Chapter 18: The Curtain Rod of Love
In 1 John 2:18-19 which closed chapter seventeen, many professed to be of Christ, yet they were liars. Remember I John 3:11-12: “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.” Also, recall I John 4:8 which proclaims emphatically, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Let me try to explain this simply. Many profess Christ, yet do not love. We witness this often, but not exclusively or in every case, in people who can quote Scripture, go knocking on doors, preach, pray, teach, and proclaim loudly they are followers of Christ. In these scenarios, their actions do not back their testimony. This ilk is contradictory in nature as they are quickly angered when someone disagrees with them, they walk away from people who don’t align the moment they believe they should and they are impatient, unkind, mocking of others they deem “less than” themselves, gossips, slanderers, faithless and even murders.
I mention murderers because clearly the Word reads that he who hates his brother is a murderer. All these are characteristics of a person lacking God’s supernatural love. Every good thing of God hangs on love, just as curtains hang from a rod: without the rod, the curtains cannot stand. With the rod, on the other hand, the curtains, shades and attachments hang effortlessly in harmony. Without love, peace, patience, kindness, and so on, we have no base of operation; no stabilizing rod which manages its offshoots. Without the rod of love, all else falls to the ground as waste.
When a person is in Christ, love will manifest; it’s inevitable. If it does not, God is not present (I John 4:9). “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another,” I John 4:11 states with great assurance. I remember having a conversation with my husband years ago where I made the comment, “I am so in love with people.” He laughed and replied, “How ironic since you used to hate people!” He was so right. Even when I began to really walk with God, I still had disdain for the human race, namely Christians who thought themselves better than everyone else.
For example, at the time of that conversation, I had been in prison ministry quite some time; I loved those women and was very patient with them. Then I had the opportunity to teach in a Sunday school class. The people who had been Christians a long time didn’t seem to want to grow. I, to my surprise, became very impatient with them. In my heart, I wanted them to be set free from the baggage of life, but I displayed impatience and a ‘holier than thou’ attitude.
Holy Spirit revealed to me that, though I had come a long way in love, I still had prejudice (hatred) of which I needed to shed myself. And so I did. Because of love, when sin is revealed to me, I immediately deal with the issue. I don’t ever want to be like Satan; I want to be like Christ. That may sound extreme but, when we get down to the brass tacks, this is what is ‘of God’ and what is ‘of Satan.’ With that insight, life is simplified and it becomes much easier to rid self of the things not of God. By “things,” I am referring to attitudes of the heart as well as physical items which distract from a Kingdom mindset.
The more I mature in Christ, and it is an endless process, the more I see humans as does Christ. I see them as someone who has been hurt and damaged somewhere, someway, by someone or something. By seeing them through God’s eye (single vision), I now find it difficult to criticize or ignore them. Where there was a time when my flesh would thoroughly enjoy criticizing someone in my mind, now I can’t even begin to do it. Even with fellow Christians who reject this way of thinking, I still love them. Because of the love of Christ, I find it strangely simple to disagree with my fellow brethren and still be unified. That’s what all of this is about: learning to be unified despite our differences. The love of God exclusively can accomplish this otherwise daunting task.
It should go without needing to be said, but we do not unify with those of the world; rather we are still to love them. I cannot stress enough that it is the love factor which will change a heart, not how many Scriptures we quote or by walking away from them in condemnation. Shaming someone does not draw them to Christ; it merely pushes them further and further into darkness.
My mom has a friend who read my first book, What was God Thinking: Why Adam had to Die. The woman, a professing Christian, told my mom that she so disagreed with my thinking that, if she knew me, she would stop speaking to me. Oddly, this same woman’s life is in shambles. It’s devastating to the body of Christ as well as the lost how the most staunch, religious people seem to have the most problems absent of resolve or peace. Again, it was the devoutly religious that hung Jesus to the cross. Be wary of the religious; they generally do not have an ear or heart for truth.
Chapter 17: Falling in Love with the Human Race
So, those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14).
Whatever we as Christ-followers do, whether good or bad, we represent Christ; unfortunately we do not always present God in our actions. When we do not conduct ourselves in love, we are conveying to people that God is unloving. When we operate with impatience, we are saying God is not patient. We need to become very aware of how we come across to others so that we do not give Christ a bad name. Perception is reality and it is, indeed, God’s name on the line, not our own.
I was speaking the other day to a dear friend who is not a Christian. He commented to me that he has been tossed aside by many “Christians” when they felt like he was a waste of their time; meaning, when he did not convert to Christianity, they walked away from him. That is one of the saddest things I have ever heard, yet I hear and see it all the time. In my past, I too have been guilty of this as well. It is unfortunate that Christians, unknowingly, push people away from Christ. That is not their intention, I’m certain, but it happens all the same.
We need to begin to fall in love with the human race just as Christ Himself is in love with us. Once we begin this process, ministry and witnessing will come with much greater ease. We will realize that the work of getting people to come to Christ is not our burden, it is God’s. Only God can change a heart; it is His completed work extended through His people.
Our part, contrarily, is to walk in a genuine love for people no matter from whence they come or their external appearance; no matter if they come into the Kingdom of Christ or not. Our job, as it were, is to walk in supernatural love. It is love which will woo them to Christ, not browbeating them and condemning them for not believing when and how we think they should. We never know when the moment will come where someone will admit that Jesus is real, valid and vital. Who are we to say, “You’re taking too long. I’m done with you”? In fact, if we are in tune with Holy Spirit as we ought, God will instruct us as to when and if we are to part ways with someone.
We Christians seem to be on a mission to convert people instead of on a mission to love people. Love will usher conversion, not our attempts to persuade them by force. I recognize most mainstream Christians have not been taught how to love with the supernatural love of Christ. Love is certainly a choice and it is something that must be taught through the discipline, instruction of and surrender to Holy Spirit. Children love naturally and automatically, they do not need to be taught. Nevertheless, as children begin to grow, love does not come so readily.
We become a people wounded and bruised by the world in which we live. Because of this, even though we become a born-again believer, we must learn how love looks through the perspective of God instead of the eyes of the world. The world’s love is conditional and superficial; it’s the kind we see in movies and hear in songs. It comes and goes like the wind. The world’s love is fluid, God’s is concrete.
I John 2:6 (NAS) states, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” That is a powerful statement! Jesus walked in love whether He was correcting, healing, encouraging, serving, teaching or being crucified for sins He did not commit. Jesus walked in supernatural love from Heaven. As mentioned earlier, even Jesus’ correction was filled with love, for He purposed to help someone come out of sin, not to make them feel guilty and condemned.
God’s supreme supernatural love is forever, enduring, unconditional, steadfast – it never changes. “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us: but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us,” 1 John 2:18-19 tells us. Without Philadelphia, brotherly love, we have nothing and are nothing in God’s sight. We will all be known by our love.
Chapter 5: Honor All People
“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king (I Peter 2:17, NAS).”
We see the command “honor all people.” That’s a big one! Even when we do not agree, we are to honor people, all people, which is a seriously tall order. Always, in the face of a dispute, pause and think, “Is what I’m about to say or do going to honor or dishonor this person?” It’s a rule of thumb by which I purpose to live. I fail from time to time, of course but, when I fail, I make it right as soon as possible. The better way, most certainly, is to have as few failures as possible so that our actions do not require apologies. The right path is always the best path with which to begin. This is to eliminate backtracking from a mess initially having done things the wrong way.
We read in the last chapter, “all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.” This is a theme throughout the Word of God and it is rarely obeyed. I cannot convey enough how lacking love is among the brethren, the people of God. Such unresolved animosity and hatred are running rampant among those who claim to be among citizens of God’s Kingdom. I can scarcely understand it, yet it is a fact. We must ask ourselves, “What must we do about it? What must I do about it?”
First, the common sense approach is to begin to seek God’s love, how it looks, how it functions, and how we are to take God’s mantle of love and apply it to ourselves. Secondly, once applied to our own lives, learn how to apply it to the brethren (neighbors). Thirdly, and this is crucial, learn how to apply it to non-brethren. If we do not follow this basic and biblical pattern, we will continuously fail ourselves, our family and friends, strangers, and enemies. We have a compulsory standard to love from Heaven and its King:
- Love God (Mark 12:30)
- Love ourselves (Mark 12:31)
- Love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31)
- Love our enemies (Luke 6:27-36)
Some people in the body of Christ comprehend loving their brethren, yet can’t muster enough love so as to love their neighbor who is not within the body of Christ. They hate their neighbor (literal or metaphoric) who is Muslim, gay, an adulterer, philanderer, gambler, liar, and so on. We tend to view “those people” as our enemy and, therefore, justify our hatred against them.
God does not, cannot, and will not condone such behavior. No one can love God and hate their neighbor. There are plenty of folks with whom we do not agree and, furthermore, do not like. The problem with that is, we are not called by God to “like” anyone. We are called to a higher instruction of eternal, heavenly, Kingdom love.
I recently had a meeting at Sophia’s (my teenage daughter) school with the powers that be concerning her education given the fact she’s been so sick. Because of the chronic illness, she has been unable to attend regularly; hence requiring homebound assistance. At this meeting, tempers began to flare between the head of the committee and myself. She was talking about Sophia as though she were a delinquent and I a derelict mother. I don’t care about her opinion of me, but mess with my kids and the scenario becomes much more intense.
My response to her was in a loud tone and very aggressive as was hers. I had prayed before I entered the meeting because I know how they can be; they don’t see Sophia as a person, but merely a number on a schedule to which they must attend and admonish. She was deemed as a problem they must solve. With that prayer, I released to Holy Spirit my tongue, attitude and heart. As a result of that prayer, I said no unkind words and I did not blow up or thrust accusations against them. I simply spoke what was necessary (though aggressively at moments) and moved on. That could only have occurred because I had put on the love of God as armor.
I tell this story because there was a follow-up meeting two weeks later with the superintendent. She, as you may suspect, was present in this meeting. Between the two meetings, I reminded myself that she, the head of the homebound committee, was still just a person. She is a person (of God or of the world, I do not know) who was trying to do her job just as I, a mom, was doing mine. The love of God compelled me to look beyond my aggravation so as to approach her the second time with respect regardless of how I deemed her inaccuracy in Sophia’s assessment as a delinquent.
When I saw her at the start of the meeting, she did not make eye contact with me as she was aware of her misconduct. Notwithstanding, I purposefully greeted her so as to put her at ease. As one can imagine, at the close of the first meeting, I was riled and wouldn’t have minded telling her off; in this I must be honest and candid. As I continually close in with the Savior of all people, I was quickly reminded that I must honor her, despite our differences.
The Scripture in II Peter at the top of the chapter reads, “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” Notice God distinguishes separately “honor all people” and “love the brotherhood”. They are two entirely different matters. There is first, how we entreat anyone and everyone, brother or not, and secondly, how we treat our brethren. The distinction is made so as to not justify loving only the brethren but all of mankind. Furthermore, it states thirdly, “fear God” which alone would compel us to extend love and honor to all people and, fourthly, “honor the king (president or other rulers).” The gamut is covered as to whom we are to love and honor.
Chapter 3: Who is My Neighbor and Who is My Brother?
First, it is imperative to establish that the term “brethren” or “brother” is not about gender but about a spiritual position in Christ Jesus. Just as the terms “son” and “bride” in the Bible are not about gender but about position in the Kingdom of God, so is “brethren”. It’s only when we begin to view the Word of God from a heavenly perspective instead of an earthly that we can understand the meaning as God intends. We must identify with the Spirit instead of the flesh so as to gain insight from Heaven.
Throughout the generations, people have been inquiring, “Who exactly is my brother and who is my neighbor?” Personally, I believe that, when a Christian poses such an inquiry, their heart is not in the right place. Their focus is not on the Kingdom of God, but on themselves and their desire to find a loophole so as to get out of loving the unlovable. Nevertheless, since the question isn’t completely without merit, I’ll attempt to enlighten people so there will be no more question as to whom we must love as a brother or a neighbor. Brotherly love, or rather, the love from the King and His Kingdom, is to be extended to all people.
“We are to be at peace with all people so far as it is dependent upon us” is stated in Romans 12:18. Peace is an offshoot of the love of God. There is no genuine peace absent of brotherly love. Let’s take a closer look at how God defines our neighbor and our brother.
As we all know, our proverbial neighbor is anyone, anywhere with whom we come into contact. Some would cite, “They (whomever) are not my brother, so I don’t have to treat them as such.” This is errant because, even though they are neither the biological or spiritual brother in Christ, we are still commanded to extend brotherly love. Our neighbor can be family, friend or foe. They can be our neighbor in the house next door or the person down the street or across the state, country or continent. If we come in contact with them, they are our neighbor. Our neighbor can be of the same affiliations, race, creed, color, gender or anything else, or they can be someone we would otherwise justify hating. They can be Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, American, Jewish, British, Asian or other and still be our neighbor. Our neighbors are all the people around us.
I once had neighbors which were grossly unfriendly to everyone. They were rude and reclusive and wouldn’t allow our daughters to play together even though they were nearly the same ages. I did not want to extend neighborly love, not one bit. Yet, the love of God compelled me to give love when it wasn’t reciprocated. Likewise, my neighbor is the customer service rep with whom I need to speak about a product dispute. I have caught myself on more than one occasion growing weary with irritation when they weren’t resolving my issue. The representative may have been in California, India or the Philippines; regardless, they too are my neighbor and I am to extend the love of God. I have failed countless times when I have allowed my aggravation to dictate how I speak to such a neighbor. I call myself to accountability so as to purpose to regain my composure and my conduct.
A brother, on the other hand, are those specifically within the body of Christ no matter their gender, race, nationality or anything pertaining to the natural man. Our ‘brother’ is anyone doing the will of the Father.
To reiterate, a “brother” is a position, not a gender. Our brother can be attending the same local body of believers or someone who does not. They can live close geographically or across the globe. We may know them our whole lives or never meet in person. Our “brother” is someone who shares the same heavenly blood and DNA of Jesus.
We cannot rightly exert prejudices of any kind against a brother and be in right standing with the King of kings. By the Spirit, we will know them. If we are led by Holy Spirit, He will bear witness to our brethren. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).” When I witness firsthand or hear of a “good godly” person persecuting a brother in Christ because they do not look like them, worship as they, or in any way resemble themselves, I am flabbergasted. When will God’s people realize and accept we who walk according to the flesh are not conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ? People who are alive in Christ are the brethren of all others who are alive in Christ. Period.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, KJV)
“You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:17-18, NAS).”
Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50 NAS)
Chapter 2: Known by Your Love:
“By this, all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35, NAS).”
The Greek word for brotherly love is Philadelphia (Leviticus 19:18; Revelation 1:11, Romans 12:10, I Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1, I Peter 1:22, II Peter 1:7, I Peter 3:8, Revelation 3:7). It is easy to find innumerable hateful Christians, but you will never encounter a hateful authentic follower of Christ (with the exception of someone having a rare moment, but it is the exception and not the rule). Many call themselves “Christians” but do not follow the simple command of love. Everyone can have a bad day, absolutely, but there are many who think themselves ‘of God’ yet are hateful, negative, discouraging, depressing, hopeless and more. This is not of Christ as it is the opposite of Kingdom love.
This one poignant verse in John 13 sets a tone for all other Scriptures concerning love. This is indeed a hefty statement because, when the truth is told, few walk according to such supernatural love. As I look around the professing body of Christ, I dare say, according to this one verse, most who say they are followers of Christ are not. I can make this bold statement because of the severe lack of love permeating from our ‘good church goers.’ To be a Christian is not necessarily the same as being a true follower of Christ; the terminology “Christian” is vague at best.
I do not say this to condemn anyone as the purpose here is love and to guide us all into deeper levels of love. However, I say this so as to address the problem so that it may be rectified. There really isn’t much more I can say so as to elaborate about such great love for the brethren as it speaks plainly to the heart of the matter. I suggest to everyone who believes themselves to be called by the name of Jesus to take a personal assessment, to do a self-evaluation of how they extend love toward themselves, family, friends, co-workers, bosses, clerks, strangers, and, equally as important, toward their enemies.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:44-47 (NAS)
What we see depicted in Matthew 5 is scarcely visible in the modern-day church. For those who’ve attended any denominational church in their lifetime knows full well the lack of affection one has for another. People fight for rights to leadership, positions, to have their voice heard, and any other such nonsense. Without the body of Christ unifying as we ought for the greater good of the Kingdom of God, we will continue to shred God’s name, His Kingdom and His Word; hence, many who believe themselves filled with God’s Kingdom have been deceived by a lie from the great deceiver. Religion as a whole is set directly against the Kingdom of God so as to delude the masses into thinking they are “of God” yet are of the evil one. Remember, Christ was killed by the religious.
I ask with all humility: When will the fighting, hatred, and malice end? When will we cease being lovers of self and begin to place others above ourselves, the Kingdom of God above our own desires, and to walk a life of ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven’? How we treat our family with love is indicative of human nature. How we treat our enemies with love is indicative of how much we love, value and reverence God, His Word and His Kingdom.
Whom Do You Love More?
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. II Timothy 3:1-5 (NAS)
II Timothy 3 speaks volumes about the condition of man, not just those in the world but those who call themselves by the name of Christ. All the things listed above are clearly visible by many who call themselves Christians. Why? Because we are in the last days and, if possible, even the elite will be deceived (Matthew 24:24). Right under our noses are preachers, teachers, apostles, prophets, and evangelists under the ruse of Jesus’ name only to spread more dissention. These people are the false ministers for which we have been warned. True apostles, prophets, preachers, evangelists and teachers will lead us into the unity of the Spirit instead of their own group. By example and word, these will teach the hearers to follow in the footsteps of love.
When someone who claims to follow Christ breeds prejudice or hatred of any kind, be assured they are false; they are of the evil one, the father of lies. Let us begin to set our hearts toward the Holy One of Israel and find the love to which we are called. We must begin to view our brethren and neighbors as ourselves, not as merely a partner against whom we have the right to fight.