The Root of the Problem: H.C. Lord’s Day 40

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 40

Q 105: What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment? 
A 105: I am not to belittle, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor—not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds—and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.

Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.

Q 106: Does this commandment refer only to murder? 
A 106: By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.  In God’s sight, all such are disguised forms of murder.

Q 107: Is it enough then that we do not murder our neighbor in any such way? 
A 107: No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly toward them, to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.
I often have, in the back of my head, a compilation of partial thoughts and ideas about what to write about when it comes to these Friday posts.  After doing some reading and reflecting, I usually write up something in a sort of “stream-of-consciousness” sort of fashion that becomes the post for the week.  After that, I create the question posts for the next week, with all of their Scripture passages and the associated links, tags, etc.  Last week, when I was prepping those posts, I couldn’t have even fathomed the horrors that would unfold as they would be posted.  Nor could I have seen the absolute perfection in the timing of the topic we address this week.  And, while there is nothing convenient or good about murder, I do think that the relevance of a document as old as the Heidelberg Catechism and the associated Scripture that is cited here could not be more clear in a time like this.
All of America and a good portion of the world has watched in horror, time and time again as the news of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and a myriad of other murderous attacks have been carried out in places all over the world.  Whether it is workplace violence, terrorism, or mental illness is certainly a topic for discussion, but in the end, the same result is seen, the murder of human beings and the same culprit is to blame: sin.
The Heidelberg Catechism’s discussion, as well as the Bible’s teaching on murder, does not address the problem at the surface.  Far too often in times like this, we see media, politicians, and celebrities do just this.  We need to address gun control, they say, or mental illness.  Conservatives and Liberals alike have and will respond in ways that tout their own agenda or stance on an issue, calling out the other for their supposed support or lack thereof for gun control, response to terrorism, etc.  Many will post things about “praying for” or “thinking of” the victims.
Yet in the midst of the political crossfire, something that we all are sadly involved in these days with social media and the like, we seem to have missed the true depth of the problem: sin.  Mass killings in the United States or any other part of the world for that matter are not just a gun control issue.  If it were, places like Chicago and even Paris should be practically utopian by comparison.  Yet Chicago loses more people in a month to gun violence than died in Las Vegas in those few, horrific moments.  Are timing, location, and magnitude reasons for the lack of mention of one and the wall-to-wall coverage of another?  Should they be?
Sadly, this is also why some media outlets will highlight certain styles of attacks, those done with guns, while others highlight killings that involve other non-projectile weapons.  In either case, we are reminded that, for them, it is more about the message they want to convey and less about the lives that are lost.  This only further highlights, in my opinion, the depth of the depravity that we are faced with.
Mass killings are not just a terrorism issue, though many seem to be perpetuated by this twisted ideology.  Statistically speaking, mass killings are carried out more by white men with zero connection to the religion of Islam than by those who practice the religion, much less those who are immigrants to the United States (or those who are here illegally).
Mass killings in the U.S. are not just a mental illness problem either.  Despite the fact that, arguably, most who commit such heinous crimes have some sort of mental illness, and the fact that we definitely need to do more in the way of creating greater access to care for those who struggle with such diseases, simply blaming one event after the other on the political party in power for their lack of working to fix this problem is not, in fact, the solution to it.  Even if mental health care was free for anyone at any time, we would still see these sad events happen as is evidenced by other countries with superior medical and mental health care systems which are vastly more available than our own.  Yes, the number may be lessened, but it is not all altogether absent.
Why? Because the issue of murder, isn’t a political, ideological, national, or cultural issue, it’s a sin issue.
Scripture’s teaching about murder goes far deeper than a simple law that says we should not kill other people.  In fact, the word that is used in the Exodus passage is specific in its reference to the wanton taking of another life.  But, looking deeper into the reasoning behind it we can see, through the Scripture passages we’ve read this week, that Scripture is really going for the heart of the issue which is our heart, tainted by sin.
Q 106. Does this commandment refer only to murder? 
A 106. By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.  In God’s sight, all such are disguised forms of murder.
 The search for a motive in the Las Vegas shootings will continue for some time.  Ultimately, it will be tied to some ideological or cultural problem that needs legislation to fix it.  There will be bickering and blustering about it and no doubt some politicizing of the issues in next year’s elections.  It’s happened with almost every event since these things become “commonplace” in our culture.
But the real issue, the issue of sin, seems to never be addressed.  Whether it’s because of a Western Church that is more focused on a “feel-good” message, or a culture that is actively trying to separate itself from its religious roots, we simply don’t want to address the issue of sin as a cause.  Simply put, I think it is because we want to be our own savior.  If it is ideological, cultural, or even political, we can fix it with the right party in power or the right push from this or that group.  However, if it is a sin issue, then we are forced to acknowledge something we don’t want to face: we cannot defeat sin on our own… WE NEED A SAVIOR!
Yes, there are common sense things that we can (and should) do as a nation, culture, and government to curb some of these things.  Some of them fit a liberal agenda, others a conservative agenda (though neither need be used or mentioned in reference to a tragedy in order to further their political career).  Whether it is immigration reform, gun control, or access to affordable health care, these are not political issues, they are human issues.
But, true transformation, whether it be personal or cultural, will not happen without the acceptance of a Savior and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people.  We are so wholly broken that we cannot help but do these things.  Few would care to acknowledge that Scripture places on the same level the Las Vegas shooter and me, who has been and still is hateful, envious, and vindictive.  That is, in light of recent events, perhaps hard to swallow; but it is true nonetheless.
The issue that has been placed before us, displayed in almost unwatchable images of people running scared amid the barrage of automatic gun-fire, is the issue of sin and evil that is present in the world and in our hearts.  For this to be truly addressed, we need to acknowledge that without a Savior, without Jesus, we are wholly incapable of overcoming it, not just in the culture, but in our own selves.  Then, and only then, will we begin to see the effects of sin unravel as our old, murderous selves are put to death, and the New Creation that God has called us and created us to, emerge and effect change in this dark and broken world.

Day 145: Job 5-8; Job's Wife and Eliphaz

Yesterday we read the intro to Job.  A man that had everything, who was rich beyond richest of the day, lost all but his life in what seemed like an instant.  What is interesting to me though is Job’s reaction, something that we’ll continue to see throughout this whole book.  Job tears his clothes and begins to mourn, but Scripture also says that Job worships God in that time as well.  While I wouldn’t want to belittle anyone’s suffering or pain, I wonder how many of us would turn to God in “worship” when something bad in our lives happens.  I think that part of this is the idea of a funeral worship service in that we remember the life of the person and thank God for the days they were with us.  This is an important part of mourning, in that we remember that it is ultimately God who has given to us the people in our lives and it is He who sustains us.  Job’s words remind me of a wonderful and popular song by Tree63, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job Mocked by his Wife

Job Mocked by his Wife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After these events happen and Job has even lost his health his wife enters into the scene and give Job her counsel: “curse God and die.”  While I don’t believe this is meant to be a knock on wives, I do think it is indicative of our first tendency when we face trials and evil like this.  We don’t understand why this is happening and the first voice that shows up is one that screams in our minds about fairness and the apparent contradiction that is placed before us.  “How can a loving God allow these things to happen?  He must not be real or He must hate me.”  It is, sadly, our first instinct… to run.  No one likes to be hurt.  Certainly no one likes to suffer.  But the fact of the matter is that sin, evil, and brokenness are a reality in the world.  Job’s response to his wife is very telling of the conviction of his faith in God: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”  I imagine this was not an easy thing for him to say… and it certainly isn’t for us either… but there is truth in his words; a very hard truth.

Иов на гноище. Job. 1547-51. Роспись ю-в. стоп...

Иов на гноище. Job. 1547-51. Роспись ю-в. стопа Благовещенского собора Кремля (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enter Job’s friends.  For the rest of today and tomorrow we will explore Job’s friends and their responses to Job’s plight.  Initially it seems as though they take the right approach.  They show up and sit with him for SEVEN days without saying a thing!  Wow… 7 days.  Have you ever gone to someone in pain and just sat with them?  Have you ever needed someone to just come and sit with you?  It can be uncomfortable… the silence can be unnerving even… but in this initial reaction, I think Job’s friends get it right.  However, for them and often for us, when Job starts asking questions and despairing out loud, the discomfort takes over and the desire to settle ourselves takes over.  This is what happens with Job’s friends.

Eliphaz listens to Job’s cry, his questioning of the situation, and even his wish that he had never been born, and then he speaks up with words of counsel for Job.  His first response in the ESV Bible is titled “the Innocent Prosper.”  The whole premise for his speech to Job it to point Job away from his “deceit” and towards whatever sin he has done that has brought upon him this punishment.  He works, in many ways, from the idea of a black and while God who only lets good things happen to the good people and bad things happen to the bad people.  Therefore, from the perspective of Eliphaz, Job must have done something wrong.

Sound like a familiar thought?  I know I tend to jump to those thoughts and sometimes even suggestions when it comes to uncomfortable topics like suffering and pain.  Its really easy to explain it away isn’t it?  But I wonder if we (or if Eliphaz) was saying these things for Job’s sake… or for his own?  See, the first thing that we tend to do when we get into an uncomfortable situation is to distance ourselves somehow.  Eliphaz seems to want to answer all of Job’s questions, to explain away his predicament so that the discomfort will go away.  Perhaps you are familiar with this discomfort?  I know that I am quick to answer and slow to listen when it comes to times like this.  But I wonder, if there are times when we need to just be uncomfortable with our friends… if there are times when just sitting in silence, wiping the tears away, and even just listening to the despairing talk of a loved one is all that is necessary.  Perhaps maybe the best answer, is not the one that tries to explain all of the problems away… but is simply a listening ear and a hug?