There was once a preacher whom I used to like. I thought he was great.
His sermons were wonderful—as long as I liked him.
His speech was passing fair—as long as I liked him.
He was a hard worker—as long as I liked him.
He was the man for the job—as long as I liked him.
In fact, I was strong for him—as long as I liked him.

But, he offended me one day. Whether he knew or not, I do not know. Since that day, he has ceased to be a good preacher.

His sermons are not so wonderful—since he offended me.
His speech is of no account—since he offended me.
His faults are more prominent—since he offended me.
He is not a hard worker—since he offended me.
He’s not the man for the job—since he offended me.
In fact, I’m trying to turn everybody against him and get rid of him—since he offended me.

It’s really a shame he’s changed so much.[1]


[1] Glen Wheeler, 1010 Illustrations, Poems, and Quotes (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1967).

Is it wrong to rejoice in the triumph of justice, even when it results in the eternal damnation of a soul?

Soon after the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of United States soldiers, believers flooded the twitterverse with expressions of joy and, strangely, some appeals for restraint in celebration. Their reasoning? I’ll let the following explain. It’s an exchange between a prominent Christian tweep and his followers.

@Leader:  “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” (Proverbs 24:17)

 @Follower1:  @Leader Respectfully, “when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy” Proverbs 11:10

 @Leader: @Follower1 One is descriptive (Prov. 11:10); the other is prescriptive (Prov. 24:17).

 @Follower2: @Leader Justice served is cause for celebration. You misapply Prov. 24:17.

 @Leader: @ Follower2  I’m not saying it shouldn’t have been done. But it is not a cause for rejoicing. Taking of any life is reason for grief

 @ Follower3: @Leader: Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, ..do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles. (Proverbs 24:17)/How r we to respond?

 @Leader: @ Follower3  How did Jesus respond to his enemies? See the Sermon on the Mount, especially Mt. 5:43-48.

I found the leader’s comments troubling for a couple of reasons. First, he appears to undervalue justice to the point at which his sympathy for a stubbornly unrepentant mass murderer almost turned joy into mourning. It’s almost as if he saw bin Laden as a victim of his own evil rather than a responsible moral agent in control of his own choices. Osama bin Laden is not a victim. He understood that God would see justice done, and—like each of us—he was given a choice in how justice would be accomplished with respect to his own sins. He could allow the Son of God to bear the penalty of his sin, or he could bear the penalty himself. He chose the latter. While we must never rejoice over the eternal torment of a soul, neither should we temper our celebration when good triumphs over evil.

When one of the leader’s followers suggested it was morally permissible to rejoice in the triumph of justice—specifically when an unrepentant evildoer receives recompense for his evil—the leader refuted him, referencing this portion of the Lord’s sermon:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:43–48)

It should be noted that the entire New Testament must be read in light of Revelation. God is merciful—delaying punishment for the evil we do—and He is just—promising to punish sin. He is a God of kindness and He is a God of wrath. Yet He doesn’t hold those two qualities in tension. His kindness and wrath don’t tug Him in opposite directions. He doesn’t feel any conflict. The Lord’s kindness and wrath exist as two expressions of the same quality: love. To quote Chuck Swindoll’s commentary on Romans:

A God of love must also have the capacity for anger. However, the wrath of God is not the kind of bellowing anger we have come to associate with abusive people. Paul described the Creator’s response to sin using the Greek word orge, which means “upsurging.” When used to describe wrath, it is a passionate expression of outrage against wrongdoing and, in this context, it pictures the passionate righteous anger of God cresting the walls of heaven and spilling over onto earth. And while it is indeed a passionate, upsurging response, it is completely consistent with God’s character, which is also love. His wrath is, without question, fearsome, yet also controlled, deliberate, measured, and utterly just. His wrath is nothing less than a reasonable expression of His righteous character and His unfailing love when confronted with evil. God is love (1 John 4:8), which is why He will not stand idly by while evil consumes His creation.

In the same way both kindness and wrath exist in perfect harmony in God’s nature, so also we find justice and mercy coexisting perfectly in God’s grace. “Grace” is not merely another word for “mercy.” Mercy is but one expression of grace; justice is another. Because God loves people, He hates sin. Because “He will not stand idly by while evil consumes His creation,” justice will eventually prevail.  Justice, therefore, is God’s kindness given to victims of unrepentant evildoers. This is grace given to all of creation, withheld only from those who reject it.

The fact is, Jesus delivered His sermon on mercy and forgiveness during His first advent in full knowledge of what He would do upon His return. God has promised that He will eradicate evil from His creation either by Christ’s redeeming blood or through His avenging fire. Even though some–in fact, many–will go to eternal suffering, God will be satisfied. His conscience remains clear because He gave all evildoers–all of us–the opportunity to receive His mercy.

In the end of days, God’s mercy will eventually give way to wrath, which will consume all evil. And the saints will rejoice! (Jer. 51:48; Rev. 12:12; 18:20) Not over the demise of people, but in the triumph of good over evil. The recipients of mercy will not delight in the death of souls, but they will revel in the justice of God.

This is good and right. The Lord loves justice, and so should His people.

by Luke Gilkerson

How many times have you heard a story about an Internet-related problem in the past few months? I’m not just talking about things like identity theft or cyber crime—I’m talking about all the poor uses of the Internet that seem to ruin lives and dissolve our most important relationships.

  • Headlines speak of the latest Internet predator caught in the act of grooming a teenager.
  • New reports come out weekly about how slanderous words exchanged over e-mail or Facebook lead to broken hearts or shattered reputations.
  • More and more studies show modern families are becoming engrossed in technology, so much so their face-to-face relationships are suffering.
  • Literally millions of websites with graphic and degrading sexual content are available to see at the click of a mouse, and this doesn’t even include all the “grey areas” of temptation and titillation.

The common thread

What is the common thread for all of these problems? Some want to blame the technology itself. The Internet has given us a level of accessibility that, perhaps, many people are not ready to have. While this is one common thread, I don’t believe is it the most important one. I believe the problem is not mostly technological, but relational.

One of the more insidious common threads that runs through Internet-related dangers is that of anonymity. The Internet gives us the ability to experience, explore, and express ourselves in total secrecy. Knowing no one has to know what I do, what I see, or who I talk to often lowers our defenses and removes our inhibitions.

Many times, this cloak of secrecy brings out the worst in us and exposes us to the worst in others. We are like Gyges of Lydia (mentioned by Plato), who found a magic ring that could make him invisible. Intoxicated with his new power, this once-humble shepherd snuck into the palace, seduced the queen, plundered the palace, and assassinated the king. In a similar fashion, today we hide behind monitors and smartphones so we can be seduced by flickering pixels, squander our time in endless amusement, and slaughter one another with our words.

Accountability vs. anonymity

In our always-plugged-in culture, the battle must be waged on two fronts.

The first front is the gate of our own hearts. Try as we might, we cannot blame technology for corrupting us. Technology has only exposed how easily corruptible we really are.

The first front, therefore, is our accountability to God Himself. We must admit to ourselves and to God our weaknesses when it comes to living lives of faith in the Information Age. We must train ourselves and our children to recognize that, despite the apparent anonymity of the online world, nothing escapes God’s penetrating gaze. He is always present.

The second front of the battle is our connection to other people. Despite the fact that much of our time online is private time, we should not be seduced into believing what we do online does not impact others.

The second front, therefore, is our accountability to each other. We must live transparent and open lives before those we trust. Doing this shatters the strong illusion of anonymity, which stops temptations and traps before they start. For the sake of ourselves and our children, we must counter the culture of secrecy with a new culture of accountability.

A tool that makes the job easier

The reason I’m so passionate about this is because I’ve spoke to countless people who have experienced the dark side of the Internet. I’ve listened to wives cry over their husband’s raging porn addictions. I’ve seen fathers bury their heads in anxiety over the photos their son saw online late at night. I’ve spoken with young women who, in their teen years, were seduced by men three times their age online. I’ve spoken to people whose reputations are shattered because of the vicious words shared the Internet.

I’ve also spoken to many people whose lives have been changed by Internet accountability. This is why I love my job at Covenant Eyes.

For 11 years Covenant Eyes’ goal has been the same: provide people with practical tools that encourage accountability online. Over a decade ago we pioneered an Internet accountability service, providing people with easy-to-read reports of how the Internet is used in their home so they can be transparent with others. Over the years, and with the help of hundreds of thousands of comments from our members, these reports have gone through many evolutions.

The most recent evolution was a brand new web rating system. Many people benefit from rating systems for other forms of entertainment—like movies or video games—and yet the Internet is one of the primary sources for entertainment and information today. Why not rate the Web too?

This is exactly what Covenant Eyes does. When you use Covenant Eyes on your PC, Mac, or mobile device, every web address you visit is catalogued and rated according to six age-based ratings (like T for Teen or M for Mature). All of that information is put into a report and e-mailed regularly to a friend, mentor, spouse, parent, or anyone else you want to see it. The Web ratings make the report easy to scan for relevant information.

Plus, the reports are totally customizable. Perhaps you’re a parent who wants to see what your 10-year-old does online: you might want to see when Teen websites are accessed. Or perhaps you’re a guy who is holding your friend from church accountable: you might want to see only when Mature or Highly Mature sites are accessed. It’s entirely up to you.

The reason for all this detail is simple: Covenant Eyes knows the most important element of accountability is conversation. If a report is too cumbersome, includes too much or not enough information, or doesn’t highlight potential problems, then informed conversations don’t happen.

And in a world where sin thrives in the anonymity of the Web, can we afford not to expose these dark places to the light of accountability?

. . . .

Luke Gilkerson is the general editor and primary author of Breaking Free, the Covenant Eyes blog. Luke has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and is working on an MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. Before working at Covenant Eyes he spent six years as a college campus minister. He is also the author of Porn in the Pews: Teaching Your Church about the Dangers of Pornography. He lives in Michigan with his wife Trisha and two sons, Bradley and Cameron.

In his epic ode to love, Paul the apostle declared, “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). Good words for today, when gentleness is such a rare quality in relationships. Unfortunately, our desire to be patient and kind can also lead to passivity when a loved one begins to fall into sin. While it might seem loving to step lightly and speak softly when a loved one begins a pattern of wrongdoing, nothing could be more dangerous to a relationship. Here’s why:

Passivity Camouflages a Trap

Passivity allows a wayward loved one to gradually and comfortably enter Satan’s trap. An old folk legend claims that a frog dropped into a kettle of boiling water will immediately recognize the danger to his life and waste no time leaping out. However, a frog placed in a kettle at room temperature will happily continue to bask as the water is slowly heated, even to the point of boiling. The legend has become a standard illustration for the mortal danger of gradual change.

Sin is a trap that hypnotizes its victim into thinking that all is well. Convinced that the first transgression caused no harm, the wayward one rationalizes his or her decision. Meanwhile, Satan works overtime to insulate his prey from reality and to provide an opportunity to take sin a step further. Gradually, “bad” behavior seems less and less bad until the person becomes capable of astounding evil with little or no feelings of remorse. It’s not uncommon for a deluded sinner to become convinced that others are ultimately responsible for his or her sin and, in many cases, that the destructive behavior is actually good!

Whereas truth frustrates this gradual twisting of the mind, passivity allows Satan greater opportunity to isolate and deceive his prey. The wayward loved one needs, more than anything, a shocking dose of reality. The most loving response is to turn up the heat so that he or she will sense the danger and escape Satan’s trap.

Passivity Reinforces Sinful Behavior

Passivity reinforces the false promise of sin that we can do whatever we want without suffering negative consequences.

As Eve gazed at the forbidden fruit hanging within easy reach, she saw that it was “good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes” (Gen. 3:6). A serpent saw her longing gaze and moved a little closer. “You surely will not die!” (v. 4). His words contradicted her Creator’s stern warning; nevertheless, she and her husband swallowed Satan’s poisonous lie. And from that moment on, nothing would ever be the same. Within hours, the couple stood trembling as God explained how they would experience the consequences of disobedience. “Death” would not come immediately. Worse, death would painfully distort all of creation; death would come with sudden, unexpected certainty; and death would carry the soul to yet another kind of death, an eternal death too horrific to describe.

Imagine if, instead, God had remained passive and silent. At lunchtime the following day, Adam and Eve return to the forbidden tree to find the serpent lounging in its branches, wearing a contented smile. “See? What did I tell you? There you stand, quite alive! Take off that silly fig leaf underwear and have another delicious meal—on me.”

Fortunately, the Lord didn’t remain passive. Moved by love, He confronted Adam and Eve, opened their eyes to the consequences of their disobedience, and then cast them out of the Garden to make repeated sin more difficult (Gen. 3:22–24). His righteous anger reaffirmed His earlier warning that eternal life and disobedience cannot coexist. Sin leads to death. It’s a fundamental law of the universe that’s as predictable and as certain as gravity.

Remaining passive while someone balances precariously on the edge of skyscraper is not love. A wayward loved one needs intervention, not the casual affirmation of a passive response to sin.

Passivity Allows Sin to Harm Others

Passivity allows the destructive consequences of sin to devastate the innocent. Sin is a fire that destroys everything it touches. Substance abuse, rage, violence, sexual immorality, abandonment, neglect—any sin that burns out of control affects everyone, especially children. And a passive response to unrepentant sin is like standing idle while an arson sets fire to the people we love.

Passivity Undermines Respect

Passivity undermines a crucial element of any healthy relationship: respect. In his book Love Must Be Tough, Dr. James Dobson warns that nothing destroys a romantic relationship quicker than passivity and appeasement. On the other hand,

Successful marriages usually rest on a foundation of accountability between husbands and wives. They reinforce responsible behavior in one another by a divinely inspired system of checks and balances. In its absence, one party may gravitate toward abuse, insult, accusation, and ridicule of the other, while his or her victim placidly wipes away the tears and mutters with a smile, ‘Thanks, I needed that!'”1

Love

Love That Is Tough

Unlike passivity, a proactive response to unrepentant sin reflects the character of God. He is relentlessly loving yet utterly uncompromising when it comes to behavior that undermines our relationship. Similarly, our loving response to sin must come from a place of strength, and sometimes, love must take strong, decisive, even aggressive action.

Tough love requires courage. Paul’s ode to love also declares that our selfless care for another “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). That means we may have to endure a period of time when our loved one doesn’t like us very much. But if we cling to the truth of God’s Word, and steadfastly reject destructive behavior, and with unwavering devotion call our wayward loved one to turn from wrongdoing, we offer our loved one a compelling reason to escape the trap of sin, and a chance to experience love as God intended it: love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

1 James Dobson, Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Families in Crisis (Dallas: Word, 1996), 19.

When my wife of eighteen years closed the door on our marriage and drove away to meet her lover, I crumpled to the floor and sobbed uncontrollably. The news of her nine-month affair and her decision to leave me and our two children came just minutes apart, and out of nowhere. We never fought. We had just purchased a new home and had just planned the next five years of our family’s future. We had left our old marital difficulties behind and had built a strong intimacy before moving to Dallas to attend seminary. Our children openly boasted about the health of their parents’ marriage and the stability of our home. Everything was good.

Or so I thought.

The road to recovery was long and dark. I crawled at first. Then, I managed to hobble. In time, I grew strong enough to take long strides and recover from inevitable tumbles quickly. Eventually, I grew strong enough to stand up straight and ask myself a painfully difficult question: “What was my part?”

Find out how I answered that question, and how it applies to wives of porn addicts at the Breaking Free blog at CovenantEyes.com.

The second volume of Chuck Swindoll’s New Testament Insights series, Insights on John, will be available in July 2010.

I just received the author’s copy today, and I’m thrilled to see it in print!

Here is an exclusive seek peek at Chuck’s Insights on John IV 1-42. Click to download a PDF.

(All rights reserved. This is for you personal use only. Do not duplicate or transmit any portion of this sample.)

Not long ago, a couple asked to spend some time with Charissa and me. They were both divorced (due to the infidelity of their former partners), had met at church, and planned to marry soon. They had heard we had walked their path and had successfully blended a household with four teens (two hers and two mine).

All of our children were fifteen and older, so our job had been infinitely easier than most. Nevertheless, we did learn some great lessons. To prepare for our meeting with this very wise, mature, conscientious couple, Charissa and I tried to condense our hard-knock lessons down to something manageable. Here are the principles, rules, and tips we decided a blending family should consider.

Most of these principles, rules, and tips apply to parenting in general, but become especially important when becoming parents of a blended family.

Principles

Rules without a relationship always lead to rebellion.

You cannot become an authority until you have been an advocate.

Children need to feel some measure of control over their own lives; when they feel powerless, they rebel.

All children were created equal, but they were not created the same.

You can parent by controlling your children, or by earning their trust, never both.

You can be the very best mom or dad in the world, but you will never overcome biology.

Children always abuse the parent they trust most.

Sibling rivalry comes from a perception that there isn’t enough parental love to go around.

Children feel most secure when the marriage is strong.

Rules

Never disagree in front of the children. Remain silent, address the issue later, and make adjustments together.

Never discipline your spouse’s child; gently report problem behavior to your spouse, and focus on behavior, not perceived motives.

Never speak negatively of your spouse’s children, particularly in reference to their temperament, character, abilities, or prior upbringing.

Diligently guide each of your own children in the way each should go, and trust your spouse to do the same.

Discipline your own, but bless all of the children individually and equally.

Give priority to your mate as the best means of caring for your children.

Tips

Turn power-plays into opportunities to teach responsibility (decisions = consequences.)

Establish a procedure for resolving conflicts between step-siblings, explain the procedure to the children (as a couple), and follow it to the letter.

Make having fun together a priority by planning lots of opportunities; think creatively and seek variety. Encourage participation by inviting each child to join the fun. Entice; do not compel.

Whenever possible, give each child opportunities to make choices, especially those affecting the household.

Plan family meals in advance, giving each child his or her choice of meal on a given night.

Plan a family vacation within six months of the wedding, and make anticipation a stress reliever for the family.

During the first six months (at least), plan on the family consuming every spare moment. Suspend hobbies and activities, and postpone every outside commitment that isn’t absolutely necessary. Devote this time to your marriage and to getting your new family settled into place. Things will get better in time–and sooner than you think!–but only if you start well.

Blending lives will necessarily create turbulence. This is to be expected. But if you remain calm, take the turbulence in stride, and apply your principles and rules consistently, life will again become manageable. In fact, I think you’ll discover as we did, that having these guiding principles, rules, and tips in place will solve a lot of problems before they arise. Charissa and I found the blending of our households to be a joyful experience, providing memories all six of us continue to cherish.

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