Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Christian love

We live in a society in which love and lust are often regarded to be more or less synonymous.  Love is often defined primarily in terms of a feeling or desire for someone or something.  In reaction to this I have sometimes found myself trying to define love more in terms of actions than feelings.  I would argue that it is something that acts in others interests rather than one’s own.  John 3:16 provides one of a number of biblical examples of such love.  ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.’   I have been tempted to go further and argue that this on its own is the sum and substance of love – that it is a sacrificial giving to others rather than any feeling or desire.

1 Corinthians 13 however gives short shrift to such a reductionistic view of christian love.  ‘If I give all I possess to feed the poor but do not have love it profits me nothing.’  If it’s possible to give in a sacrificial way without love then it is clear that sacrificial giving as a definition of love is rather inadequate.

Christian love it seems is much more than just a desire or feeling but it is also more than sacrificial service.  When it says in Genesis that Jacob loved Rachael it seems that he desired her and found her very attractive.  However the text also says that ‘because’ he loved her he didn’t mind giving up 14 years of his life working for her father to obtain her hand in marriage.  Love desires its object and willingly sacrifices for it.

In a sense the relationship between love and sacrifice is a bit like the relationship between faith and works.  A person can have works without faith but they can’t have a living faith without works (James 2).  Likewise a person may act sacrificially without love but they cannot love without acting sacrificially.

So what should we do if we’re having trouble loving someone, say a family member or someone at work or church?  Once upon a time I would have said we should serve the other person no matter how we feel and in time our feelings will come into line.  But unless our hearts are changing as we repent and look to Jesus our feelings may not change.  We love, not by a sheer act of the will against our feelings, but in response to God’s love for us in Jesus.  As we meditate on what Christ has done for us while we were still his enemies and we ask for him to change us, it becomes harder and harder to maintain bitter feelings towards others.

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Rest for the weary? – David Powlinson, CCEF

Singing through Hardship

Previously I wrote about the kinds of songs that are most helpful to those who are suffering.  Here I simply want to add to that something more basic – that it is a good idea to sing when things are hard.  Consider the examples in the New Testament.   The only time we read of Jesus singing is in the Upper room just before he was led away to die.    In Acts the only account of singing that I can recall is found when Paul and Silas were in gaol.  Given these circumstanes it would seem unlikely that the singing of either Jesus or these disciples was simply the outworking of some happy or joyful feeling.   What seems more likely is that they knew singing would help them deal with their suffering in a way that would glorify God and encourage their own hearts.

I knew a lady who suffered from chronic insomnia.  She would wake up in the middle of the night and find herself  anxious and unable to get back to sleep.  Doctors failed her but one thing that did help relieve her anxiety was to get out a hymnbook and start singing.

Joni Erickson Tada who is currently battling cancer attests to this also.  She writes, “there’s nothing like a little hymn-harmonizing with friends to make my spirits soar during this battle against breast cancer.”   Singing is not simply an expression of feeling but is also a God-given means of instructing our feelings.  It helps us look beyond our circumstances and reminds us that God is for us.

A true friend – Proverbs 18:24

A man of many friends comes to ruin but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

At first glance it might appear that the purpose of this proverb is primarily to make us think about the quality of the friends that we have.  It’s great to be popular, it’s great to have a lot of friends, but when trouble comes and those so-called friends desert us, what we really need is someone who won’t.  We don’t need lots of friends but good friends who will treat us like their own flesh and blood.

While this is true, I’m not sure that this is the real point of this well-known proverb.  I wonder if what is actually being said here is more about us than about our friends.  In other words, the contrast is not so much between having one good friend and many fake friends but rather between the danger of seeking to have many friends as opposed to seeking to be a friend.

Notice that ‘a man of many friends’ is not being compared with ‘a man of one really good friend’ but rather with ‘a friend’.   There is a man who works hard to be popular but there is also a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  There is a man who has many friends  but there is also a man who actually is a friend.

If this interpretation is correct, then the warning is not so much about the  number or quality of friends that we have but about the friendship that we ourselves offer others.  Instead of asking ourselves whether we have  one or two really good friends, we ought to ask ourselves whether we are concerned to be true friends ourselves.

It’s been said that we live in an age where people have never been more connected and yet more lonely.  We have no shortage of email addresses, mobile phone contacts and social networking sites where we accumulate hundreds of ‘friends’ but something’s missing.  It’s possible to be so busy seeking friends that we forget how to be friends.  This proverb teaches that it is better to be a friend than to have friends.

Of course it’s not just a matter of taking a good look out ourselves and determining to be nicer to other people and a little less obsessed with ourselves.  Simply trying to do better never works.  We don’t naturally have the resources to be truly good friends.  We find that only in Jesus, who,  though he was the Lord of glory, was not ashamed to call us brothers.  As we experience his friendship in response to our hatred and his stick-ability and patience in response to our propensity to wander off in sin, we will learn how to show this same friendship to others.

Be still, be calm

Be still, be calm, don’t be afraid,
The mighty Christ is here;
He once was dead but now he lives
And conquers ev’ry fear.

Though Satan roars and prowls about,
His days are nearly done;
He held us down in fear of death
But Christ has overcome.

Come now rejoice, don’t be afraid
For death has lost its sting,
The grave has lost its victory
The Prince of Peace is King.