Representing Christ

The final words of Jesus that are recorded by Matthew are instructions for His followers to carry out while He is away: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The idea of spreading out all over the world is itself a daunting task, but for many of the early missionaries for Christ, travel and culture shock were only the beginning of their troubles. People were going to HATE them for being Christians: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

This posed a real problem for the early church. Hatred can often lead to violence, and the Roman government had very little tolerance for troublemakers whose religion led to violence. So what could the church do, to maintain its credibility and its political freedom while also standing up for Christ? The book of 1 Peter appears to have been written as an answer to that question.

Peter writes the book specifically to the “aliens” who have been scattered all over the known world for the sake of Christ, and he addresses all kinds of difficult situations that they may encounter.

What if Christ’s people find themselves disagreeing with the governing authorities?
What if a Christian servant finds himself serving an unjust master?
What if a Christian wife finds herself with an unbelieving husband?
What if a Christian finds himself in an argument in which his faith is called into question?
What if there are arguments within the church itself?

All of these situations must have been common for the early church, and any of them could have ended badly for everyone involved, but Peter’s instructions contain a steady theme that runs throughout the book:

Stand up for Jesus Christ, but do so in a way that is above reproach. Do not give them any reason whatsoever to slander your character. Be respectful. Be gentle. Be humble. Demonstrate through your behavior just how beautiful and beneficial your religion really is.

As Jesus said in Matthew 7: “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

The world will judge our message not simply by what we say, but also by how we say it, and what we do to demonstrate it. When we argue on behalf of Christ, let us do it, as Peter says “with gentleness and reverence.”

After all, Jesus Himself is our ultimate example. He was unjustly nailed to a cross.   He could have called ten thousand angels. But instead He responded by praying for our forgiveness and entrusting Himself to the Father.

Talk vs. Action

Things probably did not go as planned for Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.

  • He probably did not intend on having to try and explain to his friends and family why his fiancée was pregnant even though they had not slept together.
  • He probably did not plan on marrying her anyway, but having to put off the honeymoon for a few months.
  • He probably did not plan to pick up his new family and move them to a foreign country for an unknown period of time.
  • He probably did not intend to move to Galilee upon his return from Egypt instead of going back to his old home in Judea.

Yet through all of this, there is no record of Joseph ever complaining. And while he might have had a reason to brag after going through all of those things on behalf of the baby Jesus, there is no record of him bragging either.

Actually, there is no record of Joseph saying anything. At all. Apparently Joseph was a man who demonstrated his faith and his righteousness primarily through actions instead of just words.

These days we have a saying that someone is “all bark and no bite,” or “all talk and no action.” But for Joseph, a better description would have been “all action and no talk.” His words appear to have been few, but his behavior was honorable in every way.

How do we respond when we encounter various unplanned or difficult scenarios? Do we spend our efforts complaining, or do we let our actions do the talking by behaving in a way that is honorable despite the difficulty of the situation?

Consider this passage from James 1:

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

Joseph was a prime example of one who was quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. He was also a prompt doer of God’s will as opposed to someone who likes to talk a lot about how things ought to be without actually living how he ought to live.

Whether or not anyone notices, and whether or not the situation is exactly how you have always wanted it to be, will you be a doer of righteousness simply because it is the right thing to do?

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Love”

What are the Biblical words translated as love? Do some describe a more noble love than others?

Old Testament –
= to have a strong emotional attachment or desire for someone or something.
Genesis 22:2 – Parent to child
Exodus 21:5 – slave to master
1 Samuel 18:1 – close friendship
1 King 5:1 – unflagging loyalty

New Testament –
Agapao/agape – “this love is selfless and therefore selfishness is the negation of love. Love does not occur because the one we love is loveable or worthy. It is a decision of the will.”
John 17:26 – God to His Son
John 3:16 – God to us
John 14:21 – God to His people
John 13:34-35 – Fellow Christians
1 Thessalonians 3:12 – Christians towards all people
1 John 4:8 – essential nature of God
1 John 3:17 – expressed through outward actions
Galatians 5:22 – fruit of the Spirit
John 14:15 – expressed through obedience to God

– to approve of, to like, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend
John 5:20 – God the Father for the Son
John 11:3 – Jesus for his friend
John 16:27 – the Father for us as His children
Matthew 10:37 – people for their families
Mark 14:44 – it is also translate to kiss!
1 Corinthians 6:22 – we must have this love for God, or be accursed
Romans 3:19 – God disciplines us because He has this love for us

is not mentioned in the Bible.

Storge is not mentioned directly in the Bible. Romans 12:10 mentions a derivative when it tells us to have brotherly love and affection for each other.
Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3 – the lack of it is mentioned as a bad thing and translated as “heartless.”

Ludus is not mentioned

Pragma is not mentioned in this sense

Philautia is not mentioned

It would seem that Agape is the word often used to refer highest form of love, since it is the word chosen to describe God’s essential nature, and because it is understood to be unconditional.

But we should be careful not to build theologies out of speculation on the meanings of various Greek words.  For instance, it is not accurate to say “the Bible teaches that there are four kinds of love.” Only two words for love are mentioned with any frequency, and only three are mentioned at all.

It is also the case the agape, like most words, can stretch in its definition more that we readily admit. For instance, in the Septuagint, agape is used to describe and instance of rape.
And in John 3:19 – men have agape for the darkness.
1 John 2:15-17 tells us not to have agape for the world or the things in the world

Consider the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21 and the two different words used. Is there any significance here?

What is a Biblical definition of love?
Love is a bond of relationship.
It motivates outward action (John 3:16, 1 John 3:17, John 14:15).
It does not appear to be given or withheld based on the recipient meeting pre-existing conditions of worthiness – 1 John 4:19 says we love Him because He first loved us – Romans 5:8 says because of His love while were still sinners Christ died for us.
1 Corinthians 13 gives a beautiful definition of love.

Love is the unconditional commitment to the wellbeing of another, with the goal of maintaining a healthy relationship with them.

 What is the hardest thing about love in your opinion?

 What does it mean that God is love?
God has it within His nature to love us in the way that the preceding definition describes, He has proven this by His actions of love towards us.

To say that God is love indicates that this is an eternal aspect of His nature. Perhaps it has been eternally manifested in the love shared by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for each other?

Since love forms a bond, it is in His love that He, through Christ, holds all things together – Colossians 1:17

Indeed, without love, things cannot hold together – Galatians 5:14-15

This explains why eternal life is the result of God’s love towards us, and our responding in love to Him.

 What is your favorite verse about love and why?

What does it mean that love never fails?
1 Corinthians 12 talks about many spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of “a more excellent way” and describes love. After love is described, it is contrasted with the prophesying, speaking in tongues, and special revelations of knowledge that will soon cease. In this context, it appears that “love never fails” means that when other spiritual gifts cease, love continues throughout human history and eternity.

In the description given in 1 Corinthians 13, it is said that love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. In this sense, love never fails because it never gives up, even if it is not always reciprocated.

 If God is love, why would he send anyone to hell?
The bible is clear that many will go to hell – Matthew 7:13-14 – wide is the way that leads to destruction

Remember that love, as we have defined it, is an unconditional commitment to the wellbeing of another. The only way that God could be love and people still go to hell is if a) they have the ability to override His will with their own and b) they choose to rebel against Him.

Claiming that people go against God’s will is not blasphemous, 2 Peter 3:9 states that he does not want anyone to perish, yet the Bible also teaches that some will. This is because they rebel against Him.

So, does God “send people to hell”? In a sense He certainly will, Matthew 25:41. But that does not mean that this action is what He wanted for them. Rather, it is what they have insisted upon.

 How can we grow in love?
Hebrews 10:24 – consider how to stir one another up to love and good works.