R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A few weeks ago I was listening to a message about biblical manhood and womanhood, and how the two intersect, by Matt Chandler (which you can find here if you’re interested). Chandler begins this series by talking about how we’re made in the image of God; known as the Imago Dei. The term has its roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein “God created man in his own image. . .” Most Christians believe this scriptural passage refers to the fact that humans are in the image of God in their moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature.

Remember how I just finished Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples? Well, Francis Chan wrote that God has given humanity the responsibility to reflect Him to the world (Chan, pp. 144-145). (This can be found in the Word, as well. Check out Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10; and Ephesians 2:10, 4:24.) Chandler’s message reminded me of something that I remember studying a while ago in a Wednesday night Bible study: because we’re all made in the image of God, we all deserve to be treated with respect and should treat others with respect.Fish Pic

Interestingly enough, this is considered countercultural in the world we live in now. The world tells us that respect is earned, but the Word tells us that respect is given because God created us in His image. This means that everyone is to be treated with respect, regardless of who they are, what they believe, or what they do or don’t do. I have this little metal fish on my desk at work with scripture cards and I flipped the little card this week (side note: I actually began this post two weeks ago.) to the following scripture: “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31). As I meditated over this scripture I noted that this doesn’t say, treat others as they treat you. It says you treat them like you want them to treat you! To me, that means being gracious, generous, kind, loving, and compassionate regardless of how they treat you. Recall that Jesus said the following in Luke…

If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. ~ Luke 6:32-36

I love how verse 36 reminds us that God is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked” because so often I feel that we treat people based on what we think they “deserve.” However, I’m reminded of Jonah—we were studying the book of Jonah last week in our ladies’ Bible study—and how he didn’t believe the people of Ninevah deserved God’s grace and mercy, but upon their repentance, God granted just that!

Some of my favorite verses this year can be found in Exodus; in 33:19 God tells Moses that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy and compassion on whom He shows compassion. Peter says something along these lines in Acts 10:34-35 when he says “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.” As does James in James 2:1, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” God desires that we treat all people with equal love and respect!

In the end what will we do? Be angry like Jonah because God shows love and grace? Or will we realize that God extends that same love and grace towards us, though, we too are undeserving? The truth is, we’re all on equal standing before the cross…not one of us “deserves” His grace; in fact, the amplified Bible defines grace as free and unmerited favor. Unmerited meaning undeserving, unwarranted, and unearned. We must remember that just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians “…whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace” (1 Corinthians 15:10, emphasis added) and we are saved by our faith in Christ Jesus, not based on ourselves or anything that we do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In conclusion, we must remember that we were all made in the image of God. Therefore, we are to respect those around us and treat them as we want to be treated; and remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28, where He tells us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute and/or hurt us. I’m going to end with the famous “love is” passage from 1 Corinthians. For some reason we tend to believe that this passage only applies to marriages, but it doesn’t; it describes what love is and how we are to apply it in all areas of our lives.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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Imperfectly Perfect

Back in December I finished reading the Bible from beginning to end. I’ve read the Bible in its entirety before, but one thing I’ve learned over the years, is that every time you study the Word, you learn something new, and so once I finished Revelation, I picked right back up in Genesis, come January. Whether you’ve read it once, twice, or even hundreds of times before, the Word of God will never return void (Isaiah 55:11). I’ve found that the Holy Spirit is continually changing our heart and perspective, so much so, that stories we’ve read and learned about when we were children (whether physically or spiritually) are understood and viewed completely different the next time we read/study them. I always like to compare the Word of God to an onion and how it has layer after layer of knowledge and wisdom that can only be revealed to us after the Holy Spirit has exposed to us the first layer, then the next, and so forth.

In my case, reading Genesis this time around, got me thinking about the character of the men that God chose to fulfill His promises. I was amazed by Abraham’s faith, and was, surprisingly, only slightly disappointed when he tried to accomplish God’s plans on his own, producing Ishmael. I mean, let’s face it, how often have we been prone to attempt to accomplish God’s will on our own, only to make a mess of things? But as I read on, I found myself questioning Jacob’s character. I mean, here’s a man who’s scheming and manipulating (with encouragement from his mother, no less) gets him…exactly where God wanted him? I wrote in my journal after reading about Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing, that Jacob’s character left me “unimpressed,” and I actually questioned God, regarding His use of Jacob to complete His plans. “I just don’t get it, Lord,” I wrote. I thought a little more on it, and just decided that God uses us—imperfect, flawed humans—to accomplish His will and just left it at that.

Then, last night during our ladies’ Bible study, our leader read from a Matt Chandler book The Explicit Gospel, which I have yet to read and therefore can’t recommend, but the point that she made, referencing Psalm 139:13-18, was that God knew our very personality and character before He knit us together in our mothers’ womb.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6, emphasis added)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-18, emphasis added)

God not only knew our personality and character, but also our thoughts and responses to the people and things we’d face in life. God knew each of our days before we ever live(d) it! Suddenly, whereas before I wondered and questioned whether or not that’s how things had to play out for Jacob. For instance, did he really have to go along with his mother’s plan to steal Esau’s blessing? I now realized that God knew exactly how everything was going to play out because he knew the character of Jacob, and his mother, long before they were born! He knew it and He planned on it!

In the past I’d wondered even about my own poor decisions and choices, but now I realize that God wasn’t surprised by anything I did, because He knew it all along and He planned on it. That makes me wonder what else He has planned? How does He see this all playing out in my life and how does He plan to use my life—past, present, and future—to bring glory to His Name?Epistles

Now, I don’t want you thinking that just because God knew beforehand the choices that I would make, excuses me for making them; because we’re still subject to the consequences of our free will, but just like Joseph stated when he came face-to-face with the brother’s who’d betrayed him years before, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today,” I know that my experiences serve a dual purpose that God has preordained and planned far in advance (Genesis 50:20).

Finally, I know that my past decisions have disappointed and caused God sorrow, even though He expected them, which just further enhances my appreciation for the divine mercy and grace He’s shown me despite my shortcomings. I’m nothing special, just like Jacob, David, and Paul were nothing special. We’re all human, we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and we’re all going to disappoint God in some way, but His mercy and grace have absolutely nothing to do with us, and everything to do with His character. I now realize that the men and women of the Bible weren’t extraordinary because of their own character, but because of God’s character. God chose to use them, just as He chooses to use us, to fulfill His own purposes, not because of who we are or what we have or haven’t done, but because of Who He Is. His plans are perfect even if they’re carried out by imperfect us.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)

And for that…I am thankful beyond expression.