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Sunday, August 10, 2014
The Wisdom to Stand for Truth, Love and the Character of God
I have always been struck by a particular verse in Isaiah. I used to always think it was referring especially to people who lived on the wild side (like Hell’s Angels) or who were blatantly evil, like the Nazis. It certainly is clear to see how it applies to those situations. However, more recently, since moral relativism has taken such a strong hold in our world, I have come to believe it is the more subtle applications of this verse that are perhaps the most insidious. Here is the passage, quoted from the New American Standard Version:
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! -----Isaiah 5:20
The images described in this passage are rampant today, it seems to me. Debates over social issues, the vilification of virginity and glorification of teen pregnancy, renaming things like adultery and promiscuous behavior into terms like “affairs” and “sexually active,” and the bizarre world of political expediency all are multiple examples of calling evil good.
Then, the flip side, of course, is the ridicule faced by those who DO choose to stand for their beliefs, and the characterization of all Christians as mindless and naïve do-gooders who are deluded enough to think they heard God speaking to them. I was especially struck by that attitude years ago when U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno stated that she considered people dangerous who read their Bibles regularly! (I tend to think she is confused about who really IS dangerous in that scenario.) Notice, Isaiah makes clear that calling something good does NOT make it good, it just reveals the character of the speaker involved.
And bound up with the shift is a great deal of browbeating for any who would dare to question the politically correct point of view, whether the topic is global warming or immigration reform, to views on gay marriage and more. Even the terminology troubles me. For instance, somebody who does not believe homosexuality is moral, is described as a homophobe…created from the word for fear, even though it isn’t an issue of fear, it is an issue of belief about morally right and wrong behavior. We don’t call somebody who believes murder is wrong a murderphobe, do we? Of course not, that’s ridiculous. But because the battles are vicious these days, in certain realms the terminology is often biting and vindictive. And let’s be honest…that viciousness does exist on both sides of the spectrum, and there has been plenty of browbeating to go around by both sides! Supposedly toleration is hailed as the great virtue of the day, but toleration is only for those whose opinions on valued issues are the same; there is no tolerance for those who disagree, there is only ridicule and attack.
Morality has been relegated to popular opinion, and any sense of ultimate right and wrong has been lost for many in our society who believe they are accountable to no one, least of all a God they don’t even believe in. But Isaiah’s words begin with, “Woe,” because accountability is real, and judgment will come.
So let me close this blog by relating it to the topic of divorce. Each of us must be careful, in all of life’s actions and choices, to not be deceived into calling evil good, or believing those who do. But not everything that has commonly held to be true is necessarily so, either. Consider slavery, which was acceptable for centuries, until opinion shifted and people realized that there was something inherently wrong in the practice. At the time, remember, there were both Christians and non-Christians with strongly held opinions on both sides of the issue.
I would never call divorce a “good” thing, but I would call it a necessary thing in a fallen world, hence God’s provision for it from the earliest days in the laws of Moses. However, as one goes through divorce, one is inundated with a multitude of decisions and choices. Those choices can be decided based on selfish interests, they can be decided based on vindictive anger, they can be decided based on a false sense of love and humility, they can be decided on purely pragmatic bases, or they can be decided on perceived “right” and “wrong.” And how those decisions are made affect the character of the person making the decisions. All too often, vindictive anger and selfish interests are rampant among divorcing individuals.
Many choices involve very gray areas, areas where there seem to be no specific rightness or wrongness about it, no clear teaching of scripture or church. In those areas, if you are trying to do what you believe is right or best, making choices becomes difficult. A dear friend of mine suggested that sometimes, framing the issue in terms of effective and ineffective rather than trying to find a right and wrong in the muddy waters might prove more useful. I found that was a very helpful insight. However, I also believe it is important that an individual divorcing be very wary of their choices and actions, weighing each matter carefully, lest they end up on the receiving end of Isaiah’s woes.
Do your best to stand for good, for truth, for love, and for those things that most reflect the character of God, even in the onslaughts of evil in our world today.