Godly Relationships

What to Do When You Have Suffered an Offense...Or Been the Offender

 Recently, I unintentionally offended someone by a post I shared on Facebook that I would not have thought would have incited another Christian. The person’s venomous response to me pierced my heart and caused me to ponder about how easily people are offended in today’s increasingly polarized and self-focused culture; how offenses are used to separate the Body of Christ; and what our response should be when offenses do arise. Have you ever caused an offense that was totally unintentional? Or has someone ever offended you-- whether they intended to offend you or not? If you’re alive on planet earth, I’m sure the answer to the above questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

 It’s important to keep in mind that even Jesus, who is perfect Love, offended many while He walked on the earth-- and He is still an offense to many today (Matthew 13:57). If we follow after Him, as we have been called and commanded to do, we can be assured that we too will be an offense (John 15:18-20), especially in a culture that has forsaken and turned its back upon Him. When we align ourselves with Jesus, we will either be a sweet fragrance or a stench to others (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). No matter how hard you may try, you cannot live a life in which you won’t offend someone else. You just have to make sure that your offense is not caused by your ‘walking in your flesh’-- in other words due to your own sinful nature-- but is because you are following Jesus and ‘walking by His Spirit’. At all costs we must make sure that we are not an offense to God, even if others we love are offended by our standing with Him.

 The great news is that God’s Word gives us the answers for what to do when we have offended others, and what to do when others have offended us. When offenses come, we often want to ‘pick up arms and go to war’, but we must remember that our fight is not against ‘flesh and blood’—the other person---but it is against the powers and principalities of darkness that always are at work to separate us from God and from one another ((Ephesians 6:10-18).  Satan delights in stirring up offenses because they are the cause of division among people. Once an initial offense has occurred, Satan seeks to create a chasm in the relationship by having the one offended respond in such a way as to inflame the situation and cause the offending party to then retaliate in anger, hostility, or separation from the relationship rather than by responding in a way that will bring about the reconciliation and harmony God longs to see.

 God has called us to respond in a way that is totally contrary to the way Satan, our flesh, and the world would lead us to respond when an offense occurs. He has given us His greatest weapon to defeat the enemy’s scheme to create division when offenses arise, and that is demonstrating Christ like love.

 This is My command to you: Love one another. John 15:17 NIV

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 The kind of love Jesus calls us to have is summed up in this well-known passage:

 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.  It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.  It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 AMP

 So how do we put this kind of love into practice when we have been offended, or when we know that we have offended someone else?

1) First and foremost, go to God for His comfort and most of all His counsel. Only God knows your heart and the heart of the other person. And keep in mind that He created and loves you both. Feel free to ‘pour your heart out’ before the Lord as He desires to hear your innermost thoughts (Psalm 62:8; Psalm 142:2; Psalm 51:6). I assure you that He can handle whatever it is you are feeling! Due to our sin nature we are prone to justify and rationalize our actions; to deny any part we may have had in the situation; and to cast blame on others. Often after being offended we need to first ‘pour out our feelings’ before we are ready to be ‘filled up with truth’ that can only be obtained from God’s view. After receiving my friend’s response, I was hurt. In my pain I felt an offense against her welling up inside of me. I considered her response to me to be very divisive and unfair, and I wanted to defend myself. I knew I had to get before the Lord immediately to share with Him what I was feeling, or else I knew my feelings would take over and I would respond in a way I knew would not please the Lord nor help to heal the relationship with her. I shared my sorrow with Him and my disappointment that she would respond with such unkind words and in a way that presumed many things that were not true. I knew that I could not respond to her until I had first gone to God and bared my heart before Him, and received His heart of love for her. By His grace, I did not respond to her based upon my initial feelings, but I allowed God to hear and to heal my broken heart so that my response could represent His heart of love toward her. It is so important when we are offended that we not respond out of our pain but go to God so He can bind up our wounds and we respond with His Spirit of love.

2)  Ask God to give you a humble heart and to open your eyes to see the situation from God’s perspective, as well as from the other person’s. Consider and meditate upon the cross and how Jesus responded to offenses against Him. Do your best to put yourself in the other person’s position so you can better understand where they might be coming from. Ask God to convict you of any pride, arrogance, or other sin on your part that might have led you—even unintentionally-- to be an offence to the other person. Be willing to humble yourself and go to the other person and apologize, even if your offense was due to ignorance.

3)  After stating your ‘case’ before the Lord, wait and listen to the Holy Spirit who will speak to your heart and lead you if you seek His wisdom and guidance. Then do as He directs you. (Proverbs 2:6; 3:6; James 1:5; John 14:17, 26; 16:13) The Lord initially led me to respond to my friend by asking her to forgive me for offending her, and I addressed some of her assumptions in what I felt was a spirit of love. She responded in a way that indicated she was more interested in ‘winning a fight and being right’ than in mending the relationship. I sensed the Lord lead me to say nothing more at that time. Sometimes the best response is no response, especially if you have done what you know God called you to do and the person still is offended. Consider that Jesus said nothing during his ‘trial’ before Herod. He was doing what His Heavenly Father led Him to do, and sometimes God will lead you to remain silent if He knows that by responding you may ‘add more fuel to the fire’ or for another reason He may lead you to say nothing. If, however, He leads you to speak, do not be afraid to speak the truth even if the truth offends the other person, but never speak the truth in an offensive way. For example, if someone is offended because of a stand you have taken based upon God’s clear commands in scripture —for example, being pro-life or pro- traditional marriage or against any form of racial prejudice —do not compromise the truth of God’s Word, but speak the truth in a way that is loving and winsome rather than defensive and accusatory.  

A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, But harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1 AMP

4)  Forgive those who offend you as God has forgiven you for all of your offenses against Him (Matthew 6:14; Colossians 3:12). Do not allow the sun to go down on your anger if someone has offended you, and do not allow bitterness and resentment to take root in your heart (Ephesians 4:26, 31; Hebrews 12:15; Proverbs 4:23). When we are offended, our natural tendency is to want to get back at the other person, ‘to repay evil for evil’. That’s the problem…our natural tendency is our sin nature that must die if we desire God’s nature to be alive and at work in us. God’s perfect will and our sinful will cannot co-exist. You likely are thinking, “But you don’t know what they did to me! How could I possibly forgive what they’ve done?” On your own you can’t… you must be born again and have God’s nature at work in you to forgive as He has forgiven you. His Spirit in you will empower you to forgive the person, no matter the offense. I’m not saying it’s easy; it requires death to our own will that loves ‘nursing’ our offenses and taking vengeance, and it requires full surrender to God’s will. When we consider all of our offenses against a holy God, how can we not forgive someone else for his or her much smaller offense against us? Ask God to reveal to you the depth of the mercy He demonstrated when He died for you--and that He daily shows to you-- and ask Him to fill  you with His mercy for you to extend to the one who has offended you (Luke 7:41-47).

 5)  Bless and do good to those who have offended you, and seek to be reconciled with them and to live in harmony, if at all possible.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them….  Live in harmony with one another… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:14, 16-18 ESV

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:27-28 ESV

 6)  Pray! A tremendous blessing that we can give to others is to pray for them. Pray that your heart will remain pure before God and before the other person so that Satan will not gain a foothold by your dwelling on the offense, which could hinder your relationship with God and cause you to withhold forgiveness from the other person. Pray for those who have offended you. Pray that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in their knowledge of God and open the eyes of their hearts so that they will come to know Him if they do not already, and that they will walk worthy of the high calling He has set before them if they are a fellow believer (Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:10) Pray for the person whom you may have offended, and if you have sought their forgiveness and they have withheld it, pray that they will choose to obey God and love and forgive you as He has commanded them to do, so that they will not sin against God and miss out on blessings from God. Above all, pray that the love of God would be manifested and abound in and through you, and manifested and abound in and through the other person involved in the offense. For love covers a multitude of sins, and love never fails! (1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 1213:8)

 Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

 

 

What Not to Do--and to Do--If You Have Unsaved Loved Ones

Recently I went on a trip to see some family members who I love dearly although I rarely get to see them.  Regrettably, they do not have a relationship with the Lord. There are several things the Lord reinforced to me during this visit that I think may be valuable for all of us who have unsaved loved ones and want to know how to interact with them.

First, I believe we must recognize that all of mankind was created to worship. If your loved one is not worshipping the one true God, you can be assured that they do have a ‘god’—or ‘gods’ in their life.  It may be their work, entertainment, their spouse or ‘significant other’, their kids, their hobby, alcohol, drugs, or something else in which his or her identity and life is ‘wrapped up’.  And you can also be assured that their ‘god/s’ will never truly satisfy them or bring them the abundant life they were created to enjoy through fellowship with God. Their god will ultimately disappoint them, and lead to misery for them and pain for those who love them. The heart in rebellion against God is a self-centered, self-absorbed heart; everything is filtered through how it impacts ‘me’, what ‘I want’ and what ‘I value’. I confess that I know that not only from witnessing that in the lives of others, but also from personal experience when I lived apart from God. We need to be instruments of grace who share with our unsaved loved ones the truth that the only way to experience a joy-filled life of contentment and peace is to ‘die to ourselves’ and to follow God’s commands to love Him first, and others second. (Luke 9:23; Matthew 22:37-40)

 Secondly, we must remember that we are all in a spiritual battle. Satan—sometimes referred to as the devil-- is the Enemy of our Souls and the ‘Father of Lies’ who deceives us into thinking that living to please ourselves by investing our time, energy and resources on our other ‘god/s’ will satisfy the desires of our soul, which they cannot (Ephesians 6:11-12; John 8:44). Satan’s goal is always to ‘steal, kill, and destroy’ what God loves, and what He loves most is mankind with whom He longs to have an intimate and loving relationship. Satan seeks to destroy us by keeping us from having that relationship with God, through Jesus, Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6). We who know Jesus have been called to be His warriors...warriors who ‘fight’ for the souls of those who have been taken captive by Satan.  If we are not careful we can forget that our battle is not against ‘flesh and blood’—and sometimes we want to act out ‘in our flesh’ against our unsaved loved ones --but we must keep in mind that our fight isn’t with them, but against Satan and the forces of darkness. Just like prisoners of war, our unsaved loved ones have been taken captive by Satan to do his will (2nd Timothy 2:26). We can’t expect them to act in accordance with the truth of God’s Word, because they never knew it, or they have been indoctrinated in lies from Satan and blinded from walking in the truth.

Only the Truth—the written Word and Jesus, the Living Word--can set them free from the clutches of Satan and empower them to live the ‘abundant life’—a life of peace, joy, and contentment, and open up to them the gift of eternal life. Our words are important to testify to that truth, but far more important is the life that we live before them.

 So what is our role as it relates to family members and other loved ones who have been ‘taken captive’ by Satan to do his will, and therefore are not living in accordance with the will of God?

Things We Should NOT Do:

 1. Do not buy into their lies or fuel their sinful behavior. Filter what they say and do through the lens of scripture so that you do not contribute to their deception. For example, do not accept their rationalizing or blaming others for the consequences of sinful choices that they make. If you catch them in a lie, do not be afraid to lovingly confront them so that they do not think they can ‘sin and get away with it’ and so they will learn that their sin ‘will find them out’ (Numbers 32:23).

 2.Do not indulge their deception that their ‘god’or ‘gods’ will satisfy them by ‘building up’ their ‘god’, but in love expose it for what it is— a source of temporary pleasure, but nothing that will truly meet the deepest longings of their heart, which is unconditional love and eternal security that only God can provide to them. For example, if sports is their ‘god’, don’t focus all of your conversations on sports which could easily lead them to believe that is your ‘god’ too. If they are an alcoholic, don’t support their addiction by purchasing alcohol for them. Or, if they are a ‘shopaholic’ don’t continually talk about things with them or spend your time together going shopping.

3. Do not enable them or attempt to rescue them when their sin ‘blows up in their face’. It’s not your job to save them, only Jesus can; it’s your job to represent His heart of love for them and to point them to Him. Remember that Jesus asks us to ‘come to Him’, but due to our pride we most often will not come to Him until we are desperate and aware that we have nowhere else to go. The biggest obstacle for people coming to Jesus is admitting they have a need. That is why it is so important that you do not try to rescue them, but allow your unsaved loved one ‘to come to the end of themselves’ so that they will finally turn to Jesus. If you want to help them out of a situation that was caused by their sinful choice/s, always pray first and ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart motive and to lead you in His way. There are times when God may lead you to enforce ‘the law’, and there may be times when He leads you to show mercy, which is why you need to listen carefully to His voice. As painful as it may be to watch your loved one suffer for the consequences of their sin, remember that it is far better for them to endure suffering for a season in this world if it will lead them to turn to Jesus who alone can save them from suffering for all eternity! It is also important that you realize that you can fully entrust them to God’s care; He will be there to pick them up when they look to and cry out to Him!

4. Do not cram scripture ‘down their throat’ as they will likely vomit it out! Sometimes in our zeal for our loved ones to come to the Lord we ‘lecture’ them with scriptures, or in other ways communicate our disapproval of them. What they hear in their minds is that if my family who knows God doesn’t approve of me, then God sure will never accept me either! They often perceive that God is all about rules and regulations that are either impossible to keep, or only there to keep people from having a ‘fun life’. They don’t realize that God wants a relationship with them, not ‘perfect behavior’ from them. We need to demonstrate with our words and actions that we love them unconditionally, so that they will come to believe that if we who know them as ‘sinners’ can love them, then Jesus is more than able to love them too!

What We Should Do:

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1.  Assume your role as ‘an ambassador of Christ’ who has been given the job of representing Jesus and encouraging people to be reconciled to God (2nd Corinthians 5:20). You can’t represent Jesus if you don’t really know Him. So it is important that you make time to read and study the Bible where He reveals His heart, His character, and His ways; to be in fellowship with other believers who will encourage you in your faith; and to maintain communication with God through prayer. Jesus often asked penetrating questions to get people to consider the truth; a great way to represent Him is to learn to ask meaningful questions of our unsaved family members that will cause them to grabble with the big concerns of life, like: what is truth; what is the purpose of life; and where do they think they will go when they die and why? If they espouse to be an atheist or to believe in a religion other than Christianity, lovingly ask them why they believe what they claim to believe so you can earn the right to share with them your beliefs. Another way Jesus interacted with those he wished to reach was by telling them parables, or stories. Share stories of God’s faithfulness in your own life as well as testimonials of His life-changing impact in the lives of others you know; your unsaved loved ones are looking for the Hope you have and they want to have a reason to believe that God is real and all that He says He is in His Word!

2. Let the light of the love of Jesus shine forth from you, so that they will be drawn to the Source of your light and life! (Matthew 5:16) Ask God to give you the faith to daily walk by the power of the Holy Spirit so that you will accurately reflect the truth and love of Christ, and so that you will not satisfy the desires of your flesh that can be a stumbling block to your loved ones coming to know Jesus. Below is the way you should ‘dress yourself’ so you can reflect Jesus to your loved ones:

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17 ESV


3. Share the ‘good news’ of Jesus’ love for them if you have not already. As already mentioned, that opportunity often comes when your loved one is suffering from the sinful choices they have made. Help them to see their need for Jesus by lovingly helping them to see what their choices have cost them. Humble yourself before your loved one and let him or her know that you realize you’re not perfect or sinless either, that no one is except God. Let them know that Jesus has made the way for ALL who are willing to admit their imperfections and to turn from their sin to find forgiveness and new life through His death and Resurrection. Assure them that there is no sin that is too great that God’s grace, love, and mercy can’t cover it! Make them aware that when Jesus died on the cross, His blood was shed for every sin they would ever commit. You may wish to share with them this comforting verse from Romans 5:8: But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Let them know that all God asks them to do is to ‘come to Him’, to believe in Him, and to receive Him as their Savior and Lord, and to repent—or change the direction of their life— through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 6:29; John 1:12) Share the truth with them that only living in obedience to Jesus will ever bring true joy and fulfillment to their lives. Let them know they have a choice. Ask them, “Do you want to continue striving by living in your own strength, or would you like to finally start living abundantly through the redeeming power of Jesus?” You may say, “But what if I share the truth of God’s love for them and their need for repentance, and they reject that truth?” Keep in mind, they are already rejecting that truth by the way they are living, so what do you have to lose?

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26 ESV

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4. Focus your thoughts upon God and His desire for your loved one to come to know Him. Consider how different your unsaved loved one’s life would be if he received Jesus as his Savior. I just heard the story of a man who was saved in the military; he came home to his family and shared the truth of the gospel with them. At first, the family rejected turning their lives over to God, but as they saw the difference that Jesus made in the man’s life, they all chose to accept Jesus as their Savior. The man telling me the story said that was 43 years ago, and he was so grateful that his brother who’d been in the military loved him enough to share the truth with him, even though at first he was ‘fighting mad’ at him for doing so. The lives of each member of that family was radically changed because his brother loved them all enough to humble himself and overcome his fear of rejection to tell them the truth that alone could save them. Have you ever considered the blessing you would experience by being used by God to introduce them to Jesus? Be encouraged by these words from James 5:19-20: My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
5. Realize that if you speak the truth in humility and in love, as Jesus has called us to do, your loved one still may not receive the truth at the time you share it. However, be encouraged! The truth of God’s Word will never return void; it will accomplish what God purposes, and in His perfect timing. (Isaiah 55:11) And God will be well pleased with you for your obedience, regardless of the response of your loved one. Jesus has commanded us to ‘go and tell’; you can trust Him with the results if you are faithful to obey His command! (Matthew 28:19)

6.  There are circumstances under which you may need to set up firm boundaries, and even choose to entirely withdraw from a relationship with an unsaved loved one if they continue in their sin, especially if they are influencing you to abandon your faith in God. If you are sensing that you need to cut ties with a family member, make sure you are being led by the Spirit and not by your flesh. And welcome them back into your life with a forgiving heart and open arms if they ‘come to their senses’ and give their heart to the Lord.

You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot follow me unless you love me more than you love your own life. Luke 14:26 CSB

 7. Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do is to pray faithfully and fervently for your loved one! And, when possible, to pray with them. I have found that they are most open to having me pray with them when they know they have a need. I especially encourage you to pray scripture over them as then you can know that you are praying God’s will. Make sure to pray in faith (James 5:15). Satan wants you to look at the circumstances of your unsaved loved one’s life and to think that there is no hope. You must remember that is a lie—nothing is impossible for Our God! Trust Him to do exceedingly and abundantly above what you could hope or imagine! (Luke 1:37; Ephesians 3:20)

 Lord, I release my loved one to You, knowing that You love them even more than I do or ever could. Fill me with Your heart of love for them, and empower me by the Holy Spirit to be a faithful ‘ambassador’ of Yours who accurately represents You and faithfully walks by the Spirit and not in my flesh. I confess that when I see my unsaved loved one’s lifestyle and poor choices that I often feel overwhelmed and helpless. Holy Spirit, guide me so that I know when to speak, when to remain silent, and when to take action. When you lead me to speak, give me your Words of truth and life to speak to them.When you call me to act, may I do so with all humility and in the spirit of Your love. I ask that you would arrest their hearts and minds and bring them into alignment with Your will! Send forth the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin, of righteousness, and of the coming judgment! (John 16:8-9) May they come to know You, the Source of abundant and eternal life! Amen.

 Written by Julie Van Gorp

Are You a Contagious Christian?

The other day I was racing to leave my neighborhood for an appointment when I encountered a long line of cars in front of me due to a repaving project. We were all ‘held hostage’ by a construction worker with a stop sign controlling the flow of cars driving in and out of the neighborhood. I was in a hurry, and my frustration level began to mount as the wait time increased. Finally, the STOP sign was switched to a SLOW sign and I was able to move, and as I drove past the sign, my irritation melted away as I saw the sign holder’s radiant smile as she took off her hat, graciously bowed, and gave me a ‘Miss America’ wave as she warmly signaled for me to drive on. She exuded joy that was contagious! I opened my window, and said to her, “You must know and love Jesus!” In response, she enthusiastically responded, “I sure do, and I have ever since I was a little girl!” I later learned that her name is Sharon--known by some as ‘Sharon the Fabulous Flagger’-and that I was not the only one who took notice of her exuberant demeanor.

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The following was posted in my town’s neighborhood Facebook page:

There was a wonderfully cheerful lady directing traffic around the road work on Hickory Drive earlier this afternoon. Are you in this group? I just wanted to say THANK YOU for doing your job with such flair. Your joy is absolutely contagious!!”

And another person wrote:

You want to get mad for having to sit there but then you get up to her and all you can do is smile and wave. Everyone should love their job like she does. She told me she has to deal with very impatient people and she soon realized that her friendly attitude could defuse aggression. She’s a gem!”

Sharon’s life shines forth like a light and is so God glorifying!

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 ESV

Her joy in performing her menial job—especially in the extreme heat and humidity of ‘Hotlanta’—caused me to consider the following:

When others see me-- whether at work, at home, or out and about-- what is their impression? Do they see someone whose words, actions, and overall countenance testifies to the fact that I have chosen to follow Jesus and to serve as an ‘ambassador’ of His loving kindness? Does the way I do the ordinary things in life express joy in living, as well as concern for others, or do I communicate that I am merely in ‘survival mode’, self-focused, and unconcerned about those around me?

What about your life?  What kind of an ambassador are you for Christ? Are you a contagious Christian that attracts others to you and makes them wonder what is the source of your joy? Do the words and the tone you use with your family communicate irritation with or love for them? What about at work? Are you more of a ‘Suzy Sunshine’ who arrives with a smile that no amount of frustration can wipe away, or are you more of a ‘Debbie Downer’ who complains as if that’s your job? When you are grocery or mall shopping, do you smile at other customers? Let others in a hurry go ahead of you? Do you engage the cashier in conversation and thank her for doing her job? Do you stop to visit with neighbors while out walking or jogging? Do you make a point to welcome new neighbors and to invest time in getting to know 'old' neighbors? 

Do you think that you accurately represent Christ’s love to the people with whom you interact on a daily basis, whatever it is you are doing? Do you think Jesus would agree with your assessment?

Below are just a few ways in which you can represent the love of Christ on a daily basis as you go about your life:

1.  SMILE!  It’s amazing the difference a smile alone can make, especially when you look someone in the eye. By doing so you acknowledge that they are worthy of you taking notice of them. You may have heard of the testimonies of people who were contemplating suicide who decided against doing so because someone cared enough to just smile at them. Plus, wearing a smile will continue to fill your ‘joy cup’ because giving a smile almost always leads to receiving a smile! (To be clear: I am not talking about a sexy, flirtatious smile, but a warm and friendly smile that acknowledges that the other person is made in the image of God and therefore worthy to be noticed and their presence dignified by gracing them with a smile.)

2.  Say something kind and affirming to others. When I am out and about and see someone who is kind and outgoing, I will often tell her that her smile or joyful countenance blesses me. Many times I will follow that statement-- as I did with Sharon—with the comment, “You must know Jesus!” or something to that effect. Most times they say, ”I sure do!” and the faith of both of us is built up as we identify one another in the marketplace. But what if they don’t know Him?  Then it gives you a great opportunity to say, “Oh, I encourage you to get to know Him as He is the most wonderful person in the world and will change your life!”

3.  Do not be easily irritated, but instead look to alleviate the irritation of others. I remember going to a grocery store on my birthday when I was in college and the cashier was nasty to me. My initial thought was, “It’s my birthday and I sure don’t deserve to be treated that way!” and I took offense by her attitude.  Then it occurred to me that I didn’t know what that person was going through that might have led them to act so unkindly; perhaps they had just found out some bad news or it was the anniversary of the death of a loved one, or maybe someone in line had just treated them poorly. I resolved that I would always seek to treat others as if it were a special day in their life, for every day is indeed special! The Lord makes each and every day, so we are to rejoice and be glad! (Psalm 118:24)

4.  Show appreciation to others who serve you and look for ways to serve others. Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28) We have the opportunity to represent Jesus’ heart of love to those who provide services to us, like our mailman/woman and sanitation workers by verbally thanking them and performing acts of kindness toward them. I remember watching a wonderful video of a family whose young kids would give something cold to drink or give a snack to the sanitation workers when they came by; a beautiful friendship developed between that family and those workers. Notes of appreciation and other acts of kindness can let them know you value them. Look for ways in which you can serve those who serve you.

5.  Pray for others! When you encounter people who appear from their sullen face or unkind actions to be experiencing a rough day, speak words of kindness to them if possible, knowing that a kind word turns away wrath, and always pray for them! (Proverbs 15:1; Luke 6:28) Pray that they will come to know the love that Jesus has for them and that they will be filled with His loving kindness and joy!

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Lord, let my life so shine forth before others so that all who see me will see your life at work in me and Your life reflected through me! Amen!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

What's The Role of Parents of Adult Children? Part 2

The greatest need your adult children have is the need for an intimate relationship with the Lord and His Presence in their lives. They need Him more than they need you. Keep in mind that if you really love them, you will not seek to be their ‘savior’, but you will always point them to the One Who is their Savior—the One Who will never leave or forsake them, Who loves them perfectly, and Who knows them best and loves them the most!

Model to your adult children what it means to have a close, personal relationship with God. In order to model such a relationship with God, you must have such a relationship, which is only gained by spending time with Him. Time studying and meditating upon His Word, time in prayer with Him, and time in fellowship with others who encourage you in your faith. ‘You can’t give away what you don’t have’. We as parents of children of all ages must put the Lord above every other relationship we have—otherwise those other relationships are idols in our lives. I often see parents who put their relationship with their children above their relationship with the Lord, and when they do, they not only dishonor God, but they also are modeling idolatry to them. The best thing you can do if you love your children is to first love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, for it is only then that you truly will be able to love your children unselfishly and as they need to be loved by you.

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Below are some things you also should do if you love your adult children:

1) Pray! First, pray that God will give you the grace and wisdom to parent your adult children in the way that He desires and to put on your heart what He wants you to pray for them. Secondly, diligently pray for them, regardless of whether they are walking with the Lord or not.  Either way, they need Him and His Presence in their lives! Some things you may wish to pray for them include: praying that they will live for God’s glory and pleasure by walking by the Spirit so they will not gratify the desires of their flesh (Isaiah 43:7; Galatians 5:16); pray that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Who He is, that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened so they would know the hope to which He has called them, and know the riches of His glorious inheritance and the immeasurable greatness of his power toward those who believe (Ephesians 1: 17-19); and pray that they would have the faith to comprehend how high, wide, deep and long is their Heavenly Father’s love for them, and that they be filled with the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-19).  Do not ‘worry’ about them, but ‘cast all of your cares upon the Lord’. (Psalm 55: 22; 1st Peter 5:7)

2) Trust the Lord with your children’s care. Remember, although entrusted to you for their care, your children are first and foremost ‘God’s’.  You can ‘trust the Man Who died for them’ with their lives (Romans 8:32). As you ‘release them to Him’, BELIEVE that He is able to do ‘exceedingly and abundantly beyond what you could hope or imagine’ with them (Ephesians 3:20). Praise God that He has them in His hands and look to see Him at work in their lives as you truly surrender them to Him. I often derive comfort from knowing that not only does God love my children because they are His, but I also am confident that His love for me extends to my children-- since I am precious to Him and they are precious to me-- they also are precious to Him! I derive comfort from the scriptures that tell us that God’s faithfulness, covenant and steadfast love extends to those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations. (Deuteronomy 7:9; Exodus 20:6; 34:7)

3) Confess your sins before your children. If you have been convicted that you did not parent in the way that God’s word commands when your children were young—whether you were too harsh and unloving in your disciplining of them, or too permissive and failed to instruct them and mete out consequences for their disobedience-- then I strongly encourage you to not only confess your sin before the Lord, but to go before your adult children and humbly confess your sin to them. Share the insights you have gained from God’s word, that you wish you had known and applied that truth when you were raising them. Your children need to see authentic Christianity demonstrated by you; that alone can open the door to you having a closer relationship with them, and more importantly, help them to see that God is merciful and willing to forgive sins when we choose to humble ourselves and confess our sin (1 John 1:9). Share with them that He longs for us to walk in truth and righteousness for our sake, and that every command He has given is not to restrict our freedo, but to ensure our freedom from the bondage of sin. The recently released movie and true story ‘I Can Only Imagine’ is a great example of how God can restore a fractured parent-child relationship when a father confesses his sin to his son and asks for his forgiveness. We should always model true Christianity by being willing to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness from our children when we have misrepresented their Heavenly Father to them.

4) Listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading regarding how you can interact with your children to foster a closer relationship with them, and how you can help to foster their relationship with the Lord. Demonstrate your love for your children by truly listening to them and responding to them in a way that reveals God’s truth as well as His heart of love for them. For your adult children who do love the Lord and walk in His truth, your role is to continue to disciple them in the knowledge of God's truth and to encourage them in their faith and 'spur them on to love and good deeds'.(Hebrews 10:24) If your children are not walking with the Lord, you  certainly cannot force them to have a relationship with Him. However, you can be a stumbling block to them wanting to have such a relationship by: never or rarely saying anything positive about the Lord and what He means to you; by leading a hypocritical life before them; or ‘by shoving Him down their throats’. Jesus never forces anyone to be His disciple; He always gives us a choice regarding whether we will choose to follow Him. He lets us know what it costs to follow Him, and what it costs not to choose Him. If your children are not walking with the Lord, in a Spirit of love and humility you should let them know that you respect that is their choice—but also let them know that there is a cost both here on earth and for all eternity for not choosing Him. You can show love for your children without condoning their poor or sinful choices. Reach out and give them a word of encouragement when you can sincerely do so, express interest in them and their lives, and engage them in meaningful conversations about the purpose of life, their relationships, and their work in which you ask them questions without putting them on the defensive. Do not be afraid to ask them why they believe what they profess to believe if it is contrary to your belief in Jesus, and ask them what caused them to fall away from the faith if they once professed to be a believer. As you respectfully listen to them—even when their views differ from yours and God’s word, you earn the right to speak truth into their lives.  Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit regarding what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. And, be obedient to Him when He does tell you to speak.

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5) Confront your child in truth and in love if he or she is choosing a lifestyle of sin. I am heartbroken every time I read through the bible and come to the part where Eli the priest did not rebuke his adult sons, and he and they suffered the consequences of their sin, as did generations to come. King David failed to admonish his sons Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah, which led to rape, murder, and the bloodshed of many ‘innocents’. Both Eli and David enabled the sinful behavior of their sons by remaining silent. Do you know of anyone who is enabling his or her adult children’s sinful lifestyle by saying nothing, or even indicating approval of their sinful behavior? I am heartbroken when I hear parents who state they can’t ‘do anything’ because their child is an adult, and yet, they have remained silent about their child's sinful choices. For example, I know of many parents who have a child who is living with someone outside of marriage and they say, “There’s nothing I can do about it.”  And when I ask them if they have said anything to the child they most often say, “No, it wouldn’t do any good to say anything because they’re going to do what they want to do anyway.” It may or may not change their adult child’s heart or their behavior. But you cannot remain silent because what is at stake is too great—it is the life of your child that has been entrusted to you! If we as parents humbly speak to our adult children and confront them with their sin in love, and the child continues in the sin, then the sin is ‘on their head’. If we, however, disregard our parental role of warning our children of their sin and its consequences, then we are sinning by omission and failing in our parental duty. You cannot force your adult child to do what is right, but you are to share the truth in a spirit of humility and love and to sound the warning that sin—unchecked and un-confessed-- always has negative consequences.   If we truly love our children as Christ—Who is ‘Truth’---has loved us, we will confront them with the truth of God’s Word regarding their specific sin, assuring them of our and God’s love, yet letting them know because of our love for them that we cannot condone their sin. If we really understand the nature of sin, we will know that it always is destructive by its very nature; if we love our children, why would we allow them to be on the path of destruction? There’s two reasons and both stem from self-love: we love ourselves more than we love God, for we fear our children’s rejection more than we revere God and His Word; and we love ourselves more than we love our children or we would be willing to risk their rejection in order to keep them from harm. God tells us clearly that if we love anything more than we love Him —including our family members and ourselves-- we are not fit to be His disciples (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26). We have been called to rebuke and admonish our brothers and sisters in Christ when appropriate for their sake. Should we not be even more willing to rebuke and admonish our own children whose care has been entrusted to us, and for whom our love should be so great that we will always desire that they know and live by 'the truth that saves'? (Matthew 18:15; Colossians 3:16; 1Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:15) There’s an expression you may have heard, ‘if you care, you have to share’, and that is certainly applicable when it comes to a parent sharing the truth of God’s Word with their adult children who are choosing to live a lifestyle of sin.

Lord, I am completely inadequate on my own to be a parent, and I ask you to give me the grace, strength, courage, boldness and wisdom to parent my children in righteousness, truth, and love, as You parent me! Amen

Written by Julie Van Gorp

You may also wish to read What's the Role of Parents of Adult Children? Part 1 https://www.trueviewministries.org/blog/2018/6/15/whats-the-role-of-parents-of-adult-children

What's the Role of Parents of Adult Children? Part 1

Have you ever heard the question, “Will my job as a parent ever end?”  I have, and many times from parents who wryly make the comment after their child has moved back home post-college-- or for a number of reasons, they see their adult child’s life ‘imploding’ and they wonder what it is they can and should do.

This topic is near and dear to my heart as I am the parent of four grown children, and I want to make sure I am fulfilling my parental role at this stage in their lives. I have reflected upon many scriptures as well as God’s character to gain insight into what the role of parents is for their adult children.

Parenting doesn’t ever end; it is a ‘life sentence’. Regardless of the age of your children, your primary job is to represent to your children the heart and character of God and to reveal His truth and love to them. That includes helping your children of all ages to learn ‘to die’ to their selfish desires and to learn the joy of living for the glory of God, which truly is the key to joyous living! Although we always have parental responsibilities, how you carry them out changes when your children become adults who have moved out of your home. We in the West have been led to believe that the responsibility of parenting ends when a child turns 18, and although there are legal and financial responsibilities that may change at that age, parents have been entrusted with God-given responsibilities-- no matter the age of their child.

As hard as it may be for moms of babies and toddlers to comprehend, it can be even more difficult to be a parent of adult children because you have far less ability to influence their choices than you did when they lived under your roof. In addition, you can be haunted by the fruit of the poor parenting choices you made when your children were young, which can lead to great suffering for your adult children-- as well as for you. In general, your role as a parent of adult children is to be an advisor, counselor or coach to them rather than to be an instructor and disciplinarian as was the case in their youth. The degree to which you instructed, disciplined, and set the stage for open, honest, constructive communication when they were growing up will definitely impact how open they are to listening to your counsel when they are adults.

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If you instructed your child in God’s Word, in the spirit of His love when he or she was young, then parenting will be less challenging as your child grows older, even into adulthood. In fact, if you assumed the correct role of a parent when they were growing up, then when they are adults you likely will have the joy of a ‘friendship’ with them, and you also will have gained a ‘brother or sister in Christ’.

If, however, you did not teach your children in God’s word and His ways—likely because at the time you were ignorant of God and His wisdom—or if your children chose to rebel against the truth of His word that you taught them, then your children most likely are pursuing the 'desires of their flesh' and not ‘walking in the Spirit’ so they—and you---are now ‘reaping what was sown’ (Galatians 6:7-8). If this is the case with you, I want to encourage you: do not despair! God’s grace is sufficient for every need, and He is able to forgive every sin, and to make ‘beauty from ashes’—even from the parenting mistakes you made, and the sin your child has chosen! (1 John 1:9; Isaiah 61:3) You can be assured that your children will face trials in their lives that are bigger than their ability to handle them, and those situations are often the very door through which God enters and reveals to them that He is Sovereign and All Loving!

It is NOT your job: to try and control and micro-manage your child's behavior; to manipulate or 'bribe' them so they will comply with your will and desires; to assume responsibility for poor choices they made that were contrary to your instruction and advice; to 'rescue' them from facing the consequences of their poor or even sinful choices when doing so will not teach them anything positive and instead will enable them to continue in selfish, self-destructive, or sinful behavior. Your job is to represent the love of God, His character and His ways to your children, which you do by praying for them, trusting their lives into His loving and capable hands, speaking the truth in love to them, and applying His life-changing Word to all of your dealings with them and all of the situations in your life. It is a job we can only do by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. May you--and I--be found faithful to assume the parental role God has entrusted to us, regardless of our children's ages!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

Look for next week's blog that will focus specifically on what you must do if you truly love your adult children.

You may also be interested in reading 'A Two Letter Word That Spells Love' that may help you with parenting--and all of your relationships. Click below https://www.trueviewministries.org/blog/2018/6/7/a-two-letter-word-that-spells-love

A Two-Letter Word That Spells Love

Princess Bride is one of our family’s favorite movies. The story is all about ‘true love’ and it begins with the farm boy Wesley winning the heart of a lovely woman named Buttercup. He wins her over by continually responding to her every request with the words, ‘As you wish.’ That kind of response makes for a delightful fairy tale, but when given without restraint in real life relationships it can lead to horror stories. ‘True love’ in real life means we must be willing to say ‘no’ to our children of all ages; to others we love; and especially to ourselves.

Unfortunately, I have observed that many parents today either don’t tell their children ‘no’-- or if they do, it seems to be more of a suggestion than a command, and the child’s failure to comply rarely results in any negative consequences. I have also witnessed many children authoritatively shouting ‘no’ to their parents, and then getting away with such disrespectful behavior!  I have noticed a lack of disciplining by parents of children of all ages—from those whose three year olds basically decide their bedtime, to parents of teenagers who won’t say ‘no’ to coed ‘spend the night’ parties or parties where they know drinking and drugs will be readily available.

I believe that there are many reasons why parents fail to say ‘no’ to and discipline their children. Some of those reasons are: laziness; believing saying ‘no’ will somehow hurt their child’s ‘self-esteem’; the desire to be their child’s friend; the desire for their child to be popular by having or doing what other kids have/do; thinking that love means giving the person whatever they want; not having been disciplined themselves when they were children; lack of confidence regarding what is the right thing to do; not knowing how to effectively discipline their child for disobedience; and ignorance of or disregard for what God’s word says about the importance of discipline and ‘reaping what we sow’ (Galatians 6:7-9).

I readily admit when I was  a teenager I felt that when my parents said ‘no’ to me that they didn’t really love me. I felt they were out to keep me from what in my youthful wisdom I knew was best for me. I remember as a teenager my parents saying no to: my wearing halter tops; my going to certain concerts; my staying out past my designated curfew; my dating someone they didn’t think was a good choice for me. My problem was that my focus was entirely upon ‘me’ and my desires and feelings. Like virtually every child, I wasn’t wise and mature enough to consider the consequences of my choices, which is why God entrusted my parents with the job of instructing me and setting boundaries for me. How presumptuous of me to think that I knew better than my parents what was good for me! I realize now that my parents were secure in the rightness of their decisions because they knew and believed God’s word, and they loved me enough to remain resolute and not give in to my pleadings. Even though I often rebelled against their ‘no’ to me, I learned what was right and what was wrong by their giving me boundaries for living and decision-making. They honored God by instructing me in His righteousness, which as I grew older I did 'not depart from'(Proverbs 22:6). I am certain I wouldn’t be who I am today if they had taken the easier path and caved into my every self-focused wish and desire.

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I am grateful that my parents often demonstrated their love for me by saying ‘no’ to me, and I am even more grateful that my Heavenly Father loves me and His other children so much that He tells us ‘no’ when that is in our best interest, and that He gives us consequences when we disobey. If you have a problem saying 'no' to your children, I encourage you to consider that God-- Who is All Loving and All Wise-- gave us the 10 Commandments which are filled with 'thou shalt not' statements; clearly, God does not have a problem telling His children ‘no’!  

The Bible tells us that ‘God disciplines those He loves’ (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12: 6; Revelation 3:19). The word ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ are both derived from the same Latin word ‘discipulus’, which means ‘pupil’. It is essential that children be instructed by their parents, their teachers, religious leaders, and other authority figures regarding what is right and what is wrong.  That includes saying ‘no’ to choices that are not in the child’s best interest, and correcting the child when he disobeys. 

In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve that they could eat from every tree in the Garden…except one. He told them ‘no’ to eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because He knew that if they did so they would suffer horrible consequences. They chose not to listen to God’s ‘no’ and therefore they were cursed and cast out of the Garden. God knew what was best for them, and even though He knew in advance they would disobey Him, He didn’t change His mind about the directive nor did He choose to overlook their disobedience. He didn’t consider whether meting out the consequence for their disobedience might affect their self-esteem, or cause them to pout and give Him the cold shoulder. He loved them so much that He gave them clear instructions regarding what they could say ‘yes’ to, and what they should say ‘no’ to. And, He held them accountable for their disobedience. He knew it was imperative that they learned that He always means what He says; God is always a ‘Man of His word’.   After meting out the consequences for their disobedience, He extended His grace to Adam and Eve, and although all of mankind has suffered from their disobedience, we also all have been recipients of God’s grace. Every aspect of God’s ‘parenting’ of Adam and Eve was due to His love for them, as is true of His ‘parenting’ of us.

We have been created in God’s image, and we glorify Him when we follow His example as well as when we obey His formal commands. When we instruct our children in what is right and what is wrong, when we hold them accountable for obeying us, and when we say 'no' to their selfish, lustful, destructive desires, we accurately model to them the character of their Heavenly Father.  May we faithfully represent Our Heavenly Father by parenting our children as He so wisely and lovingly parents us, His dearly beloved children!

Do you need to confess to God or to your parents any disobedience that the Lord has brought to your mind while reading this? If you are a parent, is the Lord convicting you that you need to ‘instruct your child in the way he should go’ by saying ‘no’ to things that you have allowed him or her to get away with doing? When your children disobey you, do you consistently follow up with consequences that will teach them that your ‘yes is yes’ and your ‘no is no’ so that they will learn to respect and honor your word, as well as God’s word?

Written by Julie Van Gorp

3 Requirements of Love

Over the Memorial Day weekend I had the joy of having our four grown children, their spouses, our 4 grandchildren, and my 90+ year- old parents at our home. All of us hadn’t been together since last August when we had the joy of being at our eldest son’s wedding. It was a memorable weekend full of ‘catching- up’, as well as deep conversations; competitive outdoor games like corn hole and pickle ball; intense card games; loads of laughter from all—amid much noise-making and running around from the grandkids; and my favorite—a sweet time of prayer! The only downside was that it went by far too quickly; it was very hard for me to see the weekend come to an end since we have no way of knowing when the next time will be that we'll all be able to gather together due to my parents’ ages, and the fact that we all live in different locations—including one who lives overseas. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to come together and demonstrate our love for the Lord and for one another!

There were several moments throughout the weekend when I was consciously aware of choices that we all made to show our love for one another. It also occurred to me that the way in which we demonstrated our love for one another is how we can--and should-- demonstrate our love for our Heavenly Father.

Engage: When we love someone, we will be engaged with him or her. We will want to be ‘connected’ to them, and we will indicate to them that who they are and what they say is important to us. We will give them our undivided attention when they are speaking to us, 'actively listening' to them. Some of the ways in which we show we are engaged with others include: communicating with them—whether via audio calls, Skype or Face Time calls, emails, letters and cards; and when in their presence, we will look them in the eyes when they are talking. It will mean removing distractions that would cause you to lose your focus upon them and what they are saying. I was so blessed to see my children’s willingness to converse with my parents-- as well as with one another-- and to set aside looking at their cell phones to actively listen to what other family members were saying.

Do you set aside time each day to focus upon God and to truly listen to what He has to say to you in His Word, and through the Holy Spirit as you pray to Him? Do you meet with Him in a room where you know that you won’t be distracted and do you put away anything that might keep you from giving Him your undivided attention?

Respond: When someone speaks to us, it’s important that we respond by letting him/her know that we have heard what he/she said. Ways in which we do that is by: nodding our head; by saying ‘I understand’ or something to that effect’; by asking questions to get greater clarification; by making a statement that asserts that you agree or disagree with what has been said; or by obeying if a request or directive was given. In general, it is having a two-way conversation with the person in which you acknowledge and affirm what they are saying. For example, there were times when I spoke to my four-year old twin granddaughters and they readily acknowledged that they had heard me, however, there were other times when they were too caught up in what they were doing and they chose to ignore me. Their ignoring me communicated that it was more important for them to do what they wanted to do than it was to respond to me; in other words, their lack of response indicated to me that their love for themselves was greater than their love for me. I immediately was convicted of my own self-love and wondered, ‘How often do I demonstrate to God that I love myself more than I love Him by ignoring His Words to me?”

We are commanded to love one another ‘as Jesus has loved us’, which means making their needs a priority over our own. Jesus also tells us that if we love Him, we will obey Him (John 14:15). That statement also implies that when we ignore or disobey Him we demonstrate that we love ourselves more than we love Him.

During your quiet time with the Lord, do you take the time to reflect upon what it is that you ‘heard’ the Lord stating to you? Do you write notes in your Bible or in a journal regarding what you heard Him say, including instructions and guidance He has given to you? Do you demonstrate that you heard His Voice by obeying His commands? What about His greatest command’ to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength’? And ‘to love others as He has loved you’?

Serve and Sacrifice:  A heart that truly loves someone will desire to serve that person. When you love someone, you will look for and take advantage of opportunities to meet the other person’s needs and their desires, if doing so is in the person’s best interest. I vividly remember that shortly after my husband’s and my first date, I felt compelled to go and get something special for him (OK, it was just a meal from McDonald’s, but I knew he would appreciate it!)

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Jesus says that He did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). We are most like Christ when we serve others. He tells us in Matthew 25:36: I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (ESV) He goes on to tell us that if we serve others in need, we are in effect serving Him. (Matthew 25:40) Jesus said that if we even give a cup of cold water to others out of our love for Him, we will not lose our reward (Mark 9:41), and we are told that true religion is helping widows and orphans (James 1:27).  Other scriptures encourage us to do good to everyone, and especially to the household of God. (Galatians 6:10; Romans 12:13)

Serving others necessarily involves some kind of sacrifice on our part. A dear sister in Christ demonstrated her love for the Lord and for me by going out of her way to drive to my house to bring food that she had made for me to serve to my family over the weekend. All of my children and my parents came by plane or by car and gave up a long weekend for us all to gather together, and my husband and I spent many hours preparing for our reunion.

Even ‘simple’ ways in which we serve one another requires a sacrifice on our part because we choose to spend our time doing something to bless others instead of merely serving our own needs and desires. I so appreciated my children serving our family and me over the weekend by preparing meals; setting and clearing the dinner table; washing dishes; putting down their cell phones in order to converse with other family members; and playing games that weren’t their preference in order to please others. Loving others means putting their needs above your own according to 1st Corinthians 13:5, and Christ’s life certainly demonstrated sacrificial love in all that He did-- from healing the diseased, casting out demons, preaching to and feeding the multitudes, and of course by giving His life on the cross in our place (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:2; 2nd Corinthians 5:21).

The greatest way to serve someone and show your love for them is by doing what you know truly pleases them. Jesus came to earth for the purpose of saving sinners from the power and penalty of sin. He longs for others to know His great love for them and He has commanded us to ‘go and tell and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). We serve Him best by sharing His love with others and telling them about the Source of our love. I am convicted and humbled every time I hear my daughter’s heart of love for the Lord that has compelled her to go overseas and make His Name known where He currently has few friends. Sharing the truth of Who Jesus is and His great love for the people He created is an act of service that we all are called to do, regardless of where we live, and it is the act of service which best demonstrates whether we truly love Jesus and others.

In what ways are you demonstrating your love for Christ by serving others—those within your own family; those within the household of God; and those who are in need who are ‘outside’ of your family of origin or the family of God? Are you faithfully serving Jesus by sharing the gospel with those whom He came to save?

 Lord, help me to keep my eyes and attention fully focused upon You and engaged with Your word, acknowledging my love for You by responding in obedience to all that you have called me to do. Open up my eyes to the opportunities that exist all around me to demonstrate my love for You by serving others. May I be found faithful to help to meet others’ physical needs, and may I especially be found faithful to share the ‘good news’ of Your sacrificial love with those who need to hear of your life-transforming love!

Written by Julie Van Gorp