Have You Left Your First Love?

Revelation 2

1“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

2“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. 4But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first. If you don’t, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. 6But there is this about you that is good: You hate the deeds of the immoral Nicolaitans, just as I do.

7“Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Everyone who is victorious will eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:1-7, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In Revelation 2 and 3, John relates a series of messages the Lord gave him to share with seven different churches that existed at that time. In each case, the message follows a pattern of sharing some positive qualities that the church exhibits while also sharing the areas where the church has deviated from God’s design.

I previously wrote about the message to the church at Pergamum here (Compromise isn’t Always Good), where the Lord’s complaint against this church was that they tolerated the presence and the teaching of a group known as Nicolaitans, who apparently taught a doctrine of compromise that integrated sexually immoral pagan practices with Christian teachings.

In the message to the church at Ephesus, Jesus praises the church for NOT tolerating the immoral Nicolaitans.

The complaint Jesus has for the Ephesians is different. He rebukes them because they “don’t love me or each other as you did at first.”

Here is a case where the New Living Translation (NLT) may not portray the full impact of what Jesus is saying.

For comparison, here is how Revelation 2:4 reads in a few different translations:

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. (NIV)

‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (NASB)

But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. (ESV)

Those words “forsaken”, “left”, and “abandoned” give the impression of a person who has left a relationship for something else. I picture a wife who has left her husband for another man. Or I imagine a dad who has left his wife and family for a younger woman.

The issue is a lack of commitment.

We live in a culture that doesn’t honor or value commitment as much as previous generations did, particularly when it comes to marriage. Divorce is so commonplace that it almost seems strange when you meet someone whose family is still together.

We see celebrities and media personalities moving in and out of relationships and falling in and out of love with such regularity that the idea of love has been reduced to a feeling that can change more rapidly than the weather.

Over and over in the Old Testament, the Israelites are rebuked for being unfaithful and abandoning the Lord. They did this by pursuing foreign gods and neglecting God’s explicit commands.

We have a penchant for wandering. I suppose it’s human nature to always think the grass is always greener somewhere else so we test the limits, we expand the boundaries and before you know it, we’ve completely forsaken the Lord and his teachings while pursuing something or someone else.

This forsaking of Jesus can take many different forms but the one constant is that we no longer value Jesus as king in our lives. Perhaps we still believe in Him and even continue to participate in various religious practices but His priority and importance in our lives begins to wane.

The good news is that no matter where we’re at, or how far we may have strayed, Jesus invites us to return to him.  Regardless of our situation, we can renew our commitment to Jesus and experience His presence and purpose in our lives.

Reflection

If Jesus were to give a message to you today, what would he say? Would he commend you or would he have a complaint to share?

The complaint against the church at Ephesus was that they had left their first love? How would you rate your love for God right now compared to when you first came to know Him?

What is your concept of love? How does the concept of commitment fit with your perception of love?

What are some of the things in our culture and in your life that are most likely to cause you to stray from the Lord and tempt you to “forsake” Him?

What steps can you take to ensure that your commitment to Jesus does not succumb to current cultural challenges.

 

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

 

Can a Person Love Jesus but Hate His Followers?

1 John 4

7Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love.

9God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us.

13And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.

18Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. 19We love each other as a result of his loving us first.

20If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? 21And God himself has commanded that we must love not only him but our Christian brothers and sisters, too. (1 John 4:7-21, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

“I love Jesus….I just don’t like His followers!”

Have you ever heard someone say something like this?

This sentiment, that Jesus is cool but his followers aren’t, has become widespread, especially among young adults (those classified as Millennials and Gen Z), who, according to Barna research, are leaving the church in record numbers.

What is going on?

There are a number of reasons why young people are leaving the church. According to Barna, some of the reasons include: seeing the church as too shallow, experiencing the church as being over-protective and fearful of everything outside the church, seeing the church as not being in touch with real-world problems, and viewing the church as being antagonistic toward science.

Whatever the reasons that might cause a person to step away from the church, is it legitimate to “love Jesus, but not His followers”?

Not according to John.

In my last post, I shared some thoughts from 1 John chapters 2 and 3, in which the author shared that one of the marks of the God-follower is love for one another, specifically, love for other Christians.

This issue of loving one another must be a big deal to John because in the next chapter, he once again exhorts his audience to love one another.

The reasons he gives in chapter 4 are as follows:

    • God is love
    • If we say that we are “in God”, then His love should be in us and it will be perfected (made complete) within us
    • Hence, those who say that God is in them should be loving because God IS love.

This line of reasoning lays the foundation for John’s final point, in which he states:

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?

The bottom line is that one cannot claim to love God (or Jesus) but hate His followers. It’s an oxymoron because God IS love and therefore, if we love God, we will love His children (other believers).

Additionally, John points out, we’ve been commanded to love our Christian brothers and sisters.

So the idea that we can love God (or Jesus) but no love his followers doesn’t compute and reflects a fundamental lack of awareness of what the Christian life is all about.

We are living in perilous and confusing times. Unfortunately, churches aren’t always as reflective of Jesus as we might like. Sin has a way of ruining our expectations, unfortunately.

But the solution isn’t to bail on Christ’s church because it is filled with sinners who are a constant reminder of our need for Jesus in the first place.

As difficult as it may be, the solution is to find some other Christ followers and begin to live out the command to love one another in the context of an authentic community.

If this kind of community doesn’t exist then there is nothing stopping you from creating that kind of community.

One of the interesting arguments for the triune nature of God is the fact that He is a God of love and that His loving nature has been expressed for eternity in the context of a trinity of relationships. In other words, if the nature of the Godhead is singular, how would it be possible for love to be expressed as there would be no object for that love?

A similar line of reasoning could be expressed here. If a fundamental characteristic of the Christian life and knowing God is loving one another, how can that love be expressed in isolation?

It can’t.

Hence, the idea that one can love Jesus but hate His followers or one can love Jesus without being a part of a church community is not biblical. This issue is so important that John spends a major portion of his first epistle reinforcing this concept that Christians are to love one another….and that’s not possible if we are not in community with them.

Reflection

Do you know some people who claim to still be Christians but no longer are connected to a church? If so, what are the reasons given for why church is no longer a part of their Christian experience?

What response would you give to someone who says they love Jesus but they cannot be a part of His church because of all the hypocrites and scandals they see in the church?

How can the church address those who say that the church is either not concerned with or is not effective in dealing with real-world problems?

What steps can you (or a person you’re advising) take to be a part of the kind of community where the command to love one another can be freely expressed?

 

Original Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash (edited photo by Dave Lowe)

 

How Can You Know if You’re Really a True Christian?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

1 John 2

7Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. 8Yet it is also new. This commandment is true in Christ and is true among you, because the darkness is disappearing and the true light is already shining.

9If anyone says, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. 10Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. 11Anyone who hates a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by the darkness.
(1 John 2:7-11, NLT – emphasis added)

1 John 3

11This is the message we have heard from the beginning: We should love one another12We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was right. 13So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

14If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 16We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. 17But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person?

18Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. 19It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, 20even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
(1 John 3:11-20, NLT – emphasis added)


The Daily DAVEotional

How can you know for sure if you’re really a Christian?

Perhaps you’ve grown up going to church and you can’t ever remember a time when you weren’t a Christian. Or maybe you drifted away from God but have recently turned back to the Lord and you’re wondering if God still accepts you.

John’s short letter of 1 John is packed with a number of “identifying markers” that are good indicators that you are indeed “in the faith.”

In 1 John chapters 2 and 3, John gives another of his litmus tests that are designed to give his audience confidence that they truly are a part of God’s family.

In this particular passage, John says that the proof “that we have passed from death to eternal life” is our love for other Christians.

John’s argument can be summarized as follows:

    • We’ve been given a new command to love one another
    • This command to love is based on the example of Jesus, who demonstrated his love by dying for us
    • Jesus is light and in him there is no darkness, so living for Jesus is “living in the light”
    • Since Jesus died for us (all of us), it means he loves us (all of us). Therefore, to be living in the light of Jesus means we should love people as Jesus loves

The real litmus test then is how do you think and feel about other Christians? Do you love them as Jesus loves them? John says that those who say they love God but hate their Christian brother or sister is “living and walking in darkness.”

Darkness is always used by John in reference to sin or disconnected fellowship with God. Hence, the person who says they love God but hates their fellow Christian, for whatever reason, is not connected to God.

John takes the illustration even further when he says that “Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart.” OUCH!

So one of the identifying markers of a true follower of Christ is their love of other Christians.

Yes, I know! Some “other” Christians are not easy to love. Perhaps they share different political views than you or they’re involved in activities of which you don’t approve. Maybe they just have an annoying personality that rubs you the wrong way.

Regardless, John’s logic is irrefutable: Jesus loved us all, which is amazing because we were not very lovable. In fact, Jesus loved us in spite of the fact that our sin made us his enemies.

Since Jesus is able to love “the unloveable”, we should be able to as well, since we have His Holy Spirit living within us.

Therefore, we should demonstrate love to everyone, even those whom we might consider “difficult to love”, for whatever reason.

Our ability to love other Christians is an evidence of God’s work in our life and provides strong evidence that you really are a part of God’s eternal family!

Reflection

If someone were to come to you with doubts about whether or not they were genuinely a Christian, what would you tell them? How would you go about helping them to affirm their place in God’s family?

John specifically talks about our need to love other Christians. Why do you think he emphasizes the need to love other believers but doesn’t mention non-believers?

Some people are easier to love than others. What are some possible reasons why you might be challenged to demonstrate “love to some people?

John urges us to “really show it [our love for others] by our actions.” What actions show love to you? What are some actions you could begin to implement in your spheres as a means of demonstrating love toward other believers?

Suppose someone says to you, “I love Jesus, I just can’t stand his followers.” What would you say to this person? Do you think this person can be a Christian? Why or why not?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Why Some Christians Never Grow

2 Peter 1

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. (2 Peter 1:3-9, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

Have you ever wondered why some people who have been Christians for a long time never seem to get past the initial stages of Christian development?  Perhaps you count yourself in this group. Maybe you’ve been a consistent church-goer for years and even attended the occasional small group, but you’ve never felt like you were really progressing as a Christian.

I think a lot of people get to this point and begin to wonder if there isn’t something more to the Christian life. Some who are discontented may half-heartedly trudge along in their Christian experience, while others choose to walk away, assuming that their spiritual “experiment” was just a phase.

In this passage of 2 Peter, the author (Peter) gives the reason why people are not growing and developing in their spiritual lives.

But first notice that in verses 3-4, Peter tells his audience that God has already given them everything they need to live the Christian life and experience godliness. There’s no special enlightenment or advanced teaching a person needs in order to experience the Christian life as it was meant. This means that no matter where you are at, whether you are brand new in the faith or if you’ve been a believer for many years, you already possess everything you need to experience all Christ wants for you.

What is it that Christ wants for you?

Starting in verse 5, Peter reels off a list of virtues that we’re to add to our character. It’s easy to look at this list and get overwhelmed, thinking there is a lot of pressure to manufacture these qualities in our lives. But don’t get overwhelmed. In fact, I want you to take a deep breath as we look at this list a bit differently than maybe you’ve looked at it before.

What is the starting point of the list?

Faith.

If you’re a Christian, you already have faith, so you’re good. All believers start with a basic faith in God and Jesus.

What is the ending point of the list?

Love.

The goal of all Christian growth is to learn to love God and others more deeply and effectively. Everything in between Faith and Love in this list is simply a process of growing character qualities that helps us to become more loving people.

In verse 8, Peter says that if you possess these qualities and they are increasing (i.e. you’re growing in them or developing them in your life), you’ll be productive and effective in your knowledge of the Lord.

In other words, if you’re growing in these character qualities, you’ll become a more loving person towards God and others and you’ll therefore have the kind of influence and impact God desires for you. You won’t be stagnant or ineffective and you won’t be wondering, as so many immature Christians do, why the Christian life is not as exciting and adventurous as you thought it would be when you first came to Christ.

So why is it that some people never grow?

Peter addresses this in verse 9. He says that the person who is lacking these qualities, the person who is not growing in these character qualities and not becoming a more loving person, is near-sighted and blind. Peter then explains that what makes them near-sighted and blind is that they have forgotten that they’ve been cleansed from their past sins.

The reason so many Christians aren’t experiencing growth is sin!

I’m sorry to disappoint you if you were hoping for or expecting something more profound. But it really is that simple.

Look, we all sin, even the most mature believers. Sin is simply a thought, a word or action that is in rebellion toward God and His values. When we sin, we are choosing to go our own way, and as a result, we are disconnecting ourselves from God, who is the source of spiritual life. The moment any living thing becomes disconnected from its life source, it begins to experience decay.

The person who is growing is the person who, when they do sin, always remembers that Jesus has died for that sin and has paid for that sin. The person who is consistently growing remembers what Jesus has done for them and whenever they sin, they take that sin to the cross, claiming the forgiveness that Jesus has already provided and repenting in their heart for their thoughts, words or actions.

The biblical term for this process is confession. By actively confessing sin whenever you are aware of it, you’re admitting that you need to experience Jesus’ forgiveness every day, not just the one time you decided to become His follower. The net result is that you stay connected to Jesus, the source of spiritual life.

By engaging with Jesus every day, you’ll become more aware of the areas of your life that don’t reflect Him so well and you’ll invite Him to change you in those areas. Before you know it, you’ll be developing those character qualities that Peter lists in verses 5-7 and the end result is you’ll be a more loving person who is thriving spiritually and experiencing genuine transformation.

Reflection

What has been your understanding and view of what it means to grow as a Christian? How have you generally viewed the goal of Christian growth? In other words, what has been your past standard for measuring and evaluating growth as a Christian?

What has been your experience as a Christian with growth? If you were talking to someone who asked you to chronicle your life as a Christian, highlighting the growth and development you’ve experienced since you became a Christian, what would you say? 

When you look at the list of qualities Peter mentions, what is your response or reaction? Does the list create excitement or anxiety? Explain.

What are practical steps you can take to become a more loving person? Who do you know who can be a resource or mentor as you seek to grow as a Christian?

 

Photo by Silvestri Matteo on Unsplash

 

“You’ve Heard it Said….”

Matthew 5

43“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. 46If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

There goes Jesus again raising the bar on ethical behavior for everyone and creating impossible standards to live by!

In Matthew 5, commonly referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus gives a series of statements related to his views on the Old Testament Law. The Law, which included over 600 commandments was already impossible to adhere to perfectly (though the Pharisees thought they could), and yet Jesus, with a series of “you’ve heard it said….but I say” statements elevates the demands of the law to an even higher standard.

Jesus’ comments conclude with this section on love. Jesus states that the Old Testament Law commanded you to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. This makes perfect sense to most people. Why would we love those who are our enemies? People who oppose us, especially those who seek to do harm are not going to get my love, they’re going to experience my wrath. “You mess with the bull, you’re gonna get the horns!”

This of course is how our culture views the topic of love. We love those who are friendly to us. We love those who are generous towards us. We love those who serve us and help us to achieve our personal desires. We LOVE those who agree with us and affirm our positions on everything from religion to politics to pop culture.

Oh wait! That person I loved just said something I disagree with. I no longer love that person. I loathe that person. I hate that person. I REALLY HATE that person. I hate that person so much I’m going to get other people to hate that person.

The difference between our love and Jesus’ love is conditions. We put conditions on our love (I’ll love you if….or….I’ll love you as long as you….).

Jesus doesn’t put conditions on his love. He loves you even if you are not friendly to him. He loves you even if you disagree with him or even if you HATE him. He loves you unconditionally.

It’s not surprising then that Jesus calls his followers to love this same way. He tells us to love our enemies because he demonstrates love even to those who don’t acknowledge or follow him. He demonstrates love even to those who say that they HATE Him!

What is the proof God shows love to His enemies? The proof is that He gives sunlight and brings rain to everyone, not just those who are in His fan club.

Now if you’re saying to yourself, “Wait a minute. That’s impossible! Nobody could live up to that standard.”

Congratulations. You understand the point. God’s standard is perfection. It’s HIS level of righteousness we must possess and display.

When we come to the realization that we have to be as perfect as He is, then we can stop pretending that we are “good” and we can start trusting Jesus to provide a way for us to be forgiven and cleansed from our sin.

Oh yeah, and even though Jesus’ standard for love is not achievable, He still expects us to love our enemies. Think about that the next time you prepare to enter into the social media arena!

Reflection

What kinds of things tend to anger you about other people?

What are some things you’ve experienced from others that make it more difficult to love them?

Think of a person in your life that is hard to love for whatever reason. What are some tangible things you could do today to demonstrate love toward them.

What are some practical steps you could implement to begin developing love towards those to whom you’ve previously been opposed?

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

One Word to Define Christianity

If you had to pick one word that best characterizes Christianity, what would it be?

I’m sure an overwhelming number of people would say “Love”.

Eleven times in the New Testament we’re exhorted to “Love one Another”
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

This is a great answer. After all, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). He also said we should LOVE our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).

In John 13:35, Jesus said, “Your LOVE for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” To Jesus, love was the pre-eminent characteristic of those who would follow Him.

Eleven other times, the New Testament encourages us to “love one another”, “serve one another in love” or some close variant of this admonition.

And of course, if you’ve ever been to a wedding, you’ve probably heard 1 Corinthians 13 read, in which Paul expounds on the characteristics of love and declares it to be the greatest of the enduring qualities.

I’d like to make the case, however, for a word that might rival the word “love” as a word that epitomizes Christianity.

In today’s culture, love has been totally distorted, and to be honest, secularism has co-opted the idea of love and adopted it as its own virtue.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it one of the characteristics that sets Christianity apart from other religions and philosophies.
Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

So if you think of love as serving others, well, lots of non-Christians promote the idea of service. Or if you think of love as caring for those in need, or speaking up for those who are marginalized, there are many non-Christian groups that do that as well.

The word I’d like to promote that could rival to the word “Love” as a defining descriptor for Christianity is the word “Forgiveness”.

The other day, I was reading in 2 Timothy 3, starting in verse 1, where Paul says:

1 You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4, NLT)

When I read that passage, I first noticed how Paul coupled the idea of love and forgiveness together. He said in verse 3, “they will be unloving AND unforgiving.”

Secondly, I was reminded of a tweet I had read the day before. It was from a woman who is an opinion writer for the New York Times (@ebruenig). She tweeted:

“there’s just something unsustainable about an environment that demands constant atonement but actively disdains the very idea of forgiveness”

Cancel culture is an environment where people try to shut down, ruin, or “cancel” those who have been deemed to have committed offenses that are not acceptable in today’s culture.
Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

I was struck by that statement because I thought it cogently described our current “cancel” culture. If you don’t know what “cancel culture” is, it’s an attitude within our culture that seeks vindication and retribution on anybody and everybody for any transgression that is uncovered, no longer how long ago, that might go against current accepted standards of behavior or current accepted views.

Here’s an example of how this works. Let’s say you tweeted a coarse joke 10 years ago that was somewhat acceptable then but is considered out of bounds now. Somebody might dig that tweet up today and weaponize it by using it to “cancel” you, publicly shaming you to the point that your reputation and often your career are irreparably damaged.

I came across this statement from Alan Jacobs, a Christian who is a professor at Baylor University:

“When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better.”  (https://blog.ayjay.org/vengeance/)

What this says to me is that in our current culture love may be indistinguishable and unidentifiable to others. Of course we should love people, but our loving actions towards others may not set us apart from the culture as much as we might like to believe.

On the other hand, forgiveness, in this culture, stands out because our culture neither teaches forgiveness, nor promotes it.

Forgiveness is hard. It takes an extreme act of love to forgive others and to seek their ultimate good instead of seeking vengeance or vindictiveness.

In Matthew 5, Jesus says:

43 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. 46 If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, NLT)

I believe that what sets Christianity apart from other religions and philosophies is our ability to love others, even those who disagree with us and even those who persecute us. And I think a primary way we can demonstrate that kind of love in this current culture is in our ability to forgive others who offend us, while everyone around us is seeking retribution and vengeance.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think makes it hard to forgive others who don’t share our views or values?

How can we cultivate a heart that is willing to forgive?