What a week . . . What a month . . . and not just here in America, but around the world. Terrorism, hate, fear, murder, and in several cases mass murder; heartache, bloodshed . . . in Orlando, Louisiana, Minnesota, Dallas; in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Turkey, and many other unnamed and unreported places where it occurs on a daily basis. Where next? What news will tomorrow’s headlines bring us?
Back in 1984 Tina Turner sang a song titled, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” (YouTube video at this link). It’s a good question to ask ourselves in times like we find ourselves living in today. In the chorus of the song she asks (quote source here):
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken
While genuine love is anything but a “second hand emotion,” nobody likes dealing with a broken heart. And it is genuine love that can heal the brokenhearted. What the world needs now, more than anything else, is large doses of compassion, and understanding, and, yes, love.
Four years ago I wrote a blog post titled, “What The World Needs Now” (published on August 21, 2012). In that blog post I quoted a short devotion I found in a book of devotional readings titled “Day by Day” (2000, 2005) by Dr. Charles Swindoll, former President and current Chancellor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and he also serves in leadership at Insight for Living Ministries and at Stonebriar Community Church. The title of this particular devotion is “Compassion.”
It was one of those backhanded compliments. The guy had listened to me talk during several sessions at a pastors’ conference. All he knew about me was what he’d heard in the past few days: ex-marine… schooled in an independent seminary… committed to biblical exposition… noncharismatic… premil… pretrib… pro this… anti that.
Toward the end of the week, he decided to drink a cup of coffee with me and risk saying it straight. It went something like this: “You don’t fit. You’ve got the roots of a fundamentalist, but you don’t sound like it. Your theology is narrow, but you’re not rigid. You take God seriously, but you laugh like there’s no tomorrow. You have definite convictions, but you aren’t legalistic and demanding.” Then he added: “Even though you’re a firm believer in the Bible, you’re still having fun, still enjoying life. You’ve even got some compassion!”
“You’ve even got some compassion!” Like, if you’re committed to the truth of Scripture, you shouldn’t get that concerned about people stuff–heartaches, hunger, illness, fractured lives, insecurities, failures, and grief–because those are only temporal problems. Mere horizontal hassles. Leave that to the liberals. Our main job is to give ’em the gospel. Get ’em saved!
Be honest now. Isn’t that the way it usually is? Isn’t it a fact that the more conservative one becomes, the less compassionate?
I want to know why. Why either–or? Why not both–and?
I’d also like to know when we departed from the biblical model. When did we begin to ignore Christ’s care for the needy? [Note: And we all at times fall into that very category.]
Maybe when we realized that one is much easier than the other. It’s also faster. When you don’t concern yourself with being your brother’s keeper, you don’t have to get dirty or take risks or lose your objectivity or run up against the thorny side of an issue that lacks easy answers.
And what will happen when we traffic in such compassion. The Living Bible says, “Then the Lord will be your delight, and I will see to it that you ride high, and get your full share of the blessings I promised to Jacob, your father” (Isaiah 58:14).
If you really want to “ride high, and get your full share of the blessings,” prefer compassion to information. We need both, but in the right order.
Come on, let’s break the mold and surprise ’em. That’s exactly what Jesus did with you and me and a whole bunch of other sinners who deserved and expected a full dose of condemnation, but got compassion instead.
Others won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.
We may talk a lot about “compassion” in our churches, but what do we do with it on an hour-by-hour basis in our own personal lives with the folks we run into every single day? How do we conduct our business with others? Are we honest in our dealings with them? Do we actually care about what they might be going through (if we know their circumstances–for example, the homeless)? If we do anything at all, do we give out McDonald’s food coupons in an effort to appease our guilt and/or rationalize that if we actually gave them money they’d just spend it on less savory indulgences? It’s not that food coupons are wrong to give out, but it’s the attitude behind why we are giving them food coupons in the first place. For the most part we have no idea what it is like to walk in their shoes, and we tend to assume way too much about others we don’t know that is often erroneous at best.
You might be wondering what that has to do with the terrorism issues I mentioned in the opening paragraph. Well, it has a lot to do with it. How we treat others has a domino effect. And the consequences from that domino effect eventually catch up with us. It may take years or even decades, but actions have consequences (just look at recent history starting back during the two World Wars of last century), and they eventually bear fruit (good and bad). And those actions can even affect innocent bystanders, such as many of the victims of the recent acts of terrorism that have become so pervasive on this planet of ours, and wars in general down through the centuries.
That is not to say there isn’t a type of evil in this world that we simply cannot wrap our minds around (like terrorism). It is very obvious, especially after the past month from several terrorists attacks taking place here and in other places around the world, that there is an insidious and pervasive evil that permeates our planet, and it is a type of evil we often don’t understand; but there is also an evil that we do to others on a too-frequent basis when we treat others with disdain as if they don’t matter or they are inconsequential to our own lives. And if we do that evil to others over a period of years it creates an enemy we aren’t even aware of that can come back to bite us. It is how wars get started in the first place.
As we all know, reality sometimes does have significant challenges, like for those folks who survived the terrorist attacks mentioned in the first paragraph above, and for the families and friends of those folks who didn’t survive, and for others who have encountered life altering events. The Bible is filled with the struggles (and triumphs) of folks in the Old Testament, and even after Jesus came in the New Testament and what his followers went through in the early church years (and following Jesus hasn’t changed in the two millennium since he walked on this earth).
However, let’s get back to the original question: “What’s love got to do with it?” Love has everything to do with it, and it starts with how we treat others–and that include the person right in front of us whether in a parking lot or a store, or someone who might be yelling obscenities within earshot that we don’t appreciate, or treating us with disdain. Or it might be someone who is a Christian who doesn’t believe exactly as we do on certain topics (and disagreements on various topics is nothing new and has even been known to cause church splits). While there are doctrines in the Christian faith we must believe or else we really don’t have faith (see “What are the essentials of the Christian faith” at this link), topics like Biblical prophecy (e.g., see article titled, “The Rapture Debate” at Bible.org) are issues that even the most knowledgeable or seminary-educated individuals among us disagree on.
With that being said, I’m not implying that an initial reaction to a bad experience isn’t legitimate, such as anger or frustration or heartache like those who experienced and survived the terrorist attacks mentioned above. What I am saying is that there is real evil in this world and there are real enemies out there in society. I just read a quote that Joyce Meyer, one of the world’s best known practical Bible teachers and a New York Times bestselling author, shared in her book titled, “Let God Fight Your Battles” (2015) regarding our real enemy on pages 108-109:
A good friend who is a Greek scholar once shared with me a paraphrase of John 10:10. It gives us a clear idea of just how determined the enemy is to kill, steal, and destroy, but it also shows us that Jesus has something else altogether in mind.
The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life. In fact, this pickpocket is looking for any opportunity to wiggle his way so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk off with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all–when he’s finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plan to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice everything that remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, flat broke, and cleaned out in every area of your life. You’ll end up feeling as if you are finished and out of business! Make no mistake–the enemy’s ultimate aim is to obliterate you!
But I [Jesus] came that they might have, keep, and constantly retain a vitality, gusto, vigor, and zest for living that springs up from deep down inside. I [Jesus] came that they might embrace this unrivaled, unequaled, matchless, incomparable, richly-loaded and overflowing life to the ultimate maximum! (Quote from Rick Renner, “Sparkling Gems,” 2003, as quoted on pp. 108-109 in “Let God Fight Your Battles,” 2015)
There are definitely people out there living among us who are like the description given above (such as terrorists and others who commit crimes against humanity). Their agenda is clearly stated in the quote above, and those enemies don’t even have to know us personally to show up in our lives and try to take us down (again, as in the recent terrorist attacks that have taken place around the world). However, when we fight among ourselves and disparage each other or those we don’t know or like, we give our enemies a stronghold on us. And when we judge others or gossip about them, we are actually setting ourselves up for a possible future confrontation with those enemies. As the apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:18:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
What it boils down to is that expressing and showing love even for our enemies really isn’t “just an option” for a Christian. Genuine love keeps us right with God and right with others, even if those “others” (e.g., terrorists and assorted others) couldn’t care less. Jesus stated in Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG):
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Also, I Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us a clear picture of what genuine love really looks and acts like:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
Always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
We often have no idea of the harm we do when we disdain, disrespect, and discredit others, especially those we don’t know or don’t like for whatever reason. However, for the Christian, evil is fought on God’s battleground (Exodus 14:14), and not in the games we play with others (which can actually damage us in return). We can’t win this battle against the unforeseen forces of evil around us (see Ephesians 6:10-18) on our own–only God can win it. But we do have an obligation to do what Jesus has told us to do in living as His disciples, and that is to . . .
Love God . . .
Love others . . .
No exceptions . . . .
YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:
Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here