Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
How Jesus loved people:
Jesus knew Peter would say something so stupid and offensive, Jesus would call him Satan. Jesus knew Peter would wield his sword so recklessly, he would cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant Malchus. Jesus knew Peter would disown Him and even call down curses in response to a teen-age girl’s questions about Christ in the courtyard of the high priest. But here we not only see Jesus accept Peter completely, just the way he was, but we see Him rename him, Peter, which means “Rock.” (Matthew 16:21-23, John 18:10, Matthew 26:69-75)
If Peter were an associate pastor in today’s church, I think he almost certainly would be fired. Imagine with me what the conversation might be like.
Board of Directors: “You said what? To who?”
Associate pastor Peter: “I rebuked Jesus.”
Board of Directors: “Let me see if I have this straight. You, an associate pastor, rebuked God. Is that right?”
Board of Directors: “You whipped out a sword and did what with it?”
Board of Directors: “A teen-age girl asked you about Christ and you disowned your Lord and Savior? Publicly?”
“I’m sorry Peter, but you’re an embarrassment to this church and to the Christian faith. You’re just not fit for ministry.”
How you can too:
Of course Jesus knew all this was to come. Jesus knew accepting Peter into His circle was going to be messy.
But He did it anyway.
You may have read the story, that came out recently, about the atheist who was embroiled in a battle with local government officials of Henderson County, Texas, concerning a nativity display on their front lawn. The atheist, named Patrick Greene, began to lose his eyesight to cataracts, after which there was an outpouring of help from local Christians (unbelievers helped as well). In response to those believers who reached out to him in that way, Patrick Greene ultimately received Christ. (See Atheist Becomes Christian After Believers Show Him Compassion)
I posted a link to this article yesterday and received some interesting comments from a professing atheist. The comment thread went like this:
Atheist: “Do some research on this particular gentleman. And on the atheist community’s opinion of this particular gentleman before he converted.”
My reply: “I did a little research as you recommended. I think I see what you mean. It appears many in atheist community had problems with him, before he converted.”
Atheist: “And I don’t mean to imply his conversion is false, just to be clear. I have no idea. Just, if you wanted to cite a convert as a positive example to other atheists, this gentleman may not be the person you want.”
“…this gentleman may not be the person you want.” He said. My research on Patrick Greene revealed two things:
1) His behavior was very similar to Peter’s. He liked to whip out his sword and cut off people’s ears, so to speak.
2) This gentleman was not a person the atheist community wanted. They were embarrassed by him.
So this was my reply to the atheist’s last comment: “I appreciate your concern, however what I want isn’t important. What’s important is this is precisely the person Christ wants.” (Previous post and comment thread)
Jesus accepts the Peters, and the Patrick Greenes, and you, and even me. And if you desire to love people the way Christ did, you will too.
So stop setting the bar so high for the people in your life. Take down that bar you’ve set so high and lay it at the foot of the cross, where Jesus died on Good Friday, not just for your sins, but for the sins of every single person in your life, for the sins of every person in the world. Roger Ailes in his classic book, “You Are the Message,” talks about CEO’s and other high powered people (including Ronald Reagan) he used to coach in the art of communication. He said, time and again, the single biggest change these people needed to make was to simply lighten up! Accept people for who they are, warts and all.
Loving people is going to be messy.
Do it anyway.
You Are The Message by Roger Ailes
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
How Jesus Loved People:
In this passage we see Jesus loving people by engaging with them. The two following don’t say a word, so Jesus turns around and initiates conversation, “What do you want?” He asks.
“Where are you staying?” They ask back.
Then, rather than answering directly, Jesus answers in a way that will draw them in, “Come, and you will see.”
These two, the first two disciples of Jesus, follow Him and spend the day with Him. Later we’ll see all twelve of Christ’s disciples traveling with Him and living with Him on the road.
Love Like Jesus
Love requires engagement. I suppose, at the opposite end of the spectrum from engagement we find isolation. Isolation is unhealthy on several different levels that we won’t go into here but one thing I know with absolute certainty: isolation kills relationships. I know this with complete certainty because I have a tendency to isolate myself. One of the great pleasures I enjoy in life is that of immersing myself in the creative process. I believe it’s a good thing to do because I believe God designed me this way. However, when I’m immersed too deep for too long, it’s very hard on relationships. It’s just impossible to communicate love to people when you’re isolated. It’s that simple. (for more on isolation see previous post: It is not good for the man to be alone)
I know of a county sheriff in the Southeastern part of the U.S. who provides an interesting illustration of the importance of engagement and the problem of isolation. He’s a first class person, this sheriff. He’s conscientious, hard working, of great integrity, smart, and he treats people very well. A few years ago, as the end of his term approached and election time neared, not surprisingly, everyone who worked in headquarters supported him. They were raving fans. They told everyone they knew to vote for the guy. But unfortunately, as good as he was, he had the habit of working at headquarters, focused on problem solving. This was done at the expense of spending time with his deputies out in the field. The result was his deputies didn’t just not support him, but many hated him. As enthusiastic as the headquarters people who saw him every day were for his reelection, his deputies who he rarely spent time with were equally enthusiastic for him to lose. They wanted him out.
Love requires engagement.
Of course Jesus was a master at this. He engaged to the point that He lived with His disciples for three years. His engagement with His followers was (and is) amazing. He delivered Holy Spirit inspired teachings, He touched people, He healed people, He loved people.
In my own life there were times when I did well in this area of engagement and times when I did not. The difference in my relationships was dramatic. The trap, for some of us, is to feel as though engaging with others is not a productive use of time. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Love requires engagement.
And without love we’re nothing.
“…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:2
[Image via jared moran – Creative Commons]
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
How Jesus loved people:
Jesus kept himself available to love people by resisting temptation. Can you imagine how the path God had in mind for him would have been impacted had he succumbed to the tempter? Swamped with the demands of leading the governments of the world, he would have been distracted from his calling which was to live humbly, simply, and to engage with people directly, in love.
How you can too:
Never before in the history of humankind has there been a time when people are inundated by entertainment and recreation such as we are today. It’s an amazing time to be alive but it’s also a time when we’re bombarded by distraction and temptation. Twenty-three year old Chen Rong-yu was looking for entertainment when he decided to head out to his local internet cafe to play League of Legends. He found himself so engrossed in his game that he made it a marathon session, playing for some twenty-three hours straight. But because of his prolonged lack of movement, and a previous medical condition, it appears that blood clots formed in his system resulting in his death. He was found with his hands stretched out over the keyboard, as though he was still playing. The thirty other gamers in the cafe were similarly absorbed and didn’t notice that he was deceased until nine hours after his passing. (see Daily Mail article by Rob Cooper)
When it comes to temptations, you and I have the same decisions to make as Jesus. If I succumb to a marathon gaming session, while I probably won’t die, I’m as good as dead to the people I love and care about while I’m consumed by that game. If you succumb to watching an entire season of Downton Abbey in one sitting, during that time, you’re not available to show others Christ’s love. If I’m consumed by the latest on Whitney Houston’s death, or the NCAA tournament, or The Hunger Games, then I’ll be distracted from what God has in mind for me.
The bottom line: If you want to love people the way Jesus did, keep it simple like Jesus did. Resist the temptation to immerse yourself in entertainment, or sports, or recreation. These things are not bad if experienced in reasonable doses, but they will completely derail your life, if allowed to consume too much of your time, mind, heart, and soul.
Keep life simple enough to leave room for Christ and what He has in mind for you.
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
How Jesus Loved People
In our last post about how Jesus loved people, we saw that He prepared Himself to love others by spending time at His Father’s house, at His place of worship. (see previous post) In today’s post we see that Jesus further prepares Himself to love people by receiving the Holy Spirit. And the way He does it… His humility, it astounds me. Jesus humbled Himself, He submitted Himself to the same practices that were in place for everyone else. Here He was, God incarnate, fully man and also fully God, and yet He submitted to the same conventions as everybody else. Even when John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” He insisted that He be treated the same as anyone.
So Jesus, the God-man, in order to prepare Himself for the great outpouring of love that was to come over the next three years, submits Himself to John and is baptized. And when He’s baptized, the Holy Spirit descends from heaven and alights on him.
How to Love Like Jesus
Think this through with me — if Jesus Christ Himself needed the Holy Spirit, to prepare to love on others, Lord knows you and I do too. The only way to love people the way our Heavenly Father desires us to, is to first receive the Holy Spirit. That’s how Jesus did it, that’s what you and I need to do also.
Jesus spoke at length about the Holy Spirit with His disciples when they were upset at the news that He would be leaving them soon. Shortly before His death He told them He wouldn’t leave them as orphans. He said that after He’s gone, His Father would send the Comforter, or Advocate. The original Greek word used there is parakletos, which means “to come along side.” The origin for our English word, paramedic, comes from the same Greek prefix, para-. A paramedic comes along side a patient to help heal him or her. The Holy Spirit comes along side you to help you in every area of your life. This happens the moment you decide to follow Jesus Christ.
But there’s another way in which the Holy Spirit comes to us, and this is the way that empowers us to love people the way God desires us to. In Acts chapter 1 Jesus instructed His disciples: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5) Then in Acts chapter 2, suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:2) The Holy Spirit blew the disciples away. They were filled to the overflowing, and they were empowered to do things and to love people in ways that aren’t humanly possible apart from God. (See Acts chapter 2) This is the way the Holy Spirit comes to people described by Jesus when He said, “…rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38)
Ephesians 5:18-20 tells us to be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When you’re filled with the Spirit your heart is filled with music. But the music isn’t dependent on the circumstances of your life, which are sometimes up and sometimes down. The object of the music of the Holy Spirit is Christ, Who is unchanging. So when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit you’re empowered to love God, and to love people, regardless of your life circumstances. (Keller)
This is spectacular! Because without love no matter what we do, you and I are as a resounding gong. No matter how hard we try, no matter how we may sacrifice, we gain nothing without love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) “You’ll never know your full potential in Christ, until you yield to the fullness of the Holy Spirit in your life.” (Chuck Smith)
You need to love, to please God, and you need the Holy Spirit to love.
To love people the way Jesus did, you need to first receive the Holy Spirit as Jesus did.
All that’s required is to ask God for Him. Simply asking, from your heart, that God would pour His Holy Spirit out upon you is all you need to do to receive Him. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! Jesus said in Luke 11:11-13. So to receive God’s power to love people, like you’ve never loved them before, ask Him for His Holy Spirit.
Ask right now.
Ask every day, for the Holy Spirit, and your Father in heaven will give Him to you.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
[Image via: knowhimonline – Creative Commons]
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
How Jesus loved people:
In Luke chapter two we see Jesus preparing Himself to love people, here, in His Father’s house, by asking questions. Whether or not these were rhetorical questions we don’t know, but it appears obvious there was a discussion going on. Jesus, the Creator of the universe, is in His place of worship, asking questions. He’s in His Father’s house, He’s about His Father’s business. Jesus will ultimately demonstrate more love for people than anyone ever has before, or ever will again. And His presence here is part of His preparation for that act of love.
Love Like Jesus:
The Son of God, the Creator, the One who is One with the Father, the One who said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” the One who raised people from the dead, and who rose from the dead Himself, went to His place of worship and asked questions. (John 14:9)
I don’t know about you but I’m very confident that anyone who has seen me has not seen the Father. And I’ve never raised anyone from the dead either by the way. In fact, I’m not worthy to fasten the straps on Christ’s sandals. So if Jesus took the time to be about His Father’s business in His Father’s house, I certainly need to as well.
I need to do this, and you need to do this because when we go to church we learn to love people better. When you go to church you hear God’s word from the pulpit, reminding you of His desire for you to love others. You hear, from God’s word, examples of how you can love others. You bump into people there in church, people who need you, people who need your help, people who need you to love them, even if it’s just giving them two minutes of your time. You rub elbows with others who also seek to love God and to love others. You’re reminded of how you can remove things from your life that hinder your efforts to love others. You hear something different from the constant information you receive from a culture that largely ignores God.
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Jesus asked. Jesus had to be in His Father’s house, and if you and I desire to love people as Jesus did, we have to be in His Father’s house too. (Luke 2:49)
Prepare yourself to love people.
Go to church.
[Image via: Kate B Dixon, Creative Commons]
I hate to be interrupted. I’m convinced that’s the reason God put me in a career with the fire service. Working for a fire department, you’re constantly interrupted by calls to help other people with their problems. After years of “training” for interruptions in that environment, I still sometimes find myself frustrated when my project work is unexpectedly delayed by people.
Today was one of those days. I was determined that today would be the day I finished the creation of a Kindle version of Traveler and the Chaplain, but, God had other things in mind. The morning started out with an emergency repair of a door lock accompanied by a great fifteen minute visit with my neighbor Tom. That was followed by the discovery of a dead battery in my 1994 Camry. So I called Kathy who returned home to give me a jump. Then we ran the Camry over to the shop. Then we grabbed some lunch and ate it on the way to an appointment where I dropped her off. We had a nice 30 minute conversation on the way. That was followed by a visit with an old friend who gave me a fantastic history lesson about some of the U.S. Army’s battles with Indians in Eastern Oregon. That was followed by dinner with my son, daughter (in-law), and grandson.
Not one word was written today toward completing the Traveler and the Chaplain Kindle version.
But what a great day it was. What tremendous opportunities I was given to pour into relationships today.
How Jesus loved people:
God’s way isn’t our way. Jesus’ life was full of interruptions. Please heal my son, the Royal Official begged Jesus. (John 4:46-54) While He was traveling, a leper came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40-45) While He was teaching the paralytic’s friends lowered the man down through the roof so Jesus could heal him. (Luke 5:17-26) On and on it goes — one interruption after another.
How you can too:
Obviously you and I don’t have the same gift of healing that Jesus has. But you and I can choose to respond to people who interrupt us, the same way that Jesus did. He responded in a welcoming way. He responded in a warm way. He responded with love. You and I can too.
Life’s about relationships, with God, and with people.
Even when they come in the form of an interruption.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
–Jesus Christ, Matthew 22:37-40
[Image via: auq84, Creative Commons]
Luke 2:7 — She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them
…she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
How Jesus loved people:
In the last post about how Jesus loved people we talked about how He just showed up. Jesus, who was God, the Creator of all things, the One who lived with the Father, Jesus, The Christ, He became one of us. And we talked about how you and I can have a tendency to want to show love to the most popular, or the powerful, or the rich, or the most well known among us. But where we really have power to make an impact is with those who are just the opposite. Those who you know would count it as a blessing if you showed up. If you just gave them a few minutes of your time. If you initiated a relationship. Jesus did that for you and for me. You and I can do the same.
In this post I want to take a look at how Jesus came. Just exactly how He did show up. What stands out the most to me about how He showed up is his humility. The Son of God wasn’t born into the household of a king, but into the household of a young carpenter. Jesus’ mother wasn’t a queen, or a wealthy matriarch. She was a teenage girl. Jesus was born into humble circumstances. Jesus approached us with humility.
How you can too:
You and I can do the same. When we approach someone, like Jesus, we can and should do so in humility. I have to confess that this is an area of weakness for me. I need to hear this message as much or more than anyone. For instance, my wife, Kathy, and I were reminiscing about our dating relationship the other day and it went something like this:
Me: “Remember when we both worked at the old folks home and you looked forward to going to work, because you’d get to see that cute guy who you liked, at shift change?” (that ‘cute’ guy was me)”
Kathy: “I didn’t look forward to going to work, because that guy was arrogant.”
It was a short conversation.
Contrast my own behavior from my early twenties with that of Jeremy Lin. Lately, the New York Knicks point guard seems to be everywhere in the media. He’s only twenty-three years old, and has been in the public eye on a national scale for only a few weeks, but he’s been very well received, in large part, because of his humble approach. Statistically, no one in the history of the National Basketball Association has done what Jeremy Lin has done in his first five starts, yet he almost always credits God and his teammates with Knicks’ wins, and he’s reluctant to talk about himself. Jeremy Lin is a recent example of how a Christian can influence others for Christ through humility. Humility is attractive to people. Arrogance is obnoxious — just ask Kathy.
When you approach someone, when you initiate a relationship with someone, when you interact with friends and family, do so with humility. No matter how much reputation you might think you’re leaving on the table by not talking yourself up, you’re still light years behind the humility Jesus displayed when He left His place in heaven, to become one of us. He met us on our own level.
He approached people in humility.
You can too.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
How Jesus loved people
Jesus showed up. Jesus, The Christ, blessed us with His presence. Jesus, the One who was the Word, and was God. The One who was with God in the beginning. The One through whom all things were made. He became the Light of all mankind. (John 1:1-5)
In fact, no one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God. (John 1:18) He became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:14)
Jesus, who was God, the Creator of all things, the One who lived with the Father, Jesus, The Christ, He became one of us.
How you can too
That’s what Jesus did. He lowered Himself. Even though we’re but dust and ashes, Jesus came to us. He showed up. He blessed us by initiating a relationship with you, with me, with all of humankind.
You have the opportunity to do the same. You might have a desire to bless the big man on campus with your presence. Or you might have a desire to bless the most popular people with your friendship. You might want to get to know the most powerful, or the richest, or the most famous people.
But where you really have power to make an impact, is with those people who would be blown away by your company. You know who they are. That shy person. That depressed person. The kid who wears funny looking clothes. The unpopular kid. I’m talking about Raj Koothrappali from the Big Bang Theory here. Or the the guy who’s struggling financially. Or the wallflower. That person who you know will light up when you approach them.
I’m not talking about doing anything special, I’m just talking about having a conversation, showing them a little love, taking two minutes of your time and talking to them. Bless them with your presence.
Just show up.
Like Jesus did.
Read Genesis 21:22-34
Abimelek the king of Gerar and his top general Phicol approach Abraham and say to him, We recognize that God is with you in everything you do. So swear to me here before God that you won’t deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants.
It’s no wonder that Abimelek is asking Abraham to swear that he wont’ deal falsely with him. A few years ago Abraham told this same Abimelek that Sarah was his sister. So Abimelek took Sarah into his harem. But God revealed to Abimelek the truth that Sarah is Abraham’s wife. Thus Abimelek narrowly averted sinning against the Lord which, the Lord informed him, would have cost him his life. (See previous post about Abraham and Abimelek)
Abimelek continued, I have treated you well all this time that you’ve resided here in my kingdom as a foreigner. Show to me and my country the same kindness I’ve shown you.
And Abraham responded, “I swear it.”
Then Abraham brings up a sore subject, a delicate matter, a touchy issue with Abimelek. He complains to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized.
Abimelek responds, This is the first I’ve heard of it. You’ve never said anything to me about this before and I don’t know who might have done it.
So Abraham, to demonstrate his commitment to the treaty and to demonstrate his good will toward Abimelek, brings to Abimelek sheep and cattle. So the treaty is solidified. The deal is sealed. It’s done, these two powerful men have entered into the treaty with one another. Then Abraham does something unexpected.
Abraham’s Wisdom and Grace
He sets apart seven lambs from the flock and gives them to Abimelek.
What’s with these? Abimelek asks.
And Abraham replies, These seven lambs are a witness that I dug the well that your servants seized.
Now if Abraham dug the well it was his. So why, after he already gave Abimelek flocks of sheep and cattle, did Abraham give him seven lambs as “a witness” that Abraham dug the well?
The Rookie Cop’s Rookie Mistake
Yesterday (at the time of this writing) I participated in a class that teaches you how to communicate with people on the street in a way that encourages cooperation and avoids the need for physical force. I heard a story about a new police officer who, on his first day on the job, caught someone speeding. He made a traffic stop that went something like this:
“License and registration please.”
“Listen, I know my rights. I don’t have to give you my license and registration.”
“Sir I need you to step out of the car.”
“Listen you !@#$ %^&*^$!, I’m not doin it! As a tax payer I’m your boss — I pay your !@#$%^&* salary!”
This new cop couldn’t believe it. He checked his uniform, it looked good. He checked his boots, they were shiny. He checked his police cruiser, it looked good, the light bar was on. He checked his badge, it was on right side up.
Why isn’t this guy complying?
Then this brand new cop said, “Sir, step out of the car. I won’t ask you again!“
Do you see what happened here? The new cop and the driver of the car are both backed into a corner. Because of the cop’s statement that “I won’t ask you again!” this situation is destined to go sideways. Not surprisingly, the driver of the car didn’t comply. The next thing that happened was that the new cop pulled him through the window, arrested him, and took him down town to HQ. The driver of the vehicle wasn’t given a graceful way out. And as a result things turned ugly.
By the way the new cop’s boss, the Police Chief, called him into his office the next day for what the new cop thought was going to be an atta-boy. Well it didn’t turn out quite the way he expected. He was, to put it gently, directed to find a way to verbally persuade subjects to cooperate.
Wisdom For You And For Me
But what about Abraham? Here he is in this situation where he dug a well, a large investment in that area at that time. His men may have dug who knows how many dry wells before finding this one. And they didn’t have backhoes or drilling rigs in those days. So it’s a huge deal for someone to take over a well as Abimelek’s servants did. So what does Abraham do?
Abraham, the one who took his army of 318 men and rescued Lot from the armies of four kings, Abraham goes after the servants of Abimelek and takes them out, right? Abimelek’s servants seized the well so Abraham mustered his servants and seized it right back, correct?
Abraham didn’t fight with Abimelek’s servants. Abraham decided to take a different approach.
You see, I think that Abraham may have recognized that Abimelek was in a tight spot.
It may have been that his servants were telling him, No way, Abraham didn’t dig that well, we did! He’s lying!
So if Abimelek gives the well back to Abraham, Abimelek’s servants might react, You believe that foreigner over us? You, our leader and master, have pulled the rug out from under us! You’re not backing us up!
So instead of fighting Abimelek or insisting on Abimelek giving back control of the well, Abraham provides a graceful way out. He gives Abimelek seven lambs so Abimelek can tell his servants that the well has been purchased. Abraham gets his well back. Abimelek’s servants save face. Abimelek avoids contention within his ranks. And all’s well.
“But that’s not fair!” You might be saying.
“Where’s the justice?” You might be thinking.
“He’s letting Abimelek’s servants off the hook!” You might be protesting.
You know what I’ve learned? Every wise person I know, finds some means of providing a graceful way out for those with whom they have an issue.
And you know what else? It’s not our job to meet out justice anyway. It’s our job to love God and to love people. It’s God’s job to meet out justice.
Didn’t Jesus tell us “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. And If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41)
If you’re a Christian, and you’re not a cop, then it’s not your job to come down on people.
Give people you’re in disagreement with a graceful way out. You’ll be happier, people will be more cooperative toward you, and you’ll have healthier relationships.
Abraham was about relationships.
How To Be Happy
The most comprehensive longitudinal study in history is a research project called the Grant Study. In the Grant Study, 268 Harvard graduates (including John F. Kennedy by the way. His file is sealed until 2040) have received regular medical exams, taken psychological tests, returned questionnaires, and sat for interviews for the last 72 years or until they died. The files holding the data are as thick as unabridged dictionaries.
The man who’s been thoroughly analyzing these files for the last 44 years is Dr. George Valliant. Not long ago he was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?”
Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” ( What makes us happy? The Atlantic, June 2009 )
The scriptures confirm that statement.
The Bible is about relationships.
Jesus told us that all the law and all the prophets are summed up in these two statements: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Lord’s whole thing boils down to that. It’s about relationships with people. It’s about your relationship with the person of God and your relationships with other people.
Nothing else matters.
“Love God and do what you will.”
At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”
Abraham said, “I swear it.”
Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”
So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”
He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”
So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.
After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
Image via klaasjan – Creative Commons
Newly released book by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.
I just read a facinating article about the power of human touch. Patients touched by their doctor perceived their visits to have lasted twice as long as patients who weren’t touched. Students who were touched by their teachers were twice as likely to volunteer in class. The human touch can ease depression. The human touch can improve relationships
In a Cal Berkley study touches among teammates on NBA teams were measured. Among all NBA teams who do you suppose touches the most? The top two are the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers — the last two NBA champions.
For the full story see the New York Times .
Touching, appropriately of course, is one of the most effective ways of communicating God’s love to others. People who are lonely and/or depressed have shared with me that, at times, they would give their right arm just to feel the touch of another human.
A friend who does counseling once told me that a patient of his came back to visit him a few years after her counseling sessions had ended. She was doing extremely well and credited my counselor friend with her improvement.
“What was it that made the difference?” he asked, “The wisdom I shared? My insights into your family life perhaps?”
“No,” she replied.
“It was the hugs.”
Imagine with me what it must have meant to the leper that Jesus touched in Mark chapter 1. In Jewish society at that time, it was illegal to touch a leper — illegal. Lepers walked while speaking the warning, “Outcast, unclean. Outcast, unclean,” so people could stay clear and completely avoid any possibility of touching. It’s hard to think of someone who would crave the touch of another human more. Disregarding man’s law Jesus reached out. His physical touch accomplished amazing things with the leper. I want to encourage you to get in the habit of physically touching those you love. And beyond that, find others who will be encouraged by your touch — you know who they are. Show people God’s love. Do as Jesus did — touch them.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.