Is Hyperbole a Sin? 

Is Hyperbole a Sin? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Someone asked if traffic had increased on our little country road. My mother replied that we had more traffic than the nearby town. This response is an example of hyperbole. Hyperbole has long been used rhetorically for effect. So, was my mother lying? It seems that in recent years some are equating hyperbole to lying. Critics routinely called our nation’s previous president a liar because of his frequent use of hyperbole. Reuters published an article in 2015 about how the president’s habit, as extolled in his Art of the Deal, might backfire against him (Flitter and Oliphant). They were correct.

Consider the treatment that the word “hyperbole” receives from Webster’s Dictionary, as demonstrated in the original 1828 edition and 2021 online version. The former is more nuanced.

“In rhetoric, a figure of speech which expresses much more or less than the truth, or which represents things much greater or less, better or worse than they really are. An object uncommon in size, either great or small, strikes us with surprise, and this emotion produces a momentary conviction that the object is greater or less than it is in reality. The same effect attends figurative grandeur or littleness; and hence the use of the hyperbole which expresses this momentary conviction.” (Webster)

And here is what Merriam-Webster tells modern students of English:

“: extravagant exaggeration.”

In other words, as noted by Daniel Webster himself, hyperbole might reflect one’s emotional state rather than a conscious decision to deceive. However, the successful use of hyperbole requires an unbiased and knowledgeable audience. In other words, they must be able to understand you are exaggerating for effect.

Even so, we admit people can use hyperbole to manipulate. Perhaps, this is the type of hyperbole usage that caused President Trump’s political enemies to call him a liar. For example, was he the “best jobs president?” He did create an economic environment that led to historic job growth. However, if God allows time and the United States to continue, another president may create even more jobs. Hence, we can only qualify his statement. The truth as to whether his message is a lie boils down to intent, which may be something requiring omniscience to determine.

We asked at the outset, with our title, whether hyperbole is a sin. It might be helpful to know that the Bible contains hyperbole. Jesus used hyperbole in Mark 10.25.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (NASB1995)

What about Jesus’ usage of hyperbole in Matthew 5.29-30?

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” (NASB1995)

How would you qualify our Lord’s speech? Was He lying? Certainly not!  Clearly, He is using exaggeration for rhetorical effect. In the latter case of hyperbole cited, He says that you should be willing to do whatever it takes to enter heaven, even if it seems unreasonable or extreme to you since your entry into heaven is of greater importance than anything sacrificed.

If people equate hyperbole with lying today, it seems more likely an indictment of our public education system’s failure or an unwillingness to evaluate the intended purpose of its usage fairly. Someone may be acting too nitpicky. But we do remind the Christian desirous of communicating the Gospel to others that Paul commands us to ensure our speech’s soundness is beyond reproach (Titus 2.7-8). There are groups with whom we must exercise caution since they take things literally, primarily children and those on the autistic spectrum. Neither should we use hyperbole derogatorily since James cautions us not to use the same tongue to praise God while cursing men (James 3.8-10). Otherwise, our hyperbole use may be the greatest seasoning we can add to our speech when making a point. As with all communication, it is best to season it with grace (Colossians 4.6).

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Sources Cited:

Flitter, Emily, and James Oliphant. “Best President Ever! How Trump’s Love of Hyperbole Could Backfire.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 28 Aug. 2015, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-trump-hyperbole-insight-idUSKCN0QX11X20150828.

“Webster’s Dictionary 1828 – Hyperbole.” Websters Dictionary 1828, webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/hyperbole.

“Hyperbole.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyperbole.

God’s “House-Law”

God’s “House-Law”

Wednesday’s Column: “Third’s Words”

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Every home has some kind of system in place to keep order. Maybe you were told to take your shoes off at the door, keep your elbows off the table, make your bed in the morning, or brush your teeth more than twice a month. Every home is different and the expectations for conduct and cleanliness vary accordingly. However your home was structured, you were at least bound to a set of rules in some form.

God’s house is no different. I’m not just talking about the building we meet in for worship, but that anytime His family offers up worship to Him we are expected to follow His rules. I Timothy 1.4 talks about God’s “house-law” (often mistranslated “stewardship” or “godly edification”). The word is οικονομία (oikonomia), combining οίκος (house) with νόμος (law). What does this mean in context? In I Timothy Paul publicly berates two members who were teaching “myths and endless genealogies which do not promote the house law of God in faith” (1.3, 4; 20).

If any teaching goes against what God has told us He wants, it’s a violation of His house-law. We understand this when it comes to daily life outside of religious activities. If we break the law we are held accountable to it. We understand that violating the laws our governments put in place to maintain order and promote justice carries consequences. Some, though, do not act as if the same applies to God’s people in a religious context.

God’s house-law is more specifically defined in I Timothy 2.1-8. Anytime and anywhere Christian men and women offer worship together, God expects qualified Christian men to lead. This is made clear with the phrase, “…in every place” (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

Not just any man can lead, though! He must be someone who is able to lift holy hands (that is, he is pure in life and can offer worship without the stain of sin), he must be cool-headed, and he can’t be unstable in his faith (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

God expects women to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves (2.9, 10) and are to allow godly men to lead them in worship (2.11-14). His house, his rules.

In all of my vast wisdom and experience as a child, I didn’t always agree with or like all of my family’s house rules. Probably every teen and their unfortunate parents experience this. My feelings about a house rule did not alter its validity in any way. It was not my house so I was not in a position to change or violate the rules. Trying to do so was not only futile but often carried consequences.

God’s design for His church is not acceptable to the secular world. In their disagreement or downright hostility toward it they have pushed many churches into changing God’s house-laws. This doesn’t fly in the legal world, the home, or in any setting where rules were set in place by those most qualified to make them. Why would it work with God?

We may not always understand why God made the laws that He did, but this is where the faith aspect of 1 Timothy 1.4 comes into play. We have to ask ourselves, “Do we trust that God knew what He was doing when He made these laws, and do I really want to challenge Him on the rules He made for His own family?” At the end of the day we must remember that in God’s house we follow God’s laws. Many of the problems facing the church in 2020 can be solved simply by accepting this fact! If we do – as in any family – we will not only have harmony in the church, but a permanent, peaceful home with God after this life.

Job 38.4-7

Where Few Dare Go 

Where Few Dare Go 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

In the movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea there is a scene where one of the main characters finds himself on an island in the middle of the ocean. Suddenly he hears the faint sound of bongo drums in the distance and the sound becomes louder and closer. Out of the jungle a large group of cannibalistic natives appear, chasing this poor man across the beach. The hero escapes, but only by the skin of his teeth. That scene used to terrify me and an irrational fear of cannibals was instilled in me at a fragile age. In the 1830s when European explorers came to the Fiji islands they were horrified to discover the local practice of cannibalism. To me, the sake of exploration is not worth confronting that particular fear. 

We all fear something! The one who claims to be fearless is afraid to admit or confront their fear. Fear isn’t wrong, it’s natural. We’re supposed to have a healthy fear of the Lord (Job 28:28). Facing our fears is a noble thing, but it really only matters in a spiritual sense. 

A common phobia in our world today seems to be the fear of truth itself. Many Christians in the Lord’s church know family members and friends who have refused to listen to and act on the truth found in God’s Word. They’re afraid to give up the teachings taught to them by their families or the religious groups they grew up in. They’re afraid that the truth requires them to give up a sin they tightly hold on to and the sacrifice required to follow Christ. 

The gospel of John is all about truth. In it we learn that Jesus is the only way to salvation and heaven; that’s the truth (John 14:6, 17:17). We must teach through our actions, daily lives, and yes, by inviting them to look at this great truth in Bible study. Though confronting that truth might make some fearful, we must show others that it has the power to free and cleanse us from the guilt of our sins. 

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(Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr, James Vaughn)

THE POSITIVE USE OF THE TONGUE

THE POSITIVE USE OF THE TONGUE

Neal Pollard

David spoke of his tongue as a pen (Ps. 45:1) and his enemies’ tongues as sharp swords (Ps. 57:4). We learn that God hates a tongue which forms lies (Prov. 6:17).  Isaiah prophesied a future time so happy that it would case “the tongue of the dumb [to] sing” (Isa. 35:6). The ungodly tongue is described by Jeremiah as a “deadly arrow” (Jer. 9:8). James calls the unruly tongue a “fire” (Js. 3:6).

The tongue is unique among the body’s members.  It has so many uses. With taste buds, it judges the palatability of the food we consume. With sensitive nerves, it screens the temperatures of the food and drink which enter the mouth.  William McPherson, who lost his sense of sight, hearing, and all four limbs in a mining explosion, used his tongue to read the Bible in Braille. Coordinating with brain and various, undergirding muscles, the tongue is that powerful tool of communication responsible for speech and song.  Like so much of what God created, it is a neutral invention.  According to how it is used, the tongue is either a blessing or curse upon families, communities, and nations.  Benjamin Franklin wrote, “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.”  How can we identify a tongue positively used?

A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL NOT BACKBITE.  Those who wield their tongues positively will say something nice, or at least say nothing at all, about an occupant on the “rumor mill.”  in fact, we should use our tongues to stop the backbiting of others (Prov. 25:23).  A Welsh proverb goes, “Lord, remind us often that a gossip’s mouth is the devil’s mailbag.”  Remember, there’s only one thing more difficult than unscrambling an egg and that’s unspreading a rumor.  We wish only the best for others.  We don’t want to contribute to another’s harm or embarrassment by saying or repeating something evil about them behind their back (Ps. 15:1; Rom. 1:30; 2 Cor. 12:20).

A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL SPEAK GOD’S WORD.  On multiple occasions, the psalmist pledged to use his tongue this way (71:24; 119:172).   When opportunities with our neighbors and friends clearly present themselves, how can we refrain our tongues from speaking Bible truth and divine expectations? When the Bible is disparaged in our presence, how can we hold back our tongues from defending words more precious than gold? God’s Word contain “glad tidings” (Acts 13:32; Lk. 8:1; Rom. 10:15).

A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL SPEAK WHOLESOME WORDS. The Bible praises those who use wholesome words (Prov. 15:4; 1 Tim. 6:5). Profanity, vulgar stories, suggestive language and sexual innuendos do not drop off of a positive, wholesome tongue. Instead, we speak words that improve and sustain our good character.

A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL BE BRIDLED. That’s how you know who is religious (Js. 1:26).  A hot head and a positive tongue don’t rest in the same skull. A blessing tongue and a cursing tongue do not lead to the same end (1 Pet. 3:10-11). A hypocritical tongue and a sincere tongue cannot belong to the same individual (1 Jn. 3:18).  Self-control includes tongue-control.

Someone has written, “To speak kindly does not hurt the tongue.”  It may only be about three inches long, but it can be trained not to do miles of damage. It can be positively controlled.  A bridle for the tongue is a necessary tool which, when used, will cause one to be a shining light in the house of God.

Six Lessons From The Tower of Babel

Six Lessons From The Tower of Babel

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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(Happy birthday to Janelle)

Dale Pollard

 
We all know the story of the Tower Of Babel. It’s the event that gave us all the diverse languages of the world. That account is not just for our entertainment or education, but there are many spiritual applications that can be pulled from the event. Here are just six from Genesis 11:1-9. 
  1. What we are building will only be successful if God designed the blue prints. What are we building? Where do we choose to place our time and effort? Making a name for ourself? Making the most money? Getting the most pleasure out of life? If this is the life we’re building, like the foolish man that’s a life built on sand. 
  2. We are free to do as we want, but for every bad decision there are consequences. 
  3. There is a truth to what God said about our ability to accomplish much as a unified people. There’s also a positive side to this not so positive account. When the church body is unified there is no limit to what we can accomplish. When there’s dissension we are weaker. 
  4. Ignorance does not mean a blissful existence. It was ignorant to think that a closer relationship with God involved building a stairway into the sky that in their minds would allow God to have the ability to descend to earth. The opposite is true. God built us a way to go to Him. 
  5. Be mindful of the presence you keep and the vision you share. It seemed that most if not all mankind at this time was unified under one vision. “To make a name for themselves,” they worked together. They planned, schemed, spent resources and time to build something that would change the world forever— but it wasn’t God’s vision. The presence you keep and the shared vision matters. What are we building? 
  6. Accounts in the Bible that seem unrealistic or mythical should not weaken our faith but strengthen it when we do our due diligence in digging into His word. God is capable of great things, and that hasn’t changed. We serve a powerful God who has big plans for the world. Are we willing to side with Him? 
A Myth We Want to Believe 

A Myth We Want to Believe 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Are you hoping for a “white Christmas” like the ones that Irving Berlin alleged to know? If so, I have some disappointing news for you. The reality is white Christmases are rare. They have always been rare, at least as long as we have been keeping meteorological records. Yet, what of the picturesque scenes painted by Currier and Ives? What about the romantic notions of a snowy Christmas extolled by Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen in Michael Curtiz’s “White Christmas?” Yes, those are likewise a fabrication of Hollywood too.

There are two reasons that the belief in a “white Christmas” is faulty. First, there is the fact that Britain was a late adopter of the Gregorian calendar (1752). Hence, December 25th used to be January 6th. That makes a big difference from a meteorological standpoint. Second, Charles Dickens, the man who gave us our concept of the “modern Christmas,” lived during the coldest, snowiest part of the Little Ice Age (1805 to 1820). If one is prone to indulge in nostalgia, he allows his youth to color his perceptions of the present and future. So, young Charles Dickens enjoyed very snowy Christmases. In his earlier days, the snow fell and stuck around for some time. From his perspective, then, idyllic Christmases were white. America, in turn, blindly accepted the Dickensian Christmas as its role model.

It is not charming to learn that we have founded our hopes on a myth, correct?  At least the desire for a white Christmas is innocent. Yet, how many are investing their hopes in salvation based on the equivalent of tradition or myth? In Philippians 2.12, Paul tells us to “make an end of your own salvation with fear and trembling” (GNV). I chose this early English translation (Geneva) because it well-conveys the message from the Holy Spirit. Though salvation is a gift from God (Ephesians 2.8-9), we must endeavor to receive it. Thus, we make “an end” to it. Like the football thrown by the quarterback, we must catch the ball, tuck it in securely, and run to the endzone.

Why would someone purposely mislead another? The real answer, perhaps, is something known only by God. One of the most tragic narratives of the Old Testament is that of the young and old prophet. 1 Kings 13 records how God dispatched a young prophet to cry out against Jeroboam’s idolatry. Jeroboam wanted the young prophet to intercede on his behalf with God. God told the young prophet that even if Jeroboam offered half of his house, he would not dine with anyone but go straight home following a different route. So, the young prophet rejected Jeroboam’s request, repeating what God said.

The story does not end there, however. An old prophet living in Bethel asked the young prophet to dine with him. The young prophet repeated what God had told him. In response, the old prophet lied and told the young prophet that an angel spoke to him, permitting him to dine with him.  In a sense, the young prophet did not “make an end of (his) salvation with fear and trembling.” Rather than consulting God about the truth of what the old prophet said, he accepted the old prophet’s invitation. While sitting at the old prophet’s table, the old prophet told the young prophet that he would die since he disobeyed God. The young prophet finished his final meal and traveled the road towards home, where he met a lion that killed him. And despite being the instrument of his destruction, the old prophet lamented the young prophet after retrieving his dead body.

Just as with white Christmases, there are other myths we want to believe. We want to think that older people sharing kinship with us have our best spiritual interests at heart. For example, most people have “saintly” mothers and grandmothers who took them to a particular church in their youth. They paid attention to some preacher at those services who told them to believe in Jesus to receive salvation. And he calls himself a preacher, correct? Hence, he should be someone you can trust. As with the young prophet, there is a failure to learn the truth directly from the source: God. Jesus promises that we can know that truth (John 8.32) and identifies that knowable truth as God’s word (John 17.17).

However, rather than God’s truth, many would instead believe the doctrines of men, like Calvinism’s predestination, dubbed “the most comforting doctrine.” And they may embrace this false teaching as sincerely as Saul had embraced Judaism before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. Ultimately, their rationale has the same fragile foundation as a Dickensian novel or a Currier and Ives lithograph. Warm, fuzzy feelings serve as the basis for belief. That feeling is related to nostalgia for the “faith” of mom or dad or the beloved preacher, not truth. It is a feeling predicated on the myth that a loving God would not condemn any sincerely religious person even though Jesus said that those failing to obey the Father would depart (Matthew 7.21-23).

In conclusion, I’d advise you to heed Solomon’s counsel. “Buy the truth, but sell it not: likewise wisdom, instruction, and understanding” (Proverbs 23.23 GNV). Make sure your salvation has a better foundation than a white Christmas.

Further Reading

Staveley-Wadham, Rose. The Truth Behind the White Christmas Dream, Findmypast, 10 Dec. 2020, blog.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/2020/12/10/truth-behind-white-christmas-dream/.

“Traditional ‘White Christmas’ Thought to Be a Myth.” Traditional’ White Christmas’ Thought to Be a Myth | Century Ireland, RTÉ ,www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/blog/traditional-white-christmas-thought-to-be-a-myth.

Ferwen. “A Christmas Carol: Dickens and the Little Ice Age.” Letters from Gondwana, Letters from Gondwana, 19 Dec. 2015, paleonerdish.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/a-christmas-carol-dickens-and-the-little-ice-age/.Ortiz, Diego Arguedas. “How Dickens Made Christmas White.” BBC Future, BBC, 21 Dec. 2018, www.bbc.com/future/article/20181217-how-dickens-made-white-christmas-a-myth.

A Need For Honesty

A Need For Honesty

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

 
How much do you trust a liar? A study was conducted by Psychology Today where they asked 1000 people how many lies they’ve told in the last 24 hours. The average answer was two lies, but 75 percent of men said they would lie if they were talking about their social status. 80 percent of women said they have lied about their weight.
 
The average person we come in contact with has no problem lying to us. Whether it’s at work, in school or to friends and family, the majority of people feel that it’s morally okay to lie.
 
Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
 
“Therefore” is a grammatical tie to previous verses. Each time we read this word we should see it as a finger pointing up to the previous verses. Contextually Paul is saying, “Therefore, since we have put on the new self lay aside falsehood.”
 
If you’re a Christian reading this verse, you have put on the new self. So we are commanded to stop lying and be truthful in our interactions with others.
 
Paul commands us to tell the truth. This seems like a simple command, yet sadly we get caught up in telling lies. We want what’s easiest. Many are tempted to take what seems to be the easy way out.
But there is something to keep in mind the next time we are tempted to lie:
 
Our reputation is ruined by dishonesty. If people catch us lying, why would they believe us at all? The boy who cried wolf is a prime example of this very fact. We all know how this story goes, and the bottom line is we lose our credibility if we lie. When we are honest and choose to tell the truth, people will trust us, and God’s Word has a better chance of reaching the lost.
 
When it comes to our Christianity, we want people to trust us. When we lie we lose our credibility and our ability to proclaim the gospel is harmed. Telling the truth in every situation is an attribute we are to have in our new walk with Christ. Plus, nobody wants to be friends with a liar.
“Does the Bible Really Teach That?”

“Does the Bible Really Teach That?”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Have you ever heard “chimney corner Scriptures”–those things that sound like or we think that are in the Bible but are not (“Let your conscience be your guide” or “confession is good for the soul” or “God works in a mysterious way”).  It is not as funny when our hearts and minds are not adequately protected from a teacher or preacher who promotes something as biblical that is not.  It may be someone who touts a thing as acceptable to God which the Bible teaches is not.  It may be someone who asserts that something must be believed or done, though the Bible does not bind it.  Either way, God holds each of us accountable for knowing His will.  We are cheating ourselves and our souls who allow a teacher or preacher to dictate to us how we should feel or think about a given matter.  I am not saying we should be suspicious or distrusting.  Instead, I am saying we should be like the Bereans.  One of the most powerful, positive statements made about any group of people is said of them in Acts 17:11: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” You have likely read that passage before, but what is the Holy Spirit saying about them?

They Were Characterized By EXCELLENCE.  They were noble-minded. Notice that it began here.  All else positive that is said about them began with their mindset.  Jesus praises people who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt. 5:6). These people were predisposed to accept God’s Word.  What higher praise can be lavished on anyone?

They Were Characterized By EAGERNESS.  The antithesis of this would be apathy and indifference.  These were “word-receivers.”  They were sponges, anxious to know God’s Word.  The Bible, from cover to cover, touts itself as the message of salvation.  Doesn’t it deserve our greatest enthusiasm?

They Were Characterized By EXAMINING. But, they were not uncritical, undiscerning students.  They were listening to one of history’s greatest Christians, borne along by the Holy Spirit, but they still checked after him.  Every man who purports to be God’s proclaimer deserves that same level of scrutiny.

They Were Characterized By EVERYDAYNESS.  They were not content to wait for the next Bible class or sermon.  They were daily devourers of these Divine dictates!  Aren’t there things you feel compelled to do on a daily basis (eat, sleep, brush your teeth, check social media)? We prove to God we are serious about the blessing of having a relationship with Him by constant, consistent consultation of His revealed mind and desires–we only find that in His Word!

How can we tell whether something is just a man’s conviction or is God’s command?  How do we know that some strange, new doctrine is true or false? Do not be content to let somebody be your sole source of gauging that!  Be a Berean!

“God’s Guidelines In Matters Of Judgment”

“God’s Guidelines In Matters Of Judgment”

Monday’s Column: “Neal At The Cross”

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Neal Pollard

In Romans 14, Paul emphasizes:

THREE FACTS ABOUT GOD

Even though Romans 14 is about the weak in faith and those who are stronger in faith, there is a decided emphasis on Deity–God’s acceptance (3), thanks to God (6), the judgment seat of God (10), praise to God (11), etc. The Lord is mentioned nine times while “Jesus” or “Christ” is mentioned several more times. Even when we have differences of opinions, we cannot forget about God’s presence and feelings. Another way to put any issue that would divide us is: “It’s all about God and not about us.” What are Paul’s three facts about God to help us here?

God Is Able To Make Our Brother Stand (4). Paul’s examples are about eating meat (3) and observing special days (5). Some did and some didn’t, and Paul says neither should judge the other’s Christianity on it for this reason. Each one is trying to please and follow the Lord the best they can (5-6). As long as they act from faith and not doubt on these judgment matters, they are not sinning (23).

God Is Lord Of All (9). We’ll be careful with each other’s convictions because we share the same Lord. We live for the Lord and die for the Lord; either way, we belong to the Lord (8). In all our political, social, and other earthly convictions, do we stop to remind ourselves abut this? We’re all on the same, level playing field as brethren, submitting to the same Lord. 

God Is Judge Of All (10-12). I don’t want to be my brother’s judge on anything, especially not things that are matters of judgment, opinion, and discretion. I’m also not qualified. If we get up at arms, let’s do so in defending God’s name and His authority. If we get worked up, let’s do so in seeking His glory and honor. 

THREE REMINDERS ABOUT THE CHURCH OF GOD

Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). Christians are part of His kingdom first (Mat. 6:33), and it comes before politics, nation, race, etc. Romans 14 reveals three reminders about this kingdom. 

We Are Reminded That None Of Us Live Or Die To Ourselves (6-7). We are not an island to ourselves. What we do affects others. We’re keenly interested in how what we do affects others (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23). I consider how what I do affects you, and you are to do the same. That may come as a sacrifice to me, but I’m called to consider more than just me. 

We Are Reminded Of What The Kingdom Of God Is And Is Not (17). It’s easy for us to lose sight of our identity, mission, and work. If we forget who we are, why we’re here, or what we’re here to do, there’s trouble. At Rome, people were confused over what the kingdom of God was about. Paul says it is not about earthly stuff, stuff you can take or leave that is neither right nor wrong. The kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy. Mastering this leads us to be acceptable to God and approved by men (18). By majoring in the majors and minoring in the minors, we’re most effective with God and men. 

We Are Reminded That We Pursue What Makes For Peace And Edification (19). I doubt the Lord was trying to make a bunch of doormats in Romans 14, but to think that way is to miss the point of following Jesus (cf. Mat. 20:25-28). We approach our personal convictions, and those of others, wanting harmony and preferring one another. 

THREE WARNINGS ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF GOD

Even as Paul emphasizes God’s supremacy and the church’s nature, he does not leave out how God wants us to treat each other over judgment matters.

Don’t Judge Each Other (13). We can redirect the energy it takes to try and read hearts and judge motives into trying to see through the eyes of others (1 Pet. 3:8-9). Peter gives a process. Be one, then you will see through others’ eyes, you’ll feel a sense of family, then you’ll be kind, humble, and so on. 

Don’t Destroy Each Other (15). Paul says don’t spiritually kill the brother Jesus died for. When we insist on our rights and our way, we are no longer walking in love. We’re supposed to be about building each other up. Disagreement can turn to resentment, and we start avoiding each other or being distant. Substitute “food” with “political party,” “pandemic issues,” “celebrating Christmas,” “new heavens and new earth,” “literal indwelling,” “representative indwelling,” and the like. The principle is unchanged. 

Don’t Tear Down God’s Work (20). The church may have more opportunities and open doors right now than at any time in our lifetime. Don’t think the devil isn’t bothered by that. He’d love for us to turn on each other. He’d love to see Christians dig deeper trenches of division. But of all people, God’s people should lead the way in genuine love, unity, compassion, and care. So, Paul says don’t tear down the work of God for the sake of things that won’t matter in eternity. Causing others to stumble is a problem because it can tear down God’s family. Follow your own convictions (22), but don’t equate them with God’s law!

More Than A Fish Story!

More Than A Fish Story!

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Some times it can feel like our life is a ship on the verge of breaking apart in a violent storm. Maybe we placed too much trust in the now creaking wooden planks that buckle and groan over dark turbulent waters. In a last stitch effort to stay afloat, we madly rush about throwing any non-essentials overboard.

At times we turn to anything or anyone in an attempt to discover some lifesaving advice— perhaps a miracle? If you’re a child of God, you’ve got access to salvation even in the storms. Jonah 1:4-5 depicts chaos, panic, and overwhelming fear. Those sailors on the boat with Jonah had no idea where they should turn for their salvation. With each passing moment their ship threatened to burst into splinters and “each one cried out to his god” (v. 5).

But Jonah? He’s asleep. He has some kind of knowledge and relationship with the Creator, but he doesn’t fully understand how powerful his God really is.

The application, then, is humbling. Today our communities are filled with people whose lives are rocked and they’re looking for a savior with lifesaving power. They turn to the things in which they’ve placed their trust, and to no avail. How many of us hold the answers they need, but at times find ourselves spiritually sleeping— selfishly keeping this message to ourselves?