Monthly archives: April, 2017

The (True) Tale of Two Men

 

 

A man sat in his house minding his own business when God’s voice was heard over the silence of the quiet town in which the man lived. “Go to the neighboring town—the one you’ve avoided for so long—and tell them they need to stop worshiping themselves and worship Me instead. Go now.”

But the man did not go. Not only did he not go, he went in the opposite direction to send a very clear message to God: I don’t like those people and I don’t want to do anything remotely good for them. They don’t deserve it.

As can be imagined, God wasn’t about to be made servant to this man, so He acted in such a way to get this man’s full attention. And get his attention He did. “Go to the neighboring town—the one you’ve avoided for so long, and the one full of people you don’t like—and tell them they need to stop worshiping themselves and worship Me instead. Go now.” So, the man went. Miraculously, everyone in the town dropped everything and worshiped God from then on. But the man was angry; angry that they turned their lives around and were now eternal beneficiaries of God’s mercy.

A second man sat in a house also minding His own business. His business, however, was, in fact, to be in the house. No voice was heard saying, “Go now to the neighboring town,” for this man was exactly where He needed to be. This man reclined at the table amongst the ones others had avoided for so long. He did not go in the opposite direction, but rather toward them, sitting and eating with them, which sent a very clear message to those gathered around Him: that He loved them and wanted to do anything for their good, even if they didn’t deserve it. The man was hopeful; hopeful that they would turn their lives around and would become eternal beneficiaries of God’s mercy.

Jonah and Jesus. Different men with two different missions and different visions.

Jonah’s anger at the repentance of a city revealed a heart struggling to love well, a heart not understanding that love always hopes. He could only see the behavior of the Ninevites, not what they could become. Jesus, on the other hand, was a visionary. Lovers of people are visionaries. Their vision doesn’t ignore the present but is rather viewed through the lenses of the future and potentiality. That is how Jesus was able to sit with “tax collectors and sinners.” Of course, He knew their behavior, even their heart. But He looked ahead.

Without a doubt, Jonah and Jesus contrast sharply. The two outcomes differ just as much. Jonah did eventually do what God said, seemingly while withholding love, and Nineveh was saved. Jesus, love incarnate, sat with tax collectors and sinners, but no record is found of them following Jesus from that point on. How could this be? What are we to make of this?

Perhaps these two men and these two stories remind us of two truths about an always-hoping love:

  1. It looks beyond who they might be today, and
  2. It is not determined by the outcome.

 

God knows who they are today and who they could be tomorrow. Let us not worry about the outcome. Let us simply love without hesitation and full of hope.


Love Always Trusts

 

Love always trusts (2)

Newton’s law of motion teaches us that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. It keeps moving. This principle translates to us as well. If we want to have more energy, we have to exercise and move more. If we want our minds to be more creative, we have to put ourselves in environments that help promote that. It is also true in our relationships. If we want to have strong, healthy relationships with others, we have to keep the relationship moving forward and growing. Many times this involves continuing to choose to trust when our knee-jerk reaction could be suspicion.

 

Who doesn’t want a squad? Strong relationships – people that are there for us when life is good or gets crazy. Someone we can just be with without even trying to be anything but ourselves.

 

But, why does this process of building relationships – of trusting seem so stinkin’ impossible?

 

The problem is..we remember. Remembering is a good thing usually. We remember our wedding day. The birth of our children. The day our son knocked the ball out of the park.  Just how beautiful our little princess looked at her dance recital. What precious memories to ponder. But, sometimes out of nowhere, in between all these beautiful moments, a thought or a memory will pop back into our minds and we remember when we trusted. We remember how it felt for that trust to be broken…to be hurt and betrayed.  And like a turtle, we crawl back into our shell. It just seems less painful and easier to do life by ourselves or at best with “surface” relationships.

 

Lest we pass all the blame onto others. Let’s face it, we all fall short of being 100% trustworthy. It’s good to remember that we’ve blown it from time-to-time ourselves. I remember the day when I had an epiphany. In all seriousness, I remember realizing for the first time that I wasn’t always right. I know. It’s laughable. It’s embarrassing to think of the times whether knowingly or unknowingly this is what I thought. You can imagine the effect on my relationships with those closest to me. But, when I see myself clearly (flaws and all), it gives me the ability to have more grace for others.

 

It’s been said that, “Hurt people, hurt people”. But have you ever thought about the fact that those who have been hurt by broken relationships in the past actually can hurt other people in a form of self-protection?  We may unnecessarily withhold trust, have unrealistic expectations of those around us, or let ourselves be trapped in a victim mentality. Our past experiences with broken trust can easily disrupt us from developing good, high-trust relationships. We must get to the place where we don’t let our past hurts dictate our present relationships.

 

This is not an easy feat, I know; but, it is possible. I love how Seth Godwin puts it, “Doubt (suspicion) is corrosive. Someone faced with doubt (suspicion) rarely brings her best self to the table. Doubt (suspicion) undermines confidence, it casts aspersions, it assumes untruths.” He also challenges us to begin with giving people the “benefit of confidence” instead of being suspicious. Trusting others is almost inseparable from loving others.

 

So, what do you say? What if we start with ourselves?  Proving to be trustworthy.  The Bible says, “Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.” – Proverbs 3:29 ESV.  Be a safe place for others. Own up to our mistakes along the way and love like Jesus.  And remember that, “Love always trusts…”. -1 Corinthians 13


The Pictures We Paint

Untitled design (4)

As I walk down the hallway of the Children’s Worship Wing at Northland Church, I am welcomed by countless interpretations of Bible stories by the kids that worship there each week. After hearing a story, they are invited to retell the story by drawing their interpretation of it, all with the help of Crayola. It’s truly a special art gallery, one you should check out if you haven’t already.

Down the road at The Morse Museum, professional artists clearly have heard a story, too. Most are not Bible stories, but still they share their interpretation of a story they’ve heard covering subject matter ranging from flowers to birds to sky to people to the ocean. Crayola has no place here, but their interpretation through drawing, painting, and sculpture still invites lovers of art to peruse the many galleries to hear their side of the story.

Child or professional, the interpretation of the story comes out, while the rest of us benefit by having our understanding and perspective expanded. We get to experience the beauty of their perception, whether with the innocence of the child or the expertise of the professional.

Love’s demand to protect [the reputation of] others is no different, but with much higher stakes than either gallery of art.

What is the story you’ve heard? Is it the friend who talked about you behind your back? Is it the manager who chewed you out and fired you unjustifiably? Perhaps it is a family member who doesn’t seem to care about you, sometimes adding hurtful words to their otherwise silent indifference. The stories can be endless and the stories can be painful.

This is where we must realize that we, too, are artists. No matter the story, there is always an interpretation to be seen and heard. And so, like master artists, we begin drawing, sketching, painting, and sculpting our perception of the story. Just as the novice and professional create for others to enjoy, we, too, present our finished product to generate appreciation from anyone who would walk the halls of our gallery. We can be so diligent in creating such “artistic masterpieces,” but we are left with questions: Is it a picture full of beauty and grace, or one portraying the unfortunate reality of how we’ve been treated, complete with the tinting (or rather, tainting) of our own opinion? What picture have we painted of the one who wronged us?

To many of us, another thought remains: “Why would it matter how I create the picture? They’re the one who wronged me.” We might even justify our painting or sculpture by saying it’s for the benefit and protection of others. I’ll let John Wesley weigh in here: “Whatever evil the lover of mankind sees, hears, or knows of anyone, he mentions it to none; it never goes out of his lips, unless where absolute duty [obliges you] to speak.”

Let us agree that most of the “art” we create from the stories we experience don’t need to be spoken about. And let us together resolve to excel in becoming the best artists around, speaking only good of anyone, including the ones who don’t love us well. In doing so, people will walk the gallery of our lives with awe and wonder at the love only God can produce in us.


Truth And Love

 

 

 

Truth and Love

Think with me for a moment about education and relationships. Some of you care deeply that EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION not ignore or marginalize relationships of love. They are essential in real, lasting, life-changing education. Amen.

So I turn to the Bible. I find in place of the words, “education” and “relationship,” the words, “truth” and “love.” So what does the Bible say about how truth and love relate to each other? There are at least four ways of talking about this relationship.

  1. Truth aims at love.

“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). Note: instruction is not the goal, love is. Instruction is the means. It is subordinate. Truth serves love. Education serves relationships – mainly the relationship between us and God, but also between Christian and Christian, and between us and unbelievers. The “goal” of all our education is love.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider one another how to stir up to love and good deeds, . . . encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:23-25, literal translation). The aim of our “considering one another” and “encouraging one another” is that we stir up love. We mingle insight into “the confession of our hope” with insight into “each other,” and the effect is stirring each other to love. The truth of doctrine and truth of people-watching unite to aim at love.

  1. Love aims at truth.

“Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love is glad when truth is spoken. Therefore love aims at truth. It supports truth.

“Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4). Here is an example of how love aims at truth. Paul is filled with love and it compels him to write a letter that was hard, and caused sorrow in him and in the Corinthians. But it needed to be said. So love said it. Love speaks the truth personally and doctrinally.

  1. Love shapes how to speak the truth.

“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). There is an unloving way to speak the truth. That kind of truth-speaking we should repudiate. But there is a way to speak the truth in love, and that we should seek. It is not always a soft way to speak, or Jesus would have to be accused of lack of love in dealing with some folks in the Gospels. But it does ask about what is the most helpful thing to say when everything is considered. Sometimes what would have been a hard word to one group is a needed act of love to another group, and not a wrong to the group addressed. But in general, love shapes truth into words and ways that are patient and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

  1. Truth shapes how to show love.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2). It is not always obvious which acts are loving. So John tells us some truth will help us know if our acts are loving. One truth test for our love is whether we are keeping the commandments of God toward people, In other words, love cannot be cut loose from the truth of God’s will. Truth shapes how to show love.

Let us pray that God will cause his love and truth to abound and mingle in us in all these ways for the glory of his truth-filled love and love-filled truth.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.