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.


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