Overcome Factions With Love

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” –John 13:35 (NIV)

Studying church history is quite fascinating. Yet it is also interesting to learn just how many times the church had to overcome factionalism in its history. Even from its early days the church had to deal with discord and schisms which erupted within its ranks on more than one occasion. Some of these disagreements even turned violent, and were in most cases motivated by personal or political reasons. As I read through the annals of church history I sometimes wonder whether I am reading about the same people who have been called by Christ Himself to love one another just as how He has loved us. It is no wonder that the disparity between the example of Christ and the behaviour of His children at times has become a source of confusion for many; prompting us to ask the question why does this happen?

If one thing can be said of the church it is that it has not survived for over two millennia because of the efforts of man. On the contrary it is because of the love of Christ and the grace which He shows to His church that it still stands strong today. The truth of the matter is that every single human being on this Earth is fallen. It is our pride embedded within us which leads us into sin and compels us to become embittered and fight against our fellow man. However, Christ came so that through Him our fallen nature will be cast aside and we will be restored to the people which He intended us to be. To this end He has given us a new nature through His resurrection characterized by His love and righteousness. But because we were slaves to our old nature for so long, we need to allow Christ’s Spirit residing within us to train us in our new nature and perfect His love in us. This means desiring to know Him and to know His heart by spending time reading His Word and being in His presence. Disagreements will happen, but if we choose to not keep in step with the Spirit of Christ, then factions and sin will be the result. It is only when we constantly submit ourselves in humility to Christ and allow Him to work out our His love through us that we are able to love others and maintain unity. The choice is ours. Will we allow sin to taint our witness for Christ, or will we allow Him to use us so that we may be His lights in a world which needs hope?

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

What Is In Your Heart?

“But I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.” –John 5:42 (NIV)

What I admire most about the character of Sherlock Holmes is his keen attention to detail and his analytical abilities. Armed with these he is able to expose the truth about a person without fail. Even though others may be thoroughly convinced about the veracity of a person’s account or identity, Holmes will make observations that will reveal all hidden intentions and discover who a person really is and what actually happened. He will be able to pick out things from their appearance, or from their reactions and the way they compose themselves; using these to dispel any falsehood and uncover the truth.  No one can hide for long from Sherlock’s powers of deduction and it is no wonder that he is perhaps the most compelling and celebrated fictional detective in literature.

Yet not even Sherlock could probe into the heart of man like God can. Nothing is hidden before Him and He knows our innermost thoughts. Therefore He knows when we do not have His love in our hearts. We may try to convince others of our compassion and love by our actions and the words that we say. However, if genuine love is absent in our hearts, if instead the slightest bit of hatred and arrogance is present in our lives, then we do not have the love of God for His love purges us of these venomous attitudes. If the love of God has not transformed every fiber of our being, our hatred and pride will eventually surface; rendering our kind words and actions meaningless and hollow. That is why we need Christ. When we have allowed Him to reign in our hearts and seek to keep in tune with His Spirit within us, He will correct our attitudes so that His love may overflow from within us. Walking humbly before Him and allowing his Spirit to carry out His work in our lives, we will know what it means to have the love of God; that love which transforms not only ourselves, but brings life and hope to others.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

To Truly Forgive

“‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.’” –Luke 17:3-4 (NIV)

Forgiveness is not something which comes naturally for us. The resentments and grudges we hold, and our willingness to hold onto new ones, continues to remind us of this fact. When we have been slighted and hurt by someone else, it is easy to allow anger and bitterness to settle in. We might boast about our abilities to forgive, but we will always be reminded that our forgiveness has limits. The moment we declare an action to be unforgivable we have confessed to ourselves that we are unable to show that unconditional love and grace we are so keen to show off. We may be able to forgive the first time, and perhaps even the second. But our patience soon begins to wear thin, and we deem our offenders not worthy of our mercy.

Why choose forgiveness? When we are faced with injustice we want our enemies to feel retribution, not give them clemency. But if we allow our desire for revenge to fester, it will consume us. We will become prisoners of our anger, and we will soon find that in our thoughts, words, and actions, we will have fallen into sin. As children of Christ we forgive because we do not deserve it ourselves. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s holy standards. Yet, in His unfailing love, God sent down His Son, Jesus Christ, so that through Him we may find forgiveness. When we accept this free gift of salvation and allow the Spirit of Christ to cleanse us of our sin, we are able to stand before God not because of anything we have done, but by the grace He has willingly shown us. If He does not withhold forgiveness from us no matter what we do, why should we refrain from doing so as His children? Only through allowing Christ’s Spirit to perfect His love in us will we be able to truly extend the hand of forgiveness; in that finding freedom and life.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.