WALK IN LOVE
Gary Giddings – Pastor, Sand Lake, Michigan
Ephesians 5:1-2 “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor.”
We are called to “Walk in love.” Another way of saying this is, “Live your life in love.” Our primary focus is God: we are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are also called to love our neighbor as ourselves. What does this look like, especially when we don’t agree about some things? As born-again, Spirit-filled Christians, we may not always agree. So how do we get along without resenting or offending each other? We are learning to “walk in love,” that is, we are learning to “live our lives in love.” We are “followers of God, as dear children.” We are learning to share the love that God has shown to us. Notice the word “therefore.” What is it THERE FOR? Why should we be “followers of God”?
Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Because we have been forgiven by God, we can forgive others! We don’t have to be caught up with strife, contention and offenses. We can hold on to them if we want, but why? It only brings us down! We can forgive because we have been forgiven. We are free to know and to enjoy God, so why do we hold on to things that hinders our relationship with Him? We want to be like Jesus, loving and helping others to be free. We are free to enjoy the blessings of God. We have liberty in Christ, no longer in bondage to sin and shame.
John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” What does this LOVE look like? How is it shown? John 15:12-13 “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 1 John 3:16 “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
It is easier to “lay down our lives” for the sake of others when we look at things the same way and want to do things the same way. But what if we have a difference of opinion? What if we don’t agree on matters of what we think God allows or disallows? Can we still show love to each other? Romans 14:1-2 “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.”
It is so easy for us to take a topic, an issue, a situation and take sides: “THIS is right, THAT is wrong.” If God shows us in the Bible that something is wrong, then it is wrong. For example, stealing is wrong, adultery is wrong, murder is wrong. But what about eating meat? Someone may think that eating meat is wrong for them for whatever reason. But we tend to label an action “wrong” if it is different than what we would do. Sometimes we want rules because it seems to make things clearer and simpler for us, but Christianity isn’t about “following the rules.” If you are more interested in rule keeping, then you would be more comfortable with being an Israelite in the Old Testament. Not only was Israel given the 10 Commandments written on tables of stone, but according to Jewish tradition, Israel was given 613 commandments! There were rules for everything! For example, there were rules for what the people of Israel were allowed to eat and what they were allowed to wear for clothing.
Christianity isn’t about “rule keeping.” It is about loving God and loving each other. There are certain things that should be done or not be done, but the focus is LOVE. Romans 13:8-10 tells us that “love is the fulfilling of the Law.” Romans 14:3-4 “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”
We could point to the Scriptures that tell us that eating meat is allowable by God. But does that mean that we are to beat someone over the head with it? Maybe a believer comes from a family background that didn’t allow the eating of meat for whatever reason. But we are not to despise or look down on those who don’t do things exactly as we would.
Romans 14:5-6 “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” Whatever your practice is, do it as unto the Lord. Live according to your conscience, but make sure that your conscience is informed by the Word of God. In all things, let us show love towards another, not forcing others to act like us. Let the Holy Spirit do His work to shape another’s conscience.
Romans 14:22-23 “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned [condemned] if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” According to Scripture, we need to have a good conscience in whatever we do. The Apostle Paul declared that he had “lived in all good conscience before God” (Acts 23:1). He also said that he trained himself “to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16).
The Apostle Paul also told Timothy the importance of a good conscience: 1 Timothy 1:5 “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:” V. 19 “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:”
In 1 Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul addressed another questionable situation: the eating of food offered in sacrifice to idols. Paul agreed with those who said that an idol is nothing and that there is only one God. But Paul was also aware of those who couldn’t eat meat offered to idols with a good conscience. Paul wrote, “But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.” (1 Cor. 8:8-9).
According to Paul, for one to flaunt his liberty before a brother or sister who doesn’t have it, this is a sin against the brethren and against Christ! So Paul made his stand and declared, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Cor. 8:13).
What is the present day application to this? One thing that comes to mind in this COVID-19 era is the wearing of masks. We may have different opinions of whether masks are needed or not. There are rules in places of business that varies from state to state in our nation. But what about our church buildings? Should we require that everyone wear a mask at church? It may be your opinion that either masks are necessary or that masks are useless or harmful. But the point here is that we should not let this issue divide us Christians. Can we disagree and still get along? Do we insist on our liberty to NOT wear a mask or can we wear the mask for the sake of others who perhaps are physically vulnerable to the coronavirus?
1 John 4:19-21 “We love Him, because He first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” We can walk in love because of the love that God gives to us. Love doesn’t originate in us but we can “pass it on” to others. When in doubt about what to do, show love.