You might think the title suggests the lead into a nonpartisan discussion to promote healing after the U.S. election. But this Canadian isn’t touching that one with a ten-foot pole (or 3.05 meters here in the near north).
Our dear American friends have had enough political discussions to last a lifetime. Admittedly, Canadians can get a bit passionate about our politics too…a new 4.5 cent per liter of gas “carbon tax” is making some Ontarians bitter about the new year.
In contrast, our friend Scott already wrote of faith and hope in the New Year (admittedly beating me to the punch—which is okay since Scott nailed it). But it naturally leads to the topic of charity. How can we be more charitable, or loving, in 2017?
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter and is a staple during wedding services…which well it should. Then it follows that it essentially guides the lifetime of marriage itself. But isn’t it advisable to apply the love chapter to all things human? Just meditate on this:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Truly if everyone had that attitude and resolve, then earth would be utopia, not earth. Sadly, the first part of the chapter appears more frequently:
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. 2 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. 3 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.
Clanging cymbals and resounding gongs. There is so much noise in our world, mental illness abounds, and violence erupts. Excessive conflict continues. Numerous loudmouths exist in our own social circles. Yet there is ultimate beauty…in truth.
You may have noticed that verse 6 was omitted earlier. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Here is where the noise enters.
There’s a readiness to fervently disagree on whether something is true, or if it’s false, error and deception—in other words—evil. Therefore, there’s often
disagreement upon which choices and behaviors are loving or unloving.
A good example comes from parenting styles. A permissive parent might produce or influence a child to become a selfish, moral monster, due to their lack of standards and boundaries, which is hardly loving. Yet in the mind of that parent, they believe their generosity and leniency to be loving in the highest degree. So how do we resolve this dilemma?
There are many ethical decision-making models including the virtues approach, utilitarianism, human rights, and situational ethics to name a few. There are glimpses of truth and pitfalls to all of them, but we don’t intend a mini course on ethics here.
WWJD—What Would Jesus Do—was a popular movement of the 1990’s that was intended to demonstrate the love of Jesus by mirroring what He’d do in moral circumstances. The approach lost some of its popularity, likely due to commercialism and its faddish nature, but there are valuable aspects to be acquired.
For guidance under the WWJD approach, Pastor Mike Fleischmann wrote of what Jesus actually did do in His life. He sought the Father. He embraced outcasts. He restored broken lives. He confronted hypocrisy. He taught God’s Word. He served. He equipped leaders. (Discipleship Journal, Nov./Dec. 2000, as adapted by Christianity Today, May 2003).
From this, it’s apparent that if one is to be most loving, they need to know the Father and His Word. For those who blame the Christian religion and its God for violence and hatred, they don’t actually know Him or what He teaches.
While it’s true that so-called followers have been violent or hateful, that is their humanity being exposed, not any close relationship to God and His Word being displayed. And these instances are exponentially less than non-Christian examples. (However, I would want to remind Christians that the most practical applications of being charitable come in tipping at a restaurant, or being highly grateful and polite for any service or interaction.)
Amos 5:14-15 New King James Version (NKJV)
14 Seek good and not evil,
That you may live;
So the Lord God of hosts will be with you,
As you have spoken.
15 Hate evil, love good;
Establish justice in the gate.
From the Bible’s perspective, there must be some supreme objective good that can be known and loved, and which provides a basis for love. Rather than love what is good, some unknowingly or intentionally love what is evil. If God is love and the source of all love, then all other attempts to truly love outside His empowerment and guidance are futile. All these relative human-made ethical systems are like chasing the wind.
1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
If you’re a Christian, this concept is quite accessible. Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute gives an excellent approach. For believers, he states: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.”
As Christians, however, we must remember that unbelievers are lost and blind in biblical terms. 2 Corinthians 4 (NLT):
4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
Therefore, it is imperative for us to remember that we are Christ’s ambassadors, and we must demonstrate His love, for we do not know who will be transformed by His love. What a loving, ultimate, sacrificial gift and mission. 2 Corinthians 5 demonstrates:
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s
sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,[e] so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Simply summarized, if you wish to be more loving in 2017, you must get closer and remain closer to God, and get to know His Word intimately. Pray without ceasing and keep His Word guarded in your hearts. This must be a wholehearted commitment like a marriage should be, and more. Not some “Well I believe in God, too” sort of half-hearted agreement. You’ll then be able to apply this new way of life to any social or moral situation.
If you don’t resolve to be more loving, then that’s a problem. Harsh to say, but that’s like choosing evil over good. Don’t choose to be a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal from which everyone would grimace or want to plug their ears.
Your model of loving behavior can be a seed that grows your family unit in strength, which overflows into communities in which you interact, and then beyond. (It might even withstand the emotions of a political election! Press on in Love!)