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5

When Israel found themselves in times of testing, the Lord would use those times to know the heart of His people, to see if they would keep His commands. (See Deuteronomy 8:2)

The Lord Jesus left us with one simple—not easy—command. Love.

Love the LORD your God.
Love one another.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love your enemies.

We find ourselves in a time of testing today.

Our world is full of people for us to hate.

THEM, for instance.

It’s pretty standard practice to hate THEM. In fact, in the world’s eyes, you have the moral high ground if you hate THEM.

But who are THEY?

I guess it depends on where you’re standing, doesn’t it?

ISIS (ok - that’s an easy one)
The 1%
The protestors
The Donald
The Clintons
The under-educated white men of America
The Muslims
The immigrants
The police
The whites
The blacks
The browns
The gun owners

Yep - we sure can hate, especially THEM.

But the command doesn’t say don’t hate. It says love. And the love God calls us to is not some passive non-aggression. It active.

Check out the ultimate definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Love:
Is patient
Is kind
Is not jealous
Does not brag
Is not arrogant
Does not act unbecomingly
Does not seek its own
Is not provoked
Does not take into account a wrong suffered
Does not rejoice in unrighteousness
Rejoices with the truth
Bears all things
Believes all things
Hopes all things
Endures all things
Never fails

So let’s bring it closer to home.

What about your family? What about those closest to you, neighbors, co-workers, customers, vendors, class-mates?

Are you loving THEM?

Man, I thought that Jesus’ law was going to be easier than the Old Testament law where I had to be Kosher and do all that feasting and fasting and sacrificing.

But no. The love Jesus calls us to is a full contact sport. Unlike many of the Old Testament commands, it's not just a list of don'ts. In fact, Jesus said it this way,

"And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. - Luke 6:31 NKJV

The best definition I know for this kind of love—this agape love—is this.

Love actively seeks the best outcome for its object.

This LOVE command is a doozy!

Lord, again, I find myself in need of Your help to do Your will. Help me to be a lover, actively seeking the best for those you’ve put in my life. I can’t do it without You Lord. Help Lord.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

Let’s walk in love today,

See you again soon,

Ben

3

They broke into the room in a furor. Caught in the act! All their suspicions confirmed, and the truth, right there in my arms.

Before I knew what was happening, they grabbed me, one by the hair, and two others took my arms. My feet stumbled to keep up with their pace but soon I was just so much luggage, pulled along behind them. Out the bedroom door, down the stairs, each step down sending pain up through my legs. All my kicking and struggling just added to my agony.

At first I was screaming for help, then I realized who my attackers were. This angry mob that broke into my home and dragged me out into the dusty road, was made up of those who were supposed to protect me, the ones I was supposed to call when I was in trouble. One wore a police uniform, two had the backward collars of the clergy. I recognized store owners and local businessmen. Even the mayor was there. I thought I recognized the pastors from three local churches.

Amid the shuffle, I heard someone ask, “What do we do now? Where to?”

The forward motion stopped and then they let me drop to the ground, face in the dirt. A foot pressed into my upper back holding me to the ground.

Then I heard a voice I knew. “Our law calls for stoning.” It was my rabbi. This man witnessed when my parents named me. He taught me the Torah as I came of age. He officiated at my wedding.

There was general agreement.

But then a voice I didn’t know called out, “Let’s take him to the teacher who just arrived in town. Let’s see what He'll do.”

Everyone seemed to love this idea, so they took up my arms again. Again my feet tried to gain purchase, but someone tripped me so I couldn’t get my balance. The short walk through town seemed to take hours to me. My mind was racing. My emotions skittered from fear to rage to shame and back again.

What would this man do with me?

When they found Him in the dusty square, they dropped me at His feet. As I looked at His dust-covered sandals, the stories of this man—Jesus—came to me. He’d been teaching in the square, and healing the sick. He healed dozens of men and women in the two days he’d been in town. Lame men were walking. The blind woman I see in the market every day could see. But I knew He was a Jew, like me, and they called Him a rabbi.

By now all my accusers had rocks in their hands, and some of them called out hurtful names.

My rabbi now addressed this outsider.

“This filth was caught in the very act, in the arms of a man. Our law says this abomination should be publicly stoned to drive this evil out of our land.”

Then he left me there in the dirt and backed away, stone at the ready. As he backed away he finished with “What do you say, what should we do?”

A cry went up from the angry pack, “Stone him” and then the vile epithets came in a wave, “Homo. Queer. Faggot. Queen.”

At the sound of these words, my tears began to flow into the dust inches from my face. The bile was rising into my mouth as everything I held dear slipped through my fingers. My life was over, and I felt I had hardly lived. Twenty eight short years ended by these hands of hate.

Part of me wanted to agree with this mob, and part of me hated them right back. Somewhere inside me was a voice screaming with the crowd that I deserved this scorn, a voice that called along with them, “Your broken.” How could it all end like this? If I could, I would go back and make it right. I didn’t want to hurt my wife this way. I didn’t want my kids to be fatherless. I didn’t want to die with this sin, this betrayal, this ugliness, the only legacy I left behind.

Then this rabbi they called Jesus, bent down. I turned my head toward Him to see what He was doing. It looked like He was drawing in the dust. I wiped the tears from my eyes so I could see what He was doing. He was writing. With my face so close to the ground, I couldn’t make anything of the words.

He stopped writing, still crouched down near me, and looked up at the army of hate surrounding us. He raised His hand to quiet them and said,

“The one of you who has no sin should throw the first stone.”

All the shouting turned to a murmurs, and soon silence.

I raised myself up enough to see what He was writing.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not bow down to idols.
You shall not take the name of the Lord lightly.
Keep the sabbath.
Honor your father and mother.”

My heart told me I had broken each of these, and many others too. Now my tears came in torrents. I was sobbing.

The Rabbi didn’t finish. He didn’t have to. Through my tears I was astonished to see we were alone in the street. The mob was gone, and the street was littered with stones. They just let their hate fall in the dust and moved away.

Then Jesus crouched down; He put His hand under my chin, and raised my eyes to meet His. Our eyes met.

He took the sleeve of His well-worn robes, and wiped the tears from my eyes.

“Son, where are your accusers?”

With my voice shaking, I said, “There’s no one left,” then cautiously, “except You.”

“Then, I don’t accuse you either. I want you to go and turn your life around, no more life of sin.”

He helped me up to my feet.

I hurt all over, bruised and battered from head to toe, but something deep inside was fixed, healed. The brokenness I felt minutes ago was gone. The confusion I lived with since the day of my bar mitzvah left with the mob. There was something rising up in me. Free? Forgiven? Clean?

I went home. I asked my wife to forgive me. Tears flowed again, from both of us. I sat with my children and repented before them. My humility before them broke the shame they carried because of me.

I can’t say meeting Jesus has made my life easier, but He gave me a path to walk, and gave me a desire to walk it. For the first time I can remember, I’m free from shame and regret. I’m free from the confusion. I’m free to be the man God created me to be.

I’m free!

===

Does this picture challenge your heart as much as it does mine?

Let me know how your heart reacts.

benheadshot1See you again soon.

Walk like Jesus.

Ben

5

question-mark

My wife heard a speaker the other day say:

“We say that God loves the sinner but hates the sin, but the Bible says that God hates sinners.”

This declaration was startling and unsettling to my wife and others and it got us talking. She posed the question to me, and told me the references the speaker quoted were from the Psalms.

Here is what we found in Psalm 5 and 11:

The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity.
You destroy those who speak falsehood;
The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.**

Psalms 5:5-6 NASB

The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD'S throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.

Psalms 11:4-5 NASB

In pondering this question, my first reaction was to go to the revelation in the New Testament of God’s love. We have clear teaching in the New Testament that God loved us while we were sinners:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ... For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. - Romans 5:8, 10 NASB

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16 NASB

What do we do with this?

I want to approach this question from two sides.

First we will look at love and hate from a biblical perspective.

Then we must look at how the Father views sin and sinners.

Let me first state that when I approach a subject like this, I take the Bible to be authoritative – both Old and New Testament. If I don’t understand what is going on, the shortfall is on my side, not in the Word.

The great thing is that God has told us if we lack wisdom, we can ask of Him and He will give it liberally and without recourse. (That makes me happy!)

Love and Hate

Back to the question at hand. How can an unchanging God love sinners in the NT and hate them in the OT? Did He change? Nope. In fact you will find a reference to God hating even in the NT:

Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." - Romans 9:13 NASB

We can’t say that the blood of Jesus made it possible for God to love us, because the blood was shed not to allow God’s love but as a result of God’s love.

Where do we go?

I believe the difficulty here is that we have broken the word love. We have taken our definition of love from Hallmark rather than the holy and pure Word of God.

I fully believe that God has emotions. He has compassion, pity, anger, sadness, and joy. But what if love and hate are not emotions? What if they were not feelings at all? What if they are actions – attitudes - choices?

What if love is a deliberate choice to behave like this:

Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB

God’s definition of love is not feeling based but choice based. This is why He can command us to love. He does not command us to feel, but to do, to be loving. In a recent sermon on this topic, my friend Todd Lukas made the statement "Hate is not the opposite of Love, Pride is," which when you are working with this Bible definition of Love, makes a ton of sense.

And what if hate was a deliberate choice to exercise wrath? If you take the time to read more than just the favorite verses above in Romans 5 and John 3 you will find that each passage mentions not only the love of God but also the wrath of God.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. - Romans 5:9 NKJV

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. ... "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." - John 3:18, 36 NKJV

I can tell you authoritatively that God loves sinners, and that an unrepentant sinner faces the wrath of God even while God loves him.

I can tell you for sure that Jesus drank the cup of the Father’s wrath that was stored up against all sinners – for me – for you – for us – for them. He paid the price for our sin. He took the wrath of God – the reality of God’s hatred toward sinners – the outward expression of God’s hatred for sin – upon Himself.

I can tell you for sure that because of this – Jesus’ amazing act of love – the Father’s amazing act of love – there is no longer anything keeping a sinner from coming to the Father. The Father’s hatred was swallowed up by His love.

Sin and Sinners

I do want to take one further approach to this question. It is on the front of how the Father views sin and sinners.

Let’s go back to the common truism passed off as scripture these days – “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” We have seen that God loved us in our sin and offered up Jesus. But how did He offer Him up?

Check this out:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

Notice here that the Father made Christ sin – He did not make Him a sinner – He did not make Him sinful – He made Him sin.

Notice also that the Father made us the righteousness of God – He did not make us righteous people, but He made us righteousness. We were not just sinners – we were sin. You have heard it called a sin nature. Your very nature was a nature of sin. When God looked at you without the blood of Christ He did not see a sinner – He saw sin.

This is why Christ had to become sin – this is the great substitution. Christ became sin and you and I become righteousness.

Now God can look at us and delight in us! He can rejoice over us! He can look at us and say “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” You are righteousness in human form.

Perhaps you get an idea of why I so abhor the label of sinner being applied to those of us who have been born again. Christ’s atonement is complete and effectual. It leaves nothing of the old man behind. [Tweet This] He is dead and in the grave. He was left there when Christ rose from the dead.

Let me close with this passage from Romans 6.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. - Romans 6:3-7 NASB

Talk to me about this?

What do you think?

How do you understand these things?

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

 

** As an aside - I wonder if David's understanding of God's abhorrence for liars and those who shed blood changed after his encounter with Bathsheba and Uriah? Was this written before he learned of how God would forgive and love David even after he committed these very sins?

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