I heard a creative and convicting message on Jonah today while driving , which is when I get to listen to Christian radio. In summary, the prophet Jonah seemed to meet all of the qualifications for an effective missionary and was sent out by God on a mission to save a city that had turned to pagan habits. But Jonah failed miserably in many ways! He didn’t obey God until after first running away, being caught in a storm in a boat, swallowed by a whale and then after 3 days, finally repenting. Then when God decided to forgive the city full of people, Jonah got mad and wanted to die. He also chose to focus on a shady plant that God provided him, instead of the lives of the people who had been spared. In short, he was selfish and stubborn and self-pitying.
The preacher showed how despite his outstanding resume, he was lacking something that did not show up until he was put to the test, love for his fellow man. How could this be? He was a religious person! He knew and quoted scripture! But evidently, he thought God’s ways were not fair and just. He didn’t like that God forgave these sinners. He had no compassion!
How many times have I done the same, chose to judge a person instead of loving them like Christ does, in spite of their sinfulness and possibly very unlikable personality, or physical repulsiveness, and often repeated offenses against God and mankind , or just generally dismissed someone as being beyond God’s help and not even bother to pray for them because I thought they didn’t deserve it? Hopefully I am better about this than I used to be, but the urge can still arise in my flesh to be less than compassionate for people that flaunt their sins or just do self-destructive things over and over and seem to be fine with living in chaos. It can be hard to love and feel empathy with someone whose values are so messed up ! But Jesus did it before he saved us. He forgave us and died for us ‘while we were yet sinners!’ .
Jesus was asked by a sneaky religious person what is the greatest commandment. Jesus recited the usual Jewish response, then added something they weren’t expecting.
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Later, the apostle Paul defined love for us.
I Corinthians 13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes,what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
It’s not easy loving like this! But it should be our major goal since Jesus says it is the most important thing besides loving God! May we resolve this year, above all other resolutions and goals and plans, to really demonstrate love and to be ready to tell why we do it, because we are forgiven sinners and we now serve the Lord Jesus who saved us from judgment, despite our sinfulness.
But how ? This is impossible for those under the control of the flesh. But ALL saved believers are given a helper in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit,you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality,impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other.
Notice that Paul did not make excuses for sin, but still tells us to love. That must mean that excusing and normalizing sin is NOT how we show LOVE.
Just a little head’s up, if you determine that you want to do better at loving others, you should expect that Satan will make it difficult. Don’t get discouraged. 🙂 Rebuke the Devil and keep on loving!
In Jesus name, I pray that the Lord will strengthen your faith and help you love your neighbor, dear reader. Amen.