Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him. – 1 John 3:18-19
We talk about love around here. You could say we got a whole lotta’ lovin’ even. It’s significant to us as Christians. It’s something as men we need to embrace because we are responsible for our households. Not just in money or chores but in the deepest way we know, our spirit. Men are responsible for the spiritual wholesomeness of their homes. One way we can teach this is how we shove love to others through service to them. We’ve talked about serving one another before, let’s go deeper and talk about the difference in serving to serve and to serve in love.
Serve in Love
Anyone can provide a service to one another. It can be great customer friendly service that will make the person come back for help when they need it again. That’s great but is it in love? Maybe love of the profession but love for the customer is what I am inquiring about. Love for your service done with Christ at the forefront. If we do service so that others may see that we are doing service then we defeat the purpose of what it means to serve (Matthew 6:1). Do deeds for the sake of being a Christian and not because someone may think well of you. That’s the easiest way to serve in love. Letting go of our pride and saying, “Hey, they need help.” then thoughtlessly doing it.
That’s the big thing, you have God’s love in you. There is no effort to help others and be there for them. You’ll find happier people are surrounding you when you can cast away that need to get something out of it for yourself. If we can put this in to our household and show love to others in practical ways we are doing the work we are commanded to do. Help and support out of love and not just to get it over with. I’ve done it, I want to do something but I keep getting asked to do this or that and get frustrated but if I take a moment and address the situation as this. The woman I love, who I am called upon to protect and serve in love, is asking me to do just that. I don’t want to fail my commitment to her. That is bitterness (Hebrews 12:14-15) and it is a weed that can grow quick and deeply. Better to stamp it out before it takes hold. Love. Serve. Love to Serve. Most importantly, Serve in Love.
You are also members of His household. – Ephesians 2:19
What is home to you? Maybe it is whatever building all your stuff is in. Maybe it’s your place to get away from the world. It could be filled with the laughter of children and sometimes it is filled with harsh words better left unsaid but slip out when we fail to remember what takes prominence in our lives. It’s more ‘who’ than ‘what’ but the ‘who’ gives us an idea of ‘what’ should matter. Christ should take prominence in our lives, not just publicly but at home too. Home is where our family is and family loves us unconditionally.
The people we love the most, the ones we keep the closest have seen the very best of us. They’ve also seen the very worst. Family protects us against the world. My family has had and likely will have some terrible arguments and we will say terrible things in the passion of the moment. Yet all of that will disappear if someone is hurt or is spoken to harshly and we do not like it. It is that ‘I can mess with my family but you can not mentality’ and it’s been part of my family since I can remember.
Who else has seen you that way? Well, God has. He knows you like none other. He sees what even your family doesn’t. He sees both good and bad things. His love knows no boundaries. We are all part of God’s household and that is home for the soul. That is one of a multitude of reasons we call fellow Christians brother and sister. They are spiritually bound to us because we are all children of God. They will help protect us against the attacks of the enemy.
Your Spiritual Family Loves You!
And that is why you should love them back. Intercede for them, support them and love them unconditionally. Someone will stray, maybe it will be you or maybe it will be me. God’s the one that knows that and how we react to that is what sets the bar for how much we value our spiritual brethren. If they stray love on them. Walk them back to God and if it is a crawl back to God then get on your hands and knees and do that with them. Jesus loved us so much He came here and gave up everything to live as man did and yet He loved on people like so few men did or would. Our spiritual family loves us as Christ loved, pay it forward because the healing of one family member through the power of Jesus makes it all worth it. We are members of God’s household and that makes us a family that needs to love everyone and not just someone in good times.
Everyone helps his neighbor and says to his brother, “Be strong!” – Isaiah 41:6
A few weeks ago my pastor was speaking about church, about diversity in the church when he was addressing the issues we face today in the world. Mostly in America because that is where we live but abroad also. It’s painful to think that you must be of a certain demographic to worship somewhere. We were called to love one another. To be there for one another not because it is nice, not because we feel bad but because it is what Christ did. Even in times when He could have justly torn someone down such as Peters’ denial or Judas’ betrayal.
Christ understood hard times like no man has before or will again. Yet He still found strength to comfort others. He looked outside of His own interests and in to what was best for all of us (Philippians 2:1-7). I don’t think any church has reached that. Even my own. We want it, I pray we do. We are people though and that means we often become judgmental or whispering about things. Sometimes that humanity makes us choose not to be there for one another when we should.
Tragedies have a way of uniting people in ways they never considered possible, it’s in those times we realize how true 1 Corinthians 12:26 is because we suffer with others even if the tragedy is afar. Yet we forget to rejoice with those same people. When we get tired or are hidden from public view our real feelings tend to surface. Sometimes they are ugly, I’m guilty of it and I ask God to give me a change of heart to always be encouraging.
That does not mean we cannot reprimand those we love or with. In fact we should (Ephesians 5:11) because we are looking out for them. It’s something that must be done with care. We are stewards of God’s grace and with that comes the responsibility to hold ourselves and others accountable without condemning them and to reprimand them when they stray without ostracizing them.
When we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes we get a better picture of why we should be there for one another. We experience their experience. Putting ourselves in that mindset mentally is great as long as we use it to prepare ourselves to actually serve them if we can. When I get home I want my family because that is what soothes me from work. I have that shoulder to lean on. Sometimes that is all someone needs. If we can love others and learn to see things from their perspective that is when we are being there for one another. You don’t have to go to a foreign country to be a missionary, do it in your own back yard. Make a step towards creating diversity in your life and invite those people to where you worship. That is how we put the diversity back in the church. It’s simple, effective and it glorifies Christ.
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:13
Kids ask the darnedest things. Sometimes I don’t even know how to answer them in a kid like manner. I was talking to Bethany about that on the way home from a coffee run to Dunkin’ Donuts. While we were driving Elijah asks out of the blue, “Scott, Why did they kill Jesus?” He is deep like that. The death of Christ was terrible and every martyr since has died because people fear the truth and have lived a life of lies. It is one of many reasons that Jesus was slain. So how do you answer that for a child who is only 3 but asks about God and loves God in the way only children can? How do you go about teaching forgiveness in a way that glorifies God without losing the message that Jesus came to give?
Don’t be a Pharisee. You tell them the truth and you live it. You go about teaching forgiveness as Christ does. I struggle with how to answer some of his questions. Not out of lack of knowledge but in how to share it in a way he can comprehend but I think I did alright. He is at that stage where lying is commonplace unfortunately. So why not use that? I told him that people killed Jesus because they were strong and had lots of power . They gained that power by lying about God’s word and using it to make people believe something they couldn’t live themselves. I would be remiss to admit there was an ulterior motive there to teach him not to lie.
I went on to tell him how lying hurts people and that Jesus was killed out of fear. Fear that all the things those powerful people had won falsely would be taken from them. Jesus was teaching us to love one another above all things because God had sent Him out of love to save us. Which led to another question, “Did Jesus love the soldiers who kilt him?” This kid…
He did (Luke 23:34), He asked for their forgiveness even while they slew Him. I still saw no reason to not tell him that. I explained to him that Jesus forgave them for hurting Him, for not knowing what they were doing. Jesus came to save the world, not the Jews, not the believers, everyone (1 John 2:2). We in many ways teach this kind of forgiveness to our kids, or we should. Children are ignorant to the world, many of the things they do and we teach them by forgiving them and telling them why it was wrong.
We have no desire to brag, teaching forgiveness is a cornerstone of rearing Christian children. My children know about the forgiveness of the prodigal son, they know about the parable of the unforgiving servant but most importantly we make sure they know about the forgiveness of Christ.
And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. – 2 John 1:5-6
Man, life is hard being a Christian. Not only am I dealing with my own flaws but I have the media stuffing traumatic things down my eye sockets whenever I look at the news. It makes me sad when I see loss of life, it doesn’t matter whose life it is. I also get angry because here we are in a world that is trying to burn itself down. Raping, muggings, murders, doughy politicians with bad hair or negligent ones putting people at risk with terrible security. All of that, sucks. All of that is the cause of sin, the lack of being able to live in love.
Walk in Love
We are commanded to be imitators of God, as beloved children and to walk in love as Christ loved us (Ephesians 5:1-2). I won’t lie and say, “Oh yeah I totally love the drug dealer who sold kids some cocaine and caused their deaths” or “Oh, I’m BFFs with the rapist down the road.” those would be untruths and I cannot do that, will not do that. To walk in love however is to manifest the actions of Christ towards others. I’m not going to find the dealer and give him a beat down but I will call the police on him. I’m not going to stigmatize the rapist but I am going to ensure my wife knows where my gun is or how to defend herself in the event of an attack. If that same dealer or rapist needed help with something and I could provide it, I would. My personal feelings towards them may just be hostile from fear but do you think Jesus was not afraid of the task he faced? While I don’t know for certainty that He wasn’t I do know that He was fully man and man has fear. I know that Jesus gave up His godly powers and grew just as any man did. All of His works came through the Father and it was not until He rose again that He donned those same powers he willingly gave up. In all the tribulations my savior faced not once did he write off someone who was a sinner. It is really hard to walk in love when we see the events of today but we must because the Bible is clear that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare and we are the soldiers of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).
Live in Love
I would say walking in love is much easier to do than living in love. Part of this is the immediacy of punishment that happens on a societal level when someone commits a crime. It reigns in our inclination to physically act out towards someone we find hard to love. To live in love however is the internal manifestation of what the Holy Spirit does for you. It’s why you are convicted when you do something you know you should not be doing. That doesn’t mean that it will stop you from doing it because we don’t listen to God as well as we should and will do things our own way despite knowing it is wrong. To live in love is to learn to let go of the stereotypes and to drop the prejudice that causes hate crimes and other forms of detriment to society. It is not the idea to be ignorant to the world we live in but to not assume that the person on the street is there because they didn’t have it together. Maybe they did and they hit a bad patch or maybe they didn’t. We don’t know their story.
I should address this up front, this writing is partially motivated by the happenings the last two days. I don’t care whether a shooting was justified or not from a spiritual perspective. I hurt for all of those involved and pray for all of them. From a societal standpoint whatever we have obviously is broken and it needs to be fixed. More death won’t do that. That’s why we also pray for society and show love to the stranger and the friend. The enemy that we need to battle is not of this physical realm. If I died helping a stranger who meant me harm but I was serving God’s will then my rewards will be great. Not because of just doing His will but because I was following Jesus’ commandment.
It’s a delicate balance isn’t it? Live in love but be cautious to protect yourself and the ones you love. Yet, we are commanded by God to love everyone. Every one. It’s a simple rule and we break it like the words of God are effervescent when they are the most weighty words ever given. God doesn’t want his children to walk through life oblivious to the fact that there is danger, but he also doesn’t want those same children to perpetuate that danger out of fear. I’m not black, I’m not a cop, I’m not a politician. What I am though is a man who loves God, loves his country, loves his family and I’m a man who loves the stranger. Yes, I will want to take revenge upon someone if they were to cause my family harm, that’s natural. God doesn’t turn from war and He doesn’t expect us to go to the slaughter like sheep. Still we must love.
Love is unity. Unity is what we need. Black, blue, doesn’t matter. Life Matters. Love Matters. Live a life of love and THAT will make a difference.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
This is literally the saddest time in the Bible for me. Christ is unjustly upon a wooden cross between two criminals and at His feet are men gambling for His clothing. These soldiers who unbeknownst to them were fulfilling a prophecy in the Bible (Psalm 22:18). Still Jesus did something I would find hard to do. He asked God to forgive them knowing that they would do this to Him. That is just hard to accept, forgiving those that are in the process of killing you. I can’t find it in my heart to justify the grace they are given because I’m human. Jesus is a better man than me because my nature is to seek revenge even if I know I should not.
Jesus is forgiving the soldiers, the pharisees, every single person who is involved with the persecution, imprisonment and active participation of His death. Not just for those actions but for their unbelief that He is the Son of God. They were killing the one person who could offer them salvation and they did not even know it. That is why we really do need to be like Jesus when we forgive people who say things and don’t realize it hurts us. This happens fairly often for me on a personal level because I love my kids so much, they who their biological daddy is and sometimes they say things that hurt because they don’t know how much I am dad. I know they love me, I know that if they get hurt and they cry for dad it isn’t me but I pick them up, hold them closely and comfort them. That happens to us all, doesn’t it? People are unaware of who we are or our circumstances current or past. Our seasons are different but we should not lash out in anger. Instead, forgive like Jesus and if you need to, ask them to not joke about whatever was said or done that caused that hurt to flare up.
Freedom in Forgiveness
What do anger, fear and heartache all have in common? Weight. Burden (Psalm 38:4). When you are angry at someone you may feel fine in the moment but after it is passed and it begins seething deep in your soul it becomes dead weight and starts weighing on you. Living a life of fear is suppression of who you truly are. Heartaches are traumatic and hit like a truck with no brakes. Each one of these things evolve after whatever catalyst caused them. They ultimately become burdensome on your soul. God doesn’t want that. Jesus showed us how to combat that. The spirit gives us the strength to win that fight.
If you’ve been saved you know the feeling of having the burden of sin lifted. It is vibrant and enriching, you are no longer condemn to a eternity separated from our Father. If you haven’t made that step in life where you can accept Jesus for the fullness of what He is I urge you to take some time and learn about the burdens He took on Himself so that we may have that chance of redemption. He took the spiritual bullet for us all and endured beatings and pain reserved for the most harmful criminals. His crime was telling the truth of God instead of spreading the lie of man (Matthew 15:14). Yet we want to hold on to things of tangible value because we have the terrible habit of putting value in physical objects and not in Him. When we learn to let go of all of this stuff that we can’t even take with us it is completely liberating.
What Christ did is nothing short of extraordinary. He endured hurt, anger, pain, betrayal, heartache, abuse, disrespect and so much more. All of those things he endured in about 3 1/2 years of ministry until He was crucified for it. Even while they were killing Him, Jesus never once complained, fought back or cursed them. Instead He continued shouldering His burden and then He forgave them for not knowing the true transgression they were committing. We cannot forgive like Jesus unless we learn to do the same. He forgave for so much more than some offensive words or someone speaking about a subject we find to not be our cup of tea. Try it, give it over to Him and you’ll feel lighter, you’ll live happier.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:9
Revenge is something we all struggle with because our natural instinct is to retaliate against that which causes us loss of some kind. Whether it is loss of life, property, body parts etc. The idea of revenge in Christianity has been discussed and some say there is contradiction because of Mosaic Law (Exodus 21:23-25) and what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-39) where Christ urges us to turn the other cheek. How can Mosaic Law which was defined by God and given to Moses to communicate come in to contradiction with the Son of God?
Revenge in the Old Testament
There is a misunderstanding of the terms of the Mosaic Law. It was given as a guiding point in that justice when rendered should be fair and equitable. There were times in ancient Israel and there are times now where death is deemed as the right action by law. There is no instance of the law being used exactly as it is said, no hand was cut off from someone because they caused another person to lose their hand. Instead it was intended for the lawmakers to allow compensation for those lost things. We see this in modern legal systems as a civil case usually. If something happened that caused a person to lose their foot then the owner of the business, perpetrator of the offense etc. would have to pay the person compensation. That is what the purpose of the law in the Old Testament was for and is still usable today.
Jesus on Revenge
Peter makes use of the knowledge that he gained being a direct student to Christ. This is not the only OT passage he addresses. Still he urges us to follow what Christ spoke of during His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:38-42). He speaks plainly that we should not hurt someone in return for hurting us or to insult them because we were insulted. That’s a tough pill to swallow for anyone. As men, the leaders of our homes we are always ready to defend our loved ones and ourselves by any means necessary. That often manifests itself in retaliation of equal or more brutal forms. Martin Luther King Jr. said it well (he is not the first just his quote is being used), “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.” and he is right.
Our need for justice is well documented even in the Bible when you consider Gideon’s bloodthirsty actions of killing a tower full of men because they denied him bread. He was doing God’s work pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna but God did not call him to kill those men (Judges 8:1-17). Should Gideon have done that? It is not for me to judge that. Gideon saw but a portion of the picture in humanities history whereas God sees it all. He does not shy away from punishment but He is a fair judge who does punish equal to the crime. He is also the only one who knows how much more work forgiveness can do instead of punishment.
I mean look at what God chose to do. He chose to give His son up for man’s salvation. We can choose to forgive. We have the right to self-defense but the words of a person should not break your bond with Christ. It should strengthen it. If someone has said something cruel to your wife, your children and even you forgive them and put it in God’s hands. Payback just causes more suffering. Cut it to the quick and pray for them instead. As a Christian you know the blessings given to you in forgiveness instead of condemnation. Teach that to your family and show them that holding fast to their faith will see them through. Revenge has a sweet taste at first but the aftertaste is sour and bitter.