“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
John 14:15 (KJV)
How are you? This post is going to be a little bit different than usual. I am going to use this post to show how we may have to have a little extra compassion for those who may have trouble with reading the Bible and believing in God.
Before I go too far, I want you to know that I am not making excuses for nonbelievers or for those who don’t believe that the Bible is the Word of God. I am not trying to judge or condone anyone who may be in that situation. However, I think that we as Christians, if we realize what a nonbeliever or baby believer may be thinking or feeling, we can have extra compassion to encourage a person.
The way we act as Christians might make the difference in whether a nonbeliever or baby Christian might believe in the future. Our compassion or lack of compassion might determine how the person we meet feels towards our Lord in the future.
First, let me ask, what do you think of when you first read the words in John 14:15? I have to say that I am a seasoned Christian and one of my first thoughts were of manipulators who have told me things like, “If you love me, you would wear the outfit I like” or “If you love me, you would wear your hair the way I like” or “If you love me, you would do this for me”. Have you ever had people say things like that to you?
Don’t get me wrong, I am a seasoned Christian and know that Jesus is not trying to manipulate us by the words he spoke in John 14:15. However, for those who have had a more difficult life or aren’t a seasoned believer may not understand that Jesus’ words are not manipulative. He or she may relate the words solely on what he or she knows. And, if all he or she knows is manipulation and lack of love, then this may feel like more of the same to him or her.
So, why am I saying all this? Usually, I ponder the meaning of a verse to me. I don’t usually ponder what a verse is not. Don’t worry, I will ponder the meaning for John 14:15 next week. However, I feel called to write this post, because I think that the actions of Christians can sometimes have a strong influence on how nonbelievers or baby believers can react or believe.
Looking at Matthew 18:6 might help explain what I mean. Matthew 18:6 (KJV) says, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” I don’t think Jesus was necessarily talking about just children in Matthew 18:6. I think he was talking about any new believer. (For me, it also kind of means a nonbeliever that is kind of on the edge of believing as well.) Jesus doesn’t want us seasoned Christians to do anything that would discourage belief in him.
I believe this concept is one that is difficult for many of us to understand. Sometimes, we may discourage belief in Jesus or discourage others from wanting to be Christians without even knowing it. Sometimes, we act in a way that is ungodly and un-Christian without even thinking about it.
Now, let’s tie this into John 14:15. Imagine a nonbeliever or new believer who comes across John 14:15 and immediately thinks about all the manipulators in his or her life. Maybe some of the hurt from the manipulation and selfishness of loved ones is triggered from this verse.
Imagine that because of the hurt, he or she might say something like, “This is bogus. This isn’t God’s Word. And, if it is, He doesn’t sound very loving to me.” It might not be exactly like that, but he or she may have thoughts and feelings that we may not understand. The might seem understandable to them and they may be honest feelings to them. But, we know that their thoughts and feelings don’t reflect the true nature of God.
Our first instinct might be to be protective and defend our Lord. This may be all well and good, not that God needs our protection and defense, but often we may not do it with compassion or tact. This lack of compassion or tact is what gives nonbelievers or baby Christians the wrong image of God.
We may be called to disagree with the wrong feelings that some get from verses like John 14:15, but we are called to do it with compassion and by following Jesus’ example. We are to do it gently. Instead of getting our dander up and starting an argument over the real meaning of the verse, we may say something more understanding and compassionate like, “I can understand why you might think that. I have had people in my life try to manipulate me in that way as well. It can be a hurtful thing. However, with time, an open heart, and more experience, you will see that God is not a manipulator. He is not like the people who have said, ‘If you love me, you will do this or that.’ Give it time. Experience His love and revisit this verse later.”
There are other instances where we can be “better off drowned with a millstone around our neck”, but when I read John 14:15 I felt called to bring up how we are to be good role models and encourage others in their belief in God. It is important to stress that how we respond to nonbelievers and new believers may impact how they believe in the future. Starting an argument and speaking harshly can lead to more wrong thinking or disbelief and compassion can lead to a better understanding and a stronger belief.
What do you think? Can you think of a time when you have been in this situation either as the nonbeliever/new believer or as the seasoned Christian? What was your reaction?
Especially during disagreement, I think new believers or possible believers need to see God’s love through us. We can disagree with them and even correct their misunderstanding, but we can do it gently and compassionately, so God’s love shines through us.
Thank you for your Holy Word. Thank you for sending your beloved Son, Jesus, not only to be our Lord and Savior, but to be our ultimate role model as well. Help us to have compassion for others, especially for unbelievers on the edge of believing or new believers, so we don’t turn them off from your love and give them a wrong picture of what it means to be a Christian. Give us the strength, knowledge and courage in doing what is right when someone has a wrong picture of you and reacts badly to your Word. I ask this through your Son, Jesus. Amen.
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Reflective questions for John 14:15 (KJV):
*What does John 14:15 mean to me?
*Have I ever had anyone say, “If you love me, you will…”?
*Have I ever been manipulated before?
*If I come across someone who has a wrong picture by the words in John
14:15, how would I react?
Thank you for staying with me this week. Next week, I will ponder what I think John 14:15 does mean instead of what I think the verse doesn’t mean. So, stay tuned.
Now, it is your turn.
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. I know that this has been a little different, but do you know what I am trying to say? Have you been in this situation before? How have you reacted? Do you have thoughts for the rest of us on what we could do if we were in this type of situation?
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Do You Encourage Others?
“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (KJV)
How are you today? I hope you are all well. Last week, I wrote about encouraging one another by role modeling love, kindness, and good works. (You can read that post here.) This week’s post, also talks about encouraging each other, however it is for a little bit different reason.
The words in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 also call us to encourage one another. Yet, I think, this is encouragement is meant to keep each other on the right path and to lift our spirits when we are down.
In this verse, St. Paul was kind of telling the Thessalonians that he knew they were encouraging each other and they should keep up the good work. You may also be one to encourage others and if that is so, great job! Keep up the good work!
Yet, even if we already do encourage others, I think it these words are good to read and think about at times. We all need encouragement at times. And, sometimes we try to encourage others with the greatest of intentions, but we don’t encourage well.
Yes, I think there are pitfalls in the intention of encouragement. Let’s look at how we encourage or what we encourage. For example, when someone says, “You do what feels good to you. Don’t worry about what anyone else says.” Is this good encouragement? I would humbly submit that when the Bible usually encourages us NOT to go with our own feelings, are we being helpful in encouraging each other to go with our own feelings? Am I being too nitpicky? Or, should that be rephrased to better suit God’s words and meaning in the Bible?
There was a time when I wouldn’t even have thought about it. Yet, I believe that words are powerful and shape what we think and how we feel. And, there is a difference between generally saying, “do what feels good to you” and in saying, “do what you feel God is calling you to do.” This may seem trifle and petty, but I do think that these subtleties in what we say have resulted in a society that feels entitled. These subtleties have changed our beliefs, and us slowly, over time. I don’t believe we are truly helping or encouraging others, if we “encourage” them to do something that isn’t in accordance with God’s Word.
It also may be unhealthy to promise someone the world, when you have no business making the promise or have no idea whether or not it will come true. I can remember being estranged from someone and well-meaning people would say that this person would come back to me. I was upset by those words, because the people who said them had no way of telling whether the person would come back to me or not. My heart knew that they were just hopeful words, but nothing concrete. I wanted something concrete that I could hold onto. It meant more to me to have someone comfort me with truth, than hopes.
I don’t say all this to discourage you from encouraging others. I don’t want you to think that, “Oh, I better not say anything, because I might say something wrong.” I say this just for thoughtful reflection. Encouraging others is what we are called to do. So, let us pray that we all take the opportunity to encourage others and do it in a godly and Biblical way.
Thank you for loving us. Thank you for knowing that we need to be encouraged. Thank you for your instruction. Help us to take the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:11 to heart. Help us to encourage one another in faith, hope, and love, especially in trying times. Yet, help us to do so with words that align with your holy words out of love and compassion and obedience to you. Help us to be mindful in our words and the message we are actually sending each other. Let our encouragement be something that glorifies you and shows us to be your people. I ask you this through your Son, Jesus. Amen.
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Reflection questions for 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (KJV):
*What does 1 Thessalonians 5:11 mean to me?
*Do I encourage others?
*If I encourage others, do I do so with words that align with God’s words?
*Can well meaning encouragement be wrong if the words aren’t right?
*What can I do to better fulfill the calling in 1 Thessalonians 5:11?
Now, it is your turn.
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This is Jodi. I am so glad you are here! I am a Christian and life-long learner. I enjoy sharing and encouraging others. I pray you are blessed by this blog. Thank you for being here.