Martin, Jesus, Love and Hate

Quoteweaving-banner-art1-300x63Weaving together the quote of a famous one
and The Famous One


Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 5: 43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”


God does not want us to hate others. Period. And yet, there is a lot of hate in the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. encountered it in his day. We encounter it in ours. But the truth still remains—even those we love to hate and hate to love should be loved by us. But how do we do it?

At the Core: Forgiveness
In order to love, you must be able to forgive. In order to love your enemy, you must be very good at forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to loving in a broken world. There are simply no perfect people to love, therefore without forgiveness, you will simply be unable to love anybody for very long, if at all. We find a clue to the importance of forgiveness from one of Jesus’ most familiar teachings. He was responding to the question, “how do we pray?” But Jesus’ answer, the Lord’s Prayer, had much to say about the importance of forgiveness. In fact, Jesus taught that it is so important that God simply will not forgive those who don’t forgive others. Why this emphasis on forgiveness?
Because un-forgiveness is an incredible burden. Here’s how it works. When someone wrongs you and you fail to forgive, you carry bitterness, resentment, anger, hurt feelings, all heavy burdens that God does not intend for you to carry. The struggle to carry these burdens, if attempted for very long, gives rise to hate. The magic ingredient that reverses this process is forgiveness.

Can we do it?
We may say, “I can’t do this!” and we’re right. That’s the whole point. Only God can forgive in every situation. So when we say, “I can’t do this!” God says, “But I can!” When we claim Christ as our Savior and make Him Lord of our lives, we receive the free gift of forgiveness that His grace provides. This is not human forgiveness, but the eternal forgiveness of God Himself. Once we have received this gift we can share it with others. All others. It never runs out. Our ability to forgive, particularly in severe cases, reveals to the world whether we have received God’s forgiveness or not.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had many opportunities to hate those that opposed him. He had countless enemies and persecutors. Yet he remembered that he had the forgiveness of His Father in heaven, and thus had what he needed to love those that opposed him and persecuted him. His Savior had commanded Him and equipped him to do so. He commands and equips us to do so as well.

 

Yes, You Heard That Right – Love Your Enemies

a-Matt 5-43 imageThe YouTruth in Matthew 5:43

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’”

Loving enemies. Now that’s a hard one. Don’t you wish Jesus would quit teaching us to do all this hard stuff? And yet, here it is, plain and simple. So let’s see how we can pull this off.

Two shifts in perspective will be helpful:

Who is the enemy, really?

When we are dealing with enemies, it is important to understand that enemies are not who they seem to be. The Apostle Paul taught powerfully on this subject when he wrote in Ephesians 6:12:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

If we focus on people we may consider enemies, it is virtually impossible to love them. But if we understand that the true enemy is Satan, who has lured a person into the behavior of an enemy, then it is much easier.  This doesn’t mean that you have to put yourself in harm’s way, or that you have to consider the person a close friend. It just means that you pray for the person, extend kindness when there is a safe opportunity to do so.

What makes an enemy?

Conflict makes enemies of people. Without conflict, people cannot truly be enemies.  If your response to an “enemy’s” unkindness, is more unkindness, then you’ve made an enemy indeed. But if your response to an enemy’s mean-spirited action is forgiveness and love, the condition of conflict vaporizes. Just like it takes two to fight, it takes two to be enemies. If only one “enemy” is participating, then love can find its way into the situation, and perhaps, head off the whole enemy thing at the pass.

Binding and Writing – Let Love and Faithfulness Never Leave You

a-Prov 3-3 imageThe YouTruth in Proverbs 3:3

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

As Christians, we are commanded to make love and faithfulness an ever-present part of our character and witness. This is not news to most of us. We hear this throughout the Scriptures. There is also something implicit in the passage that must not miss. If we don’t do something to prevent it, love and faithfulness will escape from us. It is our job to recognize this and to know what to do to prevent it.

Thankfully, the verse immediately follows with the preventive measures. The instruction to bind them and write them on tablets seem a little obscure, but what they really are telling us is, start from the inside out.

Writing love and faithfulness on the tablet of your heart is, to Christian believers, turning areas of our heart over to the power and leading of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. It is surrendering our attitudes or actions that are not loving or faithful to God and asking Him to transform us into His likeness in these areas. This is the cool thing about writing upon the tablet of a believer’s heart—we don’t have to do the writing ourselves! We can turn over the writing to God who is (let’s face it) far more qualified to do the writing than we are anyway.

Binding love and faithfulness around your neck is taking what God has written on the inside and moving it out in the open where all can see it. It is translating the loving, faithful desires of the heart into loving and faithful actions that bless those around you in His name. It is not just wearing a cross necklace around your neck, which would seem to meet the literal expectation. It is the outward demonstration of love and faithfulness that allows those around you to understand who Jesus is and how much He loves each of those you interact with every day.

Love the Lord Your God

Deut 6-5 imageThe YouTruth in Deuteronomy 6:5

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

It’s clear from this passage that loving the Lord is not a part-time affair. In fact, it’s not only a full-time affair, but it’s an “all-in” affair. What happens in the activity of real life often looks different. It’s easy to behave differently in the workplace than at church. It’s easy to behave differently on the ball field than in your Sunday School class. Compartmentalizing your life is not God’s idea. You (and I) are called to be full-time, all-in lovers of Him. This is required if you are to call Him “Lord.”

 

The verses in Deuteronomy that follow our passage above give us some key teaching as to how to do this:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

If you are a parent: Sharing this love commandment (and all of the other commandments for that matter), with your children is a great way to go all-in. Two things are at work here: Children learn by following the examples of their parents and the respected adults around them. Knowing this will encourage you to be a full-time lover of God.

If you aren’t a parent: Share it with any children you encounter!

Regardless of your status as a parent:
Speak! Talk about it! When you get up, let your voice be filled with your love for the Lord. When you are at home, let your love for the Lord be on your lips. When you are out and about, let your words reveal your love for the Lord. End every day verbally expressing your love for the Lord. Remember that we speak with the words of our mouth and the actions that follow them. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an action is worth ten thousand! So include in your love speech, prayers to the Lord for help in walking the walk too.

Make today an “all-in” day for the Lord!

He Has Shown You

Micah 6-8 imageThe YouTruth in Micah 6:8

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

God has a formula for good. Micah lays this formula out in this passage and it looks much like a two-way street that you and God walk on together.
In one direction – how you act toward others – you are to act justly. You are called to treat others with the love that God has for them. Don’t act toward others in ways that are selfish or unfair. In short, love ‘em always!

In the other direction – how you respond when others act toward you – you are to love mercy. When others don’t treat you with kindness and love, you are called to extend mercy to them.

All of this can be hard, if not impossible, particularly if you are not walking on the street that God is walking on. But, if you are walking humbly with God, you can do it! The humility you experience when you are in God’s presence helps you understand that God has more than enough love for you. You don’t need to require love from others as a payment for receiving love from you, because you are already overflowing with the love God showers upon you.

So start your day today, walking humbly with God. Then the goodness of just actions and loving mercy will follow you through your day.

If You Have Not Love

Did you ever think that you could do a kind thing and not be doing the will of God? Me either. But Paul taught in his first letter to the church in Corinth that God’s will is not found in the act, but in the love behind it. With God’s love behind it, our kindness is God’s kindness. Without it, we’re just banging and clanging.

“If I speak in tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

1 Corinthians 13:1


If you’ve been to a Christian wedding ceremony, you’ve probably heard a reading of some or all of 1 Corinthians 13. Understanding Paul’s focus in this chapter requires the context provided by chapter 12. When reading the two chapters together, we discover that chapter 13 is not a discussion about love in the marriage relationship as is often thought. It’s really a discussion about putting spiritual gifts to their proper use and the depravity of intentionally, or unintentionally, using those gifts improperly.

(Be sure, citing Paul’s description of true love from chapter 13 in a wedding ceremony is not improper at all. It speaks into the narrow focus of the relationship between God, husband, and wife—one of the many relationships the passage can be applied to.)

Paul’s list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians includes working of miracles, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and the power to heal. Other spiritual include hospitality, administration, giving, and mercy. Most of us would immediately associate such things with God. If we experienced someone using these gifts we would assume that God was behind it. But that is not always so!

Understanding that spiritual gifts can be misused (or worse, hijacked by Satan for his misuse) is very important. Consider a chain saw. In the hands of a skilled lumberman it can be used to quickly create a stack of perfectly formed logs. In the hand of an untrained, inexperienced user, it can maim or kill operator and bystanders alike. The same is true with the spiritual gifts God gives to people of faith. They are tools designed for a purpose and they are to be used in accordance with that purpose. Whatever gifts God has entrusted to us, we can’t take these gifts or the responsibility for using them lightly. We do great damage when we do, many times without even knowing it.

Thankfully, God’s Word gives us the simple, direct way to measure the use of a spiritual gift. Start with asking the question, “Which came first?” Now we’ve heard the similar, paradoxical question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” This is not a question like that. This is a question with a clear answer. Let’s use two basic truths to examine the use of spiritual gifts:

Truth One: The two imperatives

When asked, Jesus boiled all of the Jewish Law down to two commandments:

Love God.

Love others.

Therefore, any use of spiritual gifts that does not accomplish one of these two objectives falls outside of God’s will, tumbling into the category of misuse. So our evaluating question must always be, “Did love come first?” We can’t assume that the act of using a spiritual gift is automatically righteous. We must ask the question, “Was there sincere love for the other person first, and was the act that followed performed in response to that love?” An affirmative answer to this question is required. If not, we don’t do the will of God, we bang gongs and clang cymbals instead.

Truth Two: God is love, Satan isn’t

Satan longs to convince as many people as possible to reject God’s offer of an eternal, love relationship with Him by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Satan uses loveless application of spiritual gifts as a method of deception to this end. Using the gift in our passage as an example, if we speak in ‘tongues of angels’ without love, we confuse. No one can understand what we’re saying. Those confused by our actions will turn away from our witness. If we speak and interpret tongues in love, we edify and inform. Those informed by our actions will experience God’s love and be drawn to it. Satan loves loveless miracles, loveless healing, loveless prophecy because he knows God is not in them! They contribute to the confusion he thrives on. The more phony, loveless, God-less acts there are, the easier it is to convince non-believers that God is really not necessary, not real, not important. . .

There are two paths a believer can take in the use of spiritual gifts, and as much as we would like, there is no neutral territory for their use—they are either used as a means of expressing God’s love to others or they are used in a way incompatible with God’s purpose for them. That’s the truth.

If you speak in tongues of men and of angels but you have not love, you are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If you have not love as the central motivation for using any of your spiritual gifts, you do not use them in accordance with God’s will. If you have not love, Satan is surely nearby, ready to use your gift for his purposes.

That’s the YouTruth – If You Have Not Love.

Yours Is Not a Timid Spirit

Satan loves it when we are too timid to witness to others. It makes his job so much easier when we choose not to share the Good News with someone who does not yet know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Satan knows that God did not give believers a Spirit of timidity and fear. And it makes him shudder. What empowers Satan is when the believers themselves forget that.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.”

2 Timothy 1: 7-8a


God did not give believers a spirit that is timid or fearful. Satan knows that. When believers remember that they have been given a spirit of power, love, and discipline, Satan shudders because he knows what he’s up against – Fire!

Fan the Flame

In our passage, Paul encouraged Timothy to ‘fan into flame’ the gift of God. Paul did this because he knew Satan fights with fire. So we must fight Satan’s fire with a fire of our own. God’s gift was delivered in a mighty way on the day of Pentacost.  With the sound of a violent wind and the appearance of tongues of fire, the gift of the Holy Spirit arrived. This fire turned Jesus’ disciples from discouraged, shaken men into powerful witnesses who poured into the streets preaching the Good News in many languages. Thousands were saved (see Acts 2:1-41)! It is this same fire that we too as believers have received. This fire contains the power, love, and discipline that strikes fear into Satan. But only if we use it!

When firefighters are battling wildfires, they often have to set ‘backfires’ to stop its progress and ultimately extinguish it. So it is when we are fighting the fires of disbelief, apathy, and untruth set by Satan. Our backfires are our testimony to the truth, empowered by the fire of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus commanded us to light them, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19a)

The Spirit of Power

The very power that created the universe, that raised Jesus from the dead, that empowered His disciples to witness to crowds in languages they didn’t even know, is the same power that dwells in each believer in the person of the Holy Spirit. (see Ephesians 1:19-22, Acts 2:1-41) Enough said!

The Spirit of Love

Witnessing to non-believers is an act of utmost love. Though we may hear many arguments to the contrary, such as “who are you to tell me what I believe is wrong?” or “who are you to force your beliefs on me?” Christian believers who take their call to witness to others seriously, may often be called out as intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded—not descriptions associated with a loving nature. Let’s clear this up by using this analogy: If we were to see someone running toward the edge of a cliff, what should we do? We should do anything we can to stop them. That would be a loving thing to do, wouldn’t it? Of course! Simply standing by while they run off the edge and plunge to their death would be a hateful thing to do. Would it matter that this person did not believe that a cliff edge was there? No! Should we allow them to continue along in their belief or should we tell them the truth before it is too late? A Christless eternity separated from God is a horrible, terrible fate. Jesus Himself described it as ‘outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matthew 24:51).’ It is like running of an eternal cliff edge. We are called to use the Spirit of Love to warn non-believers that the cliff is there and that Jesus is The Way to keep from tumbling over its edge. To do anything less would be hateful, indeed!

The Spirit of Discipline

Witnessing is not often easy. Christian witnesses face skepticism, confrontation, and hate. Some witnesses in extreme situations are ostracized, face violence, or even death. Jesus told us it would be so (see John 15:18-19). It is much easier to avoid such unpleasantness. Thus, we can see that the easy way out is the way of timidity. Discipline is the ingredient that allows us to do what is loving and right when easier, more expedient options are available. Even better is that the spirit of discipline God gives us  allows us to draw upon His very power to do what is loving.

“A” vs. “The”

God did not give us a spirit that is timid. So let’s not act like He did! God not only gave us ‘a’ spirit of power, love, and discipline to witness with, He gave us ‘The’ Spirit of Power, Love, and Discipline. And let’s use it to fulfill all that we are called to do in our time on this earth: “Love God, and love our neighbor.” Our testimony to the truth we have come to know is our loving gift to a dark and hurting world, filled with dark and hurting people. That’s the truth.

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God. For you have not been given a timid spirit. You have been given the Holy Spirit! You have been given the Spirit of Power. You have been given the Spirit of Love. You have been given the Spirit of Self-Discipline. You are called to use this gift of God to testify about your Lord.

That’s the YouTruth. Yours is Not a Timid Spirit.

For God So Loves You

The world is a mighty big place, and it is easy to get lost in it. You might feel anonymous among the masses and unnoticed amidst the noise. But God cuts through it all, reaching out to each one of us individually. You see, to God, the world is not a huge mass of humanity, but a glorious collection of unique and treasured individuals—and that includes you!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 (NIV)


John 3:16 is probably the most familiar passage in the entire Bible. Familiarity can cause us to take something for granted. But since this passage expresses the fundamental truth about God’s plan for salvation, we certainly don’t want to take it for granted! So let’s explore the concepts of love and life and how they relate to God’s Son. Let’s renew the power of this oft-quoted passage.

The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). He is the wellspring from which love flows. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13: 7,8). Like God, it is eternal. So God’s love of the world isn’t reduced to a kind act performed a long time ago. No, He continually pours Himself out for us.

The Bible also tells us to accept God’s love and to love Him in return (1 John 4:19). In other words, since God loves you, love Him back! It works much like an electric circuit. When the circuit is broken, electricity will not flow. It’s the same with love. When we love God in return, the circuit is complete, and there is an endless flow of love between God and us (John 14:21). The Bible says we return God’s love in two ways—directly, by loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and indirectly, by loving others (Matthew 22:36-40). When we return God’s love, we become the embodiment and expression of His very nature. It sounds like an amazing place to be, doesn’t it? It is!

It’s called life. God invites us to have it!

But, alas, our circuit is broken. Sin causes the break in our circuit. And sin and death go hand in hand (Romans 6:23a). That’s the bad news. But there’s good news! God has made a way to complete the circuit! If we believe in God’s Son, Jesus, we can complete the circuit (Romans 6:23b). Believing in Jesus is more than just acknowledging that He exists. Believing in Him looks like this:

  • We admit that we sin.
  • We ask God to forgive our sins.
  • We turn away from our sins and seek to stop sinning.
  • We completely trust that Jesus came to earth to restore love and life to us—to repair the break in the circuit.
  • We completely trust and openly proclaim Jesus as the Lord of our life.
  • Repeat steps 1-5 over and over again, every day!

That’s the truth. And that’s good news!  But there’s more! Inside every truth is the YouTruth. God personally invites you to repair the break in the circuit and become part of His true love, His true life, in Jesus.

For God pours out His endless loving nature upon you by giving His one and only Son for you, that if you believe in Him, you shall no longer be dead, but you shall be truly alive, an active part of the embodiment and expression of God’s loving nature now and for all eternity.

That’s the YouTruth—for God so loves you.