Where would you be today without your team?

One of the things I’ve always loved about camping is the teamwork. Everyone has a job to do, and as much as possible (when we were younger) we were given jobs that matched our skills. I mean sometimes you just had to wash the coffee pot out, even if you didn’t drink coffee or didn’t like washing dishes. But it was your turn, and coffee pot needed to be cleaned. By doing your part, you helped the whole team.

Sometimes I think Christ-followers forget that we’re on the same team. We hurt each other by what we say or by what we don’t say. We misunderstand each other. We jump to hurtful conclusions. We take sides. We point fingers and exclaim that if the offender was a good enough Christian, he or she would know better than to behave like that. And we forget about grace and mercy and forgiveness, and that without them, we’re just like those who have no hope. And our little team falls apart.

21503D358DToday’s verses are Hebrews 10:23-25.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The whole world doesn’t belong to the same family. We aren’t all children of God by birth. We become children of God when we choose to follow Jesus. When that happens, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’ve done or where you’re going. You are immediately adopted into God’s family. And that means the Christian who’s sitting next to you in the church pew is your brother or sister, and you’re going to spend eternity with him or her.

That’s great news if you like the Christian sitting next to you. But what if you don’t like them?

Oh, unscrew that halo. There are plenty of Christians in your life that you don’t like. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s not a sin to dislike someone. But as a Christ-follower, you are called to love them. Period. There’s no discussion. And love means something a little different than our culture believes. Real Love takes a lot more focus and energy and sacrifice and endurance than what our culture calls love. Real Love is only possible with God’s help.

People fail. Even Christians fail. They will disappoint you. They will hurt you. They’ll reject you and betray you and falsely accuse you. And in the face of all that, you are to love them in return. You are to respond to their anger and hurt and misinformation with grace and peace and patience.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you shouldn’t respond with name calling or rumor spreading. You shouldn’t call names. You shouldn’t lash out with angry accusations. And you shouldn’t threaten. Please, please don’t threaten. Threats never help anyone, and they certainly never deepen a relationship. People who are on the same team should never threaten each other.

Instead of threatening, lashing out, trying to hurt your brother or sister in Christ, think of how to approach them with love. Try to consider how they feel. Think about where they are in their life and what might be causing them to act the way they are.

It’s so easy to misunderstand. Are you willing to destroy another person simply because you assume you know what he or she is feeling? Remember, we’re on the same team. Remember, Christ died for that person too. Remember you aren’t perfect, and you’ve probably made as many or more mistakes than the Christian you’re angry at. Where would you be now if the Christians in your life had just given up on you?

Maybe you’re hurting, but don’t hit back. Believe it or not, the whole situation probably isn’t about you anyway. Hurting people hurt people, and none of us are perfect. It’s up to you whether or not to be gracious.

Just know that God has enough of a sense of humor that if you don’t let it go, He’ll make you be next door neighbors in heaven for all eternity. Wouldn’t you rather sort things out down here before He comes back to get us?

We all need each other. So give teamwork a chance. God’s got us on the same team for a reason.

White rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Living a world-changing love

How many kinds of love are there? Well, there’s more than one, but I can’t tell you exactly how many there are. What’s interesting to me, as a word nerd, is that the English language only has one word for love, but some other languages have more than one word for it. I find this ironic because American English is a crazy melting pot of words that continues to grow larger and lazier every year, but the fact that we still have one word for love fascinates me.

I don’t know how many words for love Greek has, but there are quite a few. And each one means something different–different words for different kinds of love. There’s family love. There’s romantic love. And then there’s a peculiar kind of love that sounds impossible and that’s the word for love that’s used in Galatians 5:22-23 where the Bible lists the Fruit of the Spirit: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

If you’ve been around the church you may have heard the term agape. Now, I don’t speak Greek, so I may have spelled it wrong (according to Google Translate, it looks like this: ἀγάπη). But agape love is the kind of love that only can be produced by having God’s Spirit in our lives, and the best definition of that kind of love is found into today’s verses.

White rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

White rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

If you want to read the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, you should. It’s not long, and it’s revolutionary. But I think verses 4 through 7 really encapsulate what this kind of love is about. Love like this is impossible without God, whether you’re married or single, whether you’re friends or enemies. This kind of love isn’t something that just happens. It’s something you have to choose, and it’s something you have to ask God to help you with.

This kind of love doesn’t come naturally to anyone. Don’t get me wrong. I love people, but I like getting my own way. I don’t like waiting. I want things other people have. I like getting my way, and far too often I hold grudges. And there is a part of me that has a party when someone who’s hurt me gets hurt in return. All of that is natural, but none of that comes from God. None of that demonstrates that I’m living by the Spirit.

So when someone is bothering me, when someone is nagging me, this kind of love is patient and kind to them. When someone else gets something that I want, this kind of love rejoices with them. And when I achieve something, this kind of love is humble about it and doesn’t rub it in people’s faces. This kind of love backs off and lets others set the pace, and it doesn’t keep track of bad history.

But more than anything, this kind of love never gives up and never goes away.

How’s your checklist? Mine’s not doing so well. Granted, in the instances where it’s people I already love, I’m doing okay. But what about people you don’t love? What about people you don’t like? That’s where I start cringing because don’t show them this kind of love, not the way a Christ-follower should. And that’s where I need God’s help.

No matter where you are today, everyone needs this. Nobody has this figured out. None of us can achieve this kind of love, not on our own, but it’s not impossible. If we have the Spirit, we have God in our lives, and nothing is impossible for God.

Why is living this kind of love important? Well, it changes you, for one. Loving like this makes you into the kind of person you need to be. And secondly, it’s a bright, shining beacon to a world without hope that there is something more to life. Christ-followers are called to be different, and living this kind of love is the best way.

So make a choice today. Choose to love those people who you don’t like. Choose to be still and listen to what God is saying about love, about how to love those people, about how to show His love to others. It doesn’t have to be a huge display. More often than not, love is in the small things. A smile. Holding open a door. Bringing someone a flower. Giving someone a hug. A kind word. A listening ear. None of those are world shattering, but they just might be world changing.