Anathema

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What is beyond the pale?  What behaviour or what belief is out of bounds? How does a group or individual prove themselves to be completely unacceptable?

In this context we might say that so and so or such and such is “anathema.”

It might be as trivial as the way a Mac user considers PCs.  It might be as serious as the way a pacifist considers torture.  But they will label these things “anathema.”

It’s an untranslated Greek word and literally it means ‘something that is placed or set up.’  In some circumstances it means a gift – perhaps a sacrificial offering.  But in other contexts it means something set apart as cursed.  That’s the meaning it has for us today.

So what do you consider to be “anathema”?  What would you guess is the King James Bible’s one great “anathema”?

Perhaps we immediately think of behaviours.  Perhaps we immediately think of certain heretical doctrines?  What is it that the Bible rules out of court so emphatically?

Well look at how the Apostle Paul uses the term:

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema. Maranatha. (1 Corinthians 16:22)

Here are two untranslated words – “Anathema” is Greek, “Maranatha” is Aramaic (it means “Come O Lord”).  Between them we see the depths and the heights of his feelings regarding Christ.  Paul can think of no greater blasphemy than a loveless heart towards Jesus.  And he can think of no greater comfort than the second coming of this Lord who he loves.

When the Lord Jesus does come again, there will be one issue which faces the world.  None of our many sins will be held against us (2 Corinthians 5:19).  We won’t be able to hide behind our goodness or our badness.  It’s Christ Himself who confronts us and the only question will be “Do you have love for Him who has loved you so extravagantly?”

If we have no love for Jesus we are anathema!  The universe was created by Jesus and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16).  If we too are not for Jesus we are completely out of place.  We are violating the very nature of reality.  We are cutting against the grain of the cosmos.  We do not belong.  We are anathema.  What place can there be at the Bridegroom’s feast for those who do not love the Bridegroom?

This is the one anathema of the King James Bible.  (The Greek word is used elsewhere, but here is the only place the Authorised Version leaves it untranslated).  Yet the great anathema does not regard bad behaviour or bad belief but a bad heart towards the Lord Jesus.  This is the issue for that day when the Lord returns.  But it’s also the issue for this day.

We can make life very complicated.  Right now, dozens of priorities will be jostling for precedence in your heart.  But Paul wants to simplify things for us.  Before all else, look to Christ.  Before you look to your deeds or your creeds, it’s the receiving of Christ Himself that matters.  Know in your heart that Jesus has loved you and given Himself for you (Galatians 2:20).  His posture towards you is arms-wide-open.  Do you have love for the Lord Jesus Christ?  Look to Him again, today and every day.  It is the very stuff of life, now and forever.

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