Unconditionally Hating Demons

pray for satan

Those of us who’ve grown up in a christian culture have probably all been taught to love everyone and even forgive and pray for our enemies.

Yet somehow demons have managed to be excluded from the definitions of the words “everyone” and “enemies.”

We were not taught to love demons.

We were not taught to forgive demons.

We were not taught to pray for demons.

Why?

Aren’t demons “someone”?

Aren’t they our enemy?

How come they are exempt from what Jesus instructed his disciples to do?

“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).

And why were we taught things that the scriptures in fact never do say, such as:

God doesn’t love demons.

Demons can’t repent. 

Demons can’t be forgiven. 

overboard

If God created demons, he must have initially loved them. But if God’s love for them could change after they turned bad, why should we be any different?

Why do we think that demons, unlike us, cannot change their ways? Why do we think that it’s “too late” for them? The scriptures never say this. According to Jesus anyone who believes in him can gain eternal life, and his reasoning is that he didn’t come to condemn but to save (John 3:16-17).

Why do people cringe and even become outraged at the suggestion of forgiving demons?

People often say “God is love!” and proceed to describe him with 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. That very segment says that love keeps NO record of wrongs. Most people have no problem applying that line to humans. But…. what if there are no boundaries to love? After all, Paul did note in Romans 8:19 that creation (not just humans) eagerly awaits the manifestation of the children of God. Or maybe when in Mark’s account of the life is Jesus (Mark 16:15), he mentions that Jesus asked those with him to preach the gospel to ALL creation (again, not all humans). Do we really think that we can stretch the goodness of God so far that he interrupts us and says “Okay, okay I know I’m good/gracious/merciful/loving and all but come on guys, I’m not THAT good… sheesh!”? – Daniel Kotin

I’m done being angry. It’s no fun. When anger is directed toward demons, people call it “spiritual warfare” and act as if it is a fruit of the Spirit, but it’s not.

I’ve been more at peace in my heart since I’ve extended pardon to the “spirits in prison,” just like Jesus did (1 Peter 3:18-20).

devilAccording to Jesus, we are the ones who determine whether demons are forgiven or not.

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23).

So I choose to forgive all demons.

I forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

I choose to believe that God will indeed be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28) and that God’s redemption really is powerful enough to “restore all things,” even demons (Acts 3:21).

When evil shall have been some day annihilated in the long revolutions of the ages, nothing shall be left outside the world of goodness, but that even from those evil spirits shall rise in harmony the confession of Christ’s Lordship. – Gregory of Nyssa

I know that most persons understand by the story of Nineveh and its king, the ultimate forgiveness of the devil and all rational creatures. – St. Jerome

In the end God’s patient love will succeed in making all his creatures weary of their unfaithfulness. The most stubborn will eventually give in and consent to love him, and at last even his enemy death will be overcome. – Origen

The devils themselves after a set time expired should be loosed from their torments, and become bright angels in heaven, as they were before. – Origen

*****

Also see:

The Salvation of Satan by C. A. Patrides
http://www.jstor.org/stable/2708524

Relationships Are Easy

Conflict

Relationships are easy.

I understand that people have experienced real struggles in their relationships. I am not trying to discredit those experiences or say they weren’t real. I too have experienced struggles in my relationships.

What I am saying here is that none of it is necessary.

In a previous Facebook post I wrote, “You can interpret disagreements and misunderstandings as conflict, or you can interpret them as opportunities to explore the other person.”

Couples here in Japan often talk about how they regularly argue. They seem to believe that arguing is an unavoidable reality and take comfort in the fact that other couples around them are experiencing the same quality of relationship.

But does it really have to be that way? Does true intimacy necessitate conflict?

I had a friend recommend and lend to me a book on marriage that started with the premise that marriage will be hard work, no matter how good your relationship is. That was in the introduction. I didn’t read any further.

I know people who have married believing that “marriage is hard work.” In their experience, it indeed has been hard work. I also know people who have married believing that “marriage is easy.” In their experience, it indeed has been easy.

What you expect is what you get.

The same is true for all other kinds of relationships – family, friends, co-workers, those you live with, etc.

You may be wondering how, on a practical level, I can believe this. It all hinges on the concept within the post that I quoted above.

Arguments are based on the assumption that differences are bad. Under this assumption, when a difference in opinion or action is encountered, the default reaction is to get defensive (when they don’t like what you do) or offensive (when you don’t like what they do).

When we choose to feel threatened by people who say or do something differently than we would, we will want to control them. We will try to get them to think or act like us or suppress their feelings concerning what we say or do.

On the other hand, when we choose to appreciate them for who they are, we will seek to understand why they are different than us. It will launch you into an adventure of understanding who they are and what makes them think and act the way they do. You will gain a new perspective on them and adjust how you approach them.

If agreement is the goal in your relationships, you will live in a state of perpetual conflict because no one fully agrees with anyone. There’s something about cultivating an ability to be okay with disagreement that enables you to enjoy other people for who they are, no matter where they are at in life.

I’m not saying there will never be incompatible interests. I’m saying that those occasions needn’t give rise to conflict and instead are an opportunity for love.

Selfishness is rooted in thinking that your desire and another’s, what is best for you and best for them, are at odds, that it must be one or the other. This is simply not true.

Humans are interconnected, and the satisfaction of one cannot be separated from that of another. Your happiness makes me happy, and your sadness makes me sad. Further, the greatest pleasure is found in loving others. As Jesus explained it, giving is happier than receiving.

I also recognize that people can do stupid stuff, but confronting them when their behavior persists doesn’t have to be a big deal. It feels like a big deal for some of us because we grew up in cultures and environments in which such feelings and thoughts are suppressed (unless they build up to the point of explosion). But, really, it can be dealt with easily by telling them how what they do makes you feel. If they care about you, they will change their behavior accordingly.

This is usually not practiced because of fear. People may give other reasons, but I think it boils down to this. Confronting someone means revealing that you think differently than they do, thus creating a situation in which conflict is a possible outcome.

As I explained earlier, however, it never has to head in that direction. What it comes down to is trust. Can they trust that your confrontation is not a personal affront but rather an act of vulnerability in which you open your heart up to them? Conversely, can you trust that, when you open yourself up to them, they will not judge or take offense at you?

Take the risk.

Love deeply.

And discover that it is the most fun yet least difficult way of life.

Unconditional Love and Our Universal Parent

ILLUSTRATION: Big family

Christians like to say that God loves unconditionally. But do they really mean it?

Do you really believe it?

Let’s see how this plays out in the concept of God’s family.

In God’s family, God is the Father.

God being our “Father” is a figure of speech. It does not mean, like it does in our natural families, that he is our biological parent. Rather, it is simply an expression that points to his love for us.

As a byproduct of God’s unconditional love, I believe God has what I like to call an “unconditional family.” Everyone is accepted into this family. No condition can be placed on an individual’s inclusion.

God loves all, and is therefore the Father of all. 

I understand that the idea of the inclusion of all of humanity into God’s family is stretching for some. I’m willing to bet that most of my readers grew up being taught some form of exclusion, that people are not accepted into God’s family until some condition is fulfilled (confess, repent, believe, etc.).

But is exclusion really compatible with unconditional love?

Let’s say that he is only the Father of some and that only some are his sons and daughters. Then God only loves some, or if we want to make it sound not as bad we could say that he has a special love for some that he doesn’t have for all people.

But this is performance-based love. It’s not unconditional love because the “love” increases when you do certain things; he treats you differently according to what you do.

If we try to avoid this problem by saying that he loves all people equally but simply does not adopt some, how can that be said to be love? If you truly love a kid, why wouldn’t you adopt them (especially when you have infinite resources)? Clearly, some condition is blocking you from adopting them, thereby making the “love” conditional.

Many people, and particularly atheists, have long recognized this inconsistency in the so-called God of unconditional love.

So, once again, do you really believe that God’s love is unconditional?

001-Unconditional-Love-With-ConditionsAt this point, some may be wondering what the scriptures have to say about this.

To be sure, it’s not difficult to find verses that seem to say that some people are not included in God’s family. For example, Romans 9:8 makes a distinction between the “children of the flesh” and the “children of the promise,” saying that only the latter are “children of God.” In John 8:42 and 44 Jesus says to some Pharisees, “If God were your Father, you would love me…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” The test for whether someone is a child of God or of the devil is whether they continue in sin or practice righteousness and love their brother (1 John 3:7-10). “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). (Note: For those who are interested, I deal with what perhaps might be considered the most difficult passage on this topic, namely John 1:12, at the bottom of this post.)

However, there is a distinction to be made between being a child of God and acting like a child of God.

I generally contend that when the scriptures say that some are not his children, they are referring to behavior and not identity. Sure, there are people who continue in their evil ways and thus do not act like the child of God that they are, but that’s only because they don’t know their true identity. People act out what they believe they are, so if they believe that they are something other than a beloved child of God, they will naturally act that that.

One reason I believe is is because we can also find passages that seem to say that God is everybody’s Father, or equivalently that everyone is his child.

Malachi 2:10 says, “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?” Here we see the fatherhood of God tied to his being our creator. Since he is the creator of all, he is also the Father of all.

In Matthew 7:11 Jesus, speaking to a multitude that included those whom he called “hypocrites” (vs. 5), refers to God as “your Father” (emphasis mine).

Paul writes in Ephesians, “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (4:6, emphasis mine), and “the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named” (3:14-15, emphasis mine).

On the basis of the eternal will of God we have to think of every human being, even the oddest, most villainous or miserable, as one to whom Jesus Christ is Brother and God is Father; and we have to deal with him on this assumption. – Karl Barth

What about adoption? The scriptures say we are adopted. Doesn’t that imply that there was a point at which we were not God’s children, and therefore that some are still not?

It’s important to understand that the concept of adoption in biblical times was different than that which we have today. In most cultures nowadays, adoption is the process by which a child legally becomes a member of a family. This process also existed back in biblical times, but adoption also carried another sense.

The Romans had a practice of natural fathers “setting goals” for their sons, who could then reach those goals at certain ages and be “placed as an adult son” into manhood. The Jews also had a tradition where sons were publicly acknowledged to be mature, responsible sons who had come of age and from that time on could conduct business in their fathers’ names and in some measure speak and act with their fathers’ authority.

In this sense, adoption is not the making of a son but the placing of a son.

“Becoming” a child of God is not a legal matter but a paternal matter. Everyone is already a child of God; the question is whether they have matured, “conforming to the image of the Son” (Romans 8:29), knowing who they are and giving expression to the one who lives in them.

Further, adoption is a corporate concept; God adopted humanity through Christ, its substitute, and it thereby shares in his sonship.

“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5).

Did he predestine only some? Were only those who would believe predestined, so that it’s all up to our ability to believe the right things? No. God did the predestining, not our choice to believe, and God chose to predestine everyone. The only difference is whether each person chooses to acknowledge their acceptance.

(Interestingly, Romans 8:23 even talks about adoption as future event for believers.)

Who you are is not determined by what you do but where you originated from, who lives in you, and what he did to and for you.

Some will say God is everyone’s creator but not necessarily everyone’s Father. That’s like a dad who intentionally plans to have a baby but also intentionally plans to not consider it as his child.  Some would respond, “They were originally God’s children, but when they sinned they ceased to be.” That’s like a dad who throws his kid on the streets for doing just one naughty thing.

How could you create someone, love them, but refuse to be a Father to them? How could a good Father decide whether someone is his child or not based on whether they live up to a certain standard (and that standard is to not allow any mistakes whatsoever)? Most human fathers are more gracious than that!

If you read this post and realized that you don’t believe in unconditional love, that’s fine – just don’t go around telling people that the God you believe in loves them unconditionally. Tell them of the conditional love that you actually believe in. “You are currently excluded from God’s family, but if you do such and such, God will accept you.” Let them know about the God who supposedly wants to be their Father but can’t until they jump through some religious hoops. And don’t forget to tell them that they are children of the devil!

As for me, I’ll be sharing the good news that God will not love or treat people differently according to their performance, and that everyone has already been included in the unconditional family of God.

I consider everyone to be my brother or sister regardless of whether they believe it or not or even act like it or not.

It only depends on the true reality of who they are in Christ.

“For you are all children of God by the faith of Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).

*****

Also see:

Adoption by John R Gavazzoni
http://greater-emmanuel.org/jg/2006/jg_06_18.html

*****

John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (NIV).

Yet another translation seems to say something quite different: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (NASB).

Considering that the Reformation’s emphasis on your own faith (as opposed to Jesus’ faith) has dominated the West for centuries, it’s not surprising that many have favored the former rendering.

Anyhow, in the latter translation, who the children of God are depends on the answer to the question, “who has received Him?” We can’t answer “those who believe in Him,” because that doesn’t fit with the subsequent part of the verse, “even to those who believe.”

At this point I note that the Greek word translated “receive” is the same word commonly used throughout Acts in the phrase “receive the Holy Spirit” (different than the word also translated “receive” in the previous verse in John, which speak of conscious acceptance).  How does one receive Holy Spirit? Does something actually take place where you previously did not “have” Holy Spirit, but when you “receive” him you do? I don’t think so.

In Acts 2:17 Peter quotes Joel’s prophecy – “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” He says this to show people that the disciples were not drunk but rather were filled with Holy Spirit. Basically, Peter is saying that the prophecy has been fulfilled.

But look carefully at what the prophecy says. The Spirit was poured out on all flesh. Not just on the disciples. Not just on those who believe. Everyone. Nor was the Spirit poured out potentially (i.e. if you believe, then it will be poured out on you). The text simply says that God will pour out, and because the prophecy was fulfilled, we can say that the Spirit indeed was poured out.

Yet we know that it is not the case that everyone consciously received Holy Spirit by their own choice and action (it didn’t even seem like the disciples did). This is because the Spirit was poured out. In other words, God did it of his own initiative.

(This is the same idea as 1 Corinthians 1:30, which says, “By His doing [not ours] you are in Christ Jesus” (emphasis and commentary mine), i.e. all humanity is in Christ, and 1 Peter 1:3, which says the Father “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” i.e. the Father caused us to be born again through the resurrection, not through our choice or action, thus all have been born again; the cosmos is a new creation)

“Well, what about all the talk of receiving Holy Spirit in the subsequent chapters of Acts?” This was people entering an awareness of the Spirit who already dwelt within them. You have to know that God dwells in you for it to be of any benefit, because only then can you truly begin to relate with him.

Again, this goes back to the idea that God doesn’t treat us differently based on our performance. He generously poured out his Spirit because he loved us, not because we got our act together and did whatever thing we need to do to receive Holy Spirit (whatever that is lol).

Back to John 1:12, I understand the receiving to be a passive reception whereby God caused all people to “receive” him (like when Jesus breathed on his disciples in John20:22 saying, “receive the Holy Spirit”).

Further, the word translated “right” in both translations I gave is much more commonly translated as “power” or “authority.” Its first definition in Strong’s Concordance is, “power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases.”

Thus, I believe John is speaking of our freedom to act as and to “become,” in action and in manifestation, the children of God that we are.

In conclusion, I don’t see John expressing in this verse the idea that some people are not God’s children.

A Militant God? – If You’re Owned, You’re “Pwned”

russian-troops-surrender

What does a wrestler do when he’s placed in a painful and inescapable position?

What does an army do when it is completely surrounded and outnumbered?

And what do you do when God tells you that he’s madly in love you?

Surrender.

Surrender?

Well, that’s what a lot of believers say. Kind of strange, no? Think about it.

Has anyone ever responded with an “I surrender” when you told them that you love them? If someone did that to me, I would think that that person is thinking that I want to control them or something. lol.

Surrender communicates fear. At least the way it is normally used does. Wrestlers surrender to escape pain. Armies surrender to they don’t get slaughtered.

And it does so even when Christians use it. It makes it sound like God’s ultimate goal is obedience, and if he’s not obeyed that there will be punishment. In other words, he wants control over you, and he will use fear to get it.

But God’s not like that. At all.

First, obedience has its place. But God desires his children to move beyond merely being obedient slaves to being friends who know his heart. Jesus communicated this to his disciples the night before he was crucified (John 15:15).

Second, Jesus took care of any and every need for us to fear or be punished on the cross (1 John 4:18).

Third, God is not a cosmic control freak. That’s why he created us free, even to the point of allowing us to reject him if we so choose. There can be no love without the freedom to choose whether to love.

God is not militant; he is benevolent.

He’s not trying to get you to surrender to his every bidding. He simply wants you to know the depths of his love for you, and he knows the rest will naturally follow out of knowing that love.

Surrender is a poor word to describe our relationship with Christ. It expresses a sense of being obedient although, really, we don’t want to. There’s a word for “following Jesus” only out of a fear of damnation: religion. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), but it is not the end of it. You can only truly get to know Jesus by love. We fear him as a foundation to fall back on when all else fails, but ultimately we are not able to live a fruitful life or have a healthy relationship without love being our motivating factor.

If you think that doing what God tells you to do is no fun, I have some good news to share with you: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

Let me switch to a related topic.

Have you ever told God, ”I give you everything. I give you all of me”?

If you haven’t, you’re probably not a disciple of Jesus (not that you have to say those exact words, but the idea within it).

If you have, have you told him that more than once? If so, I question why you are re-giving him everything. Did you take it back from him after you gave it? I encourage you to not do that. It’s just not a very nice thing to do.

Instead, recognize that you already belong to God (1 Corinthians 3:23), you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), and everything you have came from God as a gift (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Us belonging to God doesn’t mean he uses us the way we use our belongings like pens, clothes, or computers. We belong to God and God belongs to us the way a husband and wife belong to each other; we are his bride. It is a mutual belonging of love.

It’s not about giving yourself to God (as if he needed anything from our side). It’s about realizing that we belonged to him all along, even before we acknowledged it.

When you believed Jesus and became part of the Church you acknowledged that you indeed do belong to Jesus.

Here’s what I wish to point out: possession implies surrender.

If you acknowledge that you belong to God, then you’re already “surrendered” to him. You “surrendered” when you realized your need for a savior and came to Jesus.

Practically, this means that you have believed that God’s ways are a lot more fun and joyous than what the world has to offer. Thus, when God tells you to do something, you cheerfully do so, not because you are “surrendered” to him or because it’s your “duty,” but simply because you know that that’s the most fun and most joyful thing you can do. And if God’s goodpleasing, and perfect will doesn’t seem so fun or joyous to you, then your mind is not renewed in that area (Romans 12:2). If you come across something like this, all you have to do is ask Jesus why it’s so great and I bet he will tell you. Even if he doesn’t right then, if you truly believe he loves you and has your best interest in mind, then he can be trusted.

If “surrender” is to have a place in a believer’s vocabulary, it should be to describe the sweet surrender of giving up on your own efforts to try to please God and live upright and instead trusting in what Jesus did and does in and through you.

So I commend to you “Sweet Surrender” by Bread. These guys have it down :] (lyrics below video)

Baby I’m through runnin’ it’s true
I’d be a fool to try to escape you
Maybe I’m beat but oh what a sweet surrender
You keep your rights, I’ll take your nights
No one can lose when we turn the lights out
Tastin’ defeat, lovin’ that sweet surrender
I’m giving’ up myself to you but I didn’t really lose at all
I gave the only love I’ve known and it never hurt me to fall
Now that it’s done, so glad you won
I know our lives have only begun now
No more retreat, only y sweet surrender