Tag Archives: Love

The Reason People Hate Christians (Regular Revelation #2)

Don’t you hate it when you see a sensationalist headline? I know I do. Some “news” sources are worse about this than others. Take the Weather Channel’s site, Weather.com. If you go there now, there’s a bunch of stories about the tornadoes that just swept through the South, but on a not-so-busy weather day, you’re more likely to see stories like “The World’s Scariest Airport Runways” or “Beached Whale Explodes!” These are not exactly weather-related, and even worse, if you read these stories, the runway turns out to be fairly normal (never even a crash!), and the whale didn’t explode, per se, but just kind of broke apart – like dead, rotting animals tend to do. The headline was meant to draw you in, to get you to read a story that, in actuality, wasn’t interesting enough by itself to make you want to read it.

So with that said, I must apologize for my headline to this post – The Reason People Hate Christians. Because I’ll admit that there were some sensationalist motives behind the choosing of that title. Technically, this is the second post in a series that I titled Regular Revelation, because it revolves around a study of the book of Revelation I’m doing (in my defense, I did sub-title it with parentheses). But the name Regular Revelation didn’t seem strong enough to portray what I wanted to get across in this post. It definitely didn’t catch anyone’s attention! And unlike the Weather.com stories, I believe I can actually touch on some of the reasons people in America are growing to hate Christians more and more.

In the most recent session of Beth Moore’s Here and Now, There and Then: A Lecture Series on Revelation (session 3, to be exact), she touches on Revelation 1:10-11, and then Revelation chapters 2 & 3. To give you a brief overview, Revelation starts with the apostle John introducing himself and admitting that he has been exiled on the island of Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (1:9). He then describes a vision he had of Christ. In that vision, Jesus tells John,

Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea. (1:11)

These 7 churches were located in the province of Asia, and they were all connected by the infamous Roman road system. As you can see in the image below, they were found pretty much in the center between Rome (which is in Italy, or the boot-shaped country in the far top-left) and Israel (on the far right, where Jerusalem is found). And you can also see that the island of Patmos is just to the southwest of Ephesus. So when these letters were carried to the churches, they would follow the path just as Jesus mentioned them in v. 11 – first to Ephesus, then to Smyrna, Peramum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea – in that order.

Chapters 2 and 3 then contain the content of these 7 letters. Beth Moore spent the majority of the session talking about just one of those letters – the first one, to the church at Ephesus. And it is in this letter, and specifically one statement that Beth Moore made during the session, that I believe God revealed a truth about Himself to me last night.

The letter to Ephesus says this:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand,who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:1-7)

In this letter, Christ commends the Ephesian church for their recognition and intolerance of falseness (v. 2). He then warns them that they have “abandoned the love you had at first” (v. 4). Finally, He commends them again, saying “Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (v. 6). Beth Moore summed up these commendations and warnings with one sentence:

The Ephesians hated the things Christ hated, but they did not love the things Christ loved.

This, again, was like a slap to the face, because I believe it describes so many of us in the church today! I think if you asked a random non-Christian off the street what they think of when they think of Christians, most of them are going to think first of the things we’re against. Homosexuality. Abortion. A whole slew of other things. But what about the things we’re for? I’m not sure the world around us knows exactly what we stand for…only what we stand against.

There’s no doubt the animosity toward Christians, even in America, is growing. And there’s no doubt this is to be expected (see John 15:18-19). But at the same time, Christ says we are to be identified not by the things we hate, but by the things we love (see John 13:35).

From this letter to the church in Ephesus, I’d say that it’s awful easy to get this one wrong. It’s awful easy to fall into a pattern of hating things that we know God hates, and forgetting that love is what defines us! And while we do this, the world sees so-called believers displaying hate in some of the worst ways (can you say Westboro?), and they hate us for it. Because it’s easy to hate a hater.

Thoughts?

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Grasping the Love of God

I have been reading some very convicting books lately, books that have caused me to question every aspect of my relationship with God.  The first one was Crazy Love, by Francis Chan.  How a person could read this book and not question some aspect of their relationship with God is beyond me. The one I’m reading now is Radical, by David Platt.  I’m not even half way through it, and already I’m convicted about my spiritual lethargy.  Sure, 99% of “Christians” are right here with me, living the Americanized version of the Christian faith. But what these two books have made me realize is that this form of Christianity…this Gospel, if you will…is really no Gospel at all.  It’s not true Christianity.  It’s not Biblical. 

Jesus summed up true Christianity in two phrases:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

and

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)

He was actually summing up the Law, but the Bible clearly states that Christianity is the fulfillment of the Law.  So, if it all has to do with Love, then we must come to some kind of understanding of what this Love really is. (Just so you know, I feel like capitalizing the word Love today…)  Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:17-18:

 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. (emphasis added)

These short couple of verses have a lot to say about understanding God’s Love:

  1. Grasping the fullness of the Love of Christ is dependent upon being rooted and established in Love
  2. There is an aspect to understand Christ’s Love that involves the Church (“together with all the Lord’s holy people)
  3. This Love is multidimensional (wide, long, high, deep…)

My lesson today described the multidimensional characteristic of Christ’s Love in this way:

  • The first dimensionGod’s Love for me/my Love for God.  It is not until we come to a revelation of God’s Love for us that we can even come into a relationship with Him. This is the “being rooted and established” part of His Love. We must fully understand God’s Love for us before we can Love Him back, and definitely before we can Love others (“We love because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19).
  • The second dimensionOur Love for the Church. 1 John 4:7-8 says “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  God’s Love is so abundant that we overflow, and that excess Love then flows from us to other believers. To not do so is to not truly love God. John goes on to say in v. 20: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”  On top of this, there is also a reciprocating action that occurs when we gather with other believers in Love – we come to a better understanding of the Love of Christ (see #2 above).
  • The third dimensionOur Love for the world. Jesus told His disciples this parable in Matthew 25:

    Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (v. 34-40)

    There is no doubt from this passage that Jesus links our Love for Him with how we respond to the needs of those around us.** Though we can never Love God back as much as He has Loved us, we can show our Love to Him by Loving those around us.  In fact, we must do this – Paul writes that this is a debt we must continually pay.  My lesson quoted The New Testament in Modern English translation of Romans 13:8 as saying “Keep out of debt altogether, except that perpetual debt of love which we owe one another.”**

Coming to an understanding of this Love is what begins our relationship with God. Continuing in this understanding of this Love is what matures us in our faith. And showing this Love to others – both the Church and the world – is what proves that we are true believers, because when Christ truly resides inside you, His Love will overflow and this will show up in our Love for others.

This is the basis for the 4th quarter of the Gospel – that Chris lives through us.  And more specifically, His Love flows through us.

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Love by Calvin Miller

Love is a six-week Bible study that discusses the first of the Fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Each week, Miller explores one aspect of love in multiple ways – as a characteristic itself, as it relates to God’s kingdom purpose, as it relates to our relationship with Christ, its relevance to service in God’s kingdom,  and as it relates to personal worship. Miller expresses that love is the cornerstone of all of the other Fruits, and each week he teaches on one aspect of it through illustrative stories and discussion of different passages of Scripture.

As a whole, there were things I liked about this study, and there were things I felt were lacking. The organization was great – there was never a doubt about what aspect of that week’s characteristic of love you were going to study. On top of this, I felt Miller’s use of illustrations was very helpful in keeping my attention. I started the study with only a slight interest, but found myself looking forward to seeing how the author illustrated his points with short, interesting stories each day. Perhaps the best aspect of the study was that it effectively taught Biblical truths, capturing the fullness of God’s love without sacrificing the truth of His justice.  Those things said, I did feel that some of the reflection questions were weak. I would have liked to see the author give more Scripture for the reader to look up, and to use that as a basis for personal reflection, as opposed to some of the rather closed questions whose relation to that day’s lesson were not always readily apparent.

In the end, I would recommend participating in this study. I can definitely see myself going through some of Miller’s other Fruit of the Spirit studies, and I hope I get the opportunity to do so.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Love Chapter

I can’t think of many people, Christian or not, who have not heard the words from 1 Corinthians 13.  Just about anyone who has attended a wedding where the Bible was quoted at all has probably heard much of this passage of scripture read out loud.  It is called The Love Chapter, because it talks about love, its benefits and characteristics, and its eternal value. My Bible study today came to a close by discussing this chapter, and relating it to another passage written by the apostle Paul, Galatians 5:22-23. I have copied these passages below, and I’d like to share with you the connection my study pointed out that exists between them. Then I’d like to discuss 1 Corinthians 13 in another light to finish up.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The first thing I’d like to point out, which I read about in my study today, is that these two passages line up with each other almost perfectly.  For each item listed in Galatians 5, there is a descriptor of love that corresponds to it in 1 Corinthians 13.  For instance, one part of the fruit of the Spirit is Joy – in 1 Corinthians 13:6 it says that “Love…rejoices with the truth.”  Other parts of the fruit of the Spirit are Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, and Self-Control – in 1 Corinthians 13:4 it says that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”  If you look closely, you can see that each fruit in the first passage lines up with some aspect of love in the second.

Something I noticed as I read these passages today was that, in Galatians 5:22, it says that “…the fruit of the Spirit is…”  The thing I noticed was the word is – meaning that the object that preceded it was a singular object. What this tells me is that love, joy, peace, and the rest all come together in one fruit. I cannot say that God has given me the fruit of patience or kindness, but not the fruit of self-control. All of them come together in one package.

The final thing that I’d like to discuss about 1 Corinthians 13 is the first verse – “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”  In the previous chapter, Paul had explained to the Corinthian church that no one spiritual gift was more important than another.  He listed several gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10  – wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues (other languages), and the interpretation of tongues (other languages).  The church there was arguing about the fact that some members supposedly had greater spiritual abilities because they were displaying certain spiritual gifts, specifically speaking in tongues. Paul says to them that all of these gifts “… are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” (v. 11).  This flies in the face of those who, even today, propose that speaking in tongues is a necessity for the Christian life.

Once such group is the Assembly of God church**. On their website, they post in their 16 fundamental truths that “…all believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit…”, and that “…the baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues…”  This doesn’t say that speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation, but that a believer is missing out on something should he choose not to seek out this promised blessing of God.  But this isn’t what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12 – he says clearly that all gifts come from the Holy Spirit, and that none are more important than another.  Of course, an AG proponent would quickly point out that they differentiate between the acts of speaking in tongues when first baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the gift of speaking in tongues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12.  But I’d have to ask him to show me in scripture where the gift of tongues is differentiated like this…

So how does this relate to 1 Corinthians 13, you ask?  Going back to the first verse, Paul makes clear that speaking in tongues is worthless if the person does not have love.  And not just speaking in tongues, but other gifts as well.  He says in v. 8 “where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” These gifts, and others, are all temporary. They are only given to us as an aid while we are here on this earth.  But, Paul says, when we get to Heaven, “completeness comes.”  What we are gifted to know on earth is only part of what there is to know…in Heaven, we will know completely, and there will be no need for the gift of knowledge. The same goes for prophecy, tongues, and other gifts.  But the three that remain are faith, hope, and love. And, Paul says, “the greatest of these is love.”

**I mean no disrespect to the Assembly of God church or their beliefs. All churches or denominations have faults, and I do not mean to be divisive by pointing out one that I think is wrong in one particular area. I have family who are devout members and ministers in the AG church, and I respect them and their beliefs. I only use the AG church as an example to show how one aspect of scripture has been mis-treated and turned into an entire doctrine.  If I offend anyone, I apologize.  Feel free to let me have it in the comments.

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The Love of God

If I were to attempt to put my finger on my biggest problem in life, it would not be a money problem or a physical problem. It wouldn’t be a problem at work or problems with my social life. Don’t get me wrong, all of these areas of my life are problematic.  But I think my biggest problem at this point in my life is a spiritual problem. More specifically, I believe I have lost my passion for God. 

It’s not that I have turned away from God completely, or that I have lost my faith. I still have faith, and I still love God, but I no longer have a deep, ardent passion for the things of God like I once did. I’ve been in church for a majority of my life, and I’m afraid that I have fallen into the trap of rituals and familiarity. I can go to church and think very little of God, much less worship Him. And this bothers me greatly, as well it should.

My Bible study today, in discussing God’s love and our worship of Him, made this statement:

“Ritual sometimes has a tendency to get away from the truth it was formed to emphasize.” (Love, Calvin Miller)

This is so true. The very acts of worship that at one time were vibrant and new to me, and which I took part in as a way to connect with the God of the Universe, ended up becoming habitual and routine. My study went on to use the example from Joel 2:12-13:

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Emphasis added)

The author of the study points out that Israel had a ritual for tearing their clothes in times of mourning, but it had become just that – ritual. When they sinned against God, they tore their clothes out of habit or because they were expected to, and they no longer felt the emotions that came along with the expected mourning.  The author comments that “God had become a theological dicussion in Israel. They could talk about Him for hours and never feel a thing for him.”

This line hit me hard.  This describes me. I can write blog post after blog post about God, but my passion for Him is virtually non-existent.  This is very wrong, yet I’m not sure what to do…

The end of today’s study quoted a verse from a hymn that I had not heard before. The hymn is titled The Love of God, written by Frederick M. Lehman, and it’s quite beautiful:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Tho stretched from sky to sky.

God loves us so much – His love is endless, and couldn’t be written about even if the oceans were the ink and the skies were the paper we wrote it on. That’s a lot of love!  It’s hard to think that anyone could turn their back on that love, yet many have. I have. And I pray that God will forgive me, and that He will show me how to rekindle the passion for Him I once had, and even more.

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Premeditated Giving

I’ve started reading through a new Bible study, since the video study I was trying to go through broke and left me stranded with no study to go through.  Until Zondervan hooks me up with a new video, I’m going to read through this new study and share my thoughts about it.  I’m not going to give the name or author of the new study, since I am also supposed to review it later (it was provided for free for me to review from BookSneeze.com). I don’t want to break any copyright laws or anything like that – I just want to share things that I thought about as I read it.

In reading the first couple of days of the study, I came to a realization of something I hadn’t thought of before.  The study made the point that the best proof of love from someone is giving.  Whenever a person loves another person, he is sure to give something to that other person. It isn’t always gifts, although it can be.  It can also be time, energy, service, kind words, and even simple gestures like holding hands. Gary Chapman wrote a book about the ways people give and receive love, and it’s almost required reading for any Christian-based marriage counseling – The Five Love Languages. The 5 languages of love that he mentions are all really nothing more than ways to give to your spouse – showing love by giving what he or she needs most to feel loved.

But the realization I had is that perhaps even better than just giving to someone as a token of love is premeditated giving.

I got this idea from the passage the author of the study used as an example of God giving to us as a symbol of His love for us – Genesis 1.  In this first chapter of the Bible, it describes God’s creative activity – He created all things: earth, water, and sky, plants and animals.  Then, after creating all this, He created humans, and tells them “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (v. 29).  The very first interaction God had with human-kind was to give them a gift – the entire earth, His creation.  But if you look at this, you can soon see that God created all of these things before He even created humans.  Before He gave them to Adam and Eve, He had planned on creating all these things and giving them to the pinnacle of His creation.  His giving was premeditated.

We are told in many places in the Bible that God loves us, and that He is a God of love.  The apostle John wrote about this, and brought up another great example of God’s premeditated giving, in 1 John 4:7-9:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Sending Jesus as the “atoning sacrifice for our sins” was just as premeditated as creating the entire universe.  And by doing so, God demonstrated his great love for us.

I know many times I think about giving something to my wife, but I don’t think of it until I see she has a need.  I don’t think about unloading the dishwasher as an act of service for my wife until I see that she has 100 other things on her plate and can really use the help. And I rarely even think about it then…  I don’t think about giving her a foot rub until I see she is tired and her feet hurt and she needs it.  And even then, I usually don’t think about until she asks me to do it.  I love my wife, and I would unload the dishwasher or rub her feet any time, but waiting until the need is obvious or until she asks is not nearly as loving as doing these kinds of things before she needs them or asks for them.  I think I could really take God’s example of showing love by giving to us before we knew we needed it, and I could improve how I show love to my wife and others.  I know that I could improve by practicing premeditated acts of giving.

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Genesis 43-44: We are defined by our actions…

My study today had me go through both Genesis 43 and 44, so this post will be covering 2 chapters as opposed to the 1 chapter I usually cover per day.

In the previous chapter (42), Joseph’s brothers had come to Egypt in search of food to take back to their families in Canaan. Joseph, a man of power now, meets with them (though they don’t recognize him), and works it so that one brother (Simeon) has to stay in Egypt while the rest return to Canaan to get their other brother Benjamin and bring him back. Their father, Jacob, refuses to let Benjamin go. So in chapter 43, we see that what little food they were able to bring back from their first trip to Egypt has run out, and Jacob is now telling his sons to go back and get more. The sons, of course, know that they cannot go without taking Benjamin, and Judah stands up and says that he will take personal responsibility for Benjamin if Jacob will let him go with them. Jacob says yes, and they all head to Egypt for a second time. Joseph greets them when they arrive, and of course, they bow to him. Joseph prepares a feast at his home and gives Benjamin 5 times as much food as the others (he is his full-blood brother, after all). He gives them all the grain they can carry, he returns their silver, and he has one of his possessions (a silver cup) placed in Benjamin’s bag without any of his brothers knowing it. When the brothers head back to Canaan, Joseph has his servant stop them and accuse them of stealing his cup. The brothers vehemently deny that they would do this, but when they open their bags, Benjamin is found to have the cup in his bag. Benjamin is taken back to Joseph (supposedly to become Joseph’s slave), and the rest of the brothers go with him – they had promised their father they wouldn’t let anything happen to little Ben. Judah, who had taken personal responsibility for Benjamin, approaches Joseph and pleads to take Benjamin’s place, saying that his father would die if Benjamin was lost.

The thing that stood out to me today was the role of Judah throughout this entire story. If you recall earlier in the story, when Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelite merchants as a slave, it was really Judah’s idea. In Genesis 37:26-27 it says “Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed.”  Of course, you could look at this and say that Judah was talking his brothers out of killing Joseph, and this would place him in a much better light – but from a more responsible approach, if Judah had been wanting to take better care of Joseph, he wouldn’t have let him be sold as a slave. In general, slavery in ancient Egypt may not have been as bad as some people might think (see this site for a description of the treatment of Ancient Egyptian slaves), but this is not to say that slaves were not treated harshly and beaten, or that they had very few, if any, liberties of their own. To some, life without freedom is worst than death. So I contend with the point that Judah was being responsible here.

Interestingly, though Judah may have come up with the idea to sell Joseph as a slave, he was much more responsible when it came to handling Benjamin’s life. A lot had happened in Judah’s life since Joseph had left (see Genesis 38 to read about the Tamar debacle). Judah personally stood up and took responsibility for Benjamin with his father – he told him “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.” (Genesis 43:8-9), and Jacob gave in.  This tells me that Jacob may have had a lot more respect for Judah than Reuben (the oldest) – when they had returned from their first journey to Egypt and asked to take Benjamin back, and Jacob refused, Reuben told Jacob “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back” (Genesis 42:37). Of course, Reuben had slept with one of Jacob’s wives (see Genesis 35:22). But Jacob still refused that first time. Jacob listened to Judah and allowed Benjamin to go.

When they were before Joseph and about to lose Benjamin as a slave, Judah stood up and begged for Benjamin’s life – he pleaded that he be taken as a slave instead of Benjamin, at least for the sake of their father’s life. I’m not sure most people would see the correlation between the fact that Judah had sold Joseph as a slave, but wouldn’t allow Benjamin to be taken as one.  We saw in the previous chapters how guilt had affected the brothers, and this stand taken by Judah was an action he was willing to take to make up for the fact that he had screwed up in this area once already. He wasn’t going to let it happen again.

I, personally, am not a Judah fan (the person, not the kingdom that came later). I’m still a little mad about the whole sell-Joseph-as-a-slave thing. And I haven’t forgotten how he treated Tamar – sending her off to her father’s home so that he doesn’t have to deal with her, then so easily permitting her to be killed for prostitution when he himself had just recently slept with a prostitute (it was her, but he didn’t know that). But he shows a little growth here, and his actions prove that.

So much of how we live in our journeys through Christian spirituality is internal (i.e., belief, hope, knowledge, love) that sometimes it’s so easy to go around acting like we are doing well spiritually, when actually we’re dead as can be. It’s when we display actions that prove that we have these internal qualities that we are truly spiritually alive.

  • Sure, we can believe all we want – “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19). Without outward signs of trust – living outwardly as if we trust God wholeheartedly – belief is not faith. It’s just belief, and it gets you nowhere.
  • Hope is wonderful – I know a lot of people who hope they win the lottery, but if they never buy a ticket, their hope is in vain.
  • They say that knowledge is power, but I disagree. I love martial arts movies, and I have a few instructional books, but without actually physically practicing under the instruction of someone else, I will never be a proficient martial artist.
  • Many people try to go through their marriages getting by on the ‘feelings’ of love. Unfortunately, our feelings change from day to day, and people’s marriages fail day after day. Love is a verb – it requires action.

So, although I’m still a little mad a Judah for his past transgressions, I will say that his actions are showing that he is not the same guy he used to be. And if we want to prove ourselves to be spiritually health, we must take action as well. It’s our actions that define us.

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Filed under Bible Study, Genesis