I was thinking about olive oil the other day. In the Bible, anytime someone was to receive a special blessing from God, olive oil was poured on the person’s head. How is olive oil obtained? Olives are pressed. The fact is that we have a whole lotta pressing going on these days. Some people being pressed and squeezed, whatever the cause, release vitriol, rather than the oil of a blessing or the oil of gladness as in Isaiah 61. Too many of us fall into that former category at times. Matthew 15:18 tells us that what comes out of the mouth (or posted on a social site) is what is in the heart of a person. Let’s take a collective pause and think about that.
How complex (and confused) we humans are. We say, “Be kind to everyone,” and in the next breath, we go after someone—almost anyone these days—especially on a “social” site and, most especially, if we don’t personally know the person or people. And when it comes to people we oppose in politics—I don’t even want to go there. We also say, “Be a good example for the next generations,” yet some of us cheer whenever that meme makes the round again, the one that says people who use profanity are more intelligent and creative than those who don’t. Or memes that say certain sins are not included in the Bible (at least, not by a specific, contemporary name they recognize), when, in fact, those sins are most definitely included. Wow, or rather, woe. I can practically hear that old Serpent’s hissing laugh at how many fall for these and a whole bunch of other deceptions raining on hearts and minds faster than a speeding gigabyte.
With so much trickery going on in all media, much or most of it put forth to stir up our emotions, we risk becoming embittered, or I should say, risk becoming even more so. There’s so little room for agape love to exist in a heart filled with bitterness, much less for that love to expand so it spills out from a person and into the world like water on arid soil. But that leads to another problem: People mistake the love of Jesus, as written about in the Bible, as acceptance, tolerance, if you will, for what should never be tolerated or accepted, as decreed by Almighty God as abominations to Him.
Anyone who believes that the love of Jesus Christ included allowing sinners to continue in their sin, knowing God said the wages of sin is death—the eternal kind, has been deceived into believing another Jesus other than the only begotten Son of God. They also need to spend a lot more time reading the Bible and seeking to understand it. They’ll learn that Jesus is not only the Author and Finisher of our faith, but the original tough-love Practitioner. Still question that about Jesus when it comes to sin? Is it more loving to teach your child not to run into a street with oncoming traffic or to give the child the freedom to live life as s/he chooses and take their chances?
Was Jesus always as even tempered as old movies portrayed Him? No. He sniped at and shamed Torah teachers because they knew better or should have (He called them vipers and sons of Satan). They were commissioned to be shepherds leading God’s flock, but were actually misleading them. However, not once did Jesus ever snipe at or shame any person who was lost in his or her sins. BUT, after He healed or forgave them, He did tell them not to sin anymore, and He meant it. How can we promote agape love—because that’s what’s needed—if we repeatedly fire off poisoned darts at those we feel are lost in the dark? If someone is drowning, you reach out to them with your open hand, not a cactus.
Jesus knew exactly how to approach and reach each person (and still does). Our approach to reaching others usually stinks, frankly. How effective is it when someone shouts at you or goes passive-aggressive in an attempt to correct a behavior of yours or sway you to their opinion? What’s the chance it’ll inspire a change of heart in you? Sometimes the only way you’re able to affect any change of heart about anything in yourself or anyone else is through prayer.
Right now, emotions can run high way more often than they should. That’s truer for some than for others, but the opportunity to be triggered is there every day, especially if we watch any news (only so much is really needed), or have a negative personal experience, or get onto a social site. The first and third ones are practically guaranteed to rile. They’re like a roller coaster for your emotions: “Get your emotions roiled right here. Only costs minutes or hours of your life and a measure of your joy. How much you give up and how often are your choice!”
Oh, the temptations abound. The other day I posted something that wasn’t rude, just informative. But it drew the ire of someone who disagrees with proven facts. And that person’s ire drew someone else’s ire, and so on. I had a flash of awareness (thank You, Holy Spirit): How often do my posts lead others to sin? I also became aware that it’s almost impossible to sin without involving at least one other person. Yes, sinful thoughts do count.
How do we tie this into agape love? The Bible is clear that to practice agape love means that when we know something is a sin or an abomination to God and say nothing to someone engaged in that sin, God considers that absence of notification our sin. We aren’t to nag people, but are to mention something at least once, privately. There is Scripture about this—how to do it, how many times, and when to break relationship with a person. After that, the free will God gave each of us kicks in and the choice to obey God or the Adversary is up to each individual, though the Adversary is an expert trickster.
We aren’t charged to be other people’s saviors—Someone far worthier already accomplished that. But we are charged to pray for people (see Ephesians 6:18, for one). So often, it’s like watching those stumbling in life as though they’re standing in front of those fun-house mirrors that distort, except, in their minds they don’t see the same reflection of themselves that we do. And we want to shake them. Hard. I know how tempting it is to go full-on snarky or passive-aggressive in response to stimuli and nonsense. Too many times, I come up with something so darn clever, so humorously offensive, something my ego wants to get Likes for—and I don’t share it. Instead, I repent and pray for the person or people who need it (including me). Let’s not let anyone be lost eternally because no one prayed for him or her. Let’s be ones who pray. In the Bible it’s called standing in the gap for others. If all we need is love, then that’s the right kind.
Here’s a suggestion: If while reading this, you thought of anyone’s need for improvement, please reread it. This time assess only yourself.
May the Spirit, peace, and joy of the Lord be upon you and yours.