The Rest is Secondary

More important than anything else …

This was another week when God spoke to me through my fellow bloggers and devotions that I follow. He spoke what is so important – following our Lord. It is so important to resist the temptation to give in to fear and anxiety and struggle alone on the side of the path. So important to take His hand and walk with him in this way I have not passed before. The rest is secondary.

“When you come to a place you’ve never been before, for example a town you’ve never visited or, literally, every new stage of your life, and don’t know the way to go, the wisest choice is to follow someone who does.” — Mitch Teemley https://mitchteemley.com/2023/01/29/you-have-not-passed-this-way-before-2/  

When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God … then you shall set out from your place. Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before. Joshua 3:3-4 

“Be sure to taste the moment to the full. The Lord always reveals himself to you where you are most fully present. In your prayer, try to present your anxieties, struggles, and fears to him, and let him show you the way to follow him. More important than anything else is to follow the Lord. The rest is secondary.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

“The rich, young ruler was asking for direction, but unwilling to let Jesus lead his life. He lived life according to the Bible, but his heart kept him from experiencing the fullness of Christ. He valued his life, possessions and desires more. He wasn’t willing to nail them to the cross and follow Jesus fully. We’re all faced with that choice as Christians. Are we satisfied with being saved or do we truly want to become like Him learning Scripture and the lifestyle it requires? It’s a daily choice each of us must make.” — Chris Hendrix https://devotionsbychris.com/2023/01/25/discipleship/  

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 

“Follow me.” John 1:43 

Photo by Sheila Bair

Striking Root

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (copiously, abundantly, much in quantity), teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 (ESV) 

The Greek word translated “dwell” in the above verse is enoikeó (ἐνοικέω). The word is only used five times in the New Testament. Three of those verses underscore that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwells in me.  

… God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … Colossians 3:16 

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 (ESV) 

According to HELPS Word-studies enoikeó means to dwell at home, in one’s personal residence. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds that it means to dwell in one and influence him for good. That is an amazing thing. The word of Christ, which is Christ himself, dwelling in me as his personal residence, at home here in me, influencing me for good.  

But what really captured my attention was what Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers said about this verse:  

“The word of Christ … It is to ‘dwell in their hearts.’ Hence it is the ‘engrafted word’ (James 1:21)–the truth of Christ conceived in the heart, striking root into it, and making it its dwelling-place.” 

I love that picture – the Word of Christ striking root into my heart! It reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the farmer sowing seed on different types of ground. He told of seed that “fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun rose, the seedlings were scorched, and they withered because they had no root (Matthew 13:6). Later Jesus explained it this way: 

The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he remains for only a season. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. Matthew 13:20-21 

Trouble in this life is ubiquitous and persecution will come if we continue on, walking in his footsteps. Trouble tends to do one of two things – harden us, or plow up the stony ground of our hearts. In other words, we can either turn a deaf ear, turn our backs to the Word of God revealed and confronting us (especially hard words we don’t want to hear), or respond and receive the Word.   

Roots cannot sink deep into stony ground. The plowing is part of the process of sanctification. Little by little, God puts his finger on things that need to change in us, and little by little we surrender. J.D. Walt calls this response to the revealed Word “true worship: You have revealed yourself to me and I have responded.” 1 

Let’s allow the Word made flesh to influence for good. He dwells within us and walks along with us. Let’s invite him to be at home in our hearts. Let’s allow his Word to strike root there, sinking deep. Let’s actively pursue this by proclaiming the Word, by owning it for our lives. 

“Speak [God’s Word], pray it, or sing it, repeat it several times. Let it sink into your soul and lift you; the angels will rejoice with you, and your Father God hears your every word. He will provide for and guide you by your faithfulness.” — Alan Kearns https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/08/08/a-proclamation/  

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 
James 1:21-22 

1J.D. Walt https://seedbed.com/and-then-this-happens/  

Photo, Roots by Broderick https://flic.kr/p/8dTTt  

The Winter is Past

Something has happened there in the dark winter season.  

My beloved spoke and said to me, 

“Arise, my darling, 

my beautiful one, come with me. 

See! The winter is past; 

the rains are over and gone. 

Flowers appear on the earth; 

the season of singing has come, 

the cooing of doves 

is heard in our land. 

The fig tree forms its early fruit; 

the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. 

Arise, come, my darling; 

my beautiful one, come with me.” 

Song of Songs 2:10-13 

I have been reading Brennan Manning’s book, The Furious Longing of God. In it, he translates verses 10-11 above this way: 

‘Come now, My love. My lovely one, come. For you, the winter has passed, the snows are over and gone, the flowers appear in the land, the season of joyful songs has come.’ 

For you – for me – the winter is passed. I felt the Lord calling me out of a long season of darkness. “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.” 

The Hebrew word translated “winter” in this verse is sethav (סְתָו). It is only used this one time in the Bible. It means winter as the dark season. It comes from a root word meaning “to hide.” 1 

Like a long season of God hiding his face and plunging me into darkness. For it is by the light of his face that we see. 

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” Psalm 4:6 (ESV) 

Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3 

But sometimes – for our good I guess, though it doesn’t feel good – we have to go through times of darkness, what David called “the valley of the shadow of death.” When it seems that God is not there. When we can’t see his light or hear his voice.  

Today I noticed something about Psalm 23. David starts off referring to the Lord in the third person – “the Lord is my shepherd … he makes me lie down in green pastures” – but after David has walked through the valley of darkness, he speaks directly to God in the first person – “for you are with me You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies … you anoint my head with oil.” Something has happened there in the dark winter season.  

Brennan Manning called this time “a passage into pure trust.” 

“The scandal of God’s silence in the most heartbreaking hours of our journey is perceived in retrospect as veiled, tender Presence and a passage into pure trust that is not at the mercy of the response it receives.” — Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust 

Yes, something happens there in the dead darkness of winter. A decision is made. A decision to trust him no matter what. And I tell you, deciding to trust God has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Especially, trusting him with my children and grandchildren. Yet! 

Though He slay me, yet will I trust (wait, stay, hope in) Him. Job 13:15 (NKJV)  

If you are in a season of darkness like me, this is our time to make that decision to trust him. And he will call us out into the light. A new day. A new season. The “season of singing.”  

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8 

Let the morning, the end of winter and the dark season, the end of Your seeming hiddenness Lord, the end of your silence, bring me word of your unfailing, your continuing-even-when-hidden, love. 

Show me the way I should go .. 

Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me. 

1Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Brown-Driver-Briggs 

Photo of figs by Shlomi Kakon https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PikiWiki_Israel_44800_FIG.jpg   

He Came to Call

Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Matthew 9:13 

Jesus “came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” He came to call sinners. The Spirit has me questioning all the things I have taken for granted these many years. So, I started wondering, what does that mean – to call sinners? Here is what I came up with.1 

Jesus came to call, to call out, to call forth from the grave, “to call aloud, utter in a loud voice” like calling Lazarus from the tomb.  

He came to call us to approach and stand before him in hope, unafraid. To receive his mercy, “to embrace the offer of salvation by the Messiah.” 

He came to summon, invite to the banquet. The sinner’s name, my name, on the list, admitted and welcomed at the door. Because he came to name, to give a name to the sinner. Child of God.  

He came to call his sheep by name. He came to call us to follow, “to be his disciples and constant companions.” 

He came to call me and you, the sinners, the sinning, the sinful, the depraved and detestable. He came to call me and you, the ones who every day fall short of what God approves, who are wide of the mark, the blatant sinners. 

Jesus did not come to call the righteous, you know why?  

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Romans 3:10-12  

Jesus did not come to call the righteous because there aren’t any. 

… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. Romans 3:23-25 

He is calling still, right now, today. He is calling those who know they are not righteous, the ones who long for cleansing and forgiveness and the embrace of his unfailing love. Jesus is offering you redemption, forgiveness, wholeness, peace, and new life, by his blood shed on the cross. He’s offering to remove your filthy clothes of self-righteousness, really bad choices, surrender to temptation, stinking continual failure after failure, and outright rebellion, and envelope you with the robe of his righteousness.  

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30 

Take heart. Get up; he is calling you. Mark 10:49 

1This was written using the definitions and commentary from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, NAS Exhaustive Concordance, and the HELPS Word-Studies found here https://biblehub.com/greek/2564.htm and here https://biblehub.com/greek/268.htm Parts in quotations are direct quotes from these references. 

Photo of tangled flotsam by Sheila Bair 

Each of Them

Our Lord is an “each of them” Lord. 

And when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony they had upheld … each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer … Revelation 6:9, 11 

For some reason that phrase “each of them” in this verse struck me. It is so like our Lord to console each one, go through the line one by one, comforting each one individually, and giving each one of them their assurance in the form of a white robe.  

Each of them. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines this word as hékastos (from hekas, “separate”). It means “each or every — any, both, each (one), every (man, one, woman), particularly.” The HELPS Word-studies adds “each (individual) unit viewed distinctly, i.e. as opposed to “severally” (as a group).” 

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes that the translation “should read, and there was given them to each one a white robe, bringing out still more fully than the old text, that the white robe is an individual, not a common blessing.” 

Our Lord is an “each of them” Lord. He doesn’t look at us as part of big groups, like our religious or political affiliations. We are not races or cultures or citizens to him. He is not patriotic in any way. He doesn’t group us according to our demographics, like gender, income, education, or geographic location. We are individuals. We are “each of them.” And he cares about each of us. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for (is concerned for, pays special attention to, gives thought to, takes an interest in) you. 1 Peter 5:7 

Jesus always cared for the individual. Each child brought to him. Each hurting person in the crowd, like the woman with the issue of blood1, he identified and called to himself for an individual blessing. This kind of caring and taking of time for culturally insignificant, and sometimes culturally despised and rejected, individuals flabbergasted the disciples.  

One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him. Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! Luke 18:15-16 (NLT) 

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” Mark 5:30-31  

I think the disciples wanted, and expected, Jesus to get on with the really important stuff of setting them free from Roman rule and taking over the kingdom. Instead, he kept stopping to look people in the eye, and talk with them, and place his hands of blessing and healing on them, and love them – individually. He still does.

I want you to know and hear this. You are an “each of them.” You are not a bother to him. He cares for you. You. Come, let him lay his hands on your head. Let him look you in the eye and speak comfort to you. Whoever and wherever you are. Right now.  

At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Luke 4:40 

… He is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:27b (NKJV) 

1Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:24-34, Luke 8:43-48 

Before I Was Myself

Knowing who I am is a reflection of God knowing me, and in knowing me choosing me.

“Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction. Without someone to reflect our emotions, we had no way of knowing who we were.” ― John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You 

No way of knowing who we were. Wow, that quote grabbed me. You see, I was raised by very wounded parents who were unable to reflect my emotions. And for most of my life I have been a blank. Not knowing who I was, even what I like, what I wanted, except to make sure everyone else had what they wanted. I never had a “look” or a “style” except to remain as invisible as possible. My ambitions were manufactured to please someone else. I didn’t even know what color my eyes really were until I was 40 years old and I attended a “find your fashion color palette” class. They looked at me and said, “you have green eyes.” What!? I had been told they were brown, and as I tried not to look at myself too much in the mirror, I thought they were brown.  

Around that time, I was at a weekend, overnight conference and in the middle of the night I got up to use the bathroom. Halfway across the dark hotel room I was rooted to the spot when I heard very clearly, deep in my spirit, God say to me, “You are mine.” It was the beginning of identity. Of course, in my messed-up state, I thought God meant that I was his servant and I needed to DO something. I frantically started searching around for that something. It is true that we have good works which God has “prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10),” but now looking back over 30 years later, I am beginning to see that that is not what God meant as he confronted his green-eyed daughter that night.  

Then the other day I read this wonderful poem by a fellow blogger: 

In HIM Redeemed 

Volumes of silence, powerful prayer 

From love filled praise, or deep despair 

Tangible faith, Father hears our heart 

Lifted belief, His love from the start 

No anonymity, from the bended knee 

He’s waited for our prayer to be 

Surrendered and lost, no longer bound 

Prayer by faith, in Him we’re found 

— Sisylala1 

There is no anonymity when I seek to know my Father. There is no being unrecognized or unseen. There is no being invisible – he looks me in the eye and knows who I am. Though surrendered and seemingly lost, in him my real identity is found. Not by wonderful things I have done. Not by what a “good girl” I have been. But rather by my-heart-to-his-heart knowing. My yearning for him reflected in his yearning for me. Knowing who I am is a reflection of God knowing me, and in knowing me choosing me. Astounding!  

Charles Spurgeon said it well: 

“If he had not loved me with a love as deep as hell and as unutterable as the grave, if he had not given his whole heart to me, I am sure he would have turned from me long ago. He knew what I would be, and he has had long time enough to consider of it; but I am his choice, and there is an end of it; and unworthy as I am, it is not mine to grumble, if he is but contented with me. But he is contented with me—he must be contented with me—for he has known me long enough to know my faults. He knew me before I knew myself; yea, he knew me before I was myself.” — Charles Spurgeon, The Incarnation and Birth of Christ, December 23, 1855 

Oh, my sweet Father God, you knew me before I was myself. You made me who I am. You made me to belong to you. Thank you for your amazing knowing and loving! Eye-to-eye, face-to-face, heart-to-heart, I am yours and you are mine (!) 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless (strengthless, feeble, weak), Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 

But you, O LORD, know me; you see me … Jeremiah 12:3 (ESV) 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” … Jeremiah 1:5 

My beloved is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Song of Solomon 2:16 

1https://sisylala.wordpress.com/2022/12/21/in-him-redeemed/  (emphasis mine)

Photo free to use from Pexels, Man Carrying Baby Drawing Their Foreheads, by Josh Willink 

Ashes

(This poem is in response to Emma’s Wednesday Writing Prompt of 11/03/23 )

Our God is a consuming fire 

my life consumed 

seemingly gone 

Ashes rising in the vortex of furious love 

amidst the incense of fire-yielded despair 

by Spirit-breath blown away  

Yet not despised 

Scattered on the soil of 

withered hope 

dying trust 

stunted love 

Nothing is lost 

that is surrendered to 

His fire 

Photo, Flame by Annie Roi https://flic.kr/p/9VB6y7  

Mislaying God

Like a mother clinging to the baby who is fastened for life unto her breast. This is the perfect picture of God pursuing us pursuing him.  

Do the mountain waters run dry, the cold flowing streams? But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway. Jeremiah 18:14-15 (ESV) 

The word translated “forgotten” in the above verse is the Hebrew word that means “to mislay, i.e. to be oblivious of, from want of memory or attention … to forget.”1 

It sounds so casual, doesn’t it? To mislay God. Like forgetting where you put your car keys. How does that happen? From lack of attention, by being oblivious to his Presence, by not remembering what he has done for us in the past. Just going about our daily struggle alone. But what does God say about mislaying us? The same word is used in this verse: 

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:15-16 

Like a mother clinging to the baby who is fastened for life unto her breast. There is no lack of attention there, but the compassionate giving and the riveted seeking and receiving of life itself. This is the perfect picture of God pursuing us pursuing him.  

My soul clings (abides fast, cleaves fast together, follows close hard after, is joined together) to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8 (ESV) 

You know what the exact opposite of “mislaying” God is? 

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. Hosea 6:3 (ESV) 

That word translated “press on” is radaph (רָדַף) and means to pursue, to run after, to hunt, to chase down. It even means to persecute. This is what God desires, this kind of passion in seeking Him. The idea of persecuting God reminds me of the parable that Jesus told about seeking God in prayer. 

In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected men. And there was a widow in that town who kept appealing to him, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect men, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice. Then she will stop wearing me out with her perpetual requests.’ Luke 18:2-5 (Berean Bible) 

Let us not mislay our compassionate, loving, faithful Lord. Rather, let us cling to him as to life itself. Let us chase after him, even pester him with our attention, for that is his desire.  

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge. Psalm 141:8a 

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Psalm 42:1-2 

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 

Read about how God pursues us here Chase Me Down

1Definition from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 

Photo, Mano! By Aurimas Mikalauskas https://flic.kr/p/6hqwdF (I love how the baby has her eyes fixed on the mom!) 

… the least of these

I’m beginning to see I have a different standard to follow, a different way to walk. 

Coming home from another exhausting day caring for my widowed mom, I was pondering a popular idea right now of “no contact.”1 See, my mom is a very broken and wounded person, and wounded people wound. She has always been what some call a narcissist. A narcissist is a supremely wounded soul. So, this idea of abandoning her, cancelling her, in order to protect myself, is sometimes, on bad days, fleetingly attractive. But then God, out of the blue, put this verse in my mind: 

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 

Wow, I was stunned because I don’t think I have ever thought of my own family in this way. It’s always “people out there” who are the least of these. But actually, I realized that I have begun seeing a “least of these” in my mom. There is a broken, hurting little girl in there who is being uncovered as dementia ravages her brain. A hurting little “least of these.” She is telling me terrible and brutal things that happened to her that she has always kept hidden from us.  

But my mom has been and continues to be, with even less restraint now because of the disease, hurtful and cutting at times. The idea of turning away is sometimes very inviting. Ah, but then another word comes:  

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28 

OK, I’m beginning to see I have a different standard to follow, a different way to walk. 

If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. 1 Timothy 5:16 (ESV) 

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 

Jesus replied, “‘… honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 19:18-19 

Honoring and caring for your father and mother appears to be very important to God. In Ephesians 6:2 Paul writes, “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—”so that it may go well with you … One of the last things that Jesus did, hanging on the cross dying, was to ensure the care of his mother: 

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:26-27 

Jesus was obeying the commandment, he was pleasing God, he was loving and being Love. There are times, I know, where “no contact” is warranted, physical or sexual abuse in particular. And everyone must hear from God for themselves. But, for me anyway, God is saying to keep loving her, to let Him love her through me. And as he gives me the grace to do it, I am able to see her as God sees her, a sweet, wounded little girl. I am finding that in the face of this God-love, Christ-in-me love, just unconditional-because-it-pleases-God love, she softens, and her real self is exposed. And I see “the least of these” emerge more and more. 

I increasingly believe that our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need . . . to stay close to the small, vulnerable child that lives in our hearts and in every other human being. Often we do not know that the Christ child is within us. — Henri J. M. Nouwen

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 

1A definition of “No Contact” in this context can be found here: https://psychcentral.com/health/does-going-no-contact-with-a-parent-heal-you-the-answer-isnt-what-you-think 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201105/narcissistic-parents-contact-or-not

Image in the Public Domain 

Live With Guts

This is our distinctive mark! That we love each other. Do we have that mark?  

Finally (the end to which all things relate, the aim, the purpose),1  

all of you, be like-minded (share the same perspective, the same mind, be harmonious, enjoying divinely-inspired harmony, i.e. knowing God’s mind, His thoughts, as He reveals it through faith) 

be sympathetic (be “with suffering” for each other, suffer or feel the like with each other, be understanding, mutually commiserative) 

love one another (love like a brother, an affectionate friend, be brotherly, like the love between fellow family-members in God’s family) 

be compassionate (tender-hearted, have good, positive gut-level sympathy, empathy, compassion– i.e. live with guts) 

and humble (lowly of mind, regulated by the inner perspective of having a humble opinion of oneself, a deep sense of one’s moral littleness, lowliness of mind, the inside-out virtue produced by comparing ourselves to the Lord rather than to others, bringing your behavior into alignment with this inner revelation, living in complete dependence on the Lord, with no reliance on self). 1 Peter 3:8 

Peter is writing mostly to fellow believers in the above letter, and he writes that love is the end to which all things relate, the purpose, the aim – a certain kind of love. A love that keeps on walking, though we stumble, towards having the mind of Christ, suffering with each other in the mutual pain of this world as Jesus did and does for us. To love and accept each other as family. (Think of it, we always put up with more from our family than “strangers.”) To live with guts, as Jesus did here on earth, from the center of our being, with empathy and compassion for our fellow strugglers/travelers. To view ourselves from the inside-out, for we know what’s in there, we and God. Yes, that is the aim of this Christian walk. But there is a bigger purpose. 

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.–The thought of their state of orphanage when He should depart from them is still present. He gives them a bond of union, by which they should always be linked to Him and to each other in the principle of love. The followers of great Teachers and Rabbis had their distinctive marks. Here was the distinctive Christian mark, which all men should be able to read. It is instructive that the characteristic mark of Christianity should thus be asserted by its Founder to consist, not in any formulary or signs, but in the love which asserts the brotherhood of man. The apologists of the first centuries delighted in appealing to the striking fact of the common love of Christians, which was a new thing in the history of mankind; and while the Church has sometimes forgotten the characteristic, the world never has. By their love for each other, for mankind, for God, is it known or denied that men who call themselves Christians are really Christ’s disciples.” — Ellicott’s Commentary 

This is our distinctive mark! That we love each other. Do I have that mark? Is it obvious to people that I am a Christian because of how I love?  

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12 

Loving each other is how we love the unseen God. Even more wonderful, as we do this kind of love towards God and each other, we become as Jesus walking on the earth. 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like (just as, corresponding to fully, exactly like) Jesus. 1 John 4:16-17 

And what happened when Jesus walked down here? The meek and the lowly, the people ready to receive Him, were drawn to Him, and they were healed and saved and changed. That is “the end to which all things relate, the aim, the purpose” of this love to which we are called. 

 I am not sure that we are where God desires us to be yet, at least not me. And I know that I can never be there on my own. And it’s only by fixing my eyes on Jesus, working towards aligning my words and my doings and my guts with his, and putting my powerless hand into his strong one on this rocky path that I am ever going to make it. The only way that any of us will ever make it home. Let’s live with guts! Compassionate, tenderhearted, with gut-level empathy. Let our hearts be broken for each other that we might be like Jesus, bringing life and light. 

Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Mark 1:41 (NLT) 

There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him … He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh (moan, groan from grief) said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). Mark 7:32, 34 

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubledJesus wept. John 11:33, 35 

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it … Luke 19:41 

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34 

1Amplification from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, and HELPS Word-studies at Bible Hub.

Photo by Jack Bair

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