No Matter How Small ( by Carley Evans )

U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. ...

U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Today I clapped my hand over my mouth and tears welled in my eyes as I heard the gay men’s choir burst into song. The song sung by the men was our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I was in my car, driving home from work, listening to NPR as I usually do. Some reporter was defending the positive nature of the coverage of the historical moment when “a group of people came together to grasp” its rights under the Constitution of the United States. No matter how you view marriage, that people who live in the United States are constitutionally protected is undeniable. (This is why babies should not be aborted, by the way. They each have a constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights outweigh any parent’s right to privacy!)

Every citizen of the United States of America has a right to pursue happiness. If you don’t believe this is the truth within our system of government, then you may be more comfortable in a different country.

I heard someone say that the Supreme Court was “out of control.” I wondered, “And whose control is that?” God is always in control, so that argument fails right there.

That the Supreme Court is not controlled by religious zealots ought to make us thankful. If only Christians controlled members of the Supreme Court, then the constitution would be at risk. So many Americans do not subscribe to the Christian lifestyle or to its core belief – that Jesus Christ came to earth from heaven to die on a Cross in order to save the world. If the Supreme Court was controlled only by the Christian Right – the conservative membership – then many people would be denied their right to pursue happiness.

Why is it that Christians ( not all of us, mind you ) want to throw stones at particular groups of people? Why the enormous focus on homosexuals?

I ask this because I find it hypocritical that Christians accept divorce and marriage to another person as part of the fabric of our lives rather than viewing the remarriage as adultery ( in many cases, at any rate. ) Before you protest that I am judging; I’m not. I’m only saying what Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.” I don’t know about you, but I find I always wind up opening my hand and allowing that stone to fall to the ground.

And so, today, I cried when I heard our national anthem sung by men ( this was a men’s choir, by the way ) who have finally gained a measure of equality in this – our great – nation. A citizen is a citizen, no matter how small. Thanks to Dr. Seuss.

Conviction versus guilt

Orestes Pursued by the Furies, by John Singer ...

Orestes Pursued by the Furies, by John Singer Sargent. 1921. The erinyes represent the guilt for murdering his mother. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there a difference between conviction and guilt?

I heard that guilt is a good thing. But, I maintain that guilt is never a good thing. Instead, conviction is the good thing that leads us to change our behavior – either via apology and often through restitution. On the other hand, guilt leads to self-loathing and inaction. Guilt comes through demonic forces aligned against the Christian. The demon whispers, “Look what you’ve done! You worthless creature. How can anyone love you? Why would God forgive that?!”

Conviction comes from God, the Holy Spirit. He whispers also. But His whisper is gentle, a reminder that your guilt is taken care already through the shed blood of Jesus Christ but that apology and restitution are your tasks. God says, “Go and tell your neighbor you are sorry, and if you took from him, give it back and give something more for good measure.”

Therefore, I say, guilt is not of God. Conviction is.

How Many Times? ( by Carley Evans )

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus' description of himself "I am the Good Shepherd" (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows a vertical section focusing on Jesus. The memorial window is also captioned: "To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The disciples want to know how many times they must put up with the offenses of others?

How many times, Jesus, do I have to turn my cheek so as to be struck again? How many times must I allow the thief to take my cloak or my shoes or my purse? How many times do You expect me to walk an extra mile?

Jesus’ answer is straightforward — an infinite number of times!

“Then Peter comes to Jesus and asks, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’

Jesus answers, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22, NIV)

Jesus also warns the disciples that if they are unwilling to forgive others, then they should not expect God to be willing to forgive their many sins against Him.

Think carefully on this — Jesus is actually saying that if we are capable of forgiving an infinite number of sins against us, God is even more capable and definitely more willing to forgive an infinite number of sins against Him.

Despite Tears ( by Carley Evans )

English: The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau....

Esau is starving. He deems his birthright as being of no worth to him if he dies of starvation, so he sells it for food. And he thinks nothing of giving up the rights of the firstborn son.

“Esau answered, Lo! I die, what shall the first begotten things profit to me? (And Esau  answered, Lo! I am starving right now, and what good is my birthright to me!)” (Genesis 25:32,WYC)

We’ve all heard the adage that ‘hindsight is golden.’ Esau looks back at his foolish decision and mourns the loss of his birthright. But, for all his tears, the consequences of his decision remain, coloring his life. He hates his brother, Jacob who supplants him twice, first taking his birthright and later his blessing.

Forgiveness is glorious; we each must appreciate the washing away of our sins and mistakes. Consequences remain, but God is able and sometimes willing to even wash away these. Esau and Jacob reconcile despite one’s foolishness and the other’s subterfuge.

“Forsooth Jacob raised up his eyes, and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him; and he parted the sons of Leah, and of Rachel, and of both the servantesses (and he divided the children between Leah, and Rachel, and the two slave-girls).” (Genesis 33:1)

“And so Esau ran against his brother (And Esau ran to meet his brother), and embraced him, and Esau held his neck, and kissed him, and (they) wept (together).” (Genesis 33:4)

Who would imagine these brothers, so different in temperament and purposes, would come together in forgiveness and brotherly love? Yes, Jacob is cautious, wary of his older brother. On the other hand, Esau is ready to forgive and forget the past harm. True, Esau never regains his birthright despite tears. But he does regain his brother.

Only God makes freedom from sin and relief from some of its dire consequences possible.

Elegant and Simple Solution ( by Carley Evans )

Ever wondered why some see God as an angry being who desires vengeance against those who rebel and resist Him while others see God as a loving being who seeks to forgive those who rebel and resist Him? Ever pondered why these two views of God seem to compete, often to the detriment of both groups?

Of course, the Bible teaches that these two views of God are not necessarily opposing. God does demand obedience; He seeks loyalty. God also desires to forgive and to show mercy.

The Bible teaches God came up with an elegant yet simple solution to His need for justice and yes, vengeance and His desire to forgive, to be merciful — the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ fulfills God’s need to punish sins and sinners and His hope and desire to forgive sins and sinners.

So simple, even a caveman can understand it. So elegant, even the sophisticated can recognize it.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your desire to show us mercy, despite Your need for justice. Thank You Lord that You gave Your only Son that we might live, and live abundantly. In Jesus’ Name, amen.