Would you Want This Verse on Your Coffee Cup?

coffee mug enemies - Copy

Does this verse sound unkind? Why is it even in the Bible? How does it square with the message of love, love, nothing but love that we hear in our contemporary worship songs? Or line up with this old hymn: “Gentle Jesus meek and mild.”

Two thoughts about this verse:

First, note that the writer of this Psalm is not taking matters into his own hands. We are not talking about a Charles Bronson Death Wish vigilante movie! No, the writer is asking God to take care of it.

As Paul said:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  (Romans 12:19).

Second, Jesus is more patient than the Psalmist. God’s wrath is real but Jesus has given it a delay. Jesus has mercifully postponed the sentiment expressed on the coffee cup, by allowing us to live in an age where God’s grace, love, patience and mercy are triumphing over his judgment.

Peter expresses it beautifully:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)

We want to respond to this news by steering people to the love of Christ and the offer of repentance, forgiveness and salvation that he makes. Yet, we also give a loving warning by letting people know that the patience of God really will end one day and then it will be too late. So we don’t stop pleading and persuading.

Today, you are in one of two camps: You are either very thankful for the redemption Jesus accomplished for you, or you are receiving a loving warning to respond to God’s offer before it is too late.

Who is God’s Candidate?

Knowing that most evangelicals are right-wing Republicans, I was curious about how the evangelical Christian left viewed current political issues. Did they have a convincing, biblical, well thought-out analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of both the Democratic and Republican parties?

So, I looked at what Jim Wallis and Sojourners magazine had to say. Their counsel:  Without question, Christians should adopt the Democrats’ platform, because the Bible teaches that an increase in the power of government will bring more of God’s righteousness and justice to our land. Ironically, though, I found them to be the exact mirror image of the right wing, who say that the Bible teaches that a smaller government and more individual initiative will bring more of God’s righteousness and justice to our land. So instead of being hardline Republicans the Christian left has become hardline Democrats!

Each side is skeptical about how anyone who calls themself a Christian could be a supporter of the other party. Even more, few Republicans or Democrats are willing to admit that the opposite party is more correct on any issue.

In my home state I was tempted to vote for someone from the other party for Senator. I had the impression that this guy stood for a higher value than mere party loyalty. I was extremely disappointed when, in a town hall meeting, they asked him to name one area in which he disagreed with his national party. “There are none” he said. This gentleman did not get my vote.

Both sides fall into a trap when they appeal to the Bible. They have decided which party they are loyal to first, and then they go back into the Bible to prove that the Bible shows their party is on God’s side.  It’s hard to take off the blinders and go to the Bible first.

Now I’ll give you a variation on the challenge that was given in the Senatorial town hall: considering who you usually vote for, see if you can find one issue where the other party is more biblical. As someone who votes Republican or Libertarian, I have tried to read what the biblical prophets say with an open mind. As I see their concern for the downtrodden and the ripped-off, then I must admit that the Democrats are stronger on some of the social justice issues. Even if I don’t vote for them this year, at least I’ll stop viewing them as enemies of America!

Piles of Penalty Revenue

 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
(Psalm 146:7,9)

Are conservative evangelicals good at personal piety but unconcerned about systemic wrongs? Based on today’s verses from Psalms, I contend that a policy that is deliberately designed to funnel money from the worse off to the better off is unbiblical and should concern us.

Recently Wells Fargo admitted that between 2002 and 2016, it “falsified bank records, harmed the credit ratings of customers, unlawfully misused their personal information and wrongfully collected millions of dollars in fees and interest.” 1

Wells Fargo sales representatives, egged on and threatened by their bosses, told customers taking out car loans with them that they were required to buy car loan insurance. This was a lie: there was no such requirement. When that happens, does God hold “the corporation” responsible or the individuals who, out of greed, set the bogus policy? And who should be punished? The bosses who set the policy? The sales reps?

The penalty so far: A fine of $3 billion. And that’s not the last case against Wells Fargo.

God opposes rip-offs of all kinds but the biblical prophets and Psalms have a special ire towards those who rip off the poor.

Consider astronomical late fees on credit cards — charges that far exceed what the delays cost the credit card company. Remember when every credit card, not just the exclusive ones, had an annual membership fee? The annual fees on regular cards have disappeared while the past due payment penalties skyrocketed. So now ironically, those living paycheck to paycheck who can least afford it are huge drivers of credit card company profits and those who can most afford it get a free ride.

(And don’t get me started on overdraft fees on checking accounts………..)

Many argue these issues can be solved with an increase in regulations. But isn’t the real problem here a culture of greed? Can we legislate greed away? Can a company squeezing out every last penny from its poorer customers be forced by law and regulation to behave with sense of “social responsibility”? I doubt it.

But let me recommend a program like Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, extremely helpful for those who are trapped in debt. They also have a great online community on Facebook, encouraging each other to follow the steps. Much harder for banks and credit cards to accumulate mass penalty revenue from struggling people if enough folks followed those steps!

  1. https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/21/business/wells-fargo-settlement-doj-sec/index.html

 

COVID Running

mind the gap

We sure get a lot of COVID warnings and decrees nowadays!

One decree shut down all our county and state parks. One county park, Tourne, is not too far from the pictured roadside path.  (Long ago, this path was a trolley car route).

The park shutdowns annoyed me.  After all, I have been running in our county for 25 years. And never before did I have someone telling me where I could not go for my run!

So, one weekday at the quiet end of the park, there was no one in sight.  So I snuck around a barricade and ran…. through the park.

But afterwards I did feel a little weird. What if I had fallen down and could not get up? No one would ever find me!

But more importantly I was also becoming a law unto myself, deciding on my own which laws were worth obeying. That’s not really consistent……….with what I profess to believe.

So, I did not run that route again. Thankfully, though, the issue became moot when the county and state parks got reopened.

I am thankful for my solo runs, but I sure do miss group runs. And runners standing shoulder to shoulder waiting for the start of a 5K. And then heading out for postrace beer and pub fare.

We all say the same thing the Psalmist did in Psalm 89 and Psalm 13:  How long, Lord?

Lord knows when. But this will pass.

In the meantime:  Happy running!