Raca: Christian Contempt in the Public Square

Raca: Christian Contempt in the Public Square

Counseling

Have you ever been in a discussion with a group of people and posited an idea that drew an expression of utter condemnation? Were you shocked by the other person’s or people’s contempt? Does this happen often when you speak to a group of people in person?

The answer to the last question, and perhaps the others as well, is probably “No”. These kinds of situations, especially among ordinary, everyday people who are generally kind and gentle, rarely or never happen. People, who speak in group settings especially, are usually quite civil and reasonable. This is even more true (or at least it should be) with people who are followers of Jesus.

Unfortunately, what many people have observed in most social media environments is a common incivility, condemnation, and contempt coming from people who otherwise would be civil and reasonable. Something about sitting alone in front of their computer, or other, screen makes them susceptible to the idea that they alone exist and they alone have the most cogent answers to most important (or at least controversial) questions. It’s a sort of modern solipsism.

This leads us to the interesting Aramaic word translated as “Fool”, Raca. It is taken from the Aramaic “reqa” which means “empty-headed”. It is considered one of the most insulting terms of contempt in Jewish culture. This word in the context of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:22 reads as follows:

21“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

This is a cause for concern in the context of social media. Too many times, Christians find a way to say something like, “You’re a fool if…” or “You’re an idiot if…” indicating that they not only cannot see the other person’s point of view they will not.

This is the thrust of Raca. It means that the other person’s view is worthless to you and you have no problem saying it. It means that you have the superior view in your own eyes and you have no interest in even considering that you are wrong, no interest in a discussion that might bring you closer to truth. It means that you have contempt for another human being, created in God’s image, who has value and feelings. Raca is dehumanizing. It’s the ultimate way or “writing someone off” and dismissing them as nothing. It’s cruelty; a spit in the face.

This is completely counter to the Way. Jesus’ Way is about listening and responding with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. The Way is about loving your human brother and sister (whether Christian or not) so that you can truly love God whom you have not seen. (1 John 4:20)

Leviticus 19:17 says it well, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.”

There are many problems with contempt in the life of a Christian, but here are a few important ones:

  1. Contempt drives people away from Jesus
  2. Contempt promotes a very negative stereotype of Christians
  3. Contempt poisons those who feel and show it from the inside and outside
  4. Contempt stops conversation, not only in the middle but possibly for good, causing people to never resolve a matter or get to the truth about a matter
  5. Contempt is completely unnecessary and anti-intellectual
  6. Contempt is based on fear and disdain, not love
  7. Contempt will never win someone over. It only pushes people farther away

Raca should have no place in the hearts, minds, or conversations of Christians, not even toward those who hate us. We have to be ready to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and turn the other cheek (Luke 6:29). This doesn’t mean that a person standing for truth should give up, but it does mean that we must never make a statement out of fear or hate. After all, “Perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18) Be courageous in love family of God!

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The Sacrifice of God: How God Himself Was Torn Apart

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The Sacrifice of God: How God Himself Was Torn Apart

Covenant was the highest of all agreements in the Bible and remains so today. The act of making a covenant consisted not only of ceremony, but of blessings, curses, and blood. One of the most instrumental passages for explanatory power of God’s covenant is found in Jeremiah 34:17-20:

“Therefore, thus says the Lord: You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine, declares the Lord. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts— the officials of Judah, the officials of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf. And I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives. Their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.

In this passage, the curse of the covenant is highlighted. When the halves of the calf were divided, the people making the covenant would walk between the parts as a promise that if they broke the covenant, then they themselves should be torn in half as a curse for breaking it. They effectively walked a straight and narrow path in order to uphold the promise. This is seen in an elevated way in Genesis 15 when God Himself makes His eternal covenant with Abraham as a promise that ALL people would be blessed through him.

In verses 9-10, Abraham obeys God’s instructions to bring a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. He then cuts each of these in half, but instead of passing between these himself, something else amazing and unheard of happens in vss 17-21.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

God Himself passes between the parts! He makes a promise that if He does not fulfill this covenant, then God, the God of all creation, would be torn in two.

And that is exactly what happened.

In Matthew 26:26-27, see what Jesus says about this same covenant promise made in Genesis 15:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

When Jesus tore the bread in half and said, “This is my body.” He was saying, I am about to be torn in two for you. But, He wasn’t being torn in half for us because of anything He had done. We know this from 2 Cor 5: 21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God Himself was about to take the curse for us all. In Mark 15:33-34, we see God Himself being torn in two:

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In that three hour period for the first and only time in human history and for eternity, God Himself was torn apart. The Father turned away from His Son because of the sin of all mankind, for our sin! God Himself tore Himself apart like the calf in Jeremiah and the animals in Genesis 15. He tore Himself and between Heaven and Earth, a straight and narrow path of the New Covenant Jesus instituted in His blood (Matt26:27) was made for you and me and His Spirit walked the path between (Gal 4:6) as the Spirit of God in the form of the fire pot did in Gen 15. And now Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me!” Matt 16:24.

We tear ourselves from this world and die to ourselves to follow this path and in doing so, we are joined to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever!

Jesus Works Chapter One Jesus – A Man of Many Talents: White Collar Jesus

Jesus Works Chapter One Jesus – A Man of Many Talents: White Collar Jesus

Jesus the Public Relations Rep

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We now shift into the realm that most people today would identify as “white collar” work. Jesus knew how to bridge the gap between those who were considered the working class and those who were in the upper echelons of society at the time. Today, He still knows how to do this. Interestingly, there wasn’t really a middle-class during the early first-century. Basically, there were those who lived on most of the wealth and then those who were the poor, scraping along through life. Of course, there were exceptions like tax collectors (Matthew), but even these exceptions would have been considered so far above the poor in social and monetary status as to be considered wealthy. However, Jesus was in the mix with all of these segments of society and was able to understand and communicate with all of them, effectively demolishing the boundaries that separated them. This comes to fruition in the early church and later as Paul writes about the equality of humanity (no slave or free, male or female, etc.) Jesus was and is the penultimate PR guy. We’ll look at just how great he is at understanding and dealing with humanity on all these levels in a later chapter.

Jesus the Teller, Teacher, and Trainer

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There are three main ways to get information across to other people. You can tell them something. Telling is basically just giving someone information. I tell you that Jesus is God’s Son. Now you have the information. The end. Teaching goes farther. When you teach someone, you give them the information and then tell them what it means. I tell you Jesus is God’s Son and that He died to save you from your sins and that means that if you become a Christian, you can be with Him forever. But, the ultimate way to get information to someone is through training. When you train someone, you’re making a disciple. I can tell you that Jesus is God’s Son and that you can have eternal life in Him, thereby teaching you about what it means, but you won’t really get it if I don’t live it. Jesus was what you would call today a Full Professor of teaching about how to live in Him. He combined telling, teaching, and training into a perfect synchrony of how to have life and have it more abundantly. In our study on Jesus the Professor of life, we’ll get a clearer view of how He Professed life and how those who tell, teach, and train today can produce life and power in their own work.

The Second Eve

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So many allusions, symbols, and allegories are made in the Bible concerning Jesus and His sacrifice that anyone with the time and a Bible could easily write a book about the plethora of connections found therein. But, what seem to be missed over and again are the connections between the church and Christ in an eternal way, not to mention the direct application of parallel symbolism between Jesus and the church. This undeniable connection can be seen throughout the Old and New Testaments after many fashions and are important in recognizing just how special the church is not merely in the world, but to Jesus Himself.

The symbol that seems to stand out the most as it relates to the church is that of a bride; namely the Bride of Jesus. Throughout the Old Testament and especially in the prophetic books, we see a picture of the nation of Israel as described by God. In Ezekiel chapter 23, it is evident that God sees Israel as a wayward wife whom He at one time had lifted up from her own blood and filth only for her to return to it again. But, later in Chapter 34, God talks about how He will seem Israel out again and make her whole once more. The love, grace, mercy, and redemption affixed to this love story is amazingly prophetic in regard to the coming of Jesus and the rejoining of God and mankind that He offers.

The story picks up again in Ephesians 5 where Paul explains the relationship husbands and wives should have and compares it to the deep mystery of Jesus’ love for His church. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” The beautiful description of Jesus’ love for His bride here is hard to miss. He wants to protect His wife and would do anything to make her whole and pure and happy.

Another area that is sometimes overlooked in the Jesus/church relationship is seen in a statement Jesus makes to His disciples after His resurrection and just prior to His ascension in John 14. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” In Jesus time, the disciples would have understood that He was referring to an ancient marriage custom. When a man was betrothed to a woman in those days, he could not marry his wife and bring her into his own home until he had built a room onto his father’s house. Jesus here in this passage seems to make an allusion to the fact that He is going to add many rooms (mansions in some versions) onto God’s house in which His bride will dwell forever. The rooms or mansions likely also refer to the new resurrection bodies (after the fashion of the one Jesus now possesses) that we will inhabit after a comparison to the tabernacles/temples we dwell in now 1 Cor 6:19.

Finally, there is a symbol of Jesus being directly referred to as the “second Adam”. “Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” 1 Cor 15:45-49. Here, Paul writes about the difference between Adam as the first man created by God and the Son of Man (Adam) in Jesus who is from Heaven, the God/Man. But, what about Eve. Why don’t we hear about her in this passage. She seems to be conspicuously absent throughout the New Testament, or is she?

In the Ephesians 5 passage we looked at earlier, there is a direct reference to Eve in verse 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” which is a direct quote from Genesis 2:24 regarding Adam and Eve. But, the comparison doesn’t end there. Let’s look at the creation of Eve back in Genesis chapter 2. “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” God took genetic material from Adam and used it to make another human being. Bone, flesh, blood, and blood vessels were all used to make this beautiful new creature. This was the first Adam and the first Eve.

John 19:34 tells a similar story of the second Adam and Eve. “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” Again, we have something special and filled with life and creative potential being taken from the side of the second Adam. But, this time instead of giving mere physical life to Eve, this spiritual material gives eternal life to the second Eve: the church!

The love story between Jesus and His bride unfolds throughout the Bible. It is the most tragic and beautiful and triumphant story ever known. Today, we can all be a part of it as the second Eve. Be blessed.

The Fatherless: Much Is Required

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Last Thanksgiving, I was allowed to present a lesson before the Dalraida church of Christ concerning orphaned and fatherless children. The lesson was written and presented specifically for the Thanksgiving Appeal for the work at Childhaven. The final area I covered in the lesson was how much is required to care for orphans/fatherless.

When I talk to Dr. Moore from Mt. Dora and Dr. Wright from Childhaven, they beam when they talk about the children. They love them so much and they are so grateful to God and us for allowing them to care for the children entrusted to them. But their faces become grave when they tell me they have had to close group homes or that they couldn’t afford to bring another single mother and children into the home.

Much is required to keep these children safe and cared for and much is required from us to help these works. But, most of all, consider Luke 12:48 Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. And tie this back to Deut 24:21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.

Please allow me to make a plea that you do not pick over your vineyards. Leave something for those who are fatherless and need it so much. Obey God’s command to take care of children as Jesus did when he said “Let the little children come to me”. And, taking care of these little children, be blessed by God financially, emotionally, and most of all spiritually by the God of love and protection. If you have not obeyed God’s command, but have marginalized or failed to help those who are less fortunate than you, or if you want to begin a new life where you are a Baptized, saved, new Creation who can experience God’s richness in Heaven through giving from your heart and soul come to God through Jesus today and be adopted yourself into God’s family.

The Fatherless: Our Duty

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Last Thanksgiving, I was allowed to present a lesson before the Dalraida church of Christ concerning orphaned and fatherless children. The lesson was written and presented specifically for the Thanksgiving Appeal for the work at Childhaven. The third area I covered in the lesson was our duty to orphans/fatherless.

 

Yes, we have a duty, based on command, the same as we have a duty based on the command to love, teach, spread the Gospel, and worship.Look at how the nation of Israel included the lonely in their culture: Deut 16:14-15 “You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.” God’s people should accept the fatherless as Family…do not deny them love, affection, and physical needs. Love them with God’s great love! We will “be altogether joyful” if we do this. This is because we are truly family when we show the love and compassion God shows to the fatherless, widow, and those who have been marginalized by society.

In 2 Samuel chapter 9, David shows us a perfect example of what it means to love and care for the orphan. After he became king over Israel, David asked if there was a surviving member of Jonathan’s family to whom he could show his love. Most of the people probably already knew there was only one person left; Mephibosheth. He was a crippled man, most likely shunned by his fellow Israelites since he was not only considered worthless as a man, but reviled as a member of Saul’s house. But, when David heard about Mephibosheth, he took him in with no thought of how Mephibosheth could benefit him. In fact, Mephibosheth was crippled and probably required more care than most would. It’s the kindness and love we should exhibit to children who need families.

Zechariah 7:9-11goes further toward the call for love, justice, and mercy toward the fatherless. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” We have a duty to render true judgments – don’t misjudge or prejudge a situation. Don’t presume to know about someone’s situation before knowing the facts. Have mercy on the lonely. Be kind and let them know they are loved and cared for by God’s people. Only then can we say we are truly fulfilling this command.

The next passage will probably penetrate your breastbone deeply as it does mine. Deut 24:21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.” This may be an indictment on most Americans – How often do we look at our paycheck and say, “I’m going to buy this and this and this” When we should not go over our vineyards again and again, but leave some of it for those who truly need it? God always reminds us that we were once slaves to sin and therefore we should share what He has given us with those who are still “aliens” lost in the wilderness.

Finally, James gives us the core statement we must seek to understand and abide by in 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Do you want true religion? If you do, this is it, folks. This is where you need to focus your hearts. Worship, baptism, prayer, and every other item we focus on as Christians are absolutely necessary and important, but taking care of orphans and widows is DEFINED as True Religion. If you want your religion to be true, take care of widows and orphans. Of course, keep yourself unstained from the world. And I believe that this goes right along with caring for those who are weaker, because what does the world say? “Step on whoever to get to where you want to be! Don’t give that extra money to help the less fortunate, use it for what you want! Don’t trust God to provide for your needs, He will leave you high and dry!” Don’t listen to those lies, God’s people. Have courage and love and practice true religion!

What’s Next?

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I think it all began with idol makers back in the Old Testament. They made something that was so new and shocking, it got people’s attention and they actually set it up as something worth bowing down to. Over the millennia, it has trickled down in various forms, sometimes manifesting itself through religion, sometimes through music, art, or dance. But, no matter how you look at it, shock value continues to prove its worthlessness as a true, creative currency.

It’s nothing new. People have been getting naked and making offensive statements and paintings and songs for thousands of years. So, what makes people continue to pay attention to all of the stuff we see a la Gaga and Cyrus? Could it be that people get bored with their “normal” lives and need extra stimulation? Maybe it’s because there’s a realization that some things have been done before and the shocking seems novel. No matter what it is, when people become desensitized to the “shock” of today, how insane will the next thing have to be to get consumers of crass to point their antennae toward it?

Around a decade ago when my wife was a student at the University of Georgia at the Lamar Dodd School, we saw a student exhibit that included a drawing of crucified male genitalia. At the time, we both were appalled by the image; offended. As Christians, it made no sense to us why someone would go out of their way to make such an image. But, as time went on, it became clear that other people were going to try to outdo even that image. But, instead of it becoming more and more shocking, the material became less and less artistic and meaningful. Instead of making informed and important statements, the students were obviously only looking for attention. How artistically disappointing. The art became all about the artist. And as any good artist should know, the artist is the LAST thing you should think about when considering the art form.

So, what’s next? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe we’ll see something akin to live porn acts. Extreme violence could be the next wave with something akin to the Roman Colosseum. But, no matter what it is that seeks to shock us next, it will never be so powerful as the thing that engenders love, peace, and joy in the human soul. I hope we look there first and leave the shock in its proper place; Hinnom…