Put a Veil On?

In the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, neglecting to wear a mask in public is to be labeled selfish, perhaps evil. Should we Christians esteem others better than ourselves here, deferring to public sentiment to show our love? (Ep 5:21) Would Jesus be wearing a mask? or the Apostles? Are we being prideful, disrespectful, and arrogant by not wearing them?

Or by wearing the mask are we conforming to the world (Ro 12:2), and exposing ourselves as menpleasers? (Ep 6:6)

Firstly, one should affirm the scientific facts: there is zero scientific consensus that wearing masks is meaningfully helpful in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in a general public setting: mask manufacturers state this plainly in their disclaimers, and the CDC initially affirmed the same. The primary indication we have that masks are helpful is the constant drone of media and politicians as they stoke fear in gullible citizens.

Given the contradiction between science and the cultural panic, one could easily see this as a weaker brother issue. (Ro 14:21) Those who’s consciences are weakened through propaganda and misinformation see the mask as a sign of charity. It certainly isn’t necessarily sinful to wear one: Moses actually did wear a face covering to accommodate societal fear (Ex 34:30,33), so the argument would be that we should give up our liberty for the sake of Christ to comfort others. Yeshua and the Apostles would all wear masks if this is a weaker-brother issue. (Ro 14:19)

On the other hand, wearing a mask in this toxic, politically charged context – while it is optional — suggests to others that we align with a false narrative designed to disrupt and fragment our society; like it or not, we’re then supporting a political agenda to enable societal control and manipulation through fear tactics and lies.

Further, wearing masks routinely may actually be somewhat harmful to us, capturing moisture and toxins, developing mold, trapping carbon dioxide, and restricting air flow. Additionally, masks severely restrict interpersonal communication, making it much more difficult to display a charitable demeanor, or even communicate effectively. If 70% of communication is non-verbal, what portion relates to facial expression, hidden by a mask? Personally, I have a much more difficult time reading mask wearers, or even understanding what they’re saying. This exacerbates cultural tension in an era of arbitrary lockdowns, rampant unemployment, depression and racial unrest, and is yet another way to divide and alienate us. In this case, we can be sure that neither Yeshua nor the Apostles would wear a mask, on principle of not conforming to this world. (Ro 12:2)

To decide which principle should apply in our personal case, perhaps it is good to define who we are.

  1. Are we a weaker brother / sister who genuinely feels like we’re sinning against others, or encouraging others to sin, by not wearing a mask, and therefore putting the spiritual and/or physical health of others at risk, independently of how others view us with or without a mask?
  2. Or are we men-pleasers who simply fear being seen as unloving by those who wish to re-define love and impose their arbitrary definition on everyone else?

For a weaker brother / sister, doing our homework until we’re assured by reputable scientific authority that we aren’t endangering others without a mask, and are convinced that this evidence is sufficient to persuade those who are open to considering it, wearing a mask in public in the interim, would be most appropriate.

The man-pleaser is encouraged to repent. (Ja 4:4a)

As in most of life, our motive here makes all the difference. (1Co 3:13) If we’re actually wearing the mask because we see Christ Himself doing so, knowing Christ only does what He sees the Father doing (Jn 5:19), then we’re wearing the mask as unto the Lord and it’s a good work. Otherwise, we’re serving man instead of God (Ga 1:10), seeking to appease the world and gain its approval, thus acting like God’s enemy. (Ja 4:4b)

To our own master we stand our fall; let’s walk worthy of God, and encourage one another do the same.

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Like a Lost Sheep

Sheep may be the most defenseless, vulnerable creatures on earth; they tend to die when they roll over, unable to get up, and when they get lost, since their primary defense is in being part of a herd. The very brain of the sheep is hardwired to follow other sheep, so isolated sheep become agitated, and when one sheep goes off in a bad direction, the rest will likely follow.

We’re all like sheep in that we’ve all gone astray, turned from the right way, to live our own way. (Is 53:6) Even the godly Psalmist admits this (Ps 119:176a), asking Jehovah, his shepherd (Ps 23:1), to seek him (Ps:119:176b), grounding his request in the fact that he has kept hold of God’s commandments; he has not forgotten them. (176c)

Asking God to seek us when we aren’t keeping His commands in our hearts, trying to obey Him the best we know how, is nonsense — like a man pleading to be rescued while resisting and fending off his rescuer, trying desperately to get away — it’s a contradiction. We don’t even want to be found if we’re not already obeying God the best we know how; this kind of seeking is just the carnal mind playing tricks, not wanting to be reconciled with God at all, just wanting to avoid the tragic consequences of rebellion. (Ge 4:13)

Yet we can easily go astray, even as we’re keeping God’s commands in view. We can be dull in our understanding of God’s Way (Ps 73:22), unable to fully perceive even as we’re trying our best (1Co 8:2), incapable of detecing our own blind spots. (Re 3:17) Ignorance not only blinds us (Ep 4:18), it blinds us to our very blindness. (Jn 9:40-41)

In our lostness we’re thus truly lost; like a lost sheep, we’re utterly unable to find our way back to God on our own. (Ro 7:24) We’ve only one hope: that God Himself will rescue us (25a) as we serve His law with our minds as best we can (25b), in spite of the insidious nature of our old man. (25c) It’s not a vain hope though, it’s a valid one: God finds all who seek Him. (He 11:6)

Seeking God is seeking truth wherever we can find it: in the Word, in science, in history, and in others. Thoughtful perspective in others is particularly helpful; all of us see things a bit differently, perceiving things about each other and the world that the rest of us miss. We should value differing opinion like gold, asking others to challenge our thinking and looking carefully at their reasoning. What are we still missing? The slightest indication that we aren’t fully aligned with reality at every level of our consciousness is a window to more truth; we should jump at the opportunity to climb through it.

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The Carnal Mind

If we think of our mind as the engine through which the totality of our thoughts are produced, the source from which our willful contemplation springs, we understand this is a mysterious, marvelous thing. (Ps 139:14)

In the physical, our mind is evidently our brain, the organ or vessel through which our soul expresses and reveals itself in thoughts, ideas, and imaginations: an incredibly complex, biological machine comprising chemicals and electricity through which the metaphysical and physical interact; it’s how our souls engage the universe, at least for now.

As with any organ or vessel, it’s designed for a purpose (Mt 22:37), so there’s an ideal state which enables it to fulfill this purpose.

It follows then that a mind may be sound and healthy (2Ti 1:7), or it may be corrupt (1Ti 6:5), reprobate (Ro 1:28), broken and twisted such that it cannot rightly fulfill its purpose.

A mind may also be inconsistent, holding contrary beliefs and opinions, we might say double-minded, resulting in a pattern of instability and unpredictability (Jas 1:8); or a mind might be defiled (Tit 1:15), dirty and polluted with things that ought not to be within it. A mind might also be weak, feeble (1Th 5:14), untrained and incapable of strenuous activity, or simply blind (2Co 4:4), unable to rightly perceive reality at all.

In particular, our mind might be carnal, at war with God, harboring hatred of God: it is enmity against God. (Ro 8:7a) We contrast this with a spiritual mind, aligned with and submitted to God, rightly engaging and integrating metaphysical reality with the physical. (Ro 8:6)

Distinguishing between a carnal and a spiritual mind lies primarily in attitudes or beliefs with respect to Torah, God’s Law: the carnal mind always resists some aspect of Torah; it cannot submit to the whole of Torah (Ro 8:7) — rather, it relentlessly insists on having its own way, in some way. This is the only means whereby we may reliably distinguish the carnal mind from the spiritual. (He 4:12)

Each time we willfully choose a path contrary to God’s definition of moral reality in Torah, we literally corrupt the physiological, neurological circuits of our own brains; we build in patterns of pathology into the very wiring of our own nervous systems, making it more and more difficult for us to reason and think clearly.* (Pr 5:22)

As with any notion of health, mental pathology is a matter of degree. So, no matter what state we find ourselves in, there’s something we can do to move to a better place — and we should. (Is 55:7)

God calls us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ep 4:23-24), transformed by a continuous retraining of our thought patterns so that we might prove God’s will (Ro 12:2), such that we might have the mind of Christ (Php 2:5), to have His thought patterns flowing freely and regularly through ours. This happens as we hide God’s laws in our hearts, meditate on them, and take heed to our ways to ensure that every thought pattern aligns with Torah. (Ps 119:9-11) As we abide in Him like this we actually do have His mind at work within. (1Co 2:16)

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* See first comment below

Great Peace

Peace is the tranquility of order in the midst of turmoil and chaos; it’s the very nature of Christ in us (Jn 14:27): an implicit, thankful trust in the eternal purposes of God, enabling us to walk in unspeakable joy in every circumstance. (1Pe 1:7-8) Christ is always at peace in Himself, and He offers Himself to us as peace; His yoke for us is easy, and His burden is light. (Mt 11:29)

Even so, peace seems elusive since our old nature resists the prescription, though it’s elegantly straightforward: Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them. (Ps 119:165)

The life of Christ in us loves Torah (Ro 7:22), and those who love Torah not only find peace, we find great peace.

The goal of Torah is to equip us for the godly life (1Ti 1:5), enabling us to understand that God has a plan, a purpose in all He allows, that His plan is good, and that He’s carrying out His plan according to His pleasure; nothing can stop Him. (Da 4:35)

In this knowledge, it’s impossible to be offended, to lose confidence in God, or to lose our hope in Him; with our eyes in eternal focus, nothing can happen to us or about us that will cause us to stumble in pursuing Him, or in seeking to please Him. (2Co 4:16-18) Torah defines moral reality; nothing else can, so being aligned with moral reality inoculates us against being offended, and maintains our internal order in the midst of conflict.

Peace isn’t the absence of conflict, it’s understanding that God’s in control in the midst of trouble, working out His glorious purpose. Peace is glorying in and rejoicing in His purpose, knowing He will glorify Himself in everything He allows. (Ro 5:3) The Father isn’t worried, anxious or afraid, and the Son is always doing what He sees the Father doing. Abiding in the Father and the Son (Jn 14:23), this is where we find life and peace. (Jn  17:3)

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We Have Sinned

There’s a lot of talk today about white guilt and while privilege; some of Evangelical Christianity’s finest are jumping on BLM’s racism bandwagon to convince white America that we’ve something to be ashamed of, simply because we’re white Americans. They’re teaching us about corporate guilt, being guilty and bearing responsibility for the sins of our group.

As examples, they cite Daniel’s confession of Israel’s guilt for having forsaken God’s laws (Da 9:5), and claim that Achan’s entire family perished for his personal sin. (Jos 7:24-26)

Yet both examples, as well as the general concept, break down in light of God’s clear instruction that children ought not to be punished for their parents’ sins. (De 24:16, Eze 18:20) This would include any of our ancestors.

The truth is that Daniel never admitted any personal guilt for ancestral sin; he did confess that Israel had sinned, stating the obvious, but he didn’t admit that he himself shared in this guilt, that he himself bore any responsibility for it, or that he could repent for the nation – that he could not do so is clear once one understands the nature of repentance.

Similarly, Achan’s family and children may not actually have been stoned along with him, only his animals and possessions included; the biblical text is unclear on this point, and Rabbinic scholars are mixed in their views. If the entire family was put away, we may safely conclude from God’s own command that they each knew about their father’s sin and were complicit in it, guilty along with him, which is certainly plausible.

Corporate guilt is only relevant for a group member when that individual actively and personally participates in the corporate sin; all die in Adam (1Co 15:22) because all in Adam have actually personally sinned. (Ro 5:12)

Apart from personal responsibility, corporate guilt makes no sense if we think about it just a little: if we’re to be punished for our group’s sins, then doesn’t it follow that we’re also to be rewarded for our group’s righteousness? How, for example, can a white individual today be both ashamed that some whites were racist slave owners, while other whites rooted out and extinguished slavery?

And why focus on just the white group? We’re each in practically an infinite number of groups, starting with the human race? Are we all then guilty for every single sin ever committed by any human?

And how far back in history should we go for each group? Ten years? A thousand? Can such guilt ever actually be remedied? By what standard? It makes zero sense.

Those aligning themselves with corporate guilt are, of necessity, aligning themselves with corporate punishment. If I’m guilty for the sins of my group, then I also deserve to be punished for these sins: justice demands it. So, what penalty should be imposed, and by whom? There are no biblical precedents here.

When we support victimization by conceding that one group has unfairly treated another group, we may think we’re being compassionate, but we’re departing from a biblical worldview into the realm of Marxism and group identity. Marxists consistently use class warfare and group victimization to empower themselves through the envy and murderous resentment of the marginalized. Historically, it typically results in genocide of one form or another.

Today, conceding the victim narrative is already excusing the anemic response of officials as rioters intimidate fellow citizens and burn down our inner cities. Those who dare to stand up and defend themselves risk further harassment from employers and leftist officials.

At present, the mob is a marginal fringe, and largely unarmed, yet it’s already the most influential force in American society due to a vast base of passive, empathetic citizens. But the more powerful the mob becomes, the more murderous it will be; there’s no appeasing it.

We need to be very careful how we articulate this, because the price for getting this wrong in western culture this election cycle is our safety and freedom. It’s an ideological warfare, and it’s powerful because it contains much partial truth which appeals to compassionate souls who aren’t thinking for themselves. Yet even if intentions are good, oversimplification here will be devastating.

There are certainly generational consequences for sin, in that we tend to inherit sinful patterns of behavior from our parents. We’re also influenced by our culture and our upbringing, and will tend to be swept along with the crowd if we aren’t careful.

But in the final analysis, we’re each individually responsible only for our own personal choices, and we’ll be judged entirely on our own merits. (Ga 6:4) So, we’re wise to be watchful for sinful patterns within ourselves that are common in our culture and ancestry, repent and root out every trace of these iniquities from our own lives. To the degree that we’re successful in doing so, we’re free of corporate guilt.

Scripture never clearly shows God treating an individual better or worse merely due to what their ancestors have done, when they themselves were not complicit in the same sin, nor does God ever encourage anyone else to do this.

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Confess Your Faults

A common misconception is that God wants us to be transparent before others, open about our sins and brokenness, perhaps confusing this with humility. The reality is we should be wise, careful who we trust with our inner selves. (Mt7:6) Few are worthy of our trust (Jn 2:24), so we must guide our affairs with discretion. (Ps 112:5) Our motive in speaking truth should seldom be about ourselves; we should be moved in love to edify others. (Ep 4:29)

Even so, when we get ourselves in a spiritual rut, such that we’re consistently off path and unable to recover ourselves, God tells us to confess our faults to those in close spiritual community, praying for each other that we might be healed. (Ja 5:16) God has designed spiritual community around this purpose; God heals some sinful patterns only as dear brothers and sisters pray for us. This endears us to one another in love, and shows us we need Christ in each other to overcome, to live as we should for Him. (He 10:24-25)

Yet, even in such close relationships, God doesn’t encourage us to confess all of our individual sins to each other: He says we’re to confess our faults, which are not entirely the same as sins. The Greek for sins is ἁμαρτίας, hamartias, the idea of missing the mark, relating to discrete acts of Torah violation. (1Jn 3:4) However, the word translated faults is παραπτώματα, paraptomata, to fall beside or near something, connoting a repeating, persistent pattern of iniquity rather than a single act.

Most all of our modern English translations have the Greek hamartias in this text, and thus translate it as sinstrespasses, offenses, etc. This is because three of the four oldest Greek New Testament (GNT) manuscripts (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus, from the 4th and 5th centuries C.E., the Egyptian Text) contain this reading, compared to all other surviving (Majority Text) manuscript witnesses of James. Textual critics typically presume older manuscripts are more accurate, ignoring the fact that the greatest corruptions to the GNT were introduced well before the 4th century. Further, they ignore the fact that no plausible explanation for the existence of the Majority Text has yet been proposed, if it isn’t grounded in the autographs themselves.

The Egyptian hamartias, aside from having an inferior historical claim to legitimacy, is problematic from a practical perspective. The command to confess our sins, applies to every single instance of each and every kind of sin, obligating us all to confess all of our sins to each other, which is not possible: even if this is all we ever do, we’re continuing to commit individual sins faster than we can possibly confess them, so the more earnestly we attempt to obey such a command, the farther behind we will fall in our obedience to it. And there is nothing in such a practice that would be edifying. (Ro 14:19)

A second problem relates to what it means to be healed of a sin which hasn’t been imputed to us. (Ro 4:8) What’s in view here cannot be forgiveness, for this has already been done in full, once for each believer, by Christ Himself. (Col 2:13) Rather, this is the healing of a spiritual wound or malady (Pr 18:14) in an ongoing sinful context. If we need others to pray for our healing from each specific historical act of Torah violation in order to be healed, then we shall never be healed of the vast majority of our sins, so we must remain forever crippled in them. This cannot be our Lord’s intent; it’s the kind of perversion we expect from those corrupting the word.

In comparison, confessing our faults — patterns of sin we observe in ourselves, which remain stubbornly persistent even though we’re struggling to obey – is perfectly reasonable. In resisting sin we become aware of such patterns of iniquity, rooted deeply within, where we’re unable to obey God even as we’re doing our best. It’s perfectly natural then to involve godly brothers and sisters, asking them to pray for us in specific ways so we might overcome and walk in obedience. We’re healed as the lies at the root of our sinful patterns are exposed and replaced with truth. (2Ti 2:25-26)

Confession of specific sins should only be as public as the offence (Mt 18:15a), and pursued, not for personal healing, but as a means of promoting reconciliation and restoration of trust. (b) Confession of faults should only be with trusted allies in the faith for sanctification and growth in personal holiness.

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Every Weight

What’s keeping me from being closer to God? What am I holding tightly, unwilling to release? It might not be a bad thing, in itself; it might even be a good thing. If I knew God wanted me to let go of it, would I resist?

Letting go of sin is a given, but how do I know when God wants me to let go of something that isn’t necessarily sinful?

This isn’t straightforward; there’s an ascetic temptation that isn’t good, a self-denial that isn’t godly, a will-worship that isn’t Spirit-filled. (Co 2:23) God gives us richly all things to enjoy (1Ti 6:17); as a general rule, we should be giving thanks and enjoying every perfect gift in Him. (Ja 1:17)

This is about the voice of God: when He speaks, we’ll know. If we don’t know God wants us to give something up, then He doesn’t, at least not yet. But He does call us to inspect our lives, examine ourselves, and be open-handed before Him. (Ps 139:23-24) As we pursue Him (Php 3:12), seeking His face, He’s always faithful to show us the next step. (Php 3:15)

In taking stock of our life, we may begin to note dead weight: things we’re doing or thinking that aren’t aligned with scripture, false ways that need to be rooted out; we may find some of our possessions distracting us, consuming precious energy and time; we may discover certain relationships that are consistently sapping our strength, luring us from the Way, creating needless drama in our lives. If duty isn’t calling, if it isn’t healthy, enabling us to serve or providing wholesome balance, if it’s a handicap or liability, bogging us down, weakening us, tripping us up … consider letting go.

God says, lay aside every weight. (He 12:1) It’s a matter of the heart, of attachment. If we’re not mindful of it, if it isn’t in our way, holding us back or slowing us down, then it isn’t a weight.

Travel light, disentangled from needless encumbrance. (2Ti 2:4) Maintain an eternal focus (Php 3:13-14): an earthy, temporal focus is enmity toward God. (Php 3:18-19) Life is a vapor; it isn’t about possessions (Lk 12:15), or ultimately even family (Lk 14:26) or country: we have no home here (He 13:14); our citizenship’s in heaven. (Php 3:20)

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