Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Time to Help Your Enemy -- Exodus 23:4-5




Exodus 23:4-5: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.”
For most of us, unless we travel to a second or third world country, the chances of seeing an ox or a donkey are very slim.  For us, these verses have to be considered in two ways: First, what was God saying to His people in the dessert after they had fled from Egypt and second, what are we to do with these verses today?  I cannot help but feel that God’s direction is congruent to both the Israelites and us.
Here is the bottom line: Yes, an individual or a group may be your enemy. But if you come across something of theirs that is where it should not be because they left it behind, or lost it, or had it stolen from them, or however else it got there – you are to return it to them.
If I am negotiating a collective agreement with a union on behalf of a company client and someone on the union team leaves their personal notes or strategy behind, I believed it is my responsibility to return it to them without looking at the content. I remember once that I was sending a strategic email on negotiations to my client, but had accidently included the union in the distribution. Fortunately, when the union administrative secretary received the email, she knew it was not meant for them, and called me. It turned out she was a wonderful Christian lady from our church who knew me. She assured me the email was not sent on to the union negotiators. She did the right thing.
God expects us to take corrective action. He says, if you come across some property belonging to your enemy that is not where it should be, “go out of your way and return it to him”.  How many of us would do just that?  How many of us would more likely rejoice in knowing that our enemy is getting his just desserts?  “He deserves this,” many of us would say.  There is much that we may feel our enemies deserve. But God is saying, “Look, this is not about your enemy. This is about you doing the right thing. I will take care of your situation with your enemy, but you need to do the right thing.” Many of us have had to do just that in our lives when it comes to dealing with our enemies. Trusting God to take care of our situation, our position, and our need – but in the process being careful to do the right things.
And then God says there will be times when we have to go beyond the little effort of returning a lost oxen or donkey, or cat or dog, which is not too difficult or onerous. We may actually notice that something belonging to our enemy is in trouble, not just lost.  His animal or pet may be caught in a fire or trapped or injured.  His automobile may have skid off the road on a patch of ice or suffered a flat tire (and yes, even with our enemy or one of his family members driving it). God is basically saying, “Get out of your house; get out of your own carriage, and help your enemy deal with his animal or his car.” Can you do that? That’s what God is telling us to do.
You see, by doing that, you are not condoning what your enemy has done (he may even have been drunk while driving) or what he thinks or what he says about you or God or anything else. You are simply doing what you are called to do.
I love the last phrase of this passage “you shall surely release it with him.” You are to do it with him. God says you can work with your enemy to do what is right for you to do.  Who knows, maybe because you have worked with him, he will see you in a different light or maybe he will see the God you worship and serve in a different light. That does not mean you have to give in to his wrongdoing or beliefs, or to condone his actions. It simply means you have to do for your enemy what God expects you to do for all human beings.
Can God’s instructions get any more difficult? Blessed is the person who can work with that philosophy of “working with one’s enemy”.  There will be times when your enemy is hungry – feed him.  There will be times when your enemy is thirsty – give him drink. If you are a doctor, you may even be called upon to save his life. All of that is not about your enemy and his or her wrongdoing; it is about your right doing before God.  That is what the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans in chapter 12, verses 20 and 21 calls us to do.  We are to overcome the evil of someone else’s actions with the good of our actions – because of our relationship with God.

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

How Not To Be A Witness or Protester -- Exodus 23:1-3

“You shall not carry a false rumor; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute.”

This passage begins with pretty clear and direct instruction to those who are the children of God – do not spread false rumors, period. Which of course, begs the question of whether or not we can or should spread rumors that are not false. Well, here’s the rub: by definition a rumor is a story or statement that is without confirmation or certainty as to facts; gossip; hearsay. Based on that, and given that elsewhere in Scripture, we are called upon to have our ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ mean ‘no’, I would surmise that spreading any rumor at all is not a domain that Christians should visit.

I am fairly sure, however, that this does not mean we cannot hypothesize, based on “some” input, what may or may not come to pass on a particular issue. For example, a jubilant mother telling her friends that, based on what she observes, a certain young man is going to propose to her daughter soon is not necessarily a false rumor, especially if she adds, “but of course, we will have to wait and see.” For her friends to then tell the neighbors that “Bob has proposed (or even ‘will propose’) to Alice” is spreading a false rumor.

Next, God tells us not to be party to anyone who is putting forth a false statement. Chuck Smith says, “don’t be a party to perjury (lying or misrepresenting, especially under oath).” David Guzik is much stronger on this passage.  He says, “The only way to obey this command is to put a stop to a false report. Doing nothing or remaining ‘neutral’ is to allow the false report to circulate.” We have to ask and demand “proof from the person bringing the report, and proof as required in the Bible – from two or three witnesses.” The reference to a “wicked” man is there because in one sense he who spreads the false rumor and he who accepts it, are equally evil.

Next, God turns to protesting, but more specifically “rioting”. It is in our human nature to follow a crowd. It started with Adam following Eve. (I personally like to follow fire engines to get to the action, but my passengers won’t let me.) God says, “don’t join a mob that intends to do evil.” You can speak up against what you believe is wrong. Maybe even protest peacefully to show that support. But God outlaws rioting and looting and throwing stones. Unfortunately some of us take this to an extreme and stay home and watch television rather than make our voices heard at all.

In the latter part of the second verse, God warns us against being persuaded by the crowd (perhaps our friends or even our families) to side with wrongdoing or untruth in a way that prevents and perverts justice. It is often so convenient to side with those with whom we have associated for years. Not doing so causes us to be shunned or ridiculed or at best, tolerated. It takes a strong person to be able to withstand the crowd that has been a crucial part of his/her life to this point. Most of us are not that strong and only by the power of God indwelling in us can it be done. For this reason, Matthew Henry informs us “among the Jews, the junior upon the bench voted first, that he might not be swayed nor overruled by the authority of the senior.” Henry goes on to imply that our job is to inquire of God as to what we individually are to do, not to see what the majority is doing because while we may be asked to judge a matter, He is judging our choices.

Finally, God who loves the poor to no end as we have seen His constant warnings for us to take care of them throughout Scripture, allows His value of truth and justice to trump their needs.  Here in verse 3 of this passage, He tells us not to show any partiality to a poor person who has a dispute. The fact that he/she is poor is no reason for unfair or inappropriate preference when it comes to what is right or wrong. This came home to me recently when I read the story of a 14-year old girl in Africa that had been stolen from the hospital just three days after she was born. A poor woman who raised her had taken her. The girl’s identity was discovered when she joined a high school were her birth sister was attending and later DNA proved the real connection. Interestingly some psychologists and social workers have implied that we needed to be fair to the poor lady that stole her given the fact that she had raised her up all these years. First, I find it difficult to be fair in this case of pure theft and greed, albeit under some difficult circumstances of the woman who did the stealing. Second, I think this is the kind of thing God had in mind in this verse.

Bottom line is that God expects His people to speak the truth, challenge those who do not, and always and only support the truth. This is not only when it comes to cases before the law but in our everyday conversations and interactions with others – at home, at work, at church. How are you doing, especially when it hurts to do so because it involves a friend or a relative, or worse still, you?

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.