Monday, July 24, 2006

How to Handle Offenders

People think that they can create a better world by annihilating all those who are against it, but Jesus may not agree!
Recently, in Mumbai a man who appeared to be a thief was beaten to death. The people did not care to hand him over to the police, but they took the law in their own hands. That's what the Jewish leaders who brought the woman caught in adultery also wanted to do (John 8:1-11). Their thinking was very much in line with that of the legal and social systems of our day: the best way to get rid of sin is to annihilate the sinner.
Those who commit crimes or sins continue by trivializing their act. People can always point out to bigger crimes and get away with their "small" offenses. They can always justify saying that they are not the only ones who does such things. We live in a day when people think that paying penance is the be best way to get over sin and its effect. Mahatma Gandhi once told a person who killed a Muslim boy during the riots following India's partition that he can get over the guilt by adopting a Muslim boy and bringing up as his own. That hardly removes the guilt in the eyes of God, but may help us to manage the guilt feeling. Modern psychiatry teaches us to manage anger, get over guilt feelings, etc. but hardly reconciles us to God.
In every act of sin, at least three parties are involved. One the offended, against whom the sin is committed. The second the offender, the one who commits the sin. However, often in the modern thinking the third party is often ignored. That is God. Every act of sin has grieved the heart of God and every sin is committed against God. Penance may sometimes help the offender by helping to feel good; it may also help the offended also. Revenge may help the offended. None of these removes the guilt in the eyes of God. that requires forgiveness from God. Unless we hear God's voice saying "Go Now..." (John 8:11) it is not forgiven. Only God can do that, and that is what Jesus did to this woman. His way of handling the sin is not by trivializing sin, nor by annihilating the sinner but by transforming the sinner to a saint, someone forgiven
There was a woman who claimed that she get direct revelations from God. A committed Christian wanted to test her and asked her to find out from God about the sins he committed while in college. The following day he approached this woman to find out what God's reply was. She said that when she asked God about the sins he committed in the past, God told her that he doesn't remember any. Sins forgiven by God are forgotten for ever!
An offender continues until caught. Once caught the s/he may not be spared. However, the Lord let us free from the guilt of sin on one condition. That is a commitment not to sin again, to have a desire to live lives that are upright before him. That is why he said to this woman, "Leave your life of sin!" (John 8:11). It is a call to holiness: "Be holy as I am holy". When tempted to trivialize our sins let us remember we can come to Jesus for cleansing.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Prayer and the Sovereignty of God

" Confidence to pray stems out of the realization that God is in control of our situations. He can control and conquer the situations that we go through."
Why do we pray to God? As all our actions must have some explanations, we must be able to explain why we pray to God. The prayer of the Psalmist is "Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless" (Psalm 108:12).
One of the reasons for this prayer is the confidence in God, which is reflected in verse 13: "With God we will gain victory, and he will trample down our enemies." The second reason is the realization that the human power is worthless. The psalmist cannot trust in human power in order to win the battle that he is engaged in.
However, the most important reason is a realization of the sovereignty of God over the nations. The divine oracle cited in verses 7-9 is the basis of the prayer in verse 10. In this verse God's authority over the nations around Israel is spelt out. Israel's enemies, and particularly the country of Edom with which they are engaged in the battle now are at God's disposal. He can parcel it out as He likes, he can treat some as his washbasin, and some are like the place where he will throw his sandals. In other words, it is God who decides the destiny of the nations and thus God is able to protect each nation.
Confidence to pray stems out of the realization that God is in control of our situations. He can control and conquer the situations that we go through.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Guidance for Strangers on Planet Earth

“Listening to God through His Word must be a daily habit and ordering our life according to the revealed will of God must be an instinct.”

I cannot drive without maps. During my short stay in the US a few months back, I always asked people for their ZIP code and downloaded a map with driving directions from I found this more dependable than calling up friends and getting the directions to their house over the phone. Being new to the country, I needed reliable guidance and I always depended on Yahoo maps!
I am a stranger in this world too. I am moving forward in life. Every day new people, new circumstances, new challenges encounter me. I never been there before in most of these situations and I hardly know what to do. I desperately need guidance in life; some authority to tell me what to do, what to say and how to react.
The psalmist who penned Psalm 119 was also in a similar situation. However, he is more poetic than me. He says of himself: "I am a stranger on earth" and prayers "... do not hide your commands from me" (Psalm 119:19). Psalm 119 is a psalm about the Law of God. It extols the benefits of obeying the Word of God. In the Word of God, we find correction and rebuke. There are times when pride corrodes my mind and I need the Word that cleanses me.
Living life according to the Word is a delight. It is more than the delight and pride that you have when you knock at the door of your friend and say you made it (by following the driving directions), and your friends eyes widen with surprise. That is why the psalmist could say, "your statues are my delight, they are my counselors" (Psalm 119:24).
There are many guideposts in modern culture. However, there is only one time-tested guidepost for our life. That is the eternal Word of God. Listening to God through His Word must be a daily habit and ordering our life according to the revealed will of God must be an instinct.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The first drunken act!

"We have two options when we see our dear ones in sin. One is to do nothing about it and give it as much publicity as possible as Ham did. The other is to go and correct so that they may not continue in sin."
It is normal to bungle, especially for the first time. In the first meeting to be chaired, the first speech to be done, it is normal to make mistakes. The very first day of driving, I scratched against a small truck and I learned that truck drivers in my city (Pune) do not pay much attention to the electric signals of other vehicles. However, as the Danish proverb says ("No dog bumps into the same stone again!") mistakes are not to be repeated.
The Bible says Noah was the first to plant a vineyard (Genesis 9:20)!* Thus he must be the first person to make wine and drink it too. He probably did not have anyone to tell him that too much wine intoxicates and you lose control on your thinking and body. There was no one on earth to tell him that so much of wine can make yourself a mockery. This may explain why God did not condemn Noah for drinking wine and become naked before his family though getting drunk is a serious sin and being naked before others is even more serious.
However, the point of the story in Genesis 9:18-28 is not Noah's indecent behaviour but how his sons responded to it. The spiritual lesson is what do you do when you find someone in sin. Two examples are given in that chapter. The first person to spot Noah drunk and naked was his second son Ham who later became to father of Canaan. He did not do about it, but just goes and publicizes it to his two brothers. He could have just covered him; then he did not have to tell his brothers that their father was naked. However, when Ham and Japheth the other sons were told about this disgraceful episode they covered his nakedness making sure that they themselves did not see their father's nakedness. As Noah woke up when the effect of wine wore away he might have noticed the extra garment that was on him and found out what had happened.
We have two options when we see our dear ones in sin. One is to do nothing about it and give it as much publicity as possible as Ham did. The other is to go and correct so that they may not continue in sin. The Bible exhorts us in Luke 17:3, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." Correction is a spiritual duty that we have to each other in the Body of Christ.
* Some versions, for example, NIV translates this verse as "Noah, a man of the soil, proceed to plant a vineyard" instead of " Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard" (NRSV). See the footnote in NIV.

Turn dire circumstances for the glory of God

The way we face the dire circumstances in our life could lead to the wider glory of God. The story of Daniel illustrates that point well. ...