Warnings and Early Warnings

October 14, 2012

Video from (Peggy’s Cove)
If you aren’t familiar with the video shot, then I’m not
sure what to say.  I took that a month
ago while we were on our annual pilgrimage to Peggy’s cove, and while I
preparing to take some of these phone photos I noticed the lady down on the
rocks.  If you were watching carefully
you  were aware of just how close she was
to the edge of the water.  Now realize
that in order for her to get to the spot where she was standing that she would
have had to pass one of these warning signs, and have ignored the older less
politically correct signs that are scattered around Peggy’s Cove.  32 clicks to make a clue and she didn’t have
a click.
I don’t know if you could hear on the video but a couple of
people who walked behind me commented on the fact that she was on the dark
rocks.  That means rocks where the waves
have been recently. 
Perhaps if you had of asked her she would have told you that
she knew exactly what she was doing, that others may have been swept off the
rocks at Peggy’s Cove but that wasn’t her intentions.  If you had questioned her common sense
perhaps she would have told you not to judge her, that she knew what she was
doing and the signs were for others who weren’t nearly as intelligent as she
was. 
She may have even suggested that the signs weren’t binding,
they weren’t the law that they were merely suggestions and that if she had of
followed the suggestion then she wouldn’t have been able to get the photographs
that she wanted to.
Now to be fair I was shooting video that I thought I would
be able to sell to the Television News if anything went awry.  But seriously I was watching because I knew
that if something happened that someone would have to do something, I’m not
sure if I would be prepared to jump in the water after her, but I could
certainly yell for help. 
And she was not only placing herself in danger but was
putting others in danger because someone would feel obliged to jump into the
water after her.  And if they failed to pull
her to safety or recover her body then her family would insist that society, in
the form of the coast guard and local fisherman should place themselves at risk
and spend vast amounts of money to recover her body.  All because she refused to heed the warnings.  And then some nitwit would suggest that we
fence all of Peggy’s cove to prevent it from happening again. 
Which goes to prove the truth of Billy Sunday’s statement
“Sin can be forgiven, but stupid is forever.” 
About the same time in the news was the story of Maria
Pantazopoulos, the thirty year old bride who drowned during a photo shoot near
Dorwin Falls in Quebec.  And that was a
tragedy but it was preventable.  Her
family has suggested that there should be barriers to keep people away from the
water because the warning signs are not enough. 
Others have suggested that there be regular patrols or that life
preservers be installed along the water edge.
How about this for a suggestion?  Pay attention to the warning signs?  Just a thought.   I don’t
want to negate the tragedy of Pantazopoulos’ death, but there were warning
signs posted. 
And I completely agree with warning signs in areas like
this. When there is danger we should know about it.   And if
there weren’t warning signs it would be irresponsible.  That’s why we have warning signs.
Now some warning signs are just dumb, like the label on a
bottle of peanuts warning people that it might contain peanuts, or the
hairdryer warning stating that it should not be used while sleeping, the label
on the iron on transfer that says “Do not iron while wearing shirt”. 
This warning I like, it was on the back of a truck operated
by a septic tank cleaning company and it said “Warning this truck may contain
political promises.” 
But there are warnings that
must be taken serious.  The past couple
of weeks we have been talking about “What Jesus Said about Our Behaviour”  and I would suggest that when Jesus spoke
about our behaviour he was posting warning signs.  Signs that warn that certain behaviours can
hurt us, physically, emotionally, spiritually and eternally.    
In the scripture that was read
earlier Jesus warns people about those who exhibit evil behaviour.  A very similar list is given by Paul in
Galatians and that list concludes with these words Galatians
5:21
. . . Let me tell you again, as I have
before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of
God.   That my friends is a
warning. 
But a warning at that point is
like a warning at the edge of a cliff: If you jump off this cliff you will
die.  Or perhaps even a warning half way
down the cliff:  If you have jumped off
this cliff you will die.  A little late
perhaps. 
But what can we do to prevent
us from getting to that spot?  In the
Lord’s prayer Jesus teaches us to pray Matthew 6:13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the
evil one.  I wonder what a
difference it would make in our lives if we prayed that before we got out of
bed each morning?  And meant it? 


But let’s go back a little bit earlier in the Sermon on
the Mount to see the various “Early Warning” signs that Jesus’ posts for those
who would choose to follow him. 
We’ve talked before about how Old Testament laws were laid
down for a nation to keep it from deteriorating into moral decay, and rotting
away from the inside.  The concepts that
Christ goes on to deal with here were meant to hold the moral fabric of Israel
together.  They are the essence of the 10
Commandments, and seriously if our Country lived by those rules Canada would be
a much better place to live.  
But Christ goes on to say that
believers, Christian, those who would follow Christ had a much higher calling
then to simply obey the law, and so he tells us how to avoid getting to those
dangerous spots.    Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not
murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you
are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone
an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse
someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
The Warning is Don’t Kill, The Early Warning is Don’t Hate 
The law says you shall not murder.  That’s cool, in order for society not to
destroy itself it needs to respect life from conception to natural death.  When we decide that life at any point on the
time line is any less or any more valuable than at any other point then we are
opening doors better left closed.   A
society that permits the sacrifice of its unborn children for convenience and
economic benefit will eventually permit the same for the elderly. 
And while respect for life is a wonderful concept for
society as a whole the believer is required to go a step further and along with
not kill they must not even hate.  And
that can only happen with the help of God. 
Jesus knew that the action begins with the thought and so he
warns us to not even start down the path that leads to the cliff.  It was Poet Audre Lorde who warned us  “Hatred is a death wish for the hated, not a
life wish for anything else.” 
Jesus understood the power of hatred and anger, how it
consumes other emotions.  When we look at
social unrest and the violence it so often breeds in most case it begins with
anger and turns to hate. 
You all know what is meant by the phrase “If looks could
kill.”
And what is true in society is true in personal
relationships.  And even if that anger
doesn’t result in the killing of a person, it kills a relationship.  And slowly it destroys the person who
hates. 
Sometimes you hear in the news about someone who takes the
life of another and it seems like it is a spontaneous act, a crime of passion
something that happens in the heat of the moment but in many cases there is an
underlying anger at play.   Paul nailed
it when he warns us in Ephesians 4:26-27 And
“don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you
are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
So Jesus warns us to nip that anger in the bud.  Don’t let anger steal your joy.   And that’s not always easy, but try this: If
there is someone in your life that you are angry with try praying for them, not
praying about them but praying for them. 
It’s not easy but try it. 
If the prohibition against murder is paramount in protecting
society the next command is fundamental to protecting the family.  And so Jesus tells us, Matthew 5:27-28 “You have
heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say,
anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with
her in his heart
The Warning is: Don’t Cheat, The Early Warning is: Don’t Think About it
But as with murder,  adultery very
seldom does just happen.  This command of
Jesus actually covers two of the Ten Commandments.  The first of course is the seventh
commandment, you must not commit adultery, but then Jesus draws on the tenth
commandment as well, You must not covet. 
You must not want what isn’t yours. 
In 1977 Conway Twitty had a number one hit with the song “I’ve already
loved you in my mind.”  Stayed at number
one for 11 weeks and that’s where adultery begins, in our mind.  The problem today extends beyond coveting our
neighbours spouse to all that is served up on television, movies and the
internet.  It is fixating on how green
the grass looks on the other side of the fence to the neglect of our own grass.
 And by the way if your neighbours grass
looks greener than yours it might be because he takes better care of his grass.
Just saying.
And you know what I’m talking about, you know what you
can’t watch or can’t read and places you can’t go. 
Every once in a while we hear about someone who cheats and
we think, “Wow, that came out of nowhere.” 
But 2000 years ago the Roman Satirist Juvenal observed that “No one every
suddenly became depraved.”
Now I’m sure that there are some folks who are sitting
there thinking, “Don’t worry Denn, I’ve got it all under control.”  No you don’t! 
Proverbs 6:27-28 
Can a man scoop fire into his lap and not be burned? Can he walk on hot
coals and not blister his feet? By the way that was a rhetorical
question and Solomon wasn’t really expecting an answer.
So what is the solution? 
In the computer world you used to hear the phrase “Garbage in Garbage
out.”  The secret is to control what goes
into your mind and your heart, and only you can do that.  Your TV has a remote, you can put the book
down, you can turn the computer off.  And
you can follow the advice of God’s word, 
Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your
thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and
admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
The next warning goes hand with the previous one.
Matthew
5:31-32
“You have heard the law that says,
‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’
But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful,
causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also
commits adultery.
The Warning is: Divorce Formally, The Early Warning is: Make Divorce Hard The Old
Testament recognized that the marriage was both sacred and binding The Prophet
Malachi wrote in Malachi 2:16 “For I hate
divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. . .
Now that’s fine in theory but it didn’t work well in
practice.  One of the major problems of
the time was that woman weren’t viewed as people nearly as much as they were as
things.  And so when a man didn’t want
his wife anymore he simply showed her the door. 
Well you can well imagine the effect that this would have on society and
so the law brought about a proper procedure to deal with the situation and
again it was a law for unredeemed people.
Do you remember Deuteronomy 24:1 “Suppose
a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something
wrong with her, he writes her a letter of divorce, hands it to her, and sends
her away from his house.
The big debate with the Jews was what was meant by the
term “Does not please him”  the most
conservative teachers said that it meant adultery, or he discovered that she
wasn’t a virgin when they married. 
Others said that it meant that she made her husband unhappy in some
ways.  It could be that she couldn’t have
children, that she was disobedient, that she was a nag or burnt dinner or that
he had found someone that he preferred over her. 
It was this second more liberal view that was held by the
majority of the Jews at the time, at least the majority of the men.  And so if the wife displeased her husband
then he gave her a writ of divorce that said Let this
be from me your writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation,
that you may marry whatever man you wish. 
This was the law for society and remains so today, if you cannot
live with your spouse and you aren’t a Christian you don’t simply desert them
you go through the necessary actions and paper work and make it official.  This rule was there to protect the
institution of marriage, to provide a waiting period so to speak, to make it a
little more difficult than simply walking away.
When you hear about people and their starter marriages you
know that they have already planned their exit strategy.  If your list of why your marriage could end
contains more than a couple of reasons you are setting yourself up for
failure. 
It was Zsa Zsa Gabor who said “Getting divorced just because you
don’t love a man is almost as silly as getting married just because you do.”
And so Jesus tells us warns that unless we view divorce as
a worse case option it will become way too easy and that has proved itself true
in today’s society. 
Matthew
5:33
“You have also heard that our ancestors
were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make
to the LORD.’   Matthew 5:37 Just
say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the
evil one. The Warning is: Don’t Lie, The
Early Warning is: Be People of Integrity
Again the Old Testament
contains laws concerning oaths, that simply means promising to do
something.  The result was that people
felt that they only time they had to be complelty honest was when they had
taken a vow.  This law was to make sure
that the word of people would be binding, essentially it was speaking about
verbal contracts. 
Two things brought swearing to a head during the time of
Christ, the first was taking oaths on frivolous things, and we do that today
don’t we, “Honest, I swear, I was in the line at Tim
Hortons for 20 minutes”  The
second problem was even worse and that was evasive swearing.  People had decided that some oaths were
binding and others weren’t.  So if you
made an oath on God’s name it was binding, but if you swore by heaven, or earth
or Jerusalem then it was less binding. 
The thought being that if God’s name was used then he became a partner
with you in the statement.  Just a little
pet peeve here, I think that some people, believers included, use the name of
God much too lightly and I don’t just mean cussing, I mean when we use God as
an exclamation in our Conversation. 
Saying “Oh my God” is misusing the name of God, as is typing OMG.  To keep it simple the only time you should
use the word God is when you are talking about Him or to Him.  By the way that was free.
Jesus recognized that an unredeemed society needed to have
something to govern them other than their innate honesty.  Order cannot be maintained without some kind
of legal mechanism to insure that promises would be kept.
But Jesus told those who followed him that they should be so
honest, so filled with integrity that no one would ever think of questioning
their word.   If we are to tell the truth
in big things then we will need to tell the truth in little things.  A half-truth is a whole lie.   To quote Don Galer, “Integrity is
what we do, what we say, and what we say we do.”
There is nothing more damaging to the reputation of the
Kingdom then Christians who don’t keep their word and aren’t people of
integrity.  When Churches don’t pay their
bills, when those who profess to follow Christ are less than honest it not only
drags their name through the mud it does the same for Christ. 

The warning is when you have taken a vow don’t break it, the early warning is
live such a life of integrity that breaking your word would never be a
consideration. 
Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match
the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not
resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other
cheek also.
The Warning is: Limit Revenge, The Early Warning is: Learn to Forgive  Where his listeners would have heard this
would have been in Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21 and Exodus 21:24.  This is the oldest law in the world, “an
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. 
That law was referred to in the ancient world as Lex Talionis (lex
talin-o-nis), but it might have been more aptly referred to as the “law of tit
for tat”  It appears in the earliest code
of law and that was the code of Hammurabi, who was a Babylonian King who lived
1800 years before Christ.  The main
principal is clear; if a person inflicts an injury then he would receive the
same treatment.
There are some who would call
this harsh and blood thirsty, but in reality it was the beginning of mercy, for
two reasons:  The first is that it
limited Judgement, if someone knocked out one of your teeth then you can’t
knock out all of his.  Secondly it took
judgement away from the individual and gave it to society.  Probably the greatest example of the why and
how of this law was capital punishment. 
If someone killed your child they would be sentenced to death, that was
their punishment, you couldn’t go out and kill their children and their
spouse.  This type of law was indicative
of the society in which Christ lived.  It
was very much a retaliatory society. 
And it still is through much of
the Middle East, Iran does it, Syria does it, Lebanon does it, Iraq does it,
Libya does it and if you want a real lesson in retaliatory justice then just
watch the Jews.  But then again we
support Israel so when the do it we don’t call it terrorism.
If’n you want to stomp out evil
by stomping out the evil doer then the law of Moses is fine.  But if’n you want to destroy evil and salvage
the sinner then you need a completely different approach.
The law tells us to react in
kind, and that suits our human personality. 
We are quite willing to kill the killer, hate the hater, and be close
minded to the close minded.  But Christ
isn’t content with those who call themselves by his name reacting in the same
way as the world.  Instead of reacting in
kind, he commands us to react in contrast. 
If we are going to change the world it will happen through forgiveness, It
was Martin
Luther King Jr. who wrote “That old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves
everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.” 
If you don’t forgive when
you’ve been wronged eventually it will consume you and turn you into a hateful
resentful person.  And that isn’t who
Christ called people to be.
And finally Jesus sums up his
teaching but stating, Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and
hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute
you! When the overriding
motivation is displaying the love of Christ the rest of the pieces will fall into
place.  When you seek to love others in
the way that Christ loves you then you won’t have to worry about whether you do
this or don’t do that.