Monday, January 28, 2013

Word Play: To Love versus To Despise

In a few short weeks, American households will overflow with hearts, flowers, stuffed animals, jewelry, and cards with words meant to make us feel loved.

But if you can look past the materialism, the continued existence of this holiday implies that people need a reminder to show and express love to others.  The reason?  

Love doesn’t come naturally.

And a totally selfless love like Jesus showed us on the cross?  Well, that is an impossible love on our own.  As Christians, even with the Holy Spirit residing within us, we struggle against our flesh to love other humans as Christ first loved us--with selfless abandon.

And if we have trouble selflessly loving the talking, walking bodies around us, you can bet it’s even more difficult to love God with our everything when we can’t even picture His actual face or hear His audible voice.

As such, it is difficult to fully obey the command to: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).

Loving is difficult.  But despising the Lord?  That’s easier than you might think.

A few years ago, I wrote on King David and his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. David was a man whom God labelled “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22). He was a man who walked with God in such an intimate relationship that the book of Psalms lays bare a level of love for God that I envy.

Yet, in the midst of loving God, David loved his flesh more. He saw, took, and impregnated Bathsheba in an act of adultery. And when his sin was about to be discovered, he sent her husband, Uriah, to the front lines, sealing that man’s death before taking Bathsheba as his wife.

How he thought he’d get away with it is beyond me. And in the depths of his heart, I think he probably didn’t. But outwardly, David was proceeding through life as if nothing had happened, as if he weren’t guilty of adultery and murder. So, God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David.

Nathan didn’t pull any punches either: “Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife” (2 Sam. 12:9-10, my Italics).

Here, God used "despised" twice to describe David's sin, a word that means “to hold in contempt…to hold in disdain, to disrespect”*

God used this same word earlier in Scripture when talking about those who sin “intentionally” or “defiantly.” He said, “the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him" (Num. 15:30-31, my Italics).

To willfully, intentionally sin when knowing it goes against God’s commands—that’s what it means to “despise” God.

Ouch. Our culture doesn’t want to use such harsh words like “despise.” We want to call our sin a “mistake,” a “lack of self control,” or a “lapse in judgment.”  But God doesn’t play the politically-correct-pass-the-buck game. His words are precise and accurate, even if they make us squirm in our seats.

Any time we intentionally go against God’s commands, we are choosing to despise God.

Can you grasp the severity of that?

In Malachi, God asks a question that easily applies to Christians today: “A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? And if I be a master, where is my fear? Saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name” (1:6).

In Christ, we are a kingdom of priests.  We are those who despise the name of the Lord with our lack of reverence and fear of God the Father.

We must be careful to not let our concept of sin be influenced by the world’s attempt to “rename” sins. It may sound more palatable and less personally convicting to minimize our sins—to call adultery an “indiscretion,” to call homosexuality an “alternative lifestyle,” to call lying “a partial truth,” or to call blasphemy a “slip of the tongue.”

But God calls it sin. God calls it despising Him.

What we call it doesn’t matter.

*The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament. AMG Publishers, 2003: 125.

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