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Bold Love

Read This Week: Philemon

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus – that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. – Philemon 1:8-11

I love the movie, A River Runs Through It. The story is about the Maclean brothers growing up in a minister’s home in Montana trying to cross various rites of passage while always finding community through fly fishing.

There is also a very difficult part of the story involving the youngest brother, Paul Maclean. He goes from a mischievous child to a destructive man that is hard to love and understand. The personal impact of his choices and behavior are perfectly summarized by his father, Reverend Maclean in a sermon. He said:

“Each one of us here today will, at one time in our lives, look upon someone who is in need and ask the same question, “We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed?” Lord, it is true we can seldom help those who are closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give, or more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so, it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them. We can love completely, without complete understanding.”

Love without complete understanding is exactly what Paul was asking of Philemon and the church in Colossae. His message was simple: based on the love and forgiveness that had been given to Philemon by God, he and others should show the same to a man named Onesimus, who had caused problems and hurt Philemon personally. Paul appealed to Philemon not on the basis of understanding but of love and asked him to take Onesimus back and restore their relationship. He was calling for a bold love that expresses itself in the absence of clarity or any good reason other than the power and beauty of love itself.

Life will always be full of these scenarios. We will be wronged, hurt and face the difficulty of offering love and forgiveness when we don’t understand. It does not come easy, yet as followers of Jesus, we have to know that our ability to offer it comes from Christ’s ultimate act of love on the cross. His love paid the price for, covered and redeemed us. He is the standard of love.

When God’s bold, sacrificial love fills our hearts, we’re able to give it beyond our own comprehension. We can apply it generously in ways that we couldn’t imagine otherwise. We can love completely without complete understanding.

We all, at some point, require an inexplicable, long-suffering love. With God’s help, we can both give and receive it. We can show it to others and have it shown to us in our desperate need. We can give it even though someone has mercilessly broken our heart. We can be bold because it is far too often that we don’t understand yet we still desperately need to love.

It’s Just Better

Read This Week: Titus 3

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy… So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. – Titus 3:3-8

I like it when people use the phrase, “It’s just better” in comparison of two things. I like it because the words are simple but resolute. It is straight to the point and stating an experiential fact with emphasis. No frills or messing around. No hyperbole or romantic language. No sugarcoating. “It’s just better.”

That is exactly what Paul was saying in Titus 3 about life before one enters into a relationship with Jesus and the new life experienced in His grace and mercy. He compares the reality of what it’s like for individuals and communities without God to the one where Christ has made a difference. He states clearly that having a relationship with Jesus is just better than anything the world and the old life has to offer.

Paul asserts that before Christ, we were destructive people that deceived and hurt each other and did so with harmful intent. He writes that we were out of control and self-interested to the point that only the satisfaction of our own desires mattered. He even says that a community far from God is an environment that fosters hate toward one another and is an unwelcome place to be.

But, when the hope and salvation of Jesus appears and takes over people’s lives, things get better. God begins to not only change individuals but whole communities. He removes sin, calms the chaos that it creates and gives us a purpose. Instead of harming, we begin to look out for one another, express compassion and do good things that are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Our individual lives are filled with the peace and security of eternal life that is attractive to others and our communities are filled with kindness that nurtures, comforts and makes it not only desirable but a beautiful place to be. Jesus rescues us from our old ways of destruction, removes filth and negativity and replaces it with a new life overflowing with good works that point to His goodness and love for all people.

Once you’ve tasted the joy, peace of mind, and fulfillment of being alive in Christ everything else seems pale, meaningless, and hollow. It is the picture of extremes. It’s the sharp contrast of Ultra High Definition when all you’ve ever viewed is Standard Definition. It’s like watching in black and white when you could experience the full vibrancy and depth of color.

It is sitting in first class when all you’ve ever known is the middle seat in coach between the crying baby and the person with body odor. It’s never wanting to swim in a murky pond again once you’ve body surfed on the waves of the Pacific. It is the thought of driving through McDonald’s when you could have Ruth’s Chris every day.

Life in Christ. It’s just better.

Live Wisely

Read This Week: Titus 2

In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. – Titus 2:6-7

What is the wise thing to do? It might be one of the best questions we can ever ask ourselves in life no matter the circumstances or season. This passage in Titus tells us that wise living reflects integrity, the content of God’s word, and good works of every kind.

We should all be encouraged to live according to the teachings of the Bible because the wisdom gleaned from it powerfully informs our journey. To live wisely is to maintain perspective while we’re discovering who we are and what kind of people we want to become. Wisdom should go before us into every arena, endeavor or activity.

Wisdom helps us maintain our character when it comes to work, family, and decision-making. It protects us from bad choices and situations that compromise our lives and if applied to the moments when we’re tempted, wisdom can even safeguard us from negatively impacting our future.

Living wisely is redemptive for us and beneficial to others. It gives us the opportunity to begin every day on the right path and helps us take action in doing good. Aldous Huxley was famous for saying, “Experience is not what happens to you. Experience is what you do with what happens to you.” God’s wisdom shows us how to do something with our experiences and allows us to pay it forward.

Titus 2 also says that wise living can change our personal image and cause us to practically reflect the teachings of Scripture. Wisdom empowers us to be examples of God’s grace and goodness and to express love and patience as we interact with our spouse, friends, co-workers, and our kids on a daily basis.

Do Good

Read This Week: Titus 1

Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are disobedient and worthless for doing anything good. – Titus 1:16

A do-gooder. This is not a term thrown around too much these days. You probably won’t see it in a group text, in the dialogue of your favorite Netflix show or being used at a party to describe someone. Do-gooder has dropped out of the lexicon of everyday life, but people who say they know and love God need to see it make a comeback.

A do-gooder is someone who does things that they think will help others even if the other people might not find their actions helpful. Titus 1 tell us that this type of activity and lifestyle identifies a person as one who knows God. So, those who claim to know Jesus and follow him are, in essence, do-gooders. People who lovingly help others and make their lives better even if those people don’t want it or think they need it.

There is nothing like doing work that benefits people. Nothing has more fulfillment than helping someone with a problem, hurt, hang-up or crisis. Nothing has purer contentment than helping someone reach their potential. Nothing communicates the heart of God to the world like living with integrity and serving others.

We all have gifts, abilities, and experiences that are perfect for someone else’s needs. Because we all have those resources, we must use them. Paul says that people who have the capacity to do good but refuse to do so are disobedient and deny God with the way they live.

William Wilberforce, an English politician, and leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade once said: “No man has the right to be idle… Where is it in such a world as this that health, and leisure, and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate?”

Followers of Jesus don’t have the right to be idle. Those who claim to know God are do-gooders. They count it a joy and privilege to help and do good things as they see opportunities every day.

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