Give Yourself to Others …

Posts Tagged ‘love one another

Have you ever noticed, being a disciple of Jesus is inconvenient?

As a Jesus disciple, our focus is ideally, and continually, on others, seeking to do what is best for them. Figuring out what is best for others takes time and thought. Then actually doing it, may be even more difficult — either in terms of time or effort.

But all of that is inconvenient — but then, it’s not about us, is it?

Like many people, I’ve probably read 1 Corinthians 13, a thousand times.  The description of “love” by Paul, is beautifully inspiring.  I often read it when I perform weddings.

On a side note, the old King James Version translation of agape as “charity” is probably a better translation than “love.”  But that’s a topic for another time.

What I’ve missed in the thousands of times I’ve read 1 Cor 13 are the first three verses (this is from The Message):

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Am I the only one who missed this?

I can be the smartest person in the world.  I can understand everything … even the greatest mysteries about God … I may have so much faith that I can perform miracles … I can be the most generous person in the world.

And if all of this is true, but I’m not loving others, the way Jesus loved me, then it’s all pointless.

If we are not loving towards one another, we’ve missed the whole point from Jesus.

Think about that, the next time you argue about doctrine!

I have to start with a little Greek lesson … old news for some, news to others.

The English word, church, comes from the German word, kirche, which is actually the word for cathedral, or the building.  The word in the Greek NT is ekklesia, and actually refers to a called assembly.  Among it’s earliest uses is a as a reference to gatherings of the citizens of a Greek city, when they gathered to vote on city ordinances.

There is no basis in how ekklesia is used in the NT to understand it as an formally organized group.  All of the evidence is that when used, it refers to all of the Christians in a local area or everywhere globally.  Even in the earliest days of the ekklesia in Jerusalem, all of the evidence is they met is numerous homes, scattered around town.

Assuming you accept this, so what?

Well, the so what is that many well-known evangelists … from Billy Graham to Francis Chan, often speak about the importance of being a part of a local church.  I’m not going to bother to repeat all of the NT citations they use.

But the problem is they infer a modern day understanding of “church” when the inference is not there.

When we give our lives to God, we become part of God’s family.  The NT admonitions about the ekklesia do not have to be understood in a modern context.  The ekklesia exists because people who share this relationship with God, quite naturally, will want to spend time together and sometimes collaborate to do good things.  But that is truth, whether the group is 3 or 30 or 300 or 3,000.

You do not have to meet in a building, you don’t have to have a preacher or a pastor.  You don’t even have to have a church checking account!  Imagine that!

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with “mega-churches” as they’ve come to be known.  But there is also nothing wrong with gathering with a couple of Christian friends at the coffee shop, or your home, or at the beach, or around the camp fire.  Such a gathering is as much ekklesia as is a gathering of 10,000 at Saddleback Church in California.

It seems to me Jesus knows us well enough to know we need to be around other Christians.  We can encourage each other.  Teach each other.  Advise each other.  Worship with each other.  So we should be together.

But there remains a lot of freedom to find the gathering most helpful to each person maturing and remaining faithful to Jesus.

I’m certainly as political as anyone.  I worked in politics in Washington, DC, for 15 years.  And while I had my preferences regarding the outcome of yesterday’s election.  I sadly disheartened by how many people are truly being rude and unkind in celebrating their victory, or agonizing over their loss.

Please remember it’s possible to disagree, without being disagreeable.

If you’ve ever wondered, please read this series by Mike Cope, who lost his daughter: PreacherMike

Sometimes, we have to find new words to make the same points, because if we use the same words we’ve always used, we think we’ve heard it before, so we kind of “tune out.”

Most Christian believe they have some understanding of what it means to live a Christ-like life.  Most Christians believe they understand the message of the gospel of Jesus.  But why then, do so many Christians have such a difficult time doing the things that Jesus would do … that is, loving others, the way Jesus loved us (John 13:34).

One way of answering that question is to recognize that being like Jesus is inconvenient.  And here in the US, life is all about convenience.  We shop online because it’s more convenient that going to the store.  We shop in stores because it’s more convenient than shopping online.

Starbucks has been known to have stores across the street from each other, because it’s more convenient for customers not to have to cross the street to buy a fancy (or even a plain) cup of coffee.

But being like Jesus … giving ourselves to others, for their good, expecting nothing in return … is inconvenient.  It requires me to go out of my way to do something for someone else.  It means conforming to another person’s scheduling preferences, rather than my own.

Spending my money on someone else, rather than myself, is inconvenient.

Spending my time with someone else, rather than doing what I want to do, is inconvenient.

Sometimes we have to make reasonable choices, but if we only do what’s convenient for us, then we should also ask who is master of our life — me or Jesus.

When I was younger  — I’ve passed the 60 mark — I actively engaged in what I now label as the “endless doctrinal debates.”

I won’t say they are useless, but they do get pretty close.  As I read the Text, especially the gospels, Jesus pretty steadfastly chastises the Pharisees and Sadducees for their pre-occupation with and arguments about Jewish doctrine.  Just because the issues may have changed — and not all of them have — I’m skeptical Jesus’ view would change.

Jesus seemed pre-occupied with forgiveness and charity ….

Even when individuals were obviously guilty, Jesus overlooked their guilt and showed them love.  And with his parables, he often only hinted at a better way … rarely “laying down the law.”

I cannot say I’ve done an exhaustive review to confirm the following point, but I’m pretty it’s accurate:  most of the doctrinal issues Christians argue about are based upon statements by someone other than Jesus — perhaps the writings of the Apostles, or Luke.  Rarely, if ever, do we argue over things Jesus said.

As I’ve noted before, the only time in the Text, where Jesus describes his own words as “commands” are in John 13 and John 15.  Both times, he says he’s giving them a new command, to love another the way He loved us.

Oh, how I wish we would be pre-occupied with doing that.

Follow this link to a story about how love manifests itself in modern society. It’s a story of a couple who provide free housing to families at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas. I wish there were more stories around like this one.

Among theologians, both professional and amateurs, there is sometimes a debate over Solo Scriptura, or the idea that everything about God is contained in the Scriptures … variously defined as either the Old Testament and/or New Testament text.

First we have to recognize that the “word of God” as used in the NT Text is not a reference to scriptures.

Second, even the NT Text itself seems to minimize the value of written text. Hebrews 10:16 emphasizes that God will write his covenant with us in our hearts — in contrast with the old covenant which was written in stone.

Third, the NT Text cannot possible be comprehensive in it’s presentation of or about God, the Son and the Spirit. No human text could possibly contain everything there is to know about the subject. You might argue the NT Text contains everything we NEED to know — which is a credible position — but not everything THERE IS to know.

Fourth, the NT Text itself says that a legal or command oriented approach to righteousness is not what the new covenant with God is about. However, what does a reliance on the Text result in? A perpetual argument about what the Text means — which cannot be what God desired. And in fact, it seems to perpetuate a Pharisaical approach to our relationship to God, which is repeatedly condemned in the NT Text, especially in the reports in Mark about Jesus.

The only time Jesus is quoted as describing his own words as commands occur in John 13 and John 15. Both times, his command is to love one another as he loved us.

For me, everything flows from that. If it doesn’t, then it’s not from God.

This is the reason, for me, the debate over IM is so misguided.

Because for anyone to condemn or even chastise me for using IM — whether a little or a lot — requires you to judge my heart. And no one knows my heart, except God. Some times I don’t even know my own heart.

So, back to the initial focus of this post … a Solo Scriptura approach to understanding God is limiting. I won’t say I have a better source than the NT Text. I don’t.

But I also know that God is not constrained by or limited to what is written in the NT Text.

A friend of mine was recently fired from a job at a local congregation, where we both worship.  At least we both did until the firing — now only I worship there.

As I’ve reflected on the points of conflict and points of view that led to the firing, I’ve reached some conclusions, which I’m choosing to share here.

First, it’s mildly troubling when congregations of faith begin to base their actions upon state law rather than principles of Christian faith.  I’m not saying congregations should ignore state law, but rather, the standard of behavior should not be what the state says is proper, but rather, what God says is the way to treat people.  When it comes to treating people right, God’s example of loving one another should trump human rules.

Second, from where I sit, looking the circumstances of my friend’s termination, the people involved are looking at the same set of facts, but reaching dramatically different conclusions about motive, intent, etc.

Only God knows our heart — it says that in the Text, somewhere — but I find people often reaching conclusions about someone’s intent or motive.  And that’s not what a disciple of Jesus should be doing.

I know there have been, and probably will be again, times in my life when I try to the right thing for someone, but I just blow it.  When I think is the right thing, turns about to not just be not the right thing, but a terribly wrong thing.  Was I wrong to try?  Did I sin?  Did fail my friend?  Did I fail God?

I wanted to do the right thing, but I missed the mark.

Isn’t that what Paul wrote about at the end of Romans, chapter 7.

My conclusion, for now, about those involved in my friend’s termination, is that as a group, they are not looking at the possibility that they may not know the intent and motives and point-of-view of the others involved.

The result has been a lot of tension, anxiety, and potentially hard feelings.

I don’t think this situation has been handled as well as it could have been.  But I don’t doubt the intent or effort to do so — only that the choices made have not worked out the way they expected.

I also think that many, many times, when we think we’re faced with a serious conflict and/or confrontation, we haven’t gone to enough effort to appreciate someone else’s point-of-view.

From my point-of-view, this is the practical wisdom of what Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-20.


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