Pride and Respect: More Valuable Than Life?

Just in a matter of hours before writing this post, I read of a young man who was killed in an argument with a group of five other individuals. This occurred only days after the tragic and senseless killing of rapper; Nipsey Hussle. It’s the same old story repeated and multiplied across the country: Someone is involved in an argument or a personal dispute, but their pride and the need to be respected will not allow them to just walk away! There must be some type of retaliation! After all, they don’t want to be perceived as being ‘soft’ or being a ‘doormat.’ And so, they retaliate! It is at that point that the situation escalates because usually the force of the retaliation is much greater than the initial perceived wrong!

There was an Old Testament biblical ruling that stipulated an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! The purpose of that law was to maintain an equal and even level of retaliation. In other words, it was designed to prevent much of what we are seeing today! Jesus would come along later and say: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39 ESV) But not only have we gotten to the point that it is seemingly impossible for most people today to ‘turn the other cheek,’ most people today cannot even abide by the old ‘eye for an eye’ standard! Instead of an eye for an eye, it seems that many have sunk to the standard of ‘a life for an eye! I can’t tell you the number of cases I have heard of people killed or shot, simply because the shooter ‘felt’ disrespected or wronged in some way! It seems as though, now-days; pride and respect are more important to some people than life itself! This attitude is utterly senseless and ridiculous! But what can we do?

When I was in school, I learned Math, Science, English, and some other subjects. But, the one thing I was not taught in school was conflict resolution! Whether it is taught in the schools or made a requirement before people can have children, we must find a way to re-instill the proper respect for the sanctity of human life within our culture and society! Too many of our young men and women are dying too soon! Too many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children are crying at the graves of the victims of senseless violence! It’s not the wall at the Mexican border! It’s not even health-care or any of the other political ‘hot-potatoes’ most politicians are talking about! The epidemic of violence and senseless death is the American national emergency!

But the politicians are too busy trying to get reelected! Many of the churches are too busy preaching prosperity and running after blessings! Dads are too busy trying to close the deal at the office or playing golf at the club! Moms are too busy, trying to be like Stella and get their grooves back! But in the words of the late Marvin Gaye; “There’s got to be a way, to get some unity here today! What’s going on?”

There is no use in waiting for the politicians to pass new laws! There is something all of us can do right now! Quit looking for others to start a new initiative! It has to start with you! It has to start with me! If we, that is, just you and I, resolve within ourselves that we are going to be part of the solution we seek; the resolution will not be far away! We must stop pointing the finger and blaming others and do what we can to be part of the solution and not part of the problem!

What can we do? The next time we are offended or wronged, count to ten before any type of response! Take a deep breath and ask questions: Is the response justified in light of the offense? In other words; ‘Am I about to shoot a fly with a shotgun?’ What will be the consequence of my response when the dust settles? In other words; If I shoot the fly with the shotgun, I may or may not kill the fly, but who’s going to fix the wall? Is my pride and need for respect causing me to write a check that I cannot afford to be cashed? Is it really worth it?

There is an old ancient proverb that says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step!” Will you join me in taking a step today? Will you join me in doing whatever can be done to be a positive influence on those around us? It seems a bit overwhelming! The negativity and the violence seem enormous and gigantic! But it’s really no different than the journey of a thousand miles! The journey will only be completed and the senseless violence and death that has engulfed our culture will only subside to the light of life and sanity, one step and one person at a time!

Nipsey Hussle and MWS


Before I start, let me just say; I am not a fan of hip-hop or rap music! It is not that I am opposed to that music genre; I’m just not a fan. But I write this article in response to the recent murder of rap-artist; Nipsey Hussle. Now, since I am not a fan of that type of music, I did not even know who Nipsey Hussle was until Nipsey Hussle was not! But from what I have read since his untimely and tragic death, it would seem he represented a positive force in his community and our world, which is why I felt compelled to write this post.

Nipsey Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was shot multiple times outside his South Los Angeles apparel store, The Marathon Clothing, around 3:20 p.m. PDT Sunday; March 31, 2019 and was pronounced dead at the hospital. As I am writing this post, the police have named a suspect who has yet to be apprehended. Hussle, a former gang member, was involved in community building and investment in local businesses, public schools, and in young adults learning coding and other tech skills. He provided shoes for children in schools and heavily invested in his local community by owning a clothing store and other business ventures.

It is the classic story of a young Black man who, because of his environment and the cards he was dealt, made choices that caused him to turn to gangs, drugs and violence. However, he survived, got out and thrived! In acts of redemption, he gave back to his community and used his influence and money in an effort to pull others out and up. But his efforts were violently cut short by the bullets of an assassin, ironically, just a day before a meeting he had requested with the Los Angeles Police Commission on how to stop gang violence!

Now by now, you are wondering about MWS. MWS is an acronym for: Mad World Syndrome. We are suffering from extreme cases of madness (craziness; insanity) in our world today! It’s crazy for a person to be murdered who was doing all the positive things Hussle was doing to help people and stop murders! It’s crazy for people to be so insensitive, cold, and heartless toward other people. We are living in a time and culture now, wherein people cannot disagree and be civil in their disagreements. There once was a time, when people disagreed, they still maintained a level of mutual respect. But today, disagreeing parties feel compelled to dishonor, disrespect and dehumanize by name-calling and inflicting violence. We have even redefined the idea of tolerance. There once was a time when tolerance meant; I don’t agree with you, but I respect your viewpoint, therefore, I respect your right to be wrong! But today, tolerance has been redefined to suggest that if a person disagrees with another person, that person is hateful and mean! Such an idea is ludicrous and crazy! That’s a symptom of MWS (Mad World Syndrome)!

MWS is further illustrated in our country’s (USA) political world. The Congress and the President seemingly have forgotten about what is best for the country and are more focused on what is best for their particular political party and the special interest groups that financially support their campaigns. They propagate obvious lies with the belief that if they speak their lies often enough, loud enough, and forcefully enough, people will eventually accept their lies as truth! The crazy thing about it is; it works; that’s MWS!

I could go on and on, but the only way to contain MWS is by reaching one person at a time! There is no cure for the madness except a radical transformation within the human spirit and soul! We all must come to the realization that whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together! The killing of Nipsey Hussle reminds me of the craziness of a person shooting at another person on an airplane traveling at 30,000 feet in the air! Such an act could possibly hit the intended target, but the consequences do not justify the risk! For one thing, if the other person is indeed killed, the aggressors passion is satisfied, but his freedom is jeopardized because, in such a confined space, there is nowhere to run and hide! Secondly, the intended target might be missed and innocent lives (people who have nothing to do with the situation) could be lost! Thirdly, as my Daddy used to say; “A bullet don’t have no steering wheel!” Therefore a stray bullet could strike the hull of the plane, causing the cabin to depressurize and cause the plane to crash, killing all on board! Any way you look at it; such an attempt would be madness!

Now you might say that I just gave an extreme example, but similar scenarios are playing out everyday in our culture! The Nipsy Hussle incident is a prime example! Whether it was a gang-killing, or the result of a personal dispute; the results are the same. A young man, who had redeemed himself and was lifting up his fellowman is dead! The person who shot him will, be killed or lose their freedom in prison. Hussle lost his life! The assailant will lose his freedom or life! The families of both the victim and the assailant suffer loss! The community loses! The world loses! We all lose! That’s MWS!

Forever Human

It was a beautiful service, with multitudes of flowers and a massive gathering of family and friends. The casket was elaborate and no expense was spared in giving the dearly departed a grand send-off! I can’t tell you the number of times  I have personally observed such an occasion. But the thing that sticks with me long after such occasions more than the memory of the beautiful flowers or the elaborate casket, is the gross biblical ignorance displayed by Christian laymen and preachers at the funeral! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep. . . .” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 KJV) Yet, in spite of Paul’s writings and other passages in Scripture that provide insight into the state of the dearly departed, most people today are still ignorant of what the Bible says about death and the future eternal state of humanity!

You would think it was true according to what many, supposedly ‘spiritual people,’ say at funerals, but people don’t actually die because God wants or needs them in Heaven to enhance the ‘flowers of Heaven’ or to keep Him company! The Bible says; “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12 ESV) Death occurs because of sin! Not necessarily because of the particular sins of the person who died, but rather because we live in a sinful fallen world! Jesus said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV) So often, when someone dies, we attribute the death to God. We say things like: “The Lord took him!” or “It was just God’s will!” or the classic: “We loved them, but God loved them best!” (The absurdity of that statement is that we are actually implying that God loved them so much that God killed them, which is utterly ridiculous!). But, as in the case of the parable of the enemy who sowed the tares among the wheat while men slept, the truth of the matter is that when it comes to death, the real cause is; ‘An enemy has done this!” (Matthew 13:28).

But let me get back to my main purpose for writing this post! I think one of the greatest fallacies perpetrated when someone dies and on funeral occasions is the notion that people somehow turn into angels when they die! This false notion is illustrated by a depiction of the deceased, floating in the clouds with angel-wings on their backs! But there are at least two things wrong with that picture! First of all, where did we get the notion that even real angels have wings? It is certainly NOT from the Bible! The only heavenly or spiritual beings portrayed in the Bible as having wings are the Cherubim and the Seraphim! The fact that these two beings are specifically designated and their specific function indicates they are not the same as angels! Whenever and wherever angels are encountered in the Bible, they are always depicted as looking like normal men! No wings! No halos! And definitely No harps!

Secondly, angels are depicted in the Bible as ‘messengers.’ In fact, both the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as ‘angel’ in our English Bibles actually mean; ‘messenger.’ So, in a sense, the word ‘angel’ is not actually a designation of identity, but rather a designation of function! Just like, the term that we use for the person who delivers our mail doesn’t really say anything about who they are, it just tells what they do!  It is not their identity, it is their function!  As humans, we are the object of God’s love and the crown jewels of God’s created order. Therefore, for humans to turn into angels would actually be a ‘step-down’ not a step-up! Hush! I hear you! You are saying: “But what about Psalm 8:5, where the Bible says that man was created a little lower than the angels?” Well, the word that is translated as ‘angels’ in that verse is not the same Hebrew word that is translated as; ‘angel’ everywhere else in the Old Testament. In just about every other place in the Old Testament, where we see the word ‘angel’ or ‘angels’ in our English Bibles, the Hebrew word is ‘malek’ which means; messenger or representative. But in Psalm 8:5, the Hebrew word is ‘elohim’ which is actually the term used to refer to Yahweh God (the LORD God) or gods! Thus, what the Psalmist actually said was that man was made, not a little lower than ‘angels’ but rather a little lower than God! Therefore, for humans to become angels at death would be a demotion rather than a promotion! And think about it! If it was God’s intention for humans to become angels, why did God make them human? He could have made them angels in the first place! But God made angels to be angels forever and humans to be humans forever!

 We are forever human! In fact, the Bible states that the dearly-parted will one day come back to earth to reclaim their total humanity! (see1 Corinthians 15:13-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) [I use the term; ‘total’ because, according to the Genesis account, man was created as a union of spirit and body. Therefore, absence of a body, makes the dearly departed somewhat incomplete and not their total selves!] That’s what the Resurrection is all about; to reunite the spirit/soul with the body! For if we read the Bible carefully, we will discover that the redeemed will not spent eternity in the Heavenly realm in a spiritually disembodied state as the dearly departed are now, but rather on the earth in glorified bodies! (see Revelation 21:1-5) Notice the wording of the Revelation text, particularly verse 3 where John says: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Rev. 21:3 ESV) It is repeated three times in just one verse; the emphasis is not on man being with God, but rather John wants us to know the plan is for God to spend eternity with us! Why? Because that’s the way God made us! God did not create man to dwell in Heaven, God created man to dwell on the earth. When Adam communed with God, Adam didn’t go to Heaven to see God, but rather God came down to earth; to the garden to commune with Adam; the being God made to be forever human!

Another Look At Acts 1:8

In Acts 1:8, Luke records the resurrected Jesus saying to his disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (ESV) One of the fundamental mistakes that many people make (Sadly, some preachers make this mistake also!) as they are reading the Bible and want clarity, is to first consult an English dictionary to look up the meaning of English words in the text. When studying the Bible, to seek clarity of meaning, you DON’T START WITH THE ENGLISH WORD in the version you are reading. That is a fundamental exegetical mistake! You should start with the meaning of word in the original language in which the text was written! For the Old Testament, that would primarily be Hebrew and for the New Testament, it would be Greek! Hence, you don’t start with a Webster’s dictionary, but rather with a Hebrew and Greek lexicon!

I mention that because the Greek word that is translated as ‘witnesses’ in Acts 1:8 has a completely different primary meaning than the English word! A witness in English is someone who can attest to a fact or an event. It is someone who testifies, thereby provides verbal evidence to support the validity of a fact or an event. However, the primary meaning of the Greek word that is translated as ‘witnesses’ in Acts 1:8 is the word from which we get the English word; ‘martyr.’ The witnesses Jesus talked about were those who didn’t just ‘talk’ about him, but rather those who ‘died’ for the faith and the testimony of Jesus!

Now, I may be splitting hairs here, but I also noticed, as I read Acts 1:8, that the Greek word that is translated as ‘witnesses’ is not a verb, but rather a noun! The verb is the word that shows action; it is what you do, but the noun is the word that names, it is who you are! I believe Jesus was not telling them primarily to ‘do witnessing’ but rather to ‘be witnesses’ in the sense that they were not just to talk about him and give testimony of what they had seen and heard, but rather to also ‘be the evidence’ of Him! In other words, although telling people about Jesus was and is part of it, I think the primary point was and is for the followers of Jesus to actually be the evidence or the proof of Jesus and His claims! This point is illustrated in Acts 4:13, when Peter and John stood before the Council. The Bible says: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (ESV) How did they recognize that Peter and John had been with Jesus? Not primarily because Peter and John had told them, but rather because Peter and John themselves were the evidence; the proof; the witness of that fact! Yes! Peter and John testified about Jesus, but the convincing evidence was their ability to heal the man who was lame! Not only did they ‘talk’ about Jesus, but they ‘did’ what Jesus did; they made the lame walk again!

I believe the Lord is looking, not just for people who ‘talk’ or give testimonies about Him, but rather for people who are living examples (evidence; living witnesses) of His power to transform lives! It’s like when you are thinking about buying a product! No matter how many commercials you see advertising the product, the evidence that really convinces you is the people who have already bought the product! When you see what the product has done for them, you have evidence, you have witnesses of what the product can do for you! So, I believe Jesus was telling his disciples then, and those who would believe later on, that when you are empowered by My Spirit, you yourselves will be the witnesses; the evidence (exhibit: A), the convincing proof, that I AM who I say I AM!

See also: Can I Get A Witness?

Kingdom Here, Kingdom Come (A Guest Post)

This post was written by Aubry Smith and taken from Bible Study Magazine

When I was 13 my mom had a seizure in the middle of the night. After multiple tests and exploratory surgeries, the neurologists diagnosed her with terminal brain cancer. She had four months to live. As my siblings and I prepared our goodbyes, nearly every church in the county was praying for my mom’s healing.

A year later, the same team of doctors declared my mom in remission. Many people in our small community, convinced of God’s power and His hand in this miracle, came to faith. I was one of them.

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It seemed too good, and then it wasn’t. A few years later she began forgetting things. She began telling cashiers at the grocery store personal information and bought the same vacuum cleaner every week. Her surgical scars suddenly opened, and an infection spread through her skull, nearly killing her. After a year in the hospital and countless surgeries, one-third of her skull was permanently removed. Now in her 50s, she lives in an assisted living residence, remembers very little about her life, and cannot function on her own.

Rather than undergoing the quick death of brain cancer, she now suffers the slow death of dementia. The miracle that brought me to faith years ago now brings me to a spiritual crisis. Why would God provide a miracle only to allow even more suffering later on? In John 11, Jesus attends the funeral of His friend Lazarus. Although Jesus was aware that Lazarus lay dying, He intentionally delayed His arrival so that God would be glorified (11:4). Lazarus’ sisters and their fellow mourners all assert that Jesus could have healed Lazarus and spared them their suffering (11:21, 32, 37). In response, Jesus calls Lazarus—rotting and wrapped in burial linen—out of the tomb. Many believe, and God is indeed glorified.

What we are not told is when or how Lazarus died again. There’s no account of him being whisked up to heaven like Enoch or Elijah, so we must assume he died later on. We’re also not told the fate of the others Jesus healed. Did they ever get sick again? They surely died too.

Jesus preached that the kingdom of God is near. He showed us what that kingdom is like: the dead are resurrected, the sick are healed, demons are powerless, creation is restored, and God is worshiped. In his resurrection, Lazarus bore witness to God’s kingdom and power. Was God any less present or powerful when Lazarus died the second time?

We see glimpses of the coming kingdom, but it is not fully here yet. Death has not yet died; sin and brokenness still abound. Sometimes miracles—signs of the coming glory—break into our world and show us that the kingdom of God has come to us in Jesus. But when suffering remains, we wait for complete restoration upon Jesus’ return.

Jesus’ response to Lazarus’ mourners is one of hope. They desire resurrection and life for their brother. Jesus draws them to Himself, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die” (11:25, emphasis mine). Jesus, the Suffering Servant, is the God who suffers alongside His people. Although He knows that this is not the end for Lazarus, He is “deeply moved” by Mary’s anguish and the sight of His beloved friend’s tomb (11:33, 35, 38).

My mom’s miracle showed my community that God is near and that His kingdom—one without disease or mental illness—is coming in fullness one day. But her dementia reminds me that it is not yet fully here, pushing me to lean into Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, who weeps with me as I wait.

Scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation (NLT).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 6 No. 4