Theology in Practice

Philippians 2: 3 – 4

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

We have heard a lot about individual rights lately. As both a political science major with a pre-law emphasis and then a lawyer, I have always been (and still am) an individual rights proponent. However, I have learned that there is a proper hierarchy of values and that love and care for our fellow human beings must precede our thoughts of self. The Word teaches that we are to concern ourselves with the needs of others above our own needs (1 Corinthians 10: 24). That necessarily means that love overrules philosophy, religion, politics, and even theology. In fact, theology is greatly simplified once we put love on the throne. When love, who is God remember, is in its proper place at the head, everything else begins to fall into place.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 13). The point is that love is sacrificial. It puts the needs of others first. Jesus showed us the way of love. Certainly, that does not mean that each of us is the die for others but in many ways, every day we can lay down our lives for others by putting what is needful for them ahead of our desires.

Frankly, I am tired of hearing people complain about wearing masks! For goodness sakes, no one likes wearing the things, but it is such a small price to pay for the comfort and safety of others. And when I hear Christians complaining and arguing about their rights I am flabbergasted! Jesus laid down his life and told us we should do the same and yet we lose our minds, and our Christianity, over wearing a mask? Give me a break!!

Many people give so much to care for the needs and safety of others. In many places in the world just holding a Bible can condemn a person to death. How, then, can a rational Christian spend so much time and energy on something so trivial? It is confounding! Jesus gave his life for us. Now we are being asked not to breathe on others and make them die for us. Does that seem too much to ask?

Did you know that if you hold someone up at gun point even though your gun is a water pistol you could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon? When our actions put people in fear of their lives, we can be held responsible for those acts. The most virulent weapon may be your breath. If you are around someone and you choose not to wear a mask, you could actually endanger them but also, you may cause them concern and angst. Jesus would have us take care of those people, not put them in fear.

The Bible is explicit in its instruction. Those with ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit of God is saying to you today. Our needs and wishes are not all we should consider. Putting the wellbeing of others in a preeminent position is the Christian thing to do every day. I didn’t say it was easy or that we would always get it right. However, this message should go to the forefront of our minds and certainly should be the banner of our faith. Jesus left us with one commandment, “Love one another; just as I have loved you” (John 13: 34). It must have meant something when he said it. It must be pretty important if he made this our one guiding principle. By this, and nothing else, we will be known as his disciples.

Some of you won’t like this message. If that is you, take it up with Jesus. It seems to me he was pretty clear. Don’t quit! Don’t unsubscribe. Be teachable and receive instruction. I know you want to follow him. If I am wrong, Jesus will help you find your way. If I am right, he just did.

Best Friends

John 15: 13                     NIV

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Jesus demonstrated true friendship. He also defined friendship in some meaningful ways. Proverb 18: 24 says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Surely, Jesus has modeled this kind of friendship for us and, he has become this kind of friend to us. In truth, isn’t he just the best friend you have ever had?

This verse certainly brings joy and a sense of celebration to the heart but I feel snagged by it also. If a real friend is one who would lay down one’s life for a friend, then it stands to reason that we would lay down a great many other things, as well, for our friends. The most costly of these is that I may have to lay aside my agenda, my wishes and my time for my friends.

We live in an age where we are all so busy that, really, we don’t have much time for our friends. We end up with virtual friends instead of real friends. I even wonder if the word “friend” means what it used to. Perhaps most of our friends are really acquaintances. I remember, as a child, my parents having friends over to play cards. Sometimes we went over to other friends of theirs and sat and sang songs all evening. We also took weekends to go visit relatives. We don’t do many of those things today. If, as the God’s Word translation says, “The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends” how do we demonstrate our love and affection for anyone? Or have we stopped caring altogether? Our heartstrings are pulled by the affliction of people who suffer around the world, we give money to groups who rescue abused and neglected animals but where is the real devotion in personal relationships? Are we only dedicated to those whom we can keep at arm’s length. Are my very best friends those on Facebook whom I never see and haven’t seen in years? Or like one person I know, who never intends or desires to see her Facebook friends in person, are many of us learning to isolate ourselves living as islands of one or two? What does it even mean anymore to have “meaningful” relationships? Do you sometimes wonder who would care if you dropped dead?

I think of the people who followed Jesus. They truly loved him. He loved them with all that he had. He loves you and I with all that he ever was and willingly sacrificed his life so that we could be best friends. Are we treating him as a long-distance relationship? What would it be like, how would it feel to treat him as an intimate friend? And what is a friend anyway? He showed us ultimate friendship in laying down his life for us, but what shall I now do, how shall I express my love for him? How does a real, true friendship with Jesus demonstrate itself? And is my relationship with him based solely on what he does for me? What can I do for him or any friend? Perhaps it is not about what you do though. Maybe it is just about being with them.

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus is one. Is there another?