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What Luther Says

How Do I Put 'The Best Construction' On The 'Ethiopian Messiah' Tweeting At Me!?!

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was crystal clear when He warned us about what would happen after His death, resurrection, and ascension to sit at the right hand of the Father.

Mark 13:6 (ESV) Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

Matthew 24:5 (ESV) For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

Luke 21:8 (ESV) And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.

Jesus was warning in no uncertain terms that many false prophets were coming; discernment would be needed. Why? Because they would come claiming to be Christ's representatives or even Christ Himself!

Truth is, He didn't mean that false prophets would burst onto the scene only immediately after Him and that's it, but that history down through the ages from that moment on until the Last Day would see many examples of messianic pretenders (Acts 5:35-40).

This is the firm Biblical foundation for today's entry.

Becoming a Confessional Lutheran over the course of this past year has taught me many wonderful things. One thing it's taught me is to always try to put what's called "The Best Construction" on anything another person does in regards to the 8th Commandment and as explained by Martin Luther in the Small Catechism.

What did Luther mean by that and what is it that we believe, teach, and confess about this topic?

The Best Construction — Luther On The 8th Commandment 
Theological discussion centered in the article of Justification is one of the many treasures that Jesus Christ gives to His Bride, the Church, (Matthew 18:19-20). Wherever and whenever two or three are gathered in the Name of Jesus, Christ Himself is present. This is first and foremost understood in the context of worship where the assembly of all believers is gathered in the means of grace. In addition to this, we carry this consolation of the brethren in our theological dialogue. 
In keeping with the commands of our Lord Christ that His Bride join together in fellowship, we must always put the best construction on our discussions. Luther defines the 8th commandment saying, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way” (Small Catechism). 
The pivotal point in Luther’s definition is in the last part, “explain everything in the kindest way,” or better understood, “put the best construction on everything.” If we approach theological discussion with the worst intentions, or with the hope that our fellow believer is a heretic, then that will be the outcome. Fruitful dialogue will not happen if it begins with assumptions and hesitations. If we listen to gossip and the lies spread about our neighbor, then we will approach them with the intention, not of improving their life, but of revealing their sinful condition in pharisaic pride. I mention these things as a parish Pastor. Gossip and slander are poison for any congregation or church body. The moment a reputation is ruined, it is ruined forever. Forgiveness of sins doesn’t eliminate a bad reputation from the minds of the assembly. There is only one solution to this problem and it is the preaching of God’s commandments. 
Luther clarified the 8th commandment and its destruction of gossip saying, “To avoid this vice, therefore, we should note that none has the right to judge and reprove a neighbor publicly, even after having seen a sin committed, unless authorized to judge and reprove. There is a very great difference between judging sin and having knowledge of sin. You may certainly know about a sin, but you should not judge it. I may certainly see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to tell others about it. If I were to interfere and pass judgment in him, I would fall into a sin greater than that of my neighbor. When you become aware of a sin, however, do nothing but turn your ears into a tomb and bury it until you are appointed a judge and are authorized to administer punishment by virtue of your office” ( Large Catechism 8th commandment paragraphs 265-266). 
Luther states that our ears should become like tombs for gossip about our neighbor until we are in a God appointed position of judgment. But why? Why must we remain silent in the face of sin? What is the point? Shouldn’t we protect the weaker brother in the case of open sin? Luther answers the question as to the private nature of the 8th commandment saying, “Let this be your rule, then, that you should not be quick to spread slander and gossip about your neighbors but admonish them privately so that they may improve. Likewise, do the same when others tell you what this or that person has done. Instruct them, if they saw the wrongdoing, to go and reprove the individual personally or otherwise to hold their tongue” (Ibid 276). 
The negative aspect of the 8th commandment is to not slander your neighbor or hurt his reputation. This negative is preached in order that the positive nature of the commandment may be carried out in the Christian life. The purpose of this commandment is to silence our poisonous tongues in order that we do nothing except defend our neighbor and seek his improvement. Luther concludes his thoughts on the 8th commandment saying, “Thus in our relations with one another all of us should veil whatever is dishonorable and weak in our neighbors, and do whatever we can to serve, assist, and promote their good name. On the other hand, we should prevent everything that may contribute to their disgrace, It is a particularly fine, noble virtue to put the best construction on all we may hear about our neighbors (as long as it is not an evil that is publicly known), and to defend them against the poisonous tongues of those who are busily trying to pry out and pounce on something to criticize in their neighbor, misconstruing and twisting things in the worst way” (Ibid 288-289). 
The last paragraph in the Large Catechism is a great warning from Luther that says, “There is nothing around or in us that can do greater good or greater harm in temporal or spiritual matters than the tongue, although it is the smallest and weakest member.” The tongue kills and makes alive in the proclamation of the law and the gospel. Only in the proper distinction and sound application of the two is a believer created and sustained. Only in the best construction does the pastor and the layman approach the brethren with the purpose of improving the believer in order that they may overcome sin and win the victory through faith in Jesus Christ. 
Let us heed these warnings from Luther concerning how we deal with our neighbor. Luther does not say that we should compromise or ignore sin, but that we should live with our brothers and sisters by veiling them in the blood of Christ. Let us always seek our improvement in our Christian life, but also let us humbly approach our fellow believers in Christ in order that they may be improved, not provoked to wickedness and further gossip. Fellowship exists only in the forgiveness of sins, purchased for us by Christ on the cross and delivered to us in the means of grace. Let us cling to Christ and silence the devil’s lies. Let us seek one another’s forgiveness and therefore walk together in the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 
*- Pastor Chris Hull

I hope that helps before we continue here.

My dear friends, despite all that being said, how in the world am I supposed to put the best construction on something like this!?!

Apparently, that's the "Ethiopian Messiah" according to those tweets, and somehow this mere Lutheran layman ended up on his spiritual radar last week.

Somehow, this self-proclaimed "prophet" and "messiah" has had the time to send out a total of 28,000 tweets since he's had a Twitter account. Worse, he has some 857 Followers too!

His profile? Well, if you were thinking about picking up a Holy Bible so you can read about him, then don't bother. You won't find his bio in there. Instead, you can only find it on the Internet...unless you prefer to travel to Jamaica to meet him yourself.

MesfinHaileSelassie @Mesfin_Haile Ethiopian Orthodox Human Rights Ambassador (servant for humanity) and Universal Human Rights Defender (Prophet) for the debt free Kingdom of Debre Zeit!!

All kidding aside, and to be blunt, this is the sort of thing that frustrates me about Christianity.

Why don't we ever seen a "fringe element" like this in Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and/or Islam? I suppose there's a spiritual component in the answer to that question that I'm ignoring (Ephesians 6:12). Still, have you ever noticed that though?

I'm still not sure how I should respond to him (if at all). Now, I suppose my mere act of writing about this very well-meaning, but severely misguided individual could be considered an act of me not putting the best construction on things. If so, then I must repent for my sin, and ask both the Lord and this man to forgive me (1 John 1:19).

At the same time, how are we Christians supposed to speak "the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) and exercise discernment like we're expected to (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-10; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21) if we're not supposed to challenge such people like this and their teachings that they put out into the world in the name of Christ, especially if they are claiming to be Christ Himself?

Perhaps the answer is that we do so carefully, humbly, and lovingly...with compassion and grace (1 Peter 4:8). Even so, I also can't help but recall what we read in Romans 16.

Romans 16:17-18 (ESV) 17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

No additional commentary by me is needed after reading that.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, how do I put "The Best Construction" on the "Ethiopian Messiah" tweeting at me? I think it's as simple as using this space to confess the truth and to try and point out where he has strayed from the clear teachings found in God's Word, and then to merely trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest when and where He wills (John 3:8; Romans 9:18; Isaiah 55:11).

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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