Primum Non Nocere

Primum Non Nocere is Latin for “First, do no harm.” It is a phrase used in the medical field as part of the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians:

As an important step in becoming a doctor, medical students must take the Hippocratic Oath. And one of the promises within that oath is “first, do no harm” (or “primum non nocere,” the Latin translation from the original Greek.) (Quote source here.)

Of course, those of us who aren’t physicians aren’t required to take an oath that we “first, do no harm” to others. In our relationships with others, whether family members or coworkers or friends including the myriad of people (even strangers in our midst) that we come into contact with on a daily basis, it is hopeful that our intent is to do no harm to them. However, that isn’t always true.

Fractured relationships, whether personal or in business, political rivalries, divorce, and even such things as greed and jealousy get in the way and keep lawyers very busy making a living off of the harm we do to others. And often, it is intentional harm that we do to others or that we are the recipient of from others.

In an article published on December 21, 2017, in Psychology Today titled, Why Do We Harm Each Other?” by Dale M. Kushner, MFA, author and investigator of the intersection between creativity, healing, and spirituality, she writes:

Not long ago, while doing research for my second novel, I interviewed a man who’d grown up in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. Beirut, once called the Paris of the Middle East, had been a city known for its beauty and cultural sophistication where Maronite Christians, Druze, Sunni and Shia Muslims lived peaceably side by side. By 1958, however, sectarian politics had set neighbor against neighbor and engendered hatred between the groups. As my interviewee remembered, “The dear friend you played with as a boy might now knock on your door and shoot your mother in the face.”

How do we make sense of this? How could former friends and neighbors suddenly commit egregious acts of violence? Reading the oral histories of war victims suggests a pattern: under certain conditions, especially during times of state upheaval or governmental collapse, ordinary people can be persuaded to commit atrocities or to enable others to commit them. The outer chaos of change and disruption fosters confusion that undermines our sense of trust and confidence and can deeply affect our inner lives. Empathy is the ability to feel another’s suffering, but during times of stress, when our circuits for handling negative emotions get exhausted, we grow numb to the fear mounting within us. Self-preservation becomes our focus and our instincts drive us to align with the powerful, the winning side.

We don’t have to look to war zones to see evidence of this. To a lesser degree, it’s enacted on the playground, in classrooms, in corporations and in government. Although it may be comforting to think of a crazed gunman, a revolutionary, or cult leader as the sole perpetrator of evil, “good citizens” everywhere, even in our own country, have been responsible for or complicit in reprehensible crimes in the form of slavery, sex trafficking, child labor and inhumane labor conditions.

Closer to home, who hasn’t indulged in or colluded with the more minor indecencies of taunting, bullying, hazing, name-calling or ostracism? Telling an ethnic-slurring joke may seem harmless; yet if we have been the brunt of such a joke, we feel its poisonous barb. To think of someone as a category–a gook, a geek, a Pole, a retard—is to ignore that person’s individuality and make them into a “thing.” It is easier to hate a “thing” than a creature that resembles ourselves.

Neither hatred nor anger completely explains how intelligent, rational people do the unthinkable. In their testimony, Eichmann and other Nazi officials responsible for the death of millions prided themselves on having a fondness for individual Jews. To them, their lack of hatred exonerated them from their horrendous deeds and proved they were superior to the crass killers who enjoyed murdering others. In the minds of these courteous and civilized killers, they were only doing their jobs (mass extermination), and doing them well, another source of pride.

How do cruelty and meanness become normalized? As philosopher Elizabeth Minnich, one-time assistant to Hannah Arendt, writes inThe Evil of Banality: On the Life and Death Importance of Thinking,” “We know that we humans can shift our minds into making sense of and accepting things that, before we became insiders of utterly distorted systems, we would have found impossible to imagine ourselves approving of, let alone doing.”

Many people in the U.S. are surprised by the rank bitterness, anger and hatred circulating in the zeitgeist. We may even be surprised by our own vitriol. Our neighbor voted for the other guy (or gal), and we wonder “How could he?” We feel our differences are irreconcilable. Our friend is no longer our friend, she is Other.

Imagine this: The Powerful declare that people with red hair are to be guarded against. Warnings are issued. At first, no one thinks much about the warnings or laughs them off. How can a group as diverse as red-haireds be lumped together as dangerous? But then the warnings increase, suspicion takes root, and rumors abound. Fear infects people’s thought processes. As the fear increases, red-haireds go from being shunned, to being taunted, to being hunted and killed. Some of the greatest sci-fi movies of the fifties,The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and the adaptation of George Orwell’s books,1984andAnimal Farm(the 1954 American animation was funded by the CIA), aptly symbolize our fear of “aliens,” the national paranoia of communism at that time, and the surreality of living under absolute power. Orwell’s books, in particular, depict how the accretion of propaganda can numb our brains and change our hearts and minds. Lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II wrote his own version of this phenomenon for the musical “South Pacific.”

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

In the preliminary stages of propaganda, people’s perceptions of the “Other” change. Maybe that red-haired banker is embezzling my cash. Should I trust my kids with the red-haired babysitter? Once perceptions change feelings about a person change. The Powerful proclaim red-haireds are cockroaches. Soon they begin to look like cockroaches. We notice they don’t walk, they scurry. They stink like garbage; they disgust us. The vilification of another leads to his objectification. We know from history that if we dehumanize a person, it’s easier to take violent action against her. If our neighbor is now a bug, sub-human, we are free to remove her from our society. Squash the cockroach!

In his excellent chapter “The Fascist State of Mind” in the book,Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience,” psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas lists the mental mechanisms we use to dispassionately de-personalize the Other. The list includes distortion or slander of the other’s point of view; denigration or belittling of the other; caricature, or the cartooning of the other individual; character assassination; change of name as in labeling, and name-calling.

Bollas wonders why we often seem to love our monsters, those “most gifted practitioners” who have achieved “places of prominence by viciously attacking others.” “Indeed,” Bollas writes, “they [the monsters] also seem to be objects of endearment to those who otherwise would be horrified by such behavior.” One way Bollas understands this phenomenon is that we may try to recover from the trauma this individual has perpetrated in our world “by reminding ourselves how, in so many other ways, this person is not only sane but likable.”

What we do know is that when propaganda and the distortion of truth rule, we have stopped paying attention to reality and have ceded moral reflection and self-awareness to an authority outside the Self. As social beings engaged until death with our connection to others, we are called to live a thinking and feeling life. When we dissociate from the depths of our self-knowledge and abdicate the cultivation of our hearts and minds, we make room for the shadowy “Bluebeards” to dominate our world.

Watch the 1954 animated adaptation of George Orwell’sAnimal Farm.” (Quote source here.)

An added note regarding the article above, the following quote is taken from a brief description of the book mentioned above by Elizabeth Minnich, Ph.D., titled,The Evil of Banality: On the Life and Death Importance of Thinking,” on Amazon.com:

How is it possible to murder a million people one by one? Hatred, fear, madness of one or many people cannot explain it. No one can be so possessed for the months, even years, required for genocides, slavery, deadly economic exploitation, sexual trafficking of children. InThe Evil of Banality,” Elizabeth Minnich argues for a tragic yet hopeful explanation. “Extensive evil,” her term for systematic horrific harm-doing, is actually carried out, not by psychopaths, but by people like your quiet next door neighbor, your ambitious colleagues. There simply are not enough moral monsters for extensive evil, nor enough saints for extensive good. In periods of extensive evil, people little different from you and me do its work for no more than a better job, a raise, the house of the family who “disappeared” last week. So how can there be hope? The seeds of such evils are right there in our ordinary lives. They are neither mysterious nor demonic. If we avoid romanticizing and so protecting ourselves from responsibility for the worst and the best of which humans are capable, we can prepare to say no to extensive evil—to act accurately, together, and above all in time, before great harm-doing has become the daily work of ‘normal’ people. (Quote source here.)

Now let’s look at the Biblical definition of good versus evil. The following is taken from Got Questions.org:

Among the most universal beliefs across all humanity is the concept of “good versus evil.” Every culture in every era has held to some version of this struggle. The definitions of the terms good and evil vary wildly, as do opinions on how they interact. Still, belief in some difference between that which is “good” and that which is “evil” pervades all of mankind. When all options and ideas are compared, only the Bible provides a perspective on good and evil that is fully coherent and fully livable (Psalm 25:6–15).

According to the Bible, “good versus evil” is not a matter of opinion. Nor is it an evenly matched struggle between two beings or forces. Scripture does not indicate that the boundaries of good and evil change. Nor does it claim the conflict between them will last forever. Of special importance is that the Bible does not suggest some people are good, while other people are evil.

Rather, the Bible teaches that good and evil are defined in reference to a perfect and unchanging God. Every person must grapple individually with the presence and temptations of evil. Scripture notes that all evil, without exception, will ultimately be punished and defeated. And it tells us there is an ultimate standard of goodness to which we should aspire—a standard grounded in a person, rather than a theory.

Good and Evil Are Objectively Distinct

According to the Bible, there is a real difference between good and evil. Some worldviews claim all moral distinctions are based purely on preference. Atheism, for instance, allows no objective basis for defining anything as “good” or “evil.” In a godless universe, there are only things a person prefers and things a person does not prefer. This is a key reason why philosophies embracing atheism always tend toward violence and tyranny: there is no sense of higher authority and no reason to moderate the whims of those in power.

The idea that defining good and evil depends on preferences or situations is commonly called moral relativism. Scripture rejects this idea as false. The Bible defines some things as “good” and other things as “evil” (Isaiah 5:20Romans 12:9). This dichotomy is reflected in the consistent use of themes such as light versus darkness (Isaiah 9:2Matthew 4:16John 1:5Ephesians 5:8). The ultimate fate of all people depends on whether they are aligned with a good God or opposed to Him (1 Corinthians 6:9–11Revelation 21:8).

Discerning between good and evil is possible only in reference to a single, unchanging standard: the perfect nature of God. God is not subject to morality, since He is the source and benchmark for it. Nor is morality subject to change, since God’s perfect nature is eternal and unchanging. Counters such as Euthyphro’s dilemma fail, since they do not distinguish between an eternal, unchanging God and the fickle deities of ancient Greek religion.

Good and Evil Are Not Balanced

A frequent component of fiction and fantasy is the idea that good and evil are equally balanced, evenly matched forces. According to this view, neither is ultimately in control. Either may eventually win. This is the concept of dualism, which suggests a perpetual balance between the forces of good and evil. In some cases, dualism implies that opposing beings, such as God and Satan, are deadlocked in a struggle for control and power.

Some worldviews teach that all good and evil will eventually be balanced. This is related to Eastern ideas such as karma, which implies that good and evil are inherently imbalanced but will one day be evened out.

Scripture rejects dualism as false. The Bible indicates that God is absolutely supreme and in no danger whatsoever of being defeated (Job 42:2Psalm 89:8Galatians 6:7). What Satan does, he is “allowed” to do, but he cannot act to overpower God (Job 1:12Revelation 9:120:7). Biblically, evil is destined only for defeat and destruction. Not one single act of evil will escape judgment; every sin will either be paid for by Christ on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21) or by those who reject Christ (John 3:36) as they experience an eternity in hell (Revelation 20:11–15).

Good and Evil Are Not External

Evidence that humanity holds to a basic concept of good versus evil is obvious (Romans 1:18–20). This explains why moral reasoning—separating “what is” from “what ought to be”—is a universal facet of humanity. Of course, that does not mean all people hold the same views on good and evil. We are not examining morality from the outside, as neutral observers; all moral discussions by definition involve the person(s) who discuss them, as well.

A unique aspect of the Bible’s teaching on good and evil is that all people, without exception, are subject to sin and evil (Romans 3:103:23). The biblical concept of a sin nature means that the line between good and evil cannot be drawn between people. Rather, it is drawn within every person. This fact of human nature is critical to understand (Matthew 15:19–20). As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously said, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

In simpler language, C.S. Lewis noted, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you” (see Matthew 6:14–15).

One truth found in the gospel is that all people, without exception, are sinners in need of a Savior. Biblical Christianity does not see good versus evil as a battle to be fought on earth (John 18:36), an issue to resolve by revenge or retribution (Romans 12:20–21), or a philosophical position to be considered. The Bible says every person is created for a good purpose (Genesis 1:27Galatians 3:28) but suffers from an evil heart (Romans 7:15–25), which can only be remedied by faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Redemption is available to anyone (Matthew 7:7–8Revelation 22:15), regardless of his past or the depth of his sin (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).

Good versus Evil Requires “Right Judgment”

Another key aspect of the Bible’s teaching on “good versus evil” is that no person is infallible, even on spiritual matters. Those who are guided by the Holy Spirit are better equipped to judge spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 2:14), and they ought to do so. Scripture is clear that all people are subject to sin, and it is just as clear that all people are subject to correction (Hebrews 12:5–11), learning (2 Timothy 2:15), and limitations (1 Samuel 16:7).

In Matthew 7 Jesus gives an extensive explanation of how to properly discern between good and evil: to “judge” in the correct way; that is, to use “right judgment” (John 7:24). The Bible commends examination (Acts 17:11), commands putting things to the test (1 John 4:1), and promotes accountability (1 Peter 3:15) and a commitment to truth (Galatians 1:8–9).

Scripture does not imply that “good versus evil” is a simplistic, binary concept. Since only God is ultimately perfect, the Bible allows for a “good versus better” spectrum. God called His initial creation “good” (Genesis 1:24), then after more creating called it “very good” (Genesis 1:28). Some of the good things God has given us have more than one use, and not all uses are automatically good or evil (1 Timothy 4:4). The biblical understanding of good versus evil does not imply that all things are either perfectly holy or wholly satanic. Rather, there can be good and bad aspects of many of the freedoms God gives us (1 Corinthians 6:12). Likewise, while all sin leads to separation from God, Scripture does speak of some sins as being more heinous than others.

The Bible acknowledges that not every moment in human experience will come with a clear, black-and-white moral answer. Scripture focuses only on the most important points we need to know, not every imaginable scenario (John 21:25). This means even the most sincere, Bible-believing, born-again Christians might disagree on an ethical question (1 Corinthians 10:23–33). The Bible’s answer—when the issue is not covered overtly in God’s Word (1 Corinthians 5:6)—is for tolerance and patience (Titus 3:9). We’re given a conscience for a reason (Romans 14:23).

Truth is objective; for any given opinion or interpretation, someone is right, and someone is wrong. But human beings lack the moral perfection of God; this is reflected in the Bible’s teaching on good versus evil and our role in applying good judgment.

Scripture encourages believers not to apply terms like good, evil, sin, and so forth to issues where there is room for doubt (Romans 14:1–12). Contrary to what some think, the Bible admits that human beings might not always be correct in our moral judgments. We are not to avoid all judgment (John 7:24), but the Bible teaches us to carefully consider when and how we judge (Ephesians 5:10).

Good versus Evil Demands a Response

The Bible’s teaching on good versus evil leads to a challenging conclusion: that every person is obligated to make a fundamental choice between the two. That choice is entirely determined by our response to God, who is both the definition of good and our Creator. Moment by moment, that means either following His will or rebelling and choosing to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). Eternally, this means we either choose to accept Him and His salvation (John 3:1614:6) or align ourselves against Him (John 3:36). While we may be imperfect and fallible, we cannot be neutral in our approach to good versus evil. Our hearts are either seeking the goodness of God (Matthew 7:7–8Romans 2:4) or the selfishness of evil (1 Peter 3:10–12). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with Paul’s words from Romans 12:17-18: Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible…

As far as it depends on you . . .

Live at peace . . .

With everyone . . . .

YouTube Video: “Do No Harm” by Sarah Hart:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

He Lives

Easter Sunday (also known as Resurrection Sunday) is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which is the key event upon which the Christian faith is based. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity would not exist.

In an article published on February 28, 2021, titled What’s the Big Deal?” by at Cornerstone Community Church, he writes:

Why is the history of Easter such a big deal to Christians? Even if Jesus did get raised from the dead, so what? How does that have any impact on us two thousand years later? How could the apostle Paul write,And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied,” (1 Cor. 15: 17, 19)? To answer these questions, we can look to the history of Easter.

Jesus was not just some random Jewish moral teacher who showed up out of nowhere, said radical things, died, and then came back to life. He existed in a rather unique cultural context. Throughout their history, the Israelites experienced cycles of oppression and redemption. They endured vicious periods of exile and enslavement where they could not meet with God’s presence in the temple. In these times, the people cried out to God that He might save them from their exile so that they could be with Him again. God rescued them from their physical oppression, but they eventually were conquered again. In His infinite lovingkindness, God came up with a plan to allow all people, not just the Israelites, to dwell with Him, the source of all life, forever.

For hundreds of years, God sent prophets to the people of Israel to tell them that He was sending a savior to them who would permanently free them from their endless cycle of oppression and redemption. This promise sat in the background of Jewish culture for centuries upon centuries. Every Jewish man, woman, and child longed for the day God would save them permanently. Fast forward to about 30 A.D., when Jesus began His ministry. The Jewish people were engaged in a bitter conflict with the Roman Empire. Rome, being the world’s greatest super power at the time, was winning that conflict. When Jesus started performing miracles and speaking of God, people began asking Him if He was the promised Messiah. When He responded, “I who speak to you am He,” (John 4:26), the Jewish people understandably assumed He was going to save them from the Roman Empire and reign as their king.

Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God finally arriving on earth. This kingdom would be one of peace and unity, where people of all nations could become one multicultural family, united with God on a restored earth, with Jesus as our king. All of the talk about a new king threatened the existing political and religious structures of the day, and the Jewish leaders set out to have Jesus put to death. They got the Roman governor on board with this plan, and had Jesus unjustly executed through false testimonies and illegitimate legal processes.

With their leader dead, Jesus’ disciples were crushed. How could God’s chosen Messiah, sent to rescue them from the Romans (so they thought), be executed? Had God lied to them? May it never be! God’s plan for salvation went beyond rescuing His people from an oppressive regime (though throughout the Old Testament, He has a lot to say about how He will punish the oppressor). The Kingdom of God does not operate according to the ways of the world. God’s kingdom is one of peace, one that does not advance through conquest. How then would He deliver on His promise of everlasting salvation?

The answer came on the morning of the third day after Jesus’ resurrection: God, through Jesus, is remaking all of creation! Jesus is the first fruits of this new creation (1 Cor. 15:20), a sign for us of what is both happening now and still yet to come. Instead of the temporary salvation offered by political rescue, God invites us to become a part of His heavenly kingdom, where we have the promise of bodily resurrection and eternal peace with God and with each other. This is why the history of Easter Sunday is so important to Christians: it is the day we celebrate the single most important event in human history. If Jesus really did rise from the dead, then the things He said about God’s kingdom coming to earth and inviting us to become a part of the new creation are all true.

Since then, spreading the news that Jesus is alive is the primary task of the church. Missionaries traveled far and wide throughout the world to share the fact that Jesus is alive and explain how God’s kingdom is open to all people. In order to spread this news more effectively, missionaries would communicate the history of Easter to people using their own cultural symbols. We can still see some of the artifacts of these cultural adaptations in the eggs and bunnies we see around Easter time. The message of Jesus’ resurrection is just as relevant today as it was in 33 A.D. The recreation work of God is still happening and the invitation to join God’s kingdom is still open to any who will take it today. (Quote source here.)

This past week among the many articles published on the topic of Holy Week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, I also ran across several articles noting the decline of religion in America today. Bill O’Reilly‘s “Message of the Day,” for today (April 3, 2021), titled, A Decline in Religion,” sums up what the other articles noted:

I have taken notice of the decline in religion occurring in the USA. A new survey says just 48% of Americans actually participate in an organized religion–that is the lowest number ever recorded in this country.

Now, there are a number of reasons why. Number one, secular values are heavily promoted in the entertainment and news industries. In fact, often traditional religious Americans are openly mocked. We all see it. And that filters down particularly to younger people whose lifestyle and belief systems are not fully formed.

Number two, more and more people do not want to be held accountable for their behavior. Religion does that–the concept of sin. There’s always an excuse for wrongdoing, a rationalization.

And third, it’s all about me these days, is it not? Nothing higher. Whatever is good for me is good in general. Well, that’s not what theology says. Theology says on the Judeo-Christian front, you got to look out for your neighbor. You got to treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s not all about you. (Quote source here.)

I’d like to add a fourth reason to that list which is found in 2 Timothy 3:5. It has to do with those who show an outward display of religion or godliness but there is no real power behind it, which could actually fall under the second and/or third reasons in Bill O’Reilly’s list.

GotQuestions.org answers the question,“What does it mean to have a form of godliness but deny its power in 2 Timothy 3:5?” as follows:

In 2 Timothy 3, the apostle Paul describes the nature of people in the last days. In his description, he warns of people who are characterized as “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (verse 5). Paul then issues this command: “Have nothing to do with such people.”

Paul often uses contrast to emphasize an attribute he wishes to highlight. In 2 Timothy 3:1–4, he gives Timothy a long list of sinful behaviors and attitudes that are contrary to God’s will. In verse 5 he tells Timothy to avoid those who state they are Christians with their mouths—they have a “form” of godliness—but who act as unbelievers—they deny the power of godliness.

Those who have a form of godliness are those who make an outward display of religion. They present themselves as godly, but it is all for show. There is no power behind their religion, as evidenced in the fact that their lives are unchanged. They speak of God and live in sin, and they are fine with that arrangement. As commentator Charles Ellicott wrote, “These, by claiming the title of Christians, wearing before men the uniform of Christ, but by their lives dishonoring His name, did the gravest injury to the holy Christian cause” (Ellicott’s Bible Commentary for English Readers, entry for 2 Timothy 3:5).

These false Christians are destructive. Paul warns that they will “creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts” and that they are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6–7, NKJV). He compares them to the wicked magicians who opposed Moses and warns that their folly and corrupt minds will be revealed to all eventually (verses 8–9).

The power of God, which should accompany the form of godliness, is shown through the Holy Spirit and results in the transformation of our lives. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer (1 Corinthians 6:19) and enables him to bear certain fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). These are the attributes of a true Christian, as opposed to Paul’s list of sins in 2 Timothy 3:1–4.

Paul’s exhortation to Timothy falls in line with James’ explanation how to identify a true faith (James 2:14–26). True faith will be evidenced by good works, which will occur naturally. If a person says he is a Christian but shows no evidence in his life by bearing the fruit of the Spirit, we have to make a judgment about him and avoid that person. He may have a form of godliness, but he is denying God’s power by not letting himself be controlled by the Spirit. In fact, if his faith is not genuine, he cannot be controlled by God’s power, because the Holy Spirit does not dwell in him.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The natural person may have a form of godliness, but he denies God’s power in the way he lives. Only faith in Jesus Christ can bring justification and the transformation he so desperately needs (Colossians 1:21–22Romans 5:1–2). (Quote source here.)

Second Timothy 3:2-5 lists the type of people to watch out for:

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

We would be hard pressed, if we are honest, to not find something in that list that includes us starting right off with “lovers of themselves.” How about “proud” or “boastful” or “without love”? How about “unforgiving” or “slanderous” (gossip is a big one) or “treacherous”? There is no point in going through the entire list. The picture is pretty clear.

So what does a genuine seeker of God look like?

In an article titled, A Seeking Heart,” by Dave Butts, chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee and the co-founder and president of Harvest Prayer Ministries, he writes:

What are you looking for in life? Be careful what you look for. The Bible tells us that those who seek will find. But you might be seeking wrong things. If you are looking to be rich, you may well end up rich, but also tremendously unhappy and burdened down by the things of this world. You may be looking for fame, for recognition of your accomplishments. In the process of finding that recognition on earth, you may well lose the praise of heaven.

Many have just quit seeking. Living lives of quiet desperation, they simply hope to avoid disaster or pain. Sometimes even Christians can find themselves in the rut of everyday life, with the only thing they are looking for being heaven some day. The pressures of life have stifled desire of any significance, and life is just something to be endured.

Did you know that God never intended for us to live this way? God is actually looking for the discontented. He is looking for seekers, those whose desires are always going beyond the confines of daily life. In 2 Chronicles 16:9 the Word says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” The same concept is expressed in Psalm 14:2, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” I don’t know about you, but I want to be found by the God who is looking for seekers.

What does it mean to be a seeker after God? Does it have any real meaning for us? After all, if we are Christians, the Holy Spirit dwells in us. The Lord has promised to be with us always, even until the end of the age. So, is it necessary for a Christian to be a seeker after God?

I believe that King David gives us a wonderful understanding of what it means for a man of God, experiencing the presence of God, to still be a seeker after God. In Psalm 27:4 we read this passionate prayer of a man after God’s own heart: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” If we try to analyze this verse in spatial, literal terms, we find ourselves confused. If David were in God’s temple, gazing upon His face, why would he still be seeking Him?

That’s because seeking God is much more than having one experience and calling it “finding God.” It is much more than believing a certain set of doctrines. It is even much more than having a good prayer life. God is too big to be confined to any one person’s experience or belief system. Seeking God is an attitude, a way of life, a journey that is never complete in this life.

The vastness of God makes the task of seeking Him the journey of a lifetime. Let me give a totally inadequate illustration, but one that may be helpful nonetheless. I always enjoy visiting the Smithsonian Institute when I go to Washington D.C. As you might know, the Smithsonian is made up of dozens of buildings, each housing a particular aspect of man’s knowledge or achievement. So you could go to the Air and Space Museum or the American History Museum or the Portrait Gallery and still say of each, “I went to the Smithsonian.” What would be totally inaccurate would be to go to one of those museums and return home saying: “I have experienced the Smithsonian in its entirety.”

God, of course, dwarfs the Smithsonian, but we sometimes feel like or say, “I know God. I have experienced God. Others need to seek Him, but I have found Him.” That’s like going to one building of the Smithsonian and thinking you have experienced all that the Smithsonian is.

David didn’t fall into that trap. His desire was to spend all of his days in the presence of God, gazing upon His beauty. Yet he also realized with humility, that he would still need to have that seeking heart for the rest of his life.

I believe that to live this life, we must start with prayer. Ask God to give you a seeking heart. Repent of any spiritual lukewarmness or self-satisfaction. All that we have comes from God, even a heart that seeks God. But we must ask Him. We do not just become seekers because we are naturally good and spiritual. We are not! We must ask and receive that gift from God.

Seeking also requires effort. When we have asked and received of the Lord a seeking heart, there will be required of us an earnestness and effort that emerges from the longing for intimacy with God, that God Himself has placed within our hearts.

The path to God is always Jesus. He is the way! There is no other path to God. Seeking God successfully only happens along the pathway that is Jesus. It is in intimacy with the Lord and walking daily in His ways that we find ourselves with a seeking heart that pleases God and draws His eyes and favor upon us.

Here is the good news! Jesus said that all who seek will find. God is not hiding. He longs to be found and known. But His very character and vastness demand a life of seeking. No matter how long we have known Him and walked with Him on this planet, we will still find ourselves learning and experiencing new aspects of who He is. “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalms 84:5). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words given by an angel to the women who came to Jesus’ tomb after he was buried (found in Matthew 28:5-6): The angel said to the women–Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified…

He is not here . . .

He has risen . . .

Just as he said . . . .

YouTube Video: “Easter Song” sung by the Worship Team at Northland Church:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here