Rotten Potatoes And Dangerous Bugs


I love potatoes. The other day I prepared a couple small potatoes to “bake.” Actually I pop them into the microwave and a few minutes later, out come baked potatoes. But first I had to wash them.

As I’m working, I’m assessing the quality of these potatoes. They looked great. The skins cleaned up really nicely and I couldn’t see any bad spots that needed to be cut out. Last part of the prep work was to cut off a bit of the ends so they could breath. That’s when I saw the dark spots. as I cut out the offending matter, more dark spots appeared. And more.

Suddenly my little potatoes were even littler.

Reminded me of a home grown potato a friend gave me a number of months ago. A very large red potato. Actually several, and I’d already enjoyed the others. So I was looking forward to having this one—or at least a part of it. This was one big potato.

I washed it, cut off the ends, and once again, some little bad spot appeared. As I cut away, the bad spot grew and grew, and as I made my way toward the center, it was apparent the potato was completely rotten.

But it had looked good and felt firm. What had I missed? No rotten potato smell. Really, no clue until I cut my way into the heart of the potato.

So, at this point, I’m reminded of Jesus saying the Pharisees were cleaning the outside of cups when the inside was filthy.

Yep, my potatoes reinforced that.

But it also reminded me of bugs. Not sure how I got there initially, but stay with me. There is a connection.

Some bugs . . . well . . . bug, but in the end they aren’t a real threat. Oh, yes, like pretty much everything they can carry germs, but ants and fruit flies and even house flies are more annoying than anything else. They actually don’t look dangerous, and they aren’t, so most people are not afraid of them. They are just bugged.

Then there are bugs like the earwigs. I’ve written about them before, mentioning that, despite their appearance, they really are mostly harmless. Yes, they can pinch and they insert themselves in many unwanted places. But they don’t inject poison, and I’m not aware of an particular diseases they cause.

The third category is the one with evil looking bugs that actually are dangerous. Although scorpions are technically in the category of Arachnida instead of insect, I believe they fall into the class of bugs.

I also know that there are a number of scorpions that are only mildly poisonous, but my encounter with them when I was in Africa was with the most deadly kind. They weren’t very big—maybe a quarter of the size of the one pictured—but they didn’t have to be to kill you.

Finally, there are bugs like ticks. They aren’t intimidating at all. Fleas might be in that same category. They are little and not scary to look at. But ticks can carry Lime Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Those can kill. They can debilitate. Of course, fleas can carry rabies and even the Bubonic Plague.

All that to say, a person can’t simply look at a bug and make a determination which one is the most dangerous. Some that look innocent, are. Some that look dangerous, aren’t. Some that look dangerous, are; and some that look innocent, aren’t.

Humans are a lot the same, which I think may have played a part in Jesus saying we aren’t to judge others. Because, while it’s true that God can see our hearts, we humans can only see the externals. And the externals don’t really tell us much.

What we do know from God’s word is that people are made in God’s image. What’s more, God loves the world. Sadly, not everyone loves Him back. Some, as David says in Psalm 139, speak against God wickedly and have made themselves His enemies.

Shockingly, David said, sort of in protection of God, that he hated those people back and had made them his enemies.

I’ve thought about this a lot. I suppose David was in a position to “legislate morality.” He could permit or outlaw idols and idol worship. He could enforce the Mosaic Law about blasphemy, or not.

But none of that applies to the Christian. Because the truth is, God saves sinners. Ones that look innocent and aren’t as well as the deadly ones that look evil.

When it comes down to it, we all carried around the attitude of hating God—until we didn’t. Until we realized that we could have peace with God because Jesus stood in our place and received God’s just and righteous penalty for our sins.

So when I see someone who hates God, my response, I think should be different from David’s. First, God doesn’t need me to protect Him—He’s capable of doing that Himself. Second, Paul said we don’t wrestle or fight against “flesh and blood”—against other human beings. Rather, our fight is against spiritual forces.

Since I can’t see someone’s heart, the best approach is to see a person who has set himself against Christ or who has ignored or denied God, as a captive in the spiritual war. The enemy of our souls might be using him, but he needs to be freed from his enslavement to sin.

Even the deadly and dangerous bugs that look deadly and dangerous, can have their stinger removed.

Scorpion photo by Sippakorn Yamkasikorn from Pexels

Published in: on July 27, 2020 at 5:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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Weaker Brothers, Legalists, And Christian Fiction


The “weaker brother” concept comes from the Apostle Paul, writing in Romans 14 about Christians judging one another. He prefaces his remarks by saying,

and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:9b-10)

The next chapter opens with this directive:

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

I surmise “accept” meant something different in Paul’s day than it does today, because in today’s understanding, if you “accept” someone, there’s no question about judging him. I’m thinking the connotation might be this: include the one weak in faith in your assembly (churches), but not with the goal to harangue him for being weak in his faith.

Paul’s first example of someone weak in faith was the believer who decided to become a vegetarian so he wouldn’t accidentally eat meat offered to idols–something the church leaders had specifically stated Gentile believers should avoid. (Presumably Jewish Christians, because of their adherence to Jewish law, already did refrain from eating meat offered to idols, so no special letter went out to them). See “The Misconception About Weaker Brothers” for more on this point.

What made this vegan “weak”? I’m not sure I get it. He’s trying to be hyper-vigilant, trying to obey the admonishment of the church leaders.

In some ways, though, he’s missing the point–the reason Christians weren’t to eat meat offered to idols. Paul spelled it out in 1 Cor. 10

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. (v. 21)

But perhaps Paul gave a window into understanding the brother of weak faith earlier. Leading up to verse 21, he said

What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. (vv 19-20)

Perhaps, then, the one weak in faith did indeed think the idol was something. His faith in God as the One True God, was weak. He was thinking, there are many gods, and Yahweh is one more. Perhaps.

But is he a legalist?

I suggest he is not. The Oxford English Dictionary defines legalist in the theological sense as “dependence on moral law rather than on personal religious faith.” The Pharisees were legalists. They believed they could hold to the law in such a way that God would accept them for their righteousness.

They, in fact, were not Christians. No one who thinks he can earn his way into God’s good graces, is a Christian.

Is that what the vegans were doing? Some, I suppose, but I don’t think necessarily so. Paul called them brothers, for one thing. For another, he never chastised them for their decision to stop eating meat. He never said, Silly people, you’re being too picky. Don’t strain at gnats and don’t try to earn your way to heaven.

Rather, he told the meat-eaters to stop belittling the vegans and the vegans to stop judging the meat-eaters:

The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. (Rom. 14:3)

Which brings me to Christian fiction. I see a lot of contempt floating around on the Internet, some by Christian writers aimed at “vegan” Christian writers. I also see a lot of judgment, vegan Christians accusing or scolding meat-eating Christian writers.

It grieves me, because we use this passage in Romans to bolster our arguments, not our love for one another! And yet Paul, who started out by reminding Christians they were to love one another, wraps up his case in the next chapter by saying this:

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. (Rom 15:5-7–emphases mine)

One thing I think we can know for sure–if we dump on another writer, or on a reader who writes a review voicing opinions that seem vegan to meat-eaters or meat-loving to vegans, we can be sure we are in disobedience to Romans 15, and Romans 13, and to Christ’s admonition to love one another, to Peter’s command to love the brotherhood.

Love doesn’t mean we have to agree or that we need to change our convictions to match theirs. It does mean we don’t disrespect our fellow Christian because he embraces a different view, or hold his feet to the fire to try and convert him to our positions. It means we continue to love him even when he may not act in a loving manner toward us.

And therein might be the way we can differentiate strong Christians from weak.

Judging


In some ways, the Internet has allowed all of us to be Monday quarterbacks — amateurs who freely give our opinion about what should have been done. The added element, however, is that we no longer have to wait until after the fact. We can jump right in with the news pundits and analyze, criticize, philosophize, and “prognostisize” to our heart’s content.

Frankly, I like the fact that I can say on my Facebook page that Newt Gingrich won the Republican primary in South Carolina for no other reason than that he’s a good debater — and actually have a few dozen people read it and respond. I like the fact that I can voice an opinion about how the media seems to be driving the public toward an Obama/Romney election.

What a world! Ten years ago, I had such opinions but the only people who heard them were the few others in my circle who were also interested in politics (or sports or whatever else the subject might be).

But along with having a voice, saying what we believe, and having a group of people who listen, comes great responsibility, especially for Christians, and it troubles me that so few seem interested in talking about our talking.

I can almost hear the “yeah-yeah-yeah’s — we’ve covered this already; move on” coming through cyberspace. Except it’s not enough for us to know what is right; we need to do what is right.

Is it right for us to call our President names? Things like “arrogance with a teleprompter” or “the epitome of hypocrisy”? Since arrogance and hypocrisy are sins of the heart, are we able to accuse someone of those without falling into the sin of judging?

I really don’t understand the thinking when I read from a Christian, “Newt Gingrich is not repentant about his adultery.” Supposedly the idea is, if he were repentant he would leave his present wife because it was she with whom he cheated when he was married to his second wife. But is that what it means to be repentant — to “fix” our sin? I thought being repentant meant we accept Jesus’s work to fix what we can never fix.

But the actual issue aside, isn’t there a way to confront such topics and give our opinion about public figures without wearing a judge’s mantle? And shouldn’t we?

Scripture says we aren’t to judge our brothers — other Christians — that we are to love our neighbors; love our enemies; let our speech always be with grace; put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; all because we are new creatures in Christ.

I’m not sure how vilifying others identifies us with Christ. Yes, He called the Pharisees such things as vipers and white-washed tombs, but as it turns out He is the Judge, and He is omniscient, so He knows the heart of everyman.

This issue is complex. Christians are to confront brothers who sin against us, and we are to be discerning — to recognize false teaching and point out the error. But what about our political leaders?

If one says he’s a Christian, do we take his word for it? If so, we need to treat him like a brother — confront him, correct him, pray for him, if he is in sin. But lambaste him, call him names, ridicule him? I don’t see that approach presented in Scripture.

But if we say he is using the name Christian without understanding what it means, should we then treat him like a non-Christian? If so, it seems the verses in 1 Corinthians 5 apply:

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. (Emphasis mine.)

What’s the bottom line? I don’t think God calls us to refrain from voicing an opinion about those with whom we disagree. On the other hand, mean-spirited, contentions, even slanderous speech is sinful, no matter who the target is. Believers can disagree without becoming odious in the process, but too often our right beliefs blind us to the requirement of right action in carrying them out.

Isn’t that why Jesus taught us to look first at ourselves before we go about trying to correct anyone else? How differently the world would view us if we religiously obeyed at least that one point.

Published in: on January 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm  Comments (5)  
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