How to Love Others More

Have you ever had trouble loving people? Is there a co-worker who just grinds your gears? Or an in-law (or blood relative) that knows how to irritate you beyond comprehension?

We all have been there. I know I have. I remember someone I used to work for, and this individual would purposely do some really hurtful actions. I never murdered this individual, but I can sadly say I had so not-so-fond thoughts.

Most people know some of the Ten Commandments, one of which is, ‘You shall not kill.’ (Exodus 20:13, NAB) I’m working on a sermon that addresses this verse. Initially, I was intrigued. I have spent more than half of my life in church and have heard this command numerous times. The excitement of a new study excited me.

So, I set to work. Initially I began with a note pad and pen (which is my custom). However, about five minutes into my research I realized this job required something bigger. So I borrowed a white board from another room and set to work. In about ten minutes I had recorded most of the important material related to my study.18588963_10208822612382542_2713873779717572604_o

It was during this time of research that I found something incredible, and one that, I hope, will enable me to be more faithful in my love of others.

The word used for killing in Exodus 20:13 is רצח. I began looking for other usages of this, and once completed I summarized it with a basic definition of “to deprive of life.” Now, this is a very basic definition, I know. For in some instances, depriving something of life may save others. Or, it could provide the necessary sustenance for continued life. But for my study, I began to look at life in Scripture. Of course, life began in Genesis 1:20-28 with the creation of animal life and ultimately crowned with humanity. (You can check out my thoughts on the creation of האדם in a previous post.) Life, or נפש, is the key to our appreciation and ultimate love for humanity (and animal life too!).

Humans, however, are different. We were created בעלם אלוהים. And so, because humanity is the image of God, our lives are intrinsically valuable. That is, we matter because God matters. Or, God’s image in us makes humanity intrinsically worthy.

Now, it is possible to simply gloss over that. Chances are, you already did. But in the off chance that you are reading this contemplatively, humanity is intrinsically valuable.

It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political party that makes humanity worthy. It is the fact that they are human.

It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political paevelyn-paris-33498.jpgrty that makes a human being excellent. It is the fact that they are a human being.

It is not the color of one’s skin, the level of intelligence, or the physical or mental capacity that makes a human being invaluable. It is the fact that they are a human being.

Because “When God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God; he created them male and female.” (Genesis 5:1b-2a, NAB) That is what makes a human being worthy.lechon-kirb-25696

Now, how does this help us love others more? When we stop looking at people in categories, we start to what is really there: people. She is not a Muslim, she is a human being created in the image of God. He is not queer, he is a human being created in the image of God.

When you and I begin to see God in others, our ability to love them is transformed. That is why Paul could write, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NAB) There is humanity, gloriously and wonderfully bearing God’s image.

Do my words convey my belief that people are created in the image of God? Unfortunately, not always. But I am reminded of the weight of such ill-used words in Matthew 5:21-26. The Rabbis of Jesus’ day had broken the law down to manageable loads. In fact, the commandment regarding killing was boiled down to simple murder. As long as you don’t murder anyone, you’re good! (If these were the true standards, we would be much better off!) But Jesus wouldn’t let that slide. God’s standards are infinitely higher than we could ever imagine. Murder, as expressed in Exodus 20:13, does not involve just the literal taking of life. It goes beyond that to our words, the very basis of our communication to others. Whether it is Raqa or fool, if it does not proceed from the view of love and value, we are in trouble. (By the way, this does not absolve us for confronting errors, for in the next few chapters Jesus does just that, as well as recommending it in Matthew 7:1-5.)

So, are you having trouble loving others? Just see them the way God sees them: image bearers. I am amazed at what I can overlook when I see someone as a person, uniquely, incredibly, and fantastically made בעלם אלוה’ם.

P.S. I do not mean to convey that our own sins and shortcomings do not need to be addressed. When Jesus was speaking with the woman caught in adultery, his words were, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11, ESV) While Jesus saw her humanity, he did not simply condone her sin. Likewise, it would be a mistake in the desire to love others that we would ignore sin in our own lives.

Walking Through Genesis- Chapter 29

In chapter 29 Jacob arrives at his destination, finds the woman of his dreams, and then through a series of events begins what had to be the most dysfunctional family in the Bible.

To begin, he makes his way to a well where shepherds have gathered to water their sheep. Whenever Rachel arrives he is love struck. I can sympathize with him, for whenever I see my wife I feel as though I could move a mountain. And that is just about what Jacob does! He moves the stone away and begins to help water the sheep. Then after some crying and kissing, he goes on to meet Laban, Rachel’s father (who also happens to be Rebekah’s brother and Jacob’s uncle).

After the emotional meeting of the families, the real trouble begins. I don’t know about you, but I almost enjoy seeing Jacob get a little taste of his own medicine. Laban and Jacob reach an agreement on the price for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Jacob serves his time and works for his goal. The day finally came and Jacob is married. The next day he discovers that he had been deceived! Laban switched daughters and gave Jacob Leah instead! I always am reminded of how Jacob had deceived his father and cheated his brother, how Isaac lied about Rachel being his wife, and how Abraham started it with his lies about Sarah.

Either way you look at it, the whole situation is messy. Laban then agrees to allow Jacob to work for Rachel (again). Jacob serves his time (again). He finally is awarded with his precious wife! They marry and then more trouble comes. Of course the time span that takes place in this chapter is large (14+ years!) but eventually the two wives (and their concubines) give birth to twelve sons to Jacob.

What can we learn from all this? A whole lot!

To begin with, as the old saying goes, what goes around comes around! The Bible calls this “sowing and reaping” (see Galatians 6.7-8). In Jacob’s case his deception of his father brought about his being deceived. How often do we do someone wrong or commit some unknown sin, only to have the same thing done to us in the future! This is a good initiative for us not do things to others just for the simple fact that it will come back to bite us. (Not that this should be a main reason, but it is a good motivator!)

Another lesson we can learn is that we should deal honestly with people. If we make an agreement we should avoid any future changes. We should be up front and state our business plainly. Jess said it this way, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matt. 5.37, ESV)

Perhaps the biggest lesson we can learn is to keep the family the way God intended, one man and one woman (see Genesis 2.24). Imagine the grief that Jacob would have avoided being satisfied with one wife! (I understand that Leah is not the one he loved nor the one he had worked for, but the fact that he consummated the marriage without knowing it was not Rachel is a little odd.) When we attempt to overstep the boundaries God has placed on us we place ourselves on the top of a slippery slope.

Let’s place ourselves on firm ground and not make the same mistakes that these people did! What are some things you see in this account in Jacob’s life that we can learn from? Please feel free to share!

Walking through Genesis- Chapter 22

Chapter 22 is one of the most perplexing and yet beautiful passages of Scripture in Genesis, and perhaps the entire Hebrew Bible. It is the test of Abraham, where God sees if Abraham really believed God. The story line is rather linear, Abraham is told by God to sacrifice Isaac, the son that he loved, on a mountain God would tell him. Abraham immediately obeys,saddles his donkey, and takes two young men with him. They make the journey. But before they reach the mountain Abraham instructs his two servants to stay behind while he and Isaac went to sacrifice. And then Abraham said that they would return.

This chapter has greater significance now that I have two children. Abraham displayed a depth of faith that I cannot imagine. When I hold me little girl or my son I cannot imagine anything bad happening to them, especially from my own hands. Even knowing, as Abraham seemed to, that God would raise them from the dead, it would still be too hard. But Abraham went through with it, and before he actually sacrificed Isaac the Lord stopped him. While God did provide them a lamb (see verse 13), God would eventually provide THE LAMB, His own Son, Whom He loves, Jesus of Nazareth. When we look at the account in this light it brings on a much greater significance. And the implications are almost as numerous as the stars. Our focus, however, is that whenever God asks us to do something, remember how he sent His own Son for our sins.