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Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I argued recently that pain is unpleasant but, in the hands of the Master, not necessarily bad. In fact, I suggested that the Bible teaches that God uses it to improve us, to purify us, to refine us, to correct and shape us. I believe that to be the case.

I wonder sometimes if our drive to shelter our kids isn't causing more problems than it's helping.

I've seen people argue that violence is never the answer. Now, I have a real difficulty with superlatives -- "always", "never", "every", "none", that kind of thing -- so I have to ask, "Really? Never?" And they will nod and assure me that it is never the answer. This, of course, is problematic to any ... you know ... biblical Christian because the Bible is riddled with God-caused violence. There are divine judgments, divine warnings, and divine curses. God Himself says, "I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things." (Isa 45:7) In the New Testament, Jesus made a whip and chased people out of the Temple (John 2:15). Violence is God's answer from time to time. (See, for instance, Acts 5:1-11; Lev 10:1-3; 2 Sam 6:5-7.)

By extension, I would suggest that there are times when we do our kids (and others) harm by providing "safe spaces", so to speak. We try to make sure there are no conflicts for our kids. We try to avoid conflicts for ourselves. I suspect this concept is a key reason some pastors are avoiding preaching doctrine -- conflict avoidance. We hoist the "Judge not" flag (ignoring the rest of the text that follows - Matt 7:1-6) and urge everyone to just get along. In so doing, we remove God's tools for doing God's work.

It wasn't the feisty Calvinists who urged, "Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3) It wasn't the self-righteous Christian Internet troll that declared, "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Matt 18:15-20) It wasn't some modern homophobic religious zealot that said, "I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one." (1 Cor 5:11) In fact, it was God who stated, "Purge the evil person from among you." (Deut 17:7; 1 Cor 5:13) (How often do you hear today, "When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." (1 Cor 5:4-5)? I think we are tame compared to biblical language.) There are times, according to Scripture when it is necessary to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." (2 Tim 4:2)

There is the argument out there that one (only one) of the reasons that school shootings are on the rise is that we have worked so hard to make our kids' environments so "safe" that they lack the tools to handle conflict and disagreement. Maybe. I think that we've certainly done that in the church. Biblically, though, conflict is necessary -- even good (e.g., Prov 27:6; Prov 27:17). Let's not waste these tools. Let's use them carefully, rightly, and lovingly.


Craig said...

I think that it could be argued that not only does God use unpleasant events for our good, but that His doing so is an expression of His perfect love. One of the definition errors we see today is to define love so that it excludes correction, punishment, chastising and things we find unpleasant. It seems correct to say that God can and will use things (even violence) that seem horrible as a way to demonstrate His living plan for us.

Stan said...

I think it is clearly biblical that the unpleasant events He brings for our good are an expression of His love (Heb 12:6). Our modern version of "love" has so distorted love that it is nearly unrecognizable. (As an example, I know of a church that was formed to engage its congregants in sexual activities because "'God is love' and 'Love is sex', right?")

Craig said...

That’s awesome. I was in a q&a with an author who was getting ready to write a book on a biblical view of love, and remember him talking about how difficult it is to “define” a biblical view of love. Just because it’s so much broader and more complex than the “love=sex” of pop culture or the “love=unlimited tolerance and encouragement of virtually any behavior” of much of the church.

Clearly, biblical love allows for things that we find difficult and might even be harmful, just as does parental love.

What is it? Those who He loves, He chastens”

Or the carpenter “loves” the wood by cutting, shaping and sanding away parts of it. The goldsmith shows “love” to the gold by putting it in a furnace.

Stan said...

Yes, if "assisting to achieve perfection" (James 1:2-4) is love, then the trials He gives us is love.

Craig said...

I’d say so, but then I’m not define love the same as some

Craig said...


Stan said...

Yea, I translated in my head.