Habits for Every Christian: Walk in Love

“Walk in love…” (Ephesians 5.2)

How, Paul? What does that mean, to walk in love? Does it mean I should have gushy feelings for everyone as I plod through my day? Should I attempt to warmly hug everyone I meet? I’m a tad uncomfortable with that thought.

The whole verse says:

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5.2b)

So JESUS is our standard of love! On the one hand, He had compassion for individuals, touched lepers from time to time, took little girls by the hand, reclined at the table with His disciples in close sharing. On the other hand, He overturned table in the Temple, seared the Pharisees and Lawyers with condemnation and judgment, and preached in such a way that many of His followers deserted Him. He’s our picture of love.

We’re not talking about FEELING love. We’re talking about GIVING love. This kind of love (ἀγάπη agape in the Greek) concerns a selfless giving of yourself to others. It’s doing for others what you’d like them to do for you, loving them like you’d love yourself, doing what is best for them, regardless of how you actually feel about them at the time.

Imagine Jesus on the cross, experiencing some of the most excruciating pain a human can endure and having been deserted by all His disciples. Lonely. Shamed. Being murdered by lawless men. Can you imagine the human feelings He must have experienced? Surely He was not wishing He could hug those at the foot of the cross. He was holding back His awesome power in order not to annihilate them all! He spoke words of forgiveness. He cared for one of the thieves beside Him and for His mother below Him.

Now imagine your family. It’s late, everyone’s tired, and you’re trying to cobble together a quick supper before bedtime. Children complain. Your spouse grumpily pokes around, getting in the way more than helping. What words slip your tongue at times like this? What thoughts run through your head? What complaints of your own do you mumble to yourself?

Are you truly thinking about your family, how you can bless and serve them? Do you pray for God to forgive your children for their complaining…”for they don’t know what they’re saying”? Do you speak kindly and gently to your spouse even when the words coming your way are less than gentle? A soft answer…a soft answer…

Brothers and sisters, “we who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15.1). “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” How, exactly, has Christ welcomed you? Would Jesus say, “You need to learn to speak more respectfully before I love you.” Or “You got yourself into this mess; you can get yourself out”? Or “I’ll only help you when you start to help yourself”?

Or did Jesus die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL WEAK (Romans 5.6), WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS (Romans 5.8), and WHILE WE WERE HIS ENEMIES (Romans 5.10)? And does He continue to put up with us despite our severe weaknesses and stark flaws?

God expects you to walk in love and has shown you how to do it. May God give you opportunities today to show the love of Christ to your child and to your neighbor and to your boss and to your waitress. Keep the cross forever in mind–the absolute love Jesus showed for you–and let Him be your motivation.

God, teach us to walk in love!

What Drives Your Vote?

trump hillaryChristians in the United States are in quite the tizzy, some backing Clinton, some backing Trump, and some rabidly denying both as viable candidates, deciding to cast for Gary Johnson or not vote at all. This brings up a probing question:

What drives your vote?

Some vote on fiscal policies. Will the candidate make our country safer and more prosperous?

Some vote on moral issues. Where does the candidate stand on abortion and the definition of family?

Some vote based on a mix of fiscal and moral issues, and the combination of their hottest buttons drives their decision at the polls. Will the candidate support the legalization of drugs and uphold the sanctity of marriage between husband and wife?

But what about the MORAL CHARACTER of the candidate? As I read through Scripture, it seems that God always cared about the integrity of leaders. Always. Without exception. Perhaps it’s helpful to scan through the book of Proverbs and ask whether or not our favorite candidate really measures up to what God would expect from a leader.

REMEMBER–Our whole nation is affected by sin!

Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a disgrace to any people. (14.34)

HOW DO THEY USE THEIR MOUTHS?

pinnochio         Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. (10.6)

The wise of heart will receive commands,
But a babbling fool will be ruined. (10.8)

He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise. (10.18-19)

With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor,
But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered. (11.9)

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,
But those who deal faithfully are His delight. (12.22)

The one who guards his mouth preserves his life;
The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (13.3)

A perverse man spreads strife,
And a slanderer separates intimate friends. (16.28)

He who restrains his words has knowledge,
And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;
When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. (17.27-28)

ARE THEY PROUD?

When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
But with the humble is wisdom. (11.2)

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling. (16.18)

DO THEY TRUST IN RICHES?

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death. (11.4)

He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. (11.28)

helping the poorHOW DO THEY TREAT PEOPLE?

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense,
But a man of understanding keeps silent. (11.12)

He who despises his neighbor sins,
But happy is he who is gracious to the poor. (14.12)

He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him. (14.31)

DO THEY ACT PROPERLY?

A righteous man hates falsehood,
But a wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully. (13.5)

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (16.7)

A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom
To pervert the ways of justice. (17.23)

ARE THEY QUICK-TEMPERED?

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
A fool’s anger is known at once,
But a prudent man conceals dishonor. (12.15-16)

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,
And a man of evil devices is hated. (14.17)

He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. (14.29)

anger         A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger. (15.1)

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (16.32)

The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. (17.14)

Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit. (25.28)

Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
He who hates disguises it with his lips,
But he lays up deceit in his heart.
When he speaks graciously, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart.
Though his hatred covers itself with guile,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
He who digs a pit will fall into it,
And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.
A lying tongue hates those it crushes,
And a flattering mouth works ruin. (26.21-28)

With great sadness I detect in our country today an echoing absence of moral principle, righteous attitude, and godly direction. The United States of America has slipped so far in its ability to discern good from evil that we have put forward two reprobates as political candidates. Neither of these should be respected in our communities as righteous leaders. But maybe that’s the problem–we are no longer looking for righteous leaders.

God help us! He is still in control. Proverbs also asserts this:

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD;
He turns it wherever He wishes. (21.1)