Sunday, October 31, 2010

Love .. Part Two

This is the second installment in a series on Love. The Bible is filled with stories and examples of love. The scriptures themselves have been called, “God’s love letter to man.” However, in today’s society, we hear less and less about love every day. Turn on any news channel or watch any networks news broadcast and you will see a world filled with hate, intolerance, and violence. Yet, thrust into the middle of that is the Body of Christ, the church. Jesus tells us that He sends us forth as sheep among the wolves. He admonishes us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We are a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. We are to be shining examples of God’s everlasting unchanging love. In this series of studies based on Paul’s description of love to the church at Corinth, we seek to understand the characteristics of a people governed, not by fear or hatred, but by love and assurance. John told us that we would be known by our love.

It has been quoted by many, and I don’t know who said it originally, that people will forget what you say to them and what you do for them, but they will never forget how you make them feel. It is the duty of every Child of God to make the lost feel loved.

This series is about Love, as a fundamental part of the Christian life. I fully realize that there are many more aspects of Christian living, and it is not my desire to de-emphasis their importance, however, love is an essential foundational part of the life of the believer.
The Word tells us that we will know a tree by the fruit it bears. We are not to be judges of men, but we are called to be fruit inspectors. In this, it is important to notice when the writer talks about the fruit of the Spirit, he first mentions love.

As stated in the first installment, there is in the Gospels, the story of Jesus at the fig tree. Jesus, returning to the city of Jerusalem; saw a fig tree in a public place slightly off the road. It was full of leaves and therefore, the expectation was that there would be also fruit. The characteristic of the fig tree is that it bears fruit prior to or at the same time as it bears leaves. Seeing the leaves made one assume there would be fruit as well. Upon inspection, there was no fruit on the tree. Jesus cursed the tree. He caused it to bear no more fruit forever. The tree then withered away.

When we profess to be a Christian (present leaves,) we are expected to have the fruit as well.

The purpose of this Bible Study is not to answer questions, only, but to cause us to ask them as well. It is to cause us to inspect our own fruit. We have the leaves, but do we have the fruit. We call ourselves Christians, but do we really have the goods? We have a Godly imperative not to judge others, but the same Word tells us to judge ourselves.
Simply stated, this study is about LOVE.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

We wrote about the long suffering aspect of the love we are to possess in part one. In this second part we will discuss the kindness of love.

· Is kind

Love does not react in anger. Love does not react in rage.

A polliwog is the wholly aquatic larval stage of the frog or toad. A polliwog will grow to become an adult frog or toad.

We readily recognize anger and rage. Do we, however, recognize the polliwog of rage and anger? Can we see the beginnings of these undesirable reactions?

Love is kind. It does not react in anger in its various stages. Anger begins quite simply as annoyance or irritation. Let me turn a phrase here to see if we can shine a clearer light on it. We have all heard the phrase, “that rubs me the wrong way.” We are saying, when we use this phrase, that it is something contrary to how we want or enjoy something to react with us. I am going to use this in a purely physical sense for a moment.

You buy a new pair of shoes which you like. The first time you wear them, you notice that are not as form fitting as your old shoes. There are places that the new shoes don’t fit precisely and therefore rub just a bit. They rub you in a place where you are not accustomed to being rubbed. At first, it is just an irritation. It is a minor annoyance. However, as time passes, that irritation becomes a blister. It has progressed from a minor bother to a moderate displeasure. That shoe has rubbed you the wrong way. Given time, the blister will open if the friction does not change. Then you will have an open sore. This can lead to an infection and even possibly life threatening episode. All of this is because something rubbed you the wrong way.

Most often, we recognize the first sign of tenderness and take action to prevent the rest of the series of events. Do we, however, recognize them when it comes to how our love or lack thereof reacts to a negative stimulus? The tenderness and blister are signs that something is not as it should be. Irritation and annoyance should be equally recognized as signs that something is not as it should be.

Love is kind. Love is like the mortar between the bricks in a brick wall. Sometimes that love holds us together and sometimes that love holds us apart. Love allows you to be different than me. Love allows that everything on you will not fit everything on me, but it is OK. Love allows the sinner, the antipathy of God’s holiness, to come to an altar and kneel before Him. If we, by our unkindness, stand in the way of a sinner’s path to God, how can we expect God to honor us or our desires? How can we claim to exhibit the love which God has, when we cannot love or show love to those whom He loves?

Love is kind. It does not build walls of words between us and others. Love builds bridges. Love spans the gap. Love prompts the sacrifice.

Love is the seed of kindness. If there is, therefore, no kindness, what is the seed buried in your heart?

When Joshua and the armies of the Lord went to do battle against the small city of AI, following the resounding defeat of Jericho, they were utterly defeated. They were set to flight. Joshua goes to his tent and enquires of God. He, sort of, tries to guilt God. He actually accuses God.

Joshua 7.6-9
“And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?”

He says, “Lord, what are we supposed to do now? Once this word gets out, other armies will set in array against us. What am I supposed to say now that Israel has turned their backs and ran?”

God spoke to Joshua and told him to get off of his face. He told him of Israel’s sin in not doing as commanded in Jericho. The command was to destroy it utterly. Yet, someone did not obey. Someone took something that was accursed and hid it amongst their stuff.

The subsequent search revealed that Achan had taken gold and silver and a goodly Babylonian garment and hid it in the heart of his tent. This thing, this accursed thing in the heart of a tent in the camp of the Israelites brought the mighty to a low place. Once it and the offender were removed, the power of God was restored to the armies of the Israelites.

What secret hatred have you hidden in your heart? What unkindness have you allowed to fester in your life? What prejudice is lurking and refusing to come to the submission of the love of God in your life? What seed is buried in your heart? What seed is choking the kindness of the love of God?

Love extends the hand of God’s mercy. We say, as the scripture says, that love is kind, but we could just as well say that love is kind in its mercy. The root of the word for kindness means to provide what is necessary. When you, a sinner, first approached the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Hallelujah,) what was needful? What did you need to stand in the presence of God Almighty? Mercy, held in His kindness, provided by His love made you able to stand in His presence.

This same kindness is what we are to exhibit if men are to know that we are His disciples.
There is a word that has come to express something totally different that it should. We shudder at the use of the word because of the connotations now commonly associated with it. That word is ‘tolerance.’ Certain groups today had tried (with some success) to make the word mean acceptance. I can tolerate your sinful nature without accepting it. Kindness allows me to be tolerant without being accepting. Tolerance is accepting that every (whosoever) individual (will) has the right to live life as they choose, without condoning that choice as the right choice.

If you choose to live life as a sinner, I accept that it is your choice and your right to choose, but I do not accept that it is the right thing to do.

Love does not build a wall of intolerance between us and then wonder why I cannot reach you with the doctrine of salvation. I may repeat this several times within this Bible study, but love builds bridges, not walls.

There is a story "Old Joe and the Carpenter." It is considered a signature story of Pleasant DeSpain's.

Once, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding, grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days work," he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?" "Yes," said John, "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor. In fact, it's my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence -- an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place anymore. That should cool him down, anyhow."

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you." Now John, the older brother, had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge-a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! It was a fine piece of work, handrails and all.

John looked up and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. "You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done." The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said John. "I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but, I have many more bridges to build.

Love is kind. Love builds bridges.

There was a time that we called Baseball the American Pastime. America has a new pastime these days. It is easy to see, especially now, in the waning days before the election. The new American Pastime is Bashing. We bash people everywhere. There are no special skills needed to do it, either. You don’t even need intelligence. All you need is an opinion, informed or otherwise, and a bully pulpit. It is all over the airwaves. It is in every media. Politicians have perfected the art of bashing opponents. Every detail, regardless of how innocuous, is fodder for the basher.

Everyone slams someone. No one is safe from the unexpected onslaught of the basher. Everyone is a victim and everyone is a perpetrator.

We laugh at the hilarity of what goes by the nom-de-plum ‘professional wrestling.’ These athletes get in the ring and get into each other’s faces and hurl their epithets with reckless abandon. The objects of their ‘bashing’ stand and take it until it is their turn with the microphone in their hand and the camera on their face. They go back and forth, seeming at the straining edge of coming to blows. However, there is a method to their madness. They are provoking, not each other, but the audience with such fervor that they dare not miss the conclusion in the ring. As a somewhat intelligent thinking adult, I laugh at this marketing technique. I laugh at the humor of it. I laugh at the genius of it. I laugh at the control it has on some or most of its audience. More than that, however, I cringe at the faces in the crowd, as our children learn this behavior.

Now, it would be simple enough to explain to a child that this is not real. This is an act. These are athletic actors. This is merely for the sake of entertainment. As usual though, there is an ‘however’.

We are in the heat of the political election season. The men and women we will chose to make laws that govern us are vying for our vote. We are in the throes of bashing season. Each proponent of the election systems seeks for and finds the worst of their opponent. They find them at their lowest and worst moments and broadcast it with a smug superiority.

If we, Christians, are not careful, we are drawn into the bashing. We will find ourselves touting the banter of our political favorite without regard to the truth it holds or doesn’t hold. Have we lied if we are merely repeating the slanted truth told by our party favorite? Have we promoted the weaponry of the enemy when we forward the emails sent to us without even trying to verify their authenticity or honesty? Because of the endless bashing, we are no longer left with choosing the better of two good opponents. We are left with the choice of the lesser of two evils.

Luke 9:52-55
52. And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
53. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
54. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
55. But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.

James and John, two disciples of Jesus, stepped outside the message of love and were rebuked by Jesus. What are we doing when we get caught up in the politics of corruption and hurl volleys of hatred and lies? What spirit are we manifesting? Of what origin are our words?

Let me enlighten you about the wall that hatred builds. The darts and arrows of the enemies of our lives cannot get through, this is true. However, the poison of hated cannot get out. It taints everything within the walls. Hatred paints over the windows so no light comes in. Darkness prevails inside the walls of hatred. This is not the work of the Spirit of God. This is the machination of the enemy.

Another study I am working on involves a parable in Matthew. It is the parable of the wheat and tares. After Jesus has told the parable to the crowd and they have dispersed, his followers ask Him the meaning of the parable. I will save that for that study, but one of the things he clarified was who the enemy was that had sown the bastard wheat in the field. He said, “The enemy is Satan.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Nothing Satan does, regardless of how it appears, is for your benefit. Let me make a simple comparison. Let’s say that you had to be at the airport for a flight to a paradise vacation. On the way, a friend stops you and insists that he treat you to an expensive meal. Then, he prolongs and prolongs the meal until you miss your flight. The meal was fantastic. However, was he being a friend in treating you to this wonderful expensive meal at the expense of your flight to paradise?

Regardless of how benevolent or generous the offer of Satan seems, it is wise to remember that he is your enemy. His pleasures last only a season. If you miss your flight to paradise, you have gained little and lost all. Satan is your enemy.

His spirit is the spirit of unkindness. His is the spirit of bashing. His is the spirit of hatred and intolerance.

God’s Spirit is the origin of kindness.

Love is kind.

Next: Love does not envy.

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