As the world gets busier and more complex, it's easy to forget the importance of love and acceptance. But as Bob Goff says, "Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice." As followers of Jesus, we are called to be a source of love and acceptance for those around us. Let's take a moment to reflect on this powerful message and find ways to incorporate it into our daily lives.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, the Apostle Paul writes, "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." This passage reminds us that love is the foundation of all good things in life. Without love, even the most impressive accomplishments are empty and meaningless.
There are countless examples in the Bible of Jesus showing love and acceptance to those around Him. In John 8:1-11, a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. The religious leaders want to stone her to death, but Jesus responds with love and forgiveness. He says to the woman, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." In this moment, Jesus shows that love and acceptance can be more potent than judgment and punishment.
It's important to remember that love and acceptance don't always come naturally to us. We live in a world that often values success and achievement above all else. But as Christians, we are called to a higher standard. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to treat others as we would like to be treated (Luke 6:31).
We can incorporate love and acceptance into our daily lives by focusing on building relationships with those around us. We can really listen to others and offer them encouragement and support. We can look for ways to serve others and show them they are valued and appreciated.
Another way we can show love and acceptance is by practicing forgiveness. It's easy to hold grudges and focus on the negative aspects of others. Still, as followers of Jesus, we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13). When we forgive others, we show them that we value them as individuals and are willing to let go of hurt and resentment.
In conclusion, let's take Bob Goff's words to heart and prioritize love and acceptance in our lives. Let's look for ways to build relationships with those around us, practice forgiveness, and show others they are loved and valued. As we do so, we will be living out the call of Christ to love one another as He has loved us (John 15:12).
Love is a powerful force in the world, capable of overcoming even the most difficult obstacles and transforming lives. Yet, all too often, our love is conditional and comes with a list of qualifications and preconditions. We love only those who love us back or look, think, and act like us. But true love, the love of Jesus, knows no bounds.
One of my least favorite statements is "Love the sinner; hate the sin." This statement is destructive and rooted in poor theology. This statement tries to give our bias a pious way out of our privilege to lavish love upon others. The phrase has judgment at its core, which goes against the love described in 1 Corinthians 13. A better phrase is: "Love everyone and work with God on your sin." A better phrase is: "Love everyone and work with God on your sin."
In John 13:34-35, Jesus commands us to love one another, just as he has loved us. This is a love that goes beyond our personal preferences and biases and extends to all people, regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or social status. It is a love that transcends all boundaries and embraces everyone as they are.
But this love is not just a passive acceptance of others. It requires action, sacrifice, and a willingness to go the extra mile. As Galatians 5:6 reminds us, love is not just a feeling but a force that drives us to do good for others and to make a positive impact on the world.
One of my favorite quotes about love comes from Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." This statement is a powerful reminder that love can heal even the deepest wounds and bring about real and lasting change. Love is the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31).
So, let us love without qualifiers or preconditions. Let us reach out to those who are different from us and extend a hand of kindness and compassion. Let us love everyone, just as Jesus loves us, and let our love reflect his grace and mercy in the world.
In conclusion, let us remember that loving well means loving without qualifications or preconditions. Let us go out into the world and love like Jesus, for he has called us to be a light in the darkness and to bring healing and hope to a broken and hurting world.
In Colossians 2, the Message translation says this, “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 MSG). Jesus took our cross and gave us His crown. Now, what does this mean?
In Galatians 3:13 (NIV) it tells us that, “Christ redeemed us,” that is- He bought us, “From the curse of the law.” Remember that old arrest warrant has been cancelled (Colossians 2). There’s an arrest warrant for our life. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole'" (Galatians 3:13). Jesus willingly allowed Himself to go to the cross. In fact, the Bible doesn’t say He just allowed Himself, but it tells us that He resolutely set out for Jerusalem, where He knew the cross was waiting for Him.
Jesus resolutely set out to go to the cross. Now that isn’t to say that He didn’t want to bypass the cross. He was fully God AND He was fully man. In Matthew 26:39 we read, "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Jesus Christ took our cross. We are the guilty ones (Romans 3:23). He is the innocent one (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Now while He died so that we would be forgiven, He also died so that we who were far off from God could be brought near to God. For He Himself, the Bible tells us, reconciled the two of us that were made hostile to one another (Ephesians 2:15). God loved us so much (John 3:16) that even while we were enemies to Him, Christ died for us (Romans 5:10). Because of Jesus, we are no longer enemies, but children of God and heirs of the kingdom (Romans 8:17). We are sons and daughters of the Most High God. Imagine how this understanding of our identity could change our daily living. No longer are we defined by our dysfunction or the dysfunction of those around us. We can silence the voices of our past that have wounded us with the new song placed (Psalm 40:3) within our hearts by our loving Father who says, "You are mine!"
In this Blog Post, I would like to focus on some lessons that emerge from the Passion story of Jesus. The week of Christ’s triumphant entry, last supper, crucifixion, and resurrection epitomizes the Christian experience that takes us through times of celebration, rejection, anguish, suffering, and redemption. Jesus tells us, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). We are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and learn from Him, so that we “know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). While there are many lessons that emerge from the Passion story, I will share three that are particularly meaningful to me.
First, sometimes we stand, so that others don’t fall. Jesus knew that He would die for those who would reject, mock, deny, and abandon Him and still He “resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) where the cross awaited Him. He did not suffer for His sake, but for ours. Sometimes we ask God why we must suffer, and while we may suffer at times for our needed growth, we may suffer for the sake of someone else. As a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) our lives are no longer our own for we have been bought by the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:20). We are transformed with “ever increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Christ was sent into the world to save us (John 3:16) and He has sent us into the world with His spirit to do what He did (John 20:21). He saved us by dying for us. We save others by dying for them—by suffering for them and with them. In 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT) we read: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” This is an important reminder that our suffering is used by God to help others. When we are tempted to complain about the pain, we can remember that God wastes nothing in His kingdom and will use it all for His glorious purposes.
Second, in times of suffering, we must learn to be silent. Suffering is inevitable. From Genesis to Revelation, the good and the bad all suffer alike. In fact, Jesus states, “You will be hated by everyone because of me” (Matthew 10:22) and that some will be “persecuted and killed” for Him (Matthew 10:22). Suffering is universal and it is a guarantee for a follower of Jesus. Sometimes we suffer because of Him or for Him, and sometimes we suffer because pain happens. We do not have control over the suffering, but we do have control on how we will respond to it when it occurs. As Jesus was suffering through His trial, beatings, and crucifixion, His words were few. Isaiah 53:7 states, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Our words are powerful (Proverbs 18:21) and reflect our hearts (Luke 6:45). We can hamper the power of God working in us and for us by our words. In times of suffering, it may be difficult to be joyful and speak words of praise and thanksgiving—and that is okay. The Passion of Christ does not have a lot of songs in the suffering, but there is silence in the suffering. Our quiet response to pain can be a greater indicator of our trust in God, then our shouts of praise in our strength. Our words can make us feel worst. In silence we are less likely to entertain the grumblings of our heart, which allows us to focus on God and His faithfulness.
Lastly, do not try to defend your reputation. Live with integrity and let God do the rest. When Jesus was being falsely accused, He did not entertain the accusations with arguments to justify Himself. In Matthew 27:12 it states “And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He gave no answer” and in Matthew 27:14 we read, “But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge--to the great amazement of the governor.” Jesus was silent because He trusted the Father to defend Him. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Jesus knew who He was, who His father was and why He came. He did not seek or need the approval of man because He looked to the Father for His strength and identity. People will question our lives and our motives, but it is not our job to defend their charges. It is our job to keep our hearts pure before the Father and seek His approval. God knows our hearts and He will defend us if we let Him fight our battles. If we insist on getting our own way, then we get in His way. There are many lessons in the Passion Story. I pray that you will reflect on what God is telling you through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The ultimate message is that God is for you, with you, and He wins! Remember, God loves you.
About two years ago, I went to my annual eye exam and was told that my vision required the use of bifocals. I found this to be an odd diagnosis because while my eyes were tired after reading, for the most part, I could see quite well. However, I went to an “expert,” and I figured he knew better than I. After I got my new glasses, however, I could not see as clearly as I could without wearing glasses. When I told people of this problem, they replied that I just needed to get used to them. So, I gave it about another week before going back to the eye doctor with my complaints. When I went back to him, I got a new eye exam, and he told me that he gave me the wrong prescription and that I did NOT need bifocals. I was both relieved and frustrated. I was relieved because it confirmed what I knew, and frustrated because it was costly for time and resources.
In reflecting over this experience, I cannot help to think that this is the process by which many of us develop our theology. The dictionary defines “theology” as the “study of the nature of God and religious belief.” Most of the time we are given a theology, like a prescription, by an “expert.” The experts that we rely upon are our family, clergy, media, etc. We rely on their "expertise" in helping us sort out our theology. Once we get our prescribed theology, we may not be comfortable with questioning the diagnosis. However, the prescribed theology is just like a pair of glasses, in that it can enhance or distort our view of the world. We are ultimately responsible to question and seek the right diagnosis, especially if we notice that there is not a good fit, regardless of our how others may want us to just accept it.
In thinking about my religious upbringing, I was not taught or encouraged to question matters of faith. It shouldn’t surprise you that I remember my pastor getting frustrated with me when I started questioning him in youth group. He replied to my questions that I was just “being difficult.” However, I did have questions that were not being answered. I was told to take the glasses of others and put them on to perceive matters of faith—and it just did not fit! Perhaps the “theological glasses” fit for them, but it did not fit for me. I had questions and continue to have questions concerning theology, but I have learned that I must challenge the lenses I have been given to understand theological matters—because the lens might not fit.
In Philippians 2:12, Paul instructs us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Theological matters are works in progress that requires us to work at seeing things clearer. It is always alarming to me when people are so confident in theological matters, especially given what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 (AMP): For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. We are in the process of receiving progressive revelations of God’s truth and we do not see it clearly at first. It takes time to see it clearly and the only way for it to happen is for us to get closer to Jesus, who is our light and our truth.
Jesus is the LIVING WORD! Jesus illuminates the meaning of the scripture that shapes our theology. In Mark 8:22-25, we read about Jesus healing a blind man at Bethsaida. Jesus heals him, but the change in his vision takes time. After Jesus spits in the man’s eyes and put’s his hands on him, the man opens his eyes and sees, but not clearly. Jesus lays his hands on his eyes again and it says, “Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” The man could have been content with being able to see distortions, after all this was better than being blind; however, he went back to the great physician to see clearly! Think about the stages we see in the passage: before Jesus the man was blind, the first healing restored sight, and the last healing truly opened his eyes! I can’t help but to think how we are like the blind man and how many of us are walking around with distorted vision, distorted theology, because we think we are seeing clearly because an expert told us that this is how it is. But what if we have the wrong lenses through which we are viewing God and His leading. The Pharisees had the wrong lens and it resulted in them missing out on embracing Jesus. He states in John 5:39, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” In other words, the only way to read the scriptures is through the lenses of Jesus.
One final note about lenses and theology. Most of us should go for an eye exam every year because our vision changes as we get older. The old glasses don’t work as well as they used to and we need an adjustment in our lenses. Likewise, matters of faith will change as we get older. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” It is good and healthy to challenge the lenses through which we perceive theological matters, as well as matters of the world. One of the things that I appreciate about international travel is to see the world through a different cultures perspective. I enjoy dialoguing with those of other faith perspectives because I value the opportunity for an “I” exam, as my beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes are challenged. I value my religious upbringing; I just wish they encouraged me to challenge “my vision” by openly questioning “their vision.” May we be a community that invites questions and embraces the mystery of faith. While we look at things through different lenses, we, like Paul, resolve to know only one thing with certainty--Jesus Christ and His crucifixion for us (1 Corinthians 2:2).
In John 20: 6-7 (NIV) it tells us of the account of Jesus’ resurrection. It says, “He,” meaning Peter, “Saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.”
As followers of Jesus, we receive His glory in exchange for our grave clothes. The grave clothes are in the empty tomb to represent our old self that was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). Jesus didn’t take the old clothes with Him and neither should we!
One of the primary reasons that we do not enjoy the Christian life is because we are still carrying around the baggage associated with the old way of living. Either we cannot or will not give up the baggage. Sometimes, we are addicted to a victim mentality and we are scared of what might happen when we give it up. We can allow our wounds and scars to define us. It is impossible to be a new creation as long as we hold on to the old.
How did Jesus take off the old? Scripture records that the head cloth was carefully folded in the grave indicating that it was not removed in an erratic fashion; rather, it was removed intentionally and methodically. Likewise, we need to allow Jesus to remove our grave clothes in the same manner (Ephesians 4:22-32). We may be a mess, but Jesus can handle it! We just need to let Him work in our lives and daily make a decision to take off the old and put on the new. Rome was not built in a day, and we will not be straightened out in a day. But, thank God that as long as we are on our way, God sees the finished product!
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV): “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” No longer are we wearing our old clothes, but we are clothed with Christ. So God no longer says when He looks at us, “Oh, look at that mess.” Rather, He says, “Look at my Son, Jesus.” We’re clothed in Christ! Remember, your past does not define you- Jesus defines you!
Dr. Rob Weinstein is the Founding/Senior Pastor of Bethany Grace Community Church in Bridgeton, NJ. He is also a Professor of Business Studies/Academic Director/Chair of Human Resource Management Studies. He is the Founder of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness and food insecurity in Cumberland County, NJ.
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