“Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” (II Thessalonians 3:18) Are you a Christian? Do you read these words and sigh and think “YES”? May I be so bold as to ask if you really want this? It costs us something to love others. I’ve lost respect of folks because I’ve said we ought to approach a homosexual on the basis of love and compassion and concern for them as a fellow human being and concern for their soul. (We all bear the image of God and that should be respected.) People have rolled their eyes at me for saying such a thing. I think this was a very small price to pay myself. There are many other ways that it can cost us as well.
Two things have happened this week that have made me think about this verse. One is Katie Couric’s interview with Andre Aggasi. I’ve seen a clip; the interview will air on November 8, on 60 Minutes. In the clip, Mr. Aggasi was asked about Martina Navratilova’s reaction to his use of speed back in 1997. She had some pretty harsh criticism of him. In response, he said he didn’t think there should be no rules to be followed, but he asked for some compassion. He believes if he had some help at the time he might have behaved differently. How do we react when someone mishandles things? He was depressed when he did this. It’s been recognized that some drug users are self-medicating. Can you have compassion for someone who is hurting and is trying to fix the problem the wrong way? If you can’t be gentle with them, then you can’t help them. If you are a Christian and you have no compassion for a person’s pain, then how can you present the gospel to them? Yes, our sin causes our pain a lot of times, and Jesus died for the sins of His children. He had compassion.
The other thing is Major Nidal Malik Hassan. I’m sure you know he’s the fellow who shot all those people at Fort Hood. That was cold-blooded murder and he seems to have been motivated by his religion to do this. Whatever his motivation – if you are a Christian I’m sure you have prayed for the victims and their friends and families. Have you also prayed for Major Hassan’s soul? Have you prayed for his family? Are you shocked that I ask this? Do you believe that God can open the eyes of his heart? If not, how big is your God? If you don’t want God to do that, what kind of God do you worship? I heard on the news that someone had something to say on a website about Major Hassan rotting in Hell for what he did and they seemed glad about it. Doesn’t that attitude grieve you? If we who have experienced the graciousness and mercy of God don’t demonstrate it toward unbelievers, how will they ever believe that God is gracious and merciful? I Peter 2:3 says, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” “If indeed we have tasted”! Paul says. If we have, we are impressed by it! God’s mercy is amazing! And notice he mentions “malice” and “evil speaking.” We need to be careful what we say about others. By our words we’ll be justified and by our words we’ll be condemned. (Matthew 12:37) We also need to remember that Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37) We don’t know who God may call and we sure don’t want to be a stumbling block by our attitude, right?
What about the Apostle Paul? When he was rounding up Christians and persecuting them, (motivated by HIS religion!) I wonder who was praying for him? Surely someone did. And then later, after he became a believer, he wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica about the “love of God and…the patience of Christ.” I’ve always heard that the mark of a Christian is love. John had a lot to say about love in I John. And Jesus said we would know a Christian by their fruits. (Matthew 7:20) I looked that up once in a Greek dictionary and that word, “fruits,” is the same word that is used in Galatians 6 when Paul spoke of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The first one he listed is love. We really need to search our hearts and make sure we aren’t looking down our noses at people who are lost. And at other Christians who struggle. We have no personal moral high ground. Isaiah says our righteousness is like filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) That means every one of us. If you have been saved from the penalty of your sin, it was the blood of Christ that saved you. You sin, my sin, put Him on the cross. We are that bad. And He is that compassionate and loving. To react in love is not our natural way, but it’s a work of God in our hearts. (Romans 7: 18-25) May God truly direct our “hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.”
November 11, 2009, Addendum: Yesterday afternoon I had a conversation with a friend that caused me to wonder where I had heard that the mark of a Christian is love. I asked a couple of other friends who thought it was part of the vernacular, and didn’t know where in particular I might have picked this up. I asked my husband and he said Francis Schaeffer wrote a book about it and that is where I would have heard it originally. (I’m sure I’ve heard it many times.) The name of Dr. Schaeffer’s book is “The Mark of the Christian.” Anyway, the above is my view of how Christians are to love all men. Francis Schaeffer wrote about that, but mostly he wrote about how Christians are to love each other, and especially when they have differences. I found the book online at The Evangelical Christian Library. It takes about an hour to thoughtfully read it in its entirety. If you are interested, here is the link: http://www.ccel.us/schaeffer.html