April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
My wife and I are still great friends with the first kid on my block to find Jesus. It was the Spring of 1998, the first nice day since we moved into the neighborhood, when I met this girl in the middle of the street that separated our houses. I was crossing the street to get to our mailbox and I passed her and her friend, who were both headed across the street toward my driveway (we have a basketball hoop). Before I could say hello, her first words were, “Where are you going?” I told her I was getting my mail, and I replied, “Where are YOU going?
Long story short, after several years of outreach to her, mainly through our church’s camp and youth group, that girl came to Christ at age 15. A decade later, she is a passionate and faithful believer, married to a passionate and faithful husband. She is usually one Christian I want others to meet when I talk about how Christ can change us and make us new. How does a person come to a decision to follow Jesus? They have their eye on the prize: Love, forgiveness, in heaven, with God, forever. This is the destination of the redeemed in Christ.
There’s this popular adage—the joy is in the journey—that doesn’t quite do it for Christians. We can have joy in the journey for sure, but THE joy is the destination of our journey, the future reality where our present hope is. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 Paul explains the difference between present and future revelation: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” The greatest thing for Christians is still ahead of us.
Why have our head in the clouds while we are here on earth? Some perspective: We are here on earth for a brief 100 years, give or take a decade or two, unless a doctor or icy step informs us that we have much less. But what we do in this little life—specifically whether we accept or reject what Christ has already done for us—determines our destination. And our destintion, whether it is heaven or hell, is eternal. We can do the math: Infinity minus 100 years is still infinity. After these years are gone, they will become virtually nothing. Why would we NOT be about the destination? We should absolutely make the most of this life, but if our head is here instead of wrapped around our final destination, then this world is the cloud that enshrouds our heads.
For Christians, the journey is first and infinitely foremost about the destination. That’s why it’s always good to ask a neighbor, “Where are you going?”
April 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
January 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
With the arrival of the new year, I wanted to revisit one of the core aims of this blog, what Jesus calls the greatest commandments in Mark 12:30-31. Here is what I hope to be a defining and practical analysis of our call to love God and people. The greatest commandment: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”The heart is our volition, from the Greek kardía, meaning the affective center of our being, where desire lives, produces choices that make up who we are. Kardía is found over 800 times on the Old and New Testament and exclusively in the figurative sense, not once referring to the organ in our chests that pumps blood.
The soul is our life and self, from the Greek psyxḗ, (the root of psyche and psychology) meaning to breathe, also a person’s individual personality or personhood. Some also view soul here as our emotional expression.
The mind is of course the human intellect, from the Greek diánoia, to use the mind. The term is rich and encompasses critical thinking, thorough reasoning, incorporating both sides of a matter to reach a meaningful and personal conclusion.
Strength is our physical might, from the Greek isxýs literally meaning to have force. This includes visible love in action and the many forms of service.
If you’re keeping score, those aspects of God’s people encompass everything we have to offer in love, and they are rightly His.
Loving neighbor as we love ourselves of course requires the consideration of how we love ourselves.
We love ourselves by taking care of ourselves, by feeding, bathing, clothing, training, strengthening, protecting, healing, and resting our bodies. We feed and train and protect and strengthen our minds also. We guard our hearts, our dignity, our freedom, and our reputation. We believe in self-defense and justice for our name. When we love our neighbor as ourselves, we project that self-love onto others. This is not so difficult to do with family and friends.
“But I say to you, love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44)
Uh oh. Our enemies qualify as neighbors too. But if we hear of tragedy or misfortune occuring in the life of our enemy, don’t we often rejoice inside? Does it give you satisfaction to speculate about all the evil an evil person may have done, even if it’s more evil than what he’s actually done? If so, you’re certainly not alone.
But think about your awareness of evil in your own life. We know we’re messed up too, but how do we love ourselves in spite of all there is to hate about ourselves? We seek restoration for ourselves. We want to be better. We try to kick the habit, heal the scars and make things right so we can recover. When we love our enemy as we love ourselves, we do the same thing, separating the sin from the sinner and earnestly desiring their restoration. CS Lewis wrote, “love for the man makes us hate the sin that infects the man.” I can hate some of the things I (and others) do, but love myself (and others) for my (and their) good qualities and because as God’s creation we are all worth keeping clean.
God demonstrated His love toward us by sending His Son Jesus to separate us from the sin that enslaved us. If love seeks what is best for another, we demonstrate love for neighbor in the greatest form by wanting redemption for them as well. We want them to know Christ too.
Love for God and neighbor, as is true with anything else, comes easier with practice. Even when you don’t feel like loving someone, act as if you do. True loving will eventually follow. And, of course, ask God for help. He is love, enables love, and wants you to succeed in it.
August 17, 2012 § Leave a comment
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
John 13:34 has Jesus giving a “new command,” but doesn’t the Old Testament show that loving your neighbor is a very old command?
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:18)
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Deut. 5:21)
According to Jesus and later affirmed by Paul, loving God and neighbor was a summary of the Law.
“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:39-40)
“The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom. 13:9-10)
Why did Jesus call this a “new command”? What was new was not the principal but the example. His example, never before fully realized before Christ came to live with and die for us. “As I have loved you…“. Jesus didn’t come to change or eliminate the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), which He did by providing a living example of how we should love our neighbor. I guess you could say that it was the same lesson, but a new lesson plan. Want to know what loving your neighbor is all about? Take a good look at what Jesus taught and lived in front of His neighbors.