Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Love does not act Unseemly: Part 3

Relational Rudeness

Love does not behave in a way to uncover the sins or weaknesses of another. A beautiful example of this is when Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant. Mary was betrothed to marry Joseph, but before they were married Mary was found to be with child. By right, Joseph could have brought her before the elders and had her publicly humiliated and even stoned, but instead Joseph sought to deal with the matter privately. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” (Matthew 1:18-19) Out of love, Joseph decided not to expose Mary to public humiliation but rather to handle it in a way that would cover her sin. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

Love covers sin and, even in the most extreme cases where sin must be exposed to the church, love does so in a final effort to bring about the redemption and restoration of the sinner. When sin enters a relationship, it should be handled within that relationship without the involvement of others unless absolutely necessary. Consider how Jesus taught us to handle the sins others. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17) When offended or wronged, love does not run around telling everyone they meat how they were wronged. Instead, love tries to resolve the issue, one on one, keeping the involvement of others to a minimum. When we expose another’s sin, it is gossip. Gossip, not only poisons the hearer, but ruins even the closest of relationships. “He who conceals a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)

One other form of relational rudeness is when we expose the weakness of another and open them t0 riducule and shame. “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.” (Romans 15:1-2) This weakness that Paul is referring to is a weakness of faith. Not everyone is at the same place in the Spirit as we are. We are all growing in the Lord at our own pace and along our own path assigned to us by the Lord. When love sees the weakness of others its desire is to build them up, to edify them. Love does not ridicule or belittle them, love does not think less of them, but love reaches out to build them up and to help them grow. “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” (Romans 14:1) When we pass judgment we are not acting in love. When we give in to the temptation to “share” our judgments of others, we are acting contrary to love. Love covers and love protects.

More to come… David Robison

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Love does not act Unseemly: Part 2

Sexual Rudeness

Our culture has blurred the line between love and sex. To many, sex is the highest expression of love. We see this throughout the media and entertainment industry. Love is pictured as a fire that grows between two people and it climaxes with the two having sex; with or without the benefit of marriage. While the significance of sex between two loving individuals united by the bonds of marriage cannot be overstated, sex does not equal love.

God not only fashioned us for sex, He also created sex to be a tremendous uniting force between a man and a woman who are joined by marriage. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2:24) A husband is to leave his home and cleave to his wife and, through sexual intimacy, they are to grow together as one flesh. God created sex yet in His wisdom He has given it to be experienced only by those who have entered into a covenant of marriage. “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4) Throughout the scriptures God has condemned sex outside of marriage. Fornication, adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality are all condemned by God. What we need to understand is that love does not behave in these ways. For example, if we are involved in an adulterous relationship, our passions may be the result of lust but they are not the result of love. Love does not express itself through improper and inappropriate sexual conduct, contact, and advancements. These things are the fruit of lust, not of love.

Some may say that there is no harm when sexual relations are entered into by two consenting adults, yet someone is always hurt by illicit sex. “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:18-19) When we sin sexually, not only do we sin against ourselves and our body but we also sin against God. Someone waling in love would not do this to themselves, to another person, or to their God and creator.

So how do we know if we have crossed the line sexually? Paul instructs Timothy, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2) Here is the test: are you treating other people (other than your spouse) as your mothers and sisters and you fathers and brothers? Men, is your behavior with another woman consistent with how you would behave with your sister? Women, do you relate to other men as you would to your brother? These boundaries will not only help us to stay pure sexually but also help us in living out love to one another.

More to come… David Robison

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Love does not act Unseemly: Part 1

The Greek word translated as rude, unbecoming, and unseemly is aschemoneo. This interesting word is used only one other time in the New Testament, in a strange passage referencing a father’s relationship to his unwed virgin daughter. “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.” (1 Corinthians 7:36) This word is also used five times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) where four times it is translated as “be naked”.

The cognate noun of aschemoneo is aschemosune and is used twice in the New Testament. Once in reference to male homosexual behavior, “and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” (Romans 1:27) It is also used a second time in reference to being naked, “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.” (Revelation 16:15) This word also appears in the Septuagint and often with reference to being naked, specifically with reference to genitalia.

The adjective form of aschemoneo is aschemon and also appears in the Septuagint when describing the rape of Dinah, “Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.” (Genesis 34:7)

So what does it mean to act rudely or in an unseemly or unbecomingly manner? Consistent with the use of these words throughout the scriptures is the idea of uncovering someone else’s nakedness, often to their shame. Paul, in teaching on the Body of Christ, tells us that there are things that are meant to be covered, there are part of the body that are not meant to be exposed. “And those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked.” (Corinthians 12:23-24) While Paul was writing this in regard to the Body of Christ, the same is true in the natural. Not only do we cloth the parts of our body that are “less presentable”, but even spiritually and emotionally, there are things that are so intimately personal that we do not expose them for public viewing.

So what does it mean to be rude? Rude is when we expose another’s “nakedness” and bring upon them shame, disgrace, and ridicule. This could be a physical nakedness, in reference to inappropriate sexual contact, or an emotional or spiritual nakedness. As we grow in fellowship with one another we get to know each other’s “stuff”; their sins, difficulties, and weaknesses. When we expose someone else’s “stuff”, we are acting rudely, unseemly, and unbecomingly. Love does not do this. Instead of exposing, love covers. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Love does not go around exposing other people’s sins; rather love covers a multitude of sins with forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

In the coming posts, we will look at some ways that we can become rude to others.

David Robison

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Love is not Arrogant: Part 5

Deflating Arrogance
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
The first step in eliminating arrogance from our lives is to begin to think of others first. This does not come naturally but takes practice. We must ask the Holy Spirit to show us when we have become self-focused and to help up to considers others as more important that ourselves. We must become aware of the needs and wants of those around us. “What is it that my wife needs the most?” “What are the things that my children are most concerned about?” Paul says that the Body of Christ is so constructed that we might “have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:25) The Greek word for “care” can also be translated “distraction”. We need to be distracted with the needs of others instead of being totally absorbed with our own needs.
“Listen and give heed, do not be haughty, for the Lord has spoken.” (Jeremiah 13:15)
We need to accept the fact that the Word of God is not just to be read but also to be obeyed. It is not enough to listen to God’s Word but we must also “give heed” to His word; to let it effect us and bring change into our lives. We must conform our lives to His Word not His Word to our lives. It was said of Ezra that he, “set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10) The heart of Ezra was not just to know the Law of God but also to practice and obey it. The stronghold of arrogance is loosened when we begin to believe that the Word of God has something to say to us and allow it to teach and change us.
“My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” (Psalm 131:1 NIV)
It is humbling to consider that there are matters and things that are too wonderful, too profound, and too high for us to comprehend. The hot air of arrogance is deflated when we are humble enough to admit that we don’t know everything. We don’t always have to have an answer. We don’t always have to be able to figure it out. Some things are too great for us to know, and that’s OK. There are problems in this world that we cannot solve by our own wisdom, knowledge, and thoughts. How much time I have wasted debating the solutions to life’s problems with others when, in truth, I really didn’t have a clue? Sometime, the most appropriate response to life’s problems is not to become concerned with trying to understand them but rather to humble ourselves in prayer over them.
“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” (Romans 12:16)
Arrogance isolates us from others; we are the superior and they are the inferior. The real deception of arrogance is that we think we are better than others when, in truth, we are no different; we are all sinners for whom Christ died to save. One of strongest weapons against arrogance is to form vital relationships with other believers in the Body of Christ, especially with those who are different from us. When we learn to live in fellowship we begin to understand that we are but a part of the body, not the whole body, and that we are in need of each other. Paul reminds us, “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Corinthians 12:20-21) We need others and others need us and the sooner we learn this the sooner we will find freedom from arrogance.

David Robison

Monday, May 08, 2006

Love is not Arrogant: Part 4

Of inferior value – continued
“Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3)
Arrogance values personal liberty over personal sacrifice. As the Gospel spread through out the gentile world, questions arouse regarding former customs as to whether or not they were consistent with a Christian lifestyle. Specifically, in this passage, the question was whether or not a Christian should eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul acknowledges that an idol is really nothing; there is one God and Father whom we server. Sacrificing meat to an idol does not change the meat; it is still food that has been given to us by our Father in heaven for our nourishment and enjoyment. The real issue is not, “should we eat or should we abstain?” Paul reassures us that, “food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.” (1 Corinthians 8:8) The real issue, however, is our heart attitude.

When Paul says, “knowledge puffs-up,” he is not condemning knowledge nor the pursuit of knowledge but rather he is cautioning us about how knowledge, apart from love, can cause us to be indifferent to the weaknesses of those around us. As we grow in the knowledge of the things of the Kingdom, our knowledge allows us to shed some of the old taboos that are no longer consistent with the teachings of the Gospel. In this case, eating food offered to idols. Yet, just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do something. Just because we can eat meat offered to idols doesn’t mean we should be first in line at the idol’s temple to get the best cut of meat. Our personal liberties offered us by our knowledge must be tempered by the needs of those around us. Sometimes, personal sacrifice is of greater value in the Kingdom of God than individual liberties. This is why Paul says, “For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:11, 13) Love is willing to sacrifice what is ours by right that our brother may be built up.
“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.” (Colossians 2:16-19 NKJV)
Arrogance values religion over relationship. All over the world there is an increasing hunger to find and understand the supernatural. People want to get in touch with the spiritual; they want to understand what they cannot see. Many people are becoming aware that there is a whole other reality out there, one that emanates from the spirit realm. They seek what is spiritual, but where is their journey taking them? There are many people who claim to know the way. They have enlightenment, they have had visions and visitations, they can show us the disciplines and spiritual practices that will bring us closer to the “spirits”, but do they really know the way? How can we distinguish the spiritual charlatans from the truly godly ones? Paul tells us that the one distinguishing mark of the false guides is that, in their arrogance, they “hold not fast the Head.”

Spiritual answers are not found in a religion, they are not found in philosophy, and they are not found in supernatural experiences, visions, or trances. Spiritual answers are found in a relationship with the Head; a relationship with Jesus Christ. When we think we have it figured out, then it is a clear sign that we don’t. When, however, we know Him, then we have Him who is the answer to all our questions. Anyone who tries to sell you on their plan, their revelation, or their insight into the spirit is merely puffed-up by what he supposes he knows. But anyone who leads you to Jesus is a true messenger of God and truly loves others. What we know and have seen matters little, but who we know can make all the difference in someone else’s life. Love would rather point others to Jesus than to our own brand of religion.

More to come… David Robison

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Love is not Arrogant: Part 3

Of inferior value... continued
“Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.” (1 Corinthians 4:18-20)
Arrogance values words over power. Christianity is full of people who can talk a good talk. They know all the right things to say, they are well versed in “christian-eze”, and they can speak fluently in Christian slang. Listening to them, you might conclude that they are solid mature Christians, but our Christian life is not to be judged by the words we use but rather by the life we live. It is not enough to talk the talk but we must also walk the walk.

Power is the inheritance of every Christian. Jesus Himself promised us, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Paul understood that even in the preaching of the Gospel it ia not enough to preach the word but we must also give evidence to the word with demonstration and power. “And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) Paul not only preached to them the message of the Gospel but he also demonstrated the reality of the Gospel through his changed life and the many miracles he performed among the in the name of Jesus.

Here in America we are full of words but are lacking in power. Paul warns about these difficult times when he told Timothy that, in the last days, people would be “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) This is the life of the arrogant. Why would people preferred words over power? Because the power of God comes to change us. It comes to conform us to His will and nature. It requires that we die to our old life and live by faith through the life of Christ that is within us. We cannot embrace the power of God and continue to live the way we please. We can only take hold of God’s power by first dieing to ourselves. The arrogant cannot accept this price, yet love pays it willingly and finds the blessings of a life lived in God.
“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 6-7)
Arrogance is more concerned with the outward man than the inward man. In this scripture, Paul is bringing correction to the church in Corinth. The church is a corporate expression of the Body of Christ. Outwardly, the church was a happening place, they were a very charismatic of people, but inwardly there was sin and debauchery. The leaders of the church had become puffed up with how they were perceived from the outside but they had ignored what was happening on the inside. Even when there was gross sin, their arrogance blinded them to the harm it was doing to the church as well as the grief it was bringing to the Holy Spirit. Instead of morning over the church’s internal sin, they were brimming with pride in their church’s outward face.

Jesus had a similar rebuke for the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees. “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:26-28) We can only fool people so long. Eventually they will come to see who we really are, on the inside. People may be drawn to our outward fa├žade, but it is who we are on the inside that will leave its mark on those closest to us. If we are full of sin and poison we will end up hurting others, but if we are full of the love of God, then our lives will be a blessing to those who know us. Arrogance focuses on the outward, but love compels us to clean the inside of the cup first.

More to come… David Robison

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Love is not Arrogant: Part 2

Of inferior value

Arrogance is a deceiver. It causes us to place value in what has little or no intrinsic value. We are convinced that we are something great when, in reality, we are really not much different than everyone else. It was for this kind of arrogance that Jesus sent message through the Apostle John to the church at Laodicea. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17-18) The Christians at Laodicea saw themselves as being rich and being full of the things of God, yet the things that they thought brought them great wealth were nothing more than common fools gold. They thought they were rich, but the truth was that they were utterly poor. We are content to hold onto what we have, assuming that it is of great value, and discard what God has for us and those things have true eternal value. Arrogance deceives us into thinking that we are something that we are not and that we have something that we really don’t have. Here are some ways that arrogance deceives us into valuing the wrong things.
“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:6-7)
Arrogance finds reasons to value ourselves over others. Paul was writing of those who were puffed up in regards to which apostle they, or their church, was related to. One group saw themselves better then the others because of their relationship with Paul. Others thought themselves superior because of the relationship to Apollos. Their arrogance led to a party spirit and caused divisions between Christian brothers and sisters. This form of arrogance is far too common among self righteous religious ones. We boast about what makes our church better than other churches; we have better worship, we have better teaching, our church is more loving than other churches. We take what God has given us and use it to separate us. Paul, in his letter to the Jews in Rome, wrote to tell them not to think of themselves as being superior to the gentiles. “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” (Romans 3:1-2, 9) In the end, none of us are any better than anyone else. We are all but mere men and women. We are all people born into sin and in need of a savior. Even as Christians we are not better than those who are still lost. Apart from our relationship with Jesus we are no different than anyone else. There really is only one that is great, and it’s not us. “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.” (Romans 11:17-18) We are all branches, Jesus alone is the root. We have nothing with which to boast against the other branches. Our boast should be in the Lord.

More to come… David Robison

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Love is not Arrogant: Part 1

Have you ever met someone who was “full of themselves”? Someone whose world revolved around them, someone for whom life was “all about them”? This is the kind of person Paul is talking about. When we allow our egos to grow bigger than our realities, we presume qualities about ourselves that are not supported in reality. We think we have all the answers, we think we understand fully, we think we are better than other people. We take on an attitude of arrogance that is not in keeping with that of love. Love is not puffed up!

In any relationship, there must be room for both people. When one person begins to become puffed up, they crowd out the other person. When one person is arrogant, or puffed up, then there is little room left in the relationship for the other person. Everything in the relationship ends up revolving around the them. Every decision, every activity, every external relationship must be all about them. The end result of arrogance in a relationship is strife. “An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.” (Proverbs 28:25) Over the long haul, no relationship can endure such strife and remain healthy. Arrogance and strife in a relationship typically produces one of two outcomes, either the other person is reduced to nothing or the relationship breaks altogether. Either way, the fruit of arrogance is not the fruit of love.

Arrogance blinds us to the truth about ourselves. The arrogant person walks in darkness and his feet stumble into iniquity. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18) Often the arrogant person does not perceive that they are stumbling. They do not perceive the harm they are doing in their relationships. In their mind they are not at fault therefore they assume that the fault lies with the other person. I have known people who have gone from one failed relationship to another and it was always the other person’s fault. They never stopped to consider that maybe they were the problem! Paul cautions those who think they have it all together. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Paul’s point is that, just because we think we stand does not mean that we really do. Just because we think we have it all together doesn’t mean that we really do. Just because we are convinced that all the problems in our relationships are the other person’s fault does not mean that we are not to blame. We must take heed and examine our lives. We must compare what we think about ourselves with how we really are. We must check our heart to see if there be any arrogance or any area where we have become “puffed up”. Arrogance is not our friend and must be rooted out of our lives.

More to come… David Robison