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Posts Tagged ‘Love’

By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” – Hebrews 11:4 (NIV)

I think it’s safe to say that our world is in turmoil. When “tolerance” seems to be a prevailing value at the same time we have a growing sense of “intolerance” on many levels of society.

Daily in international news we are beset with stories of racial tension and violence, hate crimes, terrorist attacks and the list goes on. I don’t have to cite the stories which are most likely very familiar to you.

In these times of turmoil, I see the same story repeated through history, but I also see the same resolution as well. I’ve been reflecting in these days on the first recorded murder. In the Bible, in Genesis chapter 4 we see that the first death among the children of Adam and Eve was the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. The story is well worth a review if you haven’t thought about it lately.

The conflict began when Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice before the LORD and was commended. Cain brought another sacrifice and was rejected because of his heart condition. The situation really got Cain fighting mad.

As the story goes,

“. . . but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. So, Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” – Genesis 4:5-7 (NIV)

When confronted with the condition of his heart Cain had some major decisions to make. Would he continue to bury his anger, brood and stew over his rejection, or would he take stock of his strong internal emotions, have his heart healed, and move on to a better place?

Unfortunately, we know the rest of the story. He misplaced his rejection, blamed his brother and violence and murder erupted.

Personally, I think this story is lived out again and again in our world today and we are seeing it played out on an international scale.

For each of us, when we begin to experience anger against an individual, a different racial, political, cultural or religious group, we are in danger of misdirecting our anger and letting it take us to places that are dangerous and destructive.

Anger led Cain to murder when internal reflection wasn’t the response of his heart. Unchecked anger can do the same for any of us.

I suppose that from here to eternity love and hate will both be opposing forces. The question for each of us, is what we will do and how we will react by hating the right things. We can choose to hate racism, for example, without hating racists. What we hate says a lot about us, just as who or what stirs our anger says a lot about us.

In the New Testament, the writer to the book of Hebrews, quoted above, says that Abel was a righteous man and was wrongly targeted for stirring up his brother’s anger. Even though dead, he still speaks. Abel was an innocent victim but was also the target of hostility. His example of godliness and suffering even in the face of violence and death is something that should speak strongly to us even today – especially today.

The ultimate expression of love in the face of hatred comes at the Cross of Jesus Christ. It was He who died in all His innocence and rose to life so that each of us could be set free from misdirected anger and hatred against anyone or anything.

Anger, along with love, is perhaps the strongest and most powerful of our emotions. When confronted with deep seated anger in our hearts, each of us can choose to step back, reflect and re-direct it toward something that is worth hating. It’s not a person or a race, a political party or country, but in reality a way of life that runs contrary to love which seeks the highest good of another fellow human being.

Abel lived a shorter life than Cain but there’s no question as to who serves as a better model for us today in these times of turmoil.

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Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-20 (NLT)

I’m not really a perfectionist . . . I only think like one.

As I write this essay it’s only appropriate that the table I’m sitting at is wobbling because its legs don’t rest evenly on the floor. It’s a struggle to be thankful because I wish I could be perfectly happy and satisfied with myself and everyone and everything around me – all the time!

As the annual Thanksgiving Holiday in the USA rapidly approaches I have been reflecting on the subject of perfectionism and how it so often robs us of joy and thankfulness that God intended us to have. He knows that this is a broken and imperfect world that can never meet or measure up to His holy standards. That is critical to why He sent His Son Jesus to redeem a lost, broken and imperfect world. I am part of that world. You are too.

I honestly don’t remember when the perfectionism bug bit me. I was probably very young. I’m sure if I explored it long enough and talked to any number of my friends who are very competent counsellors they could help me identify the roots of patterns that have come to be lifelong habits.

I’m learning that perfectionism is tied in with pride and has nothing to do with love. When I’m focused on my own desire to achieve perfection in my life and surroundings I’m basically playing a game of one-up-man-ship. Trying to outdo others to meet my own ego issues is completely selfish and unloving. Those are harsh words for someone who’s trying to be perfect!

Pride is a violation of love and perfectionism is pride.

In the verses referenced above the apostle Paul speaks of a Spirit-filled way of living. As redeemed people we can rest in joyful communion with God – singing, praising, and making melody – when alone or with others. In the process he says “give thanks for everything.” 

I think Paul is very intentional in saying that we give thanks to God the Father for everything. We direct our thanks to our Father in the name of Jesus His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. The PERFECT triune God is involved in every aspect of our lives. For this we should be continually thankful – all the time.

I admit that I often have difficulty accepting the Sovereignty and goodness of God. Thanking he triune God for “everything” can only come from a heart that is grateful for His constant, redeeming, all-encompassing love.

Our pride and perfectionism does not produce fruit in the eternal scheme of things. Heaven is not impressed when we perform on our own stage. We may think that we’re putting on a fine show by our good works, but if motivated by anything other than love for God and His reputation all our best efforts come to naught.

Some have taken me to task on this. “Isn’t a Christian supposed to STRIVE for perfection?”

It all depends on who is doing the striving. When you examine it closely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are unable to bring ourselves to perfection with self-effort. It’s a faith journey that thrives on thanksgiving, joy and heaven-inspired music.

When I’m caught up in my own pride and perfectionism, I’m far from joyful and definitely not singing and making any music – with my voice or with my life.

Some years ago I was introduced to The Sonship Course. It was originally developed for burned out missionaries but was later adapted for a wider audience. One of the key questions it posed was, “If given the choice would you rather be right or would you rather be loving?” A perfectionist wants to be right. A devoted Jesus-follower wants to experience God’s love deeply and share it with others.

I must admit that most times I’d rather be right than loving when God desires my heart devotion to Him. Everything else, including a grateful heart, should flow from that. Our LORD Jesus is the only one who can be perfectly right and perfectly loving at the same time. Why compete with true perfection?

This year, as always, I’d like to enjoy the “perfect” Thanksgiving holiday – but I’ll settle for a grateful, joyful heart whatever the day might bring. Giving thanks is on God’s menu for us every day and perfectionism always leaves a bitter aftertaste.

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