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1997 Issue 8

Sardis was one of the great cities of the ancient world. Its seemingly impregnable setting, upon a 1,500 foot plateau overlooking the Valley of Hermas, and its proximity to major thoroughfares, made it readily defensible and a rich center of commerce and industry. Sardis, called Hyde by Homer; was twice captured by foreign armies. Guarding the only true access to the city, the southern plain, its defenders neglected to watch the rear cliffs. Erosion had worn a narrow crevice in the steep natural walls, and enemy invaders successfully scaled them and took the city from behind. Sardis was famous for hot springs which bubbled from the base of the front hills of Mt. Tmolus. These healing waters were an integral part of their religious practices as well. The resurrection cult of Sybil was celebrated through the life-renewing powers of these springs. In A.D. 17, the city was devastated by an earthquake. The Roman Emperor Tiberius contributed vast sums of money and suspended local taxes for five years in order to rebuild the city. As a result, emperor worship was incorporated into Sardis' religious practices.

If someone has wrongfully taken from you, you are not to keep clamoring to get your possessions back. "The disciple loses less by letting his things be taken wrongfully than he would by with a selfish heart clamoring to have them returned." - Lenski.

But is Jesus saying that under no circumstances should we ever make any effort to regain stolen property? As we have seen, there are times when it is our duty to defend ourselves, our families and our property, John 18:22, 23; Acts 16:37-40. God has given us courts of law for that purpose. "What the present passage teaches is the very important truth that our personal attitude should never be one of taking revenge." - Hendriksen. See I Corinthians 6:7 and I Peter 2:21-24. We should never return evil for evil, even if our cause is just.

The Deuteronomy 13 law does not mandate capital punishment of non-believers and members of false religions. It must be understood in terms of its biblical and historical context. First, it should be noted at the outset that the framing of the law in Deuteronomy 13 has in view solicitation and seduction to idolatry (Deut. 13:2, 6, 13). It does not have in mind personal unbelief or even personal rejection of faith in Jehovah God. Those who mistakenly assume that this law would inevitably draw the State sword into church discipline for unbelief are mistaken. In point of fact, unbelief in Israel was not punishable by death. For one to refuse to be circumcised (an expression of unbelief, cf. Lev. 26:41; Deut. 30:6; ]er. 9:25-26; Eze. 44:7) meant that he was "cut off" from the religious community (Gen. 17:14). He was excluded from the worship in Israel (Exo. 12:48; Eze. 44;7, 9); he was not capitally punished.

Some naively assume that the citizens of this country after the War for Independence were one big happy family. This was hardly the case. They were able to unite (in a measure) against a common foe, but that did not mean that their views of government and its role in the new nation were the same. What was true of the country at large was true of the delegates to the Constitutional convention in particular. There were at least four major divisions among the delegates who gathered as representatives of their respective states in Philadelphia to work on a new Constitution:

1. The Federalists vs. the Anti-Federalists

This was the most basic and serious division that existed in the assembly. It is important to realize however that these designations were not used during the debates themselves; they were titles given to the two sides during the ratification debates that took place within the various states. In the convention itself, the terms used were federalists and nationalists.

ACLU: The Devil's Advocate: The Seduction of Civil Liberties in America by F. LaGaud Smith.

This volume provides a soundly researched examination of the policies and practices of the ACLU at the national level. The author believes that "the organization has exchanged its role as defender of the specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights for an activist expansion of civil liberties which reach beyond specifically articulated freedoms." (p.vii.)

Listening to God In Times of Choice: The Art of Discerning God's Will by Gordon T. Smith.

Determining the Lord's will amid a milieu of choices can cause the Christian much concern and anxiety. This volume focuses in on a key aspect of the decision making process that must accompany the faithful Christian throughout life. The author points out the need for Christians to develop godly discernment to employ daily. In so doing the decision making process becomes easier.