I've wondered at how professing Christians are so often worse than those in the world that show no interest in God. I saw something new to me in Second Peter a couple of days ago, and I've been thinking about it.
It's good that you can always learn new and important stuff reading words in the Bible that you've read umpteen times before. The Bible really is bottomless.
2 Peter 3:20 grabbed me by the ears last week as I was passing by: "If, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first."
This had always escaped my notice because I had read into it the idea that it involved being caught in exactly the same stuff - dope smokers going back to dope smoking, sexually immoral people going back to sexual immorality, fortune tellers back to fortune-telling, and so forth. But that's not actually in there.
What's in view is the "defilements of the world." And what are those? John the apostle helps us out here. "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world."
It's not about whether you went back to watching porno flicks It's about whether you went back to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." And it really doesn't matter if you went back to that room through a different door.
And sure enough, the ones that Peter is talking about throughout Chapter 2 is false prophets and teachers - zealous religious people. Back when, maybe they were selling used chariots, but now they're selling false teachings. And their last state is worse than the first.
So Peter is warning us here that the most likely way to fall away is not to go back to the details of the old life, but to forward into the same life of lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life as that left behind - only a lot worse, in religous zeal. And, mostly, that's what happens.
It is these religious people who are most anxious to beat down the poor, making sure they don't get away with something, while admiring the banksters and their trillion dollar legalized thefts. The letter of James on favoritism to the rich has not penetrated their heads. It is these religious people - as polls show consistently - who are most in favor of bombing and torturing people that they do not even know. It is these religious people who are more filled with fear of everything and everyone unfamiliar than the average "unbeliever," from Muslims in Afghanistan to a hitchhiker on the freeway,.
There's a great principle in the Bible, stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians - "Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?" For many years this was beyond me, and then it became obvious. It is perfectly clear in the light of the last of the six basic teachings of the Christian faith set forth in Hebrews 6 - eternal judgment. That's not "future judgment" but "eternal judgment" - from right now and forward.
At every moment, I need to remember that I will not answer to God for being robbed by you. I will answer for robbing you. I am not in danger of eternal hell in the very unlikely event that some Muslim suicide bomber blows me up. But I may well be, if I am in agreement with blowing up innocent people somewhere in obedience to my fears. For good cause the Revelation warns that cowards will find themselves in way bigger trouble than any burning building (Rev. 21:8).
Examine Jesus's words in Matthew 5. There's not much there about your danger at the hands of other people, but a whole lot about the wrath you might bring on yourself.
Now certainly we have to give some thought to harm from others - "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; be on guard against him yourself." And again, beware of false prophets, and such like. But isn't it rather obvious that the main danger to ourselves is the wrong that we do? And to beware of false prophets - doesn't that start with looking out for the false teachers in church pulpits warning us how important it is to keep ourselves safe by terrorizing and killing other people, or supporting others that do?