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.
Chapter 4: Hatred vs. Love
“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (I John 3:15, NAS).”
We are commanded, “Do not hate your brother.” I don’t know how much more I can say that isn’t mentioned in the Bible. The contention, fighting and bickering must cease. There must be a better, more Kingdom-productive way to communicate and resolve issues with the brethren than what we’re currently doing. The divisiveness within the confines of our selfish, fleshly nature is fragmenting God’s Kingdom. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. We must inquire of ourselves the following:
- “Is there a brother I hate?
- What am I going to do about it?
- How can I change my attitude, perspective and approach so as to resolve the matter between us?
- How can I bring unity in the midst of disunity?”
These simple questions, when answered honestly, will bring about God’s will. We need to regularly reevaluate where we are in the Spirit. If we caused and/or perpetuated hatred on any level, resolve the matter. Repent and go and sin no more. Through prayer and supplication, we will do what is righteous whatever it takes.
“And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also (I John 4:21, NAS).”
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:19, NAS).”
“and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love (II Peter 1:7, NAS).”
These texts instruct what to do: do love your brother. God never tells us the incorrect without directing us into what is holy in His sight. I especially favor the last few verses above in I and II Peter. The emphasis is on kindness and love which could possibly sound redundant, yet there is a purpose for the repetition. The words kindness, love, harmonious, sympathetic, humble in spirit and devoted are, technically, the same at the root which is Kingdom love. Nevertheless, they are marked individually so as to add emphasis to the necessity of love and all it encompasses.
We live in a treacherous, vile, depraved world as no one could dispute this sad state of affairs. It’s been this way since the fall of man when Satan’s reign was reestablished. Lucifer originally ran the earthly realm until deceit and corruption were found in him. He was dethroned and, eventually, Adam was given charge over the Earth. Once Adam fell prey to the wiles of the enemy, Satan once again took his seat of authority which Adam foolishly relinquished to him.
The ruler of this present Earth is the devil; therefore, we ought not be surprised that the days are wicked. With this fact made clear, we can better understand why God’s Word gave such prominence as to how to conduct ourselves as strangers from Heaven in a peculiar land called Earth. The days are evil; we, God’s people, aka the brethren, must learn how to overcome through the blood of the Lamb, how to live and abide as overcomers instead of having to succumb to the ways of the devil. We must become more aware of the spirit realm, Satan’s and God’s, so as to recognize the danger of not loving the brethren lest we fall into his trap just as did Adam and Eve.
Let us, Kingdom heirs, purposefully become kind, loving, forgiving, selfless, humble, godly, holy, righteous, devoted to one another, and much more of the like toward our brethren.
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (I John 4:20, NAS).”
“But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (I John 2:11, NAS).”
“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother (I John 3:10, NAS).”
“The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him (I John 2:9-10, 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.
Chapter 14: It’s All About Refinement
If I have heard once, I have heard a thousand times, “They were such a good person until thus and so happened; then they really changed for the worse.” With all my being, I believe trials and tests do not change a person, they simply bring to light who the person is at their center. It was definitely true in Job’s case as well as my own. Neither of us knew what was wicked within until the disasters came.
Adam lived in utopia and it was true for him. The worst comes out of people in dyer situations because the love of Christ is not in effect. Sure, they may be saved from hell but a person led by Holy Spirit would be able to recognize what God was allowing to happen and even why, instead of tail-spinning out of control and losing sight of God’s reality. Just because one is led by Holy Spirit for a long time does not mean that, in an instant, they can’t revert back to the flesh. Satan is crouching at the door waiting for an opportunity to stumble you. You and I must daily die, which is merely a result of having been transformed into the image of God.
When my first husband left with a note on the coffee table, I fell apart. I began cursing, ranting and raving. Why? It was because I had no grounding in an intimate relationship with God. I had never once said, “Father, show me everything that is wrong within me. Lead me into righteousness.” I had received salvation at the age of six and went on my way “getting people saved” as I was taught. I didn’t drink, curse, sleep around or do drugs. I was basically a “good” kid. However, in reality, it was all a lie because there is no one good but God.
I failed to hear from God, receive warnings, admonition, or anything of the kind. If I had, I would not have married two wrong men. I knew nothing of God except being able to quote a few Scriptures. In my mind, making a profession of faith was equated to “an intimate relationship” when it was nothing more than the beginning of what should have developed into an intimate relationship. I was weak in Christ on my best days and was so because I thought myself spiritually strong and mature.
A terrible weakness in God’s people is the feeling of unworthiness, yet we call it humility. When you focus on your own unworthiness, you are focused on self. Although it certainly appears humble and righteous on the surface, contrary to popular belief, this is another lie from Satan. It is actually false humility, self-abasement, and self-righteousness.
False Humility: “I am unworthy to walk in the shoes of Jesus, so I won’t. I’ll sit here quietly in my recliner of do-nothing. Praise God, one day I’m going up yonder in the sweet by and by. I’ll wait here ‘til I get to Heaven to throw my crowns at His precious feet. Who am I to walk in authority and speak with boldness? I’m too humble to do that.”
True Humility: “I am unworthy and I know it. However, with that knowledge, I (the unworthy one) choose to surrender and live only unto Christ (the worthy One). I choose His worth and allow Him to speak, think and operate through my mortal body. I choose to walk boldly and courageously in the authority and power He projects through me. I give God all praise, honor and glory for all accomplished.”
I pray every believer will get this imbedded in their spirit, heart, and mind. God is not asking for your perfection or power since you have none to offer. He is asking for your willingness to allow Him to move through your weak mortal body as you are merged with Him as one entity. Allow refinement when the hard times hit let you be overtaken by the evil one through despair. God is the perfection in the weakest places of life. Yoked together Christ is the only hope for strength and a sound mind.
“so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:7, NAS).”
“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7, NAS).”
I must be transparent. The “mamma bear” Alexys and the “minister” Alexys are often in conflict. As a minister, I purpose to live a life of balance, love, patience, kindness, holiness and to be at peace with everyone, at least as far as it is up to me. Adversely, as a mother of a chronically ill child, I often feel the urge to, at the very least, tell someone off. Or, at the worst, punch someone squarely between the eyes for their neglect, bullying or disregard for my child who only wants to be well and accepted by her peers.
For example (in no particular order):
- Dealing with doctors who pass her around from this one to that one or one questions another’s diagnosis or treatment and look at me as though I’ve done something wrong.
- When kids her age at school or elsewhere tease and/or bully her because they don’t understand her situation, why she likes colored hair, why she’s so shut down, or why she doesn’t fit the acceptable body image.
- When the youth pastor at our church refuses, though begged repeatedly over a year, to reach out to her or have girls her age reach out to her. He visited her once, had a couple girls text her a few times and, just like that, she was quickly discarded and forgotten like yesterday’s news.
- Dealing with the school powers-that-be who threaten to call truancy because they question the word of doctors as though she isn’t really too sick to attend; who demand meeting after futile meeting.
In the aforementioned scenarios, yes, I definitely want to scream at and hit someone albeit completely contradictory to who I am in Christ. These are the times where I preach the Word of God to myself so as not to completely ruin my testimony for the Christ whom I love and serve. Mamma-bear has, on occasion, gotten the better of me because I despise the injustice thrown at my kid.
The struggle is real and I have to combat it on a regular basis. When these people who are in positions to help my child do not and, furthermore, cause more harm, I battle with mamma-bear, with the inclination of my fleshly man to do what would otherwise come very natural to me. My personality is very aggressive, forthright, proactive and protective and, therefore, it would be nothing for me to blast someone (and I have). I purpose daily to walk according to the Spirit of the Living God versus my natural man. I have to daily find the balance between knowing when and what to speak to whom and just letting loose when the notion strikes.
I have definitely learned, throughout all of this that, in fact, I am fully capable of restraint, patience, and silence; that I can choose to be self-controlled, to be silent when necessary, and, when I speak up, I can do so without yelling or demeaning the person at which my words are directed.
I Corinthians 1:27: “but I discipline my body to make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Chapter Thirteen: Igniting God’s Completed Work, part II
Paul’s mission was to correct and teach every man with all wisdom that they may be presented as “complete in Christ”. What does this mean other than, once in Christ, we are considered as dead to self and alive only through the identity of Christ. The words, “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death…” is not only in reference to Jesus’ death, but the co-death of all mankind. Through His flesh, He buried the fleshly nature of sinful man. Death for Jesus was literal but it translates to mankind as spiritual. We “die daily” as in, every day when we awaken in our natural state, we subject all of ourselves to Christ so that our only life source is the resurrected life of Christ.
Why are you, a born-again follower of Christ, praying for the attributes of Christ such as wisdom, patience, kindness, self-discipline, love, joy, etc. when God said He’s already given you the fullness of Christ? If you have Christ, you have all you need and which can be given because every good thing is wrapped in Christ. All of which we pray and ask that can be granted, through Jesus Christ, is already ours. We need only to know how to position ourselves so as to receive and function appropriately. In other words, if you are one with Christ, you need not pray, “God give me wisdom” but rather “As I humble myself before You, Lord, I thank You that, through Jesus, I have all wisdom. Direct me how to tap into and operate in it.”
Colossians 2:6, 9-12, state emphatically, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Basically, we need to learn how to access what we’ve been given instead of trying to obtain something we have already been granted as though we don’t already possess it. The difference is accessing versus obtaining.
To reiterate, the Word of God, in Yahweh’s timeline, was written and fulfilled before the creation of anything in existence. Furthermore, your life, my life, and the lives of every person past, present and future are already finished; we’re merely watching it play out step by step. Faith of this magnitude (that it’s already completed) ignites God’s completed work and allows it to be made manifest in your life. This is the life which will draw all men unto Himself.
One may rebut, “So, if everything is complete, I can do anything I want and whatever will be, will be.” This person thinks they can live willy-nilly and everything will work out fine but, this is not so. The instruction of positioning ourselves so as to bring the perfect will of God in our lives is a matter of holiness. It is a matter of praying in agreement with God in all things, humbling ourselves before God and man, honoring the King in spirit, soul and body, worshiping in spirit and in truth, rest trusting His promises, and loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This is positioning ourselves in order to usher the excellence of Christ, come what may.
“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28, NAS).”
“He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death (Colossians 1:22, NAS).”