Monday, September 7, 2015

Is the Rapture Going to Happen on September 23, 2015?

There has been much hoopla the past couple years about the Blood Moons, and now people are targeting this September, specifically the twenty-third, as the date of a pre-tribulation rapture. There is, out there in internet-land, articles listing about twenty-seven (at last count) events in that week of September which are supposed to signify that the rapture is imminent. Things such as the pope's visit to America, a supposed asteroid hit on earth, Jade Helm ending, and the list goes on and on. Let's forget for a moment that we are not supposed to know the day or hour. Is it possible that there will be a rapture in a couple weeks on the twenty-third? No, emphatically not. Not a real rapture by Jesus Christ, anyhow. Does Satan have a fake one planned? Well that I couldn't say. He certainly has spent a long time setting up that deception by getting the Church to accept the false doctrine of a pre-trib rapture. (If you want to know why the rapture is not pre-trib, check out my archives for Feb and Mar, 2012; April and May 2013; Jan and July 2014 for articles addressing the end times. Also my extensive end times Bible study at

As the rapture occurs at the last trump, when Christ returns at the end of the 70th week, and we are not even in the 70th week yet, there is zero probability of a rapture occurring on the twenty-third. Does that preclude an economic collapse, or martial law orchestrated by our POTUS? No. Most anything could happen anywhere in the world. The world is a powder keg and there are always things happening. Could there even be a tremendous hoax orchestrated to make people believe the rapture has occurred or possibly an “alien” invasion? Yes, there is even a theory that this has been planned by the Illuminati. It is called Project Blue Beam. As Satan spent such a long time setting up this false rapture scenario and infiltrating it into the church doctrines of the major fundamental and evangelical churches, I have to believe that there is some probability that a hoax will be perpetrated at some point in time. But those who have studied, those who know the truth, will not be deceived. If a hoax occurs, it will be up to these people to try to help those who have believed falsely, who are now having their faith tested, because they will either understand that they have been taught lies, and will not know what to believe is the truth, or they will simply walk away from the faith altogether, thinking that if they missed it, they must not be saved anyhow.

Pre-trib rapture aside, is it possible that the 70th week could begin? I look at every autumn as it arrives to see if we are going to go into the 70th week, for I believe it could probably happen any year. We know the 70th week must end at the Fall Feasts of Israel, so it must also begin then. There is much debate as to the covenant that will be confirmed. I am not necessarily of the opinion that this must be a public treaty between nations. In fact more and more I am coming to believe that the covenant that is reconfirmed, for this covenant is already in existence when it is confirmed, is the Holy covenant between God and Israel. It is the continuation of the seventy weeks which he has promised them. He confirms that promise by giving them the last seven years. This may be a wrong interpretation, but the only covenants that are mentioned previously are the ones God made with Israel. So to reference a covenant that is in existence would seem to be referencing something that we should be able to find in the Bible as having been made. If a covenant is being set in motion again, it would seem we should look to see what covenants or promises have been mentioned that have not been completed. There is a promise mentioned only verses earlier where God promised Israel 70 weeks or 490 years, but did not finish fulfilling that promise. So it might be that this is the covenant being referred to, which was stopped, but is now being reconfirmed. This covenant would have no sign other than the one mentioned in the context of the text.

The one thing we know from the verses about this time, is that there will be a temple rebuilt, as there will again be sacrifices. So for the 70th week to begin, things must be ready for that temple to go into action, for it says that the sacrifices and oblations will be halted at the midpoint of the seven years. Can that happen at the moment? Well, the Temple Institute does seem to have all the furniture and utensils ready to go. The priests are in training, and their garments have been made. There was an altar built which they intend to transport to the Mount. (I am not sure that this altar, which appears very small compared to what one would expect at the temple, fulfills Scripture's directions, but it is what they intend to use, I guess.) They have a cornerstone which is ready to be laid. The one thing that they have been desperately trying to do, and have failed to date, is to have a red heifer born from which they can get the ashes to purify the priests. There have been several candidates, but each time a flaw is found before it reaches the required age of sacrifice. Unless the original ashes are found (which might be a possibility) or until there is a three year old red heifer, (for they believe it has to be three years old before it can be sacrificed), they cannot begin sacrifices. They can rebuild the temple, but without the sacrifices, prophecy cannot be fulfilled. So while people watch the Blood Moons (which have no scriptural significance, nor actual historical significance prophetically, having happened after the events which the theory's proponents are using as the confirmation that the Blood Moons are significant portents of things to come - see my article on the Blood Moons in the archives - Feb. 2014), and the pope's visit, and the military's training sessions, and the dozens of other things people are watching, the real thing they should be watching is whether or not a temple will be going up in Israel, and whether they have a red heifer to get the ashes to allow them to start making sacrifices. Those two things are the real signs that the end is upon us. Not to mention that God said that the gospel would go out to the entire world, and I do not know that this has happened yet, in spite of the internet.

So, if you are divesting yourself of things in anticipation of leaving this world shortly, you might want to put that on hold. Harold Camping's followers did that back in May of 2011, and found themselves somewhat the worse off after he failed to deliver. Some people took it so hard, they killed themselves. This is why the Lord said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6. If people studied, not just read, but studied God's Word, they would not be so easily deceived. Christ said multiple times in His Olivet Discourse to not be deceived, and that many would try to deceive us. He told us in Matthew 24:42-44 “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Christ gave us the signs for a reason, so that we could watch. If you don't know the signs, then you should get busy and study, so that your house is not broken up. I think the reason He said that He would come in such an hour as some think not, was that there would be so many false theories on when He would be returning to gather His elect. There is only one right time, and Paul was clear as to exactly when it would be. As was John in relating what He was told in Revelation. They both agree as to that time, but few people believe that they were telling them the truth, for they dismiss the simplicity of it. They choose to think it must be much harder to figure out than that, so choose to believe the many lies that are being presented. I suggest that if you don't know what watch to expect Christ, that you get busy and study.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Supreme Court Ruling on Homosexual Marriage from a Christian Viewpoint

The Supreme Court's decision to make homosexual marriage a right in every state will have serious consequences for our country. In a landmark decision, one person made legalizing and legitimizing a blatant sin against God a mandate for the entire country. The vote was 5-4 in favor of this law. One person was the difference between this being and not being a law. Not since Roe vs. Wade legalized the murder of unborn children, has this country made such a terrible choice.

Actually as I believe America is the whore Babylon from the Book of Revelation, our doom is assured anyhow, but it seems that our country is wanting to hurry the inevitable. What people do not realize is that in legalizing these sins, they are saying that this country no longer believes in an absolute morality as defined by God. Murder is not only tolerated, it is legalized. Now sodomy is not only tolerated, but in legalizing marriage between sodomites, it is being forced upon Christians as something that they must condone and accommodate or suffer the consequences. It used to be the acceptable practice that a business owner could refuse service to a client, if they felt that the client was a detriment somehow to their business. With this stroke of the pen, this country has also legalized the persecution of Christians, for anyone who stands against this law will suffer. Many have already come under persecution in the form of lawsuits for refusing to render their business services for sinful purposes. Now not only will business owners not be able to refuse service to homosexuals, but they will not be able to refuse service to anyone or they can be sued, for the precedent has been set. After all, if you can force people against their conscience and religious beliefs to have to serve a small segment of society, then any minority group should have the same right. Now, while a person may say that with this attitude, the black population might still have no rights, that is not the same thing. Being black is not a sin. It merely means a person has more melanin in their skin, and so they should not be treated any differently than any other person. God makes no distinction in melanin amounts. This is entirely different. God has clearly stated how He feels about it. 

Now Christians will be ordered to condone and cooperate with any sin that the people or government deems acceptable. Forget that they are violating our religious freedom. I'd like to see them force an Imam to do a homosexual marriage service. Somehow I think they will be exempt from this mandate. Doctors have already come under persecution for not wanting to perform abortions, and people have already suffered from this law being enacted in several states. Now with two laws mandating that two horrible sins are lawful, this persecution will quickly gain momentum. Pastors may well find that they must leave their churches, or churches themselves shut down, as they are sued for not wanting to endorse this sin.

Think of all the businesses and occupations that Christians who disagree with this law will now have to eliminate from their choices of a profession. No Christian can be a Town or City Clerk, for they issue marriage licenses. Naturally being a person who performs marriages will cause situational problems. So being a pastor or judge will hold risk. Nothing in the bridal industry will be exempt from lawsuits - photographers, apparel businesses, wedding venues, florists, caterers, the list goes on and on. To embark upon making a living in these areas will carry the threat of a lawsuit if one wants to uphold God's standards.

This has also set a dangerous precedent that now makes it possible for any type of immoral sexual sin to now be legalized. After all, if we are throwing out the authority by which we determined what was immoral and sinful, the Bible, then what is left to determine what is wrong and what is right? Why should not someone have the right to have sex with animals? Why not “sex before eight, before it's too late” as the pedophiles in NAMBLA like to chant? Necrophilia anyone? Where does one draw the line, now that we have removed the moral compass? And as we kill babies with impunity, why not the infirm, the old, the disabled, the mentally challenged? Is there any difference? The doors were opened years ago when Roe vs. Wade was passed, but it took us a while to get to the place where we endorsed another sin that is worthy of death in God's eyes. Because historically the acceptance of homosexuality by a nation is generally the last straw for God, I think we can assume that things are going to start getting bad for Christians in this country, for He will turn us over to our reprobate mind.

Christians are going to start feeling the effects of persecution. Oh, not the apostate, Laodicean church, which seems to be the vast majority of those who call themselves Christians in this nation, for they have already gotten on board with this sin. It will be the remnant who suffer. Those who hold to the Word of God. But while true Christians may be the first to suffer, let me assure the Laodiceans and the homosexuals/transgenders, baby murderers and the like, that they will not escape punishment either. Before God's wrath is poured out upon them, however (and it will be poured out), they may find that they will suffer from some persecution themselves. First God will judge the Laodicean church. It is called the great tribulation. And those compromised, apostates who call themselves Christians will find that they will either bow the knee to Satan, or die to preserve their salvation.

As for homosexuals and transgenders (and other unrepentant sinners), as much as they hate Christians for merely telling them this is a sin, I believe they will be far more upset when they find themselves being thrown off buildings, as ISIS is now doing to gays in the Middle East. Islam is taking over the world. Europe is almost under their control, and America is well on its way to becoming an Islamic country. Sharia law calls for the death of homosexuals, and while the Old Testament may have also had that law on the books for Israel as a nation, Christ commissioned us to try to give every sinner the gospel and save them, for we are not without sin ourselves, so we should not start literally throwing stones. This is why Christians only tell them that they are sinners, rather than throwing those stones. This is what homosexuals cannot grasp. The idea of hate the sin, but love the sinner. We hate our own sins as well, but we know that Christ offers forgiveness, and we are trying in love to let them know that if they continue in unrepentant sin, God will punish them, just as He will punish all unrepentant sinners. The problem seems to be that people are trying to say that this is no longer a sin in God's eyes. It still very much is.

Homosexuals attack the Old Testament rule about the death penalty for homosexuality by saying, mixing fabric sources was a sin too. They fail to realize that some rules were not moral sins, but guidelines to prevent disasters and were not punishable by death. Mixing cotton or linen and wool for example, was one of those. Not every law had the death penalty, so to compare the two is ridiculous. Not to mention that anyone who mixes cotton and wool in a garment would find that the first time they wash it, it would no longer be a garment that they probably would want to wear, for the two fabrics act in different ways. One shrinks upon washing, the other doesn't. God didn't give this rule as a moral sin, He gave it to prevent them going through all the work to make a garment only to find that it was ruined the first time they washed it. God forbade them to eat rabbits. Why? Because rabbits are easily raised, and multiply rapidly, making a good source of meat, which they probably would have made a staple of their diet. So what is the problem? Rabbits have virtually no nutritional value. There is a condition called rabbit starvation which killed people in frontier times from them eating rabbit to the exclusion of other foods.

God's rules were for a reason. Many of these rules did not carry the death penalty, for they were not moral laws. However there were moral laws which did, and immoral sexual acts were those which were punishable by death. As for the idea that the Old Testament is no longer viable, well then, let's look at the New Testament, for homosexuality is condemned in Romans 1 just as much as it is in the Old Testament. But God does not declare the death penalty, for now the rules are not the judicial laws for a nation under a theocracy. Instead the sin itself will bring about the punishment within their own bodies. These sins are strictly spiritual issues now, not judicial ones, unless you live under a government which declares them illegal, upon which you will suffer the punishment that such a government deems appropriate. Now Christ offers forgiveness, “He who is without sin, throw the first stone,” but with that forgiveness He also issues a warning, “Go and sin no more.” People are forgetting the second part of His teaching in a rush to embrace the first part.

What is happening is that people want to change the definition of sin. Why do Christians harp on homosexuality and abortion when there are so many other sins? It is true that we do preach on these in a way which probably seems exclusive to other sins, but let's consider the other sins. Does everyone consider lying bad? Yes, for the most part, people do feel this is immoral. Do people believe cheating is a sin. Yes, I think everyone agrees on that. What about stealing? Yes, I think we all agree on that one too. Therein lies the difference. The other sins are considered sins. Even adultery is considered wrong, even though many partake of it. These are all acknowledged sins. The problem with abortion and homosexuality? We are being asked to say that they are not sins. They want us to redefine what God has labeled sins, because they do not want to be guilty of what they know is a sin. Well, we do not have the authority to do that. We aren't God. We can't change the rules just because they want to be able to stand before God and say that they weren't sinning, because we said it was okay. After all, if Christians will put their blessings upon this behavior, doesn't that give them an out when they stand before God on Judgment Day? They seem to think so. We need to let them know that God will not accept that as an excuse. Everybody knows what the Bible says on this issue, regardless of what they want to deny. Trying to find a way to place the blame on Christians for not telling them the truth isn't going to work, for there are still those of us who are willing to suffer the persecution to bring the truth to an unbelieving, ungrateful world. We refuse to have their blood on our heads, for that is the penalty for us if we don't inform them of their sin. Oh, yes, in a way they will be able to point the finger and lay blame at the doors of Christians who went along with this, but ultimately it won't negate the punishment they will receive for embracing and participating in this sin unrepentingly. It is just that the Christians who approved it will suffer too.

We are called hateful, but to be willing to suffer persecution on their behalf to try to get people to change their hearts and behavior, so that they will not suffer eternal punishment? How could we show them a greater love? We want them to understand that they are in flagrant sin and in danger of eternal damnation if they do not repent and change. To turn our backs and let them suffer without warning them, so that we could remain comfortable and not suffer the persecution? THAT would be hateful. Unfortunately by the time they realize this, it will be too late for them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How Does a Person Get to Heaven?

If you wonder how you can be sure that you are on the path to heaven, perhaps what I have written below can help you.

Today people are embracing the gospel of Oprah,
which says that everyone can find their own path or way to God.
But exactly who makes that decision?
Or God?
Who are we,
And with what arrogance
Do we dare to tell the Creator of the Universe
on what terms He will accept us.

Heaven is God’s home, not ours.
It is not our place to tell Him to whom He will open His door.
We decide whom we let into our homes.
Why should we expect that it would be any different with God?
People who try to force their way into our homes are considered
sometimes thieves.
They are not invited
and they are not welcome.
We invite those whom we want in our homes,
and we give them the directions on how to get there.
God does the same.

He has invited us.
He has invited all of us.
Everyone on the planet.
He has said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden
and I will give you rest.”

Does that mean because we have all been invited
that we can choose to follow our own path to God?
To take whatever road we think will get us there?
Or do we need to follow the directions God has given us?
The directions which He knows will get us there.

I have often given instructions to people to direct them to my house.
Several times people have decided to not follow those directions
as they thought they knew better than I
how to get to where I lived,
even though they had never been there,
or at least they thought they knew a different route
to get there
than I had given them.
They ignored street names
or landmarks
or took different roads
and in so doing
found themselves not at my house,
but lost,
or at least someplace where I was not.
I even once had someone say,
“I saw the landmarks,
I saw the signs,
but I didn’t think that was it,
so I didn’t take that road.”
They did not trust me to know the way to my own house.
They did not arrive at the destination
even though they received the invitation
because they did not follow the directions.

The same situation exists in getting to God’s house.
Man asks,
“Isn’t any religion adequate to save us?”
Not according to God.
“Jesus saith unto him,
I am the way, the truth, and the life,
no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
According to Jesus,
He is the only way,
No other person can show you the way to God’s house.

Man asks, “Isn’t membership in a particular church
necessary to save us?”
Not according to God.
God’s Word says,
“For God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish
but have everlasting life.”
According to God,
Jesus is the only necessity.
We do not have to go through anybody or anything else.

Man asks, “Isn’t being good,
enough to save us?”
What does God say?
“For all have sinned
and come short of the glory of God.”
“There is none righteous,
no not one.”
According to God,
it is impossible for us to be good enough.

Man asks, “Can we not work our way there
and earn God’s favor?”
God says,
“For by grace are ye saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves,
it is the gift of God,
not of works
lest any man should boast.”
"Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel
according to the power of God,
who hath saved us
and called us with an holy calling,
not according to our works
but according to his own purpose and grace,
which was given us in Christ Jesus
before the world began."
According to God,
salvation is not a matter of our works.
It is a matter of His grace
and our faith,
and the latter is even a gift from God to us.

Then what is to be done
for us to get to God‘s house?

We look at the invitation
to see how to get there.
God gave us the directions to find His house.
He told us which road to take.
Jesus is the only way
and the only necessity.
He is the only person in history
who claimed to be God
“I and the Father are one”
And who came back from death,
A torturous, gruesome death,
to actually prove that what he said was true.
Nobody else
Now really consider this,
Nobody else
has ever proven
the truth of what they have said
in this manner.
Christ rebuilt the road between God and us
that sin destroyed,
so that we can travel back
to God‘s house.

According to God,
Oprah is completely and totally wrong.
There are not multiple ways to His place.
Why not?
Because in spite of the invitation,
to gain entrance into God’s house,
you have to travel the road set forth on the invitation.
The road that Christ rebuilt.

But there is a problem with getting on that road.
And the problem is ……..
that road happens to be a toll road,
because the cost to travel the road to God
is sinless perfection.
We cannot travel that road on our own.
It is an impossibility for us
because we cannot pay the toll.
Nobody is good enough.
Nobody can earn it through hard work.
Neither religion nor a particular church
will give us sinless perfection.

So how does one get to a house
when the only road there,
is a toll road,
and one does not have the toll,
cannot get it from someone else,
because no one else has it either,
nor can one work to earn the toll?

Fortunately for us, God took care of that.
He paid the toll in advance.
Christ rebuilt the road,
By paying the toll.
God’s Word says
“But God commendeth His love toward us in that
while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us.”
“For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

According to God,
Christ paid the toll for us.
The wages of sin…..death,
Was paid in full on the cross
When Christ offered His sinless perfect life as the substitute
for each and every one of us.
That allowed everyone access to the road.
But you have to actually get on that specific road.

How do we do that?
God says,
“For whosoever
shall call upon the name of the Lord
shall be saved.
For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world through him might be saved.
He that believeth on Him is not condemned,
but he that believeth not is condemned already,
because he hath not believed in the name
of the only begotten Son of God.”

According to God,
To get on that road
we must believe
and call upon the name of the Lord.
And notice that one cannot remain neutral.
Either you believe and are saved,
or you do not believe and are condemned.
There is no middle ground.
No neutral position.
To not choose Jesus
is to choose the other side by default.
Jesus said, “He that is not with me,
is against me.”

Is it enough to say ?
“Well, intellectually I believe that Jesus lived
and was the Son of God.”
Is that enough to get you on the road into heaven?
God’s Word says “Thou believest that there is one God;
thou doest well,”
It also says,
“the devils also believe
and tremble.”
Intellectual belief does not get the devils into heaven.
So a head belief
an intellectual belief
does not get you on that road.
Jesus said, “Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord,
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven,
but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day,
Lord, Lord,
have we not prophesied in thy name?
and in thy name have cast out devils?
and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them,
I never knew you,
depart from me,
ye that work iniquity.”
Someone can think that they know God,
that they must belong to Him
as they serve Him and even do miraculous things for Him,
but what does He say?
He says He never knew the person.
It is said that a person can miss heaven by eighteen inches.
That is the approximate distance between the head
and the heart.

Everyone wonders about the meaning of life.
Why do we exist?
We were created for one reason
and one reason only.
God wanted the same thing that we want.
He wanted someone to love
who would love Him in return.
by their own choice.
It really is as simple as that.
He wants our hearts.

Rituals and offerings are not a bad thing.
God ordained that Israel have many rituals
And offerings.
But they were never to be a replacement
For loving Him.
For knowing Him.
To become more important
than a personal and intimate relationship with Him.
God has told us what he thinks
of our supplanting a relationship with Him
with these things.

“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me.
Bring no more vain oblations,
incense is an abomination unto me,
the new moons and the Sabbaths,
the calling of assemblies,
I cannot……away with it,
it is iniquity,
even the solemn meeting,
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth,
they are a trouble unto me,
I am weary to bear them.
Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs,
for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.”

According to God,
All of our man-made rituals,
sacrifices, offerings
meetings, holy days, and music,
Are completely worthless,
Nay, abhorrent in His eyes,
if we do not have love in our hearts for Him.
God wants a relationship with us.
Such as we have with each other.
“Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord.
Though your sins be as scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow.
Though they be red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.”
God tries to reason with us,
but not everyone wants to be reasonable.
God wants to forgive us.
He wants to love us.
He wants to be intimate with us.

God has invited us to come live in His house.
He loves us
and He wants us to love Him
and to come and live with Him.
That is what our short sojourn on this world is really all about.
It is the period of time we have
for us to decide where we really want to live
for the rest of our lives,
which will last for all of eternity.

He has freely given us all the directions we need to get there.
He has told us the road to take.
He has paid the necessary toll or price.
But just having an intellectual belief
that the road exists and the toll has been paid
will not answer.
There is something more required.
God has told us,
“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,
and shalt believe in thine heart
that God hath raised him from the dead,
thou shalt be saved.”

According to God,
It is not enough to believe with our heads.
To have an intellectual belief.
We have to believe with our hearts.
We have to love with our hearts.
We have to confess with our mouths.
Confess what?
Our sins.
Our belief that Jesus is the Son of the true and living God.
Our belief that Jesus died for our sins,
and that he was resurrected
conquering the penalty of death for our sins.

We have to make Christ Jesus the Lord of our lives to enter into heaven.
We have to engage our hearts….
Have a relationship with Him.
That means loving God enough
to give up being your own god,
your own controller,
to let Him make the choices and decisions for your life,
to make Jesus Christ and God the Father
the love and Lord of your life.
This is more than some people are willing to relinquish.
They want to be their own gods,
They want to make their own choices,
Including trying to get to God’s house
on their own terms,
on a road of their own making.
But according to God,
There is only one road,
And it is the road we have to travel
to arrive at our destination
if we choose to accept the invitation.

But what if we do that?
If we confess and believe.
Is anything more required?
How can we ensure
That we stay on the right road
And do not make a wrong turn somewhere?
Life is hopefully long,
And we can get distracted and get off course.

God has given us directions for that too.
We have been told
to abide in Christ.
Jesus said,
“Abide in me and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,
except it abide in the vine,
no more can ye,
except ye abide in me.
If a man abide not in me,
he is cast forth as a branch
and is withered,
and men gather them,
and cast them into the fire,
and they are burned.”
If you love me,
keep my commandments.
If ye keep my commandments,
Ye shall abide in my love.”
So to abide in His love,
we must keep His commandments.
By the way,
Even though there were ten commandments
Christ reduced them down to two simple ones.
“Jesus saith unto him, Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind,
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Just two little commandments
with the same verb.

Another method God has given us for checking our progress,
to make sure we are abiding in Him,
is to check our fruit.
“I am the vine,
ye are the branches.
He that abideth in me,
and I in him,
the same bringeth forth much fruit,
for without me,
ye can do nothing.
Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit,
but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”
What are the fruits?
“But the fruit of the spirit is

God tells us
that to keep in fellowship with Him……
to maintain a loving relationship……
We need to confess and ask forgiveness for the sins
that we inevitably will commit,
as we are not perfect.
Our confession need only be to Him alone.
“For there is one God
And one mediator between God and men
The man Christ Jesus.”
We are told that
“if we say that we have no sin,
We deceive ourselves
And the truth is not in us.”
But “if we confess our sins,
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Confession and forgiveness are necessary, ongoing,
lifelong activities
if we want to stay on the road.

God tells us we must have endurance
“he that shall endure unto the end,
the same shall be saved.”
A few weeks, months, or years will not suffice.
This requires a lifelong commitment.

God says good works
(Which come not from a grudging sense of obligation,
But joyfully and willingly from the heart),
are a hallmark of being on that road,
“faith if it hath not works is dead, being alone…
by works is faith made perfect
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified
and not by faith only.”

These things are not the means of getting on the road,
that was done through confessing and believing.
These are the evidences
Of having gotten on
and the means of staying on
the road to God’s house,
because make no mistake,
you can get off that road
anytime you want,
if you decide that you no longer want to travel it.
God does not force anyone to come to his house.
Only he that endures to the end,
who stays on that road to the end of life,
shall be saved.

None of us is perfect,
if we were Christ would not have had to die for us.
But we can ask Christ to be the Lord of our lives
and strive to walk down that road that He built for us,
picking ourselves up and continuing on when we fall down,
abiding in Christ,
enduring to the end in faith.

If having read this you have decided you want Jesus in your life, then just pray (prayer is simply talking to God like you would another person) and tell God that you believe in Him, that you believe He sent Jesus to die and pay the penalty for your sins, asking Him to forgive you for your sins, and ask Jesus to come in and take over as Lord of your life. Then follow up by  reading the Bible to learn about God and find out how He expects you to live for Him. As Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, "Your sins are forgiven. Now go and sin no more." If your life has been one that is in direct rebellion against God's Word and laws, then you must repent, which not only means to be sorry, but literally means to turn away from.  You must strive to leave your sins behind and walk with Him to the end of your days. May God bless you if you have chosen this path.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Martha and Mary the Story Behind the Story

When I was growing up, my aunt would give our family a puzzle for Christmas every year. That might not sound like much of a present to get year after year, but oh, my, those puzzles. We looked forward to see what she had found each year. These were puzzles that were designed for people who really loved a challenge. We would start them during Christmas vacation from school and continue to work on them throughout the winter. We would have a card table set up in our living room for months. One year the puzzle was round in shape, which eliminated the ability to find the edges so at least you could start with a border. And it was of a picture of a pizza with all the toppings. Now, those of you who order pizza with all the toppings or without any toppings for that matter know that there is nothing to identify one section of pizza from the next, therefore there was no way to determine what piece went where in this puzzle, except to look at and study the shapes very intently and then look for the piece that would fit that shape. It took months to put together. Most of the puzzles did.

I now wonder if Jesus would have enjoyed visiting our home during those long, cold winters while we put together puzzles in the evening. I say this because I have come to realize that the Bible is really one really huge challenging jigsaw puzzle. Most people who read the Bible tend to do it superficially, barely understanding what they are reading. Far fewer are those who not only study it, but who see that there are stories between the lines of Scripture that tell much bigger stories about the people than what is just plainly told straight out. To show what I mean by that, I would like to relate the story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. The one you haven't heard before.

We all have heard the simple stories of this group of siblings. The first time we seem to encounter them is when Jesus shows up at the home of Martha.

Luke 10:38-42 “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

From this story we learn some things about the sisters. Martha owns a house. A slightly unusual fact in that day when males inherited everything. She has a sister, Mary, who may or may not live with her, but it seems she might, for she is not as much a guest as expected to do work. Martha was distracted with the busyness of getting a meal together for the large group, while Mary sat at Jesus feet. Martha is put out by her sister's lack of concern to her duties of helping get the dinner, for she has left her duties to instead sit at Jesus feet and listen to Him. The way in which Martha addresses Jesus shows that this is not someone entertaining a man who is creating a real stir in the area for His miracles preaching for the first time, but is welcoming someone to the house who seems to be more like family, for she is not at all polite in her manner of speaking to Him. She is rebuking His indulging Mary when it is obvious that she is needed elsewhere. She even gives him an order – to tell Mary to get back to work. This indeed is a bold way to be speaking to the Lord. This sort of speech from a woman could only indicate that they are on very familiar terms. This would indicate that Jesus has been here before, and probably quite a few times. They are all good friends.

Jesus tells her that she is too full of care and troubled, especially about a meal. She could have made a simpler meal that would have sufficed, but she is someone who needs to uphold a reputation of a certain standard of entertaining, which means that she is probably someone of repute in her village. Mary is less concerned about the proper way of things, of keeping up appearances, and more interested in simply basking in the glow of Christ's company, listening to His Words of wisdom. It seems that Mary loves Jesus very much. Not that Martha doesn't, but their way of showing love is vastly different. Martha does it by works, Mary just wants to be near her Lord and Master. Martha's work is incomplete though, because she doesn't do the work with a joyful spirit. She is complaining.

All of these things are things that can be fairly easily discerned from the story. Most teachers would probably teach these things about Martha and Mary.

The next time we see them is when Lazarus dies.

John 11:1-54 “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.”

The first thing new that we learn is that the “certain village” where Martha and her sister lived was Bethany. Then we learn that there is a brother, Lazarus. And Lazarus is sick. Very sick. Now we learn another thing that sends us on a hunt for another piece of the puzzle. John tells us that is was Mary who anointed the Lord with oil and wiped His feet with her hair. There is only one place where this story is told other than the time before the Passover, which John has yet to relate, but we will get back to it a little later. The sisters send word to Jesus not just that their brother is sick, but that “he whom thou lovest” is sick. As the siblings when mentioned tend to be mentioned in an order that leaves Lazarus at the end, and Martha seems to be the matriarch, it would seem to lead to the conclusion that Lazarus is the youngest. And just as John, who was a teenager when he was a disciple was the one whom Jesus loved, and we know that Jesus had a special place in His heart for young people and children, it would seem that this way of referring to Lazarus, when they send word, indicates that Lazarus may possibly be a teenager or maybe even slightly younger. There is no way to be certain, but given these other clues, it is a possibility. He is usually portrayed as an adult, but that does not necessarily hold true. It is Mary and Martha who are burying him, not his parents. So he is apparently living with them, which would be highly unusual for a man of marriageable age. He normally would be married and living in a house of his own if an adult. This too points to him being younger than marriageable age, but most probably orphaned.

Jesus assures His disciples that the sickness is not going to cost Lazarus his life, that it has been allowed by God so that He may be glorified through Christ. Jesus knew what was coming, and that Lazarus would not stay in the grave. He loved the three siblings, but He also knew what was supposed to happen and so instead of getting up and leaving right then to prevent Lazarus' death, He stayed another two days where He was, (someplace outside of Judea) knowing full well what was going on in Bethany. After two days, when He knew that they would get there well after Lazarus had died, He told His disciples that it was time to go, so they headed to Bethany.

Now the disciples were not keen on Jesus going to Bethany, for His last visit had resulted in the Jews wanting to stone Him. They did not want Him to return and be threatened like that again. They couldn't understand why He would want to go back, in spite of His being summoned by Martha and Mary. Jesus then says something that might sound confusing to some. He asks whether they are not twelve hours in a day. And He says that if a man walks in the day he won't stumble, but he will at night because there is no light. This is sort of a reference back to what He had said to them earlier in John 9:4 “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus knew He had a limited time to do His ministry and He couldn't afford to worry about threats, as He knew He wouldn't be taken until it was time, and when it was time, He would have to allow it to happen. He who is the light of the world had to do work while it was day, or while He was there to do it, for night (when He would no longer be there) was coming on when His disciples would have to go on without Him.

Jesus then tells them that Lazarus “is sleeping” and that He has to go and “wake” him, by which He meant that Lazarus had died and He was going to raise him. They don't understand the euphemism, and think He actually means that Lazarus is sleeping, which is a healing process when one is sick, so they think He ought to just leave him alone. As they were not anxious to go back, they were possibly deliberately misunderstanding Him also. So Jesus quits being oblique and says straight out that Lazarus is dead.

Christ also tells them that He is glad they weren't there to prevent Lazarus death, for in what they are about to see, it will strengthen their faith and belief. Then He invites them to go along with Him. Thomas says to the rest of the disciples that if Jesus is going, then they should go too, even though it will probably mean that they will be stoned with Him.

When they get near town, they find out that Lazarus had already been in the grave four days. Given that Jesus waited two days, then arrived four days after Lazarus died, it must have been a several day journey and it may be possible that by the time Jesus got the message, it is possible that Lazarus was already dead, given that it would have taken a couple days for Him to get the message after the sisters sent it. Possibly that is why He didn't see any reason to hurry. He might have known that Lazarus was already dead when the message reached Him.

We are told how close Bethany was to Jerusalem. Fifteen furlongs is a little less than two miles. As it was not that far from Jerusalem, and it seems that the family was a well-known and respected one, many Jews came to pay their respects to the family. In getting word from someone that Jesus was on His way, Martha ran out to meet Him before He got to town. She did this because these Jews were not all believers the way she and her siblings were. It was these very Jews that the disciples were worried would stone Jesus, and apparently Martha was little worried about it also, for she ran out to prevent Him from coming to the house. Mary on the other hand stayed at the house. In spite of her grief, Martha had her wits about her and was more concerned with Jesus safety at this point, than her own grief. Martha was practical. Mary was less so. It would seem they were the first version of Sense and Sensibility.

When Martha sees Jesus, she falls down at His feet. Just as Mary spent time at Jesus feet, Martha had her times at His feet also. She demonstrates her faith in Him by calling Him Lord and stating that had He been there, He could have miraculously healed her brother. And then she goes one step further. She states that she knows that even now with Lazarus dead, she knows that Jesus can ask anything of God and God will give it to Him. What a statement of faith. Everyone always remarks on Mary's love for Jesus, but Martha was a woman of great faith. She seems to understand who Jesus is even when possibly His disciples aren't quite sure. Jesus then tells her that Lazarus will rise. She answers that she knows without a doubt that he will rise on the last day (this statement has great importance when one is studying the timing of the resurrection), for she is not quite sure at this point what Christ is meaning. She stated that she knew that even now, meaning after Lazarus was dead, that if Jesus asked anything (meaning letting Lazarus come back to life) that God would give it to Him. She is hoping for Lazarus to be raised, but she's not sure that is what Christ means when He assures her that Lazarus will rise again.

Jesus then makes one of those statements that reveals exactly who and what He is. He states that HE is the resurrection and the life. That the person who believes this, even though dead, will live and that whoever lives and believes in Him will never die (meaning spiritually). It is through Jesus that we have our resurrection and eternal life. There is no other through whom this can come. He asks Martha if she believes this. Martha makes three affirmative statements. She says 1) that He is the Christ, meaning the anointed and chosen one of God, 2) that He is the Son of God, He is not just some prophet - she acknowledges His divinity and 3) that He is the one who was to come into the world, the Messiah sent to save them. Between her first words to Him, and these affirmative statements it is clear that Martha knows exactly who He is, and believes in Him. By asking her the question, and her stating her faith, she understands that He is going to reward her faith.

Martha then runs to her sister and privately tells her that Jesus is outside of town, for she doesn't want the Jews, who would stone Him, to know He is in the vicinity. She tells Mary that Jesus wants to see her. So Mary gets up and immediately goes to Him outside of town where Martha had met Him. The Jews that had assembled in the house to comfort and grieve with them saw Mary take off to go see Jesus and assumed that she was heading to the grave to mourn there. Because their purpose was to comfort the sisters, it made no sense for them to stay in the house if the sisters were up at the grave, so they decide to follow Mary.

When Mary reaches Jesus, she does exactly what Martha did and says exactly what Martha said. She falls at His feet and complains that if the Lord had come when they sent for Him, He could have healed Lazarus and he wouldn't have died. Mary is weeping greatly, and the Jews that are with her are weeping and wailing too. But it is the custom in that culture to put on a great show of weeping, even if one really isn't deeply grieving. When Jesus sees them all weeping He groaned in His spirit and was troubled. There are several ways to perceive what this means. Christ may have simply been moved by Mary's and their grief and groaned in compassion, but it also says that He was troubled. What troubled Him. Was it their lack of belief? Was it their hypocrisy? Was it the fact that He had to perform this miracle to garner belief from them, that it wasn't enough for Him to preach and teach. That they had to have the signs and miracles also. He then asks where they have put Lazarus.

They lead Jesus to the grave and then we have the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. Why did Jesus weep, when He knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead? What would be the point of grieving when happiness was just around the corner. Jesus may have wept, because He wanted to show us that even when we know that we will be with our loved ones again in the resurrection, it is painful to watch someone die and be separated from them. While we rejoice that they are with the Lord, they are no longer with us, and that is very painful. We feel the loss deeply, and I think Christ wanted us to know that even with the knowledge of the resurrection, it is perfectly understandable and acceptable for us to grieve their loss. He loved Lazarus very much. Knowing that he had suffered unto death, Christ feels sorrow, for He does not get pleasure from our suffering. He feels bad that Lazarus had to suffer in order that God might be glorified. Added to that might be the fact that He knew that many of His people (Israel) would not be in the resurrection, for many would not believe. That would grieve Him even more. The Jews notice how Christ weeps, and it makes an impression upon them, for while their grieving might be merely for cultural show, His was real and deep for several reasons.

Then the questions begin. They wonder why, if this is the man was able to miraculously heal people, didn't He come and heal Lazarus? They have a problem with that. This questioning and attitude makes Jesus groan in His spirit again. These are not believers, they are the ones who probably would have stoned Him, had this not been the situation it was.

Jesus then goes to the grave and gives the command for the stone to be rolled away from the cave. This was the normal mode of burial in that day. Rather than put them in the ground as we do today, they laid them in caves and put big boulders over the entrances. Martha tries to stop this by informing Him that Lazarus has been dead four days, so by now the body is probably pretty ripe, as they say. Interestingly, while there is no Scripture for this belief, there was and still may be the belief that the soul lingers around the body for three days after death in a confused state before moving on. It is almost as if Jesus is addressing that belief by having waited four days. By their belief system, they would believe that the soul had already moved on, thus the raising of Lazarus being even more of a miracle, for his soul would no longer be hanging around the body looking to get back in it. It would have moved on to the afterlife.

Jesus response to Martha is to ask her if she didn't remember what He had just said to her a short while ago, that if she believed, she would see God be glorified through this. She has expressed doubt, after having given such a confirmation of her belief earlier. We all have moments of doubt, even though we believe. Sometimes the doubt comes just when the answer is about to be given to us.

The stone is removed from the tomb and Jesus lifts up His eyes toward heaven and thanks God for hearing Him and already answering His prayer before He sees the evidence that His prayer had been answered. He then adds that He knows God always hears Him, for the Father and Son are always in communion, but so that the people there might realize that Christ has a special relationship with God that they do not have, and that it is God who is the author of the miracle and who has sent Christ, He says the prayer aloud. This shows us that we should sometimes start thanking God for the answers to our prayers before they are answered, to show our faith that God does hear us and will answer. When Jesus healed it was because of people's faith. Without faith, God cannot do anything for the person, for He wants the thanks and glory when He does answer our prayer.

Jesus then tells Lazarus to come forth, and he immediately does. This must have been a little difficult on Lazarus's part, as he was bound hand and foot and had a napkin over his face. I'm sure he was more than a little confused and feeling pretty strange, and movement would have been seriously limited, the way they wrapped the graveclothes, yet come out of the grave he did. Christ then tells them to take the wrappings off. Oddly enough, we never hear anything more on Lazarus at this event. Nothing about what he did, whether he ran to the Lord or what transpired. The only thing we are told is that many of the Jews which came to Mary there at the grave, saw what happened and believed. However many still did not believe. They ran to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. They gathered a conclave to discuss the problem, for they were worried about the repercussions of what Jesus was doing. They realized if they left Him alone, many more people would believe, because of the miracles, and then the Romans would come and take away their positions and power and even the nation, as it would seem a threat to the Roman Empire with so many following Jesus.

Now Caiaphas was the high priest that year. There is some historical evidence that during this time towards the end of the second temple, the high priest, which was supposed to be a life-time position, was made to be an annual appointment by the king. It was more of a political position that could be purchased, and kept in families, not unlike our political families in the U.S. Caiaphas was not concerned about who Jesus was. He was concerned about the nation and his position. The first thing he does is to basically call the rest of them idiots, because they are even bothering to discuss who He is and what He is doing. These things bear no consideration at all, as far as he is concerned. The only expedient thing is to save the nation and quickly. It has come to such a crisis that the choice is between the nation and the man. And that means that the man has to die. What Caiaphas did not realize was that he was prophesying what was about to happen with Jesus. His death would indeed save (spiritually) the nation, but not only that nation of Israel, but all the nations. He would gather all believers of all nations together under Himself, even those who were of Israel and scattered abroad. From that day forward, they plotted as to how they might kill Him, for they knew there would be an outcry from among those who were His followers, and that group was growing. So Jesus no longer went openly among the Jews, but went to a place called Ephraim which was near the wilderness and away from Jerusalem. He continued to teach people there.

Instead of continuing on with the narrative in John, which now goes forward to the time right before the Passover, it is necessary to backtrack to that little aside that John included in narrative of Lazarus death. John 11:2 “(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)”

There is only one place in Scripture other than the event which John and the others describe as occurring just before Jesus rides into Jerusalem, where a woman anoints Jesus and wipes his feet with her hair. That event is found in Luke 7:30-50 “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children. And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

This passage begins by telling us that the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God and did not get baptized by John. Most of the ruling and upper classes did reject the idea that they needed to repent. They rejected that this message was sent against them. Jesus then asks to what should He liken them. He likens them to children who call out to other children asking them to come play party or wedding with them and they won't, so then say okay, then come play funeral, and they still won't. There is a refusal to play either type of games at all with the first little ones. He points out that John came very somber and ascetic, and slightly strange, and they said he had a demon, for he was so unusual and not really social. Then Jesus comes and is social and loving, and loved by many, helping lots of people and they find fault with him saying he is an over drinker of wine and food, and hangs out with sinners. He points out that neither John nor he would dance to their tune, but pointed out their sins to them, which of course they resented. But those who are wise recognize wisdom and truth, no matter how it is dressed, whether coming in the form of John the Baptist, or in the form of Jesus Christ.

One of the Pharisees decided he wanted to have more interaction with Jesus, so invites him to his house. While one might think that is because he is interested in actually learning more of the truth, it would appear from what follows that he was just doing it for curiosity's sake, but doesn't believe. So Jesus goes to his house, which being the house of a Pharisee would be an affluent one. We are told that a woman of the city, who was a known sinner (generally another way of saying she is an adulterer or prostitute) when she heard Jesus was in this man's house, came bringing with her an alabaster box of ointment. Standing behind Him while weeping (showing her repentant heart), she proceeds to wash His feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, then kisses and anoints them. While it doesn't give the woman's name, the passage in John clearly points to this having been Mary. This is the only place in the gospels where this story occurs, so there is no alternative but to believe it is Mary.

The Pharisee seeing this thinks to himself that if Jesus really were a prophet (the man doesn't even believe Jesus is a prophet much less the Son of God) He would not allow the woman to touch Him, for she is a sinner. Jesus knows even the man's thoughts and addresses him saying that He has something to say to him. The man's name is Simon, so he is Simon the Pharisee, an unbeliever. He tells Jesus to go ahead, for he can't imagine that there would be anything bad to say. Jesus then gives him a parable. He tells him of two debtors. One owed the creditor a lot and the other just a little. When neither could repay the debt, both were forgiven. The question is posed, who loves the creditor more? There is reluctance on Simon's part (“I suppose”) when giving the answer, for the point has been driven home. The one who has been forgiven a lot of sins, is going to love God far more than the one who feels he has nothing to really be forgiven.

Jesus acknowledges his answer as correct and then points out to him his total lack of proper hospitality and lack of respect for Jesus. He asks Simon if he realizes that the proper thing hospitality-wise was to have offered to wash Jesus feet or at least offer a pitcher of water and towel as was the custom of the day, since everyone wore sandals and walked dusty roads. He points out that this woman used her tears and hair to do what Simon should have done. Then He points out that Simon had not offered a kiss (it is the custom in that part of the world for everyone to greet others with a kiss on the cheek). That was more rudeness and contempt. This woman had kissed His feet, not the appendage on which most people would have put their lips. He points out that Simon had not anointed His head (another custom), but that this woman had taken her precious and valuable ointment and put it on His feet. She was humbling herself to not even get higher than Jesus feet, while Simon was all arrogance and contempt, having not even offered Jesus the customary hospitality.

Jesus then says that He will forgive her sins, even though they are many, for she loves Him greatly, but those who seek little forgiveness, also love the same way, with little love. His pronouncement to the woman that He was forgiving her sins got the group at dinner really stirred up, for they wondered who would be so arrogant or delusional to think that they could do something only God could do, forgive sins. The He tells the woman to go in peace, for her faith has saved her. Some scholars object to this being Mary, as they say Mary was not a sinner, she was the respected sister of Martha. But we are only shown a Mary who sits at Jesus feet, loving Him intensely. We do not know her history. We know that Mary loves Jesus very much, and that is how Jesus described the woman in the passage, plus the fact that Mary seems to love to be at Jesus feet, which is where we find the sinning woman, seems to imply that Mary was a sinner who has turned from her ways and is a new woman in Christ. It is because of this vast forgiveness that she loves Him so deeply.

Something that is of importance to note is that this woman, a known sinner in town, managed to gain entrance into of all places, a Pharisee's home. How on earth would this be possible? Simon didn't approve of Jesus letting her touch Him, so why would Simon allow her entrance into his home? The only thing that makes sense is that there was some connection between Simon and Mary that made her feel that she could walk into his home. This would seem to suggest that there is possibly a family connection here somehow.

It is important to pay attention to the details in this last passage, for it is because of this passage that we learn more about Martha and her family in the next few parallel passages.

John 12:1-13 “Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Matthew 26:6-16 “ Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.”

Mark 14:3-10 “ And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.”

Starting with John, we see that six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany. Martha made him a supper and Lazarus sat at the table. From this we would be led to believe that they were at Martha's house. The next thing to happen is that Mary takes a pound of ointment of spikenard, which is very costly. By today's standards three hundred pence would be anywhere between $25-28,000. That is some mighty expensive ointment. Probably about a year's wages for many people today. This indicates that there is wealth in this family. She anoints Jesus feet and wipes them with her hair. This is the same behavior we saw before in Simon the Pharisee's house. We do not hear of any objection from either Martha or Lazarus. At this point, Judas, who it turns out is apparently Simon the Pharisee's son, asks why the ointment hasn't been sold and the money given to the poor. We are told that he says this not because he is concerned about the poor, but that he is a thief and would like to get his hands on the money himself. He carries the group's money bag as it is.

Jesus basically tells Judas to back off, that Mary had saved this ointment against the day of His burial. But a corpse cannot appreciate such an expensive gift, so Mary is offering it in advance when Christ can appreciate her gift. Jesus tells Judas that the poor will always be there to give charity to, but He will only be with them a short while longer, so it is appropriate that she should do this.

Word had gotten out that Jesus was there, and people came to not only see Him but to also see Lazarus, the guy who was raised from the dead. This brought on the wrath of the chief priests who had not only been plotting to kill Jesus from the time He raised Lazarus, but now they wanted to kill the evidence of that miracle, Lazarus himself, because many people were believing on Jesus because of him. It was the very next morning that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey and people declared that He was the King of Israel that had come in the name of the Lord.

We now look to Matthew's telling of this same story. Now we are told a very interesting fact. Jesus is in the house of Simon the Leper. We then are told that a woman (whom we know to be Mary from John) comes with an alabaster box (just like the alabaster box from the previous time) of ointment and anoints Jesus' head. In John we are told it was His feet, and here it is His head that is mentioned. But there is no discrepancy in that. As in the first anointing, Mary here also anointed both Christ's feet and head. That was the custom. We do not have to choose between either/or. It is both. This time around Judas is not mentioned as being the only one to make a fuss over the “waste” of the oil when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. It is possible that they all were quite shocked and murmured, but we know it was Judas who actually spoke out.

It would appear that Simon the Pharisee, who apparently did not believe in Jesus, has become Simon the Leper. Now there are commentators who say that he is called this because he was cured of his leprosy, but that is not the indication here. The indication is that Simon became a leper after the time when Mary anointed Jesus. As a leper he would be banished to the leper colony, not host a big dinner for Jesus. His lack of faith in whom Jesus was, would prevent Him being able to heal Simon. It was people's faith that made the difference in the healings.

Now we had guessed that Mary might be a relative of Simon the Pharisee due to her access to the affluent and prestigious house. Her having such expensive oil is another indication that there is a family tie here, as she probably got the money from the family coffers rather than her own bank account, as it were. What family connection could Mary have to Simon? We are told that Martha is the one doing the serving. Why would she be serving in someone else's house? An affluent Pharisee would surely have servants. It would appear that this then is also her house as she is acting as hostess. Is it possible that Martha was Simon's wife? That would explain Mary's entrance into Simon's house. She would have been his sister-in-law. It would explain why Martha is said to have her own house when we first meet the sisters when Martha complains to Jesus about her sister not helping out. Women would probably not tend to own their own house and have lots of money, which Martha seems to have had. The inheritance passed to the son, not to the wife. And we are told of all things, that Judas is Simon's son. As such he should have inherited if Simon were dead, but there is the key to the problem. Simon is not dead, he is a leper. And as such the inheritance does not yet pass to Judas. Martha still owns the house, because Simon is not dead. He's at the leper colony. Martha is affluent and Mary can afford that ointment of spikenard, because Simon was a Pharisee. Many Jews came out to grieve with the family when Lazarus died, because they were an influential and well-known family. All of this makes sense when put together. And it really explains Judas being very upset about the money spent, because that was his future inheritance that was being “wasted.” It would appear that since he is not called Martha's son, that he is her step-son, which would also make sense, as again, it seemed that Lazarus was somewhat younger, because of the way he was referred to as “the one Jesus loved,” so Martha and Mary were probably also fairly young. Simon was probably an older man, which again was a common custom for an older man to marry a young woman. Especially in a second marriage. It would also make sense that it was mention worthy that Lazarus was sitting at the table, for it is possible that he was now stepping up to be the man of the house, or host if he were a teenager. Or if he were a little boy, possibly he would not have normally been allowed to be at the grown-up table with the menfolk. Either way is a possibility. While this is all speculation based on deductive reasoning, it certainly would explain a lot.

Again in this narration we are told that Jesus tells them that they should not object for she is doing a good work for Him. She is doing this for His burial. He also states that this thing that she has done will never be forgotten and will be mentioned as a memorial wherever people read the Bible. And that is exactly what has happened.

I don't know if it was loosing the costly ointment that set Judas off, but it seems that what happened here was the straw that broke the camel's back for him. He was apparently mad and wanting to get even. So he went to the chief priests and asked how much they would give him to betray Jesus.

Mark reiterates what has already been learned in the other gospels. Jesus went to the home of Simon the Leper, Mary anoints Him with costly oils that sets the disciples murmuring, Jesus rebukes them and tells them that she has done a good work for Him in that she is doing this for His burial, and this will be a memorial for her wherever the gospel is preached. Then Judas goes out make arrangements to betray Him.

So, while much cannot be proven outright, those puzzle pieces when fitted together do seem to fit well. It would appear that the story might run something like this.

Simon the Pharisee is married to Martha, who has a younger brother, Lazarus, and a sister, Mary, who is known in town for being a sinner. Simon hears Jesus preach and is a scoffer, but for his own amusement or for whatever reason, he invites Jesus home to dinner. Mary who has apparently heard about Jesus and believes in who He is comes to Simon and Martha's house where she, as a family member, could have gained entrance in spite of the fact that a Pharisee would probably never let a known sinner in his house. Mary repents of her sin. Simon on the other hand comes down with leprosy. He has to go off and live elsewhere, because his lack of faith prevents his being healed. Martha can then let Mary come live with her, as she is a changed woman. And Lazarus as the younger brother has a home with her too apparently, as when he dies, it is to this family, not the parents of the siblings, that people come and who have buried him. Jesus comes to visit after Simon is gone, and Martha gets upset that Mary, to whom she has given a respectable home, is not helping to do the work. Jesus is apparently a frequent visitor at this house as Martha seems to be on very familiar terms with Him. Lazarus gets sick and dies. Jesus comes and raises him from the dead. Just before Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey He goes and visits the family again. Mary again anoints Him with some very costly ointment which sets Judas, who is Simon's son, off on mission to get even with Jesus. That costly ointment coming out of his dad's pocket through Martha and Mary is his spent inheritance and it should not have been “wasted” on Jesus in his opinion. So he betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. He's getting a little of the money “wasted” on Christ back through Christ.

Again, some of this is speculation based upon a deduction using the evidence given, like a forensic scientist would use evidence to re-enact a crime scene. You can't prove it without an eye witness, but certainly the hypothesis is sustained by the facts that are given. And it also makes logical sense in the face of problems such as how Martha came to be so very affluent with a house of her own and why her sister and brother were living with her.

This is just one of, no doubt, many stories that have much more to them when you put all the puzzle pieces together and read between the lines. Jesus used the parables to see who was really listening and could discern the truth and I believe God gives us much more information than is clearly out in the open to see who studies to learn more of the story and His Word.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Is It True That All We Need is Love? Should Christians Be More Tolerant? How Should We Love Others?

All You Need Is Love. That's the name of a famous song by the Beatles. Today in the Church this is the message that is being taught. And it is a good one, as far as it goes. Christ told us that we should love God first and foremost and love our neighbor as ourselves. Matthew 22:37-40 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”1 Corinthians 13 is known as the Love Chapter. In verse 13 it says, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love).”

One of the things that Christ said would be missing from the Church before His return was love. Matthew 25:12 “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” In the letter to the church at Ephesus, Christ says this, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” It is important that the Church preach that we love each other and our neighbors, because the Church is sadly lacking in love. But in talking to people, and listening to some pastors, I have discovered that what people are calling “love” is not necessarily what God means by “love.”Often what is meant is simply "tolerance."

When asking people what they view as love, the following definitions come up. 1) Accepting people as they are and not judging them (and vice versa, having people accept you for who you are 2) It is a beautiful and unique feeling 3) God is love 4) acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice 5) pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you do things you wouldn't normally do 6) a mystery that can only be experienced, not defined 7) it's up to you 8) understanding someone else and sharing their dreams 9) to provide and protect 10) never having to say you're sorry 11) when you care about another person as much as you care about yourself 12) a deep feeling of sexual desire or physical attraction 13) finding someone who makes you feel good and fills your needs 14) nature's way of tricking people into reproducing 15) commitment.

So these are the ideas people have as to what love is. But is this God's definition of love? English is a poor language in some ways. We have one word for love that means everything from love for family, to friends, to sexual attraction, to being “in love.” Greek, at least the Greek of the Bible has several different words for love. The lowest form would be Eros. Eros is sexual desire or romantic love. We use the word erotic, which is derived from the word “eros.” As romantic love generally has sexual overtones to it, romantic love falls into this category. The next love is phileo. It is a brotherly type of love (hence Phila-delphia the city of brotherly love). Its basis is our natural tastes and preferences. We choose friends that enjoy the things we enjoy or like the things we like, who have similar lifestyles, backgrounds, etc. It does not have to be a shallow love, just because it has a basis in your preferences or tastes, as you can love your friends very dearly. The depth of the love is dependent upon the depth of the person's character from whom it comes. Storge is best defined as the kind of love you feel for your family or those you view as family, such as the kind you feel for a best friend. It tends to be a more committed love than eros or phileo, and does not have sexual overtones.

The last type of love is agape love. Agape love is unconditional love. It is a love that is made by a choice of the will, not necessarily out of feelings. It surpasses mere feelings, so you can agape someone when you do not like what they are doing or possibly do not even like them personality-wise. This is possible simply because it is a choice of the will. It is a sacrificial love. Agape love does not seek to please itself, but desires the best for the object of that love, even at the sacrifice of self. The best definition comes from 1 Corinthians 13, because this is the kind of love that God has, and the kind we are expected as Christians to have for others. To put their welfare above our own.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteer me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity”

So how does God define love? Love long as it has to. It endures hardship and pain. Love is kind. It treats everyone with kindness. Love does not envy others. It is not jealous of others or want what they have. Love does not vaunt itself or get puffed up. It is not boastful, arrogant, prideful, or conceited. Love does not behave unseemly. It does not do things which are wrong, or even just ill-mannered. It doesn't commit sinful acts against others or even deliberately do things to annoy or offend others. Love does not seek its own way. It puts others first before self. It doesn't insist on having things its own way and is not selfish. Love is not easily provoked. It does not let others make it angry, no matter how much they may try to do so. It overlooks things and refuses to react in like manner. Love thinks no evil. It does not think the worst of others automatically. It does not dwell on evil thoughts of any kind. It keeps its mind pure. Love does not find joy in the sins or unfortunate happenings in others' lives. Love loves the truth. It finds great joy in it. Love bears everything without losing hope, faith, or patience. Love believes in God and that with God all things are possible. Love hopes for the best no matter the circumstances. Love endures to the end. Love never fails, but hangs tough through it all. And mainly, love is something that gives without looking for something in return. Most loves expect to receive love back in return and often will not endure unless the love is returned. Agape love will give love whether or not it is returned.

Christ told us to love God and our neighbors. These two commandments are a condensed version of the Ten Commandments, for those Ten tell us how to love God and others, or if you prefer, how not to behave, if we do not want to sin against God and man, for they are there to show us our sin. The first four tell us how to love God. The last six tell us how to love others. These commandments are the testimony of God that were kept in the ark of the covenant or ark of the testimony, as it is actually called in the Bible. They are eternal, for God's standard of holiness is eternal. God cannot tolerate sin, so these behaviors will interfere with our relationship with God. Many believe they were given first to Moses, but they were known from the beginning as were other laws and statutes. We are told that Abraham knew them. Genesis 26:5 “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Abel and the other patriarchs knew about sacrifices and made them to God. They were not first instituted with Moses. Noah knew about clean and unclean animals. It was not a new things with Moses. Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizadek (not of his own possessions, but of the booty he brought back from war, yet still he tithed from that booty.) Tithing was not first a concept taught to Moses. And the Sabbath was instituted in the creation week and was observed by the followers of God who knew these statutes, commandments, and laws as Abraham did. The Israelites were told to remember the Sabbath. They had forgotten it in the four hundred years of slavery, as they were not allowed to observe it. But they had known about it from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So we have the Ten Commandments which show us how our love for God and neighbor should be manifesting itself in action. These are not for Israel alone. They existed before Israel and they continue to exist as Christ told us that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments, which build on the Ten Commandments by addressing our heart condition, as well as our actions. For example, beyond not murdering, we are not to hate. Beyond adultery, we are not to look upon someone with lust. But as we are dealing with the actions of love, which stem from the state of the heart, we will start with the Ten Commandments for now, as if you find you are breaking them regularly as a matter of course, it is evidence that you have a heart problem in your relationship with God, and if that exists, you are not really able to love either God or man.

Before continuing further, I want to make it very clear that I am not saying that we should be striving to obey the Ten Commandments to earn our way to heaven or special favors from God. Although certainly God is much happier with us as children and feels more loved, if we are in obedience to Him, just as being parents we feel our children love us, and we are happier with them, if they obey our rules. I feel the need to state this as there are those who feel any adherence to these Commandments is to nullify Christ's death on the cross. It is only doing that if you are counting on obedience to get you anything except to be a manifestation of the state of your heart. If you see you are not keeping the Commandments (simply because you feel a desire to want to live that way), and you are not being convicted about the situation, it is a good indication that you have a problem in your relationship with God. If you find you have to work at keeping them, instead of the behavior coming naturally to you, it is questionable that you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, for His indwelling should work upon you to put the desire to act in accordance with keeping these commandments without having to strive to do so. Also, keeping these commandments (from a natural desire) does tend to bring blessings with it. Obedience to God is always the better life choice and better life choices naturally bring blessings with them. That said, let us take a look at these Commandments to see how love as defined by God should be manifesting itself.

Exodus 20:3-17
  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

These commandments cover, in general, the ways in which we should be manifesting our love for God and neighbor. First we should not have any other god before God. That does not just mean some pagan god. That means anything which becomes our focus in life. Money, fame, sex, a person, anything that becomes the premier focus of our life instead of God becomes our god and ends up making God less than first in our life. If we put anything before God, how can we say that we love Him?

The second commandment is that we should not make and worship any graven image as a representation of God or any other object of worship. We should not bow down or pray to any physical object, but worship God only in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” If we bow down and worship or pray to any physical object, then we no longer worship God, we worship that object. How then can we say that we love God?

The third commandment tells us that we should not take the name of the Lord in vain. Some people think this merely means swearing using Jesus' name or using the phrase in which people ask God to damn something. While God is not God's actual name, we use it as if it were at times, so we should not be throwing the names of God (Yahweh, Jehovah, Lord, etc.) or even the word “God” around in an empty, useless way. To ask God to damn something is to ask God to bring eternal judgment down upon them. That is not necessarily a breaking of the commandment, if you are serious about it. For instance, to ask for something that is a blasphemy to God be sent to perdition is not a bad thing. Equally God can be trivialized when people go around saying “God bless” or “praise the Lord” when it is just a habitual phrase one throws around to look pious. This is treating God equally with triviality and emptiness, as to ask Him to damn something. We are not to throw God's name around as some do when they say, “God wants you to send me money and He will bless you.” God does not want you using His name as an authority when He has not given the message you are relating. That is using God's name in vain just as a curse is. And just for clarity, vulgar language is not necessarily breaking the third commandment, however, we are told to make sure that our speech is tempered with grace.

Proverbs 10:32 “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.”

Colossi ans 3:8 “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”
Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

If someone says they love you, then uses your name to curse out others or in a way which shows that they do not hold a lot of respect or reverence for it, would you think they loved you? Probably not. God is no different. If we love Him, we will not use His name in a vain, empty way.

The fourth commandment is one of great controversy. As such it is an article in itself. I have already written on this subject and it can be found in my archives.

If we love God, will we not treat the day He has established from the very beginning of time as being a holy day, in a holy way as He has asked us to do so? In fact, it is a gift, a blessing, and to observe it will enhance your life, not burden it. If we do not treat it differently, are we not treating Him with the greatest disrespect, since He established this day at creation? He did not ask us to treat as holy every first day of the week due to the fact that His Son rose from the dead on that day. He asked us to keep the seventh day of the week holy because He rested on that day and made it holy. He did this at the beginning of time, not just when He reminded Moses and the Israelites to remember that it had been meant to be kept that way right from the first week. He created this day for man, so that man might have time to rest from his labors and spend time with God. He did not create man for the day. Mark 2:27-28 “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Notice that Christ said He is LORD of the Sabbath. So the Sabbath is important to Him. What Christ was saying was not that He was going to do away with the Sabbath, but that He was going to relieve them of the burdens that the Pharisees had placed upon them on how to observe it. It was not made so that they could have a list of things to do or not do. It was made for them to have a day of rest when they could spend time with God and not have to worry about doing the daily chores that every other day held. 

Just as Christ told Martha that Mary chose the better part, because she chose to sit at His feet rather than get the meal, He was letting them know that He was freeing them to observe and enjoy the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not a list of do's and don'ts. It is a day to rejoice and rest. A blessing for which we can thank God. There is nothing wrong with going to church on Sunday and worshiping God on that day too, but that does not negate the fact that the Sabbath was created for man, for all men, not just the Israelites, and it should be observed as a manifestation of our love for God. For it is a gift from Him and to refuse such a great gift is just plain rude. Personally I love the fact that I have a legitimate excuse to not have to do work on that day. On Sunday I used to go to church and sit at a piano and play for the service. I worked. I had a choral rehearsal before church. I worked. I played at an evening service. I worked. Where was my day of rest in the week? It didn't exist, until I started observing the Sabbath. I LOVE the Sabbath. And I love God for giving it to me. I have a day when I do not have to work, nor do I have to feel guilty for not doing work, nor justify my taking a day off from work. I get to spend the day studying God's Word and praying, and enjoying my family or friends, and resting from my labors, all guilt free. That's the freedom Christ gave us. I think the Sabbath is the best thing ever. What is wrong with you people who do not want to observe it? Are you crazy? Why would you turn down such a great gift? That is like turning down a paid vacation. Imagine how the person who paid for it and gave it to you feels when you treat it as non-existent? That is why observing it is showing God your love. It is showing your gratitude by enjoying the gift.

Those are some of the ways in which we should be showing our love for God. To show our love to our neighbors we have been given more commandments. First we start with the very first people in our lives, our parents. We are to honor them. This means to love and obey them, to treat them with respect, and to care for them when they are old. If we do so, we are promised a long life. So this commandment comes with a promise. These are the first people we will love in life. And to show them our love, we need to honor them. We know that this commandment is still in effect, for we are again told to do this in the New Testament. So these rules are not null and void as some would teach. They are still very much in effect. Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Next we are told not to kill. Some people believe this means that you must never take another human life. But we know from Scripture that God ordered His people to take many a life. Sometimes in battle and sometimes as a punishment for sin. So what does this mean? What this means is that you are not to murder another human. Murder is an act of violence against another human for personal reasons. It is not in warfare, it is not to execute just punishment for a crime. It is a personal vendetta. God even made provisions for accidental deaths. It is just the taking of a person made in the image of God in this way that is a breaking of His law. This commandment has nothing to do with the animal world. Love does not manifest itself in the action of murder. I think that is pretty obvious.

We are not to commit adultery. In this case I don't believe it is just referring to a married person cheating on their spouse. This is talking about sexual impurity. If we believe that God has prepared a mate for us, then to fornicate with someone before marriage would be to cheat on the intended spouse. To have relations with the same sex, would be to cheat on the intended spouse (not to mention that God finds it an abomination). To have sex with animals would be to cheat on the intended or present spouse (again an abomination). So any sexual relations outside of the marriage to the intended spouse is adultery. Sexual purity is the only acceptable practice. If you love someone, you will not commit sexual impurity against them.

We are not to steal. Stealing is taking what does not belong to you. It is wrong and is a crime and sin against your neighbor. To take what is theirs is in essence to take a part of that person. Often theft is accompanied by an attack against the person who is being robbed. Obviously this is not showing love if you do it. While we think of theft as merely stealing physical objects, stealing can also refer to stealing reputations, stealing away someone's love, stealing ideas for profit, etc. There are all kinds of theft.

Bearing false witness can be carried out in several ways. You can lie about someone when they are accused of something, or you can create rumors and gossip about them. No matter how it is done, false witness will carry the consequence of ruining someone's reputation and assassinate their character. In a way it is another form of murder. Murder of the person's character and reputation. This can be as devastating as death in some cases. In some cases it has driven people to take their own lives when false witnesses are believed. If you want to love your neighbor, you won't bear false witness against them.

Lastly we have coveting. Coveting is not only envying what someone has, but wanting it for yourself. We are not to covet any person or thing that belongs to our neighbor. It is envy and jealousy, and these two emotions can make someone act in a very bad way toward an innocent person. People will even murder over covetousness. Again, we come back to murder. It is amazing how often these other sins come back to murder as the final result. People murder because they covet someone's spouse (adultery) their belongings (stealing) or because false witness has destroyed their lives. If we love our neighbor, we will never do any of these things to them. The ways in which we interact with our neighbors will fall into these categories in some way or another. So they are a general and basic outline for how to show love to our neighbor. For those who say these commandments are not applicable anymore, think again. When we were told we are no longer under the law, it did not mean that we shouldn't live by these rules. It meant we are no longer under the penalty of the law, the condemnation or consequences or punishment of the law. Christ took those upon Himself when He died for us. We are however to have the law written upon our hearts (which is more incumbent upon us than just having them written in the Bible). Jeremiah 31:33 “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” God's commandments should not be tossed aside as no longer relevant, in fact these commandments are supposedly engraved upon our heart. If they are so engraved on our heart, should we not then be observing them? The Holy Spirit makes it so that we can observe these commandments, as we now have the love of God within us to carry them out. Something Israel did not have. They were under the condemnation of the law, because there was no sacrifice great enough to take it away. We are no longer under the condemnation, but now have that law written on our hearts. As such we should be showing our love in the way that is described in them.

There are other things no doubt that can be included in this list, but as said above, these general categories probably cover any other ones that might be mentioned. For instance, judging someone without due diligence might fall under the category of bearing false witness.

Now Christ took these things to the next level. He addressed the state of our mind and heart. We are not only not to murder, we are not to hate for that is the same as murder. We are not only not to commit adultery, we are not to lust in our heart. As sin starts in the heart and mind and then manifests in actions, we are to guard our hearts and minds as well as our actions.

In conjunction with this list is how we carry them out. In obedience. Obedience is more important to God than most anything else.

1 Samuel 15:22 “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Romans 6:26 “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”

Hebrews 5:8-9 “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;”

1 Peter 1:22 “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:”

1 Peter 4:7 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” If our judgment is going to be based upon our obedience to the gospel of God, then obedience is pretty important in showing God our love.

Besides showing love in the above ways, we also have some tangible aspects as well.

James 2:14-17 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

Besides being told how not to treat our neighbor as in the commandments, we are given some tangible ways of showing love too. 1 Corinthians 13 written above showed us some ways. James showed us some ways, and there are many other examples in the gospels and epistles. Feeding people, clothing them, helping them in whatever way they might need. All these are ways of showing love. But there is more.

Hebrews 12:6 “For whom the Lord love he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

Those whom the Lord loves, He chastens to conform them to the image of Christ. Likewise we are to discipline our children. We are not to provoke them, but discipline them with love. Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Discipline reaches farther than just our children. When a brother is sinning against us, we are to go to them and have a talk with them, not let it continue unaddressed. Matt. 18:15-17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” This is for their own good, to bring them back into a right relationship with God and the person they have sinned against. If they do not listen, they are spoken to by several people. And if the person will not listen then, they are spoken to by the entire church. If they still will not listen, they are to be treated as an unbeliever by the entire church.

If a brother is in flagrant sin (not necessarily against us, but just sinning) and they do not listen when spoken to, then they are to be ostracized. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” The same process as above should be carried out before ostracization. They should be spoken to and brought before the church, if necessary, first. This discipline is actually a form of love. Just as if we love our children we will not let them run amok with no rules, or guidance, or discipline, we are to do the same for our brothers in Christ. So God's love demands that we sit in judgment upon people's behavior if it does not line up with the behaviors we are taught in God's Word. We are not to just blindly tolerate all things, because that is “loving” our neighbor. It is not loving to not correct someone who needs correction. It is not unloving to sit in judgment if judgment is called for. But one must be very careful to make sure it is God's rules and judgment, not our rules and judgment. Just as breaking the Pharisees laws about the Sabbath were not breaking God's rules, and people did not deserve to get into trouble for breaking their laws, we must make sure that we do not make people live up to our personal rules if they are not God's.

Now that we've established what God sees as love, let us compare that to the list of answers that people have given to the question, “What is love?”

The first answer was: accepting people as they are and not judging them (and vice versa, having people accept you for who you are.) We most certainly should not reject a person simply because their personality or station in life does not please us as much as someone else's. We should accept the poor, the rich, the eccentric, the disabled, etc. alike giving no preference to one above the other. These are not reasons to not accept a person. James 2:1-49 “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?.....But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”

There is only one reason to reject a person, and that has to do with sin. Even sin should not stand in the way of us accepting a person as they are, if they are not a believer, for what did the passage above say? “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world......For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth.” We are not the judge of those outside of the Church (meaning the body of Christ, not the local assembly). Therefore we should not reject a non-believer simply because they are a sinner. How can they come to Christ if they do not hear? The sin is not important when we are delivering the gospel message. They are a sinner in need of repentance no matter what sin they might be committing. So to ostracize unbelievers from your life because of their lifestyle is not a loving thing to do. We should accept them where they are at, for Christ accepts them where they are at. He will be the one to do the changing, when they accept Him. It is not our place to change them and then bring them to Christ. It does not work that way. So we should not judge them.

As the same passage says, though, and the one previous to it, we are to judge the sin of our brothers and speak to them about it, but in a way which is not self-righteous on our part. Matthew 7:3-5 “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” If they repent, we are to accept them back. Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” James 5:19-20 “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

If they do not accept the chastisement, then we are to separate ourselves from them and turn them over to Satan. Matthew 18:15-17 (see above) Titus 3:10-11“A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” 1 Corinthians 5:11 & 5 “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 2 Corinthians3:14-15 “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” 1 Timothy 5:19b-20 “before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” Romans 16:17 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

Clearly we should love everyone, but the idea that we should just accept people indiscriminately, no matter their behavior, is not a Scriptural teaching. We can love the unbeliever and not judge them, for God said that is His job. That is quite a separate subject from dealing with Christians. When it comes to other believers, we do have an obligation to not simply accept any behavior on their part, with the reasoning that we are “loving” them, but to speak to them (in love) correcting them if they are committing a sin, not accepting or tolerating it. That does not give us the right to judge their quirkiness, their personality, or their freedoms. Many people have a legalistic, pharisaical faith that condemns anybody who does not live up to their standards, (which are not necessarily scriptural) or they take issue with the person's lifestyle (which might simply be different). If their standards are God's standards that is one thing, but many people have taken God's Word and added many rules to it that God has not, just as the Pharisees did. This is not the same thing as correcting someone who is in violation of God's laws. We are not to judge these things. We are warned to be very careful about the way we judge people, for how merciless we are to others, is how merciless God will be to us. Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:35-37“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” And God help you if you are judging someone and committing the same sin yourself. Romans 2:1-3 “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?”

One problem that seems to be a stumbling block in the church is food. Meat vs. vegetarianism vs. kosher, alcohol vs. non-alcohol. Romans 14 addresses this. We are not to judge this issue with other people, for it is not about sin. It is about freedoms. However, if our freedom is a stumbling block for someone else's weaker faith, we should not flaunt our freedom in their face. This just gives them the opportunity to speak evil of it, which then becomes a sin for them. Hence we are causing them to sin by exercising our right to our freedom. We must for their sake, keep our freedom our own personal business. It is not deceit nor denying whom one is, it is called agape love. Sacrificing something of yourself for their good.

Romans 14:1-23 “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

This should show that the first definition of love given by men falls somewhat short of God's definition. The second definition is very warm and mushy. “It is a beautiful and unique feeling.” Well, that's a lovely definition, and there truly is nothing that compares to God's love, however it is very vague. Many emotions can be described thus, so it does not really define what love is at all.

Our third definition is “God is love.” 1 John 4:8 agrees with this defintion. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”I think we can all agree that God is the personification of the word “love.” But then to understand what love is, we need to define God. Most people do not really understand who and what God is. This is a huge topic. Actually too big for this article. It is an article in itself, so we will just concede that God is definitely love.

Next we hear that love is “acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice.” As agape love is sacrificial, and 1 Corinthians 13 tells us love is kind, this seems to be a simple definition of love, however it isn't all that love is or should be. Love entails much more than those few things by God's definition. So while it is a start of a definition, it falls short of all that true love embodies.

Our fifth definition of love said that love “pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you do things you wouldn't normally do.” As agape love demands much from us (read 1 Corinthians 13 again), it is safe to say that it could be defined in that way, but is the opposite true? Is what pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you do things you wouldn't normally do, always love? There is no definition of “things.” There are all sorts of things that people might not normally do that they would do for love, but that doesn't necessarily make them good things. People steal “for love.” People kill “for love.” These actions cannot be defined as true love, yet some people in their twisted minds think that these actions, which they wouldn't normally do and are out of their comfort zones are love. So clearly this is not a good definition of love.

Love has been defined as “a mystery that can only be experienced, not defined.” Well, I would have to agree that God's love for us is a mystery. Even the Bible defines it as a mystery. 1 Timothy 3:16 “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The mystery of godliness is that God loved us so much that He manifested in the flesh in the person of His Son and died for our sins. It is also true that this cannot be understood unless it is experienced. 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” However, love can be defined and Scripture does define it for us in many ways, some of which have been listed above.

The next definition is “it's up to you.” If anybody can define love in whatever way they want, then the word love has no meaning. Yet God gives it a definition, so this is a very wrong concept, that love is whatever we want it to be.

Then we have “understanding someone else and sharing their dreams.” This does not have to be love. This can simply define two people having similar or shared goals. It does not have to have anything whatsoever to do with love. So it fails as a definition of love. Especially by God's definition.

Number nine on the list is “to provide and protect.” One would hope that a person who loves another would want to provide for and protect that person. God expects men to provide for their families. 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Parents are expected to care for and protect their children. Matthew 18:6 “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” This does not mean that the provider/protector necessarily loves the people for whom he provides and protects, although one hopes he would. It means that he is observing an obligation or commitment. In this respect it would qualify as storge love, which is the familial love rather than agape love.

The next definition was one that was mocked by many when it was uttered in a movie. It is “love is never having to say you're sorry.” Why this was mocked was because love would ask for forgiveness if it has offended. It would not assume that it should be forgiven without it. It is the opposite of the definition of real love. I realize the implication is that the other person would forgive you because they love you, without your having to apologize, and that would require love, but the idea that you don't need to apologize is not a way to show love. It is the way to show selfishness and contempt for the other person. Hardly a good definition of love.

Following that is “when you care about another person as much as you care about yourself.” This is actually a good definition as God has given us the same one. Matthew 22:39 “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Mark 12:31“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” In this day and age of the “me” mindset, people love themselves almost to the exclusion of others, so if they were to love someone else as much as they love themselves, they truly would have a great deal of love.

The next definition falls under the category of eros love. It was defined as a deep feeling of sexual desire or physical attraction. That is how the word “eros” is defined. It is not agape love.

Then we have “finding someone who makes you feel good and fills your needs.” Was there ever such a selfish definition? If you “love” someone simply because they make you feel good and fill your needs, you don't love them at all. You simply want them to serve you. You enjoy their love toward you, but there is nothing going back toward them if you only “love” them if they fill your needs, and you are not filling theirs or making them feel good in return. This is a horrible definition of love, yet many a person marries because they are experiencing this type of “love.”

“Nature's way of tricking people into reproducing.” This is likewise a horrible definition, and has nothing to do with love as stated. What is being spoken of here is probably strictly physical attraction that leads to sex, which might result in a pregnancy. Nothing about this requires love, although love between a man and woman will naturally lead to sex, as God built us that way for the purpose of reproduction. This is still instinctual physical behavior, not a definition of God's love.

The last definition is “commitment.” Love should have as part of its definition commitment. Storge love has this quality, and agape love would also. We commit ourselves to Christ when we accept Him. It is a lifelong commitment. Christ made the ultimate commitment to us when He died in our place. He committed to taking on our sins, and is not going to renege on that commitment. But again, this is only one small part of the definition of love. There is much more than this involved.

Some of these definitions were fairly good, and some were quite awful. But as God is love, only He can truly define what it is, and He has given us all we need to know as to what love is - in His Word and through His Son. 
The reason for this entire article came as a result of a conversation in which the person took the stand that Christians should only ever be loving and show love to all regardless, but in the course of the conversation it was clear that what was meant by “love” was not love, but tolerance for any and all things no matter what. That is not love by God's definition, and I felt the need to clarify that concept, as it is what is being taught in so many churches these days. Tolerance is not the same as love. Tolerance can sometimes be the lack of love, for tolerance requires a lack of discipline and judgment, both which love will do. God is not just a God of love, He is also a God of justice and even wrath. These are as much a part of God as love is. The church is neglecting to teach that, so people are getting a skewed concept of who and what God is. There is a need to teach what love truly is by God's Word.