“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
“Little children, let us not love in words or talk but in deeds and in truth.”
1 John 3:17-18, ESV
Love is a noble idea, it’s admired and extolled by practically everyone–we see it in our music and poetry, ethics and religion. For the most part it’s a word for something decent and virtuous and honorable. It’s a good thing, but I’m afraid it’s not always scriptural.
You see, Bible love wears work gloves.
It labors and sweats. Bible love has chores to do, and it actively looks and sees what needs to be done. 1 John 3 tells us that we shouldn’t deceive ourselves and only see the world’s definition. That love that a believer has is to be different.
Love, in John’s eyes, is most assuredly “doing.” It burns spiritual calories as it labors to serve our brothers and sisters. Love finds things it can do–it doesn’t just talk but it gets busy. Love sees the need and then gets down to serve.
“You must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”
1 Peter 1:22
Working (serving) has nothing to do with our salvation, that is a free gift. We’re saved by grace through the blood of Jesus–that’s a given. And this love isn’t drudgery, as a matter of fact, working and serving each other is a joy. The deepest kind of joy there is.
Our words, although important, are really an insufficient way of proving our authenticity. The love we serve another with isn’t “pretty poetry” kind of love. It’s so easy to just shout out truth and never ever show a working, serving kind of love.
That disconnect is a bit disturbing.
When do we suppose we figure out that His love is actually a verb?
Our prayer and intercession really begins when we go to work for someone else. (Our lunch box is our Bible.) We read it and it energizes us to work for one another. When we pray we truly are loving another brother or sister. Work that they can’t or won’t do for themselves. At least not yet. So we pray.
John is calling believers to a much more real kind of love. Love that sweats.
“The church is made up of individuals. It can do nothing except as its members work, and work together.”
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
Definitely, we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this, there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty? We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgment, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But ‘condemning another’ is His exclusive jurisdiction.
It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly.
It becomes imperative that we understand this; that any real discernment given is only to intensify and escalate the calling of every ‘saint,’ intercessor, or pastor.
We discern, not to pass judgment, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to ascribe a penalty to someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger. Please consider this–it’s never easy, is it?)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
We are broken people. We struggle with many different things. Some of us are mentally or physically ill. We are not whole yet. Some of us must take meds to help us be ‘normal.’ We deal with issues that would devastate someone else. And we don’t have it anywhere near together.
And yet out of our ‘hot mess,’ we think we can penalize someone else? Really?
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgives us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in light of this, is it not strange that almost all of our judgment is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body. In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
Granted, “we are to be wise as serpents,” But that same verse instructs us “to be as harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) A loving meekness and gentleness, need to be combined with intense spiritual power. We must embody “the fruits of the Spirit.” These things are the characteristics of the Spirit-saturated believer.
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we had any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (Again, these are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes. )
Certainly, I intend to confront the darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this black night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in the position to Judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore. I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
I think that most of us in the Church fail to get a real grip on what pastoring is all about. And that is sad and bad. Not only do we stunt our pastor’s growth, but we cripple ourselves, and flunk some important spiritual lessons.
Three things (there are more, believe me)–
1) Our pastors are sinners.
Surprise! They are just like you and me– definitely not superheroes and certainly not always saintly. They will have their moments and struggles. We really need to understand this to fully receive from their giftings. Just knowing this about them, prepares us to receive deeply and sincerely from their ministries. It seems that their own battles work a brokenness and humility within.
2) Our pastors need to be prayed for.
What they do is probably one of the hardest, most challenging work on planet Earth. The good pastors know this. But they still wade courageously into the thick of things. Our real prayers can buttress and stabilize their lives. They substantially encounter the darkness and do warfare for us. Most have a family to pray for, but they also have a Church they must cover too. A local pastor must have active intercessors, or they will certainly stumble and fall.
3) Our pastors must be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
God’s work must be done His way. And He repeatedly insists they be filled with the Spirit. They receive power right from the true source. Again, Jesus, the True Shepherd gives power and wisdom and grace for each singular moment. A good pastor over time and much prayer– develops discernment and an awareness for his flock. He learns to love them as he watches over them.
Much, much more could be written. There are so many facets to ponder. I only want to encourage you to love and honor your pastor. When you do this, it will probably activate the gift, and fresh ministry will become available. Real work will be done, inside of you and inside your pastor.
“Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Jeremiah 23:4, NLT
My Pastor, David and Karen Taylor, CCC, Homer Alaska
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
“Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.”
1 Thessalonians 5:14, Message
Proverbs tells us that giving good advice is as rare as gold or silver. I have met so many people who have an opinion about my problems, but few want to listen. And listening skills are what my counselors need. Job’s friends were the best counselors when they sat quietly in the ashes with him. They were sterling silver until… well, you know what happened next.
I want to unload my issues and be understood by someone.
Personally, I need someone who has been profoundly depressed and finally stumbled out into the light. It’s not that I don’t love certain believers, but they haven’t been “checked out” on this particular problem. It’s like flying a plane or operating heavy equipment. If you haven’t really suffered, then leave me alone–but, please do pray for me.
I’ve discovered that good counsel invariably comes from a good person.
But it’s more than that– not everyone can do it. At one time I thought any mature Christian believer had a right to give guidance, but that really wasn’t the case. I also believe that every believer will receive a minimum of a ‘spiritual semester’ in counseling. The Holy Spirit will come to teach you. We have to learn there is wisdom, and there is counseling.
And at times, “wise” counseling.
I read this somewhere, and it seems like it’s true. “Unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell– just shut up!” I don’t want to be rude, or ungrateful, but I really need someone who has visited ‘hell’ on occasion. And especially down this specific corridor.
People who have been damaged by life know what I mean.
Often counselors are offering a very small part of the needed wisdom. They must accept this. I however place a premium on the counsel of a few dear friends, even though I have hundreds of Christian relationships. I am a bit of a hermit, so it’s hard to find caliber people that I can trust.
My guess is that 1 in 70 people, [more or less] are qualified to deal with mental illness.
I don’t diminish relationships, but I do know that certain people are not tested on certain problems. This may be simplistic, or a little harsh. But when I had my brain tumor, I did not want my car mechanic to fix me, I wanted a neurosurgeon. And both are wonderful people. I’m fortunate to have them.
Choose your rainy day people carefully. Mark them out beforehand; before things get out of hand.
If you’re reading this, and you have a mental illness issue that’s starting to escalate, you need to reach out. Ask the Holy Spirit for His help in this. He is the Comforter and the Wonderful Counselor. He will direct you, and help you. That is what He does.
“Rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call,
Rainy day people don’t talk, they just listen till they’ve heard it all.
Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell ‘ya they’ve been down like you.
Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re cryin’ a tear or two.”