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An Eye for an Eye December 2, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 5:38-42.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus begins by presenting the principle of exact retribution – as stated in Exodus 21:22-25 and Deuteronomy 19:15-21. He then interprets that principle, asserting that believers should not retaliate against those who wrong them. He provides four practical applications of this principle; these examples illustrate the importance of forbearance, even to the point of allowing the offender to double the injustice that they have committed.

Thoughts: This passage spurred me to ponder why we naturally resist those who attempt to wrong us. One thought is that evolution favored this response, in that:

  • early humans who failed to defend themselves against aggressive neighbors effectively surrendered territory – and food – to them
  • early humans who did defend themselves against aggressive neighbors were able to protect their territory – and food – from them.

If this (admittedly speculative) theory has a kernel of truth, then it would help explain the difficulties that we experience in attempting to obey Jesus’ command in this passage. Rejecting a response that could be hardwired into our DNA would be difficult – if not impossible. Thus, we need assistance from the Holy Spirit when we sense that God has called us to display forbearance in a particular situation.


False Religion Worthless February 17, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 7:1-29.

Summary: In this passage, God commands Jeremiah to preach the following message at the gate of His temple in Jerusalem: the people of Jerusalem and Judah have failed to worship Him properly. Although they pretend to worship Him, they repeatedly sin against Him; for example, He charges them with:

  • idolatry
  • oppressing the disadvantaged
  • shedding innocent blood.

While they commit these sins, they rest on the assumption that God will not hold them accountable for their deeds. In particular, they assume that since God has placed His temple in their midst, He would never allow it to be destroyed; thus, they draw strength from its supposed permanence. Yet He disabuses them of that notion by citing the example of Shiloh; He punished their ancestors for their sins by allowing Shiloh to be destroyed, and so He will punish them for their sins by allowing His temple to be destroyed.

Thoughts: Here, we see that the people of Jerusalem and Judah assume that since God has placed His temple in their midst, He would not allow it to be destroyed. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

The prophet repeated the words the temple of the LORD because the Jews boasted, as it were, “We are invincible. How can enemies come to us? How can any calamity reach us? God lives in the middle of us. He has his court, his temple, and his Most Holy Place with us.”

There are no modern Christian theocracies – apart from the Vatican City – and so this passage lacks a primary application for most modern-day believers. In terms of a secondary application, though, perhaps believers who live in countries where a majority of the citizens are Christians should heed the warnings in this passage. Do we – either knowingly or unknowingly – assume that God views our nation with special favor? Are we hewing to His commands in verse 6 and striving to bless the disadvantaged in concrete ways? Indeed, as long as we strive to obey the second greatest commandment – and reject the assumption that our nation is uniquely blessed by God – then we can be confident that He will abound in spiritual blessings towards us.

Verse 18 displays the pervasive nature of idolatry in Jerusalem and Judah during the ministry of Jeremiah. Here, we see that all members of a particular family collaborate in the offering of sacrifices to an idol. Indeed, the depravity of the people of God even ensnared children. In light of this sobering fact, it is no wonder that Jeremiah’s repeated appeals for the people of God to repent were met with derision. Clearly God had to employ the Babylonians as His instrument of punishment; otherwise, the sinfulness of His people would continue to offend Him for generations to come.