PROGRAM W-1720 – Part II
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). In his book, The Relationship Principles of Jesus, Tom Holladay asks the question: “Why did Jesus need to give his followers a new commandment? Weren’t there already plenty of commandments in the Old Testament?” (p. 95)
He then explains that Jesus is saying that they now need to love in a new way, the way he loves—not out of duty or by trying to keep the law, but from a genuine concern for the other person. Tom gives us a very practical way to keep this new commandment: “Rediscover the attitude of love in the everyday habits of your life.” I love that thought, because I can see how it works out in my life.
As Tom says, “Much of life is routine. If you don’t allow love to become a part of the routine of life, love will be missing from the majority of the minutes in your day.” How do we do this? It’s simple: As you’re doing whatever routine thing you’re doing, say to yourself that you’re doing it out of love.
For example, you’re cooking supper for your family. As you prepare, put new thoughts into your head. Instead of thinking about how tired you are, how unappreciative they are of what you do for them, or how much you don’t want to cook supper tonight, think instead, “I’m doing this because I love my family. I’m showing love by cooking supper tonight.”
I know. . .you’re thinking, what difference will that make? Try it! For at least a week, determine by God’s grace that you will do your routine tasks from an attitude of love, and see what happens! For instance, if you are a teacher, remind yourself that you are teaching the kids because you really want them to learn, and because you care about them.
If you will change your thought patterns and choose to think about the good of the others in your life, I promise you it will make huge improvements in your relationships. It’s the new commandment that Jesus gave us—to love like he loves—and when you obey Jesus, you cannot fail.
In fact, in 1 Corinthians 13, we are told that love never fails. It is the only guarantee we have for improving our relationships. Arguments rarely work; lectures won’t do the trick; you can try all kinds of ways to make a relationship better for you and to try to get others to do what you think they should do, but most—if not all—of those ideas will get you nowhere. But. . .LOVE never fails! Show love in whatever way you can, whether you feel it or not. Love never fails.
One issue Tom dealt with in his book is one I think many of us have struggled with and that is, what do you do when a friend or relative is doing something that is blatantly wrong? I think Tom’s comments are so important that I’m going to quote him exactly:
Jesus didn’t tell you to pretend there’s not a speck in your friend’s eye or to only be concerned about the plank in your eye. He urged you to get the plank out of your eye—and then you can see clearly enough to help your friend get the speck out of his or her eye. How are you going to help your friend if you can’t say, “I noticed there’s a speck in your eye. Can I help?”
We live in a society that believes the opposite of judgment is tolerance. And tolerance is falsely defined as accepting without opinion or comment whatever choices another makes. But Jesus told us the alternative to judgment is not tolerance; it is mercy. The alternative to being judgmental is not ignoring other people’s faults; it is showing that Jesus has forgiven all our faults.
Being biblically nonjudgmental does not mean we pretend we don’t see another person’s sin. To do so would be living in denial. . . . The question is this: “What will we do about it?” Being nonjudgmental means we recognize that we all face the same temptations. It means we don’t see anyone as outside the circle of God’s grace, as beyond the bounds of our forgiveness, as outside the limits of our love.
Jesus is teaching an advanced degree course in relationships. This isn’t easy. . . . It’s easy to be judgmental and end up gossiping about someone’s problem rather than offering care. It’s just as easy to settle for a false “mercy” that offers care but lacks the courage to tell the truth.
I find this so helpful in dealing with the whole issue of tolerance. Let’s face it, we live in a society that has become obsessed with being tolerant, and I think many of us are intimidated to express any kind of objection to the behavior or lifestyles of others because we fear being labeled “intolerant.” Tom points out that tolerance is falsely defined by our culture as being accepting of almost anything!
This biblical principle Jesus taught us—to take the plank out of our eye before we point out the speck in someone else’s eye—is a principle of showing mercy, a principle of humility as we recognize our own failures and weaknesses, and a principle of loving and caring about that other person. But it is not a principle of unlimited tolerance or never helping a friend see the speck in their own eye.
For example, if you have a close friend who is indulging in some bad habit that is clearly wrong and sinful, your love for that person should cause you to want to help them see that wrong and forsake it. First, you examine your own life for anything that you need to deal with; ask the Lord to show you anything you don’t see. Then ask for guidance on whether or not the Lord wants you to speak to that friend about the speck which you see, something that you know will eventually prove harmful and cause them to have regrets. As Tom points out, we are not to ignore the wrongs we see in others, but we are to confront them with tons of grace, love, and mercy!
Micah 6:8 tells us: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We always need to show mercy and humility in dealing with others. Have you noticed that often the people who show the least mercy and grace to others—who are the most judgmental—are the ones who are guilty of the same or similar wrong actions? Some people try to cover up or deny the sin in their own lives by denouncing it in others. Showing mercy means we readily admit our own failures, receive God’s forgiveness, and offer that same forgiveness to others. It doesn’t mean we overlook the sin in the lives of others any more than we do in our own lives.
Here’s the most important reason we should show mercy, given to us very succinctly by our Lord: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Goodness knows, we all need mercy and we all freely take God’s mercy given to us. I’ve never refused mercy, have you? So, it’s essential that we show mercy to others. That is one of the most important relationship principles that Jesus gave us!
Have you ever thought about how powerful human touch is? In Luke 5 we have the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy. Leprosy was the AIDS epidemic of that day, except it could be transmitted by touch. If you just touched a person with leprosy you could catch that dreaded disease. Therefore, a person with leprosy was ostracized from all society. Yet, when this man fell on his face and begged Jesus to make him clean, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. He didn’t have to touch him to heal him; he could have just spoken the words “Be clean!” But that touch said so much to that man, and Jesus took the risk of touching him.
Think about appropriate opportunities you may have to literally touch someone else. A pat on a shoulder, a sincere warm handshake (not a wimpy one), an arm around someone—you would be surprised at how a touch can speak volumes of love. Just recently I was talking with a young woman in my church who was so afraid of being touched when she first came to saving faith and joined our church. She had such baggage from her past that she simply didn’t trust anyone, and she was totally unaccustomed to what a loving touch was.
We remarked at how open and eager she is now to receive touches from us—hugs, pats, and loving touches—and how she reaches out to others now with touches of love. She completed a mission trip for a week at a Joni and Friends camp, where she spent the whole week helping someone who is disabled and showing that person such love. No doubt the love she has been shown through her sisters in Christ has opened her up so that she now can pass it on to others.
Rick Warren writes, “You never know how a tender word and a caring touch will make all the difference in the world to someone. Behind every smile is a hidden hurt that a simple expression of love may heal.”
I want to close with another quote from Tom Holladay’s book, The Relationship Principles of Jesus:
Remember the old playground chant “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? It’s just not true. Words can break a child’s confidence. Words can break a husband’s dreams. Words can break a parent’s heart. Words can break a wife’s joy. Or words can build up and give life. Do you realize the power you possess to strengthen another person with the simple words, “Good job,” to heal another by saying, “I’m sorry; please forgive me,” or to energize another with the words “I love you”? Think of the times just a few words have had a life-leveraging impact on you. . . . Through the words you speak, God has given you more power to build faith, hope, and love into others’ lives than you can possibly imagine.more