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This Week’s Question: Since too many have a romanticized view of love, what is love from a Biblical perspective?

Love is one of the three foundational pillars that Christianity is built upon, with faith and hope being the other two pillars. Unfortunately, many claim to be Christians based solely upon their love for God. Nevertheless, from a Biblical perspective these pillars work synchronously and cannot be dichotomized. To be more explicit, true faith is dependent upon love according to I Corinthians 13:2, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” In the same vein, genuine hope must be fueled by love according to Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Similarly, faith cannot be divorced from hope because hope is embedded in it according to Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In the final analysis, those who claim to have faith without also having hope and love are, in actuality, governed by superstition not faith. Similarly hope that is not accompanied by faith and love is only wishful thinking; and love that is disconnected from faith and hope is mere sentimentality.

In our last post we identified the fundamental element implied in James 2:1-9 to be love, and three reasons were discussed to justify its importance: (1) God commands His followers to love; (2) Love is the distinguishing characteristic that separates God’s children from satan’s; and (3) The motive behind a person’s love is more important than that person’s deeds. So what is love? Four types of love are described Biblically and they are: Eros – Sexual or romantic love; Storge – Natural mutual affection or familial love; Philia – Brotherly love that unites true believers; and Agape – The love God has for humankind. Although each has a place in scripture, agape is focused on in this post because it is the love God has for the world, and is the love that His disciples must have for one another for acceptance into His Kingdom. Paul makes this point very clear in Romans 13:8 when he writes, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

So what essentially is agape love? Paul, beginning in I Corinthians 13:4 describes agape love beautifully: “4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…” Someone once said, “love is what love does,” which confirms the fact that love is not an emotion. Also, it is not rhetoric. Instead love is the mitigating force that controls one’s speech, thoughts, and works. By examining I Corinthians 13, it is evident that love forces true disciples to be patient, mild, and kind toward others. It also prevents them from being envious of or hating others; and keeps them grounded whereby they neither think too highly of nor feels the need to elevate themselves. Instead, proper behavior is the modus operandi for disciples because they are not easily provoked into behaving inappropriately. True love causes disciples, by their thoughts, to internalize Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.” Meditation, of this nature, prevents true disciples from thinking evil thoughts or gloating when another succumbs to sin. Instead that disciple is happiest when others also stand on God’s truth!

The bottom-line is since love never ends, it is infinite, has no bounds, cannot be measured, transcends time, and, unlike faith and hope, it is the only pillar that extends beyond this realm into eternity. Therefore, since love is infinite, disciples who have it withstand hardship and adversity because love bears all things! Since love is infinite, disciples who have it recite Romans 8:28 as their mantra, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” because love believes all things! Since love is infinite, disciples who have it do not allow their circumstances to dictate their actions because love hopes all things! Finally, since love is infinite, disciples who have it are confident of the power behind Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, since love endures all things! To bring true love to life, love was the force behind the Civil Rights Movement because despite the murders, lynchings, jailings, protests, beatings, discriminatory laws, biased government officials, hosings, dog bites, and sheer humiliation; my forefathers, as a group, knew that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails! They knew it, they lived it, and God delivered to us, as a community, several major victories because of our communal love for everybody!

Next Week’s Question: The Bible has many vivid examples of love, can you think of any? And if “yes” is your answer, can any Biblical principles be gleaned from them?

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“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him” (Luke 10:30-34 NIV).9570814858?profile=original

In our journey of discovering what matters most to God, let’s continue to ponder what He says in 1 Corinthians 13. The second quality identified in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is that a Christian who reflects Christlike love is kind. Think of kindness as “selflessly caring about and helping others.”

The foundation for kindness includes two principles. First, kindness is a choice. A Christian can respond to a situation or person in any of three ways: kindly, unkindly, or absentmindedly. God calls us to the highest of those choices: Be kind.

Second, kindness is an action. In God’s eyes, it is not just the thought that counts; that thought must morph into action.

Christlike kindness comes in many models. For example, a committed Christ-follower is:

  • Friendly: Accepting others as they are, welcoming newcomers warmly, listening to others, and protecting others
  • Compassionate: Caring for and helping others who are in difficult circumstances
  • Generous: Willingly helping others with gifts of time, money, encouragement, or other resources
  • Forgiving: (Stay tuned for more on this major act of love in Part 8 of this series.)

In these and other ways, that person reflects to others the lovingkindness that God extends to us day-by-day. The world’s rule may be “Do to others before they do it to you.” But God’s golden rule is “Do to others as you’d like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12).

In that context, let’s review the ways kindness shows up in Luke 10. The priest bypasses a person in severe need, perhaps having just led in an impressive public sacrifice at the temple. The Levite responds likewise, maybe on his way to taking a break from temple duties for a couple days. God shows no pleasure in either of these two men despite their religious status and ministry at “church.”

In contrast, that humble Samaritan—disrespected by most Jews—responds with Christlike kindness. He was friendly, interrupting his plans to reach out to a stranger. He was compassionate, treating and bandaging the unknown victim’s wounds. He was generous, using his time and resources to (a) remove the wounded one from more danger, (b) find a place for him to recover, and (c) provide for the victim’s needs.

Do you want to honor Him and do what matters most to Him? I do. Let’s befriend another person we’d ordinarily ignore. Let’s be compassionate. Let’s be generous. Let’s forgive. In short, let’s be kind.

This week.



© 2018 John C Garmo

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What Matters Most to God in a Disciple (Part 9)

“Love . . . keeps no record of when it has been wronged” (1 Corinthians 13:5c NLT).

Love . . . forgives. Graciously.

As we continue meditating on what matters most to God in a disciple, let’s ponder the scope and path of forgiveness that we began previously.

God’s Word is clear about His countercultural desire for9570814090?profile=original us to forgive:

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

(Luke 6:35-36 NLT).

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31 ESV).

Other questions emerge, in addition to those raised in our previous segment.

First: Other than other persons, who else might you and I need to forgive?

Many of us need to forgive ourselves. Satan, our accuser (Revelation 12:10), revels in discouraging us with unrelenting accusations, in God’s ear and in our hearts, about one past failure or another.

Other times we blame God, consciously or subconsciously, for emotional or physical pain that we experienced. “God, You gave me an abusive mother and an alcoholic father. It’s no wonder that I’m a wreck. Who I am today is Your fault, not mine.”

Whether or not you or I understand a wrenching trauma that we experience, we truly worship when we stand firm on this reality: Since God is sovereign, my response to this situation is more important in His eyes than my situation itself. Forgive Him—as He forgave you.

Second: For God’s glory, Satan’s defeat, and our stewardship of life, how can we “forgive” well?

1 John 1:9 summarizes the way God forgives us:

“He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

That is, we can trust God: (a) to honor His own laws justly, (b) disregard our offenses—because of Christ’s atonement—and (c) purge our record of wrongdoing.

So . . . can those who hurt or offend you or me trust us to stand firm and: (a) honor God’s commands, (b) let go of our anger and vengeance—because of Christ’s atonement—and (c) “keep no record of when we’ve been wronged”? When Satan accuses you or me about some past failure, can we stand firm and resist Satan in the manner of 1 John 1:9?

Privately or with some friends, how would you answer these questions?

  • About Christlike convictions: What does our forgiveness reveal about our trust that God is our Protector and Avenger?
  • About Christlike kindness: On whom are we focusing—and not focusing—when we rehearse wrongs done to us by others?
  • About true worship: How is forgiveness an act of worship?

Do you want to honor Him, and do what matters most to Him? I do. Let’s forgive others, forgive ourselves, and forgive God as He forgives us.

How do you expect that your commitment to forgiveness will be tested this week?

© 2018 John C Garmo

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