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 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 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 7: The Prodigal
Compassion, compassion, compassion! We cannot walk as citizens of the Kingdom of God without it, it simply cannot be. When people ask how I can be compassionate toward my ex-husband who was too many horrible things to mention, I say “because of grace”. The same grace I need is the same grace he needs; neither of us nor do any of you deserve it. It is an unwarranted gift from God. The same grace God poured out for me and you is the same He poured for my ex-husband and all the other offenders of the world. It’s literally that simple.
How could I expect God’s grace and forgiveness to apply to me, once a prodigal, if I can’t look at another prodigal with compassion? Without compassion, can one actually be in, of or for Christ? Just because someone remains a prodigal doesn’t mean I should despise them; I too was in their shoes at one point in life. I may not have done the heinous things as did they, but sin is sin and the result is always death. No one can be a “little dead.” Varying sins have diverse consequences on Earth but, in the spirit realm post death, the end result is the same for the little ones and the big ones.
I deserve death and hell. I received grace through repentance to the Almighty. Now that I’m delivered from death and hell, it is my responsibility to assist anyone I can into the same grace. To wish harm on our enemies is against the very God of whom we boast. Wishing for our opponent to “get what they deserve” is not of the Kingdom of Heaven, it just isn’t and will never be.
One of my favorite texts which drew me to love is John 7:47: “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” When I came to the realization of how sinful I actually was and was in dire need of such limitless redemptive love, I became equally able to extend love to my foes. I deserve hell. You deserve hell. Your enemies and your friends deserve hell. We’ve all been forgiven much. The sooner we recognize this fact, the sooner we’ll repent of our unforgiveness, hatred and vengeance and begin to intercede for our oppressors.
We who are found in Christ were all, at one time, as the prodigal son. We left our first love whether or not we knew God was our first love. We chose sin. We chose the evil one no matter how nice a person we view ourselves. You and I were the prodigals and Christ loved us all the same. He forgave us, welcomed us into His shelter and gave us His Kingdom. Does our enemy deserve less grace than you or I?
Let the Peace of Christ Rule:
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them (Psalm 119:165, KJV).”
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:`5) is not a suggestion, but a command from our heavenly Commander in Chief. Simply stated, when God’s peace rules in our hearts, we will be offended by nothing. When we are in a position to be offense-free, there’s nothing by which we will be moved unto hatred. God’s peace is a key element to a successful relationship, both with God and with man.
Remember Romans 12:18 which reads, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Sometimes peace is not possible because of someone else’s lack of peace. Nevertheless, you and I who are in Christ must demand our feet be shod with the mighty boots of peace which is a part of the armor of God. Peace is the opposite of discord. Discord stems from offense.
The Prodigal son did not know God’s peace; therefore, he spent his inheritance on worldly, temporal entertainment. When it ran out, he was as much in the literal and spiritual gutter one can possibly find themselves. Spiritually, when we have no peace, we will waste our heavenly inheritance on the foolishness of Satan’s domain: hatred, bitterness, malice, and much more of their kind. Seek the peace of God and do not let it go.
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14, NAS).”
“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22, KJV).’”
“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart (Matthew 18:35, NAS).”
“And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound…but we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found (Luke 15:27, 32, NAS).’”
So, as 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. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:12-17).
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 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.
Caring for a chronically ill child is marital stress. Ladies and gentlemen, this is no joke for the strongest of marriages! Trying to find alone-time to spend with one another is like searching for a needle in a haystack. If found, attempting to have the energy to enjoy one another’s company without falling asleep tout de suite is virtually impossible! People, such as in our situation, who are caring for a sick child nearly 24/7/365 scarcely have a moment alone for themselves, much less for their spouse. It is sad, but all too true. It could easily crumble the most virile of marriages. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:
- Purpose to steal a moment here and there with a touch, a wink, a conversation, a text; find whatever is intimate between you and your spouse. These little nuances are where your marriage will be sustained until you have actual quality time to spend with one another.
- Always say “I love you” regardless of how exhausting our day has been. Never neglect one another even if you’re bone tired. The little things matter.
- Stay attractive even when you want to slob out every moment of every day. Seriously, this is a thing! For me, I put on make-up, do my hair and put on clothes (not a bathrobe!) regularly (though I miss a day here and there), even when I know I won’t be leaving the house that day. It is important that I maintain who I am even though it feels like I’m completely swallowed in care-giving.
- Find something to watch you both can enjoy in between the stopping to attend your kid’s needs. Togetherness, even sporadically, is more important than you may think.
- Remind yourself you are not a “team” as that would depict two separate entities. You are, rather, “one” as Christ has brought you together as such. Do not function separately together, but together as in “there is no divide” – you are a united front.
- Share the responsibility even if one has a larger role than the other. Don’t be afraid to allow your spouse to help – this is vital to your sanity as well as your marriage.
It is of the utmost importance to remind yourself you are in this together and you must face life’s challenges together united as one. Otherwise, it is all too easy to internally go your separate ways without even realizing. The busyness of life is hard enough but, with a chronically ill child in the mix, the busyness can become an insurmountable barrier like the Great Wall of China. Find the time to say “I love you” and, better yet, to show “I love you.” Don’t allow anything to come between you and your spouse. Pray, laugh, cry, aid you child, as one. Above all, put on hope, faith and love in Christ as a united front; this is where you will find your peace and encouragement.
Ecclesiastes 4:9: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
When one has a chronically ill child, it can be chillingly isolating, especially for the child. The whole “out of sight, out of mind” couldn’t possibly be more real. Depending on their ailment, the child can’t go to school, church, activities, parties, or other social gatherings. They are very closed off and, after years of that, it begins to take a serious toll on them mentally and emotionally.
Sophia would give just about anything to go to school, to church, to sporting events, or wherever her friends are so as to interact with her peers and feel a sense of normalcy. The few friends she has retained are living life and she begins to feel the magnitude of isolation. It becomes depressing and our home begins to feel to her like a POW camp. Everyone goes about their business and the world keeps spinning, yet there sits my child all alone.
As a parent, to say it is gut-wrenching to watch my child be so lonely would be a gross understatement. It is disheartening because there’s little one can do. It’s exceedingly challenging to comprehend how so many people rushing around can completely forget an entire person, but it happens every day. People I run into at church, for instance, say “Oh, I’m praying for Sophia” or “I’m thinking of her” or some variation thereof, but she can’t feel those thoughts or, frankly, the prayers. I appreciate them, but sick kids need more than that. Periodically, they need cards, calls, texts, visits and prayer in person so as to be reminded they’re not as forgotten as they may feel. They need to know they’re not “less than” other kids their age because others are well and they are ill.
If I’m being honest, we parents need to see others remember our children, not people saying in passing, “I’m thinking of him or her.” As I’ve said many times, people can’t feel thoughts. We’re not in a movie where people mysteriously feel someone thinking about them. “Good vibes” isn’t a real thing. People need to experience thoughts and prayers, concern and love; action is required. When I see, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, other healthy kids at school, church, or out and about, it’s glaringly apparent what my kid is missing.
Sometimes, it’s important to speak up so as to let people know what your child is experiencing because people can’t read our minds. We most certainly do not need to express everything we feel every moment we feel it because feelings can be so against truth, but there are times we must make ourselves heard. That way, no one can cite, “I didn’t know what they were going through.” We must stop being afraid to speak up when warranted. Remind people of your sick child and that they could use a visit. I understand we’re all busy and everyone has their own issues of life, so it isn’t out of the question to say to someone, “Hey, my kid could use _____”. Only then are they aware of an appropriate action. The Church, specifically, should willingly show their love through various people reaching out to that child. That is the role of the body of Christ.
In this particular blog, I’m not giving advice as much as sharing my heart. I’m sure there are others in our situation who are feeling closed off from the thriving. Be encouraged. Share with someone how you or your kids are feeling. Don’t be afraid to speak up. There are too many people in this world for anyone to feel all alone, sick or well. Peace and blessings to each of you and may the healing of Christ overtake you spirit, soul and body.