Tainted love

Ask just about anyone on the street and they’ll tell you that you should be able to love whoever you want however you want. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Do what makes you feel good. Love is love.

In the course of time, Amnon, son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom, son of David.

2 Samuel 13:1 (NIV)

So what if Amnon loves Tamar? He should be able to love whoever he wants! Right? Well, if Tamar is the sister of a son of David and Amnon is a son of David, doesn’t that make Tamar, at the very least, his half sister? Not so lovely to love now, is it? But that didn’t matter to Amnon. He had to have Tamar no matter what. He loved her after all. He deserved to have her love him back.

So he came up with a plan to lure Tamar into his bedroom. Because Amnon was her brother, Tamar figured she was safe. Until Amnon made a completely inappropriate pass at her. She tried to fight him off.

But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

2 Samuel 13:14-15 (NIV)

Amnon, in his obsession assumed that, by having what he wanted, his needs would be satisfied. Instead, his passions were reversed.

Aren’t we like that sometimes? We can obsess over something, love something, want something so bad that we are willing to do almost anything to get it. We should be able to love whoever or whatever we want, shouldn’t we? If it makes us happy, shouldn’t we do what we can to get it?

Just because we want something doesn’t mean we should have it. It doesn’t mean it’s good for us to have it. It doesn’t mean it’s ours to have. And it rarely means what we think it will mean.

During the hippie era, free love was the fad. In recent years it’s #LoveWins. We are constantly being told that if it feels good, do it. Love what you love. You can’t help who you love. In all of the noise, we as believers must remind ourselves of what love really is. We must recognise that the world, who has rejected Jesus and the God who is love, cannot really know or experience true love unless they acknowledge the single greatest act of love in the history of humankind.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

That is what love looks like. It certainly wasn’t the thing Jesus wanted most. It didn’t feel good. It didn’t cater to his wants or desires nor did it fulfill any fantasies.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

Amnon’s tainted idea of what love was fell short of nearly every point Paul made regarding love in his letter to the church at Corinth. His love for Tamar was all about himself. The love Christ calls us to has nothing to do with our own satisfaction, but is all about others.

Read: 2 Samuel 13-14, Luke 20:1-26

Infinity and beyond

Read: Deuteronomy 14-16, Mark 13:14-37

When was the last time you had something repaired? Maybe it was your car. Perhaps a computer or an appliance. It was probably a big-ticket item, whatever it was. Once upon a time, people would repair just about everything. Socks were darned. Jeans were patched. Dresses were refit to a different shape and size. Phones lasted decades. Books for centuries.

Mark 13-31

When we read about Jesus’ words enduring forever, we really don’t have a frame of reference. After all, nothing lasts forever, right?

Wrong.

We need to get our minds out of our world of temporary and easily replaceable. We need to get our brains fixed on the fixed. We need to look beyond today and into eternity. Into infinity and beyond.

Jesus, the Word, was there in the beginning. He will be there long after all we know ends. And he has invited us to share eternity with him. We’d be crazy not to take him up on that offer.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

John 1:1-2 (NIV)

It is this assurance that we can hold on to. Outside of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, there is nothing that endures. If we desire meaning and anything that lasts, it can only be found through Christ. It is this knowledge that will keep us going when everything else we know is gone. This life may be temporary, but the next one isn’t.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

No more. No less.

Read: Exodus 29-30, Matthew 22:1-22

As humans, we want to put a price on everything. On everyone. You may have heard it said that everyone has a price. Whether intentionally or not, we put labels on people. We value them based on their station in life, their skills, education, and sadly, skin colour or nationality—some or all of these to a greater or lesser degree than another.

Some jobs pay more based on experience or expertise while others pay next to nothing, devaluing the person working it. We raise some people higher than others simply because they were born to the “right” parents and we debase some for the very same reason.

God has also put a price on all of our heads. But it is the same price for everyone.

God delivered His chosen people out of slavery so that He could dwell among them and be their God (Exodus 29:45-46). So that they would belong to Him, there was a price that had to be paid.

When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.

Exodus 30:12 (NIV)

In order to be kept in the count, each man over the age of twenty had to pay a price. The same price.

Exodus 30:15

No matter what tribe a person came from or what their station was, all lives were of equal value when it came to the price required to pay their ransom.

RANSOM: A transaction involving the release of an item (or person) in exchange for some type of payment.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

Atonement cannot be made without payment. The price we must pay is no longer a half shekel, but a blood sacrifice. Jesus’ blood. And it his blood and his alone that can complete the transaction. No more. No less. That price is the same for everyone.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”

Acts 10:34-35 (NIV)

In the eyes of God, we are all valued exactly the same. There is only one price to be paid and only method of payment. The price has already been paid, we need only to accept it. And, once accepted, that price puts us all on equal footing in the kingdom of God. No one is worth more. No one is worth less. But we are all of great value. Great enough that only another life could purchase ours.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

One voice

I was recently in a meeting with my pastor when he was asked about the local ministers’ group—pastors who regularly get together to discuss local church-related issues (in theory). My pastor laughed at the comment. He stopped going to those meetings a long time ago. He never even attended enough to be considered a regular. Do you want to know why? At one of these pastor’s meetings—where a group of pastors from the same city should be getting together to discuss strategies on how to help the lost in their city—a pastor stood up and said that he saw no reason for the churches in our town to work together. They’re all doing their own thing and that’s just fine.

Is it?

May God, who give this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ toward the other. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.

Romans 15:5-7 (NLT)

Everything I’ve ever read in the Bible, especially in reference to the Church, has always been that we should work together. That we are one body. A part of one mission. One family.

What should be a family business has become a rather serious case of sibling rivalry. I’ve heard many praise the fact that the city I live in is considered to be one of the most churched cities in the country (approximately one church per 1,000 residents). I beg to differ. I ask the question, how many United churches are there? Reform? Pentecostal? Mennonite? Non-denominational? There are multiples of each of these and many more. And very few, if any, were an intentional plant from another. It is a testament of split after split after split.

Don’t get me wrong, I get that there are different ways of doing things. Different denominations appeal to different people. I have no issue with that. What I take issue with is the fact that these people don’t see the need to work together, to speak with one voice.

The city is filled with people who have been exposed to and hurt by the local church. Instead of effectively working together toward a common goal, one church spurns another, creating more animosity than converts. How can God be glorified in that?

I long for the day when the Mennonite church can approach the Catholic church and join with the non-denominational church and they can all work together to proclaim the only message we’ve been called to proclaim:

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

I leave you with a prayer from Paul.

So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 105-106, Romans 15:1-20

Unfailing love

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love
as we worship in your Temple.

Psalm 48:9 (NLT)

Just as this verse says, today let’s meditate on God’s unfailing love. First, let’s take a look at what it means to meditate.

MEDITATE: To dwell on any thing in thought; to contemplate; to study; to turn or revolve any subject in the mind.

We talk about God’s love a lot, but how often do we really take the time to think about what that means? What is love?

LOVE: An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object which communicate pleasure, sensual or intellectual.

God sees beauty and worth in us—even when we don’t. We bring Him pleasure. We are beautiful. We are worthy. Those are phrases we hear all the time in church, and again, do we really think about what that means? Or have those terms become a part of our Christian rhetoric? God’s love for us isn’t determined by how others perceive us or how we feel when we get up on a particular morning. His love is unfailing.

UNFAILING: Not liable to fail; not capable of being exhausted.

God’s love for us will never stop. It will never run out. It will never reach it’s limit.

With these things in mind, take some time to reflect on some other verses about God’s love.

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:8 (NLT)

He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.

Psalm 33:5 (NLT)

It’s easy to toss around a word like love and simply forget the true depths of its meaning. We know in our minds that God loves us, but often have a more difficult time transferring that knowledge from our intellect to our hearts, our spirits. God loves us simply because we are His creation, made in His own image and likeness.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

This is the God we serve. The God we love. The God who loves us with unfailing love all because it gives Him joy and pleasure to do so.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 47-49, Acts 26

John 3:16

For many believers, John 3:16 is the first scripture we learned and committed to memory. Many of the things that have been in our memory for a long time can lose their meaning and relevance. So let’s take a deeper look at this well-known verse. Each word is there for a purpose. By defining each one, we can see an even greater value in having this scripture close to our hearts.

For God so loved [regarded with affection, on account of some qualities which excited pleasing sensations of desire or gratification] the world [mankind; people in general] that He gave [exposed; sent forth; pledged; bestowed; transmitted from himself] his only [this and no other] Son, so that everyone [each individual of a whole collection] who believes [having a firm persuasion approaching to certainty] in him will not perish [die; lose life in any manner], but have eternal [without end of existence or duration; everlasting; endless; immortal] life [eternal happiness in heaven].

John 3:16 (NLT)

Definitions derived from Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 21-22. John 3:1-21