Sunday, September 24, 2017
Sunday Afternoon Tea - Truth in Love
I know it might seem odd but my most read section of Scripture, other than the Psalms, is the Book of Revelation. Specifically, the Letters to the Churches. They have fascinated me for a long time.
Imagine that Jesus is telling us (those words are in red, you know) what is good about each of these churches and for most of them... "this is what I have against you". Yikes! So wouldn't it be a good thing to read what He likes and what He does not?
This past week, I was reading my Bible... the large print Modern English Version I've been using since the whole eye episode began... when I wandered over to that well read section again. I felt that is where the Lord was leading. Isn't it amazing how you can read the same passages over and over (and over) again and still see something new? That is what happened this week.
I've always read about the things Jesus commended in the Church of Ephesus and thought it a very good list. The kind of works one can admire in the conservative Churches today. Things like: you cannot bear those who are evil, you test those who say they are apostles but are not, you have endured and have been patient, and for Jesus sake you have labored and not grown weary." Good stuff, right?
That is what I have always read and nodded my head in agreement. This time something was different and I am certain it was because of where my own prayers have been recently. This time I noticed the "yes but" of the Letter. The "this I have against you" part of it... and I was astounded I hadn't noticed it before.
"This I have against you... that you have left your first love (or "abandoned the love you had at first" in the MEV). Hmmmm... what does it mean? So I looked up a couple Study Bibles and commentaries on my husband's section of the Study's book shelf and found that most believe it meant that they have left their original love for Jesus and for each other while others thought it was mainly their love for each other.
One of the commentaries I looked up said the Church of Ephesus was the "gatekeeper of truth". In a city of a quarter million people, where many cults existed, not to mention the center of Diana worship... it is easy to see how the Christians in Ephesus could see standing for Truth as their main concern.
However, truth began to be more important than loving others... and that is why God had sent me to these passages. For I had been in prayer about a couple of acquaintances I knew on Instagram. One that I know is very into the New Age and the other a very liberal Christian who leans toward the New Age.
I have felt guilty because I commented back and forth with them, both women I have many things in common with, and wondered if I should say anything about their beliefs. My "Gibb's gut" reaction was that I was to remain silent and pray for them. Care for them. My early evangelical training resisted. That is when I asked the Master apologist and He led me to this section of Scripture.
For you see, cheap grace really bothers me. I get concerned about the many books and sermons by people who preach cheap grace without the real grace of God's forgiveness of our sins. One is only a shadow of the much greater Truth.
However, I have seen what legalism does for my mother left the faith of her youth and while I believe she came back to Christ eventually, she never found peace in Christ. For to her the faith was a list of rules and regulations which she could never live up to. Rules without love are just as deadly as grace without Truth.
God reminded me that some are to plant seed and others are to harvest when the seed becomes mature. My role in the lives of these women is to be a friend who is a more orthodox Christian than either would choose to be around in real life. But thanks to the world wide web, we can forge a friendship online over those areas where there is a mutual agreement.
This whole biting my tongue and just loving people thing is different than the work He gave me in my youth. I'm not sure... maybe it is a whole getting older kind of thing. People don't need grandmothers to shout Truth, they just need them to love them.
I think that is why the Holy Spirit, my Teacher of the Word, led me once again to what God likes and does not like in the Church. For while they are commended for standing up for Truth and against Evil... they began to do it with a lack of love. That makes all the difference in the world.
So unless He tells me otherwise, I will plant seeds of love in the lives of these women and let someone else will... at the proper time and place He ordains... harvest with the Truth of God's Word. When each person is ready. Never compromising my own beliefs in the process but not feeling I have to preach Truth when that is not my role at the time.
Only God knows the heart of men (and women) and He will tell us when there is an opportunity to speak. That is why He tells us to be ready in good time with the Gospel. We study and learn so He can bring someone across our path when they are ready to hear the Gospel of Jesus.
You may be the person who people will remember as the Christian who baked cookies, served them hot soup on a cold day, listened when they needed a friend, and was a safe harbor in the storm. The person they will remember when... in a foreign city... they need a refuge and look for a building with a cross or they remember there is a Christian student in the dorm room next door.
You were the person whose actions spoke louder than any words. So if you are more comfortable sharing a meal instead of memorizing the Four Spiritual Laws... that is the way God gifted you... and that is good. You plant the seeds and pray and someday they will be harvested.
Then again... knowing God and how He likes to stretch us and all... you just may be surprised to find yourself having coffee with a friend someday and have them tell you they have been considering this God of yours and how does one come to know Him? Then it is your time to harvest the seeds someone else has nourished for years.
Scripture: Revelation 2: 1-7