Do Justly

The ends don’t justify the means any time. The news brings more tales of injustice to our doorsteps every day. The Middle East, the regulatory explosion, crime in the inner cities… So much that we forget what it is we’re here to do. To this point, 27 centuries ago, the prophet Micah spoke the word of the Lord:

“With what shall I come before the Lord,

and bow myself before God on high?

…He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:6-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

The following discussion comes from Calvin’s Commentaries – General Introduction, in a section collecting together his comments on the topic: Ethics and the Common Life. First, Calvin summarizes the prophet’s argument at a high level:

Now the prophet assumes the people’s role and asks what it is that he ought to do. But, [in his role as the prophet,] he answers the question by citing the law, and so deprives [the people] of the excuse of ignorance. …He does [this] in the hope that they may be induced to confess their guilt.

Delving deeper into the passage, Calvin says:

…Now let us consider the prophet’s counsel. When he begins, “With what shall I come before God?” we are to understand that God has come down as if to meet men in a court of law. When men go to law with one another, there is no good cause which the other side cannot obscure with caviling and technicalities. But the prophet shows that when God himself brings them to trial, their evasions only make them ludicrous…

Then, arguing from our common experience, he says:

…In our own day we know well enough, and if our eyes are open, common experience shows us clearly that the wicked, who have no real and sincere relation to God, exhibit great anxiety and pretend to be wholly intent upon worshiping God correctly.

But, [instead,] they run off in all directions and seek innumerable [indirect routes], to avoid being forced to present themselves before God. Now we see how such pretense can be exposed; God has already shown in his law what he approves and what he demands of men.

Calvin then explains the importance of God’s requirements:

…Now when the prophet says do justly, seek mercy (or kindness) and walk humbly before God, it is clear enough that the first two points refer to the second table of the Law… Nor is it strange that he begins with the duties of love of neighbor.

For although the worship of God has precedence and ought rightly to come first, yet justice which is practiced among men is the true evidence of devotion to God. The prophet therefore names here justice and compassion, not because God omits the first essential of religion, his worship, but because he is here defining true religion by its manifestations.

Finally, he explains the consequence of those requirements:

…It is worth noting that he says, to walk with God, men must be humble. Here he condemns all pride, all confidence in the flesh. For whoever claims anything at all for himself [turns his back on God.] The true way to walk with God is to surrender ourselves wholly, making ourselves as nothing. The beginning of worshiping God and glorifying him is to think humbly and modestly of ourselves.

With that, we double back to our subjects from a few weeks ago. We must labor with His might and must accept the outcomes He’s ordained. The way of man is not in himself.

The ChoirMercy Will Prevail, YouTube, Sept. 17, 2016, thechoirvideos

Not Your Own

We often hear that faith must be personal. “My faith,” they say. People might tell us they’ve persevered through trials due to their faith. Were it to have failed, they would’ve been lost. But they had enough. At least that’s what they say. I don’t know about you, but I get the impression that they think this faith is their own, as if they produced it. As if it were due to strength of character or moral upbringing.

On the contrary, though we must hold faith individually:

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. Romans 4:5 English Standard Version (ESV)

It is not our faith, it is a gift of God so that we might not boast about ourselves.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

John Calvin comments on this verse:

For by grace are you saved. …God declares, that he owes us nothing; so that salvation is not a reward or recompense, but unmixed grace. The next question is, in what way do men receive that salvation which is offered to them by the hand of God? The answer is, by faith; and hence he concludes that nothing connected with it is our own…

Not of works. …Many persons restrict the word ‘gift’ to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith [only] is the gift of God, but that salvation [entirely] is given to us by God…

For we are his work. …The apostle affirms that we are God’s work, and that everything good in us is his creation; by which he means that the whole man is formed by his hand to be good. It is not the mere power of choosing aright, or some indescribable kind of preparation, or even assistance, but the right will itself, which is his workmanship; otherwise Paul’s argument would have no force.

Created to good works. …[Paul] says, that, before we were born, the good works were prepared by God; meaning, that in our own strength we are not able to lead a holy life, but only so far as we are formed and adapted by the hand of God. Now, if the grace of God came before our performances, all ground of boasting has been taken away…

To reiterate, faith is not a result of human will:

For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy Romans 9:15-16 (ESV)

To this, Calvin comments:

It is not then of him who wills, etc. …That none of you may think that they who are elected are elected because they are deserving, or because they had in any way procured for themselves the favor of God, or, in short, because they had in them a particle of worthiness by which God might be moved, take simply this view of the matter, that it is neither by our will nor efforts…that we are counted among the elect, but that it wholly depends on the divine goodness, which of itself chooses those who neither will, nor strive, nor even think of such a thing… [Emphasis mine]

Therefore faith is not subjective. It is not of ourselves so that we may not boast. Just like the scriptures, faith is not a matter of one’s own opinion.


Now, if we accept that faith is not of ourselves, we who profess faith must also realize that we, ourselves, are not our own, either.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

77s – The 77’s – Bottom Line,   Uploaded to YouTube on Apr 6, 2008, posted by Neamberthal, Lyrics

Tolerance – Based on What Standard?

We all think we know what’s right and wrong. It’s in the air; self–evident. But we hold ourselves and others to lax standards. We say: do not kill. That’s all well and good. But when the living God visited us He said:

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matt. 5:22 (ESV)

Check out the Greek if you doubt the translation.

He also spoke on lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and loving your enemies.

But, how does what He said line up with the Ten Commandments? Many today will grudgingly concede that these encompass much to which a progressive society should aspire.

We find He did not itemize how His statements lined up, but His intent was evident throughout the scriptures. Wiser folk than me searched these manuscripts. Highly analytic statesmen convened to discuss and codify the ramifications of the Ten Commandments and the Old and New Testaments. The Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.91-150, is a good place to start to investigate His standards.

Here’s a table that touches only a few of the seemingly minor offenses “worthy of hell fire.” The reference to the Catechism, above, is comprehensive. I must warn, however, I have a problem with summarization.

Commandment (abridged) Our Duties (abridged) Sins Forbidden (abridged)
Thou shall have no other gods before me. Honoring, adoring, loving, desiring, fearing, believing him Self-love, self-seeking, unbelief, heresy, misbelief, hardness of heart, pride, presumption
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image… Thou shalt not bow down   thyself to them, nor serve them… Reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; church government and discipline; opposing all false worship Devising, counselling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord   will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain. The name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, …and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, …word, and writing Not using of God’s name as is required; and the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious …or any way perverting the Word, …or the maintaining of false doctrines
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. …Resting all the day, …and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship All omissions of the duties required… all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.
Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land   which the Lord thy God gives thee. Honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence…, prayer and   thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing   obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; …bearing with their   infirmities, and covering them in love… Sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them… commanding things unlawful, or not in the power of inferiors to perform; …correcting them unduly; careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; provoking them to wrath…
Thou shalt not kill. …Preserve the life of ourselves and others…patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; …mild and courteous   speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent. …Taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.
Thou shalt not commit adultery. Chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency…; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto. …Adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, and immodest apparel; …and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.
Thou shalt not steal. …Truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; …and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own. …Theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving any thing that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, …injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts…, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, …and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; …envying the prosperity of others…
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocence;  a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report. All prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; …forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; …misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; …hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession;  unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy…
Thou shalt not covet …anything that is thy neighbor’s. …Full contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his. …Discontentment with our own estate; envying and grieving at the good of our neighbor, together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Lest anyone think I, or those like me, are any better than anyone else, I like to recall this event:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]] John 8:3-11 (ESV)

Some say He was writing out the names of the guilty in the crowd. Others say He was writing out the Ten Commandments. Perhaps it was both, cross referenced. And, where was the man if the woman was caught in the act? I would have been one of the last to have walked away, I think, not because I measured up, but because I didn’t.

Some hold this passage in doubt, but it rings true and many quote excerpts of it often. Never–the–less, our toleration must be based on the fact that everyone, Christian and non-Christian, is guilty of violating the Ten Commandments daily, if not minute by minute.

And we need to realize we’re hurting one another and our nation when we pull away into our huddles, holy or secular. Of harmful words and deeds, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

…The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

And, as Mr. Taunton recently wrote:

Speaking on the issue of tolerance, mega-church pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren observed:

Our culture has accepted two huge lies.  The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them.  The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.  Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

Tolerance is not the same thing as acceptance, and acceptance is not the same thing as an endorsement…We stand at a crossroads. The country must decide. Is the endgame here to be that orthodox Christians will henceforth have no voice within their own culture? If so, does this mean we have become a nation of bullies, forcing conformity while calling it tolerance? [early version (12-22-13, 10:55 pm) of Atlantic Magazine article]

If today’s target for intolerance is Christians, ask yourself, who’s next?

Another Mass Shooting

Aerial view of the Washington Navy Yard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s wrong with us? What’s it going to take? We’ve had another mass shooting. This time it was on a military base, the Washington Navy Yard. A base I once visited for business purposes. The security was lax then as it must have been now. To be fair, the level of security was equal to that necessary to protect national security information, not people.

I heard a doctor, who was treating some of the victims of this latest mass shooting, speak on television. She said that we have to get control of evil and eradicate it from our nation. I’m sure she meant well but I was perplexed as to how our society would go about implementing her desire.

I wondered how we would get control of evil and eradicate it. How would we go about doing that? Evil is perpetrated by men and women. It is found in the hearts and minds of those that do wrong. A building that collapses or a sinkhole that opens up suddenly may lead to a tragedy but these ‘perpetrate no evil.’

Did she mean we needed to seize control of the populace, declare martial law, or institute a totalitarian state? That’s what it would take to eradicate it from all our people. However, that would not, obviously, by the nature of the ‘solution,’ eradicate it from the nation. I would hope she didn’t mean that.

Barring a mass solution to this problem, we would have to identify individuals. But who would determine who was potentially evil. I say potentially because we can’t wait until someone proves they are evil by their actions, can we? It would be too late. But the laws of our nation preclude this pre-crime recourse. And, it’s no recourse, really, except in the movies; and we know how that turned out.

So, perhaps we should turn to the medical profession to identify those who might offend. What criteria would they use? Psychiatry’s handbook, the DSM-V, has objective descriptions of maladies that affect individuals. And those individuals may perpetrate offenses.

But who would apply the criteria? Doctors all over the nation would have to perform screenings. We’d have to indemnify and pay these doctors. They would be unavailable to treat those with other illnesses and we’d have to accept the losses that would result.

We’d need a large body of bureaucrats to administer this workforce of doctors. They’d be paid from our taxes. These administrators would assure fairness, justice, equity, and freedom from error of all those doctors’ decisions. They’d be responsible for adjudicating lapses in the system. Kind of like the IRS…

So, instead, maybe we could target minor offenses and incarcerate potential offenders at that point? Oh, wait, we’re doing that all ready. How’s that working out for us? Not real well, huh?

Maybe zero tolerance for gun ownership? But then only the criminals and terrorists would have guns. Law breakers, by definition, aren’t thwarted by zero tolerance laws. But, enough of this foolishness.


Maybe, we could show real compassion. We’d identify those who might act out (like we do all ready), but go one step further, and intervene. We’d stop hiding behind political correctness; put our reputations on the line; and save some of these folks and their potential victims from the crimes that might otherwise occur.

We’d educate the nation to reduce the stigma of dependency and mental illness. We’d do this so both the ill and their victims would seek help. We’d strengthen families, which are our first line of defense for the nation, so they could nurture those who might otherwise follow their bent into crime. Only when the family had done all it could do, would we intervene.

We’d target those who abuse alcohol, drugs, and little animals. We’d confront those who exhibit mental disorders and get them help. We’d provide them with counseling, medical treatment, and follow-up; not institutionalization. We’d hold the patients and caregivers to account for failures. And we’d recognize the toll caregiving takes on the caregivers themselves and provide support.

It will be hard and take self–sacrifice.

And, maybe, we could acknowledge that we all are bent and capable of snapping. That we ourselves are responsible for our actions and that these actions are not always good. And realize that we need to thoroughly change our life’s direction; an impossible task for us to do. And because of that, realize we need a Savior from the punishment we surely do deserve.