Wednesday, November 21, 2018

21 Day Devotional: Day 17: Acceptance, Rejection, and Getting Along With Others.

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

The Bible was never intended to be a book written to point out all the things that we as people do wrong.  Nor was it written to condemn us, shame us, or make us feel guilty about the sin in our lives.  The Bible was written so that we might know, understand, and recognize the love of our Heavenly Father who chose to create us, and love us, and decided to die for us before the world was even formed.  Before you and I were even born, He had already decided that He wanted to accept us, love us, and offer us His mercy and grace.

At one point during Jesus earthly ministry, some lawyers were trying to trick Him so they could accuse Him of blasphemy.  They asked Him which commandment of the law was the greatest.  There are 613 commandments written out in the Old Testament.  Most of us think there’s just Ten Commandments.  There are actually 613 commandments in total.  That’s a lot of rules and regulations to try and live by!  It’s impossible for anyone to be able to remember and keep all those laws! 

Jesus answered their question by saying:

“The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the LORD is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

And, in the book of Matthew, Jesus said, on these two commandments, “hang all the law and the prophets”.  What He meant was that everything taught in the Bible is completely summed up by these two commandments… love God and love people.

Not everyone is going to share your beliefs on every topic.  Our world is full of violence and rejection and hurt that is caused because people do not agree.  Others around you will have lifestyles and behaviors that you do not believe to be “right” or good or even Christian-like.  But, you and I must act in love regardless of how we feel. 
Jesus did not condone sin.  But, He also did not condemn the sinner.  He said that He came so that sinners might be saved.  When someone is sentenced to death row and condemned to die, they are left hopeless and without possibility of being saved.  This was not Jesus mission, nor should it be ours.  He came to die on the cross so that all the rules and laws that people could not keep (all 613 of them) could be “fulfilled”.  That means when you mess up and break one law (big or little) that God doesn’t kick you to the curb and take away your place in Heaven.  He offers you forgiveness and grace and mercy.  Therefore, we have to remember that we have been forgiven and offer love to those around us who might not have yet experienced the love of Almighty God.  Even those who have experienced Him, but still choose to live inappropriately (in our opinion), Jesus says we are to love them, as He loves them. 

When you study the teaching of Jesus, you will find that His harshest words were never directed at the sinner people!  He showed compassion to those living sinful lives and caught up in sinful ways.  His harshest criticisms were for the “religious” people who kept track of whether everyone else was following the rules or not.  It was those people He called a “generation of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs” and “hypocrites”.  The religious people tended to point out everyone else’s failures and shortcomings, professing themselves to be saintly, holy, and righteous, all the while having their own sins hidden and concealed.

No one is without sin.  All of us have failures and are prone to make mistakes and get it wrong.  Sometimes we get it wrong a little and sometimes we get it wrong a lot.  But, regardless Jesus loves us. 

People will choose to change, or they will choose to live in their sin.  But it is their choice.  Jesus offered love and hope and mercy and grace. He was “full” of grace and truth.  We are to offer the same.  We may disagree with them, we may believe their lifestyle is wrong, we may think their choices are bad… but it is not our responsibility to convict and condemn them of their sins.  That is Jesus job.  It is our job to follow His Word and to love them.  Love them, because He loves us.

Each and every person on this Earth has the freedom and the right and the option to love and serve and worship God.  We were all created by Him, for Him, to worship Him.  We cannot inspect someone’s heart or motives and determine the level of their commitment to God.  We do not know the struggles, the pain, the hardships that they have faced.  Therefore, Jesus tells us to act in love, and He will judge their sin and motivate them to change and be more like Him.

Read John Chapter 17.

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