Hate This Election? Love one another.

I have a friend who I am convinced is the smartest guy around. This past summer, he turned off the TV news. He has no Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts. But he does have a joyful disposition and peace in his soul—even in the midst of this excruciating election cycle. This election isn’t pretty. There is no viable candidate with integrity. None worthy of even a tepid endorsement. Christians across the country are perplexed, distressed, outraged, and disgusted. Our choice appears to be between Constantine and Diocletian.

love-one-another-simpleThe truth is, we might be more than a little distracted. Perhaps we need a fresh look at first things. We must first love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Second, we must love others as we love ourselves. This election is challenging our love for others in general, and our love for one another in particular. And that’s a shame.

The mark of the Christian is love for one another. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another,” (John 13:35). Suffice it to say, for American Christians, love has not been the most noticeable Facebook trend. Nevertheless, we carry on. There are great victories being won around the world as the gospel goes forward, and Christians continue to love one another fervently from the heart.

I thought this might be a good time for a few examples of Christian love:

In South Sudan, Christians are living among tribes that have no written language. These Christians are helping the Toposa people learn the good news of Christ and the gospel through songs. The Toposa people are an oral culture—no books, no sermon notes, no writing tablets. But they love to sing and dance. So Christians are helping them continue their songs and dances, while introducing the good news of God’s redemption through music. Check it out here: https://www.imb.org/singing-the-gospel-how-oral-learners-encounter-truth/

Another example of Christian love comes from across the Atlantic. London, England, is a world unto itself. The city has at least 8.6 million inhabitants (that’s the official census figure, experts think the real number is much higher). Among the millions of people, there are at minimum 300 different languages spoken. Into this ethnic and cultural mix, Christians are intentionally moving in and living among the many unbelievers. London has become a magnet for ordinary Christians (not full-time missionaries) to work in their professional capacity by day, while staying focused on loving others with the good news of God’s love in the evenings and on weekends. See the full story: https://www.imb.org/london-making-disciples-in-the-capital-of-the-world/

idop-20-yearsFinally, there may be something more important than the election happening this November! Sunday, November 6th (and Sunday the 13th), the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) will celebrate its twentieth anniversary. Originally begun in 1996 by the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Association, the International Day of Prayer is now a global movement of millions of Christians joining together in prayer for those suffering persecution. Open Doors USA, The Voice of the Martyrs, and the World Evangelical Alliance all make resources available so your church can participate in this important event to serve fellow Christians through prayer. Fulfill John 13:35 by joining with other Christians to pray for suffering saints.

Who Is Valentine? What Is Love?

As the breezy wind sweeps across the Kentucky hills this morning, I cannot help but think of spring.  For the first time in months, we began our day with the thermometer above 40 degrees—a sure sign that spring is in the air.  And where there is spring, there is love.  When spring is in the air, love is there, too.  Spring and love are natural thoughts this time of year.  In just over a month, spring will officially begin—birds, bees, flowers, trees, fish and even fleas (I suppose) will repopulate the earth with their supply.  And today—Valentine’s Day—is the day we have set aside to celebrate romantic love.  How fitting this day comes just before spring arrives.

Surely, part of the reason romantic love is celebrated on Valentine’s day is connected to the natural arrival of spring.  As Tom Jones once sang, “Love is in the air in the whisper of the trees.”  The natural awakening of love in springtime was connected to St. Valentine in the Medieval literature of the 14th century.  So, in time for Valentine’s day in 1383, Chaucer wrote of the love-filled air in his poem, Parliament of the Fowles,

309  For this was on seynt Valentynes day,

310  Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,

As far back as the 1300’s, then, Valentine’s day has been related to the “Love-is-in-the-Air” theme.  Already, St. Valentine was venerated and celebrated.  Chaucer simply made the connection to human love more prominent.

Before Chaucer, Valentine’s day already honored Valentine.  Although there has been much discussion over who this St. Valentine may have been, the most consistent answer is that he was a Christian leader (Bishop? Presbyter?) during the reign of Claudius II of the Roman Empire (the late 3rd Century A.D.).

As the story of St. Valentine goes, he was committed to helping Christians in their faith at a time when the Emperor ordered just the opposite.  Under Claudius, there was to be no aiding of Christianity or the Christians who practiced it.  Valentine apparently thought his obligation to Galatians 6:10 overrode his obligation to Romans 13.  Emperor Claudius in Valentine’s view had attempted to usurp his God-given authority by commanding people to disobey God.  Such disobedience Valentine could swallow. So, he helped Christians.

In particular, Valentine is said to have helped young Christians preparing for marriage, a fact which explains why Valentine is the patron saint of young couples in the Roman Catholic tradition today.  Even in his own day, it seems, Valentine had a love for love.

Valentine was arrested for his ministry.  He was beaten and tortured, but, strangely, is said to have had a positive impact on Emperor Claudius, at least, a positive impact until he called the Emperor to repent and believe Jesus.  Apparently, the Emperor did not appreciate Valentine’s gospel plea.  When the Emperor could not get Valentine to retract his own confession of faith, he had him beheaded.

Valentine brings out all that is good in human love and, especially, all that is noble about love.  He demonstrated at the cost of his own life what the value of love is.  Love is worth dying for.  So, it is obvious why we would celebrate love and Valentine on the same day.  The celebration is more than an adaptation of nature’s springtime song.  Though it probably includes the natural love emerging in spring, still, the love which drove Valentine to die was a much greater love than that which Tom Jones enshrined in music.  The love which Valentine displayed was the greater love of Jesus Christ, the kind of love that is not afraid of death, knowing that death itself has been defeated, knowing that the grave is overwhelmed, knowing that the victory is won.  Indeed, even marital love is supposed to sing in the key of Jesus, as men are instructed in Ephesians 5 to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.

The sacrificial love of Christ, giving himself for his bride, the church, is perfect love. It is a love which gives itself over to the earthly and eternal well-being of another.  St. Valentine apparently loved the church of the 3rd century this way.  He gave himself for her good, and, as a result, he was killed—just like Jesus was killed for the love he showed his church.  Truly, a greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life to love another.  Thank you, St. Valentine for the Christ-like example.  Happy Valentine’s day indeed.

Christian Persecution Close to Home

Last week, the warning was sounded that President Obama and the Democratic House and Senate had attached the “hate crimes” legislation to a defense appropriations bill.  President Obama signed it.  Now, it is time to start considering whether we, as Christians, will be silent regarding the truth of sin and redemption.

Over the pond in the UK, the British Christians are struggling with the same problem, only they have slid a bit further down the road than we have.  We can learn from them.  I offer you this article from Right Rev. Jonathan Gledhill as a fine exhibit concerning how quickly Christians may simply drift from their identification as Christians.  At one time, Christians were wearing crosses and fish symbols; yet, when companies began discriminating against them for wearing their faith on their sleeves (or their lapels), many Christians ditched the practice (for practical reasons).  The Rt. Rev. Gledhill, in his November letter, is encouraging Christians to wear the pins and declare their faith, not being intimidated into silence.

More than this, however, the Rev. makes the point that the true mark of the Christian is not a lapel pin. Rather, the true mark is love.  On this particular point, Rev. Gledhill makes a slight mistake.  He puts the mark of love in the context of love for the world.  (One may see how a Christian ought to love the world after the manner of God Himself, Jn. 3:16).  However, Jesus Christ has spoken plainly in Jn 13:35 that the world will know we are Christ’s disciples NOT because of our love for the world, but because of our love for one another.  Church love, love for the saints, is the true mark of the true Christian.