When You Find Out You Have an Enemy

When I was growing up, even into high school and college, I would read psalms and other passages of Scripture and not be able to relate to when there were references to “enemies.”

I never had enemies. There was a guy that I didn’t really get along with for most of high school — God sent him to the same college as me to work that out — but other than that I didn’t have anyone that I hated and he/she hated me, or that there was tension between.

So I’d read things like this — “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28) — I wouldn’t get it. It wouldn’t make sense.

That’s changed in the last year.

About one year ago, I did a series of stories on a hot topic in Lee County — I work for a North Carolina newspaper, for those of you that don’t know me. Everything was factual, accurate, well-researched and documented. I was proud of the work I did.

Almost instantly, for the first time in my life, I received an outpouring of backlash that’s continued to this day. People started giving me affectionate nicknames, like #FakeNewsZach or #NoFactZach, saying my reporting was #FakeNewsbyZacharyHorner. I had people who used to love me and praise me begin to fuss at me, call me a liar. I would say hello to people and they’d ignore me. They attacked my family. They spread lies about me and my family.

That’s about as much detail as I’ll go into here.

It really refreshed my view of verses like Psalm 5:8 — “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.”

When we’re attacked, when our enemies go after us, when we get maligned and lied about, it’s a chance for us to grow in righteousness. David, the writer of Psalm 5, pleads for God to lead him in righteousness because of his enemies. When we’re attacked, we have the opportunity to show others what a life filled with Christ looks like — integrity, honesty, steadfastness.

It’s not an opportunity for us to bite back, to criticize, to hold hateful attitudes. I admit freely that my heart has not always been in the right place, that I’ve said and thought rude and mean-spirited things about my “enemies.” It’s a tough thing.

But it’s my desire daily to try to kill those thoughts, those feelings. I’m trying. And that’s where Psalm 5:8 challenges me. I hope it challenges you too.



What Role Does God’s Word Play in Our Lives?

I haven’t written in a while, at least on this blog, and I’d like to get back into it.

To be honest with you, ideas have been a little dry. I haven’t really had much to write about lately, at least spiritual things. I’ve been writing about local elections in Sanford — which is plenty enough — but as far as things to do with Jesus and God, it’s been little.

As I evaluate why that is, one thing comes to mind — I haven’t been reading the Bible very much recently. I’ve written about this before in a post. Many times in my life, the motivation to read just hasn’t been there. And that’s OK. God doesn’t condemn us to hell or shun us for not looking at His Word.

But as I sat down a little bit ago to look at Scripture, I realized the point of it, and the role that Scripture should play in our lives.

I’m slowly reading through Deuteronomy. I say slowly because it hasn’t been anywhere near consistent. That’s a whole other conversation in itself. But as I read today’s passage, chapter 6, I learned something about the importance of God’s Word in the life of a Christian. I’ve probably written about this before, but I got a fresh look at it.

In the early part of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are on the brink of entering the Promised Land, and Moses, who will not be entering into that land with them, is giving them final instructions. Much of it has been given before in the Pentateuch — commandments, instructions on sacrifices, etc. As chapter 6 rolls around, we see perhaps one of the most important commandments Moses gives to the Israelites (v. 6-9):

…these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I did a bit of digging and found that many Jews have applied, and some continue to apply, these verses literally. Some context:

Phylacteries, sometimes called tefillin, are small, square leather boxes containing portions of Scripture worn by Conservative and Orthodox Jews during prayer services. Phylacteries are worn in pairs—one phylactery is strapped on the left arm, and one is strapped to the forehead of Jewish men during weekday morning prayers. The word phylactery comes from a Greek word meaning “safeguard, protection, or amulet.”

The Scripture is literally bound to their arms and foreheads. Whether or not you want to interpret this Scripture literally is up to you — I’m not quite sure what the proper response is here — but the concept is enlightening.

If something is on our heart, it is something we’re passionate about. It’s something we’re driven by. One of my passions, something that’s “on my heart,” is to help educate Christians and the church about mental illnesses like depression and anxiety and help remove the stigma. That’s part of my driving force. That’s what helps guide me in my life. It helps guide what I think, what I say, what I do.

If Scripture is on our heart, as Moses commands the Israelites here, it will be our driving force. It will guide what we think, what we say, what we do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t places for other passions. But Scripture, God’s Word, guides the pursuit of those passions as well.

Moses instructs the Israelites to construct physical reminders of Scripture, and to have conversation wherever we go about it. There’s instruction to pass God’s Word along to children raised in a faithful household.

Scripture, God’s Word, the commandments, the instructions — they’re designed to be everywhere in our lives, whether visible or not, audible or not. They’re designed to be immensely practical and immensely applicable in any and every situation. To say that the Bible isn’t relevant is to miss the point, to miss the purpose of the crafting of God’s Word.

There is no arena — our homes, our bedrooms, our breakfast tables, the places we go everyday — where Scripture is not to have an influence. That means on Facebook, at the coffee house, at the small group meeting, at the football game. Wherever we walk, wherever we go, Scripture is to be our guide. There is no place where Scripture is not influential and relevant.

And we must strive to not let it ever become that way.

We will mess up in this, we’ll forget. We’re humans. We’re flawed. It’s wonderful that there’s a truth in that Scripture that reminds us we’re loved and cared for and forgiven when we don’t do things the way they’re laid out in that Scripture.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

The Bible Is Infallible. How We Understand It Is an Entirely Different Story.

I was listening to the Bad Christian Podcast yesterday on my drive back from my fiancée’s work Christmas party. The guest was Dave Bazan, formerly of Pedro the Lion. Bazan was formerly a Christian but left the faith several years ago.

He was talking about the Bible and how Christians view it and said something that struck me (podcast link here, 1:08:28 is the time when it’s said):

In certain forms of Christianity, you believe that you’re drawing from this infallible kind of document. But your relationship with that document is not infallible.

Now, you can write off what he said because you might think that he’s a non-believer and clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about because of that, but I think he hit on a very important point.

Yes, the Bible is infallible. There is nothing in it that is not truth. There may be some parables that may not have actually happened, but the lessons and the spiritual wisdom behind them are truth.

However, we have infallible minds. Our minds are weak and feeble when compared to the great wisdom of Scripture. Put it this way: if we dudes can’t understand the things that women do sometimes, there’s no way we can ever think we’ve got a grasp on life.

Particularly the Bible.

That’s right. We won’t ever have a total grasp or understanding of God’s Word as it was intended to be written.

What. No. That can’t be.

Since the Bible is of God and is spiritual wisdom much higher than earthly wisdom (as I wrote about yesterday), we will never fully get it. We accept it, and we believe it, but we will never fully get it. And we just might be wrong about what we believe it says.

There might be a verse like Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” OK cool. Face-value reading: Love God, and He’ll give you what you want. But if you put a little more thought into it, you might come to this reading: If you find your joy in God and the things of God, He’ll give you what you want. And what you want will be what He wants because you find your joy in Him.

In that first reading, you didn’t get the whole picture. In the second reading, you may have gone a little deeper. Heck, it may be your fifth or sixth thought before you come to that final conclusion.

But you still may be wrong.

In my mind at least, this begs the question: Why even try to understand it? If it’s not completely understandable by our brains, then why give the effort? If we’re going to fail, what’s the point?

We need to put time and effort into understanding the Bible because our spiritual lives, and therefore our whole lives, depend on it. We just need to be reading it with an open hand.

A lot of us come into reading anything with a bias of some kind, some kind of lens with which we examine a text. Prosperity gospel believers might read the Bible with the idea that God is looking to bless us with material things and health here on earth, so they’ll read the text looking for things to support that belief. People like me who think the prosperity gospel is a bunch of baloney will read the text looking for things to refute that. It’s just a simple psychological thing we do.

If our understanding of the Bible was able to be infallible, I don’t think there would be any disagreement on how we interpret it.

Now, since my mind is fallible, I could be completely wrong about this! I could be missing out on something that would prove me wrong. I do believe there is one correct reading of Scripture, I just believe that we’re never going to grasp all of it this side of heaven. We may get to the pearly gates and golden streets and be like, “Dang, I completely misread that.” This is where three things come into play.

We have to read Scripture with an open hand and open mind.

Since we may be wrong about how we read the Bible, we have to be open to being wrong. We’ve got to push that pride aside and be willing to be wrong and be corrected. After all, 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Correction and reproof (criticism) are what the Bible is for, in a way.

We need to trust God with what we believe now and what we don’t understand.

There are definitely things I thought a couple years ago that I disagree with now based on my reading of the Bible. But a little bit down the line, I may be reading something and think, “Man, I hadn’t even considered this before!” In this uncertainty, I’ve got to learn to trust God that what I believe now is right, but also trust that the things I don’t understand are still true. There are certain things in Scripture I think are pretty clear – salvation, Jesus’ life, so on and so forth. But there are other things that I can definitely grow in my understanding of.

We need to trust God that other people are on a journey with the Bible like we are.

Just because we read the Bible differently than we do doesn’t mean we’re smarter or better. Who knows, we may be wrong and the prosperity gospel people may be right! I don’t think that’s the case, but you never know for sure. I think this is part of loving others – trusting God that the people we disagree with will find their way and not beating them over the head with criticisms and such about their views.

This takes a lot of patience, a lot of trust and a lot of faith. But it’s faith worth having.

Even if we’re completely wrong about the Bible, one thing Scripture is clear on is that God loves His children no matter how sinful they are. God so loved the world that He gave Jesus, right? And 1 John 4 says God displays His love through the work of Christ on the cross, the substitutionary atonement of the Son of God.

You can take that to the bank.