Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Loving Like Jesus

This post has been weeks in the pondering and the typing…I have been going through a variety of frustrating health issues along with some adjustments and changes in my role of mother and teacher to my children as they grow in their teenage years.
Today, as I face yet another health issue, I can’t help but wonder what God is trying to teach me. I KNOW He is teaching me something through it all because I don’t believe anything is wasted as we encounter any circumstances in living daily life. In the past few months I have been humbled within the mind, within the emotions, and within the body. As I endure each health issue and its complexities, I come face to face with my physical frailty and the frailty in the human wisdom of doctors. As earthly wisdom often fails, I know and completely trust in THE One Great Healer Who never fails—He is my Doctor, my Rock, my Fortress, and my Strength.

Just maybe, feeling too sick to do other things today is helpful in giving me time to sit at the computer and finally finish typing this post? Only He knows.
Through reading the unChristian book early this month God really began stirring things up within my heart regarding His love expressed through Christ Jesus. His faithful and unconditional love became one of the themes for me. I began looking through the gospels again and focusing on reading Jesus’ words and paying renewed attention to his actions.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:38-48)

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
(Luke 6:27-38)
Jesus said for us to:
Love our enemies
Pray for those who persecute us
Share ourselves with those who do not love us
Do good to those who hate us
Give to everyone who asks
Not demand to have back what has been taken
Expect nothing in return for what we give
Not judge
Not condemn
For our Father God in heaven:
Causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good people
Sends rain for the righteous and the unrighteous
Is kind to ungrateful and evil people
Is merciful
Jesus spoke these words and taught these concepts on behalf of God, our Father in heaven. As His children He asks us to glorify Him and display Him to the rest of the world around us. God does not ask us to do anything He does not do Himself. He does not behave as all earthly parents (self included) have behaved sometimes with our own children—displaying “Do as I say, but not as I do” actions. We tell our kids to do or not do something and how right or wrong it is and then we find ourselves doing the very opposite of what we have instructed them. God is GOD and He does not fall short in the same manner. What He asks us to do in how we relate with others is the way in which He relates towards all mankind; He does not fall short of His own instructions to us.
As far as God’s dealing with man:
He loves his enemies
He does good to those who hate Him
He is kind to ungrateful and evil people
He gives Himself to everyone
He expects nothing in return
He does not demand repayment
He is the only One who can judge
His judgments are righteous
He forgives perfectly

Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Christ Jesus, the Son of God, is the very “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). When we look at Jesus’ character and behavior, we are looking at the exact representation of who God is.
So let us take a closer look at Jesus and His actions while on this earth. We can surely learn a whole lot from Him.
He began His ministry on earth by “teaching in their synagogues and heralding the evangel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every debility among the people.” To Him were brought “all who have an illness, those with various diseases and pressing torments, also demoniacs and epileptics, and paralytics, and He cures them.” (Matthew 4:23-24)
He cured them. It doesn’t say that He went around condemning the people, pointing fingers at them, telling them to straighten up or else, telling them they deserved whatever ailment or trouble they had, or blaming them for the wrongs of the world. He taught, heralded, and cured. He offered and spoke the truth of God with double portions of grace and mercy.
He healed the lepers along with the boy of a Roman centurion (Romans are not “friends” of Jews and neither are lepers). He didn’t withhold Himself from anyone who asked of Him. He didn’t first have them sign a written guarantee or swear that they would be good stewards of His gift of healing or wholeness. He gave of Himself to everyone and expected nothing in return. (Matthew 8)
Jesus ate at the table with “many tax collectors” (abhorred by the people) and with “sinners” (all kinds of sinners). Who had the problem with these actions? It wasn’t Jesus. The ones complaining about Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners were some religious leaders. They asked the disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)
Now was Jesus really suggesting there was someone who was totally “healthy” without need for Him or His healing? Was He suggesting that there were those who were “righteous” without the need for His sacrifice, grace, and forgiveness? Absolutely not. He knew He was speaking to men who foolishly thought they were “healthy” and “righteous”; who thought they were better than all the sinners and tax collectors eating with Him at the table. Jesus knew those religious leaders were in just as much need of His healing and grace as the rest. He also knew they were completely blinded to their own need by their self-righteousness. Even though we are told that “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-10) “Yet now, apart from law, a righteousness of God is manifest (being attested by the law and the prophets), yet a righteousness of God through Jesus Christ’s faith, for all, and on all who are believing, for there is no distinction, for all sinned and are wanting of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:21-23)
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)
Matthew goes on to tell us that “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were bothered and tossed as if sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35-36)
Looking upon the masses of people, all of them sinners in one manner or another, all of them unrighteous for one reason or another…He felt compassion for them. He didn’t call them out throwing their sins in their faces and suggesting that if they would just change their ways, He might help them out. Instead, He felt compassion for them; a compassion that moved Him to doing something to help them.

What is compassion?

a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. (
a suffering with another; painful sympathy; a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; pity; commiseration. Compassion is a mixed passion, compounded of love and sorrow; at least some portion of love generally attends the pain or regret, or is excited by it.
He taught, He fed, He healed, and He gave sacrificially without expecting anything in return. He didn’t rebuke the masses of the people; He rebuked the religious leaders who thought they knew it all and were above others. He even rebuked the disciples if they behaved with any hint of self-righteousness, or if they tried to keep Him from ministering to anyone.
He even healed those He knew would be ungrateful. “While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When He saw them, He said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine--where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you." (Luke 17:11-19)
Even as He was crucified, He cried, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
"Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."… But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "LORD, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, "He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their hear, and be converted and I heal them." These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:31-32, 37-47)
I came across a new website and ministry community today, The Simple Way. This led me to the link on Shane Claiborne, a follower of Jesus committed to loving like Jesus and involved in the Simple Way community. His page link led me to a sample chapter of the book he authored, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical.

A couple of things that stood out to me from the sample chapter of the book were:

“If you ask most people what Christians believe, they can tell you, ‘Christians believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that Jesus rose from the dead.’ But if you ask the average person how Christians live, they are struck silent. We have not shown the world another way of doing life. Christians pretty much live like everybody else; they just sprinkle a little Jesus in along the way. And doctrine is not very attractive, even if if it’s true. Few people are interested in a religion that has nothing to say to the world and offers them only life after death, when what people are really wondering is whether there is life before death.” (pg. 117)

“When people begin moving beyond charity and toward justice and solidarity with the poor and oppressed, as Jesus did, they get in trouble.” … “Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them.” (pg. 129)

“One of the things I think Jesus is doing is setting us free from the heavy yoke of an oppressive way of life. I know plenty of people, both rich and poor, who are suffocating from the weight of the American dream, who find themselves heavily burdened by the lifeless toil and consumption we put upon ourselves. This is the yoke we are being set free from.” … “Dorothy Day of the Catholic worker movement … said, ‘Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer.’ This love is not sentimental but heart-wrenching, the most difficult and the most beautiful thing in the world.” (pg. 136)

The love of GOD…the unconditional…unbound…unending…unstoppable…love of God through CHRIST Jesus, His Son.
To HIS love we are drawn
In HIS love we are held
In HIS love we discover what love truly is
To loving others with HIS love we are called

HIS love is not one of convenience. It is one of unconditional and compassionate action.

Asking Him to take me there…

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