During an age when moral degeneracy and idol worship was everywhere, God told a man to take a stand for the truth. He instructed him to destroy the idol his own father had built and worshiped. The man obeyed. He tore down the idol and burned it, but he did it at night because he was afraid of what the other residents of the town would do to him if they found out.
The man’s fears were justified. The other men of the town became extremely angry when they saw their idol burnt and destroyed. They investigated and soon discovered who had done it. When they found out, they wanted to kill the man – even though he had acted on God’s orders.
To a certain degree we all have a difficult time accepting other people who are not just like us. When we encounter people from a different background or a different culture, we tend to think that they are odd or strange. Seldom do we entertain the idea that we might be the strange or odd ones.
Often times, this idea that people who are different from us are odd is also accompanied by fear. We fear the unknown and, since we do not understand the other culture or background, we become afraid of people who are different than we are. Unfortunately, to compensate for our own insecurities and fears, we may start to ridicule the other person or begin to despise them. This can lead to racism and even hate. We seldom stop to think that we may be as objectionable to them as they are to us.
We all desire freedom. We do not like it when others try to control our lives. We don’t like it when someone tries to force their opinion on us – we want the freedom to make up our own mind. Even worse is when someone tries to tell us what to do when we have not asked their advice – we do not like busybodies.
The same desire for freedom also holds true for society in general. When laws become too oppressive or interfere too much, without providing benefits to compensate, people become restless and dissatisfied. If governments go too far in trying to control people, they spark rebellion. Throughout history people have led many revolutions to gain freedom.
Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you knew all the facts? You made a decision based on what you thought you knew only to find out later that the truth was not what you thought it was. If you had known, you would have made a different decision than you did.
The Israelites once found themselves in this very situation. After He rescued them from slavery in Egypt, God told the Israelites not to make any treaties with the people in the land to which He was leading them. The Israelites took this instruction seriously. They did not offer to make treaties with any of the peoples they encountered in the new land God gave them.
Have you ever said, “I would never do that!” only to find yourself later doing the very thing you said you would never do? Why do we behave in ways which are contrary to our given word?
There may be several reasons we end up doing what we said we would not do. One is that we lied. We did not speak from conviction, but rather to mislead or to please the person to whom we were talking. For example, if our friends consider a particular action wrong, or even just silly, we might agree with them so they won’t think less of us. However, we have no intention of giving up doing what they don’t approve of.
“Why don’t they do something about it?” How many times have we said or thought those words when we see public property which needs repair or hear about an injustice! We become especially upset with situations which impact us directly. It is one thing to read about shopkeepers with dishonest scales. It is another thing entirely when we are the one who has been cheated. It is one thing to hear about a judge taking bribes. It is very personal when we are the one who is denied justice. “They ought to do something!”
What is our reaction when we hear unwelcome news – particularly a message which highlights a mistake we have made or a character flaw in ourselves? Unfortunately, instead of humbly listening to the message and correcting the problem, we often lash out in anger.
There was once a king who thought he knew better than God. Oh, he didn’t start out that way. In fact, at first he led his kingdom in a spiritual revival. He purged the land of idols and urged his people to worship God. Because he sought God and worshiped Him, God blessed the kingdom with prosperity. God also gave the king victory over powerful enemy armies. (You can read the story in 2 Chronicles, chapters 15 and 16.)
We often think about the benefits God promises His people. We get excited about the delights of paradise. According to Scripture we will not have any more pain, suffering or tears. There will be no more hunger or death (Revelation 7:16, 21:4). Quarrels and disputes will be resolved forever. The enmities and hatreds between peoples will be done away (Revelation 22:2). No one will hurt anyone ever again. We look forward to enjoying a new heaven and a new earth where there is righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). Jesus told His disciples that He was going away to prepare a home for them with God (John 14:1-3).
But have you ever thought about the future from God’s perspective? We have His promises, but what is it that He is looking forward to? What is it that He desires?
Have you ever known someone who was so trusting that he would believe anything he heard? When we encounter someone like that we usually have one of two reactions: Depending upon the character of the person in question, we either find their innocence delightful, or we are amazed at their stupidity. Most adults have learned to view things they are told with a little skepticism. They have learned not to take everything at face value. The greater the claim, the greater the proof required.
When trouble or hardship strikes, our natural tendency is to act selfishly. We think of ourselves first. “How can I get out of this? How can I avoid suffering?” This is true, even when we suffer persecution as a result of our faith. Sometimes we are reluctant to extend help to those suffering persecution lest we draw the attention of the persecutors to ourselves. Some people will go so far as to renounce their faith in order to avoid suffering.
In the middle of a discussion of how the followers of Christ should act when they face persecution, the Apostle Peter writes, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9 NIV)