Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence. – 1 John 3:18-19
How is it that Jesus could be humble and meek but a king and a leader? How is He both lion and lamb? The answer to that is in his ministry. What is the foundation of Jesus ministry based on? We all know it. We all acknowledge it when it is convenient for us. Sometimes it is hard to do when you do not agree with another person but we have all, as Christians, been called to do it. That is the brotherly love we have for each other and even those who are not saved. It is a love of humanity that even today we still don’t fully grasp. Instead of some booming voice with a form we could not see we were taught by Jesus, in the flesh on what love is. God’s message about the divide between man and Him would not have been as clear had it not been for Christ. This is why His message was so clear. He brought salvation down to our level so that we could understand the importance of not only the ministry of His son but of the love and salvation offered to us.
What Brotherly Love Is Not
I feel a little silly for even addressing this because it is a shameful thing to say to any Christian that you aren’t loving people enough. There isn’t a limit to God’s love but there is to ours. It is very hard for me to find any love whatsoever for a murderer or a rapist. It is the most difficult for me to summon anything even regarding the term “affection” for a child molester. I’ll own that sin and pray that God gives me strength to one day see something redeeming in people like that but for now I have to put it in God’s hands and beg for understanding and grace.
This is where the tolerance that Christians are enamored to use comes in to play. Tolerance is the accepting that someone’s beliefs differs from our own. But there is a slippery slope there. The ability to be over-tolerant is there. When that happens we have taken a tool that God has blessed us with and turned it in to a sin. By being over-tolerant we have done more than politely disagreed, we have accepted the persons beliefs as being truth. We have accepted an untruth for a truth and in doing so we have rejected something that God has deemed true.
Those people are enslaved to those who are not Gods (Galatians 4:8). Understanding what brotherly love is not only frees us from other sins like pride but allows us to do what Jesus did, get down on that persons level and reach them. It hurts my heart when I see over zealous brethren marching with picket signs and calling people ‘freaks’ or ‘perverts’ or ‘faggots’ and other things. They are human and broken, so are you. Just because you have Jesus and salvation doesn’t make you God’s sword to cut people down. It makes you renewed in His image and then you aspire to be in His likeness when you start reaching out to those people. You become a disciple, a banner to what a Christian should be, could be. I have dropped the banner, I did for a decade and He wanted me back no questions asked. It is that grace that drives me to reach out to other men, doesn’t matter what level of brokenness they are dealing with.
What Brotherly Love Is
The idea of brotherly love is a call to go beyond the love you have for your spouse, children and immediate family. This love is the emotional tie you have with those of your community. In context it means fellow Christians but if we are to love fellow Christians as Christ does then that love extends beyond kin and community but to the man on the street who is a homeless veteran begging for handouts. It’s not just for the people that make it to church, they are important but it’s also for the people who are 200 ft away from the church wondering why their life is the way it is. Sometimes all a person needs to hear is, “I love you, God does too.” and other times they are haunted by demons that we may have to help them combat. Brotherly love is about the ability to put yourself next to someone, anyone and show them a kindness that Christ would be proud of.
I can’t help but feel I got a little on a soap box about this topic. I don’t think it is bad, a devotional should be emotional. Good or bad it should affect you in some way. I have a passion to show that everyone deserves to see how much God loves them. I want them to know that fire I feel. We are commanded to love as we are loved with the Golden Rule. How can I do any of that if I can’t get out of the way of myself and out of the way of God’s work. If we are to be the body then how can we knowingly act like He didn’t sit with sinners and love them?
I’m not going to apologize if that headline offends you. It should. It should also get your attention to the very serious nature of what I want to talk about. It’s been on my heart like an 800-pound Gorilla named Sparky. While talking with a friend we discussed a man’s primary duty as the leader of his home. After we talked I just had this consistent push in my mind telling me that my salvation was secondary but why?
Be the Shepherd
We are charged with leading our homes all over the bible and we struggle with that because we are human. The reason why I say our (as men) salvation is secondary is because we should be concerned with those in our household and where they are in Christ. It is said in Proverbs 22:6 that the way we raise children will determine their behavior in life. This is common sense stuff and does not have to be non-secular. In fact the NYU School of Medicine has a great site about child psychology and years of research behind it. You are the shepherd of the flock that God blesses you with on earth. Shepherds do not let their flock wander from them.
I talked about the farmer when I talked about nourishment and it’s consistency but I guess I did not get it across clearly enough because God has put it on my heart to write about it once again. In Deuteronomy 28:1-6 we are promised many a great blessings if we honor God’s commandments but in the same chapter (Deuteronomy 28:47-48) we are warned what happens if we fail. The work you do or the lack thereof is directly proportionate to how much God will bless you. He rewards the believer with salvation. He rewards those who understand they were chosen (John15:16) to bear witness for him
It’s Christ Like
Consider this simple thought that we all know to be truth. God is our father and he gave use Jesus so that we may be redeemed through his death and resurrection. Apply it to what is on my heart friends, God, with no requirement to, gave us his most precious thing. His Son. We are charged too with his most precious of things, his children (our children). Jesus gave his life for our salvation. Why can we not, set our desire to be fed aside and put our work in to how our children are raised? Our futures are secure, theirs are not. We, once saved, make a commitment to become like Him (Ephesians 4:23-24). I want to clarify something when I say put our desire to be fed aside in that we make sacrifices to ensure they are fed first. As grown adults we have the ability to self-feed by chasing God. If our eyes, our goals and our hearts are on him then the rest follows through like water in a channel. Pour ourselves in to Godly work and we are fed naturally. Our children do not have that knowledge or ability yet and even as they grow and become adults we still steward them as much as we can.
If we want to be like Him (1 John 2:5-6) then we should put our salvation to the side when we are secure in it. Not only to help our children but to help others as well. Whether you are making that choice for your children, a homeless man on the street or a lost sibling when we understand that true strength comes from our humility and willingness to sensibly sacrifice things and comforts for the encouragement and service to others we will grow. They will grow. Our salvation is secondary in this world when we take on the cross and bear it for others. God will put that salvation first in the end of our days and we will be greatly rewarded.
It is hard for anyone to always put themselves last in this world because many of us live in a society that often times thinks of themselves first even when we profess subjugation of our own will. It is a fault of man and one that we must understand and ultimately find peace with. As a man with a family that often means our desires are put to the side in lieu of others.
When Paul and Timothy were writing to the Philippians he encouraged them to show humility like Christ [Philippians 2:3-4] and that is something we should strive for.
It has not been easy for me and is it ever fully solved? No, but because I do want to be more like Christ I have to remind myself that I am second or third or fifth. Christ could have left us to our own demise and allowed us to fester and stay permanently separated from God but instead he made himself last. Last of every soul that has came, gone and will come. He chose to come down to Earth and live as we live. He chose to understand us more intimately than we could imagine and then even though we aren’t worthy he stepped between his father and said, “They are not perfect, they are not worthy but they could be. Not all hope is lost.”
Can we be that humble? Can I? It’s a question I strive to answer every day. I don’t get it right all of the time and I won’t. I don’t expect to. You can get it right some of the time too because we could be worthy. We can be worthy of God’s love. We can be worthy of the love of our wives or significant others. We can be worthy of the love of the children in our lives. We just have to try and to give up ourselves. Much like we should be doing when we take our journey to be more like Christ.
So how do we keep this mindset of being last without feeling hopeless?
Make a list either written or mental of the things you have done for others. See how it has impacted their life and admire the work you have done. It’s hard to see that sometimes but reminders are important so you don’t feel like you’re doing something in vain.
Wear something that professes that so you have a visual cue. One of my favorite things is a silicone bracelet I have from I Am Second and a friend asked me about the bracelet. I explained and then I gave it to him without thought. [2 Corinthians 9:7] The next week he had a different one for me that I wear daily.
Listen to your heart. Our mind often complicates things for us more than we would like. If you see someone in need, help them. [Proverbs 4:23] This was something I was happy to show Elijah (my favorite little boy in the world) one day when he was playing at the soft play area in the mall. There was a boy there that had taken one of his toys. Long story short the boy was autistic and when I asked him for the toy back his mother apologized profusely and gave me the toy. I sat down and put Elijah on my knee and explained to him that there are many toys in the world just like this one but maybe this toy was destined for the little boy. He understood what I was getting at and gave the toy to the little boy. The mom was thankful and almost in tears and I couldn’t be a more proud parent.
That is just a few ways we can keep on that path to being last and being happy. If Christ can give up everything including his life then surely we can give up some of us to enrich others. You never know how much a small act of selflessness can change someone’s world.