Loving One Another by Julie MooreJump To Recipe
Love One Another
I asked my dear friend Julie who was once my young adult’s Bible study co-leader when I was still in college to do a devotional for my blog. Julie now lives in North Carolina with her husband and four children. Julie writes devotions for her women’s ministry along with writing emails and newsletters for ministry work.
I’m 45 years old. I remember when my mom brought home her first microwave. It was huge. I remember when phones had cords, and the actual yellow pages. I feathered my bangs and saw “The Empire Strikes Back” in the theater. I’ve been around for a bit and I remember a lot of things, but nothing as strange as the time we’re living in right now.
Since the murder of George Floyd, I’ve been doing a lot of watching and a lot of listening. Conflicted and lost are two good words to describe how I feel. I’ve been wondering what good word I could speak into this. I know the gospel of Jesus is the answer to everything, but how do I speak that and not sound trite or cliché?
God had put a verse on my mind some time ago. He even gave me an illustration to go with it. Every time I look through my notebook and see it, I pause. Today, it swirled around and took root in my mind. This is it.
“And he called the people to Him and said to them, “hear and understand it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth: this defiles a person.”
“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
Matthew 15:10-11,17-20 (ESV)
In this statement Jesus is turning the focus from external ritual purity to internal holiness. The Pharisees were giving Jesus a bad time because he and His disciples had eaten in the field without washing their hands first. They were defiled according to the law. Jesus is saying that having dirty hands is not what defiles us, but having dirty hearts is. It’s not what or how you eat, it’s what you say, because what you say reveals what’s in your heart. We are defiled by what we allow to remain in our hearts long enough to come out of our lips. It’s a matter of heart. Which leads me to Proverbs 4:23(ESV).
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
I’m one of those annoying people who always wants to know “how?” How do I “keep my heart?” I know that every human heart, including my own is capable of great evil. Most of the time, though, it’s not an obvious evil that gets me. It’s a little thought that sneaks in and buries itself in my thinking. My thinking controls my actions and my words, and there you have it – defiled, tainted, unclean. And I never even realized I was going there.
The truth is I’ve known the answer to the question of “how” for as long as I can remember. The truth is that it’s hard, it’s a discipline, and that everything in my world pulls me anywhere but there. So, “how?” And, “where?”
Jesus. The answer to everything is Jesus.
He puts it this way,
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:4-5,9-13 (ESV)
The way to “Keep our hearts” is to abide in the love and presence of Jesus Christ. The “how” is to spend time with God and in His Word. The “where” is in the presence of God. It can be routine duty to read our Bibles and offer some semblance of a prayer. Anyone can do that. Only His children, His people who have called upon His name to save us from our sin, our unclean heart, can spiritually stand in the presence of God while physically here on this earth.
Every time we stand, or kneel, in His presence, we have the opportunity to pour out our hearts and receive His grace in return. Every time we are in His presence, we are offered the opportunity to examine our hearts before Him. He shows us where there is hate or lack of forgiveness, or a cold heart to those in need, or even the unwillingness to accept those whose skin or social standing are different from ours. In those moments we are not condemned. (Romans 8:1) We are offered, yet again, opportunity. The opportunity for God Himself to change our hearts. For Him to speak into us a better way. For God to show us a different road that might lead to reconciliation, racial and otherwise.
Jesus talks a lot about love. First, we are commanded to love Him with all that we are. Matthew 12:28-30 restates God’s Word to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:5. This has always been the ultimate decision placed before man – to acknowledge and love God, or to reject Him. It is a command to love Him, but anyone engaging with God has experienced that to know Him is to love Him. What starts as a command actually becomes the air we breathe. He’s a good God.
Second and like unto this first great command is to love our neighbor as our self. In fact, when the Old Testament was written love wasn’t very vogue. It seems to me quite the brutal time in history. Even then God gave the Israelites this command,
“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34 (ESV)
In the New Testament Jesus put all doubts about who we are to love to rest in the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37) If this wasn’t enough, in His final week on earth Jesus addresses the issue again, this time with a lawyer sent to trap Jesus in His words.
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:35-40 (ESV)