My memory verse for this week:
"Therefore, let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." Romans 14:13
NTC Day 20
Mark 11-12 and 1 Corinthians 11-13
Love...In Mark 12:29-31 Jesus once again answers the question about what is the greatest command...it's all about love, loving God and loving your neighbor. And later in 1Corinthians 13, known as the "love chapter," we learn about what love is. With so much time spent on teaching us about love, why is it that we spend so little time REALLY loving anybody?
When Jesus is talking with one of the teachers of the law about the greatest command, he first uses the words of one of the most sacred Jewish passages, called the Shema, (meaning "hear".) The Jews to this day use this passage to begin each synagogue service.
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' (Mark 12:29, 30 NIV)
And, as we have read, Jesus goes on to say that we are also to love our neighbor as ourselves. Do you think that if we are really loving God with all we have...heart, soul, mind and strength...wouldn't we have no other choice but to love others even more than ourselves? It is easy to SAY we love God, but it is not so easy to say AND act as if we love God or others MORE than ourselves. God knows this and this is why loving and knowing God is a process and takes time and training.
1 Corinthians so far has been hard for me. It seems to be a lot about HOW we should act and behave and things we should and shouldn't do. Some of it makes perfect sense, even in today's culture, but some things just don't seem to make sense. And, as I mentioned yesterday, it seems we as humans, we as the church...or we as whatever denomination we choose to be, seem to "cherry-pick" which of Paul's teachings we believe to be important enough to follow.
For example, 1 Corinthians 11 deals with the roles of men and women. There are some denominations that follow this particular section strictly...the man is the head and the woman is to submit to the man. In some churches, men and women are strictly separated and women hold no leadership positions within the church at all. Paul goes on to discuss hair and head coverings. Some denominations follow this practice and the women don't cut their hair. Some cover their heads at all times, some do not. This is the part that confuses me...these parts of Paul's words seem like religious PRACTICES to me. Are we, as Christ followers to follow ALL the practices Paul discusses?
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul discusses spiritual gifts. God has arranged in the body (church as a whole and in each individual church) to have members with different spiritual gifts. In this way, God employs diversity to produce unity. It takes all of us and all our talents and gifts to keep the body strong!
But, chapter 13 goes on to explain, no matter the gift, they are all worthless without LOVE! This is the famous "love chapter" that is recited at many weddings. It explains exactly what love is. I think we should all read those words every day, or better yet, commit them to memory and recite them every day.
Whatever denomination you belong to, whatever gifts and talents you have, you are expected to treat your neighbor (EVERYONE YOU MEET) with love.
Yesterday, we talked about disciplining those members of the church who are living immoral lives. If God wants the church to do that, there are those within the church who have the gift of teaching, wisdom and discipline. It is THEIR job to deal with that issue and to deal with it in LOVE. Since love is kind, that issue should be treated with kindness as well. The rest of is in the church should NOT be involved in that delicate issue...we should act in LOVE to that brother or sister in Christ and treat them with patience...not dishonoring them...not reacting in anger and not keeping record of their wrongs...we should not delight in their evil ways, but show them the truth and we should protect them, give them hope and help them to persevere through their difficult time and through their sins. THAT is real love!
All that is HARD for us because it doesn't come naturally...it comes from God because God IS love! We need to rely on him to help us to show that kind of love to the people in our lives and in our church.