Others before self
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (II Corinthians 6:14, KJV).
Right out the gate, most everyone can quote this Scripture above, yet few comprehend the depth of its meaning. For example, when I was growing up, I was taught that “unequally yoked” meant that no Independent Baptist should mix with any other type of Baptist (Southern, Free Will, etc.) and definitely, we were not to intermarry with any other “foreign” denomination such as Lutheran, Methodist, and absolutely not with a Pentecostal or Presbyterian! Also, no person should ever mix with anyone outside their race, nationality, political or social status. Then there is the actual reality that no follower of Christ should marry a non-follower of Christ.
In the Old Testament, God clearly instructed His people, time and time again, that they were not to marry outside their race. What was God’s motivation in this command? Was He prejudice against skin color or language that He created? No. God gave this command to keep His holy people pure of other gods, of worshipping anyone other than Himself. We must remember that the Old Testament was about things manifesting in the natural. The New Testament was about things happening in the spiritual. The Old Testament always mentioned how people looked externally. The New Testament does not speak of outward appearance. The reason is that things come first in the natural, then in the spiritual. Therefore, being unequally yoked has nothing at all to do with anything external, but spiritual.
I Corinthians 15:46-47 states: “The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.” In the grand scheme of things, the spiritual is first in so much as God is Spirit and He has no beginning and no end, but this reference is written for the Earth, for mankind. We are physical man (natural first), but, through Holy Spirit (spiritual second), we are able to become spiritual. It’s all about keeping things within God’s perspective and order.
Since God chose to leave out external appearance in the New Testament, we must pay attention and follow suit. He omitted it for a purpose. We are to owe no man anything but love. Money issues aside, it translates, “All men owe every man love, regardless of anything external.” With that understood, we can eliminate any false meaning for being unequally yoked that has anything to do with outward appearance, including, and especially, skin color. As far as denomination is concerned, God is not a God of denomination, but our heart condition. If a black Baptist woman is in love with Christ and a white Methodist man is in love with Christ, what should man do to hinder them from marrying that has anything to do with God?
To take all this even further, to be “equally yoked” in reference to holy matrimony boils down to one criterion: God’s supernatural ordination. Nothing else matters. The problem lies in how we perceive the matter of equally or unequally yoked. Again, most people have an internal checklist that they believe their spouse should meet to a tee, yet the list is generally not in compliance with God. Basically, we box God in so tightly that, no matter how clearly He reveals His will, we are too blinded by the flesh, and religious and parental tradition, to recognize. “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment,” is instructed in John 7:24.
Don’t Judge by the Cover:
My husband isn’t anything like I pictured as a child. We must realize that our appointed spouse, when we first meet, could potentially not be ready for marriage, but that doesn’t mean they never will. The issue at hand is that we often meet our God-created mate, but, since they are not on our mental checklist, we impatiently and foolishly marry the first person who comes along that fits our standard.
Cut two tennis balls in half, switch the halves, and glue one half of one ball to a half of the other ball. Though they are the same exact shape, color, texture, and size, they will never make a whole; they are merely two mismatched halves stuck together. If you pour oil and water into the same bowl, just because they are, for all intent and purposes, together, does it make them one new thing? No. It’s merely two vastly different substances cohabitating. The point is this: just because two things appear as though they could mix, it doesn’t mean they can, will, or should.
I fell head over heels in love with Michael when I was 15 in August, 1983, 10th-grade algebra class, upstairs, A-hall, Mrs. Ward’s class, at Lexington High School. This is the classic example of a good soul-tie, but I was simply oblivious. I took one look at him and that was all she wrote! I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know why. It wasn’t based on looks, though he was handsome; it genuinely made no sense. It wasn’t sexual, hormonal, emotional, or mental – it just was, and with no logical explanation. Unfortunately, though we were algebra buddies and I helped him pass the class, we were but acquaintances. I wouldn’t even call us “friends.”
About nine months after we met, he moved with his family to another city an hour away. I was devastated, to say the least. I remained forever in love with him, nonetheless. I was friends with his cousin before our meeting. I would see him occasionally when he visited her. He later joined the army and moved overseas for several years. During that time, he met and fell in love with a young woman.
As time went by, I eventually married someone else, and we moved overseas. My husband said he was called to be a preacher and things “appeared” in order, godly. Though married, the two of us never became one whole. He was an abuser. He did not hit me, but abuse comes in various forms. He was sexually, mentally, and emotionally abusive.
After separating from my first husband once back in America, Michael and I reconnected and became the best of friends. We were able to do so because he had moved back stateside, leaving his girlfriend behind. We remained friends with no romantic commitment or ties. Two years after my first husband left, I married the nice, great guy I mentioned earlier: a handsome man with a stable job and very kind. To my chagrin, we married one another on the rebound of failed relationships, which is always a formula for disaster. After two years of trying to “make it work,” I left him. We tried several times to reconcile, but it simply was not right. We did not fit together to make a whole.
In 2000, after seven years of rebelling against God (from the time my first husband left), I found myself on my face before the Almighty begging Him to show me the way to righteousness, purity, and wholeness. Though most of these stories are in my other books, my point here is that I finally submitted totally to God. I vowed that I would never again lay with anyone who was not my husband, or marry again unless and until it was as God-intended.
The blessings in mine and Michael’s lives are flowing for many reasons. The primary reason is because he and I make one whole person. We were specifically designed one for the other. The first husband was like mixing oil and water, an apparent mismatch. The second was like those two tennis balls; we looked like a good fit but were altogether wrong. The third marriage is a perfect fit. God has blessed and blessed and continuously blesses without end. I had taken a vow of abstinence long before our engagement and marriage. Although he was reluctant, Michael complied.
Just because you are marrying your ordained spouse does not mean that the marriage will automatically override sexual sin committed with that person; sex before marriage will hinder the fullness of the blessings God initially intended. Just because you marry the person that is within the will of God, your poor conduct (fornication or adultery) before the marriage will taint the otherwise holy covenant. We must stay aligned with God before, during, and after marriage.
Marrying your intended spouse does not give you the right to put the cart before the horse. It is altogether possible to ruin that which God intended to be pure. Our obedience in every aspect is crucial to receive the best that God longs to bestow. It isn’t that Yahweh can’t or won’t work around our sin once we are repentant, but why would anyone shortchange themselves? That would be much like Esau giving up his birthright for a one-time cup of soup!
God, in His infinite wisdom and love, created me for Michael. I thank God that we were finally able to come together as it was designed. If I had known at 15 what I know now, I surely would have waited and prayed according to God’s direction. I would have saved myself, and everyone involved in those first two marriages, a lot of heartache had I been wise as to how God ordains, not just the union of general marriage, but specific marriages. I could never explain my unwavering love for Michael back then, but now I can.
Please keep in mind that I was a born-again Christian, and he an agnostic when we first met. By man’s standards, that would not be a union “equally yoked,” yet was altogether “of God.” This is why we must tap into Holy Spirit as soon as possible and allow our spirit-man to become awakened to hear Holy Spirit speaking, leading, and guiding. By no means could I have entered covenant with him pre-accepting Christ. However, when we allow God to reveal our mate to us, whether it makes sense to common man or not, we will enable faith, patience, and grace to rule in our hearts.
This type of waiting takes knowing and trusting the absolutes of God. The more knowledgeable we become, the more consigned to Christ we become, the more faith we place upon Yahweh, the fewer mistakes we will make along the way.
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 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 13: The Last Days
If anyone doubts we are living in the last days, read the Scriptures below and turn on the news. It will verify that what we’re witnessing has been foretold. The disciples were living in the last days and that was over two thousand years ago. One may suggest there are no “last days” since it’s taking so long, but I encourage you to look at God’s timing and not man’s timing. If a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day, it has only been a little over two days since the resurrection of Christ. God is not slow, we simply need to see how He sees.
II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…” Establishing God’s timeline is vital when assessing the times. Once we understand how God’s timing works, we’ll be less impatient for His coming and readily able to focus on the task at hand. Additionally, we’ll better handle what we’re seeing, not in fear, but in faith.
When I hear the news (I refuse to watch it), I am not afraid and I am never surprised at the level of wickedness going on. Matthew 10:21 is playing out verbatim. People are killing people; brothers are killing brothers, parents and children are killing each other, and much, much worse. I just heard a story where a mother gave birth to twins in a toilet and then smothered them to death. The days are evil and, though they’ve always been evil, people are growing ever more so. Hearts are waxing cold, faith is wavering, hope is dwindling, and people are narcissistic on unprecedented levels. Morality is fluid as opposed to God’s Word, which is absolute and concrete.
With this situation of fluid morality, God is not the bar; each person’s own relative sense of morality is the bar. Each person who is not surrendered to God sets their own level of what is right in their own eyes; hence, the outcome is disastrous. God has set a solid working precedent. With the falling away from Yeshua, who then determines what is good or evil, right or wrong? One says, “Homosexuality, adultery, fornication, pedophilia, or other sexual sins is right” and another says it’s wrong. One says, “Abortion is a woman’s right,” yet another says it’s murder. One says, “I have a right to hate my neighbor or brother” yet others say that right does not exist. The only true demarcation line is in God’s sound and holy Word. It is definitive and unchanging.
In these final hours, God is revealing who are wheat and who are the tares as noted in Matthew 13:24-30. The more dire things become, whom we choose to follow (Jesus or Lucifer) will testify as to whether we stand for God or for lusts of the flesh. Matthew 10 expresses we will be tested and, if we choose people over God, we do not love God. This may sound contradictory to brotherly love, but rest assured, they go hand in hand.
We are to love as Christ loves and He is in love with the human race He created. Contrarily, when we choose the way of mother, father, sister, brother, etc. over the ways of God, we are against Him. In other words, I love my brother or sister, but not to the point where I’ll allow their wickedness to sway me into sin based on my love for them. If my best friend or loved one hates a person, I cannot jump into hatred with them just because I love them. Selfish love would dictate I follow them in sin because I do not want to disappoint them or lose their love. Selfless love will always command standing against their wrongdoing even if it means them walking away.
Love is a balancing act. We are to love and honor all mankind, but not to the point where we step out of bounds with God. In the last days, being a “lover of self” will cause a person of God, even the elite if possible, to stumble because they have not made definitive demarcation lines in their hearts. True brotherly love as from Heaven will not allow us to follow the crowd. Likewise, the last days will cause people to kill one another over petty differences. Do not allow an evil heart of bitterness to grow. Do not allow a heart of luke-warmness infect us. Followers of the Lord Jesus must be sober and vigilant at all times and in every circumstance so as not to be deceived in either Kingdom directive.
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the Word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (II Peter 3:3-9).
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death (Matthew 10:21, NAS).”
“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 (I John 3:12, NAS).”
For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:35-38, NAS).
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).”