-The day the heads of the households gathered to study the Torah in Nehemiah

So how is a Christian to celebrate this holiday?

Any way you want to! (with reverence, of course)

Most Christians do not celebrate the Jewish holidays at all, since they were unique to the country of Israel, and cannot be celebrated as the Bible ordains without a working Temple. (This is why the Jewish people today celebrate Rosh Hashana and not the Feast of Trumpets on this day. They are technically not the same.)

Some Christians do celebrate the Jewish holidays, and there are many web pages (both Jewish, Messianic and Christian) filled with ideas about how to incorporate teachings about this holiday into your life.

Here are some things to remember:

Each holiday begins at sundown. Why? Because during the creation account in Genesis a day is described as being from evening to morning, so the Jewish people begin their days at sundown. (Meaning that any day of fasting ends at sundown and does not involve you going to bed starving!)

Like most holidays Rosh Hashana includes food and fellowship. Apples and honey are the traditional foods for this holiday, but there are many other tasty recipes you may wish to try as well.

Setting aside a time to reflect on your behavior, and what motivates that behavior is also an important part of this holiday. Pray to God and ask Him to show you where you could improve this year. You may wish to write down what you wish to change in a journal, and read it next year, or burn it as an indication that you are done with this type of behavior. If the behavior is significant, this may be the time to discuss it with people close to you and ask them to hold you accountable when you fall into patterns of behavior you wish to change. Pray for God to give you the wisdom and the strength to make these necessary changes as well.

You may also wish to take a walk to a stream and empty your pockets of lint as a reminder that, as of today, you wish to make a fresh start. A picnic by the stream, with the children skipping rocks in the stiller areas may also be enjoyable.

But whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. This is a time to reflect and remember that God forgives us when we repent.

I hope this helps you to understand this wonderful holiday!

Shalom! (Peace),

Judy Barrett

Why Are We Still Using the Arguments of Job’s Friends?

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Most people agree that the arguments Job’s friends use were flawed, yet we see many of these same points being made today. We should probably avoid this. Here is a list of the arguments these friends use:

Job 4 (Eliphaz) All suffering is the result of sin and no one is pure, therefore everyone deserves to suffer. (The modern corollary of this is: If you are not suffering, count your blessings, because we all deserve to be in hell. Anything less than this is a blessing. The problem, this line of thinking completely ignores God’s promises to protect and bless the righteous.)

Job 5 (Eliphaz) Suffering means God is disciplining you. If you repent everything will be well. (Do we not remember Joseph in prison even though he refused to sleep with Potipher’s wife? Paul being stoned for preaching the gospel, and seriously ill on his journey?)

Job 8 (Bildad) People get what they deserve. God does not allow the blameless to suffer.

Job 11 (Zophar) By saying you are righteous you mock God. You actually deserve more punishment than you are currently receiving.

Job 15 (Eliphaz) God’s comfort should be enough for you. No one is pure, and the wicked suffer so this is just. By saying you do not deserve this you sin and rebel against God.

Job 18 (Bildad) Do you think we are stupid? Punishment is for the wicked.

Job 22 (Eliphaz) Man is nothing. You are a sinner. Why? You want security for yourself while there are still hungry and poor in the world you have not fed.

Job 25 (Bildad) No one is righteous before God.

Job 32 (Elihu) Job is justifying himself by saying he does not deserve this.

Job 33 (Elihu) God is not unjust, so you must deserve this. God speaks, and you are obviously not listening. The purpose of suffering is to keep you from hell.

Job 34 (Elihu) By saying he has done nothing wrong, Job is saying that God is denying him justice. We get what we deserve. God sees everything, so repent.

Job 35 (Elihu) You are greedy for wanting to be blessed for doing what is right. The fact that God is not listening is proof that you need to repent.

Job 36 (Elihu) Only the godless refuse to repent.

So how does Job answer his friends?

1. He is honest about his condition and the fact that he would rather have never been born than to suffer like this. (Job 3) He also claims he will not lie (say he has sinned) and deny his integrity. (27:5)

2. He points out his friends’ motives:
-They are afraid, so they make up reasons to condemn Job so they can explain to themselves why it won’t happen to them. (6:21)
-Men with easy lives tend to have contempt for misfortune. (12:5)
-They use Job’s humiliation to exalt themselves above him (Feel that they are somehow better than him because this is not happening to them.). (19: 5)

3. He calls his friends’ arguments worthless and shows them the faults in their logic. (13:4)
-Bad things do happen to good people. (9:22)
-Pretending he is not suffering will not change the facts. (9:27)
-Some sinners do avoid the punishment they deserve on earth. (12:6)
-What would happen if God examined you? (13:9) (i.e. If Job deserves this, then look at your life and see how much more you deserve to be punished.)
-If this is judgment, then you should fear for yourselves. (19:28-29)
-The wicked do prosper at times. (21:7-15)
-All men die. (21:26)
-He asks his friends how are they helping. (26:2-4)
-He explains that wisdom cannot be bought; it is from God alone. (If God is not revealing why this is happening, how can you know?) (Job 28)

4. He assures his friends he is not trying to be mean to them when he refutes their words. (6: 30)

5. He points out that his friends are being mean to him. (6:14, 16:2, 19:2)

6. He acknowledges the facts.
-Life is hard. (7:1, 14:1)
-Life is short. (7:7)
-True righteousness is impossible. (9:1)
-No one can speak for God, and say why He does what He does. (13:7) (Though God may speak for Himself through the prophets and tell us why He is doing something.)
-God pays for our sins. (17:3)
-God does not keep track of our sins, but of our path. (14:16)
-God is his redeemer, and he will see God in a new body. (19: 25-26)
-This is unfair. This is a test and he is passing it. (23:6, 10-12)
-It is the end (eternal damnation) that is bad for the wicked. (24:18-24)

7. He cries out to God.
-He asks God to reveal his sin if he has done anything wrong. (7:20, 10:2, 13:23)
-He asks God to stop the terror. (13: 21)
-He asks God to speak to him. (13:22)

8. Job instructs his friends on how to be a good friend in this situation. (Obviously blaming the person’s suffering on them is NOT the way to handle these situations.)
-Encourage and comfort the person suffering. (16:5)
-Pray for them. (16:20)

Job also describes what life was like when God was watching over him. (Job 29)

1. He was in prime health.
2. His children were around him.
3. He had plenty of cream and olive oil (good food).
4. People respected and praised him because he helped the poor and was just, because he aided the handicapped, was father to the orphans, and made sure the wicked had no power.
5. Men sought to hear him speak.
6. He was a leader (by example), and one who comforted those who mourn.

Job also tells us what he did to be righteous. (Job 31)

1. He avoided lust and deceit.
2. He was a faithful husband.
3. He made sure justice was done.
4. He helped the widow and the poor.
5. He did not take advantage of his status.
6. He did not trust in gold and avoided idolatry.
7. He did not rejoice over his enemies’ misfortune.
8. He fed his servants and travelers well.
9. He did not hide his sins because he feared other’s opinions.
10. He owned up to what he had done.
11. He paid his laborers and did not overwork them.

God then tells everyone what He thinks about all of this.

1. First He rebukes them for speaking as if they know anything about what is going on. (Job 38: 2)
2. He is angry with Job’s friends for not speaking what is right. (42: 7)
3. He states that Job has spoken correctly. (42:7)
4. He has Job pray for his friends and restores his fortunes and more. (42: 10)

And on an interesting side note:
Job’s daughters, as well as his sons, inherit when he dies. (42: 14-15)

Now remember, this is a case when no one really knew why any of this was happening to Job. When there is blatant sin that must be dealt with as well. The point here is that, when bad things happen and you don’t know why, don’t go around saying the stupid things that Job’s friends did.

Is Sin Relative?

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

Micah Murray asked a few questions on Twitter that I felt should be answered. Unfortunately, to answer responsibly will take a lot longer than 140 characters, and probably longer than most blog posts should be…
He asks about Rahab, and it being seemingly okay for her to lie about the spies hidden on her roof, about the God-commanded genocide in Canaan, and whether sin is relative. These are all excellent questions, and they are often answered with platitudes that convey very little that satisfies that asker.

So here we go…

The first question is: Is there any time when it is okay to lie? And the answer is yes. In my sarcastic/snarky way I usually sum it up like this, “For the most part, God does not condone lying. In the Bible the devil is known as the Father of Lies, and the need to tell the whole truth is heavily stressed. BUT, when a crazed psychopath bent on killing someone barges into your house and asks where someone is in order to kill them you can lie your bottom off.”

How do I come to this conclusion? When the midwives lied to Pharaoh to save babies, they, childless women, were blessed with children of their own. (Ex. 1) When Samuel goes to anoint David as the next king of Israel, and Samuel expresses his fear of Saul to God, God tells him to tell Saul he is merely going to make a sacrifice (which he does do). Why? Because Saul will likely try to kill the next king in order to secure the throne for his children, which he does when he finds out. (1 Sam. 16) Rahab too lies to save lives. We have a bit more trouble with this one, since these men are spies, a job we do not usually consider ‘innocent.’ There are extenuating circumstances here. (Remember, the prostitute is the most godly person in this town.) Canaan and Jericho are not good places. (More on this later. Right now just take my word for it.) It would not be proper to destroy a place without seeing how the people behave for yourselves, so spying, by responsible individuals is proper in this situation. (Jos. 6)

This leads us to the next question: Why is genocide okay in the Old Testament?

What we see in the Bible, during the time of Canaan, are a large number of tiny communities bent on destroying one another whenever possible. Here is a list of their heinous activities:
1. Raiding for fun. (1 Sam 13:17-21)
2. Going to war every spring. (2 Sam 11:1, 1 Chron. 20:1)
3. Killing the wives and children of others. (2 Kings 8:12)
4. Enslaving anyone they wish to oppress. (Judges 2:14)
5. Rape and torture. (Dt. 28:30)
6. Stealing food so the people will starve. (Judges 6:11)
7. Destroying fields and crops so the people starve for fun. (Judges 6:3)
8. Orgies and forced prostitution. (1 Kings 14:24)
9. Sacrificing their oldest child to gain blessings from their gods. (2 Kings 3:27)
10. Burying their youngest child in the foundation of their homes (most likely alive) to bless their house. (archeology)
11. Leaving unwanted babies on rocks to die in the weather or from animal attack. (old writings)
12. Heinous tortures before killing prisoners. (archeology)
13. Killing the old, young and pregnant at the back of a caravan for sport. (Dt. 25:18)
14. Ripping babies out of pregnant women’s bellies while they are still alive. (2 Kings 15:16)
15. Watching baby animals slowly die as they are boiled in their mother’s milk. (Ex. 23:19)
16. Putting their children ‘through the fire’ to see if the gods meant for the baby to live. (Dt. 12:31)

Remember Gideon, who was hiding in a wine press trying to thresh grain where no one would see him? There was a good reason for this. If the neighbors the Israelites did not kill when they were told to saw him they would take the grain, or destroy it, and his family would starve to death slowly that winter. These were people who did evil for fun. (Judges 6)

God does not condone, even during this time, the mass extinction of just anyone. The Israelites are to remain within their boundaries, and are not to keep a standing army. (1 Sam 8:12) They will only have a volunteer force of men 20 and over for defense. (Num 1:3, Dt. 20:8) The rest of the time the men will be at home working their land. (1 Sam 8)

So why did the Israelites need to kill the women and children as well? Aren’t they innocent?
The Bible gives us some answers to this in the story of Haman, and another child that was left alive.
Haman is an Agagite, meaning he is descended from Agag, the king Saul was supposed to kill. Tradition tells us that between the time Saul captured Agag, and Samuel arrived, Agag escaped, hid with a concubine and she conceived. The result was the line that produced Haman. Haman was not part of a group that wished to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. (1 Sam 15, Esther 9:24) 1 Kings 11 also tells us about a baby who grows into a man who causes great trouble for Israel, though in his case Joab was wrong for killing his people…

Further, many remind us that the innocent go to heaven. If they had continued to live here, learning to hate, this would likely not be their eternal fate. We also see, in the rescue of Lot, that God does save the righteous from destruction when there is hope.

Still, the genocide we see in the Bible occurs in extremely limited times, and for extremely limited reasons. Abraham is told that the land cannot be his because the sin of the people in the land is not great enough to warrant eviction. (Gen 15:16) We see that the people who fled Canaan were not killed, only the ones who stayed. (Gen. 9:4) And we see, once the era of warlords and terrorists ceases in this area, the Biblical instruction is to obey the laws of the oppressors and work to bless them. (Jer. 29:7, Lk 6:28) Orders to wipe everyone out are only for those who are extreme in their cruelty as a society, and, it seems, only with a very clear mandate from God.
So, is it all relative when it comes to sin? Not in the way most people speak of it today, but in many ways, yes, it is.

We have seen that you may lie to protect the innocent, but let us look at a few more examples.

Aaron’s oldest sons offered incense of their own design, instead of doing what God told them, and they were smote. Right after this Aaron’s younger sons did not eat the portion of the offering as God told them to, but instead burned the whole thing. They disobeyed, but were not smote. Why? Because their motive was to please God. They felt they were not worthy to eat part of the offering due to what had happened to their brothers today. (Lev. 10:19-20)
We then see the priest giving the Bread of Presence to David and his men to eat, even though it is set aside to be eaten by the High Priests alone. Jesus emphasizes that this was not a sin. Why? Likely because David’s men were truly in need of food. They had come to the Tent of Meeting hoping to share in a fellowship offering (which was typically offered and shared with all who were there). There was no food, even the regular offerings seem to be missing. Why? Because the people were not sacrificing as they should. The priest is now in a bind. He can either refuse hospitality, and refuse to feed truly hungry men, or break God’s rule. God’s rule was likely meant so the priests were provided for. Here David and his men have a greater need, and it is apparently okay to prioritize that need. (Mk. 2:25-28)

We also see in Hosea 4:14 that God refused to punish the women who turn to prostitution and adultery because of the actions of the men that lead to this corruption.

This does not mean that we allow everyone to do whatever they want. Jewish theologians point out that these situations typically occur when one commandment is in conflict with another, so one must weigh the two and decide which is the more important one to follow. We do this today.

No one calls an ectopic pregnancy that is treated by removing the embryo growing in the fallopian tube an abortion. Why? Because the baby will not survive if left to grow there, and it will likely kill the mother, cause her serious problems, or affect her future fertility if left alone too long. Would it be nice if we could relocate the embryo and allow the pregnancy to continue? Sure, but we are not there yet, so we have to make a choice. And since the choice is baby and mom die, or just baby die, we choose to remove the baby.

We also allow police to enter a home if they have reason to believe someone is being attacked without a warrant. Preventing a murder supersedes your right to privacy.

So, how did we all learn that there was never a time to lie in most of our churches, and that morality was black and white, when the Bible clearly teaches it is not always that way?

Most people point to a man named Immanuel Kant. Despite his name he was not a Christian, but a philosopher who taught a very absolute view of morality. This philosophy leaked into he church, and has remained part of many sermons. The Jewish people do not appreciate his teachings, since many Jewish people were saved because of the lies told by their Gentile neighbors. Kant would have been honest, to the detriment of the Gentile and the people they were protecting…

Gandhi had a similar problem. His teachings of non-violence worked well in India, against England, a country that had a few people in charge at the time whose morality could be appealed to, once one got their attention. Gandhi then wrote to England advising them not to resist Hitler, telling them that their non-resistance would cause Hitler to see his sin and change his ways. The Jewish people were not impressed by this advice either.

As we see, there is a time for certain actions, but other times completely different means are necessary. It takes wisdom to know when to do what. This is why we must study our scripture, talk about it, and debate every option in depth before situations occur, because life is not easy. It is not an ‘if this then this’ style of existence. Sure, there are things one must absolutely not do, but then there are the extremes, when life is so full of sin and wrong choices that it is hard to know how to work your way out. This is why we need to study, and pray, and remain close to God, not so much for the easy days, but for the days when nothing seems like a good choice.

Being In the World, But Not Of the World…

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

Being In the World, But Not Of the World… What does this mean?

The Pharisees were big on extra laws and restrictive holiness, so that can’t be it…

Unlike Paul who says he was all things to all people…

What does this mean?

For me it means that, while I am to avoid sin, I am not to avoid everything. There are things that hold no temptation for me, so instead of avoiding them like a prude (making people uncomfortable) I have reached a maturity where I can listen, discuss and possibly persuade someone who is trapped by these desires to overcome their addictions.

This means that if I am not tempted by alcohol, I can minister to the alcoholic, where they are at. Not asking them to come to church or forfeit the gospel, but telling them about Christ’s love where they currently reside, whether it be a bar, home or homeless shelter.

This means that if I am not tempted to shed my clothes, I may become a minister to those who do. Those who strip, are caught up in prostitution, or simply live a lifestyle that says they crave appreciation in all the wrong ways. And I can meet them where they are at, not placing the burden on them to show up in my white-washed world, but rather by going to where they live, work and relax, not as a Pharisee, perfect in my condemnation, but as a sinner who was saved by the same grace that I present to them.

But how am I to do this if my definition of holiness involves my avoidance of all that is unseemly? And am I truly following Christ by keeping my associations pure? Did not Christ walk with prostitutes (Mary M.), thieves (Judas), the greedy (Matthew), terrorists (Simone the Zealot) and women of loose morals (the woman at the well)? Did He not allow a woman to wipe His feet with her hair and kiss Him excessively in her sorrow? (Lk 7:38) Did He ever rebuke her for doing things that ‘appeared’ sinful?

So if this isn’t ‘the appearance of evil,’ then what is?

Perhaps the ‘appearance of evil’ is when we make it look like we are part of the crowd in order to not be made fun of, instead of standing up for what is right. Perhaps it is when we do not clear up misconceptions that keep people from thinking we are Christians who do not agree with them. Perhaps it is when we do not stand up to the bully, making it look like we don’t see anything wrong, for fear of becoming the victim? Perhaps it is not so much the ministry to the sinner that we are to avoid, but the act of not letting the non-believer know, by your actions that you are a follower of Christ?

Both avoiding the sinner where they are at, and allowing the sinner to believe you are like them so they do not mock you are similar at the root. They both keep you comfortable, and do not put you in situations where your Christianity will make you uncomfortable. But is this really ‘taking up your cross’ and fulfilling the Great Commission? Or are both extremes misinterpretations of scripture designed to help avoid what we are really called to do- get into the trenches and save the lost?

An Empowering Prayer by David Westphall

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On the wall of an amazing Vietnam Memorial in New Mexico sits a plaque which reads:

“At the sight of the heavenly throne Ezekiel fell on his face. But the voice of God commanded, ‘Son of man stand upon your feet and I will speak with you.’ If we are to stand on our feet in the presence of God, what, then, is one man that he should debase the dignity of another?”

-David Westphall

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