The Gospel in our Relationships

I have made the point in recent discussions that the relationships we have and how we conduct ourselves in them provides a tremendous opportunity to live out and demonstrate the power of the Gospel. God has blessed us with grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope. This produces a peace within…a serenity and tranquility based on a right relationship with God. From this position, we are free to truly love others and work to build them up spiritually and emotionally.

Loving others, however, isn’t always easy. Love is an action word. Love is a choice. Love requires us to humble ourselves and elevate others to a higher position of importance in our lives. That is what Jesus did. Jesus humbled Himself in becoming a man. Jesus humbled Himself in accepting the punishment due us and going to the cross to die for our sins. Jesus is the example and demonstration of all God’s blessings and personification of peace in the face of a tremendous adversity, pain and suffering. We look to Jesus’ teaching to see how it is we can and should love others in such a way that not only will we be a blessing to them but we will surely shine forth God’s glory and help others find their way to salvation, peace, and hope…now and in eternity.

Consider Jesus’ teachings in Luke 6:27-31.

27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

Previously (vs. 20-23) Jesus teaches about the mindset we are to have in The Beatitudes. In a word…humility. This provides us with the foundation to then love those who are our enemies. An enemy is simply one who is opposing another. We often think of enemies as those who are outside our circle but many times they are those in our families, congregations, friends, etc. Anyone who is standing in opposition to you and your life in Jesus is an enemy and they will hurt you. So what do we do?

Jesus says our actions should be to love our enemy, do go good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. Further, Jesus provides how we should react. If someone hits our cheek, we offer the other. If they take our coat, give them our shirt too. If they ask (even if they are hurting us)…give! If someone takes something of ours, don’t look to get it back. These take on different forms in our relationships but the principles are the same.

What this all adds up to is exactly how God loves us. We were/are His enemy when we sin and yet He took the initiative and He loved us even when we didn’t deserve it. And what a difference that has made. For those who hear and obey the call of the gospel, they are saved and redeemed and back in fellowship with the Living God. This model and example is how we are to live with those in our lives. Treat them like we have been treated by God. Do that and you will surely look different, people will notice, they will ask why and God is glorified.

And I will bless them

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ‘ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
(Numbers 6:22-27)

Congratulations to the graduates of 2017! Great work, and well done!

Our daughter, Jessica, graduated this year. We are having her grad party tonight. It is just amazing how fast time goes by. Anna and I are super thankful for our Jess and the strong young woman she has become. Jessica is the way she is because Jesus lives within her.

Today, I want to share with the graduates the blessing that God had the priests say over the people of Israel. Meditate upon these words, young men and women. Consider that all good things and all spiritual blessings are in Christ. You will pursue many endeavors and go in many directions, but true happiness and fulfillment is only found under the shelter of God’s wings.

May He bless you and keep you. May your face shine because His face is shining upon you. May you have peace because your peace comes from God, the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). May the name of God always be upon you and within your heart.

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 11:9-10)

Blessing

If you saw the picture above and read that Irish “blessing,” I hope you got a chuckle out of it. Of course, we shouldn’t hope for our enemies to turn their ankles…I only hope for the non Big-Ten teams in the NCAA tournament to turn their ankles. That’s not much to ask is it?

The word “blessing” in the New Testament is from a Greek word which really is “a eulogy,” meaning “to speak well of” someone. When we bless God, we speak well of Him and we seek His glorification. When we bless those around us, we are speaking well of them and wishing God’s favor upon them. Sometimes we wait until the official “eulogy” to speak well of someone, but God calls us to bless or “eulogize” people today while they still live.

A more traditional Irish blessing goes something like this:

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Blessing is most definitely a Biblical concept, but more than a concept, it is a command from God. God wants us to speak well of others and to invoke through prayer His favor upon others. As men of God, we are called to bless God and bless others.

In the Old Testament, God instructed the priests to bless the people in this way:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them” (Numbers 6:22-27).

Psalm 20 is another wonderful example of a blessing as David calls for God’s favor upon others.

In the New Testament, we also are called to bless God and bless others. Specifically, Jesus calls us to “bless” our enemies and to pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14). James adds that our mouths are a fountain that should not be sending forth both bitter and sweet water, meaning that we should not bless God in one breath and curse our fellow man in the next (James 3:8-12).

One more thing about blessing: Jesus was sent to bless us, but how? He was sent to bless us (call God’s favor upon us) by delivering us from our sins. Notice in the passage below that is how Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham.

“It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:25-26).

Today, ask for God’s strength to use your mouth and your words as a blessing to Him and to others.