God Did Not Create Us to Hate Each Other

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The recent events surrounding unjust killings along with the steady escalation of racial tension in America are grieving to witness. This isn’t what we were created for. This is not who we are. No one wins in this.

God created us to be like Him.

To reflect His goodness.

To demonstrate His grace.

To show His Kindness.

To be different.

God created humans in the form of a beautiful tapestry of humanity to enjoy one another, complement one another, love one another and sharpen one another.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” –1 John 1:7

We possess a God-designed identity for humanity’s family on earth.

A family that was meant to be holy and set apart for God.

God did not create us to hate each other.

He created us for each other.

We’re meant to be a blessing to each other.

 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” –1 John 4:11

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

 “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” – Romans 12:4-5

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” -Colossians 3:14

Sin tries to ruin our God-designed identity as humanity’s family.

Sin tries to put enmity between us.

Sin tries to divide us.

This is nothing new.

It’s been happening ever since Genesis 3.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

“Did God really say…” says the devil.

“Did God really say…” whispers our flesh.

The devil wanted to make Eve question God.

The devil wanted to plant division within the human heart.

Enmity.

Division.

“The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” (Genesis 3:2-3)

Eve knew what God said.

That wasn’t the problem.

The problem was that what she knew was about to be threatened.

And this had never happened before.

Eve was not prepared for truth to be attacked. Eve all the sudden had an invasion of normalcy. Unity with God as it was intended to remain was about to be assaulted by the one who has been scheming against God from the very beginning. Satan. Eve did not know who she was up against.

And soon, humanity would never be the same.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Satan’s determination to break the design anointed on God’s humanity was wrapped up in a promise of eternal life.

How ironic.

Eve didn’t need his promise. She was already designed for eternity. But that’s how evil does.

Evil always makes a counterfeit promise.

And it never comes through.

It tricks every time.

Eternal death was Satan’s hidden agenda and turning her against the one who created her was just what he needed to complete his mission.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:6-7)

This is where everything changed for Adam and Eve.

No more watering the flowers in luscious Garden of Eden bliss…

No more singing with the bluebirds in the sun…

No more dancing with the bunnies of the forest…

No more peace…

No more calm.

Satan was about to damage humanity forever. All with one lie. And creation was sabotaged. Our design for unity hacked and rewired.

Hatred spewed in like the breaking of the Hoover Dam.

It was never meant to leak in.

But it did.

Thankfully, Jesus has come to save the day. And He will come again to rescue us into the real eternal life that only He can promise and fulfill.

But we’re still here in this broken, grieved earth. The same earth assaulted by Satan in Genesis 3.

Now Satan along with sin continues his assault….whispering lies in our ears causing misunderstanding… skepticism… disunity… prejudice… bitterness… and on and on…

Lies that break our original design for harmony.

Lies that cause us to assume the worse about others.

Lies that cause us to doubt each other.

Lies that plant animosity and hatred within humanity’s family on earth.

Lies that causes some people to carry out their evil desires and hurt others.

Lies that kill.

We have become estranged it seems.

Throughout the Bible and throughout all of history, we have witnessed story after story of division within humanity’s family and how that division attempts to ruin our identity.

You don’t even have to pick up a book to confirm this.

Many stories are already imprinted into the fabric of our memories and ancestral histories.

And it hurts.

Sometimes, it hurts so much that even we are who God’s people are tempted to rebel against our God-designed identities as well and let these negative feelings overtake us. Sin continues to stir negative emotions within the human heart that lead to anger, rage, division, prejudice, pride, and selfishness. And it can be hard to push aside.

I myself have difficulties experiencing some of these emotions at times.

The devil hates us.

And he wants nothing more than to make us to hate each other and wreck our God-designed destiny for humanity’s family here on earth.

It’s working isn’t it?

The devil seems to be winning.

Seems.

It seems humanity does hate one another.

War after war. Violence after violence. Killing after killing. Prejudice after prejudice. Rudeness after rudeness. Belittling after belittling. Sin after sin.

What’s problematic is that so many forms of hatred are masked by human rationality.

Human nature causes us to find a “reason” to hurt one another.

Just like Satan did.

Satan had a “reason” for why Eve should disobey God.

Sin always has a “reason” for why it’s okay to do the wrong thing.                         

A “reason” that’s always disturbing.

Hitler wanted to kill Jews out of a communal-unity-purity “reason,” ISIS kills out of a religious-ideological “reason,” thieves steal out of a lack-need “reason,” slavery existed out of a financial-greed-economic “reason,” I sin against God out of self-preservation “reasons.”

“Reasons” that hurt other people and/or ourselves are never okay!…”

Reasons saturated by sin are an abomination to the brain-functioning capabilities.

It’s freaking messed up what humanity capable of!

“Reasons.”

Too many reasons.

Why did you do [that]? asks the judge every time.

“Well, because…”

There’s always a “because…”

A reason.

A disturbing reason.

A disturbing reason for doing the wrong thing.

Sin always persuades you with a reason.

Don’t fall for it.

It hurts.

Satan has contaminated our identities and he’s trying to make us act like him when we were created to act like Jesus. Too often we fall for it. How grateful I am for Jesus’ grace.

It’s human nature to try and justify a wrongdoing according to what we think is good for us.

And that’s a problem!

Because it causes innocent people to get hurt. Even killed.

My hearts hurts for the families of… Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, the 5 Dallas police officers, the now 3 Baton Rouge police officers and so many countless billions of others recently and throughout history who have been harmed and/or murdered unjustly.

My heart grieves at the animosity boiling in our country between black and white.

My heart is unsettled over the fact that so many are hurting and unheard and misunderstood.

Battling each other will never solve anything.

I’m not here to offer up the perfect solution.

I don’t have one.

I wish I did.

But I do know we need to seek to learn how to love each other better, understand one another, and feel what others are feeling.

Feeling what others are feeling and cultivating empathy is incredibly important.

Empathy is one of the strongest cultivators of love.

Why?

Because what you feel drives how you: think, respond, and act.

And that’s what Jesus did to draw us to Himself.

Jesus came down to be like us so He could feel what we feel.

Empathy.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him… Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” –1 John 4:9, 11-12

We need to go out of our way to do whatever it takes to understand each other’s pain so that we can share in empathy with each other.

Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:15 to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

We must start with ourselves when it comes to each of our individual roles in this whole family of humanity and the sin that divides us. We are all living here on earth. We are all involved. We are all contributors, whether by action or inaction. We must each analyze our hearts and recognize the sin that is cultivating any kind of division within humanity’s family, and change it, so that we may seek the welfare of one another.

I have to examine my own heart and discover the wickedness within me before I can expect anybody else to change.

What I am encouraged by is this: there is a lot more good than evil.

I am encouraged but what I have witnessed so far in Dallas surrounding the police officer shootings, with people coming together and seeking to better understand one another, acknowledge that we have not done our best to love each other well, create dialogue and conversation regarding the escalating tensions surrounding race, and seek healing together.

This is an opportunity to show the devil who we are in Christ!

To show who we as humanity were created to be!

The good news is, 1 Peter 2:9 declares WHO WE REALLY ARE!

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (emphasis mine) – 1 Peter 2:9

God has called us out of darkness.

Into His light.

We were not created to hate each other.

We were created to display the beauty of God together: every race, every culture, & every color. It’s beautiful just like God created it to be!

We were created to love one another no matter how much it costs us.

We were created to mourn with those who mourn no matter how uncomfortable it is.

We were created to pursue justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God no matter how inconvenient it is.

For we are God’s chosen people!

This is who we are.

May we take back our God-designed identity as humanity’s family.

May we be known by our love.

 

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselvesnot looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Philippians 2:1-4

 

Questions for Today:

  • What role have I played in the injustices of our world?
  • Is there any hostility, prejudice, anger, pride, or other negative emotion remaining undealt with in my heart?
  • How can I better understand and empathize with my fellow brothers and sisters?
  • What is my posture towards racial injustice and racial reconciliation and what am I doing for the cause of Christ to make a positive impact?

 

Mark Cuban, Church Music and the Body of Christ

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Recently, I was intrigued by Mark Cuban’s comments regarding stereotyping and prejudice. To sum it up, he described how everybody has certain biases, prejudices and stereotypes about people. Surfacing in the wake of Donald Sterling’s incident, it stirred up a lot of buzz and media attention, especially on ESPN which revolved around Cuban’s comments almost non-stop for an entire week. It’s a pressing issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. Living in a fallen world plagued by sin, prejudice has always marked the human condition in some form or fashion. Light skin prejudiced against dark skin. Men prejudiced against women. Rich prejudiced against poor. Lifestyle prejudices. Religious prejudices. Food-eating prejudices. Unfortunately, humanity tends to drift towards fear of others. Fear of what we don’t understand. Fear of what we fail to empathize with.

The problem is that most people don’t think they are prejudice. Most people don’t articulate a major prejudice. Most don’t get into trouble like Donald Sterling with public comments. But honestly, we all have certain prejudices that – when acted upon – cause others to feel inferior. It happens when a vegetarian looks down on his friend ordering a burger. It happens when we glance at somebody dressed in unusual clothes. It happens when we label certain parts of town. It happens when we stir up debate with those we know have different political and/or social views than us. It happens when we let our personal views become the standard by which everyone should live by.

I encountered one of these moments about a month ago – in a place I least expected to observe prejudice. I happened to be visiting a divinity school with the possibility of attending there. One of the professors was giving a lecture on the history and evolution of contemporary worship music. I was intrigued. As the lecture went on I became more and more aware that this was not really a lecture for the purpose of educational knowledge, but for argumentative defense of a very clear bias: that contemporary worship music is a distortion of formal worship.

I was not bothered by the fact that he had a different opinion than me. Coming from a liberal arts school, I’m used to that. I was not even bothered that he didn’t really care for contemporary worship music or “mega-churches.” What bothered me was that this professor attempted to ridicule others who go to big churches and/or worship in a contemporary style, saying that they can’t see God as clearly.

This is a reflection of a major problem existing in religious circles. Prejudice towards a certain way of experiencing “religion” is eating away at the very lifeline of the body of Christ. Causing division. Causing resentment. Killing diversity. Killing community. All that’s left are people fighting. People fighting over budgets. Fighting over carpet colors. Fighting over methods. Fighting over church music. Surely, there are more important issues than this.

But after that lecture, my thoughts started to change. I started to be reminded of all the times I have been prejudiced towards other people. The Lord really convicted me of a lot of viewpoints I had. I kept thinking of all the times that I secretly judge other people who don’t go to the kind of church that I go to, or have different stances on social issues, or have certain lifestyle habits. I realized that I can be just as prejudice as that professor was. I am just as guilty. That experience has really softened my heart to come to the realization that difference and opposition is inevitable. And it’s okay. All that matters is that I show all people Christ’s love. And when it comes to disagreeing with Christians about the way we experience God, I have to step back and acknowledge that my way of experiencing God is not everybody’s way. Jesus relates to all people differently. And each church is unique and can be uniquely celebrated and worshipful. That doesn’t mean that we should compromise what we believe when it comes to biblical doctrine and theology. But it does mean that we should accept others for how they do church and pray that we all can learn collectively about Jesus from how He works uniquely in each of our lives.

The only antidote to prejudice within the church is a deeper understanding of how and who God created us to be. Then, division because of differences might be converted into multiplication because of differences. In Romans 12:4-6, Paul writes, “Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given us, we have different gifts.” Psalm 139 also talks about individuality and diversity in the way that God created each one of us. We were created to embrace diversity for the sake of strengthening one another with the various gifts we have to offer. We were created to work together.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” A masterpiece illustrates multiplicity at its best. It illustrates the beauty of many layers, colors, and hues all working together as a brilliant piece of art. So together as the body of Christ, we are His masterpiece. Not one person. Not one church. But as all of the people and all of the churches unite together in Christ, we are His masterpiece. Once a church understands that diversity is a good thing, they will grow exponentially as more people feel welcome and they develop more ministries to reach out to a variety of different people.

As we work together to accomplish His will on the earth, we are able to achieve far more than we ever could on our own. But in order to be productive contributors towards that cause, we must prepare ourselves to be individuals who are accepting, compassionate, and empathetic towards different kinds of people. We must relish the opportunity to learn from others. This only happens when we surrender to Christ and let Him transform our minds as it says in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.”

Then, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that “we have the mind of Christ.” (emphasis mine). It is ours. And His mind enables us to think the way He thinks and see the way He sees. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” Without the mind of Christ, we are susceptible to our natural, human way of seeing and thinking. We are without hope to see others beyond the surface. But since we – who have chosen to surrender to His lordship – have the mind of Christ, we too can see the heart just as the Lord sees it. We are able to see others for who they are on the inside, instead of what they appear to be on the outside. Our mind is not at the mercy of prejudice. And we are profitable to the body of Christ.

But if we are not persistent in training our minds to be transformed and renewed to be like Christ, we will struggle to win the war of prejudice. Really, we will struggle to win any kind of assault on our mind. It’s not humanly possible for us to do so. We need God’s help. And with his help, we find strength in our time of need. As we let Jesus help us in this battlefield of the mind, we are more apt to overcome any inclinations towards prejudice. And we are more gracious whenever we encounter those who have yet to let go of the prejudices they still possess. We can take the chance to analyze our own hearts and lives to see if there is any wayward way within us so that we can change and be a light to others. Then we will come to experience God’s beauty and His Spirit as He shows Himself to be the author and creator of a world full of rich diversity.

 “The earth  and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord; for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers.” -Psalm 24:1-2-

Questions for Today:

  • What unique gifts do I have to offer my church and my community?
  • What prejudice is keeping me back from contributing to the body of Christ?
  • How can I let God renew and transform my mind?
  • What next step is God challenging me to take in my walk with Him?

 

The Problem with Shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette

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In my teens, I admit I watched The Bachelor and The Bachelorette religiously. It was normal and popular and attention-grabbing. All my friends watched the show. All the magazines were talking about it. What could it hurt?

I used to be confused when my dad would get mad at me for watching it, asking that I turn off the television. Saying it was filth. Saying it was trash. I never really understood that he was right… until I started to learn about what the Bible says about love and how Jesus himself demonstrated it. The Bible says in John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Now, that is a strong picture of love. One that I doubt we see regularly on television screens. When’s the last time these shows ever depicted someone laying his or her life down? Sacrificing his or her wants? Sacrificing his or her comforts? It seems like these shows do just the opposite.

Rather than teaching people what it means to love someone sacrificially, it primes people to love selfishly, sometimes without even knowing it. It becomes a game of tricking someone into doing whatever it takes to be the most desirable. Doing whatever it takes to steal attention. Doing whatever it takes to win. And it tricks us into playing along with them. We fall for it every time we refuse to turn the channel.

Finally, I realized that I was being duped by the deception these shows feed their audience. The real problem with shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette is that they illustrate a false definition of love. We watch these shows without first preparing our hearts and minds with what real love is. Then we let the show define it for us. We can watch these shows and be tempted to think love is by chance. Love is by fate. Love is fluctuating. Love is seductive. Love is manipulating. Love does what it does to get what it wants. Love is all about how you feel. Love is something you find. Love is something you try out with a bunch of different people. Love is a fairy tale.

But this is not love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us a clear picture of what pure love is. It says…

“Love is patient;

Love is kind.

Love does not envy;

Is not boastful;

Is not conceited;

Does not act improperly;

Is not selfish;

Is not provoked;

Does not keep a record of wrongs;

Finds no joy in unrighteousness,

But rejoices in the truth;

Bears all things,

Believes all things,

Hopes all things,

Endures all things.

Love never ends.”

This passage in 1 Corinthians is counter-cultural. It is totally opposite from anything we see on television, read in magazines or hear at school. That’s probably because 1 Corinthians 13 love isn’t easy. It’s hard to love like this 100% of the time. It’s even hard to love like this 50% of the time! But the Bible demands it. And so does God. Really, it’s more than just a demand. Nobody ever has an epiphany or a life-changing experience from a demand placed on them. But a calling…that changes people. That’s why loving in this way is more of a calling than it is a demand. God calls us to love. This calling is based upon His own love for us, that we might be a lighthouse in a darkened generation as it describes in Philippians 2:15. Loving in this way is the only way to shine that light. It takes commitment. Dedication. Persistence. Intentionality. But it’s worth it. As we love others the way that 1 Corinthians tells us to love, we become transformed as our minds are renewed in Christ’s likeness. We become different. We talk different. We act different. Our love compels us to put others above ourselves because we know that it is our honor to do so. And we discover joy in manifesting this kind of love. A calling to love changes everything.

Jesus demonstrated real love to us by laying down his very life! He sacrificed everything He had. He is love in the flesh. Who are we to not do the same. We complain when we don’t feel loved. We complain when we don’t yet have a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, etc. We complain when nobody shows up for us. But this is because we fail to love first. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” So the only reason we even have the capacity to love is because Jesus gave us that capacity through first showing love to us! If we want others to love us, we must love them first. If we want to have healthy relationships, we must be a person who loves without expecting anything in return. If we want others to be there for us, we must first love others by being there for them. We must go out of our way, sacrifice our comforts, and abandon our desires by being the one who first imparts love to others. Even when we feel like it’s not working. Even when we feel like we get nothing in return. We keep loving. Why? Because Jesus kept loving us even when we didn’t.

As we embrace the very love-nature of Jesus, we embody the love of Christ in everything that we do, so that we can be the “fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” as it says in 1 Corinthians 2:15. It is up to us to show love to the world. It is up to us to show them Jesus. Then maybe, the world might be so full of His love that we no longer need to fuel love shows like The Bachelor and Bachelorette.

Questions for Today:

  • How can I embrace God’s calling for me to love like 1 Corinthians 13 says?
  • Have certain TV shows and movies been keeping me from clearly seeing God’s definition of love?
  • What can I do to change that?
  • How can I help others to know of God’s love for them?

“Give thanks to the God of heaven! His love is eternal.” –Psalm 136:26-