Here is the key difference ( beyond the obvious that our Adversary is evil and our Lord is good ) between Satan and God — Satan offers us a wage that we earn; God offers a gift that is free and that no amount of effort or good intention can earn.
Sin offers death, for wages; God offers us eternal life as a free gift, through Christ Jesus our Lord.
No law gives what the Spirit gives, says Paul. The Spirit yields a harvest, says Paul. The law does not, and can not. The law is capable only of pointing out sin. This is the law’s value – that it convicts us of wrongdoings.
But the Spirit, says Paul, yields a better harvest – its fruits are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperateness, purity.”
These qualities emerge not from awareness of sin, but from the power of our God, indwelling as the Holy Spirit.
Whereas the spirit yields a harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperateness, purity. No law can touch lives such as these;
I wish I could say that people come up to me and ask me the reason for my “faith and hope.” I can’t. I can tell you people often comment on how happy I am – they do this because at work in the hospital as I walk between seeing patients, I sing or hum. People, as they pass, comment, “My you’re happy this morning.” And my response, most often, is: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was singing out loud” or “I am happy, thanks.” Sometimes, if I’m not bubbling with true joy, I respond, “Might as well be happy.” I say this because for me happiness is a choice. I do choose to be happy. Life is too hard and too short not to make the very best of it. I admit I’d get a real kick if someone would actually stop and ask me why I am happy, why I have faith and hope as if that someone could see that in my demeanor. I know exactly what I’d say.
But hallow ye the Lord Christ in your hearts, and evermore be ye ready to [do] satisfaction to each man asking you reason of that faith and hope that is in you, but with mildness and dread,
He that covereth trespass, seeketh friendships; he that rehearseth by an high word (but he who remembereth a wrong), separateth them that (should) be knit together in peace.
Convicting verse, for sure. How do you point out wrongdoing so that it is not repeated without remembering the wrong? Or are you called to deal with the wrong directly with that individual and then cover it so that others will not know and hold that against that person? And perhaps you are asked to not hold a grudge and seek damage of the one who damaged you?
When Christians speak of avoiding sin, this verse — to me — reveals the sin that requires diligent avoidance! Some call this a little sin named “gossip.” God calls it hatred and a twisted desire for conflict between others.
You hear Christians speak of a God who refuses to live in one who is not holy, i.e. in one who is un-holy. And, most often, this required holiness is defined in negatives. Holiness is a set of rules, a lengthy list of ‘thou shall nots.’
But, Jesus defines holiness as ‘love.’ If you love God and others as you love yourself and as you are loved by God, then God will dwell within you. Not only that, but God’s love is perfect in you. If God’s love is in me, then it is perfect in us.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfect in us.
What is perfect love?
No creature, no power, nothing now or later is able or will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, says Paul. He writes of his persuasion to the church at Rome with metaphorical capitol letters ‘FEAR NOT’ on their hearts, saying:
For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You and I may fall off the highest peak or sink into the depths of the darkest ocean and not be lost from the Lord God, whose love is perfect through Jesus Christ – having become simultaneously human and divine.
As Paul is convinced, I also am persuaded that no thing separates me from the God who loves me.
To the church at Rome, Paul reiterates his belief that nothing separates us – the Christian – from the love of God shown in His gift of Jesus Christ to the world. Paul writes:
31 [a]What shall we then say to these things? If God be on our side, who can beagainst us?
32 Who spared not his own Son, but gave him for us all to death, how shall he not with him [b]give us all things also?
33 [c]Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s chosen? it is[d]God that justifieth.
34 Who shall condemn? it is Christ which is dead: yea, or rather, which is risen again, who is also at the right hand of God, and maketh request also for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of [e]Christ? shall tribulation or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37 [a]Nevertheless, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
These words are quite amazing. Paul says nothing – that is no thing – is able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. God’s love is so big, so powerful that it overcomes all obstacles. No one can condemn us. No one can charge us with anything. No one can pull us out of His hand.
Why? Because God gives us His only Son. As Paul says, if God does not spare His own Son in order to save us, why would He allow us to be lost once we are found? God is not illogical.
When you’ve known some important truth from the very beginning of a movement, you’ve essentially no excuse for not understanding it. John writes that from the beginning, we’ve heard that we ought to love one another.
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
We therefore have no reason, no justification for backbiting, backstabbing, name-calling, undermining, belittling one another. We’ve no excuse for accusations against one another especially the excuse some call “tough love.” Tough love often looks like hatred. I’ve seen it mock, name-call, belittle, dismiss, accuse, and harm too many over the years and I deny its value in “building up the church.”
Paul calls us to build, not to destroy. We are to enhance one another’s walk with Christ, not demean those walks.
We’ve heard this from the beginning. Let’s act on what we know before others turn and devour us.
Jesus starts out by telling His disciples ( and us ) that He gives them ( and us ) something new; He gives them ( yes, and us ) a new commandment. Odd, I thought God never changes. At any rate, Jesus Himself says that this commandment is new.
“A new commandment give I unto you…”
Unlike the old way, we are not to take an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. We are not to retaliate. Rather we are to forgive and yes – forget by loving one another. This other-worldly, beyond-human love is what distinguishes us from the rest of the fallen world. Listen to Jesus tell His disciples ( and us ) the new commandment is:
that ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know, that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Love is the greater gift, greater and of considerably more value than speaking in tongues or faith that moves mountains or prophecy that warns of disaster or knowledge that reveals “all secrets and all knowledge.” Without love, Paul claims we are the same as “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” Our actions, though they be good deeds – even deeds of the martyr, are of no profit to us if we have no love. He warns:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and Angels, and have not love, I am as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I had the gift of prophecy, and knew all secrets and all knowledge, yea, if I had all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and had not love, I were nothing. And though I feed the poor with all my goods, and though I give my body, that I be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.
I can’t help but think many of us walk about tinkling and sounding as we perform our ‘good deeds’. I include myself in this group – for love does not come naturally to me. I know this is true because I find myself angry at people more than I should be if I love them. Most of my anger against people springs from my heart when I am in my vehicle, and is directed at total strangers.
I can almost hear the tinkling cymbal as it pings down the road. If only I had love, I’d be somebody.