Be Careful How You Treat Others
I write often. I constantly find myself wanting to put my thoughts down into an essay, article, or book. Sometimes I take upon myself the daunting task of writing a rebuttal to a certain position one takes on a Scriptural topic. Some subjects seem to bring out the worst in me. What do I mean? Well, I find myself wanting to bash other peoples writings and then I take a step back and think about what my true intent is anyway. Am I responding and writing to save my pride or am I writing because I am genuinely concerned with presenting the truth on the topic.
I have found that it is best to address subjects in general rather than specifically addressing those with whom you have the disagreement. If you have a disagreement with someone then address the subject rather than mentioning the person by name. Granted, sometimes a specific quotation is necessary, but most of the time you can deal with the issue without ever bringing up the name of the person you have the disagreement with. This, I believe, greatly encourages change in the mind of the person you disagree with. If you truly have the truth, and this person comes across your writings seeing that you are sticking with the general issue rather than trying to name names, impute motives, etc. they are more apt to see their error if they are in fact in error.
Father, help us all do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
Do Not Be Defiled
I started teaching through the book of Daniel last night at our local congregation and I can see already that it is not only going to be educational but also enjoyable. When you "sink yourself" into an entire book of Scripture, studying the book verse by verse and sometimes word by word you really come away with a much better knowledge of what the text means.
Daniel was most likely a young man, not even above 20 years old, and was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians. During the beginning of his "sojourn" in Babylon he was given a new name (Belteshazzar) and was told to learn the literature of Babylon. He was also given the meat of the King of Babylon to eat and the wine of the King of Babylon to drink. It is at this point that Daniel drew the line. The Scripture states (Daniel 1:8) that he had purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portions from the Kings table and thus made a request to the Kings chief official that he might not defile himself but rather be given food and drink suitable to his way of life.
Picture yourself being in a strange land, governed by a very powerful ruler, and being chosen to serve in this rulers palace. Now picture yourself being so dedicated to Yahweh your God that you refuse to eat and drink what this King had given to you. That is dedication.
You know though, Daniel did not just march in and point his finger at the chief official, he made a request of him (Daniel 1:8). His humility in the situation helped gain him respect with the chief official, and Daniel was able to eat the diet he chose for 3 years time (Daniel 1:5, 8-18).
Why did Daniel refuse the Kings meat? It is possible that the meat was unclean and forbidden for a Judahite like Daniel. The Torah gives us a menu of the animals that are permissible and that are forbidden (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). But what about the wine? The Torah does not forbid the drinking of wine, only drunkeness is condemned. Could it be that the wine had been used in worship (as a drink offering of sorts) to the many gods of the Babylonians?
However we understand Daniel's refusal we need to learn that even in our circumstances where we may think we do not have the option of remaining true to Yahweh's law we just may have to step out on faith and refuse to defile our self. Daniel did, and he was given knowledge 10 times greater than all the wise men in Babylon (Daniel 1:20). This meant that he was given a "top seat" in the Babylonian government.
Have you ever wondered how you could really be obedient to the instruction of Yeshua the Messiah in Matthew 5:48? In case your wondering, Yeshua says here, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." This seems like a task that is impossible, especially if you truly realize the awesome holiness of the Creator. When the prophet Isaiah was in the presence of Yahweh he said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips... (Isaiah 6:5)" Isaiah recognized that compared to Yahweh he was ruined, he was a creature in need of divine help from his Creator.
So how can we be perfect as our Father in heaven? Well, if you believe Yeshua's statement means that we are supposed to be exactly like our Father in heaven (completely holy, sinless, immortal, all knowing, etc.) then it truly is an impossible task for a human such as you and I. However, when we understand Yeshua's statement in the context He said it, the meaning of the instruction becomes quite clear. It is always important to read Bible verses in context, else we will make the mistake of interpreting them to have a meaning which was foreign to the original author and the original audience.
Yeshua, previous to Matthew 5:48, spoke of the need for us to not only love our neighbor but to also love our enemy. He said to pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44). This is not what we see going on in many Christian communities today. People who profess Christ are constantly trying to "get back at" others and gossip about those who are enemies of them. Even something as simple as someone else blowing the horn at us often causes us to "fly off the handle" and we want to do the exact same thing to them or even worse. In cases like this we are to instead act kindly to those who wrong us. Yeshua here echoes His Father Yahweh. Notice these Scriptures from the book of Exodus.
Exodus 23:4-5 "If you come across your enemy's stray ox or donkey, you must return it to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it."
Here, Yahweh teaches us to do good to our enemies. It's not as though Yahweh is only speaking about this specific situation that may arise in the Israelite community. It's not like an Israelite could see his enemies "cow" and think, "Oh! But it's not his donkey so I don't have to help him!" Yahweh is teaching Israel a principle. The principle is that they are to be kind and seek to help those who would not desire to help them; those who may be downright hateful towards them. This law applies still applies to us today.
In this vein Yeshua tells us (Matthew 5:45) that in loving our enemy we are being like our Father in heaven for even Yahweh makes His sun to rise on those that not only do good, but also upon those that do evil. Yahweh's rain pours out on the righteous and the unrighteous. He is explaining that Yahweh shows common grace to all people in the world, giving them sunlight for their health, warmth, etc. as well as rain; both are necessities of life. If we want to be children of our Father in heaven, then we need to do our best to imitate what He does here.
This is what Yeshua means when He says to be perfect even as Yahweh is perfect. The word perfect often carries the meaning of "complete." Being perfect or complete here means not just loving the ones who love us, but loving the ones who do not love us. If we love only those who love us we are imperfect or incomplete. If we love those who we consider to be our enemy we are exhibiting a complete love.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.