The Word tells us that Satan is like a hungry lion prowling about looking for sinners to devour. Since we are all sinners, he looks to devour all of us. Here in Matthew, the Lord reassures us that Jesus – born of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit – makes us, that is, “His people safe from [our] sins.” And this is why Joseph is told in a dream to name his son, Jesus. Jesus’ name – Yeshua – means “to deliver, to rescue.”
I can’t think of anything better than God rescuing me from a prowling lion ready to devour me. And so, I am safe from my sins.
How about you?
“for that thing that is born in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall make his people safe from their sins.”
“This, then, is the judgment” writes John, the beloved one. The judgment is that those who do evil avoid the Light because they hate the Light while those who do good seek out the Light because their deeds are done by God Himself. The Light exposes evil and those who do evil things hide from exposure.
And those who do good discover that those good things can not originate from themselves; instead the good emerges from the Light Himself.
19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”
Real love, genuine agape love is unconditional, period. If you doubt this truth, re-read Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth. He boldly tells the church – a church battling crippling sins – that “love is kind” and “keeps no record of wrongs.”
And in his first letter, John writes:
And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.
John doesn’t write, “The one who remains in God remains in love.” Rather, he turns it on its heels and states emphatically that “the one who remains in love remains in God.” You cannot hate people who you are able to see and touch while you claim to love God. You can not refuse to forgive others while expecting God to forgive you. Frankly love and hate are like oil and water – incompatible in the mix.
You can not be a Christian and hate people.
Today, writing from prison, I think Paul might be emphatic. He might scribble ( ‘see, I write these words in my own hand’ ): “Stop fighting!” before he explains why Christians should not bicker. Paul does write gently here; and a bit later in his letter to the church at Ephesus, he begs his fellow believers to “speak the truth in love.” But, here he implores them (“I urge you”) to “accept one another in love.”
4 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love,3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.
Paul calls Christians to humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance ( tolerance! ) all of which lead to unity and “the peace that binds us.”
So how do Christians who disagree stop fighting? What is “speaking the truth in love?”
Examples (from a written social network debate) of “truth speaking”:
Person #1: “Heretic warning” then boldly typed N-A-M-E of heretic. Then, “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.”
Person #2: “Beware that the good presentation you give is not clouded by pride.”
Which spoken truth do you think Paul prefers? And, more importantly, which statement sounds more like God, the Holy Spirit?
Solomon strongly suggests teaching your child early “about the way he should go.” He says:
Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The pertinent questions, however, are:
1) What to teach?
2) How to teach it?
Solomon readily answers the first question by imploring the parent to teach wisdom. And for the second question, Solomon implies the work is primarily that of the child who must willingly listen to instruction. If the child refuses to listen, no amount of words will matter. Solomon implores the child to listen to instruction so that “wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart.” ( Proverbs 2: 10 )
Solomon says to his own child:
My son, don’t forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commands;
for they will bring you
many days, a full life, and well-being.
Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you.
Tie them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will find favor and high regard
in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. Don’t consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. ( Proverbs 3: 1-7 )
What Solomon does not offer is advice to model the behavior you expect from your child. He knows better than that. Instead, he calls on the parent to speak truth, write truth, think about truth and “trust in the Lord with all your heart” and “not rely on your own understanding.”
Solomon wisely says not to “consider yourself to be wise.”
Instead, “fear the Lord.” For awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Exasperated, Paul wonders at the Galatians’ desire to place themselves back under the yoke of the Law. He worries over them as they fall victim to Judaizers who wish them circumcised, observant of certain days and specific customs. Paul says “it is always good to be enthusiastic about good;” but he also says he is “suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” Paul strongly suggests to the church at Galatia that observing the Law does not and can not make them any more Christ-like!
15 What happened to this sense of being blessed you had? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They are enthusiastic about you, but not for any good. Instead, they want to isolate you so you will be enthusiastic about them. 18 Now it is always good to be enthusiastic about good—and not just when I am with you. 19 My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. 20 I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you. 21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law?
Paul then tells them a story. He reminds the Galatians of the children of the free woman, Sarah and the slave woman, Hagar. Both children come from Abraham, but only one is the true heir.
Rid yourself of the yoke of slavery and take up the cloak of freedom in Christ.