Through the apostle Paul the Holy Spirit thus admonished, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, so that you DO NOT GRIEVE AS OTHERS WHO HAVE NO HOPE” (1 Th 4:13). There . . . the Holy Spirit said it. The grave site scene of a dearly beloved Christian must be far different than the same scene at the burial of an unbeliever. Living Christians “do not grieve as unbelievers” in the death of their loved ones.
Consoling Christians must not be accused of being hard-hearted when they exhort the grieving with these words from the Holy Spirit. If our grief at the death of a Christian brother or sister is no different than that of the unbelievers, then we have a problem with our faith in the fact that the one who went down into the grave will come out again dressed in a glorious body. Our challenge at the death of a disciple, therefore, is how to salt our grief with hope. And in so doing, there is a sense of victory as we lay our loved ones in a tomb that will eventually be broken open.
There will be grief for the moment. The admonition of the Spirit allows for this. A simile is used with a negative concerning the occasion. The phrase reads, “not grieve as.” There is grief, but it is not as those unbelievers who have no hope beyond the grave.
The burial of a saint is only a temporary transition of the body. The body must transition through the dissipation of the body into dust in expectation of the heavenly body that will eventually dress our souls with a body from God. Therefore, in our hope “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our house that is from heaven, if indeed clothed, we [in the state of our disembodied souls] will not be found naked” (2 Co 5:2,3).
When Jesus comes in the clouds, He will bring with Him all those souls of departed saints who have had the privilege of escaping this world that is infested and infected with sin and sickness (1 Th 4:14). So the Holy Spirit concluded the matter, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Th 4:18).
The forerunner of Jesus, John, was tagged with the nickname, “the Baptist.” He so carried the name, “John the Baptist” because he was preaching “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” and baptizing people “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:1,4). Because he was preaching and baptizing, “THERE WENT OUT TO HIM all the land of Judea and those from Jerusalem” (Mark 1:5). Subsequently, “they were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5). This is exciting!
It is interesting to note in the narrative of John’s ministry, that everyone who went out to be baptized by him, did so because they believed that John, as a prophet, was preaching a message that was given to him by God. They were subsequently baptized because God said that they must be baptized. They KNEW NOTHING about the gospel of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, for at the time of John’s preaching, Jesus had been neither crucified nor resurrected. They KNEW NOTHING about the gospel reign of King Jesus, for Jesus had not yet ascended to the right hand of God. And yet, on basis of their simple faith that a preacher was preaching what God said one must do, THEY WERE WILLING TO BE BAPTIZED. This is what a true believer does.
If you read this book, THE GOSPEL COVENANT, and have not been baptized in the name of Jesus, then be careful about plagiarized the name “Christian.” You might be as those religious rulers during Jesus’ ministry who “believed on Jesus,” but were not willing to confess Him (John 12:42). We assume, therefore, that there are many today who “believe on Jesus,” but because they are not willing to be baptized into His name, they are not yet true believers. Therefore, if one has not been baptized, and yet believes on Jesus as the Son of God, then he or she should say as the Ethiopian eunuch after hearing the gospel message of Jesus, “Here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). We must remember that true believers do not have to be asked to be baptized for the remission of their sins. On the contrary, they are willing to go out from Judea and Jerusalem, or from any place in order to find “much water” in order to be baptized, as John the Baptist baptized “believers” in the wilderness near Salim (John 3:23).
So it seems that Zeus, the chief god of the Greeks, was guilty of a little hanky panky (“infidelity”). Among the many servants of the heavenly palace, his eye had been lured to one particular young damsel named, Galinthias. All was fine until Hera, the wife of Zeus, discovered the hidden unfaithfulness. Since Hera could not take her anger out on the chief god of Greek mythology, she turned her attention to the compliant Galinthias and cursed her in order to impede the birth of her illegitimate child. Hera turned the servant girl into a black cat. This may have been the beginning of all “black cat theology.”
Nevertheless, the child was born, and thus came into existence in the minds of the Greeks, the god Hercules. But don’t fret concerning the fate of Galinthias. The Greek goddess of witchcraft took in the adulterous servant girl, now a black cat, and employed her as her own servant. Unfortunately, black cats thereafter have had to live with the curse of this superstitious mischief among the gods. “Black cat theology” is still with us today.
In some cultures today, the unfortunate black cat is often considered an omen of evil that is associated with witchcraft. Some have believed that black cats were the very embodiment of witches themselves. And so you might think that you are innocent of all this babble about black cats. If so, then we will pay close attention to your walk along a pathway or sidewalk when a black cat crosses your path. If you waver in your stride, or even have the slightest disturbance in your thoughts, then we will know that you too are still a victim of “black cat theology.”
Superstition is belief that has no evidence. Greek mythology is based on all sorts of superstitions. In fact, mythology itself is founded on vivid imaginations that have run wild in the absence of a knowledge of the one true and living God. It is for this reason that mythology affected the behavior of the Greeks because they had little or no knowledge of the one true and living God. Greek lives were controlled by the gods they had created after their own imagination. They did this or that in view of pleasing the gods, or escaping some punishment of a mischievous god. It was a society that was ruled by “black cat theology.”
A little over two thousand years ago a representative of the true and living God stepped into the capital where “black cat theologians” were gathered to babble about their beliefs and behavior in reference to imaginations. The common subject of debates among these “preachers” from throughout the ancient world was to babble about their “black cat theologies” or some new thing (See At 17:18-21).
Nevertheless, this particular day, the traveling preacher stood up in the lecture hall of Mars Hill and shouted out with a strong voice, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious [superstitious]. For as I passed by and observed your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown God’ (At 17:22,23).
For the first time in the history of the Greeks this messenger from the true God established a contrast between the beliefs of the “black cat theologians” and the truth of a God whose gospel to mankind was based on the resurrection of His Son from the dead (See Hb 11:1). It was now time for all “black cat theologians” to step aside and hear a message about a living God who was not the product of vivid imaginations.
You might claim that you are unmoved by some relics of your own beliefs in “black cat theology.” This may be your personal conclusion, but the recent pandemic has rattle the faith of millions of people around the world. It seems that many folks have dipped into their former superstitions in order to blame some “demon” who supposedly causes this or that as people struggle for their last breath in emergency rooms around the world. In fact, in a recent conversation with an elder of the church on the other side of our country, he remarked, “It seems that religious leaders across the country have ascended to their pulpits in order to proclaim some superstitious reason for all this social turmoil.” “Black cat theology.”
In one case it was assumed that if one was injected with the vaccine against Covid, he or she would turn into a horse. In another case, someone contacted me from the other side of the world and ask, “What is the mark of the beast? My friends are telling me that if I am vaccinated against Covid, I will be receiving the mark of the beast.” “And thus,” she continued, “they said that they could not associate with me.” “Black cat theology.”
Taking medication, receiving vaccinations against diseases as polio, or just eating certain foods is the personal choice of the individual. But when such is either done or shunned for religious reasons, then it becomes “black cat theology.” Nevertheless, until that time when a new convert puts away his “black cat theology” in reference to eating meat, for example, those who are strong in the faith should exercise love and patience (See 1 Co 8). But at the same time, it is assumed in the Holy Spirit’s exhortations on this matter that the “weak brother,” who eats meat in respect to some religious superstition, as he previously did in respect to some foods in his former life of superstitious behavior, he must grow out of his “black cat theology.” In fact, the Holy Spirit said on such matters as food, “For it is a good thing that the heart be established by grace, not with foods” Hb 13:9). “Therefore,” continued the Spirit in another context, “let no one judge you in food or in drink” (Cl 2:16). Attaching spiritual or religious significance to foods, to idols, or even to vaccines that might prevent us from certain diseases, is “black cat theology.”
An even more subtle belief of “black cat theology” is the tempting of God with a faith that is contrary to science. So against the science of gravity, a foolish man of “faith” preaches from his pulpit to his friends on the top of a one hundred story building, “You must have faith. God will protect you.” So against the science of gravity, he leaps off the building in order to reveal his faith in God to protect him. As he passed floor fifty, it was heard that he yelled out, “So far so good.”
Assuming that God will protect us when we walk in violation of the laws of nature is tempting God to do evil by catching us on the final floor (See Js 1:13). If we willingly walk contrary to that which science provides to protect us, assuming that God will not allow us to fall victim our own neglect, then we are participating in “black cat theology” in reference to faith. If we knowingly place ourselves and our family in a situation of danger, while knowing that there is an opportunity to avoid that danger, then we are tempting God to do for us that which we should be doing for ourselves. This is the faith of “black cat theology.”
If we do this or that in our lives on the basis of superstitious beliefs, then we have allowed ourselves to promote “black cat theology.” It is for this reason that Christians grow in their knowledge of the word of God (2 Pt 3:18). They study zealously in order to sift out of their minds those former superstitious beliefs that are associated with “black cat theology.”
So you can judge for yourself on this matter. The next time a black cat crosses your path, take a moment to consider the fact that you may still be subservient to some beliefs of “black cat theology.”