ENFJ and INFJ Friendships

There’s potential for meaningful friendship between two people of any personality type, but it seems to come easier for some. As an INFJ, there are some personality types that I connect with more easily than others (as mentioned in a previous post about ENTPs). Today, I want to talk about ENFJs.

I’m blessed to have four ENFJs in my life. My brother (who is also one of my best friends) is an ENFJ, as is another close guy friend, a girl I’ve known for several years, and a girl who is friends with my brother. I think it’s rather amazing, since ENFJs are almost as rare as INFJs — about 2-5 percent of  the population, as opposed to 1-3 percent (and male INFJs and ENFJs are much rarer than their female counterparts).

ENFJ and INFJ Friendships | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Understanding Each Other

I love spending time with ENFJs. By virtue of being extroverts they’re a bit easier to meet than other INFJs, but there’s still that instant connection that comes with feeling really understood and accepted. INFJs crave understanding and connection, and since we’re usually the listeners it’s nice to meet someone who you feel actually wants to listen to you.

In Myers-Briggs circles, we say this type of connection is a result of shared learning and decision-making processes. INFJs lead with Introverted Intuition, which is supported by Extroverted Feeling, and ENFJs lead with Extroverted Feeling supported by Introverted Intuition. We “get” each other because we see the world in extremely similar ways.

One of my favorite things about spending time with ENFJs is I never feel like we’re stuck on shallow conversation topics — they’ll dive just as deep into a subject as you want. Also, I love the fact that ENFJs actually voice the kind of random questions that pop into my head and throw them out for discussion. I suspect the ENFJs are also happy to find a conversation partner who’s willing and eager to talk about things like the origin of the universe, whether you’d rather fight a horse-sized chicken or a dozen chicken-size horses, and relationship compatibility with Disney villains.

Extrovert/Introvert Dynamic

Sometimes introverts, like INFJs, complain about feeling worn-out by their extroverted friends. We may love the fact that they help draw us out and will do the talking in situations where we don’t know anyone, but they don’t always understand our need for alone time or desire to leave the party early. This is not true of the ENFJs I know.

In general, ENFJs are friendly, gregarious and popular, but they also need down-time. They are one of the most “introverted extroverts” (along with ENTJs), and I usually find that by the time I’m ready to withdraw from a crowd, my ENFJ friend is as well. One-on-one conversations (or in small groups of 3 or 4 friends) are where I shine, and ENFJs are comfortable here as well.

ENFJs might wish their INFJ friends were a little more outgoing, but I never feel like they’re pressuring me to go past my people-limit. They want me to be the best version of myself that I can be, not to turn me into something else. Sometimes their drive toward perfection (of themselves and others) annoys and frustrates me, but I usually have to admit their advice is right (note: this is particularly hard to deal with when coming from your teenage brother).

ENFJ and INFJ Friendships | marissabaker.wordpress.comDo you have experience with ENFJ and INFJ friendship pairings? What did you think?

 

Behaviors, Boundaries and Bromance

Is what we consider appropriate behavior and boundaries as Christians based on the Bible, or on our culture?

Clearly, it’s a little of both. We avoid clear “thou shalt nots” (e.g. the culture says sex is great in many contexts; we teach sex is only appropriate in the type of marriage God set up in the garden of Eden), yet we tend to go with what’s culturally appropriate in how we interact with others (e.g. in Western churches we don’t “greet all the brethren with a holy kiss” though Paul and Peter both tell their readers to).

Part of this makes perfect sense. You don’t dress exactly like people did in Bible times because 1) you can’t find ankle-length robes for everyday wear in stores, 2) clothing designed for a Middle Eastern climate isn’t practical world-wide, and 3) these styles would be considered inappropriate or even immodest in some cultural contexts. So we apply the principle of dressing modestly rather than trying to recreate Biblical fashion.

But what about other topics? How much should we go with what is culturally appropriate verses what is traditionally appropriate in Christian communities?

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Brotherly Affection

After my brother came back from teen camp, I learned that a pastor’s wife was concerned about the hand-holding, arms around shoulders, and hugging going on between the young men at camp. She was especially worried by the use of the term “bromance,” and how the teens’ behavior might be seen in light of the recent Supreme Court decision.

I understand why this upsets adults who have seen their culture change from “men don’t have feelings” to one that encourages male expression of emotion and accepts homosexuality (two things not necessarily related, except in this sort of discussion). I know why young men expressing affection for their guy friends scares middle aged and older adults. I’m just not sure God shares their fears.

Then he [Joseph] fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him.(Gen 45:14-15)

Similar scenes play out when Esau and Jacob are reunited (Gen. 33:4), when Joseph sees his father again (Gen. 46:29), when the Prodigal son returns (Luke 15:20), and when Paul says good-bye to the Ephesians elders (Acts 20:36-37). Now, you might say they just got swept away in emotional reunions or partings and that this wasn’t common among friends and brothers, but what about this scene?

When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:21-23)

Obviously Jesus wasn’t doing anything wrong — He never sinned! Yet if our young men in the church lean against each other at a supper table, we lecture them on the evils of “bromance.” We make a digression every time we teach on 1 Samuel 20 to explain that David and Jonathan weren’t gay and that there’s nothing wrong with close friendships between guys, but then we lecture young men who have close friends? Talk about mixed signals!

Now, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to interact with other people, but we can’t just make the blanket statement that the Bible forbids physical expressions of affection between two men (or two women, but we have fewer examples to draw from and “besties” aren’t my topic right now). I think we do our young people a grave disservice when we imply that there’s something unnatural about their friendships and make no effort to teach them how to express affection as men and as women. Just saying, “That’s bad, so don’t do it” isn’t going to work – touch is too important as a bonding mechanism among humans and there simply isn’t a Biblical basis for putting distance like that between friends.

Men and Women

All that being said about affection in friendships, there are stricter rules governing the interactions between men and women. I do think it is possible for men and women to be “just friends,” but the closer male and female friends get (physically or emotionally), the harder it is to keep the friendship casual. God created men and women to be attracted to each other — the very first human relationship was a romantic one (Gen. 2:18-24).

I find it interesting that in Genesis 20, when Abimelech takes Sarah away from Abraham thinking she is his sister, that God tells Abimelech in a dream, “I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her” (Gen 20:6). While this Hebrew word can euphemistically mean “to lie with a woman,” it’s not the typical word used for sex in the bible. Rather, it’s the word used to command Adam and Eve not to touch the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:3). For Abimelech, just touching another man’s wife would have been sin even though he did it in ignorance.

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:18-20)marissabaker.wordpress.com

Though I appreciate the fact that we now live in a culture where I can give my guy friends a quick hug when I see them or put a hand on their shoulders in comfort, I think perhaps we have reacted so strongly against the whole courtship idea of “never touch someone of the opposite sex” that boundary lines are becoming blurred.

More and more often at church events, I’m seeing guys and girls hanging on each other, sitting in each other’s laps and cuddling. Some of this is more than is even culturally acceptable among people who are “just friends,” and it confuses people when you try to explain you’re not in a romantic relationship (sometimes, it even confuses one of the two people involved in the friendship). I see no evidence that the Bible encourages or permits unrelated men and women to be as affectionate toward one another as they would be with their male or female friends.

Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity. (1 Tim. 5:1-2)

Notice that not only should we treat our brethren as family, but that we should do so “with all purity.” The woman in Song of Solomon wishes her beloved were seen by others as her brother so she could show him affection in public (Song. 8:1-2) — implying we can show our relatives a level of affection that would be inappropriate among friends and brethren (just as there are things you don’t do with your friends or siblings because they progress to a deeper level of intimacy only allowed in marriage).

Physical touch implies a certain level of intimacy, and different touches belong to different levels of closeness. I use this in my fiction writing all the time — a touch on the arm signals two people are comfortable with each other, an arm around the shoulder is a more intimate boundaries-invading touch that you don’t let just anyone do, hands on someone’s waist or lower back is even closer, and touching someone’s face is extraordinarily intimate (in writing romantic scenes, this often accompanies a kiss). We need to be aware of what our touch is communicating to people — both those we’re interacting with, and those observing us.

Judging What’s Right

In addition to the explicit and implied Biblical guidelines for interacting with same-sex and opposite-sex friends, there are a few other principles we need to consider.

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thes. 5:21-22, KJV)

We’re not supposed to do things that appear evil or may be perceived as sin, even if we think it’s right and acceptable —  “do not let your good be spoken of as evil” (Rom. 14:16). Let’s say you’re a young person and you know in your heart that hugging and cuddling with your best friend is part of a pure, godly relationship. But what do you do if several people confront you about it, saying that it appears wrong and it’s causing other young people to stumble?

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (Rom. 14:13)

The freedom we feel knowing we did nothing immoral isn’t always enough. If it’s a question of whether or not to follow a clear command, then we always “ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). But if it’s a case of something being permitted rather than commanded, we have to think about how it impacts others.

There’s nothing “wrong” with a group of close male friends sharing hugs and acting closer than brothers. There’s nothing “wrong” with two female friends sharing a close, affectionate relationship. There’s nothing “wrong” with a woman greeting her brother in Christ with a chaste hug. But all these things can have a hurtful effect if we’re not careful. Just as a couple examples, how do our relaxed boundaries in female friendships affect women struggling with homosexual desires? how does a girl’s feeling that it’s okay to give her guy friends long hugs play with their emotions (or vice versa)? how do “bromances” affect the members of Christ’s body who are offended by the casual play on words?

It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. (Rom. 14:21-23)

God is watching to see why we do what we do. He’s looking for faith, purity of heart, and a concern for how our actions affect other people. This might be as simple as young men avoiding the word “bromance,” two girls putting an arm around each other’s shoulders instead of sitting in each others laps, or guys and girls giving each other quick hugs instead of an embrace. Or it might require more thoughtfulness and self-examination about how your boundaries and behaviors are affecting other people, and yourself.

What do you think are appropriate expressions of affection between Christians?

marissabaker.wordpress.comCredits: Background picture for the images used in this post by Hernán Piñera, CC BY-SA via Flickr.

Fictional MBTI – Loki (INFJ)

Fictional MBTI - Loki (INFJ) | marissabaker.wordpress.comThis is an update of a post from October 2013. Click to read the original.

My first Fictional MBTI post was about Loki, and thought it wasn’t the most complete or polished post it quickly became the most active in terms of comments. Even now, over a year and a half later, people are still posting new insights and observations on Loki’s character. And when the latest comments are more in-depth than the original post, it’s time for an update.

Quick note: my typing for Loki is wholly based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not on the comics or on Norse mythology. Loki is a controversial figure to type (as those 40 commends on the last post can attest), and his instability further complicates things. Also, I suspect Tom Hiddleston is an NF type, which would color his depiction of Loki.

INFJ Overview

The letters “INFJ” stand for Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling and Judging. This means INFJs lead with a function called Introverted Intuition (called “Perspectives” in the Personality Hacker system). Introverted Intuition is a perceiving function that takes in and processes information, and is particularly interested in things that can’t be directly experienced. Intuition is great at pattern recognition and extrapolating future possibilities, and I’ve never seen anyone argue Loki is not an Intuitive.

Fictional MBTI - Loki (INFJ) | marissabaker.wordpress.comIn INFJs, Introverted Intuition is supported by the decision-making function Extroverted Feeling (or “Harmony”). Types that use Extroverted Feeling are extremely good at reading people, and many INFJs say they can literally feel other peoples emotions. Typically, this results in a type that will avoid conflict at any cost because they don’t want to hurt people and because interpersonal tension hurts them as much as it does anyone else (contrary to popular belief, INFJs can be quite selfish). Loki has been avoiding conflict for most of his life — we just see him when he reaches the snapping point. You can see Loki’s Feeling side when he’s manipulating people (this comes easily for types that understand emotions and motivations), when he’s interacting with his mother, and in several scenes with Thor.

Speaking of manipulation, it is here that we see Loki fit David Keirsey’s description of INFJs as “The Counselor.” Loki gets power by counseling other people in ways that prompt them to play into his plans. His counsel sends Thor to Jotunheim, cripples Thor with guilt and strands him on earth, subverts The Avengers for a while, directs Malekith’s Kursed lieutenant, sets-up the circumstances allowing him to fake his death, and encourages Thor at the end of Dark World to feel comfortable moving to earth. Loki is frequently typed as an ENTP or ENTJ because of his more theatrical, trickster side and his portrayal in the comics (just for reference, Magneto is an example of an ENTJ villain), but I think in the films that’s a show Loki puts on when it suits him. At his core, he’s much more subtle and would rather control from behind the scenes to a certain extent and use people as puppets instead of leading out in the open.

INFJs who are stressed can effectively “turn-off” their compassion for a while and move to their inferior thinking function, and it’s not pretty when that happens. Introverted Thinking (or “Accuracy”) is an INFJ’s tertiary function, and provides a logical core that can make impersonal decisions. It’s still a subjective function, and is concerned about what makes sense to the individual, rather than with making sense to anyone else. If Loki can explain his actions to himself, he doesn’t feel the need to explain them to anyone else. That’s how INFJs think when they reach a point where they don’t care anymore (though even then there’s still a deep, central part of themselves that desperately wants human connection and affirmation).

Extroverted Sensing (or “Sensation”) is an INFJ’s inferior function. It’s the one we use least effectively, but also the one we end up spending the most time in when we’re stressed. This is where Loki lives for most of the movies.

Loki’s Childhood

Everything Loki does as an adult is informed by his childhood, which we have very little information about. From the first Thor film, we see that Odin told Thor and Loki, “Only one of you can ascend to the throne. But both of you were born to be kings!” Loki was pushed toward training as a ruler, but also told alter that he could never fill that role no matter how hard he tried. From Thor: The Dark World we know Freya was the one who trained him in magic, which is a much more INFJ-type weapon, but that still didn’t give him the approval he desperately craved from his father Odin.

Normally as a maturing INFJ, you develop your primary function Introverted Intuition first, become comfortable with your secondary Extroverted Feeling function as you become a teenager, start using tertiary Introverted Thinking in your late 20s or early 30s, then maybe you start exploring inferior Extroverted Sensing in midlife. All those functions are there the whole time, but you don’t develop them equally and in the case of Extroverted Sensing you might only notice it when you’re stressed. You never use your inferior, or even your tertiary function, as effectively as your primary and secondary functions.Fictional MBTI - Loki (INFJ) | marissabaker.wordpress.comNow, imagine you’re a young INFJ boy growing up with an ESTP brother (this is Thor’s type – we’ll write a post on him later). ESTPs use the same functions, but in the exact opposite order. So you see your brother being praised for exercising Extroverted Sensing, supported by Introverted Thinking. You probably hear, “Why aren’t you more like Thor?” all the time. Loki has been living with his stress function held up as a paragon. On top of that, he’s a Feeling boy who probably identifies with his mother more than the men in a world that prizes more traditionally masculine traits. Loki knows he isn’t what his father hopes for in a son, but INFJs are good at imitating other types and he tries to make Odin proud. This goes on for years, until Loki learns that the person he’s been trying to be his entire life isn’t good enough because no matter what he does, Odin “could never have a frost giant sitting on the throne of Asgard.”

In The Grip

If Loki is an INFJ, then the only times he really has a chance to use his dominant functions are when he’s using his Intuitive grasp of abstract concepts to dream-up complex plots and solutions to problems and wield magic, and when he’s using Extroverted Feeling to manipulate people. Otherwise, he spends his time first trying to win Odin’s approval by being like Thor, then lashing out at the people who hurt him while trying to discover who he is now that he’s no longer Odin’s son. That, on top of the huge amounts of stress he’s under in the films, means INFJ Loki spends most of this time in the grip of his inferior Extroverted Sensing function.

One of the questions asked by a commenter on the previous Loki post was this: “can you see yourselves (as INFJs presumably) carrying on a constant fight with everyone around you for the majority of your existence? And all so you can continue your life as their master and ruler?” While I couldn’t say “yes” to this exactly how it is phrased, I can say that as an INFJ, I will fight for the right to be my authentic self, especially if I feel like I’ve been stifled. I will turn into someone people don’t expect when I reach the end of my rope, and if I’m stressed and feeling out of control I don’t shy away from conflict like INFJs typically do. My goal isn’t to continue life as “master and ruler,” but I desperately need to restore order to my world and if that means taking control, then that’s what I want to do.

Fictional MBTI - Loki (INFJ) | marissabaker.wordpress.comThe Avengers is probably the film where Loki seems least like an INFJ, but this is also the film where he’s dealing with the most stress. The last thing he heard before falling into the destroyed Bifrost was Odin voicing disappointment in him, then he is captured and presumably tortured by Thanos.

“Loki disappears through that wormhole of space and time, when the Bifrost is destroyed, and he kind of goes through the Seventh Circle of Hell. And he’s on his own. He’s on his own in the dark corners of the universe, and the journey he goes on is pretty horrible. It’s like getting lost in the rainforest or something. You’re going to come out the other side a bit mangled on the outside, and on the inside.” — quote from an interview with Tom Hiddleston

Naomi Quenk’s book Was That Really Me? includes information about what she calls “lengthy episodes in the grip.” Usually, we experience our inferior function for short periods of time when we’re stressed. If you spend months or years working out of this function, though, bad things happen. For INFJs, she says it looks like this:

Obsessiveness about details in the form of micromanaging others both at work and at home may cause great distress to other people in these environments. “Irrational” accusations by INFJ can alienate others, causing them to avoid the person or attempt to remove him or her from a position of authority. Family members of an INFJ in a chronic grip state may be unable to find ways to sidestep the ready anger and criticism expressed by their loved one. Co-workers are likely to be similarly at a loss. …

Chronic grip behaviour may lead the individual and others to believe that fierce anger, excessive control of others and the immediate world, and distrust that approaches paranoia are a part of the natural makeup of the INFJ, and that the person has always been that way. Since the process of becoming chronically in the grip is often gradual, even people who have known the person in a non-stressed state are likely not to notice what, in retrospect, will be recognized as a radical alteration of personality. The person will appear to be a rather exaggerated, poorly developed, and distorted version of an Extraverted Sensing type. (Quenk, Was That Really Me? page 202)

Interestingly, the latest comment on my previous Loki post states, “Loki pre-snap seems quiet and very introverted, but afterwards seems to become a twisted version of Thor: self-centered, narcissistic, showy, entitled to power at the expense of others, and merciless in conquest.” This is pretty much exactly what Quenk says of INFJs looking like a “distorted version of an Extraverted Sensing type,” which is what Thor is as an ESTP.

When you take into consideration his background and the fact that he’s operating out of his inferior function for most of the films, the objections against typing the MCU’s Loki as an INFJ don’t carry nearly as much weight. Loki doesn’t look like a stereotypical INFJ, but he does act like an INFJ who’s been stressed to the breaking point.

 

God’s Anger in Nahum

God's Anger in Nahum | marissabaker.wordpress.comYou usually only hear about Jonah, but there’s a second book in the Bible that’s concerned with the destruction of Nineveh. Since Nineveh repented after Jonah’s warning, its destruction was held off about 150 years — until 612 B.C. According to my study Bible, Nahum probably wrote his prophecy around 620 B.C., and this time Nineveh’s destruction really was just around the corner. The city’s repentance hadn’t translated into continued faithfulness through the generations, and the people’s return to wickedness meant it was time to fulfill the prophecy of destruction made originally though Jonah.

The burden against Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; the Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies; the Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. (Nah. 1:1-3)

Studying a book wholly concerned with a fulfilled prophecy might seem like time that could better be spent elsewhere, but while reading through Nahum I realized it actually has quite a bit to teach us about who God is and how He works.

When God Gets Angry

In the first verses of Nahum, God is called “slow to anger” in the midst of a passage describing His wrath and vengeance. It might seem odd, but actually God’s fury at this time is an example of His being “slow to anger.”

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him (Ps. 103:8-11)

David’s Psalm is talking about God’s dealings with His own special people, but this is also what happened with Nineveh. Though the city was populated with unbelievers who oppressed God’s people, He held back His judgement when the city repented. He was “slow to anger” for 150 years, but this time there was no repentance and justice demanded a reckoning for sin.

Behold, I am against you,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions; I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more.” Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery. Its victim never departs. (Nah. 2:13-3:1)

In Jonah, we weren’t given a list of Nineveh’s transgressions, but we have one here in chapter three: Lies, robbery (v. 1), warfare and slaughter (v.2-3), harlotry, witchcraft, the selling of nations and families (v. 4), and general “shame” (v. 5).

Your injury has no healing, your wound is severe. All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you, for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually? (Nah. 3:19)

It’s one thing to commit sins that hurt you, but wickedness that spreads out and injures or enslaves other people is something God will not tolerate. He is slow to anger, but this sort of thing does make Him angry and will be removed. When the wound is incurable, it must be cut out to prevent further infection.

Hope For The Repentant

Even in the midst of prophecies about destruction and the outpouring of God’s wrath there is still, as always, hope.

Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. (Nah. 1:6-7)

God's Anger in Nahum | marissabaker.wordpress.comEven in troubles that come as part of God’s just vengeance, He is still a stronghold for those who trust in Him. In fact, getting close to God is the only safe place to be as the world draws nearer and nearer to judgement for its evils.

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:25-29)

Though the events described in Nahum took place long before Christ was even born, there are parallels for Christians today. Just as Nineveh was destroyed, the world we now live in will be shaken and removed at Christ’s second coming. Whether that happens in our lifetimes or not, our responsibility now is to listen to God and actively draw near to Him as we strive to serve Him “acceptably.”

O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, perform your vows. For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; he is utterly cut off. (Nah. 1:15)

Writing A “Husband List”

Every girl who wants to be married has dreamed about what he will be like. Many of us have written lists of the traits our ideal man will have. Over the years, we’ve also heard various views on writing husband lists. Some people say you should have a list, so you know what you’re looking for. Others say that having a list makes your focus too narrow and that you’re “limiting God.”

Writing A "Husband List"  | marissabaker.wordpress.com

bg image credit: Anonymous on Flickr

I had a nice long list when I was in my teens, then a short list of “must haves,” and now a more specific idea that’s not written down. Recently, though, a married friend encouraged me to write a new list to pray over. She had a list, and when she was in her 30s she met a man who fit every thing she’d been praying for (right down to the kind of car he drove) and married him 2 weeks after their first meeting (yes, you read that right. They’re still happily married and have two teenage kids). I know other girls who’ve been told their standards were “too high” yet found guys who matched everything on the list they were praying for, and there are also ladies like blogger Lucinda McDowell who prayed for 24 things in a husband, and God gave her 23. Writing a list doesn’t make you “too picky” — it means you have standards, and that’s a good thing.

So I started work on my new list. And I thought perhaps other girls might find it useful to read about how I decided what to include. There are articles out there offering lists of non-negotiables for you to base your list on, but even the essential qualities are going to look a bit different for everyone. For example, if you’re Christian, some form of “He’s a practicing believer” is probably at the top of your list, but what does “practicing believer” mean to you?

Just a quick note … guys can write “wife lists” too, and I suspect that much of what I talk about here might be useful for that as well. Since I’m a girl thinking about a future husband, though, that’s what I’m going to focus on for this post.

Free Writing

I’ll be honest — I actually didn’t start with this step, but I think now I should have. You want your list to reflect the things you feel like you “should want” as well as what you truly desire, and so there’s often a feeling of not being able to ask for “little thing” or mention appearance at all. But if we’re honest, things that might seem shallow at first glance are still there in the back of our minds, which means they do matter on some level. Starting with free writing gives us a chance to put those little dreams on paper without feeling bad about them.

Writing A "Husband List" | marissabaker.wordpress.comGrab a piece of paper and just start writing the first phrases and descriptions that pop into your head when you think about what kind of guy you would like to marry. Think about guys (real and fictional) you’ve had crushes on and list the things about them you found attractive. Think about guys you’ve dated and list things that you liked about them, and the opposite of the reason you broke up with him (i.e., if you’re boyfriend didn’t respect your boundaries, you might add “respects my boundaries”). Think about happily married couples you know and list things you want to see in your own marriage. Write down literally anything that you think of, no matter how unrealistic it sounds.

Now look back over your list. Circle anything that 1: doesn’t have to do with physical appearance and 2: you consider absolutely essential in a relationship. You’re looking for things that have to do with who he is as a person, like “loves God,” “good communicator,” and “we worship together.”

Next, look at the things you haven’t circled yet. Cross-out anything that you know is 1: not essential for you in a relationship (I crossed out “rich singing voice”), 2: only related to physical appearance (such as “taller than me), and/or 3: completely unrealistic. While you’re doing this, you might find that you can replace an unrealistic goal with a related realistic goal. For example, instead of “rich as Mr. Darcy” you might list, “able to provide financially for a family.” I would encourage you to pray about the things you want but know are unrealistic. Sometimes, we use unrealistic expectations to push other people away and shield ourselves from being vulnerable in relationships.

Now you have a sheet of paper with things crossed out, things circled, and a few things that are neither. For now, set this list aside.

Red, Yellow, Green

There’s a book called True Love Dates by Christian relationship counselor Debra Fileta that recommends writing three separate lists, and that’s where we’re going to start. Before you spend any more time writing down the things you want in a relationship, we’re going to write a list of things that are never okay.

“Stop” and “Slow”

The first thing you’re going to write is a Red list of traits that always mean “stop” when you notice them in a relationship. If a guy has any characteristic from your Red list, you do not pursue a relationship with him (no matter how many good traits he has). My Red list includes things like “does not believe in God/won’t respect my belief” and “refusal to communicate,” along with others like the examples Debra Fileta gives in her book:

  • Abusiveness (physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual)
  • Dangerous and uncontrolled temper or displays of aggression
  • Pattern of dishonesty or betrayal

The next step is writing a Yellow list. This is for things you’re not sure about and would need serious consideration and discussion before moving forward in a relationship. They give you pause, but don’t mean the relationship can’t work. A few on my list are “previously married” and “trouble handling money.” Here are more examples from True Love Dates:

  • Family of origin issues and problems
  • Unhealthy habits or behaviors
  • Lacks motivation, goals, and dreams

“Go” For It!

Now for the fun part — the Green list or “husband list” of things you want to have in your relationship. If Red means stop and Yellow means slow down and reevaluate, Green means you can feel good about going forward with a relationship. Here’s where we get to go back to the free writing exercise.

I sorted my list into four categories: “Personal Values,” “Family and Relationships,” “Makes Me Feel …” and “Personality.” The circled phrases from my free writing exercise ended up in the first three categories, and many of the phrases that were neither circled nor crossed out ended up in one of the last two categories (you might even list a couple of the ones you crossed-out if they are still important to you). I saw the “Personality” category as representing things I want, but some of which could be negotiable. Here’s a few specific items from each list, so you can see what I’m talking about without me sharing a copy of the whole thing:

  • Personal Values
    • follows God and Christ first
    • uses his gifts to serve in some way
    • demonstrates integrity, commitment, faithfulness
  • Family and Relationships
    • respects and helps set boundaries
    • wants children
    • hospitable; welcomes guests and visitors to our home
  • Makes Me Feel …
    • protected and cherished
    • listened to and understood
    • like I’m valuable and contributing to his life
  • Personality
    • slow to anger
    • good communicator
    • enjoys discussing ideas

Looking At Yourself

Now that you have your list, turn it back on yourself and ask if you have those qualities. Would the guy you’ve written about want to date, or marry, you? Some of this should match pretty easily — you wouldn’t list a guy who wants 6 kids if you didn’t want 6 kids.

Others might be harder. If you listed a man who spends time with God every day, will he want to marry you if you regularly forget to study? Or if you ask for a guy who will never cheat on you, are you prepared to be faithful to him? If you want an Ephesians 5 husband, will you be an Ephesians 5 wife?

I hope this post was helpful to you — writing the list that inspired it has certainly helped me. While we know that God knows exactly what we need without us telling Him, I think it is helpful for us to have something more to ask Him than “please give me a good husband.” You’re putting effort into pursuing a relationship by figuring out what it is you’re looking for. God bless you, my dear readers.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4)

 

The Cure For Evil

In Micah, the prophet speaks out against immorality and injustice. The book also contains some beautiful Millennial passages, since ultimately the solution to the evils Micah talks about is the rule of Jesus Christ. Even so, he doesn’t tell us to just sit around begging Jesus to come back and fix everything. We’re still responsible for our actions, and God still expects the immoral and unjust to repent or face the consequences.

The Problem

Woe to those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. (Mic. 2:1)

A friend recommended the TV series Hell on Wheels, and in the pilot episode there was a conversation where one character says, “there were certain lines that I crossed, lines of morality I didn’t think myself capable of crossing. But that’s what men do in war.” The main character replied, “Moral men don’t.”

This scripture in Micah 2 is talking about that first kind of man — the kind who crosses lines of morality when they think there won’t be consequences. The kind who plots how they can get away with evil things, and then does whatever they want as long as they have the power to do it. God hates that sort of thing.

The Cure For Evil | marissabaker.wordpress.comAs Micah goes on, God promises that those who covet, steal, oppress, and lie will be destroyed because they have hurt God’s people while they defiled and polluted their lives (Mic. 2:1-11). This refers to anyone walking contrary to God; the next chapter moves on to a more specific group of evil doers.

And I said: “Hear now, O heads of Jacob, and you rulers of the house of Israel: Is it not for you to know justice? You who hate good and love evil; who strip the skin from My people, and the flesh from their bones; who also eat the flesh of My people, flay their skin from them, break their bones, and chop them in pieces like meat for the pot, like flesh in the caldron.” Then they will cry to the Lord, but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, because they have been evil in their deeds. (Mic. 3:1-4)

This isn’t just talking about civil leaders either. The religious leaders were also corrupt.

Now hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity: her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the Lord, and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us.” (Mic. 3:9-10)

These were the leaders who were supposed to guide the people to God, and instead they plotted to increase their wealth at the expense of others. They thought that merely by virtue of being in leadership among God’s people that God would protect them, but He doesn’t protect those who exploit the authority He has given.

Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest. (Mic. 3:12)

The Challenge

Though the leaders are harshly judged — “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48) — the people don’t get off without correction. If we forsake the Lord, we’re responsible for that even if we were “just following” whoever’s in charge.

Hear now what the Lord says: “Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. hear, O you mountains, the Lord’s complaint, and you strong foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a complaint against His people, and He will contend with Israel. “O My people, what have I done to you? And how have I wearied you? Testify against Me.” (Mic. 6:1-3)

The Cure For Evil | marissabaker.wordpress.comThe Lord asks Israel if they have anything to reproach Him with, any reason they can give for forsaking Him. They really can’t accuse Him of anything, but they do reply in verses 6-7.

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Mic. 6:6-7)

The fact that they even suggested a human sacrifice shows just how far away the people had strayed from true worship. It’s like the people are saying they’ve given up on following God because it is too hard and He never seems satisfied. God shuts that idea right down.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 6:8)

So the answer to Israel’s questions is, “No, God will not be pleased with thousands of rams or rivers of oil.” He wants you. In some ways, that’s harder than just going through rituals, But its also reassuring. You might feel you don’t have anything to offer God, but you have the one thing He really wants — you.

The Solution

Today, God works on a small-scale to win individual hearts to Him, but the permanent solution to the problem of evil men is still in the future.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”

For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Mic. 4:1-3)

The Cure For Evil | marissabaker.wordpress.comThis is still in the future, but the first steps toward God’s kingdom on earth have already been taken. Micah 5:2 prophecies the coming of “One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” this verse is quoted in Matthew 2:5-6 in reference to the birth of Christ. Because Jesus lived and died as prophesied, ultimate victory is assured.

Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness. (Mic. &:7-9)

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19)

God is where we must look for the solution to sin — both our sins, and those of the people around us. We can’t fight against injustice or immorality on our own, but we can stand firm knowing that the commands of God are true, and that the victory He has promised will come.

Some INFJ Thoughts on ENTPs

Some INFJ Thoughts on ENTPs | marissabaker.wordpress.comI suspect that, much like you’re not supposed to have favorite relatives, you’re not supposed to have favorite personality types. One of the core tenets of type-theory is that no type is better than another. And yet … I do have some favorites. ENFJ, ENTJ, INFJ, INTJ, INTP, ESTP, ENTP …

Strangely enough, it’s not necessarily related to my interactions with a type in real life. In person, I can find common ground with most personality types depending on the individual person and the circumstances of our meeting. So when I talk about my favorite personality types, it requires an addendum that I am friends with and like people of all types (for example, my best-friend-whose-not-a-relative doesn’t fit any of the types I listed above).

Still, there’s something about certain personality types that is irresistibly intriguing. I know several ENFJs, and the friendship and genuine communication that can exist between them and INFJs is truly amazing. I love talking with INTPs and INTJs because their minds are so incredibly keen and they challenge me to really think deeply about things. And then there’s the ENTPs <3

ENTP Type

David Keirsey, and many other type psychologists, describe the ENTP personality type as the “soulmate” for INFJs. Of course, type compatibility in relationships is much more complicated than that, but I can definitely see why. At least, I think I can. I haven’t actually met a self-confirmed ENTP in real life. I know a guy who is either ENTP or ENFP, and knew someone I think was ENTP. Other than that, my interactions with them have all been online. Although, if fictional character’s count, we all know some that are (probably) ENTP:

(note: there are female ENTPs, just as there are male INFJs. They’re just more rare, and hence harder to find.)

ENTPs are characterized by high energy, “compelling enthusiasm,” independence, their pursuit of possibility, a constant string of projects that command their attention, and being “startlingly clever” (Isabel Myers, Gifts Differing p.106-108). There’s individual variation within all types, and Isabel Myer specifically says that

“Extroverted intuitives are hard to describe because of their infinite variety. Their interest, enthusiasm, and energy pour suddenly into unforeseeable channels like a flash flood, sweeping everything along, overwhelming all obstacles, carving our a path which others will follow long after the force that made it has flowed on into other things ” (Gifts Differing, p.106).

INFJs and ENTPs

Maybe what Myers talks about in the above quote is one reason INFJ’s like ENTPs so much. We have plenty of ideas, but struggle with moving them into the real world. We want to make big contributions, but we have trouble putting ourselves out there. We want to pour ourselves into people, but have limited energy for social interactions. So the idea of partnering with someone who specializes in active idea exploration in a big way is very attractive. Please tell me I’m not the only INFJ who has thought it would be wonderful to be the Pepper Pots to someone’s Tony Stark? (note: I’m not typing Pepper as an INFJ, just using it as an example.)

Some INFJ Thoughts on ENTPs | marissabaker.wordpress.comLooking closer at the two types, we see similarities in their function stacks that also helps explain the compatibility:

  • INFJ: Introverted Intuition, Extroverted Feeling, Introverted Thinking, Extroverted Sensing
  • ENTP: Extroverted Intuition, Introverted Thinking, Extroverted Feeling, Introverted Sensing

Both types lead with Intuition, but use that function in different ways. Intuition is a perceiving process, which has to do with how we take in and process new information. It’s close enough for the two types to understand each other, but different enough to compliment instead of overlap.

The two middle functions for both types are the same, just in a different order. Thinking and Feeling are both judging processes, which means they affect how we make decisions and what we believe the world “should” look like. INFJs and ENTPs approach this in a way that is easy for the other type to understand, but they are strong in different areas.

Their inferior functions are both sensing, but one is extroverted and one introverted. Our inferior functions typically show up when we’re stressed, so having different inferior functions means that different things stress these two types out. That can be really useful if you want someone who can help you out of stress instead of getting pulled in with you. It’s also important that they’re not exact opposites, since types who use intuition as their inferior function can get stressed-out by dominant intuitives (e.g. an ISFJ who is stressed by change might find it uncomfortable to spend much time with an ENTP).

What about you? anyone else want to confess they have favorite personality types? :)

Lessons in Mercy

Lessons in Mercy | marissabaker.wordpress.comIt seems fitting to find myself studying Jonah and posting about it on July 4th in the week following the Supreme Court decision regarding homosexual “marriage.” It seems like this court decision was the last piece of evidence many Christians required to convince them that we’re no longer living in a Christian nation (if we ever were). I’ve read several good responses, and I’ve been pleased and relieved to see that most have come from a place of love instead of anger (now if only those who accuse Christians of being intolerant would exercise a little tolerance of their own …).

Christians have always lived in a world that has little respect for God’s laws. In some cultures for certain stretches of time, we’ve had more of God’s laws as part of our country’s laws, but that has changed. It’s been changed here in the U.S. for quite some time, and the same was true of the Jews living under Roman law at Jesus’s time.

Jesus never condoned legalized sin, but He was more concerned with the state of God’s people than the state of the world around them. He didn’t call for mass reforms in Roman society — He called for the people who professed to follow God to turn back to true worship of Him.

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Matt. 12:41)

Jesus used Nineveh and Jonah as an example in His day, and I’ll bet we can learn from it now as well. Let’s take a look.

Affronts to God

Unlike the other minor prophets, the book of Jonah is written as a story, and it seems like a rather simple tale on the surface. No one reads a children’s version of Zechariah to the kids before tucking them into bed, but I remember having a cute little kids book about Jonah and the whale in our library once.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” (Jon. 1:1-2)

We all know what happens next. Jonah flees from God’s commission, is stopped by a storm at sea, swallowed by a great fish, and then repents in the fish’s belly. God has the fish vomit him out, repeats His command, and is promptly obeyed.

And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jon. 3:4)

We’re not told exactly what Nineveh’s sin involved, but in studying the language used in the book of Jonah, Matthew Henry concludes in his commentary that, “Their wickedness has come up, that is, it has come to a high degree, to the highest pitch; the measure of it is full to the brim … it is a bold and open affront to God” (Henry’s comments on Jonah 1:1-3).

Sounds like society today, doesn’t it? And don’t think I’m just talking about this latest court decision — homosexuality isn’t the only or worst sin in the world. I’m including abortion, divorce for ungodly reasons, heterosexual couples living together without marriage, anti-Israel sentiments, corruption in worldly and church leadership, rejection of God’s role in creation, and others that slip my mind right now.

Repentance and Mercy

We live in a wicked culture — one that we know God will judge for its crimes against Him. But as we learn from the story of Jonah, God is also willing to show mercy.

Lessons in Mercy | marissabaker.wordpress.comSo the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” (Jon. 3:5-9)

The key here is that the people believed God, and repented. It wasn’t just a few people, either. This was the entire society, led by their king.

Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. (Jon. 3:10)

We should be thankful indeed for God’s mercy, for all of us have had this exact same thing happen in our lives. We’ve all sinned (Rom. 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Like the Ninevites, we were under a sentence of death, but God spared us in His mercy by sending His Son.

As we talked about in the post on preparing for baptism, to accept Christ’s sacrifice and walk with God, we have to repent and acknowledge our sin, believe in God, and commit to following Him. The Ninevites here in Jonah had those first two things, and it was enough for God to choose mercy.

What Will You Do?

As much as God rejoices over repentant sinners (Luke 15:7), the rest of this book is about Jonah’s response to their repentance. God is also concerned with how His people respond to His work in others’ lives.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” (Jon 4:1-3)

It’s a bit difficult to imagine a modern parallel, but let’s try. Suppose God calls you to deliver a prophecy of destruction to … let’s say an abortion clinic. You try to get out of it, but finally God convinces you to go and warn them. Message delivered, you stalk across the street to wait for the fire and brimstone. You didn’t want to be here, but at least you’ll have front-row seats when they get what’s coming to them.

Only, it doesn’t happen. Instead, every single person working there repents publicly, starts to fast and pray, and the head of the clinic calls for other doctors to do the same. God shows them mercy because of their response. Do you?

Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. (Jon. 4:4-5)

God gives him shade in the form of a gourd plant, which made Jonah happy, but then took it away the next day and Jonah was angry again.

But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jon. 4:10-11)

The book ends here, leaving us with the same question God asked Jonah. We must never encourage people in sin or say that it’s okay, but are we so rigid in our convictions that we don’t allow for love and mercy? Are we hoping for sinners’ destruction, or praying they will come to repentance?Lessons in Mercy | marissabaker.wordpress.com

So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13)

In these times of cultural upheaval, God is looking to see how His people respond. Will we run away and say the sin around us doesn’t matter, as Jonah did at first? Will we be angry and unforgiving, as Jonah was later? Or will we be like God — firm against sin yet ever ready to extend mercy?

 

The INFJ Handbook is here!

Two years ago this weekend, I published my first INFJ blog post on this site. It seems fitting, then, that I’m releasing my first e-book this weekend and that it is all about INFJs. Inside, you’ll find:

  • Quick introduction to Myers-Briggs type theory
  • Thorough description of the INFJ personality type
  • Discussions of INFJ strengths and weakness
  • Tips for personal growth
  • List of things that INFJs want other people to know
  • Special section on how other types view INFJs
  • True-life stories from five INFJ contributors

A very special thanks to Kerry, Rachel, Johanna, Denise, and Yeni — the INFJs who contributed the stories appearing in this book. You should have already received a free PDF copy of this book at the e-mail address I have on record for you. If not, let me know.

You can purchase this book in the Amazon Kindle store. For this first week only, the book is on-sale for $0.99. It will go back to the regular price of $2.99 next Monday morning.

Avenging and Saving

Avenging and Saving | marissabaker.wordpress.comObadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, and so far the most difficult for me to write about. When I started reading through and studying the minor prophets, I figured I should be able to come up with at least one blog post on each, since “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

About 300 years ago, Matthew Henry’s verse-by-verse commentary covered Obadiah in humbling detail. Reading it made me marvel at the depth of his appreciation for God’s word (he wouldn’t have any trouble coming up with 3 or 4 posts on Obadiah). Where I saw a prophecy against Edom, he saw (among other things) a record of God’s motivation for vengeance, promises of a bright future for God’s people, and some warnings for us as well.

“Vengeance is Mine”

The “vision of Obadiah” is about what the Lord God has to say “concerning Edom,” and none of it’s good.

Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” says the Lord. (Oba. 1:4)

All their allies will turn against them (verse 7), all their wisdom be destroyed (verse 8), and their warriors slaughtered (verse 9). Why such a strong condemnation from our loving God?

For violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. (Oba. 1:10)

God does not look kindly on those who persecute the people He loves, or on those who betray and do violence against family on an individual or national scale. Matthew Henry has this to say:

that one single crime which is laid to their charge, as filling their measure and bringing this ruin upon them, that for which they here stand indicted, of which they are convicted, and for which they are condemned, is the injury they had done to the people of God …. Note, Injuries to men are affronts to God, the righteous God, that loveth righteousness and hateth wickedness; and, as the Judge of all the earth, he will give redress to those that suffer wrong and take vengeance on those that do wrong. (Matthew Henry, notes on Obadiah 1:10-16)

In Luke 18, Christ gives a parable about how even an unjust judge will seek justice on behalf of persistent petitioners. How much more will the just God “speedily” “avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him” (Luke 18:7-8)? Even with these reassurances, though, it can be hard to wait on God. If someone hurt us, we want to hurt them back (or at least see them get their just desserts), and we wonder why it seems like God is taking so long to fulfill His promises. I’m sure that’s how the Israelites felt when they were attacked by enemies then looted and captured by Edom after thinking they’d escaped (Oba. 1:12-14).

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Rom. 12:19)

When we are struggling to believe that God is there for us, we can look to past examples of God’s deliverance and avenging role for comfort. He does not abandon, and He does not forget.

The righteous God will render both to nations and to particular persons according to their works; and the punishment is often made exactly to answer to the sin, and those that have abused others come to be themselves abused in like manner. The just and jealous God will find out a time and way to avenge the wrongs done to his people on those that have been injurious to them. (Matthew Henry, notes on Obadiah 1:10-16)

Be A Savior

Of course, this has a warning side as well: don’t be the person who God has to seek vengeance against. If we believe God will avenge His people, then we also should believe that there will be consequences if we go around hurting our brethren.

Millstone -- not something you'd want hung around your neck. Photo credit:  Frerk Meyer, CC BY-SA

Millstone — not something you’d want hung around your neck. Photo credit:
Frerk Meyer, CC BY-SA

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matt. 18:6)

This is a serious warning. Yet how many times are children scolded in churches for minor transgressions that really boil down to the fact that they’re not adults? How many new converts are made to feel insignificant, unwelcome and devalued because they don’t already know something about our church? How often do supposedly mature Christians squabble, back-bite and spread division?

 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Gal. 5:14-15)

Matthew Henry follows this principle of “being aware” when discussing the Edomites’ transgressions listed in Obadiah. When reading the things God told the Edomites they “should not” have done, Henry turns it around on us.

Note, In reflecting upon ourselves it is good to compare what we have done with what we should have done, our practice with the rule, that we may discover wherein we have done amiss, have done those things which we ought not to have done. We should not have been where we were at such a time, should not have been in such and such company, should not have said what we said, nor have taken the liberty that we took. Sin thus looked upon, in the glass of the commandment, will appear exceedingly sinful. (Matthew Henry, notes on Obadiah 1:10-16)

We want the whole “vengeance is Mine” thing to work on our behalf, but we dare not forget that it can be directed against us as well. If we love God, we will keep His commandments and need not fear Him, but we must always have a healthy respect for Him and His immutable laws.

 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:30-31)

We don’t often like to think of this side of God, but He can be really scary. Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, not a housecat. That’s Someone you want fighting for you, not against you — and that’s what He wants as well.

Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion to judge the mountains of Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s. (Oba. 1:21)

The mountain of Zion shall be saved; on it saviours shall come, the preachers of the gospel, who are called saviours, because their business is to save themselves and those that hear them; and in this they are workers together with Christ, but to little purpose if he by his grace did not work together with them. (Matthew Henry, notes on Obadiah 1:17-21)

That’s what we want — to be saved and to have the privilege of serving alongside Christ to save others. Let’s not endanger that by seeking vengeance for ourselves, attacking our brethren, or drifting away from God’s laws. Rather, let’s trust in God and strive to work alongside Jesus to help others.