Muslim Refugees?

Q. I had a brief discussion with a Christian lady. She thinks we Christians have to help Muslims as they need our help. I told her about the European countries which received and helped them, and were repaid with violence and welfare abuse by the Muslims. They want to take over the countries which let them in, and do not assimilate. They want to convert people to Islam, change the place into an Islamic state, and impose Sharia law. They resort to violence, riots, and terrorism. They abuse the welfare system, and drain the countries’ resources. I quoted Deut 7:2-5 and Mt 10:16 to her. Why did God want all Canaanites killed? If I apply Deut 7:2-5, would God want us to embrace these Muslims to love them, because God is love? I feel if I apply Mt 10:16 to refugees, we are to have love but also wisdom.

A. First, I think we need to make a distinction between real refugees forced to leave their country to escape war, natural disaster or persecution, and those coming under a pretense to perpetrate terrorism, create havoc, and cause disruption to overthrow and destroy. I don’t have statistics to prove it, but I expect the former to be in the majority, and the latter to be in the minority. Unfortunately, it’s the minority extremists that cause most of the problems and give a bad name to the whole. You’ve probably met people who claim all Christians are bigots and cause all the problems in the world, such as the crusades, the Inquisition, inciting hatred against LGBTQ etc. That’s not true, but the label that Christians are self-righteous snobs sticks, and you wished people knew better.

Like you, I deplore the fake refugees’ abuses of the system which showed them kindness. But I would not apply Deut 7:2-5 to Muslim refugees, because that’s misapplying Scripture. First, let’s examine the text:

Deut 7:1-5 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you,
• 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.
• 3 Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.
• 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.
• 5 But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.

From what you wrote, you are equating:
• Present day Muslim refugees = the seven nations living in the Promised land in OT times, and
• Current “Christian” nations= the ancient Israelites who utterly destroyed the nations to take over the land.

While there are similarities e.g. they will turn your sons (i.e. radicalizing youths) away from following Me (Yahweh) to serve other gods (Allah), there are also differences e.g. they are migrants, NOT nations greater and stronger than you (i.e. the European countries to which they escaped). In fact, the radical refugees see the analogy as:
• Present day Muslim refugees = the ancient Israelites in the minority, and
• Current “Christian” nations = the nations whom they are to utterly destroy to take over the land.
They would be wrong of course, but you can see how by misapplying Scripture you can twist it to justify any wrong action.

What we need, as you rightly pointed out, is both love and wisdom:
Mt 10:16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. (NASB)
We need to be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves, with no self-serving agenda (AMP). Our love need to abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment (Php 1:9). Only then can we discern who are the real refugees that need our help, and screen out the extremists that need to be blocked from harming our people.

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Forgiving Debt and Lending Money

Q. Mt 18:23-25 That is why the kingdom from heaven may be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he had begun to settle the accounts, a person who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him. Because he couldn’t pay, his master ordered him, his wife, his children, and everything that he owned to be sold so that payment could be made.

Lk 6:34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to get something back, what thanks do you deserve? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back what they lend.

The theme of the parable of the unforgiving servant is not about money but about forgiveness. However, on the surface, it looks look Luke is stepping on the toes of Matthew. What is your verdict on lending money or other things?

A. You are right in observing that the parable of the unmerciful servant in Mt 18:23-35 is not about money but forgiveness. Although the text mentioned “owed” and “debt”, the amount is simply too big to be considered ordinary lending.

If you read your NIV footnotes, you will see that a talent was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wages. He owed the king 10,000 talents. Let’s bring this to today’s terms. Assuming a round C$12/hour, 8 hours/day, 300 days a year (no work on Sabbaths & feast days), a year’s wage = C$12 X 8 X 300 = C$28,800, more if he works over 8 hours a day, say C$30,000 in round terms. So 10,000 talents = C$30,000/year X 20 years/talent X 10,000 talents = C$6,000,000,000! There is no way a king would lend his servant $6 billion! Possibly, the servant was one of the king’s officials who mismanaged the kingdom’s finances and lost this staggering sum, just like our current ministers :-).

Lk 6:34, on the other hand, is about “love your enemies” using lending as an illustration. It is real lending since “lend” is repeated 3 times in v 34-35, and “expecting to be repaid” twice. Matthew and Luke are not contradicting each other.

My verdict on lending money depends on whether I am the borrower or the lender. If I were the borrower, my guiding principles are:
Rom 13:7-8 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

I would avoid debt if at all possible, except things that are too big for me to handle such as buying a house, in which case I would take out as small a mortgage (by using as big a down-payment I can afford) and as short an amortization as possible. It’s not that I don’t know about leverage, as I was a finance professional for over 3 decades before becoming a pastor. It’s just that I believe the Bible more when it comes to financial wisdom.

If I were the lender, my guideline would be:
Lk 6:35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

I would be judicious in discerning whether the borrower has legitimate needs, as I am also a steward of the resources God had entrusted to me. I would balance extending help to relieve the burden, while not encouraging shirking responsibility and dependence on others. If the debtor can repay me, I would accept repayment to use the funds for other worthwhile causes. If he/she cannot pay me back, that’s fine as I do not expect to get anything back. Just helping someone in need is sufficient.

Being Like Christ

Christ-like 1

Q. 2 Co 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord…”. What is the final state of being Christ-like and being united with Him? Will we have all His moral characters, think and act like Him? Will we be able to comprehend what He does and why? Will we acquire ultimate wisdom?

A. The final state of being Christ-like is conformity to His image – we are predestined to that. When that happens, we will be like Him:
Rom 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
• 1 Jn 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

His image does not mean physical resemblance, but His attributes such as wisdom, righteousness and holiness, along with morality, decision-making and aesthetics.
See https://rayliu1.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/image-of-god/
We will also be changed from perishable to imperishable, and from mortal to immortal:
1 Co 15:51-53 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So I believe we will have His moral character, and think and act like Him. I also believe we will understand what He does and why:
1 Co 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

However, I don’t think we will acquire ultimate wisdom. Christ is God and infinite. Christians are creatures and finite. By nature we have limitations; He does not have any. What’s finite, even though it may be astronomical compared to what we know now, can never compare to what’s infinite. The creature will be like his Creator, but never His equal. That’s what Satan wanted, and his downfall.

Quick-Tempered?

quick-tempered 8

Q. I tend to be quick-tempered but do not know how to deal with it. Any suggestions?

A. First, let’s look at what the Bible has to say about quick or hot-tempered:
Prov 14:17 A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of evil devices is hated.
• Prov 14:29 He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.

So quick-tempered is folly and acts foolishly.

Prov 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.
• Prov 22:24 Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man,
• Prov 29:22 An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.

Hot-tempered, in addition, stirs up strife.

Second, how do you counteract being quick or hot-tempered?
Proverbs 29:11 A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.
• Eccle 10:4 If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses.

The opposite of foolish is wise, and you need to face rising temper with composure. How do you apply this practically?

To begin with, prevention is better than cure, so plan ahead and anticipate what might happen under different situations, and how you would respond under those circumstances. When one of those scenarios unfolds, act according to plan so you won’t be caught off guard and just react uncontrollably. Next, pause before acting. Take a deep breath and count to three. Listen carefully and paraphrase what others are saying. This not only clarifies understanding, but prevents you from jumping to defend yourself.

The longer term solution is to learn wisdom from the word of God, especially the Proverbs. Develop the habit of a daily walk with the Lord and practice what you learn each day. Character isn’t changed in a day, but over time the Lord will polish your rough edges so that you become more and more like Him, who was never quick-tempered but always directed by the Holy Spirit. Hope this helps.

Answer a Fool?

Proverbs 26 4-5 b

Q. Prov 26:4 tells us do not answer a fool. V 5 then tells us to answer a fool. Isn’t this a contradiction? You can’t speak from both sides of your mouth!

A. No, it is not a contradiction, but a paradox. This passage tells us to be wise by responding as the situation dictates.

* Prov 26:4-5 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes.

In general, don’t waste time arguing with a fool, or you’ll descend to his level arguing back and forth in a silly squabble. Ignore him.

However, if it becomes necessary that you do have to answer him, use his own arguments back on him. Let him have a taste of his own medicine, so he’ll know how stupid he really is. Otherwise he’ll think he’s so smart.

Proverbs 26 4-5 c

So it depends on the situation, not a hard-and-fast black-and-white.

Knowledge of Good and Evil (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

I think the figurative meaning fits the serpent’s temptation better, because if the literal meaning was meant, why should Adam and Eve’s desire to know good from evil be a sin? Isn’t moral knowledge good? When Solomon asked God for wisdom to discern between good and evil, wasn’t God pleased? Isn’t the ability to discern good and evil for the mature? So why would God punish Adam and Eve for desiring a good thing? The problem is not with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil itself. There is nothing inherently bad about the tree. God could have used any tree to test Adam – whether he will trust and obey God.

However, if the figurative meaning was intended, then the serpent’s suggestion makes sense:
Gen 2:17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.
• Gen 3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
• Gen 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; …

The serpent insinuated that God had an ulterior motive in forbidding them to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – to prevent them from knowing all things and become omniscient like God. The sin is in disobeying God and believing in Satan, the very sin of pride Satan himself committed:
Isa 14:14 I will make myself like the Most High;
• Ezk 28:2 Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, … although you make your heart like the heart of God;
• Ezk 28:6 Because you have made your heart like the heart of God;
• Ezk 28:9 Will you still say, “I am a god”;

Prior to Gen 3:6 Adam and Eve knew good and evil only cognitively. They knew to obey God is good and to disobey is evil, and the consequence is death or alienation from God. After they ate they knew it experientially. They became aware that they were naked. Previously the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Gen 2:25); now they are ashamed and covered themselves up.

Lastly, what does Gen 3:22 mean – Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil”? God could not have meant Adam and Eve had become omniscient like Him and knew everything. They are creatures and will forever be finite, and could not possibly have infinite knowledge, i.e. become omniscient. Never! The serpent was dead wrong. I believe the literal meaning was intended and God simply meant Adam became like Him in the sense of being able to discern good from evil. Unfortunately of his own free-will he refused good and chose evil. Some commentators added that God might be stating this in a mocking tone i.e. the man has become like one of Us – NOT! but we have no way of ascertaining whether this is the case as the text did not say.

Image of God

creation of Adam 2

Q. What does “we are created in God’s image” mean?

A. The phrase “image of God” appears only three times in the NASB but is not explicitly defined:

Gen 1:27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
• Gen 9:6 Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.
• 2 Co 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Whatever it means, it could NOT be referring to physical appearance as God is spirit and does not have flesh and bones:

Jn 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
• Lk 24:39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Though undefined, there are clues:

1. “Image” and “likeness” are used interchangeably;
Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; …
• Gen 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.
• Jas 3:9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;

2. Christ is the ultimate image of God.
Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Also 2 Co 4:4)

Theologians have therefore suggested possibilities based on God’s attributes. For example,
• God is Creator (Gen 1:1). Since we are created in His image, we are creative.
• God communicates (Jn 1:1); therefore we communicate too.
• God is love (1 Jn 4:8, 16). Being created in His likeness, we are loving.
While it is true that we are like God in some, though not all, of His attributes, I am not fully satisfied that this is the answer, because many animals have some of these characteristics too e.g. intelligence, loving their young, even though they are NOT made in God’s image.

Furthermore, these are based on our deduction, not directly stated in Scripture. Accordingly I believe the stronger clues lie in Christ as the image of God, the exact representation of His nature (Heb 1:3):

1 Co 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
• Eph 4:24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

I believe the image of God consists of wisdom, righteousness, and holiness, among other attributes. I did not include redemption because it is unique to our Savior.

• Wisdom is a moral rather than an intellectual quality. To be wise is to fear God. To be foolish is to be godless. Animals can be intelligent, but they are not wise. No animals ever worship God. Only humans do.
• Righteousness is the character or quality of being right or just; being in a right relationship with God. Man can be righteous or unrighteous, but not animals.
• Holiness is being separated unto God, from evil things and ways. Again, sanctification applies primarily to man, though it is also used of sacrificial animals and objects dedicated to God’s use.

My opinion is that these constitute the major component of the image of God, among other elements such as morality, decision-making, aesthetics which are also true of man but not animals, but are not directly cited in the Bible. I believe these form part of the glory of God and are embodied in His image:
1 Co 11:7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

Hope this helps.