(with gratitude for the inspiration and in the spirit of C.S. Lewis)

June 25, 2018

Dearest Dark One,

We bring good news to you today, master of malice.  It appears that the world is as dark as it’s ever been and getting darker by the passing moments.

A quick glance at the headlines shall confirm our representations to you, sir.  On all fronts, in all levels, love is most definitely in decline and nearly at rock bottom.  One might suggest that love has reached the depths of our own domicile – a perfectly charming though somewhat heated location.

There is bitterness, wrath, hate, resentment, selfishness, quarreling, vengeance and much eye-rolling and shaming at every turn.

The people up here are quite divided into tribes, camps, corners and orders.  They hate for the usual reasons, but this is a most inventive generation and they have in fact discovered new formats and functions to spread their loathing and dislike.

Whilst once hate could only be communicated face to face, these creative fools now are able to telegraph their anger and disgust through brief missives called “tweets,” often sent in the middle of the night in ALL CAPS so as to demonstrate the totality and assurance of one’s negativity and rejection of fellow man.

Sir, you must take great comfort in their destruction of one another as it truly requires so little of our time and energy as they engage in endless virtual attacks and insults.  They have indeed found a new war to wage, apparently called a “Twitter War” in which potentially millions of these weak and prideful humans attack, insult, retweet and weigh in, choosing a side and creating great chaos and dissension among themselves.

I and my fellow demons have taken advantage of our increased downtime by indulging in some much-needed rest and relaxation in distant locales.  I dare say we deserve it given our millennia-long efforts on your behalf and we trust that you won’t begrudge us what resulted in a surprisingly productive and intel-gathering working vacation.

You see, sir, in the course of our travels, we discovered that hate is found in the most remote corners of the globe.  Hate is on school campuses, in homes, on the highways and byways, in state and national capitals, in idyllic settings and in the midst of poverty and suffering, at the borders of nations, in the workplace, in neighborhoods, and even in recreational areas.

We wring our hands with glee and are delighted to report that there is even an abundance of hate in the churches!  Can you imagine, dear master, that they have dared to foment hate, resentment and anger in the very place that gave birth to love?  We could hardly believe it ourselves, but our extensive series of road trips confirms that love is most definitely dying in this land and may in fact be nearer to extinction than ever!

Now, our Enemy warned them that these days would come throughout His days on earth, and His Father did so through prophecy throughout that most fearsome Book that some of them occasionally look through.  We are pleased to report that many of them have discarded the Book given by our Enemy to these people and they rarely refer to it. When they do so, it is often taken out of context to hurt and insult one another!  Can you imagine, master, using the Enemy’s Words of love to bring about such hate and disunity?   They hate each other for their nationality, their race, faith, gender, beliefs, the color of their skin, their political parties – I do believe that they find new things to hate about one another with the dawning of each new day!

The sheer joy of such behavior brings tears (happy tears, of course) to my eyes, and I do hope to yours as well.

Rather than coming to one another’s aid in time of need, these pitiful people gang up on one another, often blaming the victim for their suffering and sorrow.  They mock one another and make tremendous fun of each other, wielding words as weapons as they bash and torture each other mentally and emotionally.

Recently, we have learned of one nation’s devious and cruel activities of separating little children from their parents at border crossings.  Imagine, master, the pain and suffering that shall result from such a callous and cruel plan – all because of a desperate people longing for asylum and safety from relentless violence.

Clearly we are turning a corner and winning a war against our Enemy, as evidenced by this most cruel and heartless behavior they are exhibiting against the least of their brethren.  You must certainly recall when our Enemy left His throne, came down to this land and talked of the first being last and that it is better to serve than to be served.  He spoke of caring for the needy, the hungry, the thirsty – and most certainly caring for the little children.

It does appear that even the church-going humans are coming to our dark side, dear master, and they are gleefully advocating that these people who are not of their nation be treated ruthlessly and cruelly.  It certainly does the hearts of demons good to see that the humans are becoming more like us than like our Enemy, that great lover of all people.  Just writing those words makes me quite ill – as do the images of caring and concerned people protesting and standing up for the downtrodden and the children wailing for their parents.  We exuberantly report that the officials of the land in question appear to be in full support of our policies and we find that they may even be emissaries or ambassadors of our own province.  I was practically giddy when I heard their own representatives cite the Enemy’s Book out of context and demand that there be total and complete obedience to whatever laws or edicts are passed by the humans in control of government.

To think that these so-called lovers of the Enemy do not know – or perhaps do not care – what His Word says is so delicious to our demon minds that we lack sufficient words to express our delight.

Imagine.  They recall not the stories taught them on Sunday mornings and at Vacation Bible School!  It is so very encouraging that they did not retain the stories of Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Esther, Joseph, Mary, their own Savior Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, Stephen – and on and on through eternity.

They don’t even remember their own nation’s history and the stories of their Founding Fathers.  Apparently, their hatred has blinded them to their own story of standing up for truth, justice, equality and liberty.

It is nearly safe to say that brotherly love is a relic of the past, tossed in the trash heap of this world.  While we cannot yet declare victory of hate over love, we demons are indeed doing our part – and the humans we walk among are contributing mightily to your cause, master.

Indeed, given the state of things up here on earth, we worry that we may not have prolonged and dependable job security if situations continue in this manner and the people lose their humanity at ever-quickening rates.

Assuredly, it is a most excellent problem to have, Sir, but still, it has robbed us demons of the soul stealing delight we workers of evil treasure — that of turning people to your side, particularly when they are so willingly and easily going to the dark side with little to no involvement of the demons.

I beg you, dear master, to inform us if certain offices and agencies have been infiltrated by some of our associates working covertly within certain areas and whether they may be the cause of the marvelous mayhem and maleficence.  It seems nearly unworldly for this type of uncivil and inhumane treatment to have been the brainchild of a human being, given the sheer horror of separating a parent and child, but we trust that you are hard at work in your efforts to divide and conquer this land north of our own.

Dear master, we have reports that young people are quite unhappy and angry, which may be the result of society’s incessant comparing of themselves to one another and all humans using their rectangular glowing devices which constantly demonstrate their perceived inadequacy and insignificance.  Adults and children use their pocket-sized weapons to sully one another’s reputations, to insult and attack their peers, to share what is designed to be personal and private in a misguided effort to impress and to find all manner of objects that would bring them satisfaction, if only they might acquire them.  Our travels to communities across the globe demonstrated a growing sense of depression and dissatisfaction among young people who have been raised in this toxic climate of greed, rage, revenge, violence and pettiness.

Many of the Enemy’s followers are initiating outreach efforts in the schools and communities and they are earnestly seeking to love and help the young people of the world.  Some of the young people are even uniting and forming coalitions and lobbying groups to make the world better, safer and kinder for all.  We do worry about their strength and power, particularly when they exhibit such love and kindness in their rallies and demonstrations.  These young people are spreading a message of hope, possibility and change which should cause you and all of us demons great consternation.  Some of your adult followers are making you proud, however, and they simply mock and ridicule the young people even as they selflessly serve and help their peers and all of society.

Indeed, it is the young people that we ought to worry a great deal about since many of them are rallying and uniting around the causes of love, compassion and peace.  We can only hope that they will become disillusioned and join in our plan of despair and despondency, however I fear that they are a formidable force and we may be overwhelmed by the optimism and irrepressible joy that these young people are spreading in their world.

With regard to lawlessness, we bring excellent reports of tensions among law enforcement and the populace.  You see, sir, it only takes a pinch of evil to poison the stew, and you will be quite pleased with the effects of a few wicked and corrupt police officers who are single-handedly destroying the trust and bond between law enforcement and the communities they serve.  There are frequent reports of abuse of power, racial profiling, sexual assault, brutality and discrimination committed by members of the law enforcement community, which only heightens the mistrust and effectively destroys the fabric of their civilization.  Oftentimes, the ones that the populace should be able to call on in times of trouble have become the purveyors of trouble, creating conflict, tension and stress between the people and the law enforcement community.  Indeed, most police officers and law enforcement officers are honorable, hard-working and upstanding members of their communities.  Yet just a few of the bad ones undo all the work and legacy of the innumerable good and virtuous, ruining their reputations and planting seeds of mistrust and fear in communities all over the world.

If all of this were not enough good news, sir, we revel in this people’s destruction of their own planet!  You would think that they would care for the land that the Enemy has given to them and they would be good stewards, as He calls them to be in His Book.  Yet much to our delight, we find that they are on a fast-track of dismantling their own lands, waters and air – and even are polluting these very things that they and all living things up here desperately require for survival.  News arrived recently that there shall be further drilling in their precious arctic lands and upon their coasts and that there shall be minimal protection of lands or migrating birds, which is sweet music to our demon ears!

I dare say we quite enjoy the warming climate as it reminds us fondly of our home with you, dear master.  The tragedies that their myopic behaviors are creating – flooding, droughts, melting of ice sheets in their planet, the extinction of animal, flora and fauna – are quite spectacular and something we demons never could have accomplished without their intentional destruction and disregard for their own home.  Oftentimes I abruptly ask another demon to pinch me, for I fear these tragedies and atrocities are but a dream.  I am delighted to report to you, master, that they are not a dream but rather they are the nightmares the Enemy warned these people would come before He returned.   They are so content to be discontented and so loving of hatred that they pay His Word no mind and they concern themselves instead with opposition, fighting, advantage gaining, insults and the like.  Indeed, some even deny that they are affecting the climate and destroying their world – as though they refuse to believe the reality in front of their eyes.

The servants of the Enemy try in vain to focus the peoples’ attention on love, being a good neighbor, kindness, generosity and the “Fruits of the Spirit,” but we are ever-grateful to report that these are summarily rejected by so many here – and hatred spreads like a virulent disease, seeking and finding willing hosts of hate, bigotry, anger, violence and shame.

Indeed, they busy themselves throughout each day with disputes over all manner of issues, and given their divisiveness, they have frequent squabbles and confrontations both in-person and online.   With their access to technology, they quickly escalate the disagreements which results in a cacophony of everyone hating everyone else, which I must admit we demons absolutely love!  We add our voices to this chorus of hate and I dare say we are getting close to being able to drown out those wretched songs of love and peace the Enemy has given to them.

There is little charity amongst this generation and they are quite consumed by acquisition of gadgets and gizmos.  I am pleased to report that there is a great disparity of wealth and that policies are regularly enacted to further this chasm, which certainly serves to strengthen the hate and resentment among the classes.  Those who do seek to be philanthropic are oft-ridiculed and mocked, particularly when there is a partisan leaning to one way or the other.

I do warn you, dear sir, that we have found ourselves in a scrap or two while navigating the roads here.  It seems that nearly everyone is glued to those glowing rectangle devices, which prevents them from properly operating their motor vehicles.  We have learned to detect those sorts who use their devices behind the wheel and are now able to circumnavigate them a bit more adeptly.  You see, it is against the law for many of them to use their glowing devices while driving down the lane.

Yet many of them adhere to a buzzword of “hacking” in which they find ways around following the rules or otherwise following conventional behavior.  These little life hacks often result in them gaining an illicit or untoward advantage over their peers and pridefully gloating over their victory.  A quick glance in the rear view will allow you to determine if you have a device user behind you, which should allow you to take preemptive measures to avoid a rear-end collision, as often occurs with these sorts.  I dare say you will likely have a car and driver on your next visit north, but I offer this wisdom as a voice of experience as I and my fellow demons have been the victims of several such crashes recently.

All in all, the present days are quite productive and I trust that we are serving you well in our efforts to bring about hate and discord on earth.  There is little love among the people we have encountered and the tension and animosity seems to grow by the day.  We have found many humans who are selfish, though I am sorry to report that we have also observed displays of grace and mercy between the people groups here.

We continue to work actively to sow seeds of hostility, resentment and anger and I dare say we are enjoying a good deal of success.  There are some workers of the Enemy who seek to spread a message of love and peace, but we have found novel methods to discourage and defeat these Pollyannas and will continue to do so in the days ahead.

I do believe that we can confidently and unequivocally report that the State of the Disunion is as strong as ever, and that our unit will continue to work for the destruction and dissolution of all that is good, hopeful and profitable for these people as we continue our often fruitless effort to destroy the Enemy.  We continue to be unsuccessful in totality, but we remain optimistic that this generation will allow us to work through it to wage war and ultimately emerge from this battle victorious, regardless of what the Enemy’s Book tells will happen in the End Days.

Whilst there is much good news to report to you, Sir, I also must offer the prospect that the hate and anger will lead to a rebound of love, mercy and grace amongst the people here, which perhaps may require a doubling down of resources and agents up here.  In the latest episode of ruthlessness at this nation’s border crossings, it seems that there has been an uprising of good and kind people who are seeking to counter the hate and harm we demons have worked so diligently and faithfully to manifest throughout humanity.

They are gathering in little corners and outside shelters, speaking up in their virtual and real worlds and this is giving us demons a bit of angst and discomfort.  We were quite enjoying the evil that was being perpetrated against the innocent families and thought that perhaps it might continue without abatement, destroying the fabric and foundation of people and ultimately causing a dearth of compassion and empathy amongst the people.

However, it appears that the Enemy is working among them and causing them to feel strong obligations to feed the hungry, give drinks to the thirsty, welcome the strangers, visit the prisoners and even care for the children and least among them.  This surge of love and empathy is most concerning to the demons and we beseech and respectfully request that you send reinforcements to counter these acts of mercy and compassion.

Some of the Enemy’s followers are even praying to Him, seeking His wisdom and guidance and lifting up their fellow men, women and children in prayer and asking for God’s blessings and protections for them.  They are gathering in circles and in churches, online and in neighborhoods, uniting together and quoting the Enemy, claiming that when two or more are gathered, that He is there with them.

I dare say that this is most unacceptable and that we must infiltrate further their churches, communities and homes with messages of hopelessness, hate and intolerance.  We must besiege them with fear, loathing and a spirit of bigotry and prejudice.  We cannot allow the Enemy to prevail here and we must not permit His people to unite in strength and solidarity for others – we must press on with messages of greed, selfishness, scarcity and isolationism.  We must seek to discourage their prayers, discredit the Enemy and show disdain for their love for their fellow man.  We must not allow the Enemy to gain even a foothold here, Sir, but we must defend and indeed go on the offensive in this war.

With all due respect, Master, we must protect our position and will require assistance at the battle lines of this border conflict if we are to defeat the Enemy’s efforts of love and salvation.  We humbly request reinforcements of additional troops as well as any supplies and fortifications you might be able to send up to us.  We assure you that we will work tirelessly and unceasingly for your mission and believe that we can certainly prevail against the Enemy if we can muster enough anger, animosity and fear among the humans with whom we are in close and regular contact on earth.

We shall report back to you post-haste with updates and briefings as time allows.  Until then, I remain your faithless servant working tirelessly on your unjust, evil and immoral causes.

Loyally,

Odium et Invidia

Who sings the babies lullabies at night?  Who comforts the toddlers and preschoolers when they wake up in the middle of the night?  Who listens to the elementary, middle and high school children express their fears and sadness?

Who is reading to the children, playing with the older kids, listening to them, encouraging them and loving them?

What about the children with special needs?  What about the children who are regressing because of the stress they have been put through at the hands of this Administration?

Some of these families have been separated by thousands of miles.  There are parents in Washington, children in Texas; parents in Texas and children in New York, Arizona and California.

And some parents have been deported while their children remain in the United States – worlds apart with no way of knowing when – or if – they will see each other again.

We would never allow this to be done to our own children.

Every single one of these children is somebody’s Baby Mine, someone’s Mijo and Mija.

We must not allow this to be done to anyone’s child.

This is evil, this is inhumane, it is wrong and it is un-American.

Please be their voice today.

While we are praising God that the Trump Administration has ended its practice of separating children from their families at our nation’s southern border, there are more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their families who remain separated with no timeline to reunite these families.

Today is the first day of summer and the day of the year in the northern hemisphere when the sun shines the latest and longest.

Today, shine the light on the Trump Administration’s policies and make phone calls to demand that these families be reunited immediately.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

The Trump Administration has broken these families up and now the Trump Administration must take ownership for its actions and take immediate steps to reunite these families.  This administration must ensure that all children and families who need counseling receive it.  Further, it must ensure that no children have been harmed while they have been in the custody of the United States government.  Congress must hold hearings to determine how this policy was allowed to be enacted and it must hear from the victims, families, administration officials and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

And the Trump Administration must provide a full accounting of each and every child along with a paper trail showing that each child has been reunited with his or her family, including those families in which the caregiver has already been deported without their children.

Will you Be Their Voice?

It is easy and it will not take more than an hour for you to make seven critical phone calls.  There is a sample script for you to use below, or you can write a brief outline of what you want to say when you call these offices.

You will likely reach a receptionist, intern or staff assistant processing calls.  They will not have a lot of time to speak with you and they may be stressed or short with you, but don’t take it personally.

Stay calm and don’t get angry or upset with the person who is answering the phone.  Be polite, respectful and courteous in speaking with them and thank them for sharing your views with their boss.

1 – Call your Congressional Representative. If you know who your congressional representative is, you can look up their contact info here.  To determine who your representative is by your street address/zip code, search here.

2 and 3 – Call your two United States Senators.  You can find your US Senators’ contact information here.

4 – Call the White House Comments Line at

202-456-1111.

5 – Call the Department of Homeland Security Comments Line at 202-282-8495

6 – Call the Department of Health and Human Services Comments Line at 877-696-6775

7 – Call the Department of State Comments Line at  202-647-6575  

“Hi.  My name is _____________________ and I am calling to express my concern about the more than 2,000 children who remain separated from their families at our southern border.

I am opposed to this policy and I am calling to ask your office to take a stand against this policy to protect the innocent children who are being subjected to what experts are calling unacceptable abuse and a violation of human rights.  There are concerns that parents may never be reunited with their children, especially those who have been deported without their children.  Also, there are concerns that these children and their families will suffer short and long term physical and mental health challenges because of this Administration’s actions.

These children must be reunited with their families immediately.

I believe that our government must do the following immediately:

1 – Immediately reunite all families and children who are currently housed in detention centers and shelter facilities across the United States.

2 – Determine if any parents have been deported without their children and immediately communicate with these parents and initiate reunification proceedings immediately.

3 – Provide mental health counseling to all affected families to assist them in these processes.

4 – Prepare a full accounting to demonstrate that the Trump Administration has reunited all families and assurances that every single child has been reunited with his or her parents.

5 – Hold Congressional Hearings to investigate how and why this travesty happened, to hear testimony from victims and those who oversaw this policy and to ensure that this never happens again in the United States of America.

Thank you for communicating my views and concerns with other members of your office.  Thank you for your time.”

We must be their voice.  There are more than 2,000 children and their families who need us – all of us – to speak up for them.

If this happened to your child and to your family, what would you want others to do for you?

Let us be the light in this dark world and may God use us as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Jesus taught His followers the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  He used this story about a shepherd’s love for his sheep and how if even one sheep were lost, the shepherd would go looking for that sheep.

It is a parable about God’s love for us and how He searches for us and seeks to save that which is lost.

It is also a very practical story with a real-life application.

If this were your child, you would go to the ends of the earth to find your son or daughter.

You would not rest until they were safely returned to you.

We must demand and insist on the same treatment for all children.

Our government has separated these children from their families and it is the responsibility and duty of our government to locate and account for each and every child, to return every single child to their families, to reunite all children with their families – including those families whose parents have already been deported while their children remained in US custody, to provide a full accounting demonstrating that all children and families have been reunited and to hold congressional hearings to obtain testimony and reports to determine how this travesty happened and to ensure that this type of human rights abuse never happens again.

“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” (Matt. 18:12-14)

Please Be Their Voice.

Ser Su Voz.

Thousands of children have been separated from their parents at our nation’s southern border.

Based on the Trump administration’s comments, the policy of separating children from their parents when they enter the United States seeking asylum at the southern border will continue indefinitely, without apology and without any remorse or admission of wrongdoing.

Children are being ripped from their parents’ arms, including nursing infants.  Some of them are living in what appear to be cages.  In some facilities, workers and volunteers are prohibited from comforting, hugging or even touching the children to soothe them when they are crying.  Observers have reported that the children are often inconsolable, afraid, anxious and depressed – including toddlers and preschoolers.

Apparently, parents and children are being separated and sent to facilities up to 2500 miles away from each other.

Parents have been deported while their children are still detained in the United States.

Children with special needs who cannot understand what is happening have been separated from their parents.

Children are wailing, crying, praying that they would be returned to their parents.

The children do not know what is happening to them – or why it is happening.  They don’t know where their parents are or if they will see them again.

Child welfare experts, including pediatricians, psychologists and sociologists, are warning that the short and long term effects of these policies could be devastating for the children as well as the family units.

Religious leaders from all faiths are condemning this practice and urging the Trump Administration to immediately end this practice and policy.

Help us shine the light on this travesty and join our effort to stop this intolerable and unconscionable policy that violates human rights and the values and ideals upon which our nation was founded.

Please Be Their Voice for a Border Kids Days of Action Phone Call Campaign to your Elected Representatives and Trump Administrative Officials.

These children need advocates who will speak up for them and their families.  They need people who will stand up for them and fight for them, calling America’s elected officials and leaders and asking them to protect and care for them.  They cannot speak for themselves.  They are separated from their parents and their parents cannot speak for them.

Will you Be Their Voice?

It is easy and it will not take more than an hour for you to make seven critical phone calls.  There is a sample script for you to use below, or you can write a brief outline of what you want to say when you call these offices.

You will likely reach a receptionist, intern or staff assistant processing calls.  They will not have a lot of time to speak with you and they may be stressed or short with you, but don’t take it personally.

Stay calm and don’t get angry or upset with the person who is answering the phone.  Be polite, respectful and courteous in speaking with them and thank them for sharing your views with their boss.

1 – Call your Congressional Representative. If you know who your congressional representative is, you can look up their contact info here.  To determine who your representative is by your street address/zip code, search here.

2 and 3 – Call your two United States Senators.  You can find your US Senators’ contact information here.

4 – Call the White House Comments Line at

202-456-1111.

5 – Call the Department of Homeland Security Comments Line at 202-282-8495

6 – Call the Department of Health and Human Services Comments Line at 877-696-6775

7 – Call the Department of State Comments Line at  202-647-6575  

When you reach each of the above offices, please tell them you want to share your views about the Trump Administration’s Policy on Separating Children from their Families at the US Border.

They may ask you your name and possibly some general identifying information (zip code, city, etc.).  They are asking for this information for statistical purposes to track how many calls they are receiving and from what areas of the country.

You can use the following as a reference when you make these phone calls or feel free to share your personal views and concerns.

“Hi.  My name is _____________________ and I am calling to express my concern about the Trump Administration’s Policy on Separating Children from their families at the US Border.

I am opposed to this policy and I am calling to ask your office to take a stand against this policy to protect the innocent children who are being subjected to what experts are calling unacceptable abuse and a violation of human rights.

I believe that our government must do the following immediately:

1 – Immediately end separation of children from their families except in egregious cases involving convicted criminals.

2 – Immediately reunite all families and children who are currently housed in detention centers and shelter facilities across the United States.

3 – Determine if any parents have been deported without their children and immediately communicate with these parents and initiate reunification proceedings immediately.

Thank you for communicating my views and concerns with other members of your office.  Thank you for your time.”

After your call, you can leave a comment on our site with comments or feedback from your calls.

Also, please tweet about your calls and your experiences with the offices you called using #BeTheirVoice or #SerSuVoz.

Please begin calling today.  Please ask your friends, neighbors, coworkers and family members to call their elected officials and our governmental representatives also.

A majority of Americans is opposed to these abusive, heartless and cruel policies of separating children from their families.

We must make our voices heard.  We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Please take 30-60 minutes to make these phone calls as soon as possible to help these innocent children and Be Their Voice.

There is a group that is raising money to defend and assist these children and their families.  You can find information about their fundraising effort and the group (RAICES) who will receive the money here.  If you can donate to their effort, please consider doing so.  Another group called KIND is also assisting these families and would benefit greatly from financial assistance.

Let us stand together as one voice speaking on behalf of these children and their families.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,

 for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly;

defend the rights of the poor and needy.” 

Proverbs 31:8-9 NASB

Be Their Voice

Ser Su Voz

 

Summertime and the living is easy.

Unless you’ve made your way to America’s southern border seeking asylum or citizenship and found yourself imprisoned and your children ripped from your arms.

For the last two months, this has been happening in alarming numbers at border crossings.

We as followers of Christ cannot stay silent in the face of this abuse.

Especially when people use God’s own Word to commit vile acts He would condemn.

God tells us to welcome children, to care for them, protect them and nurture them.  We are to do so in His name.

We find His instructions and admonitions to care for the weak and needy in our society throughout His Word.

We are to care for children – not rip them from their parents’ arms.  

Jesus very clearly tells us that we are to receive children in His name – but if we cause them to stumble, we are sinning against God and man and will be punished for such evil behavior.

“”And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:5-6)

You cannot claim to be for family values and then destroy families.

Some are saying that this may be an attempt to create bargaining power in border wall negotiations.

These are not pawns.  These are not bargaining tools.

These are human lives.

These are little boys and girls, far from home through no decision of their own.

Jesus died for these children.  He loves these children.  These are the children of God.

Watch this video at about 1:24 and see the little girl, overwhelmed with stage fright, crying on stage, afraid to sing.  See who comes to her aid with love and tenderness.

Who is coming to the aid of the children in these shelters across the southwestern United States?  Is anyone drying their tears, listening to them, comforting them, loving them through the most terrifying experience of their lives?

They are helpless, desperate, afraid and alone.

They must not be manipulated or used for political positioning.

Sociologists, pediatricians and psychologists have all said that these children may have been permanently damaged by the fear, anxiety and depression they are experiencing as a result of being separated from their parents at the border.  Here is an article with perspective and analysis from a pediatrician and the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The article also states that shelter workers aren’t allowed to hug, hold or even touch the children as they wail and cry for their parents.

Apparently the children sit on the floor crying with no comfort or relief.

This is untenable, it is unconscionable and it is inhumane.

Can you imagine your own child alone in a strange place without a single familiar face or voice, nobody to comfort or console them, unheld, unloved and undone.

This is intolerable and every single one of us knows that.

Some of us know it viscerally, intuitively and instinctively.

Others perhaps may need to be cajoled or challenged before they would admit that this is wrong and unacceptable.

It is sad to think someone can call this practice humane or acceptable — this practice of separating families and ripping children from their parents’ arms and leaving them without anyone to comfort, hug or hold them while the children cry and suffer, perhaps wondering if their parents have abandoned them and both parent and child questioning if they will ever see each other again – or that anyone could justify this behavior using God’s Word.

For churchgoers, think of your friendly nursery and preschool area.

Children are away from their parents for about an hour, more or less.  There are gentle rocking chairs for babies to be held and rocked, toys and games for playing on the floor, snacks of goldfish crackers or cheerios with little cups of water served at kid-friendly tables.  A Bible story, perhaps a puppet show or children’s Bible songs sung, a brief lesson, time learning how to pray and games.  There are familiar faces from week-to-week, folks mom and dad have introduced them to and declared them safe and friendly.  Mom and dad take a few minutes saying goodbye and their little one knows they will be back before too long.

Even with all the comforts and activities, children still miss Mom and Dad, so it’s not unusual for a nursery volunteer to page Mom and Dad to return to the nursery, perhaps to bring their child to the service or just to offer an encouraging word to sustain them until the end of the service.

But this treatment at our southern borders – there just are no words for what these babies and toddlers, preschoolers and elementary aged kids – even middle and high schoolers –  are being subjected to, all apparently for the sake of using their lives as a negotiating tactic.

The Art of the Deal?

Sorry.  Not with Children.

More like the Heart of the Deal.

Or Heartless, as the case appears to be.

Think of your own children and how you have comforted them when they are scared, discouraged, worried or disappointed.

Consider how your own parents once tended to you, held your hand, dried your tears, comforted you with words and tender kindness, prepared a favorite treat for you when you were discouraged or following a particularly difficult day.

It appears that these children may become – or temporarily have become – orphans through the actions of the United States government.  Some child welfare and immigration experts have warned that it may be extremely difficult to reunite all families with their children and that some children may remain in the United States after their parents are deported – potentially making reunification difficult if not impossible.

If someone did this to your children – tore them away from you – would they be charged with a crime?

Would it be kidnapping?

Would it be abuse?

Would you allow it and stand idly by, hoping somebody else said or did something about it?

This is every parent’s worst nightmare – to have your children taken from you, ripped from your arms, or even worse, a promise to return the child in a few minutes, only to spirit them away without a chance to say goodbye.

This is every child’s fear – separated from your parents, unable to see or talk with them.

This is the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment, and often for a crime no greater than seeking asylum from a repressive or abusive situation in their home country.

And now, people are trying to use God’s Word to justify their actions.  Some have cited Romans 13, telling us that we are to obey the authorities, no matter what.

Perhaps some folks need a refresher American History class.  They might want to familiarize themselves with a war fought on America’s eastern seaboard that had to do with liberty and justice for all.

Yeah.  That one.

A war about freedom from an oppressive authoritarian government that was abusive, unjust, controlling, manipulative and which demanded absolute submission and total obedience to laws that were capricious and self-serving.

A few words from our own Declaration of Independence…

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

and this…

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

If not for people standing up against tyranny and refusing to abide by unjust laws, there would be no United States of America.

Our nation is literally built on the foundation of a people who demanded freedom and who defied and fought against unequal and unjust laws, ultimately claiming victory and bequeathing to us – and to all who have come to these shores – a land of hope, liberty, opportunity and promise.

Lady Liberty stands as a symbol of freedom, raising her torch as a beacon of hope to welcome immigrants to our country with these words:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus

Perhaps some in our nation are like David Copperfield and would like to make the Statue of Liberty (and all that she stands for) disappear.

Thankfully, it was just an illusion and David Copperfield “returned” Lady Liberty to her rightful place to continue welcoming the huddled masses.

 

Illusions are funny things.  You can act one way, but live another.  Jesus called those people hypocrites.  They were the Pharisees and Sadducees of their time.

Today, there are people who call themselves Christians but don’t follow – or perhaps even believe – the teachings of Christ.

They preach a gospel of hate, greed, anger, nationalism, bias, violence, cruelty, selfishness, bigotry and abuse.

And they do it while proclaiming to love God and declaring themselves Christians.

The Bible tells us that there will be a time when God will separate the sheep and the goats, He will divide the wheat and the chaff.

That not everything is at it appears.

That God will ultimately judge our behavior and He unequivocally knows who loves and serves Him and His people and who is just a great pretender.

In Matthew 25, Jesus was teaching a final sermon before His betrayal by Judas Iscariot, which led to His wrongful conviction, brutal crucifixion, His death as payment for our sins and in three days, His resurrection and our eternal hope.

Jesus taught of being ready for His return and offered practical guidance for how we can use our gifts and talents wisely to glorify Him and serve Him and others – and then He taught about love, charity and service.

You can find the verses here.

Here is an excerpt:

” “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.” (Matt. 25:31-33)

He goes on to articulate who the sheep are and what their conduct is like.

““Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:34-40)

Finally, He contrasts the love of the sheep with the apathy and indifference to suffering of the goats.

He provides an account of their lives and of all the times they had not fed Him, offered Him water, invited Him in, clothed Him, visited Him, came to Him in prison.

He explains that the goats will protest and ask when they had seen Him in such condition and not cared for Him, defending their innocence and arguing that they had never not cared for Jesus.

And then Jesus — the Suffering Servant, the One who left the glory of heaven on a rescue mission bound for the sordid soil of earth, who came to lay down His life to redeem us and reconcile us to our Heavenly Father — said this:

“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:45)

Words that cut to the heart of the matter.  Words that reveal the condition of our heart.

Knowing and revealing the condition of the heart is something Jesus did over and over again as He lived among men and women – and something He continues to do today.

When a scribe tried to test Jesus with a question as they were wont to do, Jesus knew the condition of the man’s heart and his intent.  He knew the scribe was seeking to trip Him up and provoke Him.  The Pharisees and Sadducees couldn’t agree on much – but they shared a distrust and dislike for Jesus.

When Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, perhaps the Pharisees wanted to see if they could trump Him and be able to silence the Teacher who was drawing crowds with miracles, healings, wise teachings and great love.

One of them decided to see if he could stump Jesus and asked Him which was the greatest of God’s commandments.

Jesus silenced the man with His wisdom.

We should love God and love our neighbor.

“But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”” (Matt. 22:34-40)

That’s it.

  1. Love God

  2. Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

It’s as simple and difficult as that.

What kind of message are we sending to the world and to each other about the kind of people we are as Americans if we allow children to be ripped from their parents’ arms?

How is this loving?  How is it Christlike?  How is it American?  How is it humane?

How can we tell our children to trust if that trust is broken by representatives of our government in our own backyards?

How can people look for the helpers in uniform if the helpers in uniform prove themselves not to be safe?

In a matter of weeks, actions have been taken that have literally undone and destroyed our reputation in the world and in our own nation.

Questions are being asked by many – how can we trust our own government?  How can we trust our neighbor?

That appears to be the end game of all of this.  And it appears that some people in power are playing games with human life.

With the innocent lives of young children.

Chaos.  Confusion.  Disruption.  Hate.  Anger.  Evil. 

Violence.  Bitterness.  Destruction.

People are intentionally breaking up families – apparently as it is now being reported, because they believe it will give them greater bargaining power to enable them to build a wall at our southern border.

How is that OK to any of us?

Would you allow that to happen to your family or to someone you love?

I don’t have to ask the question.  I know the answer.

None of us would be OK with this happening to our family.

So it begs the question of why we’re allowing it to happen to others.

Jesus’s teachings give us the Golden Rule.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

Not a single one of us would want this done to us.

And we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that this is being done to our brothers and sisters at our border.

And yes.  They are our brothers and sisters.

We are a human race.  We are all human beings.

We are all Dreamers.

And we are all sojourners and travelers upon this earth God has given to us.

God gave us clear instructions on how to treat sojourners and strangers in His words to Moses in Exodus.

 ““You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry;” (Exodus 22:21-23)

Consider for a moment these sojourners of our faith…

Adam and Eve, exiled from the Garden of Eden

Noah and his family, afloat on an ark before landing on the mountains of Ararat, a remnant of humanity, a people of righteousness in the midst of depravity and evil, preserved and  protected by God 

Abraham and Sarah (nee Abram and Sarai), leaving Ur and setting out for Canaan, determined to obey God and trust His will, plans and promises.

Jacob and his family, first fleeing to Laban in search of a wife and then fleeing from him after years of Laban’s trickery and skulduggery.

Joseph, sojourner taken to Egypt after he was betrayed by his own brothers and sold into slavery, found himself accepted by Pharaoh after proving himself able to interpret dreams through God’s grace.  He would welcome and be reunited with his brothers when they came in search of food during a famine in Israel.  They would bring Jacob to Egypt to be reunited with his beloved son and the 12 tribes would remain there for 400 years before another sojourner would seek to lead them back to Israel.

which brings us to…

Moses, Israelite by birth, raised in Egypt, on the run to Midian where he married and raised a family, then back to Egypt before spending 40 years in the desert while searching for the Promised Land.  It should be noted that Moses’s very life is the result of rebellion against the Egyptian government which demanded the death of all Jewish baby boys.  It was the Jewish midwives who protected the lives of the Jewish baby boys and refused to follow the evil and sinful laws of Pharaoh.

Ruth, a Moabitess widow who returned to Israel with her widowed mother-in-law Naomi when the famine had subsided there.  She married Boaz, an Israelite, and together they had Obed, who begat Jesse, who begat David, which is the very line through which our Savior was born.  Ruth was an immigrant, received lovingly and graciously by Israelites and she embraced and loved their culture and people.

David, on the lam twice, once running from a jealous and mentally unstable King Saul, then later facing a coup d’etat at the hands of his own son.

The Israelites, conquered and exiled after years of rebellion and sinning against God, desperate to return home to Jerusalem.

Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt when they learned that King Herod was seeking the life of their child, Jesus.

The apostles, fulfilling the Great Commission and traversing the land and sea in journeys across the world, often persecuted and scattered throughout their homeland into lands unknown.

Sojourners, Immigrants all.

Citizens of Heaven, Sojourners on Earth.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” (Phil. 3:20)

On Election Day 2016, I played this song for my kids on the drive to school that morning.  I get goosebumps every time I hear it.  I love this song.  It reminds me how blessed I am to live in America and how amazing our nation is.

And I love Election Day and all that it represents – the right and responsibility to vote, the power and privilege to be governed by those we elect and select.  As a parent, one of the lessons I want to impart to my children is that we have a civic duty and a moral obligation to be involved in our government – to pray for our leaders and our cities, states and nation but also to speak up, get involved, volunteer, make your voice heard, take a stand when you see wrongdoing and above all, remember that we are ambassadors for God and Christ here on earth.

We must live out our faith in a way that honors God and respects those who are our elected representatives, whether or not we chose to vote for them.  As Christ taught us when a group of scribes tried to trick Him with a question regarding whether or not they were to pay taxes to Caesar, we are to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render to God’s what is God’s. (Lk. 20:19-26)

The denarius reflected the image of Caesar, so they were to pay taxes to Caesar.  Yet we bear the image of God – His Word declares that He created us in His image.  (Gen. 1:26-27)

Our lives are to be a sacrifice and a rendering to God, giving to Him all of ourselves, and submitting to His will.

We are to obey the laws of our government.  And, if we find that those laws violate God’s laws, then we are to speak up and challenge those laws in a respectful, wise and appropriate manner.  We are to debate policies and practices, discuss issues and ideas and live out our faith with grace, mercy and respect for our fellow man.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the best examples we have of an American living out their faith while challenging their government to do the right thing.

I love our country and I am so proud to be an American.  We are, admittedly, an imperfect union made up of imperfect people, but this is still the best nation in the world, a beacon of hope and light, where we enjoy freedom, justice, liberty, opportunity and community.  I count it an awesome and amazing blessing to have been born in America – and I remind myself that it is a privilege and a joy — and that millions around the world long for the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy so richly and abundantly here in the US.

I love this land from sea to shining sea and I love that so many people want to live here too.  What kind of nation would we live in if people didn’t want to come here?  I cherish our freedoms, our ideals and our practices.  I don’t fault people for wanting to be Americans – we live in a beautiful and wonderful country and it is no surprise that many around the world want to call our home their home too.

Obviously, they have to follow the laws and procedures of our government in order to become citizens, and I completely understand and respect that protocol and process.  We are a nation of law and order, and that is one of our greatest strengths.

I respect, honor and obey our laws, I pray for our leaders and I am so incredibly proud and grateful to be an American.

It is amazing to think how people have dreamed of America, longed for the freedoms and conveniences we take for granted all too often, risked their lives to get here and they have for hundreds of years.

My own family hails from all over the world.  We are a people of immigrants who have been blessed to call the United States of America home for many generations, but we still cherish the roots and traditions of those who came before us while celebrating the opportunities of the present and future.

And it is because of my deep and abiding love for America that I will stand up, speak out and ask questions when I see something that doesn’t look right.

As the expression goes,

See something, say something.

I respect the rule of law and I obey our laws and statutes.

But I will peacefully protest when I believe that our government is acting in a way that is contrary to God’s Law and to human rights laws.  I will respectfully disagree and express my opinion and views when I believe our government is causing irreparable harm to innocent children who need and deserve our love, protection and care.

Jesus’s brother James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem when the church had been scattered due to persecution of the followers of The Way.

He counseled the people in the midst of their own struggles and trials to be faithful to Christ’s teachings, to endure, persevere and not to lose hope.  Reading through James is often recommended when a person is going through a challenging time.

Here are two of my favorite verses from James.  I pray that they may offer guidance and wisdom to us and to our leaders as we wrestle with this issue of the practice of removing children from their parents at our border crossings.

 “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (Jas. 1:27)

Let us consider the possibility that this government policy may effectively be turning these children into orphans and wreaking unknown havoc in these children’s lives, potentially harming them in unintended ways.

What if a child is so distraught by this treatment that they lose faith and harbor anger, resentment and hatred?

What if this treatment forever separates some parents and children, potentially subjecting them to a life without their parents and in the child welfare system if their parents are deported without them?

What if even a single child is subjected to abuse or mistreatment in one of these detention centers, their lives eternally changed if they suffer violence and abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to help them?

God forbid.

Jesus clearly admonished us that we must not cause a child – His children – to stumble.

The second verse from James is this:

“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

God’s Word teaches us very clearly that if we know the right thing to do and we do not do it, it is sin.

There is no gray area there.

The pediatricians and psychologists have told us that this is wrong and damaging to the health and well-being of these children.

We cannot deny that we know it is wrong.

We must ask our government to tell us how it plans to return these children to their parents.

We must ask our government to explain and justify its policy of separating children from their parents at border crossings – and then we must ask our government to protect the lives of these children and to protect the sanctity of families.

We must reject this type of inhumane treatment of these innocent young lives.

We must take a stand and protect and defend those who cannot protect themselves.

God is calling us to a higher place, a better life, a more just way.

Hear the words of the prophet Micah, a clarion call to us even today:

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8)

It’s summertime across America.  Children are splashing in pools, riding bikes, going to camp, taking vacations with their families, sleeping in a little later than usual, taking trips to the library for loads of books, going on day trips to amusement parks and museums and enjoying the lazy longer days of summer.

Last week was our first week of summer vacation and we found ourselves watching a movie one afternoon – The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  There are some theological issues about sorcery and prayer that need a parent’s explanation and guidance with regard to what the Bible teaches us and offering clear biblical teaching, but the movie proved to be a useful backdrop for a discussion in our home on immigration policy, hypocrisy in the church, people declaring themselves to be one thing but acting contrary to their own statements, and caring for those in need.

And then, a scene in the movie that I had forgotten since the time I first saw the movie some twenty years ago.

This song that brought tears to my eyes as I considered its relevance in light of the news recently.

Many of the people coming to America are doing so seeking asylum because of violence, abuse and unrest in their nations.

America has always been a city on a hill, a light for the world.

Many fear the light could be snuffed out by policies, practices and people who have lost their way and who may have lost – or maybe never had – a moral compass to guide them.

God help the outcasts arriving on our borders.  God help the children who have been separated from their families.  God keep them and protect them, and care for them.  Reunite these families and let not a single child fall through the cracks of bureaucracy, lost in an abyss of confusion and separation from their family.

And God forbid that we should accept this as normal or turn a blind eye to this abuse.  God forbid that we become numb or apathetic to this type of evil and wrongdoing.  God forbid that we allow our government to treat children in a way we wouldn’t dare abide our own children be treated.

May God’s mercy, love and wisdom be with us all.

May we remember that there but for God’s grace goes each and every one of us.  We are blessed to live in the United States of America – and with great blessing comes great responsibility.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Lk. 12:48)

We have been given much and our people have fought for and defended our freedoms and liberties.  Much is being asked of us and I have no doubt that we as a people are up to the challenge to protect the lives of these innocent and precious children.

Enforce the law with regard to immigration.  Follow the procedures for asylum seekers.

And protect the sanctity of the family in the process.

The world is watching.  Watching and waiting to see who we are, how we live.

Children are watching. Sitting in shelters, praying for a miracle, hoping to see their moms and dads.

Moms and dads are watching.  Held in detention centers, praying for a miracle, sobbing and hurting, grieving and aching, wanting only to hug their sons and daughters.

The American people are watching.  Wondering if the government takes these actions against strangers, could they do the very same things to citizens?  We are aware of a nagging and uncomfortable feeling that this just isn’t right.  Americans are questioning their leaders’ wisdom and humanity, wondering and worrying.

And.

Someone else is watching.

 

God is watching.

He always has been and He always will be.  These are His children, after all.

We are all His children.

God is watching to see if the people who claim to know, love and serve Him and His people really do.

Or if that’s all just a show they put on for votes, for power, for riches, for attention.

United States of America, we’re on the clock.

The next move is ours.

Questions:

1. What is your view of the practice of separating children from their families at border crossings in the United States?

 

 

2. Do you believe that this is a just and moral practice?  How does this practice align (or not align) with your faith and values?

 

 

3.  Do you think that it is ethical or just for an administration to use the separation of children from their parents at border crossings as a potential bargaining chip in future negotiations to build a border wall or for other immigration policy goals?

 

 

 

4. If you have children, how would you feel if something like this happened to your family?  What if the government tried to seize your children?  How would you respond?  What would you want strangers and friends to do on your behalf to help your family?

 

 

 

5. As Christians, what is our moral and ethical obligation regarding the issue of separating children from their families at border crossings?

 

Do you believe we have a duty to raise our concerns about these policies?  Do we have a duty to help these children and their families?

 

Do you think we will answer to God for things we failed to do when we knew we should have said something, done something?

 

 

6. Put yourself in the bare feet of one of these children.  Imagine the fear, sorrow, grief and desperation they are feeling.  Picture yourself ripped from your parents’ loving arms after a terrifying and arduous journey.  In a shelter with strange noises, foods and people.  There is potential for abuse and neglect.  Children apparently aren’t comforted and nobody can even hug you or hold your hand while you are crying for your mom and dad.  How would you feel if this happened to you?

 

Is this ethical?  Is this moral?  Is it Christlike?  Loving?  Acceptable?

 

 

 

7. If this issue concerns you, please make your voice heard and share your views about this practice of separating children from their families at our southern border.

Contact your congressional representative and your senators.  Contact the White House.  Contact the Department of Justice.  Contact the United States Citizen and Immigration Services.

Share your concerns with your elected representatives and the agencies with oversight on this issue.

Participate in a rally or discussion on the issue.

If you can, please consider donating money to the lawyers representing the children in these immigration cases.

And above all, pray.

Thoughts, Prayers AND Actions.

Let us be a people on our knees before Almighty God in the days ahead, asking for His wisdom, clarity and guidance so He would be able to use us as His hands and feet on earth.

 

 

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fruit of the Spirit:         

Love

Spiritual Discipline:      

Fellowship

Fruit:                             

Strawberry

Prayer Focus:                

Disaster Relief – United States and Caribbean

Bible Memory Verse:   

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””

(Jn. 13:34-35, NASB)

 

Today’s Reading:

1 Corinthians 13

 

Over the last week, there has been testimony in Washington, DC regarding social media.  In the last month, we have learned about how nearly 100 million peoples’ online activities may have been hacked, manipulated, infiltrated, covertly acquired and ultimately used for profit by politicians, rogue nations and corporations.  And in the last 18 months, there have been daily stories about how the 2016 elections may have been unduly affected through fake news, hackers, social media and bad actors.

Have you ever wondered the following questions?

 

Why do we post the most intimate, private and personal details of our lives online?

Why do we feel the need to share and overshare with complete strangers all over the world?

Why do we want to brag on social media, carefully curating a life designed to make others envious and covetous?

Why have we acquiesced the control and power over our lives to social networks?

Why do people bully, insult, attack, disparage and threaten others online, in tweets, comments and posts?

Why do people feel worse off after spending time online?

Why are some people so desperate for “likes” and “followers” that they will say and do anything just to get attention?

What is derived from endless posts on social media? 

How much time is wasted by the average person on social media each day?  Each month?  Each year?  How much time will the average person waste online over the course of their lives?

And this.

 

Why do some people feel the never-ending need to boast about their lives on social media, offering the most personal and private details for public consumption, gushing over their bountiful blessings and success?

 

In talking about what love is this week, we have to take a look at what love is not.

Which means a difficult look at the dark web.

 

No, not that dark web, where people are buying and selling all of our drivers licenses, social security numbers and credit card information after yet another security breach.

 

The dark web where people are boasting, bragging, insulting, attacking, and belittling each other.

 

THAT dark web.

 

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote a chapter that is read at many weddings – the Love Chapter, as it is commonly known.

 

While it is often read at weddings, it’s not really about romantic love – it’s more about agape love.   Of course, selfless love is an excellent topic as a couple is preparing to wed, because marriage requires sacrifice, compromise and putting each other and the marriage first.

But the Apostle Paul wasn’t addressing two love-bird Corinthians who were standing at the altar on a sun dappled beach at their destination wedding on the Aegean Sea.

Instead, he was writing to the cranky, cantankerous and carnal Corinthians – a hot mess of a people who just couldn’t seem to get along and were constantly bickering and fussing, arguing over the nonessentials and not having a whole lot of love in their hearts for one another.  The Corinthians were definitely not the poster children of love and kindness. 

While we’ll talk about agape love a bit today, we’ll talk about the four main types of love we read about in the Bible next time we meet.  You may already know what they are, but here’s a brief look at what we’ll talk about next time.

 

Eros is romantic love, like the kind shared between a husband and wife.

Philia is brotherly love, like love that is shared between friends.  This is love that is concerned about each other’s well-being and supporting and helping each other.

Storge love is an affectionate love of empathy and nurturing.

Agape is selfless or unconditional love.  It is at its core and essence pure and gracious love.  It is not needing or asking for anything in return – it is simply giving and caring for another.  This is the love that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit show us and it is the love that we are to show one another.   It is love for the sake of love.  Agape love just is.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul wrote the following:

 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

(1 Cor. 13:4-7, NASB)

 

Paul briefly tells us what love IS – patient and kind.

 

But then, Paul provides us with a long list of what love IS NOT.

 

Love is not jealous.

 

Love does not brag.

 

Love is not arrogant.

 

Love does not act unbecomingly.

 

Love does not seek its own.

 

Love is not provoked.

 

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered.

 

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.

 

 

If you would, I’d like you to picture a typical day of social media, and then re-read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

 

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time reconciling social media with the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

 

It seems that social media is all about bragging, boasting, “wrecking,” attacking, insulting, twitter wars, humblebrags, frenemies, carefully curated collections of awesomeness, bullying, pranks, mean comments, callousness, cruelty and ad hominem jabs.

 

What would Jesus think about social media?  What would Jesus think about the back and forth shade throwing, the attacks, the brags, the superficial daily presentations of clothes, canines, couture and culinary creations?

 

What if Jesus were looking over all of our shoulders as we type tweets, post pics on Instagram, lob attacks on Snapchat and present a faux version of ourselves to the world?

 

Would we be so quick to post to social media if we had to read it aloud to God before we clicked?

 

Spoiler alert.

He is looking over our shoulders.   And He’s looking in our hearts and our minds.  And He’s already read it before we click it.  He already knows what’s in our thoughts before we say or type it.

 

We as followers of Christ should take a look at social media, our role in it and have a conversation about how we can and must lead by example.

 

As many have said in recent days, on social media, we are the product.  We generate the content with posts, updates, status reports, tweets, comments, pictures and conversations.  Without us, there is no content.  Perhaps then, we should examine the content of our online communications to see if they reflect a people after God’s own heart.

 

For far too many, social media has become a way to attack others, bully those who are different, brag about one’s self, present a falsified and embellished version of life, boast about one’s possessions with no concern for the suffering in the world, humblebrag about charity and philanthropic activities on fundraising sites and self-promote one’s self in the virtual world of the Internet.

 

Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if people boasted in real life like they do online?

Can you imagine someone walking up to you that you haven’t seen in months and they immediately begin to boast and brag about themselves, about their life, their spouse or significant other, showed you photos of their home remodel and vacation to Europe, humblebragged about how they had to buy a whole new wardrobe because of their epic gluten-free diet and ballet and spin class workout, told you about how they bought ten total strangers coffee in the drive-thru yesterday – like they do every Friday, talked about their nonstop volunteering all over the community and bragged about being Volunteer of the Year (again!), showed you all their fabulous photo memories for Throwback Thursday, talked about how their kids are winning at absolutely everything and how they are so exhausted from all the awards ceremonies they have to go to this year for their kiddos and flashed their jewelry/clothes/new car/tech gadgets/etc.

All before you could even say hello.

We don’t act like this in real life. (let’s hope!)

So, why do people act like this online?  Why is there such a fake, curated, perfect persona presented for all the world to see?

Why do people feel comfortable bragging and boasting online when they would be much less likely to do so in-person?

And why are a lot of those braggers and boasters people who call themselves followers of Christ – yet they are acting in a way so contrary to the meek, humble and loving lifestyle that Jesus calls us to?

 

What does God say we should boast in, anyway?

 

The cross.

 

According to God’s Word, we should boast in an instrument of torture that was used to crucify our Savior.

 

God tells us to boast only in Christ and in His death for our sins.

Not in our blessings, accomplishments, relationships with others, homes, jewelry, cars, careers, educations, appearances, volunteering, giving, serving, church attendance, trips, celebrities we have met, meals we prepared, fancy restaurants we ate at, the antics and accomplishments of our children, our latest acquisition unboxed for all to see, our intelligence, our personality, our front yards, our holiday celebrations, our elves on shelves, our extravagant birthdays, how wonderful our significant other is, our #epic life or how “A-mazing” our world looks.

 

God calls us to boast only in the cross of our Lord.

 

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote the following:

 

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:11-14, NASB)

 

While others were boasting of their religiosity, Paul would not do so.  Over and over again, Paul’s letters drew the readers’ attention only to Jesus.  When his enemies and opponents would ridicule him, when they challenged and questioned his credentials, when they sought to antagonize him and draw him into a debate, Paul would note all that he could brag about – but then declare that all of that was nothing and it was nothing compared to Christ.

 

“although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil. 3:4-7, NASB)

 

We are to boast…

In Christ Alone.

 

 

Technology is an amazing tool we have to use in our society today.  The problem isn’t the technology.  It is merely a tool that can be used for good or bad.  It’s no different than any other tool.

The problem is in how we use technology.  The issue that is before us as a society right now is how we will use this very powerful tool going forward.

We can use it to encourage each other, to support each other, to inform, educate, and to communicate with one another.

In natural disasters, technology has proven itself to be a tremendous blessing with the power to help, heal and even save lives.

We saw it last year during the wildfires in California and the storms and hurricanes in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.

Neighbors were able to help each other by sending out hundreds of boats to save people from flooding homes by using social media to coordinate rescues.  People were able to communicate and share critical information about evacuations, places to bring pets and livestock, updated fire escape routes and newly opened shelters throughout the affected regions in real time.

In these cases, people harnessed the power of technology and social media to help and support each other.

But sadly, technology was also used to attack the victims of the natural disasters.  People tweeted insults and attacks implying that the disaster was the result of who they voted for and many people politicized the natural disasters, including elected officials who tweeted attacks and played the blame game rather than offering condolences and making commitments to rebuild.

We now know a lot more about how social media works and how our information has been monetized and sold to applications and organizations literally all over the world.

After the recent revelations about social media firms, we now better understand that all those pictures, likes, clicks and posts were basically used by the social media companies to develop a totally gratis demographic picture of each of us so that they could sell our data and use us as a marketing tool available to both legitimate and unscrupulous individuals and companies seeking to target us for votes, purchases, support, etc.  They used all our information – freely and generously provided by us – to make billions of dollars, to sell their products, to target us for services and products, to glean information about us and possibly even to change the outcome of a presidential election.

We now can see that many of us were manipulated by fake news stories that were placed on social media sites and feeds and that we were bombarded with microtargeted advertising designed to appeal to segmented groups, often with the sole purpose being to divide and disrupt us.

It is increasingly clear that while many of us thought we were communicating our perfectly curated lives in a manipulative and prideful display of arrogance and abundance, we were in fact the ones being used and manipulated by companies that wanted to scrape our data and that of our friends, associates and family members.

The Bible says in the book of Proverbs that:

“Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.”

(Prov. 16:18, NASB)

It seems like now is a really good time for us to take a look at our social media and online behavior and ask ourselves some really difficult questions about why we post, what we post, what we hope to gain from our posts, to examine if our posts are made out of pride and arrogance – and even ask God what He thinks about our social media life.

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism in response to the question of what the chief end of man is,

“A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

 

It is time for us as followers of Christ to ask ourselves if our online behavior reflects our relationship with God, with Christ and with the Holy Spirit.  We must ask ourselves if our posts, tweets and chats are edifying to God and to one another.  We should consider if we are acting as good stewards of our time, talents and treasures in the time we spend online.

And perhaps most significantly and challenging of all, we must ask ourselves the very hard question of whether our social media lifestyle is bringing glory to God – or if it is merely bringing glory to ourselves.  Are we boasting in ourselves – or are we boasting only in the cross of Jesus Christ?

These are tough questions, but as Christ followers, we have a duty to ask and answer these questions and to live a life that draws people to Christ.

If we are bragging and boasting about our lives online and living selfish, indulgent and prideful lives, we may very well be repelling people from Christ rather than inviting and leading them to Him.

In Psalm 90, we are reminded of the brevity of life and the urgency of living out our calling and purpose.

“So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12 NASB)

 

Moses ends the psalm with the following petition to God:

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.” (Ps. 90:17, NASB)

 

May the favor of the Lord our God be upon us today.  And may God confirm the work of our hands.  May we use our hands to bless, to encourage, to build, to create, to nurture, to guide, to communicate, to lift up, to heal, to help, to hug and to love.  And when we use our hands to post, to tweet, to upload and to type, may we do so with love, humility and grace – seeking to bless and glorify God in all things, including our social media postings.

 

Questions:

 

  1. How do you feel after you have read social media posts that are “braggy?” Why do you think some people like to post things on social media that are boastful and prideful?  What do you think the effect is on other people, particularly on those who are discouraged or struggling or going through a hard time?

 

 

 

 

Could these posts be hurting people?  If so, is the attention that one receives from bragging posts worth the pain it causes another in your social circle who reads your constantly bragging, boasting and self-centered posts?  Would you brag in-person about your latest shopping spree to a friend who just lost their job?  Would you boast of all your kids’ accomplishments and successes to someone whose child is struggling?  Would you go on and on about your awesome fitness regime and diet plan to a family member fighting cancer and going through chemo?  Would you argue nonstop about politics with a loved one in-person, each time you talk bringing up quotes, making attacks, insulting their beliefs and philosophies and ridiculing them?

 

 

 

If we wouldn’t act like this in-person, why might we think it is OK to do so online?

 

 

 

 

  1. How do you feel after you read posts or comments that are insulting or which bully other people?

 

 

 

  1. Have you ever regretted posting something on social media? What was it about your post(s) that you regretted sharing?

 

 

 

  1. Have your friendships or relationships with family members and loved ones changed as a result of social media posts? Have you ever unfriended or blocked someone as a result of their social media posts?  How did you feel about those relationships based on the conflict caused by social media?

 

 

 

 

  1. Do you think people overshare online? If so, why do you think people are prone to tell personal details with complete strangers?

 

 

 

  1. Read Ephesians 4:29-32.

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:29-32, NASB)

How should we apply these verses to our online and social media lives?

 

 

How can the words that come out of our mouths (and the words we type with our fingers) hurt both us and others?

 

 

Have you ever felt more negative after saying or writing unwholesome, angry, bitter, resentful or negative comments?

 

 

Do you think negativity is contagious?  Is hate contagious?

 

 

Is your social media life in obedience to Eph. 4:29-32?  If not, what steps can you take to ensure your social media presence honors and glorifies God?

 

 

 

  1. God’s Word teaches us that our giving should be done privately and that we should not give seeking attention, gratitude or recognition.

 

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said ““Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.  “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:1-4, NASB)

 

Interestingly, Jesus also taught that we should:

 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16, NASB)

 

How can you reconcile these two lessons that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount?

 

How can we give in a way that is private and discreet and yet also let our light shine so that people will see our good works and glorify God?

 

 

 

Are public fundraising sites which announce who gave how much contradictory to Christ’s teachings about discreet philanthropy?  Do you think that some people give to be recognized?  Do you make your gifts on fundraising sites anonymously?  Why or why not?

 

 

 

If we aren’t to brag about how much we gave to which group or individual, then how do you think God wants us to let our light shine before men?  Is Jesus talking about a lifestyle that honors Him?  Do you think this is more of an every-day way of living rather than an online boasting presence?

 

 

 

 

Are there times when making a public pronouncement of our support for a person can be honoring to God and can be done in a way so we avoid seeking recognition for the amount of our contribution?

 

 

 

 

Does it sometimes feel like celebrity and public figure tweets or posts have become obligatory and rote and are being managed by social media teams?  If so, do these feel less authentic and organic than other types of more “real” social media posts?

 

 

 

  1. What does our society say that love is? Some examples might be the never-ending social media feed of prom-posals, elaborately staged engagement proposals taking over city streets and public squares, over-the-top first dances immediately posted online, extravagant gifts unboxed for all the world to envy, humblebrags about hubs or wifey or online declarations of the most perfect love and absolute happily ever after?

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What does God’s Word say love is? If you have ten minutes, do a brief word search of “love” either online or in a Bible concordance.  Look up some of the examples and write them down in the space below.  You can also begin with some of the verses cited in today’s study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • What do you say love is? What does romantic love look like? Brotherly love?  Familiarity/Empathy love?  Agape (selfless) love?

 

 

 

 

  • In Philippians 3:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul teaches us that as followers of Christ, we are citizens of heaven and ambassadors of Christ. How is your social media life representing Christ on earth? When people look at your posts, pics and tweets, do they see you as Christ’s ambassador?  Would you feel comfortable showing God your social media feed and/or comments you have made on articles or websites?

 

 

 

 

  • Do you recall reading or seeing social media posts about natural disasters in the last year in which the victims and survivors were mocked, ridiculed or even blamed for their situations based on how they voted? If you recall seeing these posts, how did they make you feel? How do you think these posts might have made victims and survivors feel as they tried to recover and rebuild their lives?

 

 

 

  • Do you think that as followers of Christ we can have an online presence that honors and glorifies God? If you could write a letter to your younger social media self, what would you advise yourself to do differently with regard to social media? What changes would you make to your social media presence and habits?

 

 

 

 

  • In light of your response to the above question, is there anything that you would like to change today about your social media habits and presence? If so, map out a plan and a list of things you want to do differently (more privacy, less bragging, kinder and gentler posts, fewer personal photos, friendlier comments, remembering the Golden Rule of treating people the way you want to be treated, thinking before typing, etc.) and keep it handy before your next post or update.

 

You may have learned the “True, Kind and Necessary” rule.  Before you say or post something, ask yourself if it is true AND kind AND necessary.  If it is all three things, then this is probably something that is appropriate to post and which will be edifying and helpful and will be kind and friendly.  If what you intend to post does not meet all three criteria, then it probably will not be edifying or helpful and it might hurt someone.  If it’s not true, kind and necessary, just don’t say or type it!

 

 

 

 

Activities

  1. If you haven’t already, consider downloading social media logs so you can review the dossiers being kept about you online. Is there anything you want to delete?  If you want to delete online profiles and posts, there have been many articles in recent weeks about downloading logs and deleting some or all of the information posted on various social media websites.  These can be found with a fairly quick search and can help you make the changes you want to make to your online profiles and histories.

 

  1. This week, consider keeping a log of your online behavior, including comments and social media postings. This doesn’t have to be too specific – just a brief log of your habits to help you better understand how you spend your time online and to identify possible changes you want to make in your online behavior and habits.  Some information you may want to include could be the following:

 

Were you on a phone, computer or tablet?

Were you at home/work/school/somewhere else?

How much time did you spend each time you were online?

What sites did you visit?

Did you post anything while you were online (comments, status updates, pictures, tweet, etc.)?

How did you feel after being online each time?

Was there something you “should” have been doing while you were online (chores, paying attention to a class lecture, work, homework, etc.) but which you procrastinated doing so you could spend time online?

This can be like a food/exercise log and it may help you better account for your time and emotions each day.  Our online behaviors can affect our moods, feelings, attitudes and self-esteem.  Additionally, you may find that you spend more time online than you realized, which may help you make changes to your online behavior that will enable you to accomplish more of your goals and responsibilities.

You might want to write everything down on a piece of paper that you keep with you this week.  You don’t have to share it with anyone – it’s just for your learning and growing.  Be honest about your time and also about how you feel when you are online.

 

  1. During your time online this week, consider choosing one of the areas affected by natural disasters last year to research how things are now and how you can be in prayer for the people in that area. You might do a search for Houston and Hurricane Harvey, Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria, Florida, the US Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and Hurricane Irma and the wildfires in Ventura County/Ojai.  Look for current articles detailing the recovery and rebuilding process and articles and videos introducing you to survivors of the natural disasters and giving updates on their situation and recovery efforts.  You may want to add the people you read about to your prayer list this week and continue to be in prayer for the people in that region affected by the disaster as well as the groups helping them rebuild.  If you are financially able to do so, you may consider making a gift to one of the organizations or ministries continuing to serve and help the people of the region as they recover from last year’s natural disasters.  You could also send a note of encouragement to the people you read about and find a ministry or non-profit that may be able to pass along your note or card.  It might sound insignificant, but just knowing that people care about you and are praying for you is very powerful and often can infuse people with hope and encouragement to keep going in the midst of a long and difficult trial.

 

  1. Did you have a chance to show love to someone this past week? If so, how did you feel?  Do you feel like you made a difference?  If you didn’t have a chance this past week, could you share a kind word or do something nice for someone in the week ahead?

 

 

  1. If you are able, you may wish to enjoy some strawberries this week and as you do, be in prayer for the people who grow and harvest the strawberries. Strawberries grow abundantly in California and Texas, two of the places devastated by last year’s natural disasters.  Consider purchasing some berries at your local grocer or farmer’s market – and as you purchase, clean, prepare and enjoy them, be praying for the hands that have nurtured those strawberries so you might enjoy them.  You can enjoy something with fresh berries, or even strawberry ice cream, a strawberry smoothie, strawberry jam or strawberry yogurt!  This is just a tangible way for us to remember to pray for the people in our prayer focus and to seek to love and care for each other, loving all our neighbors as Jesus calls us to.

 

 

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

 

Fruit of the Spirit:         

Love

Spiritual Discipline:      

Fellowship

Fruit:                             

Strawberry

Prayer Focus:                

Disaster Relief – United States and Caribbean

Bible Memory Verse:   

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””

(Jn. 13:34-35, NASB)

 

Today’s Reading:

 

1 Jn. 4:7-21

 

No Fear in Love, No Love in Hate

Love > Fear

Love > Hate

Hate is not Innate

 

 

Earlier in the study, there was a question about what the opposite of each of the fruits of the Spirit is.

What do you think the opposite of love is?

Is it hate?  Indifference?  Fear?

Perhaps it is a combination of all of them.

This week, we are remembering the day fifty years ago that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dr. King left an enduring legacy of his determination and fight for peace, equality, justice and love to the world.  As Christians, we must seek to continue that legacy and we must look at the role of the church in addressing and rectifying civil and human rights issues in our towns, cities, across our nation and all over the world.

Later in this Bible Study, we are going to look at the church’s role in bringing healing and hope vis-à-vis issues of racial reconciliation.  We’ll look at some very uncomfortable statements and actions of Christians in order to better understand why some people outside of the church do not trust the church, especially with regard to racism, prejudice and bigotry.  Then, we’ll spend some time studying followers of Christ who are walking the talk and who have spoken out against injustice and who have fought alongside people of all nations, colors, creeds and beliefs in order to promote justice, love, freedom, equality and acceptance in America and across the world.

While we may have thought racism and prejudice were an ugly part of our nation’s past, recent years have shown that there are many in America who still harbor hate against people based solely on their skin color, country of origin, faith, gender or partisanship.

We’ll look at the hypocrisy we sometimes see in the world and, sadly, in the church.  Whether it’s related to immigration, police brutality, equality, sexual assault or hate crimes, bigotry, prejudice and hypocrisy continue to plague our nation and divide our communities and churches.

After looking at the past and present of racism, prejudice, discrimination and hypocrisy, we’ll talk about how we can build a better tomorrow by loving others as Christ commanded and as He loves us.  That study focus will be when we look at the spiritual fruit of peace, two weeks from now.

In today’s study, we will talk about how we must choose love – it is a choice that each of us must make every single day.  Will we show love, even in the face of ugliness?  Will we reject hate, fear and indifference?  The world is watching followers of Christ to see if we live out our faith – or if we say one thing and do another.  Many people are looking for hope in this dark world.  We can be hope and light to hurting people and we can guide people to make better choices and choose love and kindness simply by choosing to love God and love others.

Every day, we read stories in the news that should give us pause, break our hearts and stories that should move us to stand up and get involved to help people and make our world better, stronger, more loving – and to share the love of God with a hurting world.

It seems as though in virtually all of the dark and tragic news stories, the driving force of disunity is fear, hate and indifference.

Fear and Hate of those who…

look different from them

speak different from them

believe different from them

vote different from them

act different from them

live different from them

 

And Indifference..

to get involved,

to take a stand

to defend the weak

to help the needy

to speak up

to oppose the evil and hateful

to take a risk

to do something about the problems in our world.

 

Some people fear that others will take their jobs – an “other” that seems to be anybody other than someone who looks, talks and thinks just like them.

Some people fear that their old way of life is threatened – and so they fear whomever they perceive to be the cause of the changes in our culture.

Some people fear the future and fear that they may not have a place in tomorrow’s world.

Some people fear that others are better, smarter, richer, more attractive or more successful than they are – and so they try to destroy them instead of understanding, learning from, accepting and embracing them.

Some people fear that their best days are behind them, so they lash out in rage.

Some people fear that they will never be accepted and they feel angry, cast aside and unwanted.

Some people fear that they will never be loved, so they close themselves off to loving others and enter a world of anger, hate and rage – a world that will ultimately destroy them and others.

Yet we are so much more alike than we realize.  Though we may look, speak and think differently, we share much in common and we so desperately need each other.

We are one people, created and loved by God .  Each one of us was given life by the Creator of the universe.  Each of us has a unique story that tells of our history and experiences.  We all have hurts, struggles, love, memories, joy and sorrow within us.

Though we are many, in Christ we are one.

“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom. 12:4-5, NASB)

Jesus had the antidote to fear, hate and indifference.

LOVE.

It’s free and it is available to all of us, if we are simply willing to give and receive it.

It is an emotion that we are hardwired for – God made us to love others as He loves us.

We are literally born seeking love.  It is one of the first reflexes we have when we enter this world.  Babies almost immediately need and want to be fed, held and comforted by their parents.  A baby is born with a grasping reflex and there are countless pictures of newborns with their entire hand wrapped around their parent’s finger, holding love in their hand.

Babies are also born with a need and God-given reflex to eat, immediately seeking nourishment and sustenance.  We are born needing and wanting love.  Babies who have love in their early days and months thrive and grow, while babies who do not receive love and affection often struggle and suffer.   Love is our first reflex and our first need when we enter this world – to be held, loved, cared for and protected.

A newborn baby wants the simplest things of life – food, naps and to be held and loved.  Often a little one is soothed just by being held, rocked, quiet songs sung for them or sweet and gentle words spoken.

We all want to be loved, accepted and understood.

This is how God made us.

At our essence, this is what we as humans long for and want, even as adults – more than money, power, fame, prestige and success.  As the saying goes, you can’t buy love.  It has to be given away and we must choose to give and receive love to and from one another – and even to love and accept ourselves.

We all want to be known, loved and welcomed.

Somewhere along the way, though, it’s possible for us as humans to lose our way and stop loving each other and even stop loving ourselves.

Babies aren’t born racist.  They aren’t born bigoted or prejudiced.

Hate is a learned emotion.  It is taught and reinforced by others, by media messages, by music and movies, by television and internet programs, by friends and family members, teachers, religious leaders, athletes, celebrities, politicians and by those who are consumed by hate.

Babies don’t reject each other because of the color of their skin.

Hate is taught by those who hate.  Hate is learned by those who are not taught to love.

We must teach our children well.  We must teach them to love God and to love each other.

In the 1940s, two psychologists conducted studies to see how children perceived skin color and what character traits they assigned to dolls with different colored skin.  This husband and wife team, Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, showed the young children four dolls who looked completely alike – except for their skin color.

They asked the children to tell them what race the dolls were and they asked the children which doll they preferred.

This experiment was eye-opening and life-changing for the psychologists.  Their findings were later used in the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education.  They found that African-American children perceived themselves as less than and they had shame and embarrassment about their identity as African-Americans.

Some young children had learned to hate themselves because of their skin color while others had learned to prejudge, rank and hate other children based on skin color.  These were the results of the messages those with power and control in those days were teaching them through segregation.  By separating students from each other based on ethnicity and race, the prejudiced and powerful of their time– and of many previous generations – had effectively taught that one group is better and more than and one group is worse and less than.

They found and proved that segregation had a debilitating effect on society as a whole – the message was hateful, hurtful, divisive and destructive.

To watch videos from the 1960s of white students protesting against integration in the schools is heartbreaking and stomach turning.  White students in elementary, middle and high school stood outside the schools protesting, carrying hateful and angry signs, throwing things at the African-American students, hurling anger and venom.

Hate is not innate.  We are not born hating anyone.

Hate is learned.  Hate does not come naturally.  We are not born hating other people.   Hate is taught by those who hate.  It can become a stubborn legacy, one generation to the next.

But, praise God, hate can be unlearned.  And fear can be unlearned.  And we can learn to love each other – we can even learn to love people who are full of anger, hate and ugliness.  This does not mean we allow those people to abuse or hurt us.  It just means that when racists and bigots attack and insult us, we don’t respond in kind.  We don’t hurl back angry words or spew hate online or in-person.  When we read angry, mean, racist and bigoted tweets, we don’t respond with the same anger and cruelty.

As Michelle Obama so eloquently and powerfully said, “When they go low, we go high.”

We must choose to love and we must choose to get involved and to do something to counter the hate and fear.  The only thing that will counter the hate and fear that is so prevalent in our society today is love.

We must choose to be loving, even when other people are not.  We must choose to forgive people, even when they don’t apologize.  And we must choose to continue to show love and act in a way that glorifies God, even when people all around us are not.

We are to hate two things in this life – we are to hate sin and we are to hate what is evil.  Anything that would separate us from God, we are called to hate and reject.

Other than that, God calls us to love.  To love Him, to love each other, to love others.

His own Son commanded us to love each other, so that people would know we are His disciples.

God made each of us.  We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps. 139:14)   To hate another human being is to hate God’s own creation.  If we have hate towards our brothers and sisters in our hearts, we are disobeying Christ’s commandment to love each other and we are rejecting God, because God is love, God loves us so much that He gave us Jesus and God gave us love. (1 Jn. 4:8, Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 4:7)

“ If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. 1 Jn. 4:20-21 NASB

We must choose to love.

As followers of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living in us and He will give us the power, the strength and the ability to love others, to love everyone.

Jesus loved everyone.

And He calls us to love everyone.

Do you remember Chris Singleton, the son of Sharonda Singleton, a woman who was shot and killed in June 2015 while she was attending a Bible study at her church in South Carolina?

He chose to forgive and he chose even to love the man who killed his mom.

Chris Singleton said that “love is always stronger than hate.”

And love is stronger than fear.

Dr. King said that “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

The apostle John wrote that in love, there is no fear.

 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 Jn. 4:18 NASB

We must reject fear and hate.  Perfect love will cast out fear.

When the angels appeared to people when Jesus was to be born, after His birth and after His resurrection, they told the people they visited not to be afraid and they gave them words of encouragement and comfort.

It’s as though God knew we would have a predisposition and tendency to fear what we don’t know or understand. That people would have questions as they tried to make sense of this life.  That they would have fears, uncertainties and confusion. 

And God sent His angels to comfort and encourage His children, to dispel their fears and to assure them that He was with them, that He was in control, and that there was no reason to fear.

 

What might some of the questions have been?

 

What would people think of Joseph, marrying a woman pregnant before their wedding day?

 

“And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.””

(Matt. 1:19-21, NASB)

 

How could a woman past child-bearing age become pregnant?

 

 “And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will [give him the name John.”

(Lk. 1:11-13, NASB)

 

How could a virgin become pregnant?

 

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 

(Lk 1:26-33, NASB)

 

What happened to Jesus?  Why wasn’t He in the tomb?  Where did He go?  How is it possible that He is alive?  How could He have died, but now be alive?

 

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

(Matt. 28:1-6, NASB)

 

As we ask questions of God, His Word teaches us that we must trust and obey.  That we must have faith – even faith the size of a mustard seed will be big enough faith.

He tells us not to fear, that He is with us and will never leave or forsake us.

And He commands us to love.

To love Him and to love His children.

All of His children.

Not just the ones who look, speak, sound, act, dress, worship, live, love, vote and think like we do.

He called us to love each other.  To love our brothers and sisters in Christ – and also to love the world just as He loves the world.

The whole world.

We are to be salt and light, pointing people to our hope in Christ.

Few people come to know Christ as a result of angry Christians full of hate, venom and hurtful words.

But many people have been loved into the arms of Jesus as a result of committed Christ-followers who loved others tangibly, authentically and unabashedly.

Fear is a dangerous emotion.  Often, it will cause us to behave in irrational ways.

Fear seems to be a precursor to hate.  When people fear what is different from them, they may begin to hate what is different from them.

Fear builds walls.  Love builds bridges.

Fear is a liar.

Fear separates us from others and it even separates us from ourselves and from our own humanity.  Fear separates us from God as we seek to control our lives rather than allowing God control over our lives.

Those who have hated people for their skin color, their religion, their voting habits, their lifestyle, their appearances, their wealth, their poverty, their homeland, their ancestors, their language, their disabilities, their imperfections – all of these hatreds have likely begun with fear, which transformed into hate, which metastasized into anger and then, sadly, has turned into violence and evil behaviors.

That little green Jedi Master from Dagobah had great wisdom when he said “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.”

We must reject hate.

And we must reject fear of anything other than a reverential fear of God.

We must love each other.

Love is powerful.

Love changes the world.

It did on a hill in Calvary when, because of love, Christ laid down His life for us, so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13, NASB)

Love changed the world when Dr. King wrote letters, led marches and gave speeches, embracing others through his nonviolent calls for action and change.

Love continues to change the world everywhere and every time we see extravagant and simple acts of kindness.

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 Jn. 3:18, NASB)

We shall overcome someday.

God promises us an eternity with Him without fear, anger, death, sadness or pain.

But until we reach the other-worldly peace of heaven, let us seek to bring a bit of heaven down to earth as we love each other and others.  Let us allow God to pour love into us that we then extravagantly share with the world, letting our words and our deeds live out our faith and our love.

Let us change lives through love.

 

 

Questions

  1. Describe what love looks and feels like to you.

 

 

  1. Describe what hate looks and feels like to you.

 

 

  1. Why do you think people hate?

 

 

 

  1. Why do you think there has been an increase in hate, bigotry and prejudice in recent years?

 

 

 

  1. How can we show love to people who are hurtful or angry?

 

 

 

  1. What role do you think the church can play in loving the world?

 

 

 

  1. How diverse are your fellowship and friendship circles? Could you expand these circles so that you could know and be known by even more diverse groups of people?

 

 

 

 

  1. Have you ever felt feelings of hatred towards another, or have you ever felt hated by another?  If you feel comfortable doing so, briefly explain in the space below.

 

 

 

 

  1. Have you been able to make peace with yourself and with others, either for feeling hate or for being hated by another? If not, is there a way you can make peace today – either by forgiving them for their actions in hating you or in forgiving yourself for harboring anger or hate against another?  Satan would have you hold a grudge against someone for hurting you and he would condemn you for your sins and failures and suggest that you can’t possibly be a follower of Christ because you have had feelings of anger or hatred.  Yet the Bible teaches us that “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1, NASB).

 

Satan is a liar.  God has forgiven you and He loves you.  He wants us to walk with Him and talk with Him, knowing that we are forgiven and must forgive others in the same way that we have been lavishly forgiven.

 

If you have felt another’s hatred or you have harbored hate in your own heart, ask God to help you release that hatred, to release feelings of anger, to forgive others and to forgive yourself – and to experience the peace of God’s forgiveness and then to extend that same forgiveness to others.  Ask God to help you love the world – the whole world.  If you grew up in a prejudiced or bigoted home, if you were the victim of assault and feel hate towards the person who hurt you, if you have been abused, if you learned racism, sexism, intolerance or hatred, ask God to help you with whatever your feelings and experiences are.  Ask Him to bring healing, peace and hope to your life.

 

In the space below, offer a prayer to God asking Him to help you with whatever you have experienced and ask Him to guide you and to give you courage to speak up when you see injustice or hatred, to love others, to love even those who are full of hate, and to be a bright and strong light in this dark and lost world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actions

 

  1. Is there something you can do this week to show love to someone? It might be visiting with a neighbor, calling or emailing someone you’ve lost touch with over the years to catch up, asking a loved one how you can pray for them this week, encouraging someone you know who is going through a difficult time, giving a small gift or treat to coworker, neighbor, your child’s teacher, someone at church, etc., donating or volunteering with a nonprofit that is sharing love in your community, or just complimenting someone while you are standing in line at the store, at work or in your neighborhood.
  2. This week, we are going to talk about how to love and serve those in need, especially after disaster has entered their lives. Sometimes, that may be a natural disaster like a hurricane or wildfire.  At other times, those disasters can be health crises, financial hardships or other types of challenges.  If you feel led to do so, ask God if there is a place in your community where you can wash the feet of people in need.  Throughout this week, we will think and talk and consider what it means to love others and to wash their feet, as Jesus commanded us to.  As you pray this week, ask God to show you places where He may be calling you.
  3. Please be in prayer for the victims of last year’s hurricanes, wildfires and flooding in Texas, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Florida and California. Even though months have passed since these disasters, many people in these places continue to struggle as they seek to rebuild their homes, neighborhoods and lives.  This week we will be talking about people who have been “washing feet” by coming alongside the survivors in these places to be Christ’s hands and feet and to show them love, compassion, generosity and kindness.  We will talk about how we can pray for, support and encourage those serving and ministering to others as washers of feet as well as how we each can come alongside those enduring hardships in these areas as well as throughout our communities and all over the world so we can share very tangible and real examples of God’s love for them.
  4. If you are able, you may wish to enjoy some strawberries this week and as you do, be in prayer for the people who grow and harvest the strawberries. Strawberries grow abundantly in California and Texas, two of the places devastated by last year’s natural disasters.  Consider purchasing some berries at your local grocer or farmer’s market – and as you purchase, clean, prepare and enjoy them, be praying for the hands that have nurtured those strawberries so you might enjoy them.  You can enjoy something with fresh berries, or even strawberry ice cream, a strawberry smoothie, strawberry jam or strawberry yogurt!  This is just a tangible way for us to remember to pray for the people in our prayer focus and to seek to love and care for each other, loving all our neighbors as Jesus calls us to.

 

 

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

 

Fruit of the Spirit:         

Love

Spiritual Discipline:      

Fellowship

Fruit:                             

Strawberry

Prayer Focus:                

Disaster Relief – United States and Caribbean

Bible Memory Verse:   

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””

(Jn. 13:34-35, NASB)

 

As I Have Done For You

Washing Feet: A Commandment to Love

 

Today’s Reading: Jn. 13:3-15

 

Feet.  Dirty, smelly, funky feet.  Feet you don’t want to touch.  Feet that have walked on dusty, dirty, unpaved roads.  Feet exposed to the grime, muck and mud of Israel’s paths.  Feet that stepped in stuff you don’t want to step in and definitely don’t want to touch.

Filthy, nasty, stinky feet.

The feet of twelve men – twenty four dirty feet.

Two of which He knew were going to walk into a Garden just a few hours later to lead a crowd that would seize Him, put Him on trial, wrongfully convict Him, sentence Him to death and, less than 24 hours later, crucify Him.

Not likely pedicured, dainty, fresh-smelling, pleasant or clean.

Still, He washed each of those feet.  Even the betrayer’s feet.

He argued with the stubborn one – the one who claimed he would never fall away from following Jesus, but denied Him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning.  When Peter refused to let Jesus wash his feet, Jesus gave him a choice – submit to the cleaning or have no part with Jesus.  Peter responded with a counter offer.  Clean his feet, his hands and his head.

Jesus reminded Peter that he had been washed but that just his feet were now dirty.

A lesson that when we have accepted Christ, we are cleansed and we are covered by His blood.  Yet we must daily deal with our dirty feet – confessing our sins each day, asking God to help us make better choices, being honest and authentic with God as we seek to live like Jesus and become more like Him each day.

Foot washing prior to eating was a custom of their time and place.  Either the host or the host’s servant would wash the feet of the guests.  A simple act of kindness meant to clean and refresh weary travelers before they enjoyed a meal.

Jesus, the Savior of the world and God’s own Son, chose to wash His disciples’ feet as His last “official” act before His crucifixion.  Knowing that His betrayal was imminent and that His hours on earth were few, Jesus chose to use this time to teach His disciples a tangible lesson on humility, service and love.

Maundy Thursday is a day to remember how Christ lived and to seek to live in the same way.  Some churches have services in which they take Holy Communion, much like they did at the Last Supper, in rememberance of Jesus.  And prior to this reverent and moving service, there may be an opportunity to wash one another’s feet, as Jesus instructed His disciples to do after He had washed their feet.

“So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

Jn. 13:12-15, NASB

It is believed that the word “maundy” comes from John 13:34. Maundy is believed to be a variation of the Latin word for commandment or mandate (mandatum), which is what Jesus gave to the disciples after He had washed their feet and taught them to wash each other’s feet.  Later, He commanded them to love one another, as He had loved them.

 ““A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jn. 13:34-35, NASB

Before He died for them, Jesus gave the disciples one more Life Lesson.  It was a lesson in service and humility.

It was a lesson in love.

The very first Fruit of the Spirit is love.

Depending on your Bible’s translation, the word “love” appears in the Bible anywhere from 300 to more than 500 times.

Perhaps the most well-known Bible verse is John 3:16, which tells us how much God loves us – and what He did because of His love for us.

““For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Jn. 3:16, NASB

And in John’s epistles, he encouraged us to love one another and reminded us that love comes from God and that our love is the evidence that we know Him and we are His children.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

1 Jn. 4:7, NASB

 

This week, we will study love, the first of the fruits of the Spirit that Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:22-23.  Perhaps love is the first spiritual fruit listed by Paul because every other fruit of the Holy Spirit must flow out of our love for God and others.

When Jesus was tested by one of the Pharisees who asked Him what the greatest commandment of the Law was, He taught that it was to love God with all your heart, soul and mind.  He then instructed them that they also should love their neighbor as themselves.

“But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”” (Matt. 22:34-40, NASB)

Love God.  Love your Neighbor.

It is as simple and as difficult as that.

And the only way that we can hope to be able to love God and love our neighbor is by walking with God, talking with God, seeking Him, praying to Him, studying His Word and seeking to live as Jesus lived.

All of the other fruits of the Holy Spirit – joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – they all flow out of love.

If we don’t have love in our hearts, we cannot be joyful, we will not have peace, it will be difficult to be kind, our faith will be tested and found wanting, we will not be able to be gentle and we won’t have self-control because we will act not out of love but out of greed, selfishness, gluttony and impulse.

A life following God and Jesus begins with love.

It begins with accepting the love He gave us when He gave us Jesus – and it continues in loving Him and loving our neighbors each and every day.

It means washing the feet of others – sometimes literally, but more often in a figurative sense of serving others, putting others before you, humbling ourselves for each other, giving selflessly, seeking to bless and help each other.

We need to lean on each other.  Help each other back up.  Encourage each other.

We must be in fellowship with each other, strengthening and supporting each other.

Being there for each other when hardships, trials and even disasters enter our lives.

In other words, we need to love each other.

In John 13:35, Jesus said that the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for each other and others.

And in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus used a story about the suffering, the least and the neediest among us to show that when we love and care for others, it as though we are loving and caring for Him.

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:40, NASB)

And the converse is that when we don’t care for each other and we don’t help someone we see in need, then it is as though we are rejecting Jesus and refusing to care for Him.

“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “ (Matt. 25:45, NASB)

Today, let us commit ourselves to being washers of feet.  Both literal and figurative.

Let us care for the people in our lives – those we know and love as well as those we meet for the first and perhaps only time in this life, and let us ask God each day to place us in the path of those who need to know and see and feel His love.

Washing feet is dirty work.  We will most certainly get our hands dirty as we wash the feet of others.

It is messy, tiring, and at times it will try and test us.

Will we wash their feet?  Would God ask us to clean even the feet of our enemy, opponent or adversary?

And yet in the process, we will find cleansing and healing ourselves as we wash the feet of our brothers and sisters.  For you simply cannot wash another’s feet without the warm sudsy water cascading also on you, cleansing and refining you.

As you wash the feet of another, perhaps it may even remind you of the sacrament of baptism – a time when we choose to publicly proclaim our faith in Christ and tell the world that we have chosen to die to sin.  Whether the water is placed on your head or if you are plunged beneath its surface,  it is a tangible symbol of newness of life, of sin washed away, of Jesus’s payment for our sins, that we are given new life – and that we have chosen to receive new life, cleansed by His blood, dead to sin, alive in Christ!

-all glory to God-

Jesus commanded us to do for others as He had done for us.  We are to be His hands and feet – which means using our hands and feet to show His love to a lost and hurting world.

The last lesson Jesus offered to His disciples before He died for our sins was an object lesson of love.  He humbled Himself as a servant, just as was prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before His birth.

“But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.”

(Is. 53:10-11, NASB)

By God’s grace, mercy and love, we are redeemed, ransomed and reconciled by the love and obedience of His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

By Jesus’s offering of His body on Calvary’s hill as the payment for our sins, we know peace and forgiveness, right-standing with God.

And by Christ’s resurrection, we know the promise and hope of eternity with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God has called us to love Him and to love others.

It is both refreshingly simple and exceedingly difficult.

If we walk with Him and talk with Him, He will show us how to love Him and to love each other, just as He showed His love to us in saving us by giving us His Son to redeem us and return us to Him.

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?”

(Mic. 6:8, NASB)

Knowing that His hours on earth as a man were numbered and that He would soon conquer sin and death for all mankind, Jesus chose to teach His disciples one last lesson.

It was a lesson in love, which is a lesson we all can use, especially in today’s often loveless times.

It was a lesson in love as an action verb, not love as a theoretical concept or wishful ideal.

And so today, let us choose to wash each other’s feet.

Let us love God.

Let us choose to love each other.

And let us love the world like God and Jesus love the world.

Completely, Totally, Selflessly and Unapologetically.

Now more than ever, what the world needs is love.

 

Questions

 

  1. Why do you think Jesus called us to be washers of feet? What is it about washing another’s feet that might make us reluctant to do so?

 

 

 

  1. What are some figurative ways we can wash feet? What are some ways to serve that may be difficult and challenging – but which God calls us to?

 

 

 

  1. Has there been someone in your life who has shown love to you , perhaps who served you when you were in need and who gave you hope and kindness? Give thanks today for that person and, if possible, thank them for the difference they made in your life.

 

 

 

  1. God calls us to have fellowship with Him and with each other. Briefly, describe what your fellowship life is like right now with God and with others.  Do you have a church home?  If so, do you have a fellowship, small group, Sunday school or Bible study that you are able to participate in regularly?  If you aren’t attending a church regularly, could you begin to research and visit churches in your area?  If you do have a church home but aren’t involved in a fellowship group right now, could you make it a goal in the weeks ahead to visit different Sunday school classes and/or small groups?  Is there a Bible study that you could join?  Write in the area below about your current fellowship life and also about any hopes or goals to strengthen your walk and fellowship with God and others.

 

 

 

 

Do you have a fellow Christ-follower that you talk with regularly to encourage, support and help each other with the daily challenges of life?  Someone that can hold you accountable and vice-versa?   It might be a friend you email and talk with by phone regularly, possibly meeting for coffee or a meal on a monthly basis.

This should be a person of the same gender as you who is a Christ follower and who is able to relate to you in your walk of faith.  For those who have recently accepted Christ, you will want to seek an accountability partner whose faith is seasoned and mature so that they can disciple and encourage you.  Your church will likely be able to help you find a fellowship friend – you might call the men’s or women’s leadership or your church’s small group pastor.

For those who have been walking with Christ for some time, you might choose to both disciple someone newer in their faith and also have an accountability partner who is also mature in their faith so that you can strengthen each other in your spiritual walk.

 

 

Activities

 

  1. Can you wash the feet of someone in your life today? It might be the feet of your spouse or your children.  If possible, wash their feet one day this week and pray for them and ask God’s blessings on your loved one.
  2. This week, we are going to talk about how to love and serve those in need, especially after disaster has entered their lives. Sometimes, that may be a natural disaster like a hurricane or wildfire.  At other times, those disasters can be health crises, financial hardships or other types of challenges.  If you feel led to do so, ask God if there is a place in your community where you can wash the feet of people in need.  Throughout this week, we will think and talk and consider what it means to love others and to wash their feet, as Jesus commanded us to.  As you pray this week, ask God to show you places where He may be calling you.
  3. Please be in prayer for the victims of last year’s hurricanes, wildfires and flooding in Texas, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Florida and California. Even though months have passed since these disasters, many people in these places continue to struggle as they seek to rebuild their homes, neighborhoods and lives.  This week we will be talking about people who have been “washing feet” by coming alongside the survivors in these places to be Christ’s hands and feet and to show them love, compassion, generosity and kindness.  We will talk about how we can pray for, support and encourage those serving and ministering to others as washers of feet as well as how we each can come alongside those enduring hardships in these areas as well as throughout our communities and all over the world so we can share very tangible and real examples of God’s love for them.
  4. This week, consider enjoying something made with strawberries.  As you select them from the produce section, pray for the people who picked the strawberries and the farms where those strawberries grew.  Many strawberries are grown in California and Texas, places that were devastated last year by fires, flooding and hurricanes.  Be in prayer for the people affected by these natural disasters and for those who are ministering to them as they begin the difficult and lengthy process of rebuilding their lives.  Pray for the people in our prayer focus this week as well as those throughout the world enduring hardships, trials and disasters.  Ask God to show you how you can be love to these people – and then be obedient as He leads you to serve, love and bless someone in need this week – perhaps someone in our prayer focus area or in another region of the world.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us.  Thank you for coming down to earth to rescue us.  Thank You for demonstrating love to us so that we can love each other as You love us.

Lord, washing feet is not easy.  We often feel ill-prepared for the task and at times when we are honest with ourselves and You, we may not even want to wash another’s feet.

This world has grown cold and seems to grow colder and more loveless with each passing day.  There are some among us who call themselves followers of Christ, but they live lives of anger, hate and fear-mongering. 

Yet each day, we must choose love.  We must choose to follow Jesus and choose to follow His example and commandment – a life of love. 

We long to serve and love You and each other as You call us to, but all too often, we don’t know where to begin.  Our problems are so big, our challenges so great and our lives so busy and complicated that we may feel overwhelmed and underprepared.

Some days, we may strive just for our voices to be heard above the cacophony of cynicism, contempt and judgment that surrounds us. 

Our world is increasingly disconnected relationally, even as we are connected ever more technologically.  People rant and rave and yell and attack each other virtually yet more than ever, people are needing and wanting real connections, encouragement, hope and love.

Lord, let us be the love that this world needs.  God, help us to shine Your bright light in this dark place. 

Where others sow hate, help us to plant love. 

When some choose anger, help us to choose love.

When the world ridicules and mocks and rejects us as the world mocked Your Son, help us to choose love.

When we are condemned for our faith, help us to choose love.

When some try to bait and lure us into a heated argument or debate about You, help us to choose love.

Where the world declares it is too late or that a person is too far gone, help us to show the world that it is never too late for love and that no one is ever too far gone to be saved.

God, we want to be Your hands and feet in this world.  We want to do Your will, to fulfill Your Great Commission and to live out Your commandment that we wash each other’s feet, just as Your Son washed the feet of the disciples as He prepared to give His life as the payment for our sins.

Strengthen our hands that we may wash each other’s feet – that we may serve, encourage, help, nurture, sustain and love each other.  Help us to be each other’s keeper, to be friends to one another, brothers and sisters in Christ, the face of Jesus, the embodiment of love to a world so desperately needing and wanting love – whether or not they would dare admit such a need or want.

Help us to be humble and merciful, not boasting of our salvation and faith but remembering that we once were lost too, just as so many still are.  Grant us that we might have wisdom and kindness to share with those You place in our paths today, this week and throughout our lives.  Help us never to be arrogant or superior as we share our faith, but help us to point the hurting, the lost, the needy to You – as we love them as You love us.

Protect us as we share Your love.  Make us wise as serpents yet innocent as doves, knowing that some would try to take advantage of love and even try to harm those who are loving and gracious.  Help us to make wise choices in those we interact with, knowing that evil is present in this world and that we must be wise even as we are loving.

Help our hearts to remain tender in spite of the hate and anger that surrounds us.  Where others seek to hurt and tear down, help us to heal and build up.

Lord, use us, guide us and direct us to where You call us.

Help us to be obedient to go where You call us, to follow where You lead us and to love as You love us.

We pray for the lost today – for those who need You and those who don’t yet know You and for those who have rejected You.

Let us be Your hands and feet and let us be washers of feet.

Your Word teaches us that of faith, hope and love – the greatest of these is love.

So Lord, we pray that You would help us to love and that You would soften our hearts to love each other and others, that You would show us those desperately in need of love and that we would be faithful to love and care for the least and neediest and the suffering among us. 

Open our eyes, Lord, so that we might see this world as You see it.  Help us to see people who need You, who need love.

And then we pray that You would strengthen our hands and our hearts so that we would be willing to wash dirty feet, remembering that our Savior went to the cross and died for our sins, paying a debt He didn’t owe, a debt that we couldn’t pay, so that we could be redeemed and reconciled to You, O God.

Lord, help us to wash each other’s feet and to love each other as You have called us.  Let us be love to this world, and let that love be a sweet fragrant offering to You.  We pray that the warm and welcoming scent of love would draw the lost to You, to the One who loves us so much that You gave Your Son for us.

God, let our lives be a love letter to You, even as Your Word is a love letter to us.

Thank You for Jesus, God.  Thank You for Easter.  And thank You for Your life-giving, life-saving love.  Help us to tell the world about You and to tell them how very much You love the world.

In Christ’s name we pray,

 

Amen

 

 

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”