To Love is Our Command

Jesus our Lord orders us not to love Him, but one another. This is akin to a parent putting siblings in a get-along shirt, where each sibling get an armhole in a great big daddy shirt. This may be the hardest command He has ever given us.Today Christians exist in 1000 different denominations. Christians of different stripes have fought wars over doctrine with each other. Some Christians have rounded up other Christians just for printing Bibles. Even today some Christians are jealous because their church is smaller than their neighbor, or self-righteous because their church is smaller. Even when we have no reason to be petty with one another, we still find ways to dislike one another.

I think the kind of love Jesus is speaking of here is more than the toleration you have for family on Thanksgiving. It goes deeper than that. I think it may even be more like the love a parent has for a child who is addict, but who never gives up hope of their getting clean. Love is a hard taskmaster. It asks us to do things we don’t want to do, like get along.

The Methodist right now are going through these labor pains. They are looking to separate themselves one from another over the issue of homosexuality. Some want homosexuals to be their pastors. Others do not. As such, they are willing separate their common bond in Christ over the issue. For those who campaign that love must prevail, let me remind you that this is a truth that comes from Scripture. If you would honor the same God who commands us to love, you would also need to respect what else He has to say. You cannot take one piece out for your benefit and ignore the rest.

They should absolutely not separate. But as Paul once pointed, perhaps it is necessary to point out those who are Christ’s and those who are not. Christ also said, “if you love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus is very specific what constitutes the marriage relationship (Matthew 19). He tells us what relationship has the blessing and binding of God, and it not the homosexual one. This anyone who teaches and practices that homosexual relationships are okay by God is teaching blasphemy.

The basis for love in any relationship is and ought always to be truth. Without truth you do not have honesty. Without honesty there is no integrity and no stability in a relationship. As Christians, we need to be honest with one another, and stop hiding from one another. There is no such thing as “fine” in our world. No one is “fine” because we are all struggling. If you are in honest relationships with other Christians, you have found a rare jewel. Fight for it if you have to.

Heavenly Father, we have so totally messed up obeying this command that we don’t even know where to begin to obey it. We are scattered across a thousand denominations that can’t talk to each other. Father we have hurt each other, deeply. We have done the opposite of this command so many times. We repent Lord of the mess we have made. Show us Lord the path we would take to love our brother and our sister. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Love and Sacrifice

In the many definitions of love, you rarely hear sacrifice. It is usually compassion for another, embracing and feeling close. But sacrifice is as natural as breathing when it comes to love. In the famous story, The Gift of the Magi, the young couple each sacrifices what is most precious to them to give good gifts to each other. It is a precious story in that it is a fitting parable for love. Love gives with little thought for itself. It is the new mother who gets up in the wee hours to care for a crying child. It is the father who sacrifices time with his family and those precious first moments so that he can provide for their needs in work. While love takes on many forms, one which we easily recognize is sacrifice.

So it is with our Christian family. Today is a test of your love. Will you sacrifice your time, energy, even comfort to express your love for the brethren by going to church this morning? Jesus came and died for you. That was a tremendous and powerful sacrifice. Men and women died for your right to worship freely in this nation. No one is stopping you from going to a church of your choosing. It may involve some sacrifice, but many have been given for you. You can give this much.

Love is expressed through sacrifice. Our Lord showed us this. We can do this for each other. God bless you today.

Unseen Evidence

What is faith? This verse is often quoted as the answer to that question. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Well, as a definition, it often strikes me as ”faith is being faithful.” it doesn’t really answer the question of what faith is. What I hope for doesn’t have a ”substance” and what I can’t see doesn’t really count as “evidence”, does it?

Here’s where you a probably thinking I am going to come back with an amazing answer to this question. But I don’t have one. Faith is taken by itself as evidence of things I don’t have. Confidence is sometimes placed in this verse as an answer, that faith is confidence that what we hope for will in fact happen. If I pray for healing, then faith is the confidence that I will be healed. If I pray for the Lord’s will to be revealed in my life, then faith is knowing that God will reveal that will to me. Faith is grasping what I can’t grasp with my hands. Only by faith can we comprehend things we cannot see with our eyes.

It is by faith that I believe my wife loves me. Either that or it’s an elaborate ruse to gain my confidence so that she can someday do something nefarious. So far, 24+ years on, she has expertly carried on as if she loves me. I can’t see love. But I can see meals prepared, hugs given and received, kisses, even four children brought into the world. If she doesn’t love me, then she has gone through an awful lot of trouble. I believe that love exists, because I can see what it does.

Faith must then be my active portion of that. Faith is what I do based upon what I can’t see, but know is there. Faith is active beyond my senses to my deductions based on what I can see. I believe in God because I see the effects of His creation around me. I believe in Jesus because of the evidence of His life and his work in me. I am not the same man I was when I was saved.

That may not be a great definition, but it is mine. Maybe it will be a help to you today. God bless.

Does No Wrong

I believe we have been lured into one of Satan’s most ingenious traps. As Christian people, we have first been lured into the idea that we are all about love. We have been told that Love trumps all, and that God is a God of love. For the most part, this is true. But love has been emphasized so much, it has been emphasized over truth and logic. Is that so wrong? As the first part of this verse suggests, love does no wrong, thus, if I do something in the name of love, it cannot be wrong. Do you see where this is going? 

Now Christians are known for being people of love. Our God is love. Our own book says so. So how can we possibly say a thing is wrong if it is done in love? People living together who aren’t married? That ‘s not living in sin anymore. That living in love. People of the same sex who love each other? No problem! They’re in love. What’s the issue? People who love children? Don’t fret yourself. It ‘s still love even if only one party consents, right?

And now all of us Christians have to keep our mouths shut. We’ve been preaching love for centuries. We can’t go back now. This is all love. It’s all good. We are hypocrites if we say these kinds of love are bad. And a hypocritical Christian is a charge we cannot recover from. Oh what a clever trap. We have preached ourselves into a corner because we have only emphasized part of the Word. In our effort to appeal to the masses, we have ignored the weightier matters.

In this verse is the solution. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Love does not and cannot break the law. Love does not make new law, or what was wrong now right. Love is the fulfillment of the law, for what the law prevented by its “don’t’s”, love fulfill by emphasizing its positive. Thou shall not steal becomes respect another’s property. Thou shalt not commit adultery becomes respect the boundaries of your marriage and otbers. Love even calls us to resist anyone else who who would trod upon these values. See must uphold justice when others cannot do themselves. We must advocate for those that cannot speak. If it is in our power to do good, then it is a sin not to.

Love is far more powerful than law, but love never contradicts the law. If we are to love, we must also respect the law, for both come from God, and God does not contradict Himself.

God bless you on this Friday!

The Root of the Law

At the base of the formidable tower that is the Law is inscribed these two, Love God and Love your Neighbor. The first is featured prominently, the second, somewhat obscure. The first is found early in Deuteronomy as a command laid upon all Israel. The second is situated in the middle of Leviticus as something of a commentary on relations with your neighbor.

Yet, these are the two that Jesus cites as the foundation of the rest of the Law. And the more you think about, His legal insight is exquisite. Everything we do here on earth really falls into one of these two areas. It’s a given that we know what love is (and may I remind you that the definition of ”love” has never been under more attack than today) and it’s also a given that we know what it means to love ourselves. With families breaking down everywhere, it’s harder to define from our hearts what love is.

Today, practice love. Practice this kind of love. Love with all your heart, soul and mind, and with all your strength. May God bless you work today.

From the Beginning

You ever have those little proverbs from your parents of grandparents floating around in your head? For example, ”Clean your plate. There are starving children in Africa.” Or maybe, ”This hurts me more than it hurts you.” These are simple, short proverbs that regardless of how old you become, they are never far. With just a little effort, you can recall them even if you haven’t thought of them in years.

So it is with this commandment which Jesus told us from the beginning. John rephrased it here, since Jesus’s original command in John 15 was to love one another, “as I have loved you,” meaning He gave up His life for us, so we ought to be willing to do the same for our brothers. John furthers this by saying our lives ought to be characterized by this kind of love, so that we walk in love in every step.

How do you express this love? Do you offer little sacrifices here and there? Do you give up your own right to be satisfied when someone else can be blessed? What does this love look like to you?

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday. God bless you today.

Quiet in His Love

This seems like a funny way for God to express His love. In fact, the scholars are a bit divided as to what this means. Some say what is here. God will express His love in quiet ways. Others look to the Greek Septuagint, where it says He will renew His love, or, make His love new again like it was before they had sinned against Him. A third path some suggest is that God’s love will be expressed in such a way that He will be quiet about past transgressions.

This text follows a diatribe about how Israel has sinned against Him and how He is angry with their wickedness. But He longs to restore them and care and nurture them as before. If they would only reach out to Him He would forgive and He would save.

Such a tale could be told today, couldn’t it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could turn from our sins and turn back to God? And then once He had taken us back in, He wouldn’t say a word about our transgressions. He would simply be quiet in His love. He would be a place of peace and solace where this world offers only hardship and chaos.

Could we consider His offer as we rise on this Sunday morning? Find that place to rest and find peace in Him today. God bless you.