In this volatile political climate, many Christians face some uncomfortable dilemmas. Is party line a salvation issue? How do we handle seemingly irreconcilable differences? What do we do going forward?
Rather than delving into those questions, I’d like to focus on the attitude of the early church, which faced internal division–Jew/Gentile controversies like in Acts 15, opinions over cultural matters as seen in I Corinthians 8 and Romans 14, and external pressures.
In keeping with the spirit of the early church, let’s focus on the following list.
We must focus on and grow our own spiritual culture, independent of our earthly nationality (while observing Romans 13).
We must be faithful Christians who value being righteous, no matter the cost.
We must manage our concerns and worries by spending MORE time with each other and developing our faith.
We may need to see ourselves less as Americans and more as Christians. If we remember that our kingdom is the church first, we will be far more united.
Be awesome citizens. When outsiders hear about us, it should be that we never cause trouble, we are loyal to each other, we are selfless, we help people, we have strong families, we rely on each other, we are pleasant to be around, we are dedicated to our faith, and we love people who treat us poorly.
We must remember that priority number one is heaven. Everything else is second.
We must avoid talking or posting on social media about non-salvation issues that can and do create division or offense, out of courtesy and respect for each other (Romans 14.1-4; 13ff).
If these are the things we worry about and focus on, no political division or any other heartburn-inducing unpleasantness can affect us. Besides being happier, we’ll be a stronger church!
I am a word nerd. I enjoy looking into the etymology of commonly used words, such as “vulgar.” I noted that modern English translations use the word “vulgar” in 2 Samuel 6.20.
And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (ESV)
How are we to interpret Michal’s words? Was David acting crudely or like a commoner? Perhaps, the Amplified Version gives us a clue. It uses the term “riffraff.” The implication, then, seems to be that David was conducting himself as a commoner rather than the king. Yet, Michal specifies that uncovering oneself was a “shameful” act. In other words, a refined person, like a king, would not behave crudely like an ordinary person.
David did not argue with her, but it is interesting to note that she had no children following this incident, implying that she and David became estranged because of this incident (2 Samuel 6.23). (Commentators disagree about whether Michal was made barren by God or that she and David never had children together. The Septuagint and Josephus indicate that Michal did have five sons. Hence, she bore no children with David, at least from the point of this confrontation. Fortunately, salvation does not require our understanding of the truth regarding this statement.)
“Vulgar” is a Latin word derived from “vulgus,” meaning “common people.” 1 By the 17th century, however, it had come to mean “coarse” and “ill-bred.” 2 The noun form, “vulgarity” was employed to describe “crudeness” by the 18th century. 3 So, obviously, wordsmiths associate the behavior of the masses with something or someone unseemly and lacking refinement. A king, therefore, would not behave in that way. (To believe that, of course, you would have to ignore the histories of the many monarchies existing throughout the world’s past.)
A synonym for “vulgar” is now “pornographic.” 4 Thus, vulgar is not a word well-esteemed in modern parlance. Yet, the Latin translation of the Scriptures is called the “Latin Vulgate.” In this instance, the term “vulgar” pertains to the language spoken by the common man. 5The type of Greek used to write the New Testament, Koine Greek, was likewise the common language spoken by the people. So, we would have to agree that God wants His Will to be easily accessible to the common man, in his common language.
Herein lies the distinction, however. Jesus describes the rabble as making their way through life on the “highway to hell” (Matthew 7.13-14). There will be many who travel that way. The few, on the other hand, travel the difficult path leading to Heaven. You may have heard the expression, “Might makes right.” It is not that the many are evil because they are common, but that multitudes often justify committing evil deeds within their larger numbers (cf. Exodus 23.2). It is easy to get lost in a sea of faces, but God will judge us individually before His throne (Romans 14.12).
So, it is acceptable for us to be common, but we should refrain from acting common (i.e., vulgar). From our speech to our actions, we have been called to follow a higher standard. Indeed, we are God’s special people (1 Peter 2.9). Let us then act accordingly.
1 Lexico Dictionaries | English. 2020. Vulgar | Definition Of Vulgar By Oxford Dictionary On Lexico.Com Also Meaning Of Vulgar. [online] Available at: <https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/vulgar> [Accessed 24 September 2020].
4 Lexico Dictionaries | English. 2020. Vulgar | Definition Of Vulgar By Oxford Dictionary On Lexico.Com Also Meaning Of Vulgar. [online] Available at: <https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/vulgar> [Accessed 24 September 2020].
5 Lexico Dictionaries | English. 2020. Vulgate | Definition Of Vulgate By Oxford Dictionary On Lexico.Com Also Meaning Of Vulgate. [online] Available at: <https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/vulgate> [Accessed 24 September 2020]
Some people just seem to be born with great people skills. Perhaps their personality type just naturally draws others to them. While natural ability may give some a leg up, the great news is that anyone can learn to work well with others and you can develop better interpersonal skills. In fact, it’s really a biblical command! The church is made up of all kinds of people and that being the case, we must all be in the people business. Thankfully, our Lord doesn’t leave us high and dry to try and figure these things out on our own.
Dispersed throughout the Bible we find several sections of scripture that teach us how to communicate, empathize, and get along with others effectively. God’s interpersonal skills cannot be matched. As the Creator, He understands exactly how humans think and behave. Here are twelve insights on interpersonal skills sent to us from above.
Speak evil of no one (I Thess. 5:14)
A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1)
The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21)
Be gentle and show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:2)
Do good to everyone (Gal. 6:10)
Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31)
Discern your own thoughts, identify your intentions (Heb. 4:12)
Treat others like you would treat Jesus. How would you interact with Him? (Matthew 25:40)
Season your speech with grace. It’s the saviors All-Spice for every relationship building goal (Col. 4:5-6)
Praise God and be joyful, it attracts people (Psalm 100:1-5)
Be ready for every good work, speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, be gentle, show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:1-15)
Notice how many passages in the Bible command us to speak differently than everyone else? All of these insights can be simply summed up in just one sentence. Talk, walk, and live more like Jesus. He was perfect in every way and that includes how he interacted with others. Modeling ourselves after the Savior will not only improve our relationship skills with others, but also with Him. Jesus also teaches us that no matter how gentle and loving we are, we’ll still make some people upset. That’s alright! As long as we’re acting like the Lord in all things.
One of the first verses that we tend to think of when it comes to youth being active in their faith is I Timothy 4:12. Most teens have heard, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness” at some point in their lives. What about the second half of the verse? In I Timothy, Paul had been instructing Timothy on how to deal with men like Alexander and Hymenaeus. These men had been blaspheming and teaching false doctrine. Paul clearly states that the goal of their instruction should be love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith (1:5).
Skipping down to chapter 4, Paul tells Timothy that no one should look down on him because of his age. Timothy is charged to teach the gospel and handle the men that have been teaching false doctrine. To do so, he can’t let others’ views of him cause him to stop doing his job. When Paul says “youthfulness,” the original text uses a word that could be ascribed to someone as old as 30. Paul’s main point is that in “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” This is what Timothy should have been doing. Forget your age, forget what other men are saying, and LIVE as an example. Paul wanted Timothy to be a “tupos” or “type” that men could follow. Timothy could do nothing about his age, so his effectiveness was to be rooted in his example.
So, young Christians today, what can we do to be an example? There are five ways that we can do this.
First, your speech. This is external. People can hear the way you talk in your everyday life; Make sure it is blameless and pure. Don’t give someone a reason to reject you because of how you speak in your private life.
Second, your conduct. Once again this is external. Having proper conduct is vital if people are to see you as something more than just a youth. Be a man/woman of God whether you’re being watched or not.
Third, in love. This is more internal than external. This love is an agape love, sacrifice for others at the expense of your own good. This also goes back to 1:5 and “love from a pure heart.”
Fourth, in faith. This is also internal. Work on your own faith. Build your own relationship with God.
Finally, in purity. Be pure in your relationships and in your life when no one else is around. Do these things as “an example (type) to those who believe.”
Paul continues on in verses 4:13ff to discuss other ways he can be an example: giving attention to the public reading of scripture, exhorting and teaching, and using his spiritual gift he had been given by the Holy Spirit. Paul wanted Timothy to be a living example. When these men were looking down on him for his age, Paul didn’t tell him to focus on his experience, but on the source. Focus on your own spiritual life, your own personal reading of God’s Word, your own prayer life. Don’t blame others or use them as an excuse. Be an example they can respect and follow. Show them what a true Christian looks like.
Timothy had a hard job on his hands; he was facing false teachers and blasphemers that were tearing apart the church. He had to work and be the proper influence for the Christians there at Ephesus. As teens today, you also have a hard task ahead of you. Many in the church think that you don’t need to be working yet. God says otherwise. You can and should be an example for others to see. Each one of you have your own group of friends that only you can influence. So, be the example. In your speech, in your conduct, in your love, your faith and your purity. Show them the truth, and never neglect your own Christianity
Seven churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Each remembered for an overall characteristic. The same is true for individual Bible characters, isn’t it? Most remember Moses, Samson, David, Jeroboam, Jonah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Judas, Peter, Paul, and John for a particular attribute, whatever else could describe their lives. That’s more than fascinating. It’s sobering.
What about you and me? Is there a word others–those we attend school with, work with, live near, attend church with, or share family ties with–would use to describe us? Here are some possibilities:
Such attributes are the cumulative result of the attitude, words, and actions that we portray each day we live. Everybody has good days and bad days. But, there is an overall tenor and flavor to our lives that cause people to associate something with us. However, the word might be different:
That, too, is being built moment by moment, day by day.
With both groups of words, we can think of people who epitomize characteristic above. But I want to know, “Which one would best describe me?” Don’t you want to know that about you?The good news, if you don’t like the answer there’s time to change that. Dickens’ Christmastime novel about Ebenezer Scrooge is written to make that very point. Infinitely more importantly, the Bible is written to make that point. We can be transformed through the influence of Christ in our hearts and lives (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:18). How will you be remembered?
A church marquee read, “If we could mind our biscuits, life would be gravy.” As somebody who loves to make biscuits, I appreciate the sentiment. Only a few ingredients–self-rising flour, shortening, and milk (sweet and/or butter). A simple, consistent temperature (I prefer 450 degrees). The time is pretty precise–10-13 minutes. The rack placement is fairly straightforward and there are only a few slots to choose from anyway. But biscuits are still burned. Why? Typically, it’s because we’re distracted. Maybe we’re multi-tasking. Maybe we get caught on another errand, out of the kitchen. Sometimes, only the smell or maybe the smoke alarm jolts them back to the biscuit business at hand.
What does it mean? Why would a church put it on their sign? Obviously, it is not a cooking tip! However, it is sage advice for our interpersonal relationships.
When gossip is being dispensed, do you walk (run!) away? Do you show the gossiper that you disapprove (cf. Prov. 25:23)? Or does it distract, amuse, and pique your interest? Be careful about your biscuits!
When it comes to your spouse, do you work on being content, engaged, and fulfilled in that God-ordained relationship? Do you work on wooing them and keeping them won? Or do your eyes, heart, and mind drift toward another’s? Be careful about your biscuits (Prov. 6:26-29)!
When there are church problems, do you feel the need to make your contribution, taking sides, or even fueling the fire? Be careful that the fire you are fueling doesn’t burn your own biscuits (1 Cor. 1:10; Psa. 133; Prov. 16:28; 17:9; etc.).
When it comes to how others raise their kids, are you a ready, open fount of wisdom which you are eager to spill on the public square? Do you have the answer regardless of whether you’ve even heard the question? Be careful about your own biscuits!
There’s nothing like the satisfaction of pulling out those huge, cathead biscuits with just the right color of light brown on top. When you peel the top off of it, it’s flaky but light. It certainly beats blackened, burned, inedible and charred carbs that are unfit for consumption. Not even good gravy can cover that problem! Let’s be careful to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5)! This pleases the Lord (cf. Mat. 7:1ff).
“It’s all about me.” I would see that saying on a car tag frame nearly every day. Is that really the message we need? Aren’t we self-centered enough, as it is? Truly, the man who lives only for himself runs a very small business. What a bankrupt business it is, at that.
According to the Bible, it’s hardly about the individual at all. In fact, the Lord makes a strong point of it to call our attention to others. Paul says, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). “Selfish ambition” is condemned in Scripture (Phil. 1:17; Gal. 5:20). In fact, James says, “For where envying and strife (literally, “selfish ambition”) is, there is confusion and every evil work” (Js. 3:17).
That is both provable and measurable. Abortion is a horrid, evil practice–the most literal way one could shed innocent blood (cf. Prov. 6:17). What is at the heart of the commission of every such abomination–whether one pleads inconvenience or hardship or any other reason given? Self-interest is. Selfishness is putting self above others, in this case taking another human life to protect selfish interest.
Adultery is a contemptible crime, ripping families apart and giving what may be the most intimate heartbreak a human is capable of experiencing. What compels someone to lie to God and others (breaking vows and covering indiscretions)? What drives one to fill physical and emotional wants in ways that fly in the face of God’s written will? Selfishness does! For that matter, selfishness drives every sexual sin, every departure from God’s design and structure for sexual needs and fulfillment (cf. pornography, homosexuality, fornication, etc.).
Every New Testament writer roundly renounces false teaching (Matthew–7:15; Mark–13:22; Luke–Acts 13:6; Paul–Galatians 2:4; Peter–2 Peter 2:1; John–1 John 4:1; Jude–Jude 4ff; James–2:14ff). Untold millions of people will lose their souls because of false doctrine. Hell will be populated with followers of false teachers (cf. Mat. 7:21-23) and the teachers themselves (cf. Jas. 3:1). The New Testament gives insight into some common motivations that drive men and women to teach false doctrine. The motives are so often selfish. Jude says of them, “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (11). Greediness propels fold to “practice every kind of impurity” (Eph. 4:19). What is the problem? Often, it is unmixed, shameless selfishness.
I will never make it to heaven if my attitude is that “it’s all about me.” It is not all about me. It is all about Him. It is about Jesus–serving Him, obeying Him, and imitating Him. It is about the lost–loving them, teaching them, and winning them. It is about the church–helping it, strengthening it, and supporting it. Selfishness is unattractive, but common. Remember, the one who lives for self alone usually dies the same way.
In 1 Peter 1:13-19, there are three commands that relate to something that must be done regardless of how much time it takes to complete. They are, “fix your hope completely on grace” (13), “be holy in all your behavior” (15), and “conduct yourselves in fear” (17). There’s a fourth command of this type in verse 22: “Love one another from the heart.” All of these are done as the result of a salvation taught by the prophets and revealed to us. Because we’ve been saved, we should fix our hope on grace, be holy in behavior, conduct ourselves in fear, and love one another from the heart. Considering what God has done for us, we should be eager to do what He tells us to do. At the heart of the discussion, Peter calls for holiness. “Holy” is found 10 times in 1 Peter, but there are synonyms in the book, too (“behavior” or “manner of life”—7 times; “do good” or “right”—13 times). We want to be holy, do good, and behave, and this letter says a whole lot about how that looks. It’s faithfulness in suffering, distinctiveness in daily living, and keeping heavenly in focus. It’s captured in Peter’s petition (2:11). Our world places more emphasis on happiness than holiness, and if you have to choose one the world says choose happiness. But, God calls us to choose holiness. How do we do that?
Look within (13). Moral behavior begins in the heart. So, he says to keep sober in spirit and fix your hope on grace. These are both heart matters.
Look out (14,17). Sanctification and obedience appear together in three different verses in chapter one (2,14,22). Holiness is a matter of obeying the truth. This has a negative aspect (14—“Don’t be conformed”) and a positive aspect (17—“Conduct yourselves in fear”). To be holy, we’ve got to keep our eyes peeled and be vigilant. We’re going to look out for the traps and tricks of this world because we know we’re only strangers here.
Look up (15-16). This letter is about our need of God’s help to be holy. There’s a wide gap between our holiness and God’s holiness, and we can never forget that. Peter says to be holy like He is holy. That is an endless aspiration, a goal we’ll never achieve but must constantly work at.
Look ahead (17). God is going to impartially judge according to each one’s work. We should be holy now because we will stand before the Perfect Judge some day.
Look back (18-19). I love the way Peter ends the paragraph. It gives us such hope! The way to take time to be holy is to turn around and look back—at our salvation (1:4) and at our Savior (1:2,21). I can’t look at sin in my life and glorify it, rationalize it, defend it, hide it, or minimize it. Peter reminds us why He had to die (2:24-25).
We take the time for what is most important to us—sports, social media, hobbies, work, shopping, and the like. None of that ultimately matters. As we do anything, these or other things, we must make sure that we are holy in heart and conduct. It’s worth the time and will be worth it when there is no longer time.
Helmets, seat belts, bullet proof vests, insurance, handguns, and home security systems are all means we use to protect ourselves. The adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” has proven itself worthy time and time again. We want our homes, families, and health preserved, shielded from potential danger. What about our inward selves?
It’s possible for us to become a spiritual casualty. We can fall away. Peter urges us as Christians to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves in 1 Peter 2:11-12. One is negative and the other is positive, but both are necessary!
Abstain from fleshly lusts (11)!
We must do this because of who we are (“pilgrims and strangers”). We must realize where we’re from and where our home is (cf. Heb. 11:13-16). In a moral and spiritual sense, we have a higher law. We don’t see right and wrong, fair and unfair, the way the world does. Our ethics, morals, and our principles are derived from God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
We must do this because of what they are (“fleshly lusts”). Peter is addressing base physical desires, things like he discusses in 1 Peter 4:3. These are things the world engages in that can do physical damage, but they certainly lead us away from God. They are morally wrong in God’s eyes and are destructive desires. God knows there are things that harm us, hurt our influence, and are hated by His holy heart.
We must do this because of what they do to you (“wage war against your soul”). Just as desiring the sincere milk of the word (2:1-2) gives you a taste for God’s kindness, satisfying fleshly lusts will destroy your soul.
What a valuable guidelines God gives us as we evaluate an activity, a means of entertainment, who to befriend, an indugence—whatever it is. We should ask, “Where is this thing or person leading me, toward God or away from Him?” Instead of debating our Christian liberty or looking for loopholes to pursue something we crave or desire, we would do well to analyze it through the prism of Peter’s petition in verse 11.
Keep your behavior excellent (12)!
Moral and holy behavior does more than just protect our souls. It reaches others. You are being watched on the job, at school, and everywhere you go. More people are guided by your influence than you realize. How many measure right and wrong by your example? They may not the Bible, but they know you. By your wise and righteous conduct, who knows how many you may lead to Christ? Ultimately, there will be people who stand on the Lord’s right hand at the judgment because you led them there by excellent behavior. So many people are looking for the purpose and meaning of life, and as Christians we know what it is. As we consistently live it out before them, they will want to know more about that way.
In Psalm 15, David shows us who is fit to be pleasing to God. I had a general physical and check up on my 30th and 40th birthdays. I’ll have to say I was more pleased w/the results of the first one. Surprisingly, I found out that I should exercise more, eat less and weigh less. While I didn’t like what I heard, I heard what I needed to hear. Though I’ve taken the exercise advise more seriously than the eating advice, I know that my physical health depends on my compliance.
Psalm 15 is a fitness test regarding our spiritual health. What does it take to please God in my morality and ethics?I find it interesting that what the Lord puts in His battery of tests is surprisingly difficult, and many good people, even basically good Christians, fail miserably at some of them. But if I don’t want to be shaken (5), I need to submit to this check up.
To dwell on the Lord’s holy hill, I need…
Properly working arms and legs (2-3). The Lord sets forth an agility test for us.
We must walk with integrity (this refers to our character, a matter the entire book of Psalms begins with (1:1). We live so that the person we see in the mirror is one we can legitimately admire as wholesome, honest, and honorable).
We must work righteousness (this refers to our conduct, how we treat others and deal with them. Are we one people love or dread to see, and are we seen as a cutthroat, back-stabber, and ankle biter or as one who portrays the godly life of Matthew 5:16?).
A strong heart (2). No conditioning test is any good that doesn’t check the heart. God requires truth in our innermost part (Ps. 51:6). A strong heart is a sincere one, one that makes us genuine and transparent. You won’t hear one thing in public but something contradictory in private, but you’ll get consistent truthfulness. One who tells you one thing but lacks sincerity and truth is not one who is going to pass the heart test.
A healthy mouth (3-4). Isn’t it amazing how much time God spends examining our mouths. Even the heart test is connected to the mouth (2). An untamed tongue is an audacious, destructive, reckless, condemned thing (just read James 3:5-10). Every one of us, to one degree or another, would be mortified if we could hear a recording of the things we’ve said—in anger, gossip, malice, slander, and dishonesty. Particularly, the Psalmist says “slander” will keep one from the temple. This is an epidemic problem, made worse by the presumption we have that our speech is covered somehow by an exemption. Slander is sinful—it discourages good works because people get gun-shy of criticism, it kills morale as a backbiting atmosphere is unpleasant, and it hinders relationships because it destroys trust. A tongue can lead a beautiful prayer, teach an amazing Bible class, preach a beautiful sermon and sing like the angels—only to be heard whispering backbiting words, running someone down, or criticizing someone.
Excellent eyesight (4). No routine exam is complete without looking at the eyes. The righteous sees the wayward as God sees them. He doesn’t excuse or defend them as they willfully engage in sin. He sees the evil as God sees them. That doesn’t mean the righteous won’t try to spiritually win them, but he doesn’t condone them as they live without contrition.
The Psalmist calls for an overall clean bill of health. The spiritually healthy keeps his word, doesn’t take advantage of the needy, and doesn’t betray the innocent. This is an exam we must pass. How is your spiritual health in light of this heavenly health check?