Coexist. Love your enemy. One is from man. The other from God. Can the two concepts actually “coexist”? What about hatred? Where does it fit in?
Coexist. OK – you had to know it wasn’t going to be as simple as just getting along with each other. True – even that is hard enough. But look at the image to the right. I haven’t seen it hardly at all lately, but it used to be a popular bumper sticker.
If you don’t remember it, each letter stands for something. Some are more obvious than others. There are other variations of the bumper sticker, but here’s what each letter stands for in the image I’m using here.
|c||the crescent moon, symbol for Islam.|
|o||the peace symbol, made popular in the sixties.|
|e||could be either the symbol for gay rights or gender equality.|
|x||the Star of David, symbol for Judaism.|
|i||symbol for paganism.|
|s||Chinese yin-yang symbol, generally considered a symbol for Taoism.|
|t||the cross, symbol for Christianity.|
Even a quick glance at the table should give an idea as to how difficult coexist could be.
Just to be sure we’re all talking the same things though – let’s take a brief look at one or two of the problems each of them may present to others.
the crescent moon, symbol for Islam.
We need go no further than this passage from Surah #5 of the Qur’an to find a major difficulty between Islam and Judaism & Christianity.
(70) INDEED, We accepted a solemn pledge from the children of Israel, and We sent apostles unto them; [but] every time an apostle came unto them with anything that was not to their liking, [they rebelled:] to some of them they gave the lie, while others they would slay, (71) thinking that no harm would befall them; and so they became blind and deaf [of heart]. Thereafter God accepted their repentance: and again many of them became blind and deaf. But God sees all that they do.
This is contrary to what history shows us. The Jewish people rejected Islam because Muhammad tried to get them to believe things that were against their own Scriptures. It wasn’t an issue of liking the message or not liking it. It was blasphemy to them.
(72) Indeed, the truth deny they who say, “Behold, God is the Christ, son of Mary” – seeing that the Christ [himself] said, “O children of Israel! Worship God [alone], who is my Sustainer as well as your Sustainer.” Behold, whoever ascribes divinity to any being beside God, unto him will God deny paradise, and his goal shall be the fire; and such evildoers will have none to succour them!
(73) Indeed, the truth deny they who say, “Behold, God is the third of a trinity” – seeing that there is no deity whatever save the One God. And unless they desist from this their assertion, grievous suffering is bound to befall such of them as are bent on denying the truth. (74) Will they not, then, turn towards God in repentance, and ask His forgiveness? For God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.
These last two passages are blasphemous to Christians. It’s also a complete misunderstanding of what Christianity is about. To a Christian who hears or reads these words, it’s incomprehensible that the message of the Qur’an would have been given by an angel of God.
(75) The Christ, son of Mary, was but an apostle: all [other] apostles had passed away before him; and his mother was one who never deviated from the truth; and they both ate food [like other mortals]. Behold how clear We make these messages unto them: and then behold how perverted are their minds! (76) Say: “Would you worship, beside God, aught that has no power either to harm or to benefit you – when God alone is all-hearing, all-knowing?”
This is a denial of the crucifixion of Jesus. Even historical evidence now backs up the trial and crucifixion. Again, it’s incomprehensible that any angel of God would have given this message.
(77) Say: “O followers of the Gospel! Do not overstep the bounds of truth in your religious beliefs; and do not follow the errant views of people who have gone astray aforetime, and have led many [others] astray, and are still straying from the right path.” 1)Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Qur’an (Kindle Locations 2989-3009). The Book Foundation. Kindle Edition.
This verse says not to overstep the bounds of truth in the Gospel. In fact, this is a complete misunderstanding of what the message of the Gospel is about.
the peace symbol.
The history behind the peace symbol really blew me away. As it turns out, that’s probably an unfortunate choice of words – the “blew me away” part. And not just because it’s a symbol of “peace”. According to cnn.com, here’s a brief history of the once ubiquitous peace symbol.
- On Good Friday 1958, thousands gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to protest nuclear weapons. They were responding to a string of test blasts conducted by the United Kingdom, the third nation to join the nuclear club after the US and USSR.
For the next four days, the bravest among them marched to Aldermaston, a small village 50 miles west of London where British nuclear weapons were designed and stockpiled.
On the protesters’ signs and banners, a new symbol was making its first appearance. Gerald Holtom, a designer and a pacifist, had developed it specifically for the march just a few weeks prior. He believed that a symbol would make the message stronger.
The design is meant to represent the letters “N” and “D” — standing for “nuclear disarmament” — as they appear in the semaphore alphabet, which is used by sailors to communicate from a distance with flags.
I never knew that. To me, it was part of the hippie movement. Peace, love, drugs, Etc.
- In the US, the symbol was first used by the civil rights movements. It was probably imported by Bayard Rustin, a close collaborator of Martin Luther King Jr., who had participated in the London march in 1958. Crossing the Atlantic, the symbol lost its association with nuclear disarmament and came to signify, more generally, peace: “In the 1960s in the US, it was mainly anti-war,” said Kolsbun. “I didn’t even know it meant nuclear disarmament.”
After a few years and the crossing of an ocean – the symbol has a whole new meaning. The original concept was lost – at least here in the U.S.
- As the Vietnam War escalated in the mid-1960s, the peace symbol was adopted by anti-war protesters and the counterculture movement, finding its stereotypical place on Volkswagen buses and acid-wash T-shirts. Intentionally kept free from copyright, it traveled far and wide, appearing in the former Czechoslovakia as a symbol against Soviet invasion, and in South Africa to oppose Apartheid.
As the peace symbol traveled around the world, it seems to be constantly picking up new meanings. With the original still lost in the dust.
- As the symbol grew in popularity, it also faced opposition. “Some really hated (it), like the far-right group John Birch Society,” said Kolsbun. “They put out a monthly magazine and, in 1969, they did a story denouncing the symbol, saying that it was a sign of the devil. It ended up all over America and the New York Times picked up on it. It got so much publicity that some people still see it as satanic sign after all these years.”
And thanks to intentional misinformation by some misguided people – the peace symbol gets a meaning that has absolutely nothing to do with the original. At least for a while, it had to do with peace of one sort or another. But a sign of the devil?
- In its 60-year history, the symbol has been used in support of environmental movements and women’s and gay rights, as well as featuring on all sorts of merchandise. It has appeared on Moschino T-shirts, Tiffany pendants, US stamps and even Lucky Strike cigarette packs.
Its legacy lives on and is continuously updated. After the 2015 Paris terror attacks, French artist Jean Jullien reimagined the design using the shape of the Eiffel Tower, creating a worldwide symbol of solidarity.
And the story continues to move around the world. And get changed each time.
Having said all that, here’s the striking conclusion which Christianity, to some extent, shares.
- But one thing may have been lost along the way, according to Kolsbun: the original meaning.
“A lot of people still don’t know what it really stands for: no nukes. Most simply believe it means ‘peace.’ But I think it’s important to know the true meaning, because the nuclear threat hasn’t gone away. It’s actually stronger than ever.”
Like the peace symbol, Christianity has had its message diluted and even outright changed by various people. It’s not that the Bible has changed. It’s that the way we read it – decide what’s important or not – warp its message – Etc. that changes.
I recently read something by Philip Yancey. It’s called “How Should Christians Engage with Culture?” It was a guest post on the BibleGateway blog.
During the Brezhnev era at the height of the Cold War, Billy Graham visited Russia and met with government and church leaders. Conservatives in the West harshly criticized him for treating the Russians with such courtesy and respect. He should have taken on a more prophetic role, they said, by speaking out against the abuses of human rights and religious liberty. One of his critics said, “Dr. Graham, you have set the church back 50 years!” Graham lowered his head and replied, “I am deeply ashamed. I have been trying very hard to set the church back 2000 years.”
Yes – the message of Jesus hasn’t changed at all. But we change it ourselves. Just like the peace symbol keeps getting changed over time. Sometimes it gets changed to the point where it’s not even recognizable anymore.
gay rights / gender equality.
Because of historic events, I have to go with gay rights being the first meaning, and gender equality coming along after that.
Let’s look at the last one first. Based on what we read in the Bible, it seems like Jesus may have been the first proponent of at least women’s rights. He had women among his most ardent followers. It was even some women who were the first to go to His grave on the day Jesus said He’d be resurrected. Expecting equality right away would have been a bit too much. But Jesus certainly got things started in the right direction. Unfortunately, even among Christians – the goal is not yet attained.
On the other hand, gay rights is problematic. However, there’s an issue with the way it’s being treated – both in the world at large and some Biblical interpretations. There are some things that the Bible clearly says are sinful. And there are a lot of what we call alternate lifestyles that fit into that category. However – one needs to ask – how would Jesus have treated the people?
Let’s look at leprosy for an example.
The Mosaic Law was very specific about the proper methods of purification where leprosy was concerned. The priest was the central figure in the Old Testament regulations for the care of patients and for sanitary precautions.
If the symptoms of leprosy showed up in a person, the priest was to decide if this was leprosy or some other disease. Because of the need to control the spread of a disease for which there was no cure, the law required that a leper be isolated from the rest of society (Lev. 13:45–46). While thus excluded, lepers were required to wear mourningclothes, leave their hair in disorder and cry “Unclean! Unclean!” so everyone could avoid them.
Leprosy in a house showed up in a greenish or reddish color on the walls. When the owner of a house noticed these symptoms, he reported them to the priest. The priest purified the dwelling if the disease could be controlled, or he ordered it destroyed if the signs of leprosy lingered on (Lev. 14:33–53).
In Old Testament times, linen and woolen garments were also said to be leprous when they had patches of mildew, mold, or fungus growth (Lev. 13:47–59). Leprosy in clothes, fabrics, and leather was also indicated by greenish or reddish spots. These spots were reported to the priest, who ordered the affected article to be purified or burned (Lev. 13:47–59).
Any contact with lepers defiled the persons who touched them. 2)Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Lepers had to be isolated from the rest of the people. If there were others near them – the lepers had to yell out “Unclean! Unclean!”, so no one would accidentally come in contact with them.
And yet – here’s on instance when Jesus came across a leper.
The Man With Leprosy
5:12-14 pp — Mt 8:2-4; Mk 1:40-44
Lk 5:12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
The man with leprosy didn’t think Jesus would even want to heal him. That’s how bad things were for them.
Lk 5:13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
But Jesus was willing. And He even touched the man in the process.
Lk 5:14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Lk 5:15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Rather than stay away from those whom society hated or feared – Jesus went right to them.
Rather than condemn the people society hated or feared – Jesus healed and saved them.
But now, we have laws preventing the very things that Jesus might have done to save them.
The bottom line is this. Even things that the Bible says are sins can be and are forgiven. If they weren’t, Heaven would have no people. We need to genuinely ask forgiveness, which includes actually believing and trying to follow what Jesus taught. But after that, if unkind words are as bad as murder – who’s to say that anything between cannot be forgiven. There’s only one unforgivable sin. For more on that, please see I never knew you.
Star of David – Judaism.
One issue comes to mind right away. Some Christians are upset at all Jews because they were responsible for Jesus dying on the cross. You know – all these Jewish leaders stirring up crowds of people against Jesus. If it wasn’t for that, Jesus wouldn’t have been crucified. He could have lived a long life as a hero to both the Gentiles and the Jews.
But wait just a minute. If Jesus wasn’t crucified, then others things wouldn’t have happened either. For example:
Gal 3:10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Paul is writing about how the Jews of Old Testament times were cursed by their inability to keep all of the laws. He then goes on to show how Jesus paid the price for all of us who accept Him and His teaching. Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. In the act of crucifixion, Jesus paid the price for all who would accept Him.
OK – now you’re probably wondering how we got from hung on a tree to dying on a cross. Well, when Paul writes it is written, his objective is to take the listener back to something they would have known. Something we generally don’t know today. It’s the link between tree and cross. It’s also about a method of dying.
written—(De 21:23). Christ’s bearing the particular curse of hanging on the tree, is a sample of the “general” curse which He representatively bore. Not that the Jews put to death malefactors by hanging; but after having put them to death otherwise, in order to brand them with peculiar ignominy, they hung the bodies on a tree, and such malefactors were accursed by the law (compare Ac 5:30; 10:39). God’s providence ordered it so that to fulfil the prophecy of the curse and other prophecies, Jesus should be crucified, and so hang on the tree, though that death was not a Jewish mode of execution. The Jews accordingly, in contempt, call Him Tolvi, “the hanged one,” and Christians, “worshippers of the hanged one”; and make it their great objection that He died the accursed death [TRYPHO, in Justin Martyr, p. 249] (1 Pe 2:24). Hung between heaven and earth as though unworthy of either! 3)Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 330). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
The Jewish leaders didn’t want to kill Jesus themselves. It would have caused too much of an issue with the people and could have started civil unrest. In turn, that would have brought in the Roman soldiers to put down the rioting. And so, it was the Roman method of death that Jesus was subjected to. He wasn’t killed first and then put on the cross. Rather, Jesus was given one lash short of the assumed number that would kill most people. Then He was hung on the cross very much alive. That – being alive on the cross – was necessary to fulfill other prophecies.
So, when you look at the various prophecies about Jesus’ death, including the events just before it and up to His ascension into Heaven – was it really the Jewish people who killed Jesus – or was it the fulfillment of God’s plan?
If it was only about what the Jews did, then where is our salvation as Christians? If it wasn’t God’s plan, the same question is valid. And if everything Jesus went through at the end of His life wasn’t from God and wasn’t about our salvation – then what exactly do we, as Christians, believe? How can we be mad at the Jewish people for Jesus’ death – when what happened was a fulfillment of God’s plan? It was inevitable. It was necessary. And it was planned by God. If we decide to be mad at the Jews, aren’t we also then mad at God? In turn, aren’t we also upset about our salvation?
I certainly hope not. Jesus Himself said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing“.
Do I even need to write anything here? Pagans are anyone who does not worship the God of the Bible – the true God. Obviously, there are issues here with Christianity.
Chinese yin-yang symbol, generally considered a symbol for Taoism.
For those who know little to nothing about Taoism, here’s a brief introduction from the Taoism Initiation Page.
What is Taoism?
There are several kinds of Taoism. The most known is the religious Taoism. It has gods, and rituals like any other religious system. There are also many mystical schools that follow esoteric disciplines in search of longevity and immortality, most of them dealing with alchemy recipes and breathing techniques.
There’s also a branch called tao-chia – the school of Tao or of unity with the Tao – developed by the famous Taoist masters Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu.
In short, tao-chia Taoism is a way of life. Trying to define it, Alan Watts, perhaps the most important western author who wrote about Taoism, says:
Taoism [is] the way of man’s cooperation with the course or trend of the natural world, whose principles we discover in the flow patterns of water, gas, and fire, which are subsequently memorialized or sculptured in those of stone and wood, and, later, in many forms of human art. (From Tao: The Watercourse Way).
Tao-chia is a way of life which tries to accommodate the tendencies of nature. But this approach is not a pure return to Mother Nature, so familiar to our New Age ideology. Rather it is a wisdom acquired by simply observing the flow of the natural world.
Having read and studied Lao-tzu while I was in college, I have to say there are certain correlations that could be considered when trying to match up Christianity and Taoism. At least from a very high level. In the spiritual but not religious frame of mind. It’s really only possible if we want to make it happen. However, as much as I tried to find it, there was nothing / no one even close to Jesus. It’s a problem. For a Christian, even one trying to find commonality, it’s an insurmountable problem.
the cross, symbol for Christianity.
Let’s turn to what is probably the most famous verse in the Bible – along with its context – to see why people have problems with it.
Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
And there it is. The exclusivity. The condemnation. The thought that people like the darkness that hides our evil deeds.
However, there’s a flip side to that. The offer of salvation for anyone and everyone. The salvation, even thought condemnation is deserved. The ability to walk in the light, even though we don’t deserve it.
So the real problem seems to be that we have to admit our problems. Our sins. Our evil desires. And we don’t really want to.
After reading all that, is it possible for these different belief systems to coexist? Let’s look at what each says about the LGBT community as an example to see if coexistence is possible.
Here are some excerpts from thoughtco.com. I went for an independent (non-Muslim / non-Christian) source, due to the huge variations in what they had to say on the topic.
Islam is clear in its prohibition of homosexual acts. Islamic scholars cite these reasons for condemning homosexuality, based on teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah:
It clashes with the “natural” order in which God created human beings
It brings destruction of the family and the institutions of marriage
It leads people to ignore God’s guidance in other areas of life
In Islamic terminology, homosexuality is alternatively called al-fahsha’ (an obscene act), shudhudh (abnormality), or ‘amal qawm Lut (behavior of the People of Lut). Islam teaches that believers should neither participate in nor support homosexuality.
Lut is the Islamic name for Lot, of the Old Testament. Given that as the source for deciding punishment, it can be very extreme. Remember, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament partly because of their homosexual behavior.
However, what most people either don’t know or fail to remember is that there was more to the problems in Sodom. Here’s a passage where God is speaking to the people of Jerusalem – His chosen people. God is comparing what the people of Jerusalem did to what the people of Sodom had done before the city was destroyed.
Eze 16:49 “ ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. 51 Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. 52 Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.
Since the Qur’an has nothing related to this passage, it also has nothing of the fact that all of these things led to the destruction of Sodom. Yes, the incident with the two men, who were actually angels, was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. But it was all these things. And even God’s own people were doing worse things. But, having said that, let’s not forget that God also allowed the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem as well:
Eze 16:59 “ ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. 60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. 61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both those who are older than you and those who are younger. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on the basis of my covenant with you. 62 So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD. 63 Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ ”
And so we end up with a range of possible punishments for homosexuality in Muslim countries.
Muslims generally believe that homosexuality stems from conditioning or exposure and that a person who feels homosexual urges should strive to change. It is a challenge and struggle to overcome, just as others face in their lives in different ways. In Islam, there is no legal judgment against people who feel homosexual impulses but do not act upon them.
In many Muslim countries, acting upon homosexual feelings — the behavior itself — is condemned and subject to legal punishment. The specific punishment varies among jurists, ranging from jail time or flogging to the death penalty. In Islam, capital punishment is only reserved for the most grievous crimes which hurt society as a whole. Some jurists view homosexuality in that light, particularly in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen.
Arrest and punishment for homosexual crimes, however, are not frequently carried out. Islam also places a strong emphasis on an individual’s right to privacy. If a “crime” is not carried out in the public sphere, it is largely overlooked as being a matter between the individual and God.
One thing that’s not said in this article is what ISIS carries out for punishment. The claim is that Muhammad said people committing this sin should be thrown from a high place and then stoned. And so that what ISIS does. However, this is not in the Qur’an. It is in some Hadith (non-quranic teachings) and is only followed by those sects of Islam that believe that Hadith to be valid. It’s also true that a slight variation of this penalty is laid out in the Old Testament for Jewish people.
I don’t think they care. They want peace – not violence.
gay rights / gender equality.
Obviously, this group sees nothing wrong with homosexuality.
Lot is from the Old Testament, so they share the view that homosexuality is a sin. There are two different passages in Leviticus that deal with this.
The first has the command and is shortly followed by the punishment for violating the command.
Lev 18:22 “ ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Lev 18:29 “ ‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. 30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.’ ”
The second has both the command and the penalty together.
Lev 20:13 “ ‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
It looks like there are two different penalties in these two passages. Actually, there’s only one. For some reason, the translation to English isn’t anywhere near the same. But when we look at the Hebrew words in Lev 18:29, we see things like the following.
3772 כָּרַת [karath /kaw·rath/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 1048; GK 4162; 288 occurrences; AV translates as “cut off” 145 times, “make” 85 times, “cut down” 23 times, “cut” nine times, “fail” six times, “destroy” four times, “want” three times, “covenanted” twice, “hew” twice, and translated miscellaneously nine times. 1 to cut, cut off, cut down, cut off a body part, cut out, eliminate, kill, cut a covenant. 1A (Qal). 1A1 to cut off. 1A1A to cut off a body part, behead. 1A2 to cut down. 1A3 to hew. 1A4 to cut or make a covenant. 1B (Niphal). 1B1 to be cut off. 1B2 to be cut down. 1B3 to be chewed. 1B4 to be cut off, fail. 1C (Pual). 1C1 to be cut off. 1C2 to be cut down. 1D (Hiphil). 1D1 to cut off. 1D2 to cut off, destroy. 1D3 to cut down, destroy. 1D4 to take away. 1D5 to permit to perish. 1E (Hophal) cut off. 4)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
So while we tend to look at “cut off from their people” as separated from or banished or something like that – we see there’s an element of something far worse. Like cut down, destroy, or kill.
And so, it’s much more likely that the two actually said the same thing to the Hebrew people at that time. We just translate it differently today.
Again, I’m not sure it’s necessary to write anything here. It’s pretty much anything goes in the pagan world, so there would be no problem here.
I could find no instance that said homosexuality was forbidden in Taoism.
While it’s true that Christianity comes out of the Old Testament, there’s also something else we need to remember.
Mt 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mt 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Remember that the laws from the Old Testament were stated in a form like this: Don’t do this awful thing, but if you do it, then here’s what you need to do. So there was a command. Something that the people were supposed to refrain from doing. However, if they did any of those forbidden things, there was a price to pay.
But – there was something else too. There was the part that led Jesus to say, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. Here’s where that came from – in the Old Testament.
Hos 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
Hos 6:2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
Hos 6:3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hos 6:4 “What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.
Hos 6:5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth;
my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.
Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
So there it is at the end –
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
You may wonder, where was that in the various commandments and laws? Actually, there was an amazing example of forgiveness at the same time as Moses was given the tablets with the Ten Commandments. It wasn’t forgive and forget – like we might hope it would be. The passage is rather long, but I need to include it as a reminder to the reader as to all the things that were done.
Ex 31:18 When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.
As I said, God was giving the Ten Commandments to Moses. Meanwhile, back at the bottom of the mountain, the Israelites were busy breaking many of those commandments.
The Golden Calf
Ex 32:1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
No patience. If God didn’t act within the time-frame the people wanted, they’d find someone else. That’s unbelievable after the experience they’d just had with God rescuing them from Pharaoh.
Ex 32:2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
As their leader while Moses was absent, Aaron should have known better. And he should have played the part of the leader much better. Other than Moses himself, no one was in a better position to know that this was wrong.
Ex 32:5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
Worse yet, Aaron is turning this into a festival to the Lord. The idols are to become part of a celebration to the God who rescued His people. Aaron turns God’s work of rescue into something accomplished along with the false gods created by the people.
Ex 32:7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
Ex 32:9 “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
God is so mad at the people, He’s ready to destroy all of them and start over again with Moses.
Ex 32:11 But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ ” 14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
He’s not using the forgiveness word, but the concept is clearly being introduced. And God didn’t destroy the people.
Ex 32:15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.
Ex 32:17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”
Ex 32:18 Moses replied:
“It is not the sound of victory,
it is not the sound of defeat;
it is the sound of singing that I hear.”
Surely. Moses cannot be happy about this.
Ex 32:19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
Moses is so angry that he breaks the tablets that God wrote on. Then he makes the Israelites drink the gold powder from the idols they created. No thought of forgiveness right now. That’s just plain anger.
Ex 32:21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”
Now Moses turns to Aaron. He assumes the people must have forced Aaron into doing something. Little did he know that Aaron was a willing participant. Or that he even escalated the celebration to turning it into an obscene festival to the Lord who had rescued them.
Ex 32:22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
Aaron does the natural thing. He lies.
Ex 32:25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him
Ex 32:27 Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”
No forgiveness here either. And in spite of what Moses said, there’s also no indication that he even spoke to the Lord about this. More likely, it’s his own anger that brought about this punishment – not God.
Ex 32:30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”
Finally, Moses says he’ll go speak with the Lord about some kind of atonement for what they did.
Ex 32:31 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
And there it is. The request for forgiveness. And if God won’t forgive them, then blot him our of God’s book.
Ex 32:33 The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
So God won’t destroy everyone. However, He will bring punishment to those who have sinned against Him.
Ex 32:35 And the LORD struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.
Ex 33:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
We see that God is still angry. So angry that He will not accompany the people. God knows that more things are going to happen that will anger Him over and over.
Ex 33:4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’ ” 6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.
The Israelites listened to Moses and did what he told them. For a while.
All of that takes us back to where we started:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Hate the sin. Love the sinner.
That’s something Christians say – Hate the sin, but love the sinner. The Bible never actually uses those words, but the intent is certainly there. One of the most concise and clear indications of this is in Romans.
Ro 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Ro 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Ro 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Ro 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Conclusion: The problem of Coexist – and – Love your enemy.
The end result of all this is that there is one – and only one – of the seven groups that actually loves someone enough to care about them in both this life and the next. That’s Christianity. At least it’s the way Christianity is supposed to be.
The laws of both Islam and Judaism call for drastic measures for sinners, especially in the case we just looked at. Maybe they aren’t enforced in all places at all times, but they are still there.
The peace group and Taoists really have nothing to say on the matter.
Obviously, as was mentioned, the gay rights group supports the people we’ve just finished examining. At least they care in this life. There’s nothing in the next life, since they clearly disagree with Christian teaching. We can’t pick and choose what we want to believe from any religion. We also can’t re-write the rules to fit ourselves. So, no matter what any group may say about their “beliefs”, they cannot latch on to pieces and parts of some religion, and then claim they are part of it.
The pagans may very well support whatever sinful activity is taking place. However, by definition, there’s nothing of a “next life”.
So we really are left with Christianity as the only one that offers forgiveness in this life and the next. It really is a case of hate the sin, but love the sinner.
Unfortunately, just as the Jewish people didn’t always get the message from God – neither do Christians. Just because we should behave one way, doesn’t mean we always do.
But in the end, the only hope for coexistence really should be with Christianity. Now, that will (should) come with some form of encouragement to, as Jesus said, sin no more.
Jn 8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Jn 8:9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Jn 8:11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
We see then, the only way for this coexistence thing to work is if everyone wants it to. Christianity offers the only hope. But Christians must live as we are told to live. And sinners must be willing to leave their life of sin. Otherwise, it’s going to be either separation or fighting. Or both.
References [ + ]
|1.||Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Qur’an (Kindle Locations 2989-3009). The Book Foundation. Kindle Edition.|
|2.||Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.|
|3.||Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 330). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.|
|4.||Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.|