“18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” (2 Corinthians 1:18-20)
So why do people think Christians are so negative? Perhaps it’s because we are always telling people what they can’t do. The “Thou-shalt-nots” loom large in our life. Christians come by it naturally though. Our Jewish forefathers studied the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) carefully gleaning out the commandments. When they were done, they counted 613 commandments – 365 negative commands and 248 positive ones. The rabbis explained there is one negative commandment for every day of the lunar year and one positive commandment for every bone in the human body. Of course that still works out to about three “Thou-shalt-nots” for every two “Thou-shalts.”
I once heard a preacher justify his fiery, negative preaching by quoting Paul’s words to Timothy: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort,” (2 Timothy 4:2). Then he explained, “That means in two out of three sermons you ought to be angry about something.”
Yikes! But just because there are negative commandments in the Bible, does that mean we should be negative people? I don’t think so! The “thou-shalt-nots” are there to free us to live. After all, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” (John 10:10). The negatives are there to keep us from making dead end choices. Look at Paul’s list again. When has a “fit of anger” ever made you happy? Are “jealous” people content? Do drunks get the most out of life or do these sins represent paths to unhappiness? No wonder a loving God warns us not to make such foolish choices!
“But there is so much evil in the world!” someone might warn and they would be right. Judith Smith pointed out in Ladies’ Bible Class, “The way to overcome evil is to turn it around. ‘Evil’ spelled backwards is ‘Live.’”
Let’s take a closer look at the word “evil.” Two words for “evil” used in the New Testament are phalos and kakos. The first, phalos can also be translated “base, ordinary.” That sheds an interesting light on Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [phalos],” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
What if we translated Paul’s words as “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in this life, whether good or ordinary”? If you really want to experience life don’t settle for evil, that’s just ordinary. Be extraordinary!
The second word is kakos. The second century Christian, Ignatius, wrote: “These people, while pretending to be trustworthy, mix Jesus Christ with poison [kakos]—like those who administer a deadly drug with honeyed wine, which the unsuspecting victim accepts without fear, and so with fatal pleasure drinks down death,” (Letter to the Traillians, 6:2). Evil is a deadly poison. I want no part of that!
So God is warning us not drink the poison the world is offering; instead live an extraordinary life! This thing we call “sin” has consequences, now and later, so choose life!