Posts Tagged ‘love’

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Part 2 of 3)
David Avenges the Gibeonites

In this second blog on this passage, the thing that is the play within the play here is the woman and mother, Rizpah. There is so much richness to this character from the Bible. From her, we can learn much.

Before we proceed into Rizpah’s part in today’s passage, we need to understand the background of her story line. The Old Testament is often rich in continued storylines. Rizpah is one of those. The Bible is not just a collection of disjointed passages and books that have nothing to do with each other. In this case, 2 Samuel 21:1-14 is not the first time we have heard Rizpah’s name. Remember the last time she was mentioned in 2 Samuel?

Sometimes in life we get dealt a raw deal. That is certainly the case with Rizpah. it’s important that you realize that this incident in 2 Samuel 21 was not the first time Rizpah had become an innocent victim in a bigger battle that was out of her hands. I wonder do you ever feel like that? Something is going on in your life, and you’ve no control over it, and as far as you’re concerned it’s not your fault, and you class yourself a victim. Well Rizpah was in 2 Samuel 21, but if you turn with me now to 2 Samuel chapter 3, you will see the first time (as far as we know from the biblical record) that Rizpah suffered victimization from the selfish hands of others. In 2 Samuel 3:7, Ishobesheth accuses Abner, the general of Saul’s armies of having sexual relations with Rizpah, one of Saul’s concubines. There’s her name! It’s the same woman!

If anyone was to have sexual relations with one of the king’s women, whether it was the king’s wife or the king’s harem, such an act was understood in the customs of the ancient Middle Eastern cultures as an attempt to take the throne. So by taking his bride or by taking one of his concubines, you were saying that you were in authority and you wanted, or were taking the kingdom. Now what’s going on here in 2 Samuel 3 is that Saul has died, and Ishbosheth Saul’s son has now accused Abner of relations with Rizpah. He suspects that Abner’s toward the house of Saul is dissolving.

Now, Abner denies vigorously that he even laid a hand on Rizpah. If Abner’s loyalty was waning before, this incident causes pushes Abner over the edge. He immediately transfers his allegiance to David and brings the eleven tribes over with him. Now we don’t know from the Bible whether Abner was guilty of sleeping with Rizpah – but either way, it doesn’t really matter whether he did or whether he didn’t, who is the victim in this whole scenario? Rizpah. Regardless of whether the accusation was true or not, her reputation in the royal court of the house of Saul was now in tatters, and all at the expense of someone else’s squabble.

Before we even get to today’s scene in 2 Samuel 21, the biblical author gives us glimpse of Rizpah as a woman who was beset by tragedy that was out of her control. Her reputation ruined by an accusation that may or may not have been true. To make matters worse, Abner leaves her in the dust to go over to David’s side. She is left behind as a woman that is now considered a tainted woman by the royal court. Many feel like that in life. Now Rizpah suffers a second cruelty, for her two sons to King Saul are now hanging on a tree – Armoni is the name of one, and Mephibosheth the name of the other (and that is not Mephibosheth that was Jonathan’s son) – and they are both dead.

To add insult to injury, the fact of the gruesome death is not enough, they are not granted a proper burial – there they are left to hang in the open air, exposed to the elements. Did Rizpah’s deserve this? Had she done anything to warrant such treatment? She is suffering for the selfish sins of another. We see what those sins are, turn back with me to 2 Samuel 21 and verse 2 and we see that the cause of this bloodshed is because of the bloodthirsty house of Saul. The biblical author paints a portrait for us of Rizpah as one who was beset by tragedies that were not of her own making. The only other biblical character that I can think that had similar multiple tragedies that befell him or her that were out of their own control was Job.

Man, Rizpah is a hard luck woman. She has been given a raw deal in life. We probably know somebody like Rizpah in our own lives in the 21st century. If you pick up on this character in the biblical play that is 1 and 2 Samuel, she is a person that we can identify with, some can sympathize with and even some who can empathize with. We all know people like Rizpah. Maybe, we are a Rizpah. Maybe, you have gotten a raw deal in life. Many of us can blame our mistakes and bad decisions for our lot in life, but there are those who seem to be beset by tragedies (notice the plural of tragedy). Some of us seem to have tragedy befall us one after another.

What can we learn from Rizpah that we can use in our 21st century lives then? Let’s read the passage, 2 Samuel 21:1-14, now, and see how Rizpah handles this situation:

Chapter 21
1 There was a famine during David’s reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the Lord about it. And the Lord said, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites.”

2 So the king summoned the Gibeonites. They were not part of Israel but were all that was left of the nation of the Amorites. The people of Israel had sworn not to kill them, but Saul, in his zeal for Israel and Judah, had tried to wipe them out. 3 David asked them, “What can I do for you? How can I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s people again?”

4 “Well, money can’t settle this matter between us and the family of Saul,” the Gibeonites replied. “Neither can we demand the life of anyone in Israel.”

“What can I do then?” David asked. “Just tell me and I will do it for you.”

5 Then they replied, “It was Saul who planned to destroy us, to keep us from having any place at all in the territory of Israel. 6 So let seven of Saul’s sons be handed over to us, and we will execute them before the Lord at Gibeon, on the mountain of the Lord.[a]”

“All right,” the king said, “I will do it.” 7 The king spared Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth,[b] who was Saul’s grandson, because of the oath David and Jonathan had sworn before the Lord. 8 But he gave them Saul’s two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab,[c] the wife of Adriel son of Barzillai from Meholah. 9 The men of Gibeon executed them on the mountain before the Lord. So all seven of them died together at the beginning of the barley harvest.

10 Then Rizpah daughter of Aiah, the mother of two of the men, spread burlap on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented the scavenger birds from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night. 11 When David learned what Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and retrieved the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. (When the Philistines had killed Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa, the people of Jabesh-gilead stole their bodies from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hung them.) 13 So David obtained the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed.

14 Then the king ordered that they bury the bones in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin. After that, God ended the famine in the land.

In this passage, we see Rizpah’s deep love for her sons caused her to take sackcloth (symbol of sorrow), spread it on a rock and she kept a vigil day and night over the bodies of her sons, keeping the birds and animals from devouring their bodies. This watch could have lasted anywhere from three to six months. Could you imagine how she felt? Not only had her life been in tatters since the Abner incident but now she was forced to live with the sacrificial deaths of her sons because of the sinful actions of Saul. Their deaths though sacrificial were still the deaths of her sons. Her actions show us true devotion to God even in the face of a world that has come crashing down on her. Her love for her sons was unaffected by the tragedy. Her belief in their honor led to a proper burial. Her perseverance brought David to reconcile himself to the legacy of Saul. Her endurance shows that we sometimes cannot see what our faith in God will produce – we just trust Him regardless of circumstance. Even in this situation where there is no sense to her as to why this happened to her sons, she continues to have faith as demonstrated by her endurance in this effort.

Sure, you know this woman is heartbroken (if you have ever lost a child to premature death you can identify with her). Her two sons were dead way too soon. Our sons and daughters are supposed to bury us not the other way around. Others may think her way of dealing with her obvious grief was pretty wacko even for the time period involved here (the wackiness of her act by human standards is why the author of 2 Samuel chose to include this information). Sometimes, in grief, we must put one foot in front of the other day by day. Nothing else and nothing more. We deal with a sudden death in different ways. However, Rizpah in doing what she was doing was defending the honor of her sons. So, she was actually productively handling her grief.

She was there as an act of love and devotion. She was not permitted to move the bodies of her dead sons, but she could keep the buzzards and coyotes away! What a testimony to abiding love! It reaches past the boundaries of this life and extends beyond the grave. Death could not diminish her love. Though her boys were grown and dead, though their bodies were left hanging as a sign of contempt and condemnation, she still loved them.

The news of this reached David and he was so moved by Rizpah’s actions that he went personally and retrieved the bones of Saul and Jonathon and buried them, along with these seven men in the tomb of Saul’s father. Because of Rizpah, the saga of King Saul ends with an honorable burial, an act that perhaps symbolized David’s own reconciliation with the man who had persecuted him. Not only this, her actions also won, for her sons, an honorable burial, instead of their bodies hanging in disgrace and being devoured by wild animals. Here is a woman who was grieving deeply, yet she allowed her grief and love to motivate her to action, and her actions brought peace and reconciliation. After this, God is entreated for the land of Israel and the drought was lifted. Her actions were a catalyst for closure. They brought closure to the famine, closure to the feud between the house of Saul and the house of David and closure in her own life and loss. Rizpah was a healer, a reconciler. This is a mark of true love. Love always seeks peace, healing, and reconciliation.

I could go on and on about this woman in this passage. Her act here in this passage teaches us much. She is a woman dealing with something that we often have to deal with in life – a tragedy befalling us that is not of our own making and we are left to figure out how to deal with it. She shows us a productive handling of her grief. She shows us love and devotion. She shows us enduring faith that we sometimes have to have when dealing with loss. We just simply trust God that there is some purpose in our suffering – it may take a long time or a lifetime to figure it out, but we still trust. We keep going. We don’t give up. We keep moving. We keep trusting in the Lord as a conscience decision.

Just read and re-read this passage and soak in what Rizpah does and means here. Tomorrow we will look at the symbolic nature of what she is doing in this passage. For now, we close with…

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 4:13-22
The Descendants of Boaz

An Open Letter to My Granddaughter, Ralyn,

Yesterday, I wrote about looking back at my life and being ashamed of the life I lived before I met Jesus Christ. Today, I want to write about my future. You are a big part of my future. You are only 15 ½ months old now, but time will fly and you will become a young lady long before your dad and your granddad are ready for it. I wonder what you will be interested in. What will be your hobbies? What will be your passions? Will you excel at school or will you have to work hard at it? Will you be Poppy’s little buddy? Will I be your confidant for those things that you don’t want to tell your mom and your dad? What will your reputation be as you grow up? Will you be a girl that people can count on? Will your parents be able to count on you doing the right thing? Will I have had any influence on your life at all?

Oh, you are so terribly cute right now. You slay my heart every time I see you. I love you from the depths of my soul and I have only known you a little more than a year. I hope that you and I will be as “thick as thieves” as you grow up. I hope that you will look forward to coming to Papa and Mimi’s house. I hope that you and I will play tricks on Mimi and then just laugh and laugh. I hope that you when you get tired come crawl up in Papa’s lap and snuggle up to my neck. I hope that we can go for long walks in here in The Village and talk about anything and everything. I hope that we can spend time reading books on the front porch. I hope that I can show you important things like “righty tighty, lefty loosey”. I hope that I can teach you how to cut grass. I hope that I can teach you how to trim shrubs. I hope there will be a day when I am cutting grass that you are right behind me with your toy lawnmower following Papa’s every move. I hope that I will be there at your first kindergarten thanksgiving play. I hope that I will be there for the sport that you choose to play and be there at as many games as I can. I hope that my refrigerator will be full of your art masterpieces. I hope that you will ask Papa millions of questions about everything. I hope that I will be there when you want to talk about boys. I hope that I will be there for those conversations about your first kiss. I want to be there to hear about your first school dance. I want to hear about the first boy you decide to call your boyfriend. I want to be there for you when you get your heart broken by that very same boy. I want to be there all along the way. I don’t want to be some stranger to you when you get to be a teenager. I want to still be your confidant then too. I want to hear about that boy that you are madly in love with. I want to hear about that girl who said some unsavory things about you and how you are going to handle that. I want to hear about the high school drama – and I am not talking about the drama department. Who said what to who and who was with who when he was supposed to be with this other girl. I want to help you understand a tough subject in high school. I want to help when you have a tough decision to make – to go with the crowd or do the right thing. I want to be part of your life when you are deciding on what college to go to (subliminal message—go to Clemson, go to Clemson, go to Clemson). I want to be there when you graduate high school. I want to be there when you go off to college (subliminal message—Clemson). I want to be there when you are deciding on what to major in. I want to be there for those talks about the future. I want to be there for those conversations about your career. I want to be there when a professor just introduced a concept that rocked your world and help you process that. I want to be there when you just need to get away from college for a day and we can go for one of our walks like when you were little. I want to be there when you get engaged. I want to be there when you graduate college. I want to be there when you get married.

I may not be around for much after you get married as I will probably be in my 80s by then but one thing in all this stuff is that I want you to know that you were loved so much by your Papa! I want you to know that I had your back while I was here. I want you think about your Papa and it bring a smile to your face no matter how old you get. And most of all, I want to impart a legacy to you about being a Christ follower. I want to be your example of what a true Christ follower looks like. I want to be there to influence you and talk you about sin and salvation. I want to be there when you accept Christ as your Savior. I want to be there and celebrate that. I want to be there for your post-salvation baptism where you proclaim to the world outwardly what has already happened inside your heart and soul. I want that to be my greatest legacy to have passed on Jesus Christ to you.

I Love You More Today than Yesterday,

Papa

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this final passage of the book of Ruth. I thought about legacy as I read through Ruth 4:13-22. What will be my legacy after I am gone? Here in this final passage, we know of the legacy of Ruth and Boaz and the role they not only played in their lifetimes but also the legacy that they passed on. Let’s think about that as we read:

13 So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. 15 May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”

16 Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. 17 The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.

18 This is the genealogical record of their ancestor Perez:

Perez was the father of Hezron.
19
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
20
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.[a]
21
Salmon was the father of Boaz.
Boaz was the father of Obed.
22
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of David.

In this passage and in this book, we see that some might think of the book of Ruth as a nice story about a girl who was fortunate. However, in reality, the events recorded in Ruth were part of God’s preparation for the births of King David and of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Just as Ruth was unaware of this larger purpose in her life, we will not know the full purpose and importance of our lives until we are able to look back from the heavenly side of eternity. We must make our choices with God’s eternal values in mind. Taking moral shortcuts and living for short-range pleasures are not living life with eternity in mind. Because of Ruth’s faithful obedience, her life and legacy were significant even though she may have not been able to see the results of it in her lifetime. We must live like Ruth. We must live in faithfulness to God, knowing that the significance of your life will extend beyond your lifetime.

So, my most important remaining job in life is to be Papa to my sweet little Ralyn. This will be the most important job I have left to do. I must impart wisdom and knowledge and common sense and love and understanding and advice and most of all be an influence toward my granddaughter coming to know Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord when she is ready for it. May that be the greatest legacy I leave behind. May that be the final important thing that I do. May that, then, be the lasting legacy. That Ralyn’s mom, my daughter, is a Christ follower, that Ralyn will be, and Ralyn’s daughter and Ralyn’s granddaughter…May that be the legacy.

Amen and Amen.

1 Corinthians 13 — The next characteristic of what love is not is one that seems a little beyond reason. Paul says that love is not irritable (in the New Living Translation – other translations may say “not easily angered”). Man, that’s a tough one. Don’t we all get irritable at times? First thing in the morning before I get my coffee, I would have to say that I am irritable. My wife knows not to have a serious conversation with me for at least a half hour after I get up. I am not openly hostile first thing in the morning, but irritable yes. I am certainly not one of those people that pops out of bed all bright, sunny, and perky. Those people I just want slap first thing in the morning because…well…I am irritable. Waking up first thing in the morning, many of us are irritable to a certain degree. But for most of us it passes after we smash the alarm clock into small little pieces and have had our first cup of coffee. We must choose to lose our irritable nature. However, if we remain irritable or have an irritable disposition in general, it is the opposite of love.

If we look back to Mark 6:30-44, we see irritability in action among the disciples. They had experienced a long day of staging and managing one of what I like to call Jesus’ revival meetings. Jesus had been speaking to and teaching 5,000 people plus women and children. So, really, the crowd was around 10,000 with the women and kids. Big crowd. Imagine workers at a Billy Graham crusade meeting doing all the behind the scenes work to make Mr. Graham’s services in those large venues seem seamless. It is hard work to make a big event seem like its effortless. So, the disciples were tired by the end of the day. They were irritable. Irritable people just want people to go away. They want to be left alone. The disciples just wanted everybody to go home. They were tired, they were hungry themselves, and they just wanted to be alone so they could rest and eat. But yet Jesus, who was in his flesh, probably tired too. However, Jesus did the opposite of what irritable people do, He invited people to stay and eat. He invited them to be a part of a miracle.

When we are irritable, we desire not to consider others needs. When we are irritable, we are being selfish and self-centered. When we are irritable, we think our needs are superior to everyone else’s needs. Sure, we can have very valid reasons for being irritable but aren’t they all self-centered? I am tired. I have worked a long hard day. I am under a great deal of stress. All of these are valid reasons to be irritable. In our irritability we are forcing people to make exceptions for our bad behavior. When we are irritable, we are saying to the world, look at me and my issues and you please accommodate me and excuse how I am acting like a real ass. We want act the way we want and just pull out that free pass called the irritable card. Is this love?

Love is not irritable. Love has consideration for others. Love says that other people are just as valuable as I am. When we have a loving nature, yes, we may feel all yucky and irritable inside but we choose not to take it out on others. When we have a loving nature, we do not force others to suffer because I am having a bad day. If you have had a crappy day at work and it has made you irritable, does your wife deserve to be yelled at for the slightest little thing when you get home. When we are irritable, we do not have respect for others. When we have love, we consider and we respect that your wife may have been having a great day until you ruined it with your self-centered irritability. Irritability is a sign that we just say everybody needs to deal with me. Everybody needs to come to the emotional place that I am at. Love shows us a better way.

Jesus could have easily been irritable on Good Friday. Talk about your bad days. By the end of it, He was hanging on a cross in excruciating pain. As God in the flesh, He could have said I am tired of this, got down of the cross and made mankind pay for putting Him on the cross. He could have zapped our forefathers all over this planet into oblivion on that day. However, He choose to consider our eternal future. He knew He had to be on that cross. He knew it had to be done to give us the opportunity to be reconciled unto Him. That is love. That is not irritation. That is not short-fused anger. That is not making you deal with my bad stuff. That is not making you deal with my pain. That is love. Doing what is best for others. Setting aside my selfish desire to have my needs met and have everyone deal with that is being Christ-like.

When we have a loving nature, we realize that the world is not all about me. When we can love it lifts us beyond our selfish needs. When we love, we get to be parts of miracles. When we love we get to see the miracles. Isn’t ironic that when we have an irritable nature and want everybody to see us and massage our needs, we tend to drive people away. Yet, when we love we are focused on the needs of others is when people are drawn to us and meet our needs in ways greater than we could have ever imagined when we are being selfish. Isn’t that the irony of love? When we give up our selfish attitudes and give, give, give of ourselves that we end up having more, more, more. Love. Love. Love. All we need is love.

1 Corinthians 13 — Yesterday, we talked about how pretty much every gift given from God is meaningless unless we love, unless we show love, unless we act in love. Then, that begs the question, What is love? In this next paragraph of this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes love. It reminds you of that scene from the movie, Forest Gump, when he asks Jenny to marry him for the first time and the speaking parts of the scene end with Forrest saying, “I might not be a smart man, but I do know what love is!” Paul, in this paragraph, tells us what Forrest already knows. Since love is the central theme of Christianity, we will spend a few days here on these definitions of love. Just think how patient Forrest was with Jenny. That was patient love. That was abiding love. We can learn a lot from how Forrest loved Jenny.

The first definition of love is that love is patient. Right out of the gate, Paul uses patience to describe love. It must therefore be a primary characteristic of love. Just as food labels are required by law to list the ingredients of food you purchase in their order of relative content in the food. If patience is listed first, it must mean that Paul sees it as the most important ingredient in love. What is patience then? Dictionary.com defines patience as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. It goes on to define patience as an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. Patience is also quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence. To be patient is to have these qualities and to live out these qualities. Love is patient.

According to gotquestions.com, patience is noted as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is also mentioned there, revealing the close connection between these two attributes. Both love and patience are products of the Spirit’s presence in one’s life. Without patience can we truly love? The lack of patience in relationships means that we are not willing to invest in them. Lack of patience with others means that we see our agenda as greater than theirs. Impatience is the fruit of selfishness.

Patience means setting aside getting my needs met. That is where impatience is born is in our selfish, depraved, sinful desires to get what I want and I want it now! We start out young being impatient. Babies that do not get their needs met immediately shower us with their curdling cries and screams. We come into this world wanting what we want and wanting it now. Patience only comes when we care about the needs of others more than our own needs. Think of the wife how suffers through decades of her husband’s alcoholism but still loves him. She still sees the best in him.

Patience gives us hope. Patience believes in the best in others. Just think of the joy that she has when her husband finally admits his problem, joins Celebrate Recovery, and begins his sobriety journey. Impatience would have ended that marriage decades ago. Patience is rewarded in this scenario we are talking about. Often the strongest marriages are those that have survived devastating setbacks, pain, and troubles. When marriages come out of the valley, one or the other or both see the godly love that has been shown them by their spouse and it deepens their love for one another. Without patience that would never happen.

Patience sees potential in others. Patience allows us to nurture that which is good in others. It allows us to invest in another person even though right now that person is so annoying. Patience allows us to give them space to be themselves. Patience concentrates on that which is good in others rather than that which annoys us.

Patience allows us to grant others grace, the same grace that we have been shown by Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. In a world where Christians are bombarded by a world now that sees what is wrong as right and what is right as wrong, patience can be in short supply. We want to wash our hands of a world gone mad. We may find it disgusting and it may turn our stomach and make us nauseous to watch Bruce Jenner in an evening gown being rewarded for his courage. We can lose our patience over things like this because it just seems that the world now glorifies everything that is the opposite of what we think is right. But weren’t we ourselves ones who used to shake our fist at God by the way we lived our lives in opposition to Him. Unless you were one of the lucky ones who accepted Jesus as your Savior as a child, then, you and me have lived lives that grieve the heart of God. It was not until God allowed circumstances in our lives to bring us to our knees before Him that we quit shaking our fist at God. We must be patient with those whose lifestyles are in opposition to God’s Word. We must offer them the same grace that we have been given.

Patience allows us to be like Jesus. When we are like Jesus, it means that we don’t write people off as beyond redemption. We don’t write people off because what they do makes us sick to our stomach, literally. Jesus would have encountered Bruce Jenner not rejected Him. Jesus would have ate dinner with a same-sex couple. He would have not waffled on God’s truths with them. He would have told them like it was, but He would have done it in a way that made them think. He would have done so in love. Imagine the patience of Jesus with us sinners. He loved us. He sat down with us in the midst of our sins. He went to the cross and died for us and patiently waits for you to accept Him as your Savior even now while you shake your fist at Him.

Jesus, The Holy Spirit and The Father are one. In Scripture it says God is patient. According to gotquestions.com, since God is love (1 John 4:8), He is necessarily patient. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6; see also Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Even in judgment, God’s patience is evident: “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20).

If we are to be like Christ, if we are to be little Christs, we must have love in our hearts for others. We must be able to set aside our need to have our needs immediately met. We must have godly patience with others. We must love them to the cross. Sometimes that takes long-suffering patience. Patience is the hallmark of love. Patience means never giving up, never writing off, always hoping, always seeing a child of God in others even when they are shaking their fist at us and everything that we hold dear. God, grant us patience daily! OK. Let’s go watch Forrest Gump again!

Luke 24;36-43 — There are two things that are striking about this passage that are important to consider. First, let us consider that Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”. Second, let us consider that Jesus invited the disciples to touch Him. These things point us toward the fact that Jesus has forgiveness sufficient to cover our failings through our repentance and the fact that Jesus invites us to question Him. Today, we will focus on Jesus’ statement, “Peace be with you!” Tomorrow, we will look at how Jesus invites us to be inquisitive about Him. So, today, Peace Be With You is the subject. Why in the world did Jesus say that to the disciples?

When Jesus appears to them, He is not an angry as one might be if you were in Jesus’ shoes. If you drift back to your teenage years and most of us guys were often mischievous. We would often do things that were either close to breaking the law or clearly over the line of the law. In a group, it always sounded like a good idea, right? And, then, when you were the one that got caught, all your friends scattered like roaches and left you holding the bag. Though Jesus had done nothing wrong as we may have done as teenagers, his disciples scattered on Him like roaches when you turn the light on. They had abandoned Him to die alone. One of them, Peter, even denied that he even knew Jesus. Talk about friends, huh? When crunch time was on, they failed miserably. We, though, cannot condemn them much. We often fail Jesus miserably on a daily basis. Sometimes, we even deny that we know Him rather than feel uncomfortable. But Jesus appears to them and the first thing he says is what? He doesn’t say, “you dogs, you let me down” or “dudes!, you left me hangin’!” No, Jesus, amazingly (after seeing what cowards the disciples had become in that decisive in the Garden), says, “Peace, be with you.” Shalom. The peace that passes all understanding.

Jesus does not rebuke his disciples. He offers them the peace of God. He had every right to dress them down for their failures. He had every right to slap each one of them in the face. He had every right to make them feel about two inches tall. And, by our human standard of tit for tat, we would not have blamed Him. However and instead, Jesus offers them forgiveness. Jesus offers them acceptance. He offers them restoration to His amazing love. Does this not speak loudly to you? Jesus has forgiveness for you even though you don’t think you deserve it. The disciples most certainly felt great shame for their failing of their Master. They probably did fear that He would punish them when He appeared to them. Even though we have shame for how we have been living our lives, if we come to Jesus with a repentant heart and desire his forgiveness more than anything else, He will grant us Shalom. He will grant us peace. He will grant us forgiveness. His love for us is far greater than any disappointment He has in us. Jesus sees what we can be in relationship with Him not what we were before. Just as we as parents see the potential of our children and not their failings. Just as we love our children despite their failings, Jesus is that way about us. He loves us and desires for us to make Him our Savior and the Lord over our lives. He has peace for you and for me!

Not only is how Jesus reacted to the disciples a direct example for us of the forgiveness we find in Jesus, it is also an example of how we should be with other people. Certainly, there are times when rebuke is necessary and required and Jesus often rebuked his disciples. Such rebuke was necessary at times, but He always did it in a way that help the disciples grow not tear them down and stomp on them. However, in this instance, Jesus did not rebuke. He knew the disciples were already beating themselves up. He knew that they were scared. He knew that they were fearful for their lives. We must learn from Jesus. There is a time for loving rebuke but there is also a time when we must simply love and reassure. It is amazing as a parent (we get no formal training on parenting and our kids do not come with customized instruction booklets) that we often do know the difference. Sometimes, we know when our kids need rebuke when they have done wrong and when they need reassurance that they are still loved despite the wrong. Jesus in this instance knew that reassurance was called for. Jesus knew that reaffirming His love for them was called for.

Regardless of whether rebuke is called for or simply uncommon acceptance in the face of betrayal, we must always have our eye on restoration and on reconciliation. Jesus restores and reconciles us to our Father in heaven. We should be the same about the relationships in our lives. If we are called to be little Christs, the literal meaning of Christian, then we can do no less. Everything must be motivated by our love for Jesus and our love for our fellow man. Even when we rebuke others, it must be done in love and with an eye toward reconciliation and an eye toward giving God glory. Sometimes, the situation will call for us to simply tell those that have betrayed, disappointed, or have been evil toward us that we must simply offer them peace. We must offer peace in reaction to hate. We must offer love in the face of evil. We must offer acceptance in the face of betrayal. We must offer restoration the face of disappointment from others. We speak of Christ when we say Peace Be With You to those who have bitterly disappointed us. We speak of Christ when we tell a person that knows they have disappointed us and fear retribution that we love them anyway. We speak of Christ when we restore a relationship rather than throw it away. We speak of Christ when we love when the expectation is hate. We speak of Christ when we seek to emulate our Savior’s behavior in this passage. Amen and Amen.

Luke 19:41-44 — The journey to Jerusalem is complete. Jesus sees the city before Him. And He weeps for her. Why does Jesus weep? Jesus weeps for her because she will be destroyed completely in about 35-40 years from this moment of His weeping. Jerusalem will ultimately reject and murder Jesus. God will never turn his back on His people but there are always and certainly consequences to sin.

I compare Jesus here to a parent who sees the actions that a child is taking and weeps over knowing what the outcome is going to be. Parents cannot see into the future but they know from their life experiences what a child’s poor decisions are going to give in results. We can tell our children until we are tired of telling them about what their actions will bring but yet the children do not listen. It is upsetting to a parent. You know without a doubt that poor decisions will lead to bad consequences. But you cannot live your children’s lives for them. They have free will. They have minds of their own. They are of our flesh but from the first moment of life, they begin being separate from us. Thinking their own thoughts. Making their own choices. We can guide them but they ultimately make their own choices. This is free will. Sometimes our children make poor choices and those choices have consequences. However, we still love our children even though they have made poor choices. You will accept them into your open arms when they come to you and ask for forgiveness for the mistakes they have made. We accept them into our open arms when they have rejected us in favor of their own desires. We love them always despite their choices.

This is why I think Jesus weeps here. He is God. He is the ultimate parent. We are all His children. His weeping shows us a couple of things that we must consider. First, Jesus’ weeping shows us that He is compassionate for us. Second, Jesus’ weeping shows us that there is a risk to God giving us free will. Third, Jesus’ weeping shows us that there are consequences to sin.

Jesus weeps. He cries over the chosen city of His chosen people. When people cry, it is because they have an emotional interest in a situation and the people involved in the situation. What this tells me is that Jesus is not some aloof, far off God. He is truly concerned about you and me. He has known us since we were knitted together in our mother’s womb. He knows each and every hair on our head. God is active in our lives. He is not some lifeless god to whom we have to try to figure out what they want. He is active in our lives. He loves us. He cares. We cry out to God and He responds. He gives us His Word so that we can see who He is. We don’t have to wonder about the character of God. He has revealed it to us in His Word. The fact that the Father sent the Son into our temporal world shows that He cares deeply for his created. The fact that He gave us the Holy Spirit shows that He wants us to know Him intimately. Jesus weeps. Jesus weeps because He cares. He weeps because He is intimately involved in the lives of all creation. He is an active and concerned God. He has compassion for us.

Jesus weeps. He cries over his beautiful holy city. He cries over the fact that in our free will we choose often to reject Him. Why, then, did God give us free will. He did not want us to be worshiping robots. He wants us to choose Him as a mental, cognitive choice. In that, God takes a risk. By giving us free will, we may choose to reject Him. It is just as a child will sometimes make choices that are opposite of what their parents want, so, too, do we make choices that reject the teaching of our Father in heaven. We could keep our children locked in a closet so as to prevent them from making stupid mistakes, but we don’t. We allow our children to develop minds of their own and encourage them to think and to develop. It is the same way between our Ultimate Parent and us as His children. He could zap us into believing in Him. However, in the zapping, He would take away the beauty of coming to know Jesus through our own choice. A child can be told a thousand times not to touch a hot burner on a stove, but until they get burned it is not as real a lesson as the real experience. God wants us to come to Him by our own choice. That takes risk. That takes love. Free will causes our children to reject us as parents sometimes but we never stop loving them. We could make our kids robots by controlling their environment. But how much more special is it when our children realize that our love for them is real and unending on their own. How much more depth is their to our children’s love and respect for us when the come to understand the unending love and the unending sacrifices we have made for them. Free will is a risk but the reward can be awesome.

Jesus weeps. He does because there are consequences to sin. Just as a parent weeps when their child rejects their advice and then runs into a jam as a result of their poor choices. Just as God created the physical laws of the universe that generally involve cause and effect, sin has consequences. Israel throughout the Bible suffered the consequences of disobedience. Ultimately, this final act of disobedience of rejecting the Messiah would ultimately have consequences. Because of continuing rebellions during the years of Roman occupation, Rome finally had enough in 70AD and brought down the full wrath of the Roman army on Jerusalem. No more tolerance. Complete obliteration. Even the temple was torn down stone by stone. Sin has consequences. God allows circumstances that are the result of our sins. Just as parents allow consequences for bad behavior, there are consequences for sin. We see it all around us. Poor choices lead to consequences. We sit around sometimes and shake our fist at God for the situation that we find ourselves in that seems to have no end and no solution. We must follow the sin trail. Our bad results can often be traced back to a sinful decision that we made. We get angry at God for the bad things that we see in our lives and in our world. But it is all of our own making. We live in a sin filled fallen world. It has been this way since the first sin. It is all cause and effect. Sin has consequences. Always. It is an immutable law of the universe that God created.

However because of our weeping Jesus, there is a way out. God cares about us enough to send His Son to redeem us. He loves us despite our poor choices. All we have to do is come to Him and ask Him to forgive our rejection of Him. He cares about us enough not to write us off. He may allow us the consequences of our sins just so that we can see that He is still there. Still loving us. We can see that He weeps over our poor choices. He weeps over our sin and its consequences. He wants what is best for us and that is for us to come to Him and ask Him to be our Savior and our Lord. He is a loving parent waiting for you to come home to Him. He cares enough about you to weep over you. See Him. Come home to Him.

Romans 13:8-10 — There was once a song by The Beatles called, “All You Need Is Love.” Love is all you need. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law, Paul tells us. The bottom line is love. Everything else that we are as Christians stands on this foundation.

Today is music day in my mind I guess. The song that comes to mind now is “The Proof of Your Love” by the Christian contemporary group, For God & Country. The song begins with the lyrics that say if I sing but don’t have love, I waste my breath with every word I sing. Everything that we do as Christ followers is meaningless without love. Paul repeats this idea in his first letter to the church at Corinth. He says, If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1 Cor 13:1-2). Love is the basis of who we are as Christ followers. Love is our motive. If we do not have love as our motive for the things we do to reach the world around us, we are just another help agency. If you participate in church-wide community events just to be seen doing it or to check off what you think will get you into heaven, you’ve got it all wrong. Love is our motive. We are to show the world genuine love. We are to show them love without expectation of payback. We should love the world around us without an attitude of what’s in it for me.

Why do we love others without payback? We do this because we are in debt to Christ for the lavish love has poured out on us. The only way we can begin to repay Him is by fulfilling our command to love others in turn. We should be overflowing with love. We have been saved from our eternal damnation in hell by the love of a God who sent His Son to be the perfect sin sacrifice. Jesus paid the penalty for sin that we deserved. Because of His love for us, He substituted Himself for us. How can you not love the world and want to serve it so that you can tell the world about what Jesus Christ has done. The basis of what Christ did on the cross was love for us. Love that we must share with others. We show our love for others so that they can come to see Jesus in us. We love ourselves enough to make sure that we have food, shelter, clothing. We should do no less for our neighbors. Loving others means actively working to make sure that their needs are met. Our love for others, coming from the love that we have received in Christ, should lead us to fight against social injustice. Love should motivate us to do more than the law requires. Love should motivate us to do more than have a payroll deduction to United Way. Love should motivate us to do more than put our extra money in the plate on Sunday. Love should motivate us to be in the real world with our neighbors who are suffering. Love should motivate us to fight the fights that need fighting not just sit behind the fence of our homes and complain that the world is going to crap. Love should motivate us to be more than armchair Christians.

There is a saying that goes like this, “Love can cover up many sins.” It is usually in reference to couples whose relationship is young and new and that they are so in love that they cannot see the faults of their lover. But in today’s context, let’s look at it from the perspective that love can cover many sins, the sins that we want to commit. We are fulfilling God’s law by loving others, Paul says. Think about it. The absence of love for our neighbor can lead us to commit many of the prohibited actions of God’s law. Not loving our neighbor can be in our own households. Not loving your spouse can often lead them to find it elsewhere in the sin of adultery. Unresolved anger (not loving) can lead to murder. Not loving can lead us not to respect that which belongs to another and we steal. Not loving can lead us to jealousy and covetousness. All of the God’s law is prohibitions against making our ownselves God and having the “it’s all about me attitude”. Love, real love, is about caring more about the needs of others than you care about your own. Love is a new set of glasses that allows us to see the world from other people’s perspective. Love allows me to go beyond myself and truly care for other people. I mean really care. When we were in the process of winning our spouse’s love, we lavished them with praise, attention, gifts, and just generally showing them that they are the most important thing in the world to us. We showed them the best of us. Should not we love our neighbors in this way all the time? Love can prevent us from seeking retribution. Love seeks reconciliation. Love involves building others up and not tearing them down. Love. Love. Love. All ya need is love. love. Love is all ya need. Love is all ya need. Nothing else matters.

There is a song from the best music decade EVER, the 80’s, called “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” I use it here as a question rather than a discussion of the song’s lyrics. What’s love got to do with it? The answer is everything. Without love, everything is meaningless. Without love, there is no hope. Without love, we would not have had Jesus. John 3:16 tells us that our God loves us so much that He sent His Son to save us from our own self-inflicted damnation. Without His love for us, He would not have provided us a way to be reconciled to Him. If God did not love us so immensely, He would not have sent Jesus. We live in a world that has no love and is hellbent on self-destruction. What’s love got to do with it? Everything.

Romans 12:17-21 — Do you remember a movie from 20 years ago called, “The War” (starring Kevin Costner and a young Elijah Wood). It is one of my favorite movies ever. It speaks to our human nature. In that movie, whose setting was the Vietnam War era, kids build a tree house/fort and some other kids try to take it away from them. As the movie progresses, there is an ever-increasing level of violence to the point that on one summer afternoon the hatred of the two groups of kids for one another grows to the point that an all-out war for possession of the fort begins. In the end, the fort is burned to the ground. No one wins. There is nothing left to win.

It is this mentality that pervades our world today. It is to this mentality that Paul speaks through the ages directly to us in today’s verses. These verses summarize the core of Christian living and how it is often times the opposite of our human nature. It is our human nature to pay back evil with more evil. It is our nature to seek revenge for real or perceived wrongs done to us. In this day and age of ever increasing lawsuits, we demand that our rights not be abridged. In this world where we have become a people who says I can do whatever I want and I have inalienable right to do it, Paul speaks to us. Paul’s command sounds almost impossible.

When people hurt you deeply, in our sin nature, we wanna pay ’em back with what they deserve. Paul says to befriend them. Why should we forgive our enemies? C’mon Paul, that sounds so weak. That sounds like we should be doormats and let people just run roughshod over us. Why forgive our enemies? Man, that’s a hard one. My soul screams out for revenge. I want to be satisfied. I want to knock down my enemies and give them the same feeling of hurt and pain that they gave me. Can you feel that anger and pain? Can you feel it? Right now, you are drifting back in memory to a time that someone hurt you deeply. Right now, you may be experiencing that time all over again in your mind. The anger wells up in you and your stomach churns. Your pulse quickens. You mentally think about the revenge that you did take or should have taken. Why Paul? Why? Why do I as a Christ follower have to forgive me enemies?

Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation that leads to destruction and bring about reconciliation. It may make your enemy feel ashamed causing a change in the person’s ways. Even if your enemy never repents and forgives you as well, you have relived yourself of a heavy burden of bitterness. When we forgive evil done to you, you quit obsessing about that person. When we forgive, we quit “letting them live rent free in our head.” Lend a helping hand, send a gift, or just smile at them. Right actions often lead us to forgiveness. If we forgive without having the payback we want for revenge, we are extending grace. Remember, grace by theological definition is an undeserved gift. By giving an enemy grace, we are not excusing what they did, we’re not recognizing, forgiving, and loving that person with a love that they do not deserve. Hmmm. Who else did that? Yes, it was Jesus Christ. God loves us despite our rebellion against Him. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for the sins that we committed so that we can avoid our proper judgment and be reconciled to Him. It is like a father who loves his teenage son despite the fact that the son blatantly has disdain for him in word and deed. If we have been given grace through Jesus Christ, should we not extend that same grace to our enemies.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting like the saying says. Forgiveness means remembering what was done but choosing, get that – choosing, to love your offender anyway. We do not have to be gushy friends with those who have hurt us. We do have to extend them grace. They may have their own motivations that we must try to understand. In our understanding, we learn to extend grace. However, it does not mean we have to be best friends. We can learn to respect them again. We can end the cycle of revenge. In my divorce from my first wife, it was the “divorce from hell” where my ex constantly attacked me with intensity for over two years – to the point that she made accusations that prevented me from seeing my children for six months. It was nasty. It was mean. It consumed life and all that was around it. Through it all, I tried to take the high road and not get down in the dirt. Many times, my sin nature got the best of me but I was able to get beyond it. Today, twenty years later, I have forgiven all the mean things that happened. However, we are not friends. I care about what happens to her and can have a civil conversation with her these days when we do in fact talk but I have moved on in life. There is no commonality other than our grown kids now. There is just nothing in common. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you have to be all up in their lives. Forgiveness is for us not for those we forgive. When we forgive, we give it up to the Lord. He may lead us to re-establish relationship but He may also lead us to just quit letting our enemy consume our mind and heart. When we forgive, He may lead us away to more healthy relationships. He may lead us to change playgrounds and playmates. We can’t have healthy relationships with others when we let our enemies consume our very soul. Our very soul should be consumed with the Holy Spirit not our enemies.

In the end of the movie, “The War”, the fort was destroyed. Nothing was left to win. The only thing, the one and only thing that broke the cycle of ever-escalating violence was when Elijah Wood’s character saved his enemies’ little baby brother from drowning. The war was over then. Although the kids did not become great friends in the end, the war was over. They learned to respect each other. They learned that revenge for revenge leads us to forget what the heck we were fighting for in the first place. Revenge becomes its own god. Revenge destroys our soul. Forgiveness frees us. Regardless of whether we get our payback or not, forgiveness sets us free to remove that idol from our lives. When we are obsessed with revenge, we are making ourselves god. Forgiveness puts God back on the throne. Forgiveness emulates our Father’s forgiveness for us. We have been given grave. Let us extend it to others. It doesn’t mean we have to be their best friend but it does mean that we let go of that obsession, that I idol that we have made of our hatred of that person. It is God’s job to judge. It is not ours. It is our job to extend the same grace that God gave us in Jesus Christ.

Otherwise, the fort is burned. There is nothing left. In “the War” the fort was never rebuilt. Destruction was complete and there was no desire anymore. Love has gained more than war every time. War just leads to more war. Love is a permanent solution. War consumes everything in its path. Love lets things grow. Forgive before the war consumes you. Forgive.

Romans 12:16 — “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” There is so much discord in the world, among nations, within nations, and in our homes. Pride can destroy. Harmony and humility go hand in hand.

How do we live in harmony with each other? It requires that we exchange pride for humility. Discord in life comes from competing pride. Your pride vs. my pride. My way vs. your way. In order to live in harmony with one another, I must consider your feelings and desires as equal to mine. You must consider my feelings and desires as equal to yours. That’s easier said than done, Paul! I want what I want and I want it now. I am right and you are wrong. Selfish desires are the American way. Our economy is built on pursuing our own self-interest. The whole theory of capitalism is built on competing self-interest. Adam Smith, the 18th century economist, established this very theory as the basis of capitalism. He stated that competing self-interests would bring prosperity. Competition is the hallmark of our lifestyle. Because of our self-interests, our economy has become the most powerful in the world and any nation that aspires to reach the pinnacle of economic development that we have must unleash capitalistic attitudes. So, Paul’s comments seem completely opposite of human nature. Harmony sounds like communism to us. Paul is not calling us to communism, but he is calling us to humility. We must turn our American dream ideals on their head. The American dream is all about me. It’s a me-me-me mentality. It fits in with our nature. Look out for number one. Have pride in yourself. We pick and choose our friends based on what they can do for us. We discard them when they do not. Paul calls us to humility and to love another. When we have humility, we can see others as just as valuable as we are. That is what God intended for us. We are all created in His image. Each of us has value. Should we not take advantage of the talents that God gave us. Certainly, using the talents that God gave us is why He gave them to us. However, we should not use our talents to crush and destroy others. We should use our talents daily as a way to glorify God and to lift others up rather than destroy them.

How do we enjoy the company of ordinary people? First, we do not consider them ordinary. Jesus demonstrated that everyone has value. He cared for those whom society had discarded. He did not choose who He touched based on what political advantage they could give Him. Same with us. When we serve others less fortunate than us, we should accord them the same dignity as we would folks that could be of great advantage to us. For example, if you serve in a soup kitchen, let us not walk away from it as prideful that we are better than those people. Soup kitchens are filled with people who sometimes by mistakes they have made are there. Sometimes they are there because of no fault of their own. Circumstances beyond their control may have brought them there. Do we serve them to boost our own ego or do we do it because we truly care about them. Are you moved to help them or do you do it to check off a box in your self-image about doing good so others see you doing good. Each of us is a child of God with a right to exist. None of us is better than the other. When we die, they put each of our bodies in a box. You can’t take your social standing into eternity. You can’t take your big fine house into eternity. Rich and poor alike meet death and must deal with the judgment of our maker as to whether we accepted or rejected Jesus Christ. Do you feel uncomfortable with people of less social stature than you? It is all pride and vanity. The bum on the side of the road is just as much a child of God as we are. We do not know everyone’s story from their outward appearances. Each of us no matter their social stature is deserving of our respect and are deserving of God’s love and are deserving of receiving the gospel. Who are we to judge? It takes humility to see others as equals regardless of the trappings of this life. The trappings of this life do not matter in eternity. Help us to be the kind of people that judge others by the content of their character, as Martin Luther King said, not by the color of their skin or any other segregating prideful mechanism we may use. All are welcome in God’s kingdom. The only segregator that God uses on judgment day is whether we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior or not.

How do we go about thinking that we don’t know it all? Humility. Humility. It’s all about humility. When we think we know it all. It is again a matter of pride. When we think we have all the answers, it says that we think we have arrived. We have made ourselves god. Pride is fertile soil for sin. When we think we know it all, we think that everything we do is right. We fall prey to our own pride. We rationalize our behavior away and slowly anything becomes fair game. Sin awaits. Discord awaits. When we realize that we do not know it all is the beginning of humility. When we realize that there are others more talented than us is the beginning of humility. When we realize that we do not have the answers is when God can work on us. When we realize that we have so much to learn is when God can really use us. An humble heart is putty in God’s hands. When we stop trying to rule our own world and tear others down when they expose our weaknesses is when we realize that we are not greater than we are. It is when we realize that we have need of something greater than ourselves. It is when we realize that we will never be God for He is God alone. He is above and beyond us. When we realize that we are not god, God can begin to mold us and use us for the purpose He intended for our lives. For the Christ follower, the most freeing moment in our life history is when we realize that we are not god and that He is. Let go and let God. When we humble ourselves to realize we are not our own god, it is the beginning of humility. When we realize that we are not god, we can see others as just as deserving of God’s grace as we are. When we realize that we are not god, everyone is deserving of love and respect. When we realize that we are sinners and are not perfect, we begin to give others some slack for not being perfect. When we realize that if it were not for the grace of Jesus Christ, we would be destined for hell, it takes our pride away. Humility begins. Love begins. Harmony begins.

Father, thank you for today’s meditation of a single verse of Scripture that says so much. Help me Father to love others because you love them. Help me to seek humility and not pride. Help me to see every fellow human being as deserving of being here. Help me to see everyone as equally deserving of dignity and respect. Help me to see them as your children. Help me to see them as deserving of hearing your gospel. Help me to see every person through the eyes that you see them with. Amen.

Romans 12:15 — This verse sound like a pretty easy prescription for a good and healthy life doesn’t it? “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” In actuality, it is a little tougher than it sounds. Can you really dive deep into being joyful for those who are joyful and be mournful with those who mourn?

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Sounds simple enough. If I am married, I should rejoice at weddings. What if though, you’re marriage is falling apart? What if you are going through a divorce that you did not want? Man, rejoicing with your friend who is getting married is hard to do isn’t it? What if you and your wife have been trying to have a baby and you find out that you can’t have children? It is hard to rejoice with your neighbors who are pregnant with their third kid in four years. What if you are a pastor and your church is struggling but yet you see another pastor you know that has a church that seems everything they do just explodes with reaching new people? Can you rejoice with your fellow pastor? What if you are qualified and ready for that promotion but yet your co-worker is chosen over you? Can you rejoice with your co-worker? I could go on and on with this, but I think you are beginning to see the picture of the completeness of Paul’s command. He calls us not to simply rejoice when it is easy for us to rejoice. It is hard for us to rejoice with others when they have obtained something that we want but don’t have. We are called to rejoice and have true joy for others even when it makes us envious of their good fortune. It’s like patting your friend on the back when his favorite team has beaten your favorite team for the national championship. Many of us do not react with genuine joy for the good fortune of others. Many of us try to minimize the successes of others when we do not have that same success. Are you jealous of someone who seems to have it all right now at this moment? Paul calls us to rise above our selfishness and aspire to selflessness. Instead of viewing everything through our own lenses, see life from others’ perspectives.

It’s like FB Meyers story. He was a preacher along the same time as Charles Spurgeon. Meyer was a great preacher in his own right. However, he was just not as gifted a preacher as Spurgeon was. He was jealous of Spurgeon’s success. He watched Spurgeon’s church explode. He went to God in prayer about his jealousy. The result was that he prayed for Spurgeon’s success and that God would bring the overflow to his church. That took humility to swallow his jealousy and pray for the success of his rival. Ultimately, Meyer came to the knowledge that reaching souls for Christ was the bottom line and that each of us may be called to either lesser or greater roles in that. That’s humility. That’s keeping your eye on what’s really important. So, let it be said of us that in our Christian walk that we rejoiced with genuine joy for those who rejoice. Help our reaction to others speak of the joy we have in Christ. A humble heart who knows his value comes from the Lord can speak volumes of who Jesus Christ is.

Mourn with those who mourn. Again, this sounds pretty easy on the surface. Typically, we all can muster up sympathy for others who have suffered a loss. For example, we can typically be there for a family who has had a sudden death in their family. We can be there for the day of the death, the visitation, and the funeral. But can we be there for that family a year from now when they are still suffering from their loss. Can you be there for them later when it really matters. People can be greatly loving temporarily when the lights are bright. But can you be loving to that same family when they seem such a drag a year later. Can you be there for them when there is no advantage to you. Can you be there for them when they seem to be sucking the very life out of you. Can you be there for the friend who is going through an unwanted divorce and is just having great trouble coping with it for months on end? Can we really mourn with those who mourn? Can you hold your friends hand when you don’t have all the right answers or, as a matter of fact, you don’t have any good answers. Mourn for those who mourn. Let us be ones who get down in the mud with those who mourn. Help us to be in their lives when it is not convenient. Help us to be there when they call even when they seem to call too many times. Help us to be there when they call when you feel like screaming at them to get a life. Help us to be there when we don’t have any right answer. Help us to be there when we can’t fix it. Help us to be for the long haul. Help us to not abandon those who mourn because they make us feel uncomfortable. Help us to just be there. What could speak greater of the love of Jesus Christ than for us to truly mourn with those who mourn rather than just mourn for them. What could speak greater of Jesus love than to love those who mourn for weeks, months, years – even when there seems no end in sight. Help us, Lord, to mourn for those who suffer injustice, help us mourn for those who suffer loss, help us mourn for those who are inconvenient to us. Help us to really care and not just care when its comfortable.

Father, in heaven, Jesus said for us to be perfect as you are perfect. We can never be as perfect as you because of our sin nature. It is for that reason that we need Jesus. It is for that reason that we need the Holy Spirit living in us. It is for that reason that we need Your Word. Help us to continue to grow in our walk with you each and every day after salvation. Sometimes the things that you teach us are very hard to do in our selfish nature. Rejoicing and mourning for those who rejoice and those who mourn sounds simple enough. However, it can be truly difficult for us when its not convenient for our view of the world. Help us not to be so self-centered that we cannot rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Help us to really care about others even when its not convenient or when we do not get anything out of it ourselves. Help us to be humble enough to really care for others in true and meaningful ways that speak volumes about your glory and and your Son. Help us to remember the phrase, What would Jesus do. Amen.