Thoughts on Christian Culture 3: What’s LOVE Got to Do With It?

ID-10029312

Image courtesy Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everything, actually.

*For the commandments…are summed up in this word; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.* ~Romans 13:9-10 (ESV)

Love is a topic that has continually made itself at home in my mind for more years than I care to admit. And, the more I consider what it ought to look like, the more I have to admit that we human beings tend to have a very skewed, self-centered understanding of what it means to love someone. Not everyone, of course…and not always. But, even the most dedicated disciple of Christ probably struggles to perfectly live out genuine love for their neighbor at some point.

If I’m understanding scripture properly, Love involves acceptance, honesty, kindness, patience and forgiveness. It affirms the value of all human life. (re 1 Corinthians 13).

It is not limited to just the things/people we like a lot. Nor is it entirely synonymous with the attraction involved with a romantic connection. It is not primarily an emotion, yet affects the emotions. It is not primarily action, but motivates our behavior. It is not primarily about what we can get to make us feel “happy”, but what we ought to be giving to ease the burdens others must carry.

Love is more a state of being, which empowers us to set aside selfish desires and focus on contributing to the eternal well-being of another person. For instance, love always should encourage others to pursue a vital relationship with Christ. It does not take pleasure in seeing others suffer (even if they might “deserve” it).

Love is protective in nature, and would never knowingly encourage someone to sin or approve of sin as a beneficial “lifestyle option”. In fact, love should be willing to do the unpopular thing and risk being hated for pleading with an individual to rethink any potentially devastating choice they may make. It doesn’t force people to stay against their will, yet will also welcome back those who repent of their mistakes and truly wish to engage in a God-centered relationship.

When we say “I love you” to someone, it should in some way reflect the pure, honest and unselfish nature of God.

This is just me thinking, again. I appreciate input from others, if anyone is so inclined.

“I’m Better Than That”…is a lie.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican
~Luke 18:11 (KJV)

If seeing other people’s sin doesn’t move us to compassion, it will inevitably (and irrationally) stoke our pride ūüė¶

Truth is, it is God’s grace alone which prevents any of us from being “as bad as” the person whose sin is on display for the world to see. It is foolish to be arrogant¬†over the fact that He didn’t allow me to sink as low as I had the potential to go.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+18:10-12&version=KJV

Not my edit.

17799166_411100875930941_6648139368603416253_n

Let’s Be Friends?

ID-10043355

Image courtesy digitalart @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

…Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
~James 4:4 (ESV)

 

This is one of those verses that I wonder whether Christians often misunderstand, and thus, misapply.

If I was to simply strip this verse from all biblical context, I could easily conclude that James intends for Christians to make great efforts to visibly separate ourselves from any and all worldly people and their influences….and, many of us actually do make specific rules with regard to the things we will wear, watch, eat, listen to etc.

Such boundaries can make us feel safer (especially if we have a particular weakness) but it also tends to isolate us from the exact types of people Jesus has called us to interact with and love on His behalf. ¬†For instance, what about the Apostle Paul’s 1 Corinthians 9:21-23) declaration about being “all things to all people¬†so that perhaps some might be won to Christ”?

So, here we have a dilemma. ¬†How can we, as believers, properly represent Christ by being friendly toward the world….without actually becoming contaminated by it?

Please don’t misunderstand me. ¬†I’m not of the opinion that “anything goes, so long as I claim to love Jesus”. That is not a perspective that I ¬†promote. ¬†And please note that if you believe you must maintain a form of physical separation from worldliness, then I am not trying to say that you are wrong to follow your conscience.

Of course, we should be concerned with remaining “unspotted from the world”, as James also wrote (See 1:27), but in the overall context of this letter (and Jesus’ and Paul’s words, elsewhere) he appears to be pointing to outward behaviors as a manifestation of inward attitudes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the significance of James’ target audience, and it appears to me that James was actually bucking pretty hard against the idea of attaching ¬†to a religiously founded, externally enforced form of morality that has not actually originated from a humbled and converted heart. ¬†If that is the case, I believe we must recognize that strong fences are indeed required to try to contain the pride, greed, selfishness, covetousness, adulterous thoughts etc that tends to boil up out of our own sinful selves.

Such aggressive measures are necessary to prevent evil from adversely affecting those around us.  However, this requirement is not an automatic indicator of having had a life-giving encounter with the living Word of God.


Personally, I believe that the warning against “friendship with the world” is mainly referring to the alliances we make within our own hearts.

It’s a worthwhile study, I think.

 

You can look up the cited verses and related passages at Biblegateway.com