Tag Archives: love

How Can We Love our Neighbor as Our Self, as Jesus Commanded?

Loving other people as oneself is a difficult goal. But Jesus clearly made it fundamental to Christian living. On one occasion, an expert in the Jewish law challenged Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Luke 10:27 NKJV).

Although the goal of loving one’s neighbor as oneself is difficult, it isn’t impossible.  In Luke 6:36-38, Jesus gives some basic principles that help us understand what it involves:

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (NKJV).

This passage contains two principles. One principle is that our expectations of our neighbors are directly related to the expectations that will be placed on us. As Jesus said, “With the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” The expectations we have of others will be required by them (and God) of us. But even subjectively, we already love—or hate—our neighbors as ourselves. We subconsciously project our own attitudes and values upon other people, expecting them to perceive us as we perceive them. If we are impatient and judgmental towards others, we assume others will be impatient and judgmental towards us. If we are compassionate and patient towards others, we won’t have to deal with the pressures that come from assuming that others view us with hostility and impatience. Love or hatred directed outwards is always matched by love or hatred directed inwards.

The second principle is that love for one’s neighbor should never be confused with indulgence. A father who gives his children anything they want spoils them. If we love our neighbor as our self, we must be as careful in setting standards and goals for him as we do for ourselves. If God were a genie in a lamp who gave us anything we wanted, would we ever be satisfied? Of course not! Love for our neighbor involves the same principle. While love always seeks to promote the other person’s well-being, at times it is manifested in acts of charity and at other times in firm confrontation.

Our neighbor is just like us. At times he needs mercy, at times he needs correction, but he always needs our love.

 

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Should Children Be Taught to Fight Back or Be Told to “Turn the Other Cheek”?

By word and example, parents should teach kids from an early age to treat others with respect, to be kind and fair, to exercise self-control, and to suppress the impulse to seek revenge.

1 Further, children should be taught how to cooperate with authority whenever possible to defuse situations. But it would be dangerous to teach a child that it is always wrong to protect himself and defend his interests.

Jesus understood children. We can be sure that when He took them in His arms and said that we all need to become like them to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:13-16), He wasn’t naive about how cruel they can be. The playground, in its own way, is a jungle as ruthless as most spheres of adult life.

It’s likely that a child trained to unconditionally defer to others will develop a crippling pattern of avoidance and an unhealthy fear of conflict. An immature mind can easily be shaped to think that it is “loving” to back away from confrontation—to be a coward when courage is called for. If we follow the “golden rule”—”So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)—we won’t always allow aggressors to carry out their aggression successfully. If we do, we encourage behavior that brings harm.

Kids should be taught restraint—the ability to discern just how much force is needed, and to apply no more force than necessary. This may involve “turning the other cheek.” 2 But children are sometimes confronted with bullies who leave them no choice but to resist or be abused. Sometimes a bully will leave without a blow being thrown, merely at the recognition of a child’s unwillingness to be dominated. On other occasions, a fight may ensue that ends with little real damage to either child, but which will result in a major boost of status and self-esteem for the child who refused to be dominated.

Children aren’t miniature adults. Adults may have the maturity to understand the deep sayings of Jesus, though they struggle to live in accordance with them. We shouldn’t expect children to understand things beyond their spiritual and emotional development. To do so would likely provoke them to wrath (Ephesians 6:4), or to cause them to stumble (Luke 17:1-2). We need to protect them when it’s possible, but we also need to allow them to develop the tools they will need to understand and effectively respond to the challenges of adult life.

  1. Sometimes adults can successfully intervene and guide children through difficult situations, teaching valuable spiritual lessons in the process. Back To Article
  2. See the ATQ article, What Did Jesus Mean When He Said to Turn the Other Cheek (Matthew 5:39)? Back To Article
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Should Forgiveness Be Unconditional?

People often have the impression that the Bible requires forgiveness to be unconditional.

1 But the Bible doesn’t say that. It tells us that we should “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). While God’s forgiveness is undeserved, it certainly isn’t unconditional. The Lord’s forgiveness is offered only to those who confess their sin and repent (2 Chronicles 7:14; Leviticus 26; Luke 13:3; 1 John 1:8-10).

On the surface, it might seem noble to forgive unconditionally. But unconditional forgiveness is usually motivated more by fear than by love. And because of this it’s usually destructive. If a wife continues to forgive a habitually unfaithful and abusive husband unconditionally, her toleration of his behavior will probably result in even more abuse and disrespect. This kind of “unconditional” forgiveness expresses a determination to cling to the status quo. No matter how bad things are, this woman fears that things will probably get worse if she holds her husband accountable. Her passive acceptance of his behavior will probably encourage him to continue in his sin. Instead of her forgiveness being a helpful act of love, it is actually a violation of love that will hinder his growth toward Christlikeness.

Jesus’ specific teaching about forgiveness in Luke 17:3-4 makes it clear that forgiveness should follow repentance:

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, “I repent,” you shall forgive him.

Undeserved forgiveness and unconditional forgiveness are radically different. It takes courage and character to forgive those who repent and ask our forgiveness. If we forgive them, we expose ourselves to the risk of being hurt again. Their repentance doesn’t earn our forgiveness in any way. They are still responsible for the harm they’ve done. But though their repentance doesn’t make them deserving of our forgiveness, it makes them eligible. We can forgive them because of the example of forgiveness that God has given us in Christ (Matthew 18:21-35).

Unconditional forgiveness is an affront against justice and a denial of the significance of sin and its cruel effects. Undeserved forgiveness is an expression of divine love and the only basis of our hope for salvation.

In a flawed world, forgiveness shouldn’t be given unconditionally. But we should always be willing to share the undeserved forgiveness we have received through Christ. We should be realistic in confronting our enemies, but we should also seek to love them and respond to them in a way that is ultimately in their best interest.

  1. In Matthew 5:38-47, Jesus made three radical statements. First, He said that a person should turn the other cheek when someone strikes him. Second, He declared that His followers should give those who sue them more than they are asking. And third, He said that a person who is conscripted by a Roman officer to carry a load for one mile should offer to go two. Does this mean that we shouldn’t defend ourselves when somebody attacks us? Is it our duty to let others take advantage of us? This couldn’t have been Jesus’ intention. After all, He counseled His disciples to be as “wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16). His well-known “golden rule” (Matthew 7:12) contains the clear implication that we shouldn’t encourage people to do something that would harm their character (like abuse others, steal, etc.). Back To Article
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Why Shouldn’t Sex Be Casual?

Because it was the Creator’s intention that human beings have the freedom to make their own decisions, everyone has to come to terms with the basic issues of life. One of these issues is that outside of certain bounds some of the most profoundly pleasurable and meaningful things can become the most destructive.

The emotions connected with human sexuality are so powerful and multi-faceted that we can only begin to describe them. The complementary spiritual and physiological components of male and female find unique fulfillment and intimacy here. Significantly, this profound experience provides the context for the conception of new human life.

Tragically, some in every generation make the sensations of sex the goal of the experience. They neglect the legitimate bounds for sexual experience and eventually face the consequences of that neglect.

Mankind has long been aware of sexual attraction’s tremendous potential for destruction. In The Odyssey, the great Greek poet Homer pictures its power as almost irresistible. In order to avoid being lured to his death by the enticing song of the Sirens, Ulysses commands his men to lash him to the mast of his ship, to plug their ears, and ignore his cries.1 The Old Testament, too, contains solemn warnings regarding the danger of illicit sexual attraction.

When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, . . . from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words, who forsakes the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God. For her house leads down to death, and her paths to the dead; none who go to her return, nor do they regain the paths of life. (Proverbs 2:10-12,16-19)

For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword, her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell, lest you ponder her path of life—her ways are unstable; you do not know them (Proverbs 5:3-6).

Jesus also portrays the destructive power of sexual immorality with great seriousness:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30).

The apostle Paul wrote:

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more (Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV).

The Bible says that God is the source of all of the love we know in life ( 1 John 4:7 ). It declares that if we don’t know love, we don’t know God ( 1 John 7:8 ). Because we are created in God’s image and love is God’s primary way of making Himself known to us, the longing for love is deeply rooted in our nature. We usually encounter God’s love first in the context of relationships with people. But many people have become so focused on immediate pleasure, they have fallen for the lie that sex is “just a physical function,” romanticized and taken too seriously by earlier generations.

In spite of misleading presentations in the media, most people intuitively recognize the ugliness of impersonal, promiscuous sex. At some level, most people realize that sex involves more intimacy, vulnerability, and meaning than shaking hands, having a conversation, or flirting. This is why most people who engage in extramarital sex try to rationalize it by claiming some “special feelings” for their current “partner.” But how long are their “special feelings” likely to endure in an uncommitted relationship? For that matter, are their feelings real, or only illusions projected by darker desires—perhaps for control over another person?

What about the next “lover”? Will someone new produce “special feelings” of equal intensity? And what of the third, the fourth, the tenth? How long before the sickening realization that the fading “feelings” that accompany uncommitted sex have no roots? Once a person reaches this point of awareness (and many will not, and simply continue a blind pursuit of satisfaction they will never find) there will be few options. One is to despairingly abandon oneself to sensuality with no pretense of seeking love; another is to go from affair to affair, despairingly seeking the “perfect love” (even though one knows in his heart that each new affair takes him farther from his goal); and the last is to recognize the profound relationship between personal commitment, genuine love, and sexual ecstasy.

Sexuality is intended to be a banquet of intimacy. But since sex can occur without love or real intimacy, it must never be expected to provide the basis for intimacy (Proverbs 5:15-20 ). If it is, it will very quickly become a mere addiction, just another way of trying to kill the longing inside that has been placed there by God for the purpose of leading us to Him.

A person who uses other people for his sexual pleasure will become coarse and hypocritical. Such a change of character is inevitable. Misused sexuality separates the heart from physical intimacy. When misused this way, the focus of sex moves from the expression of unconditional affection for the beloved to other things, such as mere physical stimulation, power, or even the expression of self-hatred. Such deviant sexuality often transmutes into increasingly bizarre, overtly vicious behavior.2

The long-term effects of a recreational view of sexual relationships will be seen and noted by other people. But only the sexual addict himself has a firsthand experience of his spiritual and emotional changes. A sexual addict perceives sexual pleasure so differently that it would revolt and terrify a genuine lover. From the outside, the pursuit of sexual pleasure by a sexual addict—whether a “Don Juan” or someone less outwardly glamorous—appears desperate and all-consuming. How ironic that an addict’s desperate pursuit of sexual pleasure shows how little satisfaction and fulfillment he is finding.

God designed sex to be pleasurable, but the tremendous power of sex doesn’t flow primarily from pleasurable physical sensations of sex and orgasm. It flows from something deeper—a longing for genuine love and intimacy.

  1. The German legend of the Lorelei on the Rhine River, immortalized by the beautiful poem of Heinrich Heine is remarkably similar to the portrayal of the sirens in The Odyssey.

    Die Lorelei

    Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
    Das ich so traurig bin;
    Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
    Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.

    Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
    Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
    Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt
    Im Abendsonnenschein.

    (I cannot determine the meaning
    Of sorrow that fills my breast:
    A fable of old, through it streaming,
    Allows my mind no rest.
    The air is cool in the gloaming
    And gently flows the Rhine.
    The crest of the mountain is gleaming
    In fading rays of sunshine.

    Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
    Dort oben wunderbar,
    Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet,
    Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar.

    Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme,
    Und singt ein Lied dabei;
    Das hat eine wundersame,
    Gewaltige Melodei.

    The loveliest maiden is sitting
    Up there, so wondrously fair;
    Her golden jewelry is glist’ning;
    She combs her golden hair.
    She combs with a gilded comb, preening,
    And sings a song, passing time.
    It has a most wondrous, appealing
    And pow’rful melodic rhyme.

    Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe
    Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
    Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe
    Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.

    Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
    Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn
    Und das hat mit ihrem Singen
    Die Lorelei getan.

    The boatman aboard his small skiff, –
    Enraptured with a wild ache,
    Has no eye for the jagged cliff, –
    His thoughts on the heights fear forsake.
    I think that the waves will devour
    Both boat and man, by and by,
    And that, with her dulcet-voiced power
    Was done by the Loreley.)

    Heinrich Heine (The English translation used above can be found in many different sites in the Web.) Back To Article

  2. Why else would sado-masochism in all its forms, promiscuity in spite the risk of AIDS and other STDs, and other such deviations from healthy sexual behavior occur? Back To Article
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What Do Muslims Believe About God?

The word Allah is the Arabic word for God, the word used both by Arabic-speaking Christians before the birth of Mohammed, and by Arabic-speaking Christians today. To a devout Muslim, Allah is in many ways similar to the Christian God. Allah is holy, just, infinite, and all-knowing. Jews, too, worship a holy, infinitely powerful God, and share Christian respect for the Old Testament.

The Qur’an portrays God as a just and merciful judge, but doesn’t teach that human sin and distress cause Him suffering 1 . It emphasizes the incomprehensibility of God more than His holiness2 and love 3 .

Christians believe that biblical revelation is progressive 4 , fulfilled in Christ. Although the Old Testament describes God’s supreme love ( Exodus 34:6 ; Psalm 86:5; 103:13 ; Isaiah 49:14-18 ; Jeremiah 31:10-20 ; Ezekiel 34:22-31 ; Micah 7:18-20 ; Hosea 2:14-16 ) at times its portrayal of God is troubling. With the coming of Jesus and the gospel, Christians have the peace that comes with understanding the means by which God offers mercy and forgiveness to His children. In Jesus, God took human form (John 1:14.). Through Jesus we know the infinite, holy God as “Abba,” our “heavenly Father.”

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. (Colossians 1:15-20 NKJV)

For Christians, God’s most loving self-revelation is in His Lamb (Genesis 22:8 ; John 1:36 ; 1 Peter 1:19-20 ) through whom God’s love for the human race was expressed in human form ( Acts 17:3 ; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ; Hebrews 2:8-10 ).

God’s suffering and grief at human sin and His love for the lost and rebellious begins in the Old Testament ( Jeremiah 3:1 ; Hosea 3:1 ; Ezekiel 34:12 ) resulting in His relationship with a sinful race ( Hebrews 4:15 ; John 10:11 ). It was expressed vividly in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son ( Luke 15:11-31 ) and the Gospel descriptions of Peter denying his Lord.

The Christian God loves even the lost and the rebellious, and sacrifices Himself for hopeless sinners. ( Romans 5:8 ). The Christian God is the initiator of the relationship between Himself and our sinful race ( Isaiah 53:6 ; John 10:11 ; 1 Peter 2:24 ).

  1. According to Islam our sins cannot offend our Creator. God stands too far above us to be directly concerned by our disobedience. When we commit sin we wrong ourselves; God remains unaffected. The following references are from the Qur’an: “Whoever transgresses God’s bounds does evil to himself” (65.1; cf. 2:57; 7:160; 18:35; 35:32; 37:113). Our guilt lies only in our disobedience to our Lord’s commandments. From the biblical point of view, however, sin is not just a transgression of God’s law but an offence against God himself (Psalm 51:4; Luke 15:18, 21. Sin affects God personally and does not leave him indifferent. (The Prophet and the Messiah, Chawkat Moucarry, IVP, pp. 99-100) Back To Article
  2. In the Christian view, God sees sin with such seriousness that He alone is able to provide its remedy. The God worshiped by Christians is embodied in the Lamb of God—the Messiah. Jesus reveals the intensity of God’s concern for the human race. This is a continuation of the theme of God’s suffering and grief at human sin and unbelief that is found in the Old Testament (Judges 10:16; Isaiah 40:11; 53; Jeremiah 3:1; Hosea 3:1). Back To Article
  3. Muslims do not see God as their father or, equivalently, themselves as the children of God. Men are servants of a just master; they cannot, in orthodox Islam, typically attain any greater degree of intimacy with their creator. (Shabbir Akhtar, A Faith For All Seasons, Chicago, Ivan R. Dee Publisher, 1990, p. 180) Back To Article
  4. Christians view biblical revelation as progressive. That is, as we proceed from God’s earliest word to us in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and continue through the historical books, the books of poetry, and the prophetic books, we see that God reveals more and more of His nature and His will to man. The patriarchs, statesmen, poets, and prophets of the Old Testament did not have a clear understanding of the redemption that was to be offered on their behalf through the Lord Jesus Christ. They did not even have a clear understanding of the nature of life after death. However, as God progressively revealed more and more of His nature to the men of Old Testament times, He did make it clear that His greatest revelation was to come in His Messiah. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, revealed God’s nature to us perfectly in the form of a human being. In Jesus Christ (the Greek term Christ actually has the same meaning as the Hebrew term Messiah—”anointed one”) we have become aware of God’s love and grace in a manner not possible during past ages. Back To Article
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