Have you noticed how blurred the world has become? It has become increasingly more difficult to locate and abide by any life guidelines that represent clear boundaries and a clear direction forward. The eighth Commandment was simple: “You shall not steal.” This was a clear directive to not take what is not yours. Fast forward society several thousand years and we have quotes that call that simple statement into question, like this one: “It’s not stealing if you don’t get caught.” Then there is the more philosophic approach like this one from Mohsin Hamid: “You see, it is my passionately held belief that the right to possess property is at best a contingent one. When disparities become too great, a superior right, that to life, outweighs the right to property. Ergo, the very poor have the right to steal from the very rich.” What exactly is our Christian responsibility regarding stealing? How definitive are the guidelines, and are there any grey areas?
Let’s set the record straight right from the start. As Christians, God does NOT want us to suffer! Having said that, we know He does want us to learn and grow and mature. This means he will permit us to suffer and will use it as a tool to serve our eternal welfare. Now, what about the rest of the suffering experienced by everyone else? The answer is essentially the same – it is part of the permission of evil, which will be an eternal lesson for all. While these are good lessons, how do we cope with our individual suffering here and now? There are two groups of people who are suffering that we want to talk to today. There are those who may know of and appreciate Jesus and there are those who have dedicated themselves to follow him as his disciples.
God does have a plan for the destiny of humanity. He always has. Think about it – God created man as the crowning feature of the earth’s system of life. Man was given dominion over the planet, sin entered and the whole thing seemed ruined. The thing is, God knew sin would enter. He knew man would fall. The journey through sin was to be part of an eternal education experience for all of humanity. In Part I of our series, we established that the Bible teaches the earth not only abides forever, but it will be housing humanity throughout that eternity. We also established that the pathway to heaven is available by invitation only. Walking that path requires life-long faith, sacrifice and obedience. While acknowledging we are sinners and loving Jesus are wonderful steps to take, they don’t get us to heaven. While these scriptural truths are enlightening, they raise MANY questions about the afterlife. What about hell? What are all those unsaved people doing on earth? What about Judgment Day?
The general consensus in Christianity is that there are two paths, two destinies that await humanity. First, there is the heavenly bliss of being with Jesus. After all, Jesus himself said he was preparing a place for his followers in heaven and that he would bring us there. Second, there is the fiery torturous eternal existence of Hell. This is reserved for everybody else who did not follow Jesus. While this “two destiny” approach may sound simple, it does not stand the test of scrutiny. For starters, the fact is the vast majority of humanity has not known or accepted the name of Jesus. Does this mean God’s careful creation of humanity “in His image” was a resounding failure? And what about planet Earth? If it is doomed for a fiery end, then why did Jesus tell us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth? These are just the beginning of some big questions, so let’s see if we can find big biblical answers!
No one wants to be lonely. It is a sad and painful state of being that daily grows more and more common. There is a major difference between being alone and being lonely. To be alone is to be without anyone to engage with. This can be a productive place to be with the right frame of mind. On the other hand, we can feel isolated in a crowded room or when we are with family and friends. We can be lonely at work, at play and even at church. Perhaps we are lonesone when with our spouse or when engaged in social media. Loneliness is not dictated by outward circumstances, rather it is driven by our interpretations of our experiences and our perceptions of our environment. To be lonely is to feel unimportant. It is to be convinced we do not belong and that we in some way, are unacceptable and even unwanted. Loneliness can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are ways to combat it!
As Christians, we unequivocally herald the death and resurrection of Jesus as being the absolute centerpiece of our faith. Further, we claim that the entire purpose of our Holy Bible is focused on these events as its primary message. These descriptions are overwhelmingly accurate. But why? Many Christians will answer that we are saved as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and this is true. Others will say these events are proof of God’s loving plan for humanity, and this is true as well. Let’s now take the time to look at these spectacular events through a different lens. Let’s observe them through the lens of change. What changed and will change in heaven as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection? What changed and will change on earth? The answer on both counts is...plenty!
If you were going to die tomorrow, how would you spend your day today? Jesus faced that very serious question 2,000 years ago. His answer was obvious. He would spend that entire evening with those whom he was closest to. He would prepare them, teach them and encourage them, for what was coming would be shocking and horrifying. The world of the disciples would be shattered, and he wanted them to be as ready as their imperfect minds could allow them to be. What he taught them that night through his words and actions was extraordinary. Even though it is not possible for us to get our arms around the depth of Jesus’ compassion, wisdom, love and clarity of mind, we are going to try anyway. What we find is pure spiritual inspiration.
21st century Christianity can be confusing. With all of the denominations and interpretations and approaches to Scripture it is hard to fathom they all claim to represent the same thing. So, what is the bottom line? Is being a Christian - a true Christian - a difficult way of life, or is it a privileged way of life? Does it place demands on you that are unreasonable to the average person? Or does it promise and deliver some kind of abundance that the average person would notice? Does Christianity fundamentally change you? Or does it help you be the best person you think you can be? Is following Jesus an exclusive calling of those who would do the hard work? Or does it work by way of general knowledge and discovery? Let’s see how Jesus describes what following him looks like and what it produces.
Ancient biblical history paints a very specific picture of the world regarding morals and ethics. In the days of the Jewish Law, there were unmistakable lines that anyone of Jewish descent knew they simply should not cross. Just as lying, stealing and murder were lines not to cross, committing adultery was one as well. Fast forward to our world today, and what do we see? Adultery not only sounds old-fashioned, it is common and even sometimes encouraged. There are websites that exist for the purpose of making it easy to find someone to have an affair with! As Christians, how should we look at all of this? Should we determine that the Law is outdated and adjust to modern-day thinking? Should we focus on the Law and what Jesus taught and condemn everyone else? Is there a middle ground?
The first four of the Ten Commandments all have to do with humanity’s relationship to God. These directives came first because our relationship with God should always be the driving factor in our lives. The fifth Commandment focuses on our relationship with our parents and is fashioned after the first four, with honor and respect being paramount. “You shall not murder” is the sixth Commandment. This is the first of the Ten Commandments to focus us on our relationship with all other human beings. It is a simply stated, emphatic directive teaching us about the sacredness of human life. It sets the stage for the rest of the Commandments. But it is not as simple as it sounds. Its importance cannot be overstated! Further, Jesus not only taught its importance, he also dramatically expanded its meaning for his disciples. We will find “You shall not murder” to be a life-governing principle in every corner of our experiences.