Tag Archive for unto

Do Unto Others: Part 5–Faithful

Hold on to loyal love and don’t let go, and be faithful to all that you’ve been taught.  Let your life be shaped by integrity, with truth written upon your heart.  That’s how you will find favor and understanding with both God and men—you will gain the reputation of living life well.  Proverbs 3:3-4 (TPT)

In Part 3, we learned that one way to win the respect of others is to mind our own business and show appreciation.  Here’s another one—being faithful.

 

Probably the most common way we use the word “faithful” today is in the context of a relationship.  When we are “faithful” to a significant other, it is a sign of focus and commitment.

 

The original Hebrew word emeth, rendered “faithful” in the verse above has much more depth.  It means sturdy, stable and trustworthy.  Something you can depend on without thinking twice.  In the King James Version, emeth is most frequently translated as “truth,” so you can see why it’s a favorite word of mine!

 

The word signifies things that are firmly established as being right.  To apply this word to a person would be to describe them as reliable, sincere, and one who clings to the Truth.  And as we proclaim God as the source and embodiment of all Truth, it stands to reason then that a faithful person is reflecting the image of a faithful God.

 

We like it when we can rely on people, don’t we?  It sure takes a lot of stress out of life when you know you can count on someone.

 

Sometimes, though, it seems that we may not put as much energy as we should into being that kind of person.  If faithfulness is a sure way to win respect, then a sure way to lose it is hypocrisy.

 

A hypocrite is, at the heart, a pretender.  A hypocrite shows you one face while being someone else underneath.  If a person makes a habit of being this way, it won’t take long for the word to get out.  A hypocrite is untrustworthy, because you never know what to expect from such a person.  One thing you won’t expect is truth and faithfulness.

 

There is no room for hypocrisy in the Church.  As Paul advised to the Colossians:

 

Don’t lie to each other.  You’ve gotten rid of the person you used to be and the life you used to live, and you’ve become a new person.  This new person is continually renewed in knowledge to be like its Creator.  Colossians 3:9-10 (GW)

 

If you have professed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, none of the bad stuff you did before that counts against you, but there’s a catch.  You can’t go back and do that stuff anymore.  (Of course, if your conversion is genuine, you won’t want to anyway, so it’s all good.)  But God created you in His image, and if you have accepted His invitation, you have become eternally adopted into His family.  Since God is the source of all love and the essence of all Truth, that means you have His faithfulness in your DNA.

 

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from.  God created you to do the work He had planned for you, but He also gives you the strength and endurance to perform this work faithfully.  When you follow through with that, it pleases God to see His plan working itself out in your life.

 

And as an extra added bonus, other people will notice not only the work you’re doing, but also the manner in which you do it.  They will see your sincerity and know that you are someone they can trust.

 

(Some days this is easier than others, however.  Come back for Part 6—Courage.)

 

Do Unto Others: Part 4–Who Do You Think You Are?

 

Who do you think you are?

 

I’m not asking that in the sense that you usually hear it.  Usually this is a rhetorical question reserved for somebody who is getting WAY out of line.

 

But seriously, who DO you think you are?  What kind of adjectives would you use to describe yourself?

 

Unfortunately, the words many people would think of are not flattering.  “Depressed.”  “Worthless.”  “Insignificant.”  “Damaged goods.”  “Failure.”  “Unlovable.”

 

This matters, because how we see ourselves is a major factor in determining how we interact with others.  People who have a low self-image are not likely to engage in a healthy way, if at all, with the world around them.

 

Self-image is a complex thing.  It is the sum total of every attitude we have ever had about ourselves, but also everything we have ever HEARD about ourselves.  Some people are just jerks that like to pick on us and beat down our self-image.  Sometimes, however, we suffer long-term consequences for something we actually did do.

 

If any of this sounds familiar to you, may I offer you some encouragement, courtesy of St. Paul?

 

And his fullness fills you, even though you were once like corpses, dead in your sins and offenses.  It wasn’t that long ago that you lived in the religion, customs, and values of this world, obeying the dark ruler of the earthly realm who fills the atmosphere with his authority, and works diligently in the hearts of those who are disobedient to the truth of God.  The corruption that was in us from birth was expressed through the deeds and desires of our self – life.  We lived by whatever natural cravings and thoughts our minds dictated, living as rebellious children subject to God’s wrath like everyone else.

But God still loved us with such great love.  He is so rich in compassion and mercy.  Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace!  He raised us up with Christ the exalted One, and we ascended with him into the glorious perfection and authority of the heavenly realm, for we are now co-seated as one with Christ!

Throughout the coming ages we will be the visible display of the infinite, limitless riches of his grace and kindness, which was showered upon us in Jesus Christ.  For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him.  Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ!  So no one will ever be able to boast, for salvation is never a reward for good works or human striving.

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One.  Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!  Ephesians 2:1-10 (TPT)

 

Our worth does not come from what we have done (or failed to do) or from anyone’s opinion of us.  We have value simply because we were created in the image of the One who is the most worthy of all.  We didn’t have to clean ourselves up or check of a list of criteria or accomplishments to be “good enough” to live this life.  Rather, we have this life to live because we are already counted as good enough by the only One who matters!

 

We were made in the image of the all-sufficient God; therefore, what we have in our hands will always be sufficient for the tasks ahead of us.  Because when we were created, so was all of the work that God had planned out for our entire lives.  We are all wired to be proficient at and passionate about certain things.  And although we do have the free will to choose whether or not we want to walk on this path that has been so scrupulously marked out for us, it always seems to go better for us when we do.

 

Will we get off the path from time to time?  Of course we will.  We’re humans; we do that.  Remember, though, that the value of your life is not determined by how many times you screw up.  There are no “D-” children of God.  Life is pass/fail, and the pass is irrevocable, because the One giving the grade rigged the coursework in our favor.  All you have to do is show up for class.

 

Success!

 

I think the reason so many of us (myself included) see ourselves as failures is because our definition of “success” is all whackety.  We live in a world that is constantly judging our performance, so naturally, we do that to ourselves as well.  It seems we’re always trying to measure up to something.

 

Can we please help each other get over this?

 

I’m going to repeat myself here, because I need to hear it again too.  We don’t EVER need to worry about being good enough, because we were designed to be good enough to do the work that we were designed to do.

 

At the end of our lives, there are no bonus points for climbing the corporate ladder.  No other human will be giving testimony at the Judgment Seat of God that will determine whether or not we make the cut.  God is only going to ask us about two things: What we did with Jesus, and what we did with the gifts He gave us.

 

I need to pause here to note that the questions come in that order for a reason.  Because if you haven’t done anything with Jesus, the rest of this doesn’t matter.  You can’t do the work God predestined you to do if you are not even aware of (or are in denial of) the Truth that God actually did do that.  The thing is, we can’t do any of this on our own.  God doesn’t just provide the calling for our lives, but also the strength to live it out.  If we aren’t in a state of total trust and reliance upon that strength, then we are doomed to failure.

 

But wait a minute, aren’t there lots of successful people in this world who don’t believe in God?  Again I ask, how are you defining success?  If you’re talking about worldly things like money and status, then sure, I guess.  But as the King of the Piedmont Blues, Cootie Stark, once sang, “I never saw no U-Haul behind no hearse.”

 

 

 

Sure, we can make money and get the corner office, the big house, and all that.  But are we ever satisfied with our own efforts?  Solomon was one of the richest kings who ever lived, but this is his observation:

 

If you love money, you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want.  It is useless.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (GNT)

 

It is true that our identity is inextricably bound to our work.  It’s supposed to be that way, but we tend to look at this truth from the wrong angle.  Our work doesn’t determine who we are.  Who we are—who we REALLY are—determines our work.

 

So maybe when we meet people for the first time, instead of asking the typical guy question, “So what do you do?” maybe we should be asking, “Who do you think you are?”  Well, maybe not, but you get the idea, right?

 

So, Truthseeker, who DO you think you are?  Or better still, who do you KNOW you are?  Because that will determine what you do.

 

Do Unto Others: Part 3–Respect

It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who foolishly condemn the Gospel without knowing what it can do for them, having never experienced its power.  You are free from the law, but that doesn’t mean you are free to do wrong.  Live as those who are free to do only God’s will at all times.  Show respect for everyone.  Love Christians everywhere.  Fear God and honor the government.  1 Peter 2:15-17 (TLB)

 

Many Christians love this passage . . . right up until you get to the last three words.

 

Honor the government?  But what do we do if the government is not honorable?  Do we still have to submit to a president or a congress that does not have our best interests at heart?

 

The answer, though we may admit it reluctantly, is yes.  Let’s break down this passage.

 

Verse 15 says that God wants us to shut up the ignorant folk who think we are deluded or even dangerous.  But He wants us to do this not with our words, but with our lives.

 

Verse 16 says that being free from the penalty of God’s law does not give us license to do whatever we want, but to do God’s will.  And what is that will?

 

To show respect to everyone.

 

The remainder of verse 17 gives examples of this.  Love Christians everywhere.  Fear God.  Honor the government.

 

This isn’t multiple choice.  ALL of these examples fall under the heading of showing respect to everyone.

 

“Everyone” also includes the people in verse 15, whom one might describe as enemies of the faith.  But remember in Part 2 when we talked about loving our enemies?

 

There’s just no getting around this, so what do we do with it?

 

First, as painful as it may be, we simply have to accept the fact that the world is full of stupid people.

 

Second, and equally painful, we must realize that no matter what good people we may think we are, not everyone is going to like us.

 

The third thing we must do, and this is where the freedom enters in, is to stop caring about the first two things.

 

Live quietly & mind your own business so that you may win the respect of others and have need of nothing.  1 Thess 4:11-12

 

We don’t solve the problem of finger-pointing by employing the method of sign-waving.  We don’t stifle the ignorance of idiots by yelling louder.  And we don’t solve problems in our government by advocating revolution or anarchy.

 

A Christian should never be concerned about other people’s issues when our primary function is to meet other people’s needs.  Whoever they are, their chief need is Jesus, whether they realize it or not.

 

 

It all comes down to respect.  Honor.  The Greek word Peter uses in the passage above is “timao.”  It means to add value.  A synonymous word in English would be “to appreciate,” but not in the sense we casually use it today, for example, “I would appreciate it if you would put away your laundry.”

 

No, this is in a much larger sense.  It means to esteem, by giving someone his or her due.  By showing a full understanding of their inherent value, especially how it relates to you.  To consider another more important than yourself.

 

 

This is what respect is.  You may not feel respect for Donald Trump’s character or for that of Barack Obama before him, but you are called to respect the office of the president, because:

Every person must submit to and support the authorities over him.  For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God.  So to resist authority is to resist the divine order of God, which results in severe consequences.  Romans 13:1-2 (TPT)

 

Bottom line: if you call yourself an American, then THE president is YOUR president, the same as if you call yourself a Christian, then God is your God.

 

And your pastor is your pastor.  And your teacher is your teacher.  And your boss is your boss.

 

You may disagree with them.  You may cringe at the sound their voices.  You may even find yourself making voodoo dolls of them in your spare time.

 

But they are all people, the same as you, and made in the image of the same God as you.  And this same God has commanded the same respect for all.

 

Do Unto Others: Part 2–Mercy

If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get?  Even sinners love the people who love them.  If you do good only to those who do good to you, what praise should you get?  Even sinners do that!  If you lend things to people, always hoping to get something back, what praise should you get?  Even sinners lend to other sinners so that they can get back the same amount!  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back.  Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin.  Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy.  (Luke 6:32-36 NCV)

 

Many people believe in the Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Yet, it seems that many folks are waiting to be done unto before they do any doing.

 

In the passage above, Jesus is advocating a totally different strategy—mercy.  Mercy is not concerned with everyone behaving properly or with showing favoritism toward those who do.

 

As Christians, we are called to set ourselves apart by being merciful as our Father is merciful.  So what does that look like?

 

Romans 5:8 says, “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He didn’t wait for us to get in line to meet His standard (which is impossible anyway).  He didn’t ask, or even consider, what we could do for Him.  He went first.

 

This is probably the easiest way to define mercy—mercy goes first.  Mercy looks to the needs of others, and sets about meeting them before considering anything else.

 

This doesn’t come naturally to most of us.  In our culture, we’re used to “getting what we paid for.”  If we are going to exchange our money, time or talent, we generally expect to get something in return.  For this reason, it seems natural for us to think about how we’re going to be paid back before we make an investment.

 

The thing is the people who are the most in need of mercy tend to be the ones who CAN’T pay you back.  But they CAN pay your mercy forward.

 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you relied on someone else’s mercy, knowing you wouldn’t be able to reciprocate?  You might have felt gratitude at first, but later, the sense of indebtedness might have made you feel guilty.

 

Don’t go there.  There’s a better way.  Instead of focusing on what you can’t do for the person who helped you out, think instead of what you ARE able to do for someone else who is in a more desperate situation than you are.  There’s always someone.

 

Here’s the catch, though.  The person most in need of your mercy might be someone you don’t like.

 

This is where the “love your enemies” bit comes in.  Jesus never asked us to LIKE our enemies.  Remember though that agape love is not a feeling; it is an action.  As such, it is perfectly possible to show mercy toward someone who has been adversarial to us, even if there’s still a part of us that wants to push them down the stairs.

 

But here’s the part we all need to remember.  We were just as adversarial to God when He chased us down.  He continues to bless us, even when we don’t thank Him.  So if we are endeavoring to be “sons of the Most High,” we shouldn’t be standing around waiting for thanks either.  It feels nice to be appreciated, but remember, this is not the goal of mercy.

 

This is mercy–to listen with compassion to the people who annoy you the most in order to learn what their greatest burden is, then to speak only that which will help relieve them of that burden, and if that is not possible, to remain silent and allow God to do His work in them, rather than burden them further with opinions and judgment.

 

And that is what God offers to us all day, every day.  Think about that for a second.  How does it make you feel to know that you don’t ever have to put on a fake face for God to receive His mercy?

 

Now how does it make you feel to know that you have the power to make somebody else feel a little bit of that?  So go do it.  And focus more on the “you’re welcome” than the “thank you.

 

Do Unto Others: Part 1–Justice

 

The Lord always does right and wants justice done.  Everyone who does right will see his face.  (Psalm 11:7 CEV)

 

 

 

Way back in 2012, we defined justice as “getting what you deserve.”

 

However, from the quote above, we can see that the Bible has more than one definition of justice, depending on the translation.  It wouldn’t make sense to interpret that God wants to see everyone get what they deserve, when His Word clearly states that, “He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act (2 Peter 3:9b GW).”

 

Instead, what the verse is saying is that the Lord does right, so that everyone who does what He does, having been created in His own image, will get to be with Him.  With this context, we can see that “justice” is referring to righteous deeds.

 

Now we also have established that salvation is by grace alone, and that through faith.  Our righteous deeds do not save us; rather, they are the evidence of our salvation.  Our making the decision to follow God and join Him in His work is what leads us to a state of righteousness.

 

Taking that into consideration, we can see that there is no separation between “being saved” and acting justly.  Doing justice (acting righteously) is the evidence of our salvation, because we are reflecting the image of the One who created us, the One who always does what is just.

 

Justice and Righteousness

 

 

Abraham is a perfect example of how this plays out.  Back when Abraham was still “Abram,” God made him a promise regarding his abundance of descendants, which Abram believed, even though he had no logical reason to do so.  Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

 

This example is frequently cited when people explain salvation by faith, but there is more going on here.  Abram’s act of faith entered him into a covenant with God.  God bound Himself with a promise because Abram fulfilled his part of the covenant, which was to believe and conform to God’s plan.  Therefore, the “righteousness” with which he was “credited” is something like a legal standing.  Abram isn’t just a good guy; he has a distinct position because of his act of faith.

 

In other words, he did the right thing, and it had a good result.  His salvation was through God’s grace, but it was also an act of justice.  Abram got what he deserved, because he did what God expected him to do.

 

The prophet Micah, in chapter 6 of the book bearing his name, asks rhetorically what must be done to get God’s attention and earn His forgiveness.  Then he answers his own question, saying:

 

The Lord has shown you what is good.  He has told you what he requires of you.  You must act with justice.  You must love to show mercy.  And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God.  Micah 6:8 NIRV

 

The key word in that quote is “act.”  God wants us to do justice, not just think happy thoughts about it.  And how do we do that?

 

The simplest way is to stop thinking of ourselves first.  God wants us to think of Him first, because of who He is.  Next, as written in Philippians 2:4, He wants us to “look out for each other’s interests and not just for your own.”

 

Doing this can be temporarily inconvenient, but it will yield great rewards.

 

(For more on the “show mercy” bit, come back for part 2.)