Category Archives: Love

What Makes a King a King?

Proverbs 16:12

“It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.”

A king detests wrongdoing, for his rule is built on justice. (NLT)

I have never met an earthly king, but I have often wondered what makes a king a king, or a queen a queen. The history books tell us that many kings and queens built their rule not on justice and righteousness, but on evil and by instilling fear among their subjects. There are countries in our world that continue to be ruled in this way.

Jesus was born into poverty in a land ruled by terror. A foreign king ruled the land with the help of a local puppet king. Neither covered themselves in glory in the way that they ruled. Compare Caesar and Herod to Jesus. The fact that Jesus was different was evident after His arrest when He was interrogated by Pilate, the Roman governor for the province:

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:33-38 NIV)

Did Pilate understand what Jesus was saying? Here was a King like no other. A King who is holy and perfect in every way that we are not. A King from another place who cannot be compared to any earthly ruler, but a King who considers every human welcome in His Kingdom. It is not us that this King judges, but our wrongdoing. His rule is built on justice, and the forgiveness made possible by His sacrifice.

Before Jesus all human beings are equal, and all are equally welcome. He hates the wrongdoing, but He loves the wrongdoer. What a King!


What About the Vegetables?

Proverbs 15:17

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate. (NLT)

I remember a television comedy sketch in the UK concerning the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and her cabinet sharing a meal. Puppets were used to portray the scene. Mrs Thatcher was served first. The waitress placed several slices of meat on her plate and then asked, “and what about the vegetables?” The Prime Minister looked around the table briefly at her cabinet colleagues, many of whom were regarded as ineffective by voters. Then she replied, “oh, they’ll have the same as me.” This was not a meal shared in love!

Mrs Thatcher was known in the press as the ‘Iron Lady’ and her methods of leadership were not always respected. Despite this, and despite the attitude of her fellow cabinet members, Mrs Thatcher needed them, and they needed her. While a bowl of vegetables shared lovingly may be considered superior to prime steak shared begrudgingly, the common denominator between the two parts of this verse is that meals are not meant to be taken alone. The question is less about the menu and more about the company, and the attitudes of those around the table to each other.

In my work travels I often eat alone. It doesn’t matter how good the food is, a meal taken alone is not something I enjoy. Mostly I can’t wait to leave the restaurant. A conversation with a friendly waiter or waitress is a bonus. The fact is that God created us to be together. The need to share is woven into our DNA. So here’s a question. Is there someone you know who eats alone and who would benefit from an invitation to a meal at your home? A meal shared in love and a meal representing love. Jesus said:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:27-38)


Sacri-nice

Proverbs 15:8

“The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
    but the prayer of the upright pleases him.”

What God Wants…

God hates the sacrifice of the wicked, but he isn’t to keen on the sacrifice of the righteous either, especially when it becomes the be all and end all. Countless times in the Bible God makes the point that He isn’t interested in sacrifices, the idea of coming and making a payment for your transgressions. No, what He is interested in is your behavior, how you will respond to His grace and forgiveness in your own life, and how that will inspire you to treat others.

Inspired by?

In Matthew 18 we see the story of a servant who owes his master a huge amount of money. He’s panicking, how will he pay this back? What will happen to his family? He goes before the master and begs for more time, and incredibly the master let’s him off. Scot free. Let’s not miss the huge significance of this – this is truly incredible and as counter cultural now as it was then.

I sometimes watch Undercover Boss, now I am not naive I know it’s probably scripted, but I can’t help but be moved when some big CEO enters the life of a low level employee, sees their struggles and their debt, and does something about it. What we never see is how this affects the person in question. They seem very grateful in the moment, but we never see the lasting change.

Not so with this servant. The Bible tells us that straight away he went looking for another servant who owed him a considerably smaller amount. We’d be entitled to think that he had in mind to set this servant free from his debt, to share the grace he had experienced. But in fact all he wants is the money owed to him. How sad that this servant was even more enslaved to money than he originally thought.

Washing feet

At the opposite end of the spectrum we find Jesus. Jesus the entirety of God squeezed into man form, denying His deity to inspire humanity, relying fully on the Father to further the future of the broken. We all know Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, we all know this should blow our tiny minds, but I’ll be honest it was just one of those things I accepted, until I reread the account and came to these verses in John 13:3-5 ‘Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.’ 

Why did Jesus do this? BECAUSE He knew who he was. Because He wanted to show the world a powerful image of what happens when we take the lowest place.

Prayer

All very good and well you may say but how’s this connected to the proverb? Prayer changes everything. If you want to be a person who shares grace rather than shrugs grace then you need to start on your knees.


Carpenter King

Proverbs 14:35

“The king’s favor is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.”

I only know one King. He is not an earthly king, in fact he was born into poverty, apparently while his parents were accommodated in a stable. While He was still quite young, this King was exiled from His homeland. When He returned home this King learned a trade, and qualified as a carpenter. Some years later, but while He was still a young man, the carpenter King became an itinerant. He had no palace, in fact He had nowhere to lay His head.

Somehow the itinerant King gathered a band of followers, twelve of whom became so special to the King that He called them His disciples. These disciples weren’t exactly servants, and they struggled to understand their King at times. The King rejoiced when His disciples exhibited wisdom, but often felt frustration at their lack of understanding. While they may have let him down from time to time, only one disciple disgraced the King, and walked away from His favor.

It seems incredible that this disciple rejected his King, turning the King over to the authorities of the day for a financial reward. In a disgraceful, shameful act of betrayal this disciple led soldiers to his King. He planted a kiss on the King’s cheek to identify Him. The King was taken away, interrogated, tortured, and sentenced to death. Although the King was innocent of all charges, He was publicly executed by being nailed to a wooden cross. As He hung on that cross He accepted the wrath and the shame that should have been levied against His subjects.

Lift up your eyes to the cross of the King! While He is long gone from that cross, the cross reminds us that our shame has been replaced by His favor, because He took the shame and made it His. That is His gift to you. Favor instead of shame. Are you a wise servant? Will you accept this gift from the King?


Friends and Neighbors

Proverbs 14:20

“The poor is hated even of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends.”

Definition of a Neighbor

An expert in the law once asked Jesus the question: “Who is my neighbor?” This man knew that the law told him to love his neighbor, but while the purpose of the question was to test Jesus, it is doubtful that he was head over heels in love with all his neighbors. So Jesus told a story and put the expert in the law on the spot. The story involved a Samaritan, a person the expert in the law was least likely to want as his next-door neighbor. At the end of the story the legal expert begrudgingly accepted that out of three people, the Samaritan was the only true neighbor to the injured Jew in the illustration provided by Jesus. The mercy, compassion and love showed by the Samaritan enriched him as the giver, and the injured Jew as the receiver. It must also have enriched the innkeeper.

Poor Neighbor or Good?

While mercy, compassion and love bring enrichment, the process of hating another human being brings impoverishment to all parties. Hate is a strong and unpleasant word, but if there is a person or group of people we despise, don’t like, disrespect, look down on, etc., then is that any better than hate? What gives us the right to judge ourselves better than another human being? Are we good neighbors or poor neighbors? Are we rich in mercy, compassion and love? Should we be friends of the rich or good neighbors to the poor?

Who are Your Friends?

It is said that we can choose our friends but not our families. Similarly, it is not possible to choose our neighbors, especially if we consider how Jesus defined neighbors. Jesus quite deliberately spent much of his time with the impoverished of society, rather than with rich people, famous people, or clever people. His friends were fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors, and the like. Jesus wasn’t intimidated by learning, wealth or position, He looked at the heart. So when a rich young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus told him to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor. By enriching the lives of others in this way this young man would have become wealthy in a different way, with riches that would last forever.

Who is your neighbor?


The Evil Dead

Proverbs 14:19

‘Evil men will bow down in the presence of the good,
    and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.’

Slim Consolation

The Bible is full of good honest people asking the question, “Why do bad people prosper, and good people suffer?” This is a question that still haunts us now. The song writer Josh Garrels quips in his song ‘Farther Along’ – ‘Tempted and tried, I wonder why the good man dies, bad man thrives and Jesus cries cus He loves them both.’ The Bible also tells us that the bad, or evil will get their comeuppance. But when we are seeing the evil thrive very close to home while we also struggle to live the way we’d like, not to mention all our brothers and sisters all over the world facing persecution for Christ, this can be hard to swallow. This verse may provide some comfort in the thought that one day things will be made right, but what about now?

The Inconvenient Truth

Romans 11 verse 14 tells us that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, whether they want to or not! One day you may be falling to your knees in worship while the person next to you is having an uncomfortable moment of realisation and regret. What will you think in that moment? Will you be glad that the evil are finally about to get their just desserts? Or will you be wishing you had done more to help people see Jesus in this life so they are not surprised in the next?


Bittersweet Testimony

Proverbs 14:10

“Each heart knows its own bitterness,
    and no one else can share its joy.”

Know Thy Self

The only person who knows your heart better than God is you. You know how it feels to be you. You know what what it feels like to hurt like you hurt. You and God are the only ones who know the depth of the bitterness contained in your own heart. Other people might have been through similar things, they might have some level of understanding but the only other person to know the full picture is God.

All by Myself

So is this proverb suggesting we should shut up shop, keeping our bitterness and joy to ourselves? I would like to suggest not. This proverb isn’t saying no one should share it’s joy, it is just making the observation that the natural state of play is that no one knows what is truly going on in someone’s heart (except God) unless we learn to share our hearts with others.

Grieving and Rejoicing Together

Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This is only possible if we open our hearts to others. Now I am not saying we should share our intimate secrets with all and sundry but it is healthy to have a few trusted confidants to open our hearts to.

Extended Family

When we first found out that I had a low sperm count we had to decide whether to keep this news to ourselves or share it with our church family. When I got up and told our church I said something like this: “I tell you this now not for your pity, but so that as you grieve with us presently you will rejoice with us when we have our children.”