Chapter 15: Stop Challenging One Another
When, oh when, will God’s body understand the power of unity? With all the verses (listed below) on unity and the many others that accompany, why are those who are called by Christ’s name still in constant discord? We are called to unity, to the same mind of Christ, the same judgment of Christ, and the same operating procedures of Jesus and His holy Kingdom. There is power in unity and we sit back bewildered that we have no power – it’s baffling we haven’t figured out the problem which is in plain sight. And, for those who’ve discovered the problem, why haven’t they taken steps of correction?
God’s dictum is for mankind to abide His instruction so as to save us and glorify His name. We must stop the quarreling, which will insist we stop being offended around every turn and bend of life. Scriptures definitely speak for themselves. What more can I add to convey the message of unity?
The Power of Unity:
They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them (Genesis 11:4-6).
With unity, anything is possible, anything. The Trinity said that nothing was impossible for the people who positioned themselves in unity against Him. The Tower of Babel was for the purpose to overthrowing God to make their names exalted above God’s. Why else would They (Trinity) have responded as They did by dividing the peoples’ ability to communicate via speech? It’s because, when in unity, they could accomplish anything. The quarreling, fighting, bickering, and all-out war among the brethren has to come to an abrupt end so as to dismantle the grip of Satan within us.
I earlier quoted, “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” Why does the professing body of Christ quote this, yet misuse the very nature in which it was written? I have seen bodies of believers use it against other denominations and even against similar denominations which are deemed to be a threat against them. People abuse this word so as to annihilate their brethren and people outside their communal circle.
The body of Christ needs to come off her high horse, so to speak, humble themselves, and pray repenting of their discord and division. We need to cry out to our holy God so as to realign our frivolous, divisive ways. Let us unify. A great more can be accomplished if only we’d unify. There is power in unity whether among believers or non-believers. Non-believers actually understand this fact far more than those in Christ, no fault of Jesus who has given us every leeway to unite.
“Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:26, NAS).”
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (II Timothy 2:24-26).
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).
“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren…that there are quarrels among you (I Corinthians 1:10-11).”
“For you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men (I Corinthians 3:3)?”
“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source of your pleasures that wage war in your members (James 4:1)?”
Chapter 14: Give Unrelentingly
I could write an entire book on giving but, for sake of time, I’ll attempt to give a brief overview on how the Lord calls us to give. I’ve added a list of texts at the end of the chapter. “Giving” is not what we see in churches across denominations where we robotically take our 10% or whatever amount and place it in the offering plate Sunday after Sunday. If we are called of God to do that, fine, but giving as Christ calls His people is far beyond that. I hear all the time, “I saw a beggar and I didn’t give him anything because…”
- They should get a job
- They’ll use the money for booze or drugs
- I have my money set aside to give to my local church
- I don’t want to
- I hate beggars
- They’re lazy
- They’re undeserving
- They won’t pay it back
- They’ll rob me
- I prayed for them already
- They’re ungrateful
- I don’t like them
- They smell badly
- They look scary
There are many other reasons, but these seem to be the most frequently used. Luke 6:30 begins with the words, “Give to everyone who asks you…” That alone debunks all excuses pertaining to not giving. It further states, “If they steal from you, give more.” That dethrones the remaining excuses used to not give. If we want to go further, read James 2 where we see praying, alone, is insufficient. Faith has legs and hands and feet and money. Faith in Christ will cause us to give, not just prayer, but physically meeting the needs of others.
If we’re still wondering when, how much, and to whom we should give, I John 3:17 clarifies with, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” If we have the means and someone is in need, give. It’s that simple. In the early church, those who had plenty sold their goods so that no one was without. Selfishness was not an option. When they sold their possessions so as to give, it didn’t leave them penniless, it merely allowed everyone to have and no one was in need.
Why aren’t God’s people giving in such a fashion? It’s because we’ve become calloused, greedy, and hard-hearted. It is time to thaw our frozen, stingy hearts and begin to love one another with prayer, time, energy, and money.
“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him (I John 3:17, NAS)?”
“If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that (James 2:15-16, NAS)?”
“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back…Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you give, it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:30, 38, NIV).”
Additional texts: Deuteronomy 15:10, 16:17; Proverbs 21:26, 3:27, 11:24-25, 22:9, 28:27; I Chronicles 29:9; Matthew 6:3-4; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 3:11, 6:30, 38; II Corinthians 9:6-10; John 3:16; Acts 20:35; Romans 12:8
Chapter 12: Unselfish Release
Many Scriptures reveal unselfish release for the greater good of God’s Kingdom. Brotherly love, or any authentic godly love for that matter, is always unselfish. It is giving and kind, generous, wanting the best for those whom we love. In the Scriptures below, we read where such selfless love is granted. They released those they loved and needed the most so as to help others in their spiritual or physical crisis.
Brotherly love will allow us to give up the ones we love so that they are free to do the will of God even when that means never seeing them again. In biblical days, there was no modern technology as we know it, e.g. cell phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, or any other form of quick communication. When they released someone to another group of people far away who needed them more, they would hear nothing from them for extended periods of time. Notwithstanding, they allowed them and even encouraged them to go, even though it was often at personal sacrifice. This is the way God loves. This is the way we all should love.
I Corinthians 13:4-7 reads, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Although nearly everyone claiming to be a Christian knows this text by heart, they have not taken it into their hearts.
God’s love will not allow one to be self-seeking, arrogant, untoward, unrighteous, false, faithless, hopeless, or to abandon someone in their time of crisis. As much as we say, “I love you,” unless our actions are aligned with I Corinthians 13, we do not love. It’s like saying, “I love God,” yet will not love their fellow man. We cannot love God and hate our brother, our neighbor, stranger, or foe. We cannot love our brother and selfishly use them or keep them from their God-calling because we want them all to ourselves. Selfishness and selflessness cannot simultaneously abide in an entity.
“But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity (I Corinthians 16:12, NAS).”
“We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches (II Corinthians 8:18, NAS).”
“We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you (II Corinthians 8:22, NAS).”
Chapter 11: Devotion, Consideration, and Honor
Devotion, consideration, and honor are greatly lacking among us, the body of Christ. We are not called simply to love, but to devote ourselves to loving one another continuously. This is the difference between limited human love and limitless eternal love. To “give preference to one another” isn’t favoritism as in preferring one person over another, but to favor everyone so as to honor one another. We must think more of others than we do ourselves. Selfishness is a characteristic of the father of lies.
I love the Scriptures above in both Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8. Both lead us to understand that, even though something in particular is not a sin to us, if someone perceives it as a sin, we must refrain from partaking so as not to cause them to stumble. This is putting others above ourselves; their needs above our own. It’s a matter of being so attuned to the needs of others that we quickly give up something so as to not cause them to falter.
I hear time, and time, and time again, “God knows my heart. He knows I’m not sinning,” in reference to living with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They state, “We’re Christians and we’re abstaining from sex before marriage so it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks.” My response: “Oh, but indeed it does.”
What we do matters. It matters to God, it matters to onlookers, and it must matter to us. We are to do nothing selfishly such as, “I don’t care what so and so thinks.” If we as followers of Christ do something knowing it could cause someone to fall spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially, we are in sin. Living with a person we are dating, though not engaging in sex, still has the appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22); in this, it becomes evil. Instead of justifying whatever we’re doing that is wrong, we need to ask ourselves how our actions will affect others for the positive or negative. We must be so devoted to one another that we think of the effects on people prior to taking a step. This is brotherly love, consideration and devotion. This is honoring others and it pleases the Lord.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10, NAS).”
“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3, NAS).”
“It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles (Romans 14:21, NAS).”
“Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble (I Corinthians 8:13, NAS).”
Chapter 10: As Unto Yahweh
There are countless good deeds done within the world whether by those in Christ or out. Hollywood is known for splashing about their good deeds helping the needy as much as the church, if not more so. The problem lies not in the giving, but in the heart of their giving. We can’t expect the world to give as unto God but, within the body, we should always expect such giving. Giving should be effortless when it is coming from the direction of Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, and I’ve written this numerous times, the majority of people with good intentions give for all the wrong reasons:
- begrudgingly out of duty
- because it makes self or others feel good
- it’s expected
- social advancement
- religious advancement
- relational advancement
These are just a few, but do we recognize what’s missing? The “as unto the Lord” element is missing, the most vital of reasons to do good toward others. The body of Christ is never to do anything as “unto anyone” but always as “unto God.” Of course, when God is leading, it may cause us or the recipient feelings of personal satisfaction, but that should not be the driving force. Here’s the problem: when we do something kind as unto a person and they don’t respond as well as we’d like or expect, we get mad and/or sad. When our actions are based on emotion or selfish reasons, it will produce an emotional response, good or bad, depending on the outcome.
Nothing we do for the Kingdom of God should be based on emotions but on obedience to the One who gave us life out of death. When we do, we place no expectation on the recipient but on God who returns good for good. For instance, I know a fellow who is a recovering addict. I allowed him to come into my home so as to lay tile and some other odd jobs. As it so happened, he was on drugs while working in my home and he made an enormous mess of most projects. Before I could confront him, he was arrested.
While incarcerated at our local jail, I reached out to him. I helped him with various needs upon the prompting of Holy Spirit. He promised that, once he was released from rehab, he would within two weeks come repair my floor he incorrectly laid. Upon his release, he called begging me to pick him up at the bus station because he had no one else; I obliged. Weeks rolled by and I heard nothing. A friend said, “After all you did for him, that’s what you get?” I replied, “What I did for him, I did as unto God; therefore, he owes me nothing. All I expect of him is to fix that for which I paid him.” When I did “extra” for him, I did it as unto God, not in expectation of him doing something in return. This kept the anger and resentment at bay, though I felt the initial pangs of it. This is how one can effectively accomplish God’s command to “be angry but sin not.”
He never fixed my floor. In fact, he hasn’t spoken a word to me, yet I choose to forgive him. That’s how the Kingdom of God works and I must function under the umbrella of the Kingdom Constitution, which are the Bible and the Spirit thereof.
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; (Colossians 3:23, KJV).”
“With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, (Ephesians 6:7, NAS).”
“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism (James 2:1, NAS).”
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me (Matthew 25:40, NAS).’”
Chapter 9: Strangers and Prisoners
“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matthew 5:47, NAS)?”
“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body…(Hebrews 13:1-3).”
Do you remember the question, “who is my neighbor?” Well, here it is again. Not only are we cautioned to love our brothers (which can often feel virtually impossible), but here we are encouraged to do the same with those outside our brethren. Are we who are extending love to those within the body only doing so at the least possible level, or are we pushing ourselves to go beyond our borders and love those without? We never know to whom we are showing kindness or hostility; we don’t know who may be an angel among us.
And more than that, what if they’re not an angel? What if they’re just some random person who needs kindness, a comforting word, or God’s love expressed to them? We are not to choose whether or not we love our brothers or love our neighbors or strangers or prisoners; we are to love all people at all times, even when admonishing someone.
I love the line in Hebrews 13: “…since you yourselves also are in the body.” Prisoners are a passion of mine because I recognize the undisputed fact I too could be behind physical bars if I had remained married to my first ex-husband. Someone was going to get hurt somewhere along the line! I could have been pushed to do something untoward given the demonic nature in which he operated. Any number of things and circumstances could have led me down the wrong path and caused me to do something prison-worthy. No one knows of what we are capable until a situation arises.
Furthermore, there are people not behind physical bars but behind internal bars, chains, and other barriers. “Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them” states Hebrews 13. We are in the body therefore we could do something stupid at any moment should the flesh get the better of us. In this, we must all be compassionate toward those who most folks deem unsavory. We would be wise to remember how our flesh acted prior to surrendering to Christ. I am painfully aware I must surrender the nature of my flesh daily. Just because I live in a fleshly shell doesn’t mean I need to be driven by it, though it genuinely wants to take the wheel of my life.
Those who are externally or internally imprisoned are so because, somewhere along the line, the flesh got the better of them. Neither you nor I are exempt. Have compassion. Have mercy. Lend prayer. We never know what stranger or prisoner may be an angel in disguise, but don’t be motivated to kindness because of that as if to think, “I don’t want to mess with an angel!” Perceive everyone as someone in need of the same love Christ extended to us in our time of need.
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.