Category Archives: Love

Cain rejected God, do we?

Genesis chapter 4 narrates the sacrifices which Cain and Abel brought to God and the events which followed. You should consider reading the chapter and see if these thoughts fit with what the Bible says:

Cain and Abel both brought sacrifices to God. Abel’s was acceptable and Cain’s was not. The book of Hebrews tells us that Abel offered a sacrifice by faith (11:4). If we accept what Paul said in Romans (10:17) that faith come by hearing the Word of God, the we are safe to conclude that God told them what was acceptable and that one did it, while the other did not.  In other words, God does not make us guess about what is pleasing to Him, he clearly lays it out for us.

Of course, the problem was not just an incorrect sacrifice, but the reaction to God’s rejection of that sacrifice. Cain got angry! His countenance fell. In other words, he was highly upset that his sacrifice was not accepted and perhaps even more upset that Abel’s had been. Yet God still took time to talk with Cain, encourage him to do right and warn him about the consequences of doing wrong.

Cain, however, choose to reject God’s counsel and do things his own way. He reacted by killing his own brother.  Whatever the motive for Cain to do this (and many have been suggested), Cain did not rule  over sin. He allowed sin to rule over him. He soon found out that the consequences were more difficult than if he had simply humbled himself before God and had done what he had been asked to do.

The lesson we can learn for ourselves is that, even today, God has not left himself without a testimony of what He wants from those who will follow Him. However, many of those who want (say they want) to follow Him do not even take a moment to read what God has said. They go through life, offering up sacrifices which God neither requested nor desired. They should not be surprised when God rejects the sacrifice and suggests that “if they do well, they will be accepted”.

Are we like Cain who does not listen to God’s word or are we like Abel who did…and through it, though he is dead, he still speaks?

 

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Love is not resentful

Love also is not resentful. It does not take an account of wrongs suffered. It does not think that someone woke up with an intent to do them wrong. Love is willing give the benefit of the doubt when difficulties arrive. This results in one thing that is characteristic of Love, Forgiveness.

When I hold onto resentment, what I am saying, in effect, is that some injustice has been done to me and I need to see justice dealt out. Something needs to even the score. Reconciliation in such cases involves the offender grovelling. At any minute the offended can pull out not just the current offense but any list of previous offenses which they have been keeping track of.

Love, on the other hand, is willing to let go injustices and wrongs suffered. It certainly will not have a filing cabinet stuffed with all the wrongs suffered. It doesn’t keep a count of the wrongs done against it.

The prodigal son’s brother apparently was not one to let go of a resentment and it only got worse after the brother returned. I have wondered if the older brother was jealous of the his younger brother’s lifestyle. It shouldn’t be that way, of course (more on that in a bit), and it doesn’t seem as if he enjoyed the blessings of being in his father’s household.

At the very least, he was resentful of his father’s welcome of this prodigal young man. He says that he didn’t have any parties with his friends and feels as if his father has mistreated him in some way. This is highly unlikely based on the father’s response to both children AND even more unlikely when you consider the parable’s father is representative of our Heavenly Father who is only too glad to be generous in His blessings.

The men hired by the landowner to work in his field were grudge holders also. (Matt 20) They resented this good man for being generous to those who had worked a mere hour. I know that in today’s culture, labor laws would no doubt prohibit such generosity. There would be lawsuits and grievances filed and the poor landowner would be thinking, “why do I even bother?”. Yet, his question is valid “Is it not lawful….?” He broke no law, no crime had been done. There was no law against being generous and there is no law that prohibits us from being forgiving and letting go of resentment.

A better response to those that wrong us is to remember how much we have wronged God.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mar 11:25-26 NKJV)

It matters not how bad the crime or how big the offense, the sins I have done against God are far bigger than those offenses against me. Hard to hear? Yep! Yet, well worth thinking about, pondering and trying to work on. If we are going to be Love (as God is Love), we need to remove resentment, for any reason, from our life.

But before I stop, what about that idea of being jealous of those who have lived the “good life” ( I am speaking tongue in cheek)? Have you known people who, with a wistful eye or tone in their voice, indicate that they would have liked to spend time “sowing their wild oats” but because they knew better, never did?  They look at those are now faithful to God and think ” but I never had all those fun times”

They forget that so many more sinners are trapped and will never escape. Should they, for example, take a single drink from Satan’s sparkling cup of pleasure, they may never return! The answer for them, of course, is not “Go ahead and do so” but rather, “Repent and do not envy or be resentful of that other person’s life.” If, indeed, those former prodigals have repented, they are now sorrowful and not reminiscing about ‘good times’.

Question: Why do we feel we need to resent and hold grudges?

photo taken from Google images.

 

 

Love is not irritable

Another version of the same passage says that Love is not easily provoked. I don’t think there is one of us with an older or younger sibling, who does not understand the meaning of the word “provoked”. Either we were the provoker or the victim! Hopefully, as we grew older, in most cases, that type of early childhood provocation died away.

Yet, we know people today, adults, who will, with the slightest hint of provocation, unleash a whole barrage of anger. They then turn around and say “YOU make me so angry” or “That’s the way I am”. Some even blame their heritage or hair-itage. “I am Irish” or “I have red hair”, they say.

Love does not rush to wrath. In fact, if we were to follow the advice James offers us: be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath, we might avoid a lot of problems in our own lives and create fewer difficulites in the lives of others.

James says that the “wrath of man” does not work the righteousness of God. Perhaps I am incorrect, but in the context of James, I think he contrasts “man’s wrath and will” with “God’s will” and implies God’s wrath is different.

We understand that God does show wrath but after how long of a time? The patience he showed while the ark was being built, while the sin of the Ammorites increased, with Nineveh during the days of Jonah, with Israel….all through their existence, teaches us two things very clearly. God’s wrath is slow in coming and is not something you want to experience.

Love does not allow the little things to provoke it. Love is bigger than the petty things that those who have not learned to love are interested in. Love will show wrath at appropriate times but the childish provocations of children and worldly people are not the times to let loose.

Can you imagine if Jesus had displayed the wrath of man?

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1Pe 2:22-23)

How would the righteousness of God (Romans 1:16-17) been shown, if Jesus had been so easily provoked! (I hasten to add, that I speak in hyperbole when I say “easily provoked”, He showed remarkable constraint) What if He had called those 12 legions of angels? Where would the Gospel be?

Question: What causes you to get angry the quickest? Is that trigger mechanism something you have prayed to God about?

Photo Credit: Matt Erasmus

Love does not envy

Another characteristic of Agape love is that it does not envy. It is, I think, important to keep in mind the idea that “Love” is a characteristic that we are to be known by. We never say that a person is Love and this is probably because we recognize that pure love is something that only God is. Yet, in light of the fact that the Scriptures say that “God is Love” and that we are His children, we should at least be striving to get closer to the point where someone can say “_________ (insert name) is Love” and mean it.

So when we read that Love does not envy, we understand that Love does not envy even a little bit. When you feel envy, you are, at the root of it, feeling either a covetousness or a discontent. Worse, that feeling is because of something that another person has. They have a nicer house, faster car, better paying job, more vacation time, more Bible knowledge, more of an influence, etc., etc. The list is really endless. The eye is truely never satisfied.

In sales and marketing, a sale is never made unless an underlying need or want is uncovered. Generally speaking, we buy based on want not need. Spiritually speaking, if we bought only what we needed, our lives would be less complicated and if we were satisfied with what we have, there would be no envy. Of course, Satan is a master at uncovering those wants and tempting us with them.

Jesus did not feel envy; he was content with what He had. In fact, he gave up all that he had in the Heavenly realms to come to earth and to die on our behalf. So when Satan tempted him based on hunger, pride, or desire, Jesus passed the test because He didn’t feel the lack. He had all he needed.

Contentment would eliminate a lot of sin. It would remove a lot of envy. Children fight and quarrel over things that do not matter. Adults do not. As a spiritual adult, Paul refused to partake in the envy temptations of others. In writing to the Philippians, he points to some who preach Christ “out of envy and rivalry” (Phil 1:15) and yet, his response, in spite of their desire to cause him distress was to say that if Christ is preached, he will rejoice in that. Their motives were of no interest to him.

I know some who go preach in other countries. As a  visiting preacher sometimes one or two people respond the Gospel’s invitation. Rather than baptizing the ones who respond, he steps aside and lets someone there do it. He does not take, nor want, any credit and he doesn’t want others to say that they were baptized by him. Who cares who baptizes a person, it is not to the credit of the preacher, it is to the glory of God.

Paul planted, Apollos watered, God gives the increase.

When you feel envy of someone else for what they have, it is because you are not satisfied with what you have.

Question: What can you do to remind yourself to remove envy when you feel it?

Photo credit: NeoGaboX

Love is also kind

Google images

There is an old saying: To the one who is good with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

To be kind carries an idea that you may not have known. I am not a Greek scholar but a good lexicon or Strong’s concordance can at least give you an idea of word meanings and sometimes, they expand your understanding. This is the case with the word “kind”. Strong’s says that it means “to show oneself useful”, “to act benevolently”.

James asks a question that will illustrate this well.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  (Jas 2:15-16)

Although his context is to show that our faith must be an active one, one cannot forget the verses dealing with love that precede his question. So when his question is asked, you might restate his question to read “how kind is that?”

The short answer of course, is that there is no kindness or usefulness at all! They would be empty words and there would be no love. It is much like trying to use a hammer on a glass where a soft rag would be better.

God is a very kind God and even to those who do not treat Him with the respect He deserves.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mat 5:45)

In the context here, Jesus teaches that we, as His disciples, need to be more like God. God does not withhold what is good and useful from His enemies. If He did, when would Christ have come? (See this post also). Therefore, we should not just be kind to those who treat us well but to those who mistreat us. Why? Because it is Love.

The book of Jonah shows the kindness of God. It shows that kindness in spite of Jonah not being in favor of it.  Jonah, knowing that God would relent of the promised destruction, if the city of Nineveh repented, did not want to preach the message. God, in chapter four, shares the reason for His kindness and rebukes Jonah for not seeing 120,000 souls that didn’t even know their right hand from their left.

Where we might see an enemy, God sees a soul that needs to be saved. God wants all to be saved and that is why the Gospel goes forth. The Gospel is the ultimate kindness and we, as His disciples are the ones who need to preach that message….or do we want to be like Jonah?

Being Kind does not mean being someone who walked all over. Boundaries can be established and Love knows how to establish proper boundaries. However, Love goes a lot further than the world’s standards are capable of understanding and sometimes Love stops short of where the world thinks it should. We shouldn’t think that it is easy but it is necessary for us to consider carefully the following question:

What are some ways in which we can be too kind?

 

 

Love. Without it, what matters?

The first three verses of I Corinthians 13 are not often read at weddings. People want to get to the “good” stuff about what Love is and is not. However, these verses emphasize clearly that whatever else your ability, your knowledge, or your generosity, if you do not have the key ingredient of Love, there is no usefulness, gain, or benefit.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1Co 13:1-3)

It is worth reading that part of this passage over slowly a couple of times. IF I.. (fill in the blank) but do not have LOVE then whatever I can do, whatever I know, whatever I have given in charity I will not be benefited by it.

In a recent Olympic trial run a British athlete accomplished a personal best in a running event using the hurdles. However, after the trial race was run, the time was not recorded as a record because…the track did not contain the correct number of hurdles. The officials had missed counted and put one fewer than was necessary.  All that effort and, yet, it was in vain.  If I run the best time but do not have the correct number of hurdles, I gain nothing.

Paul said that, in his life, he constantly buffeted his body and disciplined himself, to be sure that after he had run the race, that he would not be disqualified. Only those who run lawfully win the prize. (I cor 9:27, 2 tim 2:5)

So it is with our lives. We can accomplish great and maginificent things for the Lord, we can do much to help other people, we might even solve world hunger and win Nobel peace prizes but, if we do not have Love…it does not profit us a single thing.

I hope you realize that Paul is not talking about profit in this life but profit in the life to come. We may fool men, we may even fool ourselves, but we will not fool God.

Read those characteristics that follow and substitute your name in there in place of Love. Steven is Kind, Steven is long suffering, etc. etc. Does it fit you? Is that really YOU? I don’t mean that you have to be perfect in this but in general, would someone say that your character is made up of these descriptions?

As we look at the characteristics that make up Agape love, let’s remember that we are not trying to gain one or two of them, we want them all. In pursuit of a higher calling we try to become more like God because, after all, God is love. And, if you have not God or Love, what else matters!

How to become like God

As we have been studying the qualities that Peter has told us to add, we finally have come to the last one: Love. Defining the word is necessary because it is used in so many contexts and each can be quite different. In the passage of 2 Peter 1, we are looking at the Greek word Agape.

Agape, is a duty bound love, it is one that does not rely on emotions.  Warm fuzzy emotions may be present but are not necessary. Agape love is the love of a parent disciplining a child, it is the love of a parent at 2 a.m. feedings, it is the love shown toward an enemy. It is a love that can be commanded precisely be emotion is not needed to carry it out. I generally define this love as “doing what is in the best interest of the person being loved”.  Even though a parent hates to discipline a child (this hurts me more that it hurts you) or get up for that 2 a.m. feed, the necessity compels them to do so.

It is easy to see that this can be done even to an enemy because you can always help an enemy fix a flat tire, give CPR, save their life, etc. In recognizing that, we have our first clue as to how you can become like God.

One of the hardest things for me to accept was the utter sinfulness of my life. I don’t think of myself as a sinner. This isn’t to say that I cannot identify sin in my life; I can look back and see some horribly, awful things that I did but I don’t think of myself as someone who is devoted to sin; wanting to do evil. I think most of us are that same way. Because of that, we don’t count ourselves at the level that we should. We don’t see things as God does.

When we think of God’s salvation being offered, we don’t really think we deserve it but at the same time, we tend to think of it as something done for people who really wanted to do right and be godly people. In other words, good people who deserve a second chance. Who doesn’t want to give a second chance to a good person, right? The Scripture reveals a different perspective.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8 NKJV)

God showed love toward us not as good people but as sinners. However, verse 10 takes it one step further:

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom 5:10 NKJV)

God didn’t just send His Son into the world to save good people but to save sinners; not just sinners but enemies.

If the Scriptures count me as an enemy of God before He saved me, then perhaps I have another clue as to how to become more like God.

The Scripture says that God is love. While it is certainly true that God shows love and demonstrates love, I would like to focus on the thought that God is Love. Love is not just an action but it is something to become. How would you like it said of you that you are love? Certainly, we cannot do so do to the degree God did but, to imitate God (however imperfectly) as a son does his father, is an both an honor to the father and a credit to the child.

When the Scriptures say that we are to love our enemy and we see what God did for HIS enemies (that would be us), then we begin to understand how far we should go.

First Corinthians 13 gives a long list of what qualities make up love. In the next few posts, we will look at those qualities and try to understand them better. In the meantime, read those qualities listed from verse 5 onward but where you read “Love is…” or “Love is not…” substitute your own name and ask yourself: Does this describe me? If not, why not?

If we want to become more like God who is love, then we have to become describable by those qualities that make up love.

Question: Aside from God and Jesus, which Bible character do you think showed love the best?

 

Adding brotherly affection

The sixth characteristic that Peter tells his audience to add in 2 peter 1 is Brotherly affection. It, too, is one of those qualities that need to be added to our faith to obtain the results he mentions in verse 8, 1o, and 11.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  (2Pe 1:8,10-11)

The Greek word for brotherly affection is Philadelphia. This should not surprise anyone since Philadelphia is also known as the city of brotherly love.  Philadelphia is really two words joined together. The first word “Phileo” is usually translated “Love” and the second word “Adelphos” is the Greek word for brother.

Understanding what Phileo love is will help us in understanding brotherly affection better. So today I will offer a few verses that give us insight into the word Phileo.If you consult Strong’s Greek dictionary, you will see that Phileo is a love that is strongly associated with devotion, dedication, and emotion. Agape is the other word for love in the Bible and is more of a mental decision: I choose to love or a duty to be fulfilled. (e.g. getting up for a 2 a.m. feeding is not done as much for the emotional love as it is for the duty love).

Here are four passages that illustrate Phileo being used:

For a person:

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.  (Joh 5:20)

For praise/honor:

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (Mat 23:5-7 ESV)
For falsehood:
Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and…everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev 22:14-15 ESV)

For those who are like us:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; John 15:19

These passages show that Phileo love, a strong affection or devotion from the heart can be felt toward a person, an object (such as praise), lying, and for those who are like us (such as those who share our values).

When we take this type of love and direct it towards our brothers in the Lord, we get the concept that we are to be devoted to them, dedicated and bound to them, developing a feeling of affection towards them that is akin to the feelings we should have toward our own siblings.

In the next post, we will look at some examples of brotherly affection.

What passages in the Bible do you know of that help illustrate this type of love?

photo by Ben Sutherland

Living by the Royal Law Part two

Part one was yesterday. Now on to part two…

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

James’ words here are a rebuke to men who have broken the royal law by showing partiality. He says that they should change the way they speak and act.  He instructs that they are to speak and act as those who are governed by a law of liberty. This is because men of God speak differently than the world speaks and they are certainly to act differently than the world.

The Hebrew writer also says that men of faith spoke in a certain way.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  (Heb 11:13-14 emphasis mine)

Oh, if we would all realize that our speech betrays us. Sometimes the accent tells people were we are from. Peter was betrayed by his speech. (Mt 26:73) Sometimes it is the words we use. Here, James says your speech “sit here…sit there” betrays a judgmental, evil heart.

How should we speak? Like those who will be judged with liberty; with Mercy and compassion to others.  God sees all those who love him as children.  These men have judged and dishonored based on wealth but God will not give extra points for wealth; he will not say to a poor man “Well, we might be able to find a little shack somewhere for you”…No!, the poor man gets a mansion too! One of the lessons we learn from the first 11 chapters of Romans is a proper reaction to others and especially brothers in the Lord. We realize that being saved by Grace allows us to…NO… “allows us to”  is not quite right, it demands us to show grace and mercy to others.

The warning is clear. If you don’t show mercy, don’t expect mercy.  Read Luke 16:19 about the rich man and Lazarus. As you read the story, you don’t read that the rich man didn’t obey the law or do the sacrifices or even tithe…but he did not show mercy to Lazarus.  Oh, if every Christian would hear that!

Of course, a law of liberty does not mean “no law” or else even partiality would not be condemned, nor does it allow for sexual immorality, nor covetousness. But a law of liberty does mean that those who realize that they cannot earn their salvation, in gratitude to God, will strive to live as Christ lived,  these people will treat their brother with a different standard. They will not see rich and poor, black and white, good singer and bad singer; they will honor all who love God the same way.

Soon, I would like to post on the Royal Law. James makes it apply to the situation of showing partiality but it, by itself, is bigger and worth a few posts. In the meantime, a question: In what other ways do you think the Royal law to love your neighbor should apply?

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