This is our fourth post on politics. Other posts are found on our Pastors’ Blog page.
Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” — 2 Timothy 2:14-19
In the classic War of the Worlds, a violent extra-terrestrial invasion nearly wipes out mankind, but just in the nick of time the aliens are defeated by a virus that their immune systems couldn’t battle. The tiny virus won the day. It’s a great analogy for sin. The Bible compares sin to leaven, another microscopic substance. Leaven multiplies so quickly that a single speck quickly spreads throughout a whole lump of dough. Small things can make big differences. Viruses, leaven, words, definitions.
Today we are not in a war of the worlds but in a war of worldviews. And to win that war some have created a war of words. Like the leaven in dough or the virus in the body, small changes in the meaning of words can have deadly consequences.
The power of words has long been understood. “The pen is mightier than the sword,” wrote novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, and his sentence lives on nearly 200 years later. Since then, many others have taken that truth to heart. George Orwell demonstrated his understanding of the power of language when he wrote Animal Farm and 1984. Ray Bradbury did as well when he wrote Farenheit 451. If you’ve never read these books, you owe it to yourself to do so. They illustrated how changing the definition of words can allow a government or group to seize power over the very hearts and minds of people. Naive as I am, I believed it could never really happen in any significant way precisely because these authors forewarned so well. Little did I know.
This post is going to examine just a few of the words whose meaning has been rewritten to serve the purposes of those hoping to gain control over us.
1. a) a tolerating or being tolerant, especially of views, beliefs, practices etc. of others that differ from one’s own b) being free from bigotry or prejudice
2. the amount of variance allowed from a standard, speed, etc.
3. the enduring or ability to endure — Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1980
Who even opens a dictionary any more? I spend more hours staring at a screen than not, and I can get a definition online in the time it takes me to walk over to the bookshelf. But there’s something to be said for older dictionaries. They were printed before definitions were being rewritten for political purposes.
Does the definition above sound like the definition of tolerance being used today? Today you are considered intolerant if you do not believe what you are told to. It is not enough to be respectful and accepting of other people’s viewpoints. Today you must herald them as your own, and as your own prized possession. This is particularly true regarding the LGBTQ issues. If you do not endorse and celebrate:
- same-sex marriage
- the right of gay couples to adopt children
- the beauty of transsexualism
- the glory of lesbianism
- the normalcy of gender dysphoria
- the wisdom of supplying hormonal and/or surgical procedures to help 8-year-old children swap genders
…then you are labeled an intolerant hater.
Hate & Love
I hate canned spinach. I don’t hate the can, just the spinach inside it. In today’s culture, it’s hard to get away with making such a distinction. People now insist that if you don’t love the whole package, you hate all of it.
Shortly after coming to Christ, I learned to “hate the sin but love the sinner.” If we truly love people, then we will want what is best for them, even if it is not what they want. That’s why Proverbs says, “He who spares the rod, hates his son.” Love will tell you the truth so that you can change as needed. The parents who discipline their children are loving them enough to risk making their kids mad and resentful. They know that it is in the children’s best interest to learn discipline. So too, we love those in our community who are engaged in destructive sin and we want them to repent. This doesn’t mean we force it upon them, but we still desire their good. My parents smoked when I was young, and we wanted them to quit for the sake of their health. Our mother succeeded, but our father struggled with cigarettes most of his life. Eventually, he ended up with COPD and lung cancer, much as we had feared.
But those pushing the LGBTQ agenda redefined love and hate. To be sure, hate still carries the mental picture of someone filled with anger, animosity and venom. But It is no longer necessary to actually possess any of those traits to be saddled with the charge of hate. In fact, you can be the kindest, most compassionate individual on your block. But you will be painted as a hater if you do not celebrate their sin.
Love, meanwhile, has also been redefined. Ron recently pointed out that the Biblical truth that “God is love” was turned on its head to say “Love is God.” From there they created the slogan “Love is love” to indicate that it doesn’t matter whether you love someone of the opposite sex or someone of the same sex. It’s the same thing: love. So nothing else should matter.
In reality, love is love and friendship and erotic affection. The Hebrew and Greek languages have different words for each of these distinctions. But in English we only have one: love. So when David was mourning over the death of his best friend Jonathan, he lamented that Jonathan’s love (friendship) was better than the love (friendship) of women. That’s a far different story than saying that Jonathan’s sexual love was better than the sexual love of women. Such distinctions are as important as the difference between a pencil and penicillin.
God is the author of love, so He gets to define both love and how love is to be practiced. The scriptures are pretty clear on where He stands on this. For example:
The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.
— Leviticus 20:10
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
— Leviticus 20:13
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
— Hebrews 13:4
1. A doctrine or teaching, without scientific support, that claims to find racial differences in character, intelligence, etc. that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or the races.
2. Any program or practice of racial discrimination, segregation, etc. based on race — Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1980
No doubt this does not mesh well with the definition you’ve heard in the last few years. Racism and prejudice used to be considered synonyms. One could be a White racist, a Black racist, or an Asian racist. Not anymore. They have redefined racism to say that it can only be applied to those in power. By “in power” they do not mean only those with clout in government or business. The most uneducated, impoverished White man in the Appalachian Mountains is by default racist. Because he is White, he is part of the racist majority and is therefore racist, regardless of whether he has any personal racial bias. A Black woman, however, can fill her facebook page with hate and condemnation of all White men but that’s not racist because she is Black, and by definition Blacks can’t be racists. It is a ridiculous transfer of rights, guilt and responsibility. We all have the right to be viewed as MLK wanted: by our character. We all have guilt when we violate another person’s human rights. And we all have a responsibility to treat each other as God’s image-bearers.
Peaceful & Violence
These two words catch both the left and the right in the act of redefining words. It was downright comical, though sad, to watch journalists talking about peaceful protests while buildings were burning behind them. Night after night they kept trying to characterize riots as peaceful despite vandalism being done to cars and buildings and either actual violence or threats of violence made repeatedly toward conservatives. The word peaceful lost all meaning.
The word violence, meanwhile, was being watered down through the expression, “Silence is violence.” It began as innocently as a local loan shark lamenting what his enforcer was going to have to do if you were late on a payment. People began trying to intimidate their own friends and family on social media with the accusation that if you weren’t actively posting that Black Lives Matter then you were committing violence against Black people. Gone are the days of “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Now words, and even the lack of words, are considered acts of violence. And some have argued that such silent, motionless violence deserves physical violence in return.
A video this week of a group of protesters harassing a woman at an outdoor restaurant table is now par for the course. The diner never said a word. She just held her phone to video the exchange. And the longer she remained silent the more they cursed her, accused her of racism and condemned her.
The Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade in the early 70s was neither the beginning nor the end of the debate over abortion. But it was a galvanizing moment for the Church. Prior to that decision, the battle was fought state by state, with some states permitting abortion and others outlawing it. The Roe decision took away from the states nearly any freedom to restrict abortions regardless of the morals, ethics and wishes of the people. This was a wake-up call for the Church to recognize the seriousness of the issue. Those for and those against abortion knew that the battle was for the hearts and minds of the people, so each side chose a self-descriptive term that put the focus where they wanted it. Those for abortion chose pro-choice to make it seem like the battle was over a woman’s right to choose for herself what happens in her body. Those against abortion chose the term pro-life to show that it is a battle over a baby’s right to live.
Today, there are those outside the Church and inside it who are trying to redefine the term pro-life. Although it was coined solely to address the issue of the right to be born rather than murdered in the womb, some people are trying to co-opt the term to speak about our need to help the poor, to care about the sick or to do any of the many other good things to improve the lives of our neighbors. This began less as a way of encouraging us to do more for the needy but rather as an attempt to erode the moral foundation of the pro-life movement. By diluting the meaning of pro-life they undermine the moral high ground which is ours and try to paint us as immoral hypocrites who care only about the babies.
In reality though, it was never a zero-sum game. The Church has always cared for the poor and the sick. Most of the hospitals in this country were founded by churches. We have always cared for the prisoners. But those who favor unrestricted abortions also tend to favor far more government control over our lives than the average pro-life individual. So while pro-lifers believe that caring for the poor is more the responsibility of family, neighbor and church, the pro-choicer believes the government and taxes should get bigger so that the government can do it. Thus the pro-choicer argues that pro-lifers who believe that most of the responsibility for the poor belongs on the family, the neighbors and the Church rather than the government lack compassion.
This argument has gained traction so that even some very respected leaders within the Church have been taken in by it and lost sight of the stakes — children dying, murdered by the thousands and the millions.
This term was the darling of the LGBTQ crowd until Amy Coney Barrett used it in her confirmation hearings. Suddenly it was labeled an outdated and offensive term. Democratic senators and left-wing pundits lamented loudly about how heartless ACB was to use such a term. And yet, many of those same senators used the term themselves within the last few months. Even more than that, LGBTQ publications that joined in the attack were still using the term themselves on their websites!
Here is where you see the value of an old dictionary. Websters, the legendary steward of the English language, changed their definition of the phrase that very day to reflect the idea that the term is outdated and offensive! You know the old joke about the little boy who shoots his arrow and then moves the target to where the arrow fell? That’s just what Websters did. It was a shameful changing of a definition in an attempt to disgrace an innocent individual.
This is what we are up against. A living language changes over time, but the meaning of its words whip about like helpless prey in the mouth of a predator.
Let’s take Paul’s admonition to Timothy to heart.
- Remind them of these things — What things? Truths revealed in the Word of God. Look up the verses leading up to this passage for the specifics in this case.
- Charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit — What are we striving for? What is worth arguing about? Like Paul, we want to make sure we’re not arguing over things that can not produce good fruit. If we strive to lead others away from sin, the profit we could experience is the redemption of our brother or sister! But if we just want people to agree with us, we gain nothing of value.
- Striving over words to the ruin of the hearers — Again, what is our goal? Do we wish to save those who hear us or to ruin them? Those who use words to deceive, just as Satan has done since the Garden, are content to ruin their audience. May it not be said of us.
- Be diligent to present yourself approved to God — He will come to judge one day, beginning not with the Hitlers of this world but with us, His Church.
- A worker who does not need to be ashamed — Many will be ashamed when Jesus returns. They will realize that they squandered the time they should have spent in His Word and never became half of what He had planned for them.
- Rightly dividing the word of truth — Jesus is Lord of all. Lord of our hearts, Lord of our wallets, Lord of our relationships, Lord of our pass-times, Lord of our politics. We need to know His Word well enough to know His values so that no area of our lives is left devoid of His guidance and so that in most cases, you’ll be confident you know His will.
- But shun profane and idle babblings — There’s no end to the number of unfounded conjectures and ideas that are in direct conflict of what God has told us.
- For they will increase to more ungodliness. — Our actions either glorify God or dishonor Him. We either choose godliness with intentional dedication or we fall, perhaps even rush, into ungodliness.
- And their message will spread like cancer — What we embrace we share, and if our words are not aligned with God’s Word, they may bring death to those who hear us.
- Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort — Do we wish to have our names engraved for eternity among those who caused the fall of others? May it never be!
- Who have strayed concerning the truth — The truth doesn’t move, we do. We either draw closer to it, studying it, embracing it, meditating on it — or we stray farther and farther away from it.
- Saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some — We wish to be neither those who overthrow the faith of others nor those whose faith is overthrown. But if we don’t hold fast to the truth of the Word, we will be vulnerable to deception too.
- Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands — Some may overthrow the faith of those who don’t stay grounded in the Word, but no one can move the foundation that God Himself has established.
- Having this seal — Some truths are like a seal that guarantees the contents are fresh, protected, and safe; we are the contents sealed by these truths!
- “The Lord knows those who are His.” — This is a foundational truth. God knows us. He cannot be deceived or distracted. We never need to fear that He has forgotten us, even in our darkest hour and greatest need.
- “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” — He has called us out of our sin and into His holiness. His Holy Spirit lives within us, empowering us to turn away from those sins that once held us as such powerless prisoners. The world wants us to think that we need to resort to sinful solutions to desperate problems. “Use rage to fight racism.” “Exercise your right to avoid the responsibility of your pregnancy.” “Steal from the stores to compensate for your poverty.” We won’t stand idly by as the world whispers or shouts such temptations. We will depart from iniquity, that is, we will hightail it away from such evil thoughts and actions.
— 2 Timothy 2:14-19
Think God’s thoughts, do God’s deeds. Think the world’s thoughts, do the world’s deeds. James said we can either choose the wisdom which descends from above or the wisdom that is “earthly, sensual, demonic.” Those are the only two choices. Heavenly or demonic. God has chosen us to be heavenly. Thus we pray, “Your kingdom come,Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Amen, Lord Jesus, help us to submit ourselves, our families, our communities and our government to You so that Your will is done here just as it is in heaven itself. Thank You for giving us the Word of God which cannot be defeated or thwarted. Please help us to cherish it more and to live it. Amen.