Our great love

‘One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple’ (Psalm 27:4)

What is your greatest love? What are you living for; longing for? The great problem with humanity could be described as our disordered loves. We love some things too much, others not enough. We have many loves: children, a good meal, restful sleep, company, independence, travel, and on we could go. There is much in our world to love, and they are good to love because they are gifts from God to enjoy (1 Tim 4:4, James 1:17).

But, in our sin, we love the gifts more than the giver. Often we are happy to accept good things from his hand, yet instead of our hearts swelling with love, our focus is on the gift. Like a child at Christmas, our attention is gripped by the shiny new toy making sounds instead of the one who has been so generous.

But David knows what is best. His greatest desire is not the gifts from God’s hand, but God himself. He seeks to dwell in God’s house all his days, to gaze on his beauty. He wants to know God more than he ever has. He always wants to be with him.

Is that our desire? Are we regularly focussing our attention on him, seeking after more of him in his word? Considering his glory and majesty? Do we cry out in wonder and praise at what we find?

Do the words of Augustine in 400 AD resonate with you? ‘You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.’

The disease of Self

We all have a disease. In every part of the globe, in every class of society, the disease of selfishness has infiltrated and wreaked havoc. We can’t escape the day without desiring something for ourselves.

Looking at some newspaper headlines before the start of the year, selfishness was a common theme. One energy company admits to duping customers with cheap rates on sign up only to raise them without warning a few months later. A Hollywood star speaks of being objectified when she was a teenager. A shoplifting syndicate which has been disrupted by police.

But this selfishness isn’t only in the world ‘out there.’ It is in the church, threatening to tear it apart. Consider James 4:1-2‘What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.’

These are words to Christians! And they are a warning we must heed if we want to honour Christ. If we want to be friends with the world, desiring what they desire, we make ourselves enemies of God (Jas 4:4). How can we represent Christ to a fallen world if we are focussed on ourselves – our own reputation, our own preferences?

Jesus calls us to be united together in love. The gospel is to transform us that we no longer listen to selfish desires, but eagerly desire the good for others. Rather than taking, we give. Instead of harbouring grudges, we forgive. We seek to imitate the one who had the glories of heaven but left it for us; who was reviled on the cross but prayed for their forgiveness.

Let’s put selfishness to death, and love one another in 2019.

Agree in the Lord

“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have laboured side by side with me in the gospel” (Phil 4:2-3).

Where there are people, there will be disagreements. Some of these will be major, others minor, and the disagreement might even include whether it is a major or minor disagreement! Within the church, though we are united by Christ, disagreements remain over theological, political and moral issues.

The enemy can easily come in and sow strife among the people Jesus prayed would have unity (John 17:11). How can we maintain unity and ‘agree in the Lord’ while disagreeing on particular issues?

Love one another – Assuming you’re both Christians, you are children of God. Remember 1 John 4:20-21.

Pray for one another – Not just that the other person would agree with you, but that you’d both be humble enough to listen.

Keep the Bible open – Present your case and engage with their Biblical arguments. Don’t sidestep or ignore the verses they use. Engage with them. The Bible is our rule of faith and life; not our experience, feelings or traditions (not that they are irrelevant).

Take emotion out as much as possible – You may be emotional and hold a viewpoint strongly, but aim for gentleness in speech, and be charitable with one another. It is easier to sin, lack love, refuse to listen and lack humility when we are emotional. (James 1:19-21). Instead of being emotional, be curious why they think that way.

Don’t gather supporters – It hurts the church when we divide into factions. Don’t complain about one another but go to the other and listen. (And don’t assume what others tell you is accurate!)

Agree in the Lord – Continue to labour side by side in the gospel.

Who is my neighbour?

This past Thursday was ‘International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia.’ The day can be used, according to the Bendigo Advertiser, ‘to push the recognition of human rights for all people irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.’ Rainbows and colour were used to raise awareness, and to show you were an ‘ally’.

The previous day was the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam. Until the 14th of June Muslims will celebrate the month they believe Mohammad received his revelation from Allah. They will fast from both food and drink during daylight and some will travel to Mecca (the Hajj) and will strive to do good.

It’s been an important week (and will be an important month). How are followers of Christ to respond? Where do we begin?

First, we show love. Our instinct might be to disparage, mock, feel anger or threatened, but God calls us to have compassion for the lost. Some desire rights and validation, others to earn their way to paradise. How tragic both groups cannot see their greatest need.

We have much to disagree with them about, but they have been made in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:27). Tragically this is too-easily forgotten by Christians. We see them as enemies instead of lost; problems instead of people.

Second, love leads to gospel words. One group finds their identity in their sexuality/gender identity, the other strives to earn their acceptance before God. Both groups need the gospel, just as we did. They need to know that their acceptance and identity can be found in Christ, who suffered for sinners like them and us!

These are our neighbours (Luke 10:25-37). It is no accident. So will we love our neighbours with the gospel?