Fruity Fridays: Love=A New Commandment

by Danny Bote

If you do a quick internet search on the word love, you will find many definitions. Most definitions that you will find are in regards to love being a feeling, a strong affection toward someone, a physical attraction to someone, or a person that you have romantic feelings about. 

But what does Scripture define love as? When Galatians 5 says that love is a fruit of the Spirit, what does that mean and look like? Let’s begin by taking a look in the gospel of John. Jesus says in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another…” 

Have you ever wondered why Jesus says this is a new commandment? Isn’t that the purpose of the last six of the Ten Commandments, to love others? How is it after thousands of years after the law was given and written that Jesus is saying this is “a new commandment”?

You see, Jesus isn’t saying this is a brand new, unknown commandment, but that he is showing what it is actually supposed to look like in practice (a fruit). How is he teaching and showing us? Let’s look at the context in which this verse is found. 

Jesus gives this “new commandment” during the evening in which he was washing the disciples’ feet (which in and of itself, is incredible! The CREATOR of the UNIVERSE washing dirt off of the feet of those who are about to desert him as he gets arrested). After the foot washing, with a deeply troubled spirit, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him and that it’s the disciple to whom he gives the dipped piece of bread. He proceeds to give the bread to Judas, and then Satan enters Judas. Judas leaves, and the disciples still don’t know what’s going on; they just think he went to go get the moneybag and buy something for the feast or give to the poor. Right when Judas leaves Jesus gives this “new commandment.”

So, what do we learn from this account and message on love in John 13? 

First, we love others. Don’t skip over that too fast. It doesn’t say we love those who love us, or believe like us, or like us. We love others. We love those who betray us, believe differently than us, hate us and maybe even potentially kill us one day. Christ knew all along who was going to betray him from his inner circle; yet he still loved him, served him and washed his feet. It is obvious that Judas was never saved, but Christ still loved him and served him unconditionally. 

Second, before we judge Judas and others, we must realize that we all were at one time, or still are, enemies of God. And Christ died for his enemies. Romans 5:10-11 states; “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” 

So, who are your enemies? Is it your spouse? Child? An ex-spouse? Old friend? Co-worker? Boss? Political enemy? Someone from a different religion? We are to express the love of Christ to our enemies. 

Jesus then continues his explanation of love by saying this in verse 35, “By this (love for one another) all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

Do people know that you are a Christ-follower? How are they to know? 

  • By your love, service, and sacrifice for all people. 
  • When people see that you love your fellow Christ-follower as well as your enemy. 
  • When you serve and forgive all people-those who are in your inner circle and those who hate you and want to kill you. 

Then, ALL PEOPLE will know that you are a disciple of Jesus. He doesn’t say that all people will come to salvation because of the expression of love, but that when they see you and the way you love, forgive, sacrifice, and serve, other people will KNOW that you are a Christ-follower.

Then we must be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks us for the reason of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). If this fruit of the Spirit is being expressed in our lives, we will have the opportunity to share with people what and who true love is-Jesus Christ.

The Four Laws of Forgiveness (Book review)

This is my second read of this book by Brad Johnson. And, by the way, nice to read it on my kindle to see my previous highlights and compare what stood out to me this time.

First, this is a quick read. Good for anyone looking for a “to the point” reference on this subject. Also good for a “reminder” read. We all need to have a habit of forgiveness. This book can not only give the first step toward that habit but also can provide checkpoints for the ongoing routine.

Chapter 4 stood out to me in this read. Johnson’s fourth law deals with risks and reward. These are his three principles for this law:

  1. Risk can be godly
  2. Vulnerability can be godly
  3. The rewards of forgiveness are great

Did God show his love and give his life before or after you and I chose to love him? He did it before, which was a risk. He had no assurance we would ever love him back.

I needed this reminder. Like Jesus (NT) and Joseph (OT), godliness includes risk and vulnerability. As believers, we have access to the same power that produced the rewards of their risk and vulnerability. We can forgive.

4 Lessons from “The Loving Father” Parable (also called “The Prodigal Son” parable)

The parable found in Luke 15 focuses mostly on the actions of the younger son.  Yet, when you consider the dad’s reactions, there are several relationship lessons to glean.  Here are four of them:

  • Cold, Reckless Behavior Hurts but Doesn’t Change Unconditional Love

The son’s request was premature. His message might as well have been, “I wish you were dead.” The only recorded reaction from the father is his granting the request. Hurtful words and actions may challenge but will not alter unconditional love.

  • Be Ready to Forgive

Forgiveness can be immediate when requested if the heart has been prepared to give it.  The sooner the preparation begins the sooner the loving reaction will be available.  The opportunity may be a long time coming; love is patient and can stay ready to forgive.

  • Initiate Restoration

Forgiveness can lead to full restoration.  The fullness degree can be greatly impacted if the forgiving party initiates the restoration.  The time needed to complete the restoration can be shortened when the forgiver initiates its beginning.

  • Never Stop Loving Rebels, Hostile or Hidden

Not all rebels are cold and reckless.  The rebellion style may alter the method of forgiveness and restoration, yet the character of love can remain.  Love endures.

Thankful for Re- (1)

Scripture encourages us to include statements of thankfulness in our prayer lives (Philippians 4:6). In my prayer of thanks today, two things came to mind:  forgiveness and loss. One sounds positive, the other negative. Why did those come to mind? What’s the basis for being thankful in good and bad, joy and sorrow, positive and negative? This is the first of two blogs sharing those thoughts.

Thinking on those two things led me to words that began with the prefix re-. Re– often begins words that indicate a return to a previous condition, often verbs that indicate restoration. Such words include replace, remake, realign, redeem, and reform.

When forgiveness occurs, several doors may open for a return to a previous condition

  • Rebirth – a child offers their mother forgiveness for giving them up for adoption and their relationship is reborn
  • Renewal – a spouse offers their mate forgiveness for keeping a secret and their trust is renewed
  • Restart – a boss offers their employee forgiveness for a misjudgment and their work is restarted
  • Reunite – a church offers their pastor forgiveness for sin and their communion is reunited

These examples are certainly good, joyful, positive outcomes. Good, but not easy to achieve. Forgiveness takes hard work, just like getting anything back to its previous condition. If you’re wrestling with the hard work of forgiveness, think on the re-. Look forward to being thankful for re-.

When have you experienced the thankfulness of re- through forgiveness? How did you get there?

3 Steps Toward Contentment

Who doesn’t want peace and contentment? For some reason, it seems some people are better peace dwellers and contentment finders than others. If that doesn’t describe you, maybe these three steps will give you some direction.

Stop dwelling in the past and/or worrying about the future. Both of these fixations cause emotional paralysis and can lead to depression. If you are a past dweller, consider the contentment that may be found in forgiveness, often the healer of the past. If you are a future worrier, consider the contentment that may be found in releasing control, often the peacemaker for the future. Reluctant forgivers and control freaks can both find contentment through deepening their relationship with God, which leads to step #2.

Look to God. He knows the feelings of regret (see Genesis 6 and 1 Samuel 15). He knows also the feelings of releasing control. His gift of free will to man illustrates He practices releasing control every second of every minute of very hour of every day. Whatever feelings are leading you away from contentment, God has dealt with them and therefore can assist you with them (see Hebrews 4:14-5:10). Looking to God should release lack of contentment pressures, which leads to step #3.

Reduce your self-induced pressure. This pretty much happens between your ears. Find ways to control your mind rather than it controlling you. For example, instead of worrying how you’re going to pay for your son’s college education, seek financial advice to determine what you need to start doing today, telling your mind there’s a plan in motion. Or instead of replaying that destructive conversation with your sister from seven years ago, reach out to her today and say you thought about her and prayed for her, telling your mind you have taken a step toward reconstruction. Take the first step; don’t worry about step #54. Reduce the pressure a little bit today.

Stop. Look. Reduce. If you have to, repeat these steps several times a day. Contentment is a learned discipline. Start practicing and be on your way to becoming one of the others.

Share what steps you take toward contentment. What tends to be a common barrier and how have you addressed it?

Breadcrumbs 

1 Job answered GOD: “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” (‭Job‬ ‭42‬:‭1-6‬ MSG)

This is the beginning of the last chapter of Job. You might say Job is admitting that his eyes have been opened. When you experience God firsthand, your eyes are opened regarding who’s in charge. Until then, your fear or awe of God has no chance to be properly placed. Your misplaced fear produces arrogance, questioning, second guessing, babbling. That’s what Job now sees. Job therefore declares he ain’t going back. Back to where he relied on rumors about God. Back to a relationship with God built on vicarious teaching, reading, and conversation. 

Job compared his previous knowledge of God to be nothing more than living on a diet of breadcrumbs. No wonder he muddied the waters and ignorantly confused the issues. He was malnourished. When you recognize you’re malnourished, you have an opportunity to change diets. In Job’s case, he chose to reject human breadcrumbs and receive the Bread of Life. He asked for forgiveness and excused himself from the wrong table to take a seat where he could receive first helpings. No more breadcrumbs for Job!

Have you ever experienced what Job is describing? What did you do in that moment?

Word to the Groom

Had a first today. Went to a men’s event for a groom getting married this summer. We were asked to bring a used tool for his tool box. But not just bring a tool, also give a life application that tool represents and share a relatable Bible verse. 

I took a tape measure. Lots of application could be said using that object. You could talk about managing your money, keeping good margin in all areas of life, even who’s boss when it comes to decorating the house, even at the holidays. But I went down the Luke road. If for no other reason, because these verses (Luke 6:37-38) actually have the word measure in them.

Do not judge, and you would not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. But with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Good relationship advice straight from Jesus’ mouth:

  • You don’t want be judged or condemned? Don’t do it yourself.
  • You want to be forgiven and to receive? Forgive and give.
  • The amount/measure you do these things will determine the amount you receive them.

Many good measured years to the bride and groom!

Moses: 40 Years of Captured Awe

Exodus 3&4 recount the call of Moses out of a 40-year exile to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. God’s awe-filled display is dismissed by Moses’ fear. Read Paul David Tripp’s words on this scene (chapter 2 of Awe):

At the end of God’s glorious display of power, Moses begs God to send someone else. It’s as if fear of personal inadequacy and political danger has completely blinded his eyes to the awesome glory of the One sending him. Moses is not in awe of God. No, the awe capacity of his heart has been captured by fear of the Egyptians, and all he can think of is being released from the task to which God has appointed him.

Captured. Has your awe been captured? What does that even mean?

It means your awe has been redirected toward something or someone that doesn’t represent your best option, purpose, or worship. In Moses’ 40-year-captured case, this happened because of fear. 

You may think a lack of focus or maybe thoughts of doubt or confusion are to blame. Most likely, the root of your captured awe isn’t doubtful, confusing thoughts or inability to focus. Most likely, a fear is responsible.

Might it be a fear of comparison…of failure…of rejection…of success…of loss…of uncertainty…of loneliness…of pain…of expectations?

What if you saw God as the source of love…of purpose…of forgiveness…of healing…of power…of everything?

What if you remembered that God filled your lungs with breath…took you as you were…brought you out of the dark?

What if you released fear and gave God back your captured awe?

Finishing Well

In his conclusion of It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over, R.T. Kendall listed the following ten principles to follow in order to finish well:

  1. Put yourself totally under Holy Scripture
  2. Be accountable to reliable people
  3. Be squeaky clean regarding finances 
  4. Maintain sexual purity
  5. Come to terms with jealousy you feel by another person’s gifts or popularity
  6. Be willing to not get the credit for what you do
  7. Always keep your word
  8. Live in total forgiveness
  9. Be a thankful person
  10. Maintain a strong personal prayer life; spend much time alone with God