December 20, 2010

To Live is Christ — in the cycle of love

The epistles from Peter were written to the churches “of the Dispersion.” These were Christians who had to leave home and live elsewhere because of persecution. This still happens in our world, but most people in North America know little of persecution, never mind being displaced because of their faith.

I try to imagine people hating and mistreating me for believing in Jesus. I try to imagine this being so severe that the only way to survive is leave town. Such events seem impossible, yet I can easily predict how I would feel if this happened to me. I would be upset, angry, and in a fighting mood. 

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8–12)
The Lord calls for a far different response than the reaction most people would have to mistreatment. He first says to stick together. These displaced believers under the pressure of persecution could easily turn on each other, but He tells them (through Peter) to be united and love each other. That same attitude must then flow outward to others.

The way this passage is worded shows a principle: if Christians cannot love each other, they will not be able to withstand those who do evil, never mind return blessing for it. My strength to love others comes from God. If, as God’s child, I cut that flow of love off and refuse to love His family, there is none available for the rest of the human race, including those who dislike me because I believe in Jesus. No wonder Jesus said . . . 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35)
The love of God has a flow pattern. It goes from Him to me and to all who believe. Then it flows out from each of us to one another. This is our testimony. Love shows the rest of the world that we belong to God. Without it, there is no testimony.

John wrote about this too, only from a slightly different perspective. He said that anyone who claims to love God must show it, or it is not real. 

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1 John 4:20)
Love for God is demonstrated by loving other believers, and loving other believers is totally necessary to the ability to love everyone else. If that cycle or flow of love is cut off, my power to be compassionate, tenderhearted, even polite, is cut off. I cannot bless others. I cannot control my tongue. I will not seek peace nor do good. My prayers will not be heard. Those around me will not experience the love of God.

When Christians cannot get along, do we realize the terrible price of not loving each other?

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