September 14, 2014

Staying on God’s side of the line

When Islamist militants arrived August 7, Christians who lived in the ancient Christian town of Qaraqosh had just minutes to flee. It happened just before midnight. Panicked people ran through the streets to escape fighters disguised as medics who were shooting people from ambulances. Cars and trucks jammed the road. There was no time to pack food or water. (Source)

They fled to Erbil, the largest city in the Kurdish-controlled area of Iraq. The trip took nine hours instead of the normal one. When they reached Erbil, they had only their lives and the clothes on their back.

Since then, the plight of these people often comes to mind. When I read this verse, I also thought of those who are determined to kill these refugees: “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” (Psalm 119:136)

While the rest of us wonder what motivates such violence, most realize this is not God’s idea. It is more like the description of those ancient times when “there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6)

For me, this points to another spiritual danger: allowing myself to become confused about right and wrong. I could condemn the militants called ISIS, but what about my own times of going my own way instead of obeying God? While the degree of rebellion might excuse my indiscretions as being minor in comparison, God does not draw a line somewhere along a ‘rebellion curve’ in deciding evil. For Him there is simply a line between God’s way and my way.

There is no gradual curve to measure sin. I’m either trusting God or myself, obeying God or following the dictates of my sinful heart. He says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5–7)

Danger lies ahead when I begin thinking that I am right. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

When something seems logical, it can also be dangerous. The notion of “I’m right” is far more subtle than can easily be labeled ‘foolish’ or ‘wise.’ My good ideas can seem just that, good ideas. Yet if I don’t consult God, they could fall into another category. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) If the end is not deadly, it can certainly be dangerous.

I’m so thankful for the restraining hand of God in my life. What would it be like to be one of those who is pursue and murdering Christians? What would it be like to be so bent on persecuting others that I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong?

I don’t know who wrote Psalm 119 but it is a blessing to read its wisdom coming from one who realized that God’s principles and guidance are good and right. He did not trust himself or his own understanding. The pressures of life threatened, but he held fast . . .

Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true. Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight. Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live. (Psalm 119:142–144)

When I grow up, I want to be just like that psalmist.

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