Category Archives: Character

The Disciples Paradox of Hate and Love

The price of discipleship seems as if it would be a high one, doesn’t it? After all, it was our blessed Savior, Christ Jesus, who admonished, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) In a sense it almost seems contradictory to the nature of God, who is love, who taught us, for example, to honor our mother and our father, (Exodus 20:12) and who tells us that to live in hate is to live in death, devoid of the His grace. (1John 2:9-11)

How do we reconcile this to find the true nature of Christ’s calling? How do we look past the inherent ambiguity of this teaching, seeming so inconsistent with all that we have learned otherwise sitting at the feet of our Redeemer?

When Scripture speaks of the believer, it speaks of a person who is free of the yokes and the burdens of this world, telling us where the Spirit is, there is the truest of liberties. (2 Corinthians 3:17) Freedom, in its most basic sense, in its most fundamental of forms, does not and cannot exist in any form of hatred. Hatred is a chain that, when placed around our neck, strangles the life from us as surely as it kills faith itself. The healing that we have been called to is no longer possible, because, in the weakness that it brings, we have forsaken all that was meant to preserve sacred and strengthen life.

At the core of Christ’s teaching is not hatred, nor could it be if he truly is God, as we know him to be. God is, after all, love (1 John 4:8) and love itself is what is at the heart of the matter.

The two greatest commandments that fulfill all aspects of the law are that we love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, and souls and minds, and that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:36:40) Yet, even as we consider that teaching we must remember that Christ did not put these on equal footing. The first was to love the Lord, while the second was to love others. At the heart of the matter is that if we are to be faithful to God, if we are to truly follow Him with our whole heart, willing to be led as He would lead us then we can love nothing more than we love Him. Even in the context of the original Greek this is the meaning that lies behind the use of “Hate”, not as we so often think about it, but rather in terms of loving less.

Discipleship means that we must be willing to sacrifice. In love, it means a willingness to give everything and anything in love and hope for others. (John 15:14) When we love God, when we love Christ more than we love anything else, we are willing to give up what is necessary to serve our risen Savior in the hope, the faith, the strength, and the love he first taught us. (John 13:34-35) It means we are willing to offer all of who we are in healing as we find ourselves able to let go and let God lead us.

Perhaps this may be a burden for us, a cross that we must take up and carry. But, in a sense it is a trade, for when we trust God, when we look to Him, holding Him first, we cast the heavier burdens of this world, the self-doubt, the uncertainty for the future, the hurt of lose and the pain of longing far from us, and we take upon us the yoke of service that shines in hope, and dwells in a faith and a knowledge that though we may be affected by the course of this world, nothing will affect us much as it teaches us the value and the worth that truly rests in His creation and His plan.

As you are called to be a Disciple of Christ, God will never ask more of you than you can give, more of you than you can offer. Understanding that we must be willing to lay all of ourselves on the altar of God as a sacrifice, knowing that, as much is given to us in the grandness of His design much will be asked of us. Yet that price of discipleship should be one we are always willing to pay.

A Public Display


There is a warning from our blessed Savior that all of His faithful disciples must heed lest they fall into the trap of arrogance, pride and self-righteousness. It is the cautionary counsel that informs the spiritually aware not to make their faith into a show, or a matter of theater for others to see. (Matthew 6:5-18) What is done in secret, He admonishes, is done for God to take notice of, it need not be seen by others.

Yet what does that really mean? What does it mean and what effect is it meant to have on the life of the faithful and the devoted given in a life to Christ?

Every now and then when faith is displayed for the world to see, that question seems to arise as those words of Christ as quoted. We see it even today amidst our society as the public displays of devotion of some are shunned and sought to be ushered away, making it almost sound as if that humility before the God of our creation is something shameful. How then do we answer that question in a spiritually aware way, and how do we reconcile the proper degree of piety with the marvels of the wonders of God’s blessings we want nothing more than to show the world?

As with all the teachings handed to us by the Divine Word of our Lord, we must allow for Scripture not only to guide us, but to interpret itself for us. There is nothing hypocritical, nor is there any degree of arrogance in displaying your faith for the world to see. In fact, without the works we do, meant to be given in love to others as a sign of devotion to Christ, (John 13:34-36), our faith stagnates and dies. (James 2:14-26) Grafted to the tree of life, our spirits, given to God, are meant to bear fruits. These are meant to be seen, they are meant to be gifts from us to others that we may edify and nourish the whole being of those around us in need.

So clear is Christ on this matter that the next verses (Matthew 6:19-24) warn of us of storing our treasures, of hoarding them deep from sight. What greater treasure have we than the faith that saves us in the redemption that it offers unto us?

At the core of Christ’s teaching is not to hide our faith away, as if it would be sinful for us to display it. If it were there would be no greater hypocrite and sinner than the perfect Son of God whose blameless life made way our path on high. What our Savior tried to demonstrate was a lesson about the self-righteous judging of others based on faith. It meant to teach us a deeper lesson about how we must look at ourselves and look at others, never elevating ourselves above them, living a life devoid of love while claiming to understand the heart and mind of our God.

In humility we are meant to live in service to one another, caring for each other as we care for ourselves and our own spiritual growth, and wellbeing. This cannot be done by locking our faith away from sight, just as surely as it cannot be done with judgmental eyes and scornful tongues.

As a faithful disciple of Christ show your faith, not as a point of pride but as the sign of your humility before a God who calls on you to live a life in service to others, to strengthen and edify those around you. Remember the world will always judge you for it by a different standard than it judges itself, but you are not given over to those assessments. No, by the power of the Spirit, you are given to grace in faith to a loving God who has set the example before you in His beloved Son given for you and your salvation. Our God gives us an armor that is meant for the righteous battles for faith, and like any armor it cannot be hidden away unless it is not worn, and that is when the truly devastating wounds pierce us.

Be not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of salvation (Romans 1:16) and let none tell you it is shameful to carry forward into this world, for it is the strength of endurance, and the hope of our love in the wonders of God’s Spirit through us.

The Soul of Faith

Ultimately, for as much control as we may give God in our lives, for as much as we may say that He leads us, in free will, we are defined not by faith but by the worth we place on it in the love that we have. For though it is our faith that ultimately saves us, it is love that “covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

Over the ages, considerable time has been spent debating how one truly becomes the most effective disciple of Christ, the way that one can most successfully use their faith. After all, it is James who reminds us that our faith, if it is without works, is dead. It holds not the power to save us because it has grown as stagnant, as hard and as hollow as our hearts. Our works, they represent the spirit and the soul of our faith. (James 4:14-26)

Let us consider that for a moment. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” You see, the soul and the body represent a special relationship with each other. Though one may be able to exist without the other, the body is ultimately created as a vessel for the soul, yet it is not the body that defines the soul, but rather the soul that gives its value to everything the body does, and is. Faith can exist without works, yet those works, much like the soul to the body, give faith its inherent value, its intrinsic worth in the most basic and fundamental of ways.

For faith then to hold substance it must be the vessel of our works, not only bearing its fruits but containing them, carrying them, and offering them as the means by which we edify, strengthen and uplift others. Faith, to hold significance, must be expressed by a life given in love to others. Without it, we can speak with tongues, we can seek to understand, to fathom the mysteries that surround a great and mighty God, and eloquence can drip from our mouths in defense of faith, yet it is the shell of what it must be because it gains nothing and offers less. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

How then do we love? How then do we serve as the effective disciple? This itself is easily answered by our blessed Savior Himself, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.… whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:31-46) It is to look at the world, to see the need around you with clear eyes, and, as Christ Jesus Himself had done, answer the call in patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

Though the ultimate act of love was the sacrifice of that Lamb of God who took away the sins of world, that was one example of Christ’s love amongst so many as great as it was. His ministry, His life would be eventually defined by that singular act of love in service to us, and yet it was a road paved by every act of healing, each act of giving, and the meaning that was behind it. It was a path that was laid down by His rejection of evil, hatred, slander and bitterness as we are taught the new commandment: to love one another as Christ Himself loved us. (John 13:34-35)

In the end, nothing can save us short of the faith that we have. Yet it is the character and the nature of our faith that it is the God who judges the heart who holds a power over us. Consider rightly the Lord’s admonition to the prophet, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) Are we, as the disciples of a living God to define our own faith, and thereby seek to build our own vessels for it, ones that seek to hold faith but are cracked and broken, with the dwindling waters it holds stagnate? Or are we to pour forth living waters with fresh springs of the Lord that quench the longing thirst of the spirit and the soul?

Let your faith be a vessel for love and the works thereof. See the world as it is, a place in desperate need of healing and hope, and let the soul of your faith shine as the means of love for others. In this way we can be the effective disciple, the effective believer God and Christ intend for us to be through the power and the strength of the Spirit working through us.

Be excited for good

True Christianity

Romans 12:11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

When doing good for others, we shouldn’t be doing it out of some sense of obligation or the idea that we’ll gain standing with God if we do good works.  The same is true of when we serve the Lord.  It should be a joy to serve others if we are really doing it with the right motives.

If we say that we’re serving God, but we complain or grumble about what we’re doing, then we don’t exactly come across as serving out of joy.  What message does that send to those who are watching?  This doesn’t mean to put on a fake smile either.  If you’re serving out of obligation and have no real joy or zeal in doing it; what are you left to do?

Search your heart.  Pray that God would convict you where you’re lacking in ferver that He might ignite a fire in you to do good.  Study the Scriptures, seek God’s will, lay aside your own pride and approach Him with a humble heart.  You’ll find that joy will come as you serve if you do it with the right motivation and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Do good

True Christianity

Romans 12:10  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Have you ever been part of a church that just didn’t feel like it was really living out the purposes of God?  When that happens it often starts with a lack in the love department.  If Christians can’t love each other, the fellow members of the body of Christ, then there will be no effective ministry.

Paul’s marks of a true Christian reflect not just how a Christian should act, but how Christians should treat each other.  These were not instructions on how to treat people “out there”, but how to treat people “in here” first.  Practicing the love of God and doing good works starts among family and then it spills out into the rest of our relationships.  We must first love and serve our fellow believers.

This is one of the key reasons to belong to a local church fellowship.  A church provides the opportunity to love and serve those who share a faith in Christ before going out and doing it among the people of the world.  A church is a place to be equipped for ministry, and that starts with love and service from and toward your fellow Christians.  Besides that, Christian unity is best perfected within the context of a gathering of believers who make up a family.

Love what is good, hate what is evil, love and serve your Christian brothers and sisters.

Love good

True Christianity

Romans 12:9  Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

What are the marks of a true Christian?  We may sometimes wonder how to answer that question, but fortunately for us, the Apostle Paul already did in his letter to the Romans.  Paul lays out a criteria for the true Christian.  It’s not another set of rules to follow, and it’s not all-inclusive, but it’s worth taking a look at.

It’s no surprise that this outline of a true Christian starts with love.  A Christian without love is ineffective and doesn’t present a very good witness.  Paul commends his friends in Rome to be genuine in their love, to hate what is evil, and to hold on to what is good.  This is good advice, but sadly not what many of us think of when we define the Christian life.

Let love be genuine.  In the American church especially there is a tendency to put on a show that isn’t genuine when it comes to love and acceptance.  We want people to believe that we care about them even when we don’t.  But that’s not Christian love.  That’s hypocrisy.  Let your love be genuine.  Work at it.  If you’re struggling with showing someone love, focus on their good points and act out of that.

Hate what is evil.  Again, to pick on the American church, we have become very much a part of the culture around us, even in our churches.  We embrace the world’s things, even when they contradict the way of God.  The only think we’re told to hate as a command is evil and sin.  Instead we often love what is evil and hate what is good.  That has to change.

Hold on to what is good.  Keep focused on the things of God.  Love the things that fit His character, follow after the things that please Him.  This is the beginning of effective Christian living that presents a witness for Christ that others will want to know more about.