B22 - Love one another fervently
Love is what distinguishes us as Christians. Jesus said,
‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you.’ (John 13:34).
It was love that brought him to the cross; it was selfless love (John 15:13).
Jesus went on to say that
‘by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35).
Love is powerful.
The message of Christ is one of love, not one of revenge or hate, and also one of forgiveness because as 1 Peter 4:8 says,
‘Love covers a multitude of sins.’
1 Peter 1:22 says to
‘love one another earnestly from a pure heart (that is, without ulterior motive or agenda).’
1 Cor 13 says that if we do great and even charitable things and do not have love, we are nothing.
Agape love is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional. We cannot love God without loving our fellowmen. And we demonstrate our love for God by obeying his commandments.
The second commandment in the New Testament reads,
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:31).
In this era of hate placed upon believers by Liberals, we have to relearn the lesson from the parable of the good Samaritan.
The Samaritan chose to demonstrate a charitable act to a Jew, a hated enemy of his people. He helped the injured man, asked no questions but yet paid for the expenses to care for him. He showed mercy before judgment.
As believers, we must seek God to refresh our love for everyone – our neighbors and our fellow believers. As believers, we must be careful not to end up being ‘tribal’.
How can we demonstrate our love to those who hate us – Muslims and Liberals – individually and corporately?
Jesus loved almost everyone except the Pharisees and Sadducees who misled the commoners, were judgmental and more interested in money than the people;
NB: Jesus did not even criticized the Roman soldiers.
We should love one another fervently – even those who hate us. How can we live the love of Jesus in this time of growing persecutions and intense attacks?
It is easy to react by hating but God’s mandate to Christians is still to love.
Let us love one another even more, starting with our fellow believers and then beyond our own comfort zones.
See also B285, Love Ourselves.
B23 - Love sacrificially
1 John 3:16 says,
‘We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.’
The love that Christians should possess is a sacrificial one, with Christ demonstrating to us his willingness to lay down his life so that we may live with him forever.
Back in January 1999, an Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were torched and killed by a well-armed mob even as they laid asleep in their station wagon, following their visit to a jungle camp. Members of the mob accused Staines of proselytizing and even coercing many Hindus into believing in the Christian faith although subsequent investigations proved this to be false.
The Staines had indeed given up much of their creature comforts in Australia in order to live and minister among a group of abjectly poor, outcast leprosy sufferers in a remote part of India. They have decided to demonstrate the love of Christ in a very real way. In the end, they also showed us what it meant to love sacrificially.
In early 2020, we saw the same sacrifice that Francis Chan, founder of a mega Cornerstone Community Church in California and author of the book, The Crazy Love, demonstrated when he moved to Hongkong so that he could become international missionaries. In one of his ministries in Myanmar, Chan testified that he saw the wonderful workings of healing of two deaf children. For more, please click HERE.
In our own situation, how can we demonstrate that we love sacrificially?
B24 - Be hospitable
1 Peter 4:9 says,
‘Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.’
Believers are asked to show hospitality to others. It means opening up our home (church) to others simply because we can. It means inviting someone new out for a meal. It might also means having a visiting missionary staying in our home for a short period of time (Acts 9:43).
A practical suggestion in demonstrating hospitality is to avoid furnishing our homes with ornate decors, just in case they might make visitors feel uneasy or we might be constantly wary of possible damages to our highly valued furniture.
Simply, be hospitable because you can. Let your act of generosity demonstrates the love of Jesus without the need to preach (NB: Remember, if your invited guest is a non-Christian, he/ she is NOT your project).
B25 - Support a believer who might not be the same as you
Rom 14:1 says,
‘As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.’
Romans 14 describes a person who is ‘weak in faith’ as someone who might only eat vegetables. Paul’s counsel to us is not to pass judgment but welcome him.
Acts 20:35 also mentions Jesus’ words,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Again, regardless of who our brothers and sisters are, we are to practice hospitality even to someone who might be different from us.
Receive and support another believer who might be weak in faith.
B26 - Minister to backsliders to bring them back
James 5:19-20 says,
‘My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.’
As believers, some might even want to start small groups catering to just these brothers and sisters who have left the Lord.
Bring home the backsliders.
B27 - Share the joy of return of backsliders
B28 - Meet habitually and regularly with fellow believers
‘Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day (Day of the Lord) drawing near.’
Churches use this verse to justify why believers should come together once a week to worship and fellowship.
Why do we meet?
Because Christians are not to live independent lives but to be with others in genuine fellowship.
Loneliness is the toughest thing to face for anyone. We are not designed for loneliness but relationships. That is why right from the beginning, God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’ (Genesis 2:18). God created animals to be his companions, until God said, ‘But for Adam, there was not found a helper fit for him’ (Genesis 2:20).
Meanwhile, Jesus never married and yet committed himself to close and authentic relationships with his disciples. Why? Because we will always need the support of each other, especially in difficult situations; at his final and most intense hours of testing, Jesus, the Son of God, required his closest disciples, and even angels, to surround him.
We can accomplish so much more by being together. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reads,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
Christians have to fight the counter-culture of stoicism – of self-made, self-determination, and self-dependence – because those are not from God. Indeed, it was Satan who uttered these words of self-determination in Isaiah 14:13-14 –
“I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of assembly, in the far reaches of the north. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
What did these believers do when they meet?
They devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles as well as to fellowship (Acts 2:42).
Notice that the Bible does not mention a church in the way that we know a church to be in terms of its physical form but rather it is about the gathering of believers. Hence, if we make it a habit to meet once a week in someone’s house to do precisely that, for learning as well as fellowship, then we are a church.
The key point is we cannot be associated with Christ and stay away from interacting with other believers. It is a required behavior of a believer. It is difficult to imagine a believer isolating himself/ herself as a hermit in heaven.
Consider the words of Ps Nicky Gumbel, the developer of the Alpha Course and the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton in London,
“Church is NOT an organization you join; it is a family where you belong, a home where you are loved, and a hospital where you find healing.”
Therefore, meet regularly with fellow believers as a habit to do the following – learn, exhort, stir up love, and do good works.
See also B29, Cultivate a few close (Christian) friends, as well as B30 to B36.
B29 - Cultivate a few close (Christian) friends
We all need friends. Jesus had twelve disciples but he had an inner circle of close friends consisting of Peter, James, and John.
They were with him at his most critical events –
- When Jesus was resurrecting a 12-year old girl (Mark 5:37),
- At the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), as well as
- At the Garden of Gethsemane praying (Matt 26:37) .
Believers ought to follow our Lord’s example and cultivate a few close Christian friends whom we can confide and share our lives with.
Prov 27:17 says,
‘Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.’
Have a few close (Christian) friends. See also B34 and B306 regarding depression.
Click HERE for an excellent article on spiritual friendship (suggested by PL Chew 16 Jun 2020).
B30 - Confess our sins to one another (among close friends)
James 5:16 explains,
‘Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’
Protestants, that is probably you and I, don’t really do confessions. We have been taught that ‘there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim 2:5).
Catholics, on the other hand, are taught to confess their sins to a priest. They reason that ‘confession’ forces a person to face up to our sins and feel a greater sense of remorse.
According to CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church – effectively, the doctrines of the Catholic faithful) 1455-1456 (Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 4, #7) –
“The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission, man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church to make a new future possible. Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance.”
The context to James 5:16 had to do with illnesses as they were some that were associated with sins.
John Piper, a well respected man of the word and publisher of the website – www.desiringgod.org, suggested that ‘in the normal life of the Christian, honesty and truthfulness and purity of heart involve continual admission and confession of sin to appropriate people in our lives. The result of this will be greater than physical. It will include spiritual health as well.’
Ps 32:3 says,
‘For when I kept silent (about my sins), my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.’
Piper said that by confessing our sins to God and to one another, God will spare us the agony of ‘dishonesty, hiddenness, and privateness about our sins’ that can ultimately bring about both spiritual and physical misery.’
Hidden sins gnaw away our vitality and effectiveness as Christians.
Who is this person that we confess to?
Is it not a close friend because the person is also someone whom you can pray with and pray for? It is not as Catholics understand it to be – the confession of our sins to a priest in a booth out of sight of people.
What Jesus modeled is for each of us to have our own ‘inner circle of friends’, people whom we can rely on. Even Jesus, when he was on earth, needed to fellowship with other disciples, and shared with them his innermost thoughts including his impending death and resurrection,
Hence, build a few good, mature Christian friends whom you can have an honest conversation and prayer with. it is a confession among equals. It is free, scriptural and more effective than visiting a shrink.
By sharing ourselves with another person, it helps to make our burden lighter. Also, wise counsels can be obtained and received. Confession of our sins helps us to overcome being too inward looking. It reduces the possibility of depression.
Of course, wisdom is needed to ensure that such trust is not abused.
Read what a Christian Counsellor shared:
“I wish that more of us are willing to be vulnerable to share our struggles and confess our sins to each other …. What is required is not only the honesty of the one who struggles but also faithful humility of the one who is willing to listen to such confession and stand with him/ her under the cross of Christ.”
PS: Other than your spouse, it is wise to have a group of best buddies of the same sex so as not to fall into possible sexual temptation.
B31 - Be of one mind (united as one people)
Jesus’ single emphasis for the church had always been that of unity.
He explained when he cast a mute demon from a person.
‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and a divided household falls’ ( Luke 11:17).
Then, just before he went to the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed an intense prayer, emphasizing once again the significance of being united.
‘I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given me that THEY MAY BE ONE, EVEN AS WE ARE ONE’ (John 17:11).
He repeated these words a bit further down when he said,
‘That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE SENT ME’ (John 17:20).
Oneness or Unity was his single most consuming desire. Oneness is what will bring people to know him.
In Acts, the disciples lived it out –
‘All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14).
These disciples were prepared to give up everything for each other so that in Acts 4:32, it says,
‘Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own but THEY HAD EVERYTHING IN COMMON.’
Paul even went so far as to say that someone who divides ‘will not inherit the kingdom of God’ (Gal 5:20-21).
Paul underscored the importance with the Corinth church by reminding them not to be divided but ‘be united in the same mind and the same judgment’ (1 Cor 1:10). In Ephesians, Paul spoke about the same theme, asking the church there ‘to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ (Eph 4:3)
Notice something interesting – Jesus did not say miracle-performing is that which draws others to him although it was true that miracles generated lots of interest from others about who he was and helped spread his fame (Mark 1:28).
John 6:2 says,
‘a large crowd was following him because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.’
His disciples were amazed when he could walk on water and calm the raging sea. No doubt, it established his divinity and proof of being the Messiah when he told John’s disciples to go back and report that
‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is preached to the poor’ (Matt 11:4).
But Jesus NEVER emphasized miracles as the reason for drawing people to him.
In fact, in D254 – Not all great men of God performed signs and wonders, quoting from Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28, Jesus commended a person who did no miracles (John 10:41) with the following: ‘among those born of women, there is no one greater than John (the Baptist)’.
Also, refer to D276 – Satan’s demonstration of power will be imposing – because in it, you will see that in the last days, many believers will be deceived by Satan’s own supernatural acts; Satan has an array of supernatural miracles too.
Or consider the power of united prayer – in Matt 18:19, Jesus said,
‘If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.’
Whoa – there is more power in agreed prayer than praying alone.
According to Jesus, unity is the single most important reason for the world to know that God has sent his Son. Pray for the unity not just for the church that you and I belong to but for the wider national and global unity of the church of Jesus Christ.
B32 - Submit to one another
‘Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.’
The Greek word is hupotasso or ‘be place under’ or ‘put yourself into subjection’.
In Phil 2:3, Paul asked the Philippians to –
‘count others more significant than yourselves.’
In the modern-day context, it is ‘following the leadership of’.
The word, ‘submission’, does have a negative connotation of ‘non-thinking’. Ephesians carries on by using the context of a marriage where a wife is to submit to her husband while the husband is to love his wife.
‘Submission’ is a big thing in being a Christian – We are told to submit to the following:
- Our employers (B95),
- The government (B107),
- Younger men are instructed to submit to their elders (B394), and
- Women are asked to submit to their husbands (B85).
Jesus, God’s co-equal, began his life by submitting to his earthly parents (Luke 2:51); imagine God, the Son, submitting to his earthly parents. Jesus also submitted to God, the Father, when he said,
‘Not my will but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42).
He always did the will of the Father. John 5:19 (NLT) –
‘He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.’ He made it clear in John 6:38,
‘I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.’
Yet, submission does not mean that we cannot offer our opinions. Consider Jesus talking with God when the going got really tough like just before the crucifixion.
In Matt 26:39, Jesus asked God,
‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will but as You will.’
Still focused on the Father’s will but one which he could have a conversation with God regarding the tremendous stress that he was going through. Jesus was not the only one who had a conversation with God to influence him. So did Moses in Exodus 32:11.
John 19:11, Jesus told Pilate,
‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.’
He was prepared to be crucified and be subjected under the Roman law.
The Apostles were submitted to each other. God did not institute a top-down model whereby he decided everything and we just followed. That way, God must as well create robots.
God handed some critical decisions to men. Like when a dispute occurred as a result of the Greek-speaking Jews (Hellenists), they discussed and submitted their proposal to the other brothers. It was also at the Council of Jerusalem that they decided on critical issue relating to circumcision and Gentile Christians (Acts 15).
Here is what we can learn –
- There was much debate,
- Someone summarized,
- A senior member made a decision, and
- An agreement was confirmed.
We learn here that submission does not mean that people ought to stop thinking; there should be interactions, the group makes a decision, and everyone follows.
Again, with the Apostle Paul, he was in Jerusalem to reconcile certain issues with the Council and he submitted himself to their decisions. While there, he recognized that the three main persons that ran the Council, what Paul termed as ‘seemed to be pillars’ were James (the brother of Jesus), Peter and John.
Nevertheless, subsequently, this did not stopped Paul from confronting Peter, a pillar no doubt, at Antioch when the latter ‘acted hypocritically’ choosing not to eat with the Gentiles on seeing his fellow Jews arriving from Jerusalem (Gal 2:11-14).
By studying the responses of Biblical characters, we can learn what submission is not:
- It is NOT handing in our brains. We are to raise issues and debate. Just look at the case of the disciples who had to ‘debate’ the issue of circumcision in Acts 15:7,
- It is NOT agreeing on everything coming from the leader. Remember, Paul confronted Peter in Gal 2,
- It is NOT stopping to influence. Even Jesus had a conversation with his Father regarding the need to go to the cross.
- Knowing that there is a will above our own,
- Subordinating ourselves to the will of God,
- Allowing for someone (possibly even ourselves) to make the decision and abiding by that decision after discussing the issues and coming to a consensus.
Unity is the purpose of submission, the Scripture provides the guidelines, and love is the glue that holds everyone together.
Submit to one another.
B33 - Love one another
The Apostle John made it clear – Christians do not hate other Christians (1 John 2:9). We are to be kind to one another (Eph 4:32) – which means that we must forgive one another if we are ever offended. We are to possess ‘brotherly affection with love.’ (2 Peter 1:7). We are to love God’s people.
Love is the language of Christians. We are also to love non-Christians.
But it begins at home among fellow believers; love God’s people.
B34 - Share one another's burden and look after each other's interest
This is an important element. We have seen that even Christians and Christian leaders go through depression and some have, unfortunately, taken their own lives.
Gal 6:2 says,
‘Bear one another’s burdens’
and it is the same with Col 3:13, although it added another element,
‘Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ Eph 4:2
included love – ‘bearing with one another in love.’
Rom 12:15 simply says,
‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.’ It indicates that life on earth is definitely not ‘happy, happy, fun, fun’ as there will be times when we have to ‘weep with those who weep.’
The Bible is a practical handbook for Christians and it understands that we are but humans. In the Western society, people with problems tend to pay money to see a professional shrink. Or Catholics might unburden their sins with their priests.
Some end up seeing psychiatrists who may recommend prescribed drugs as a solution. Even someone as prominent as Pastor Brian Houston, founder and now ex-Senior Pastor of super megachurch, Hillsong, accepted anti-anxiety prescription. Unfortunately, such drugs can result in a person developing a dependency syndrome. Please see S155, Sorceries, for more information.
The solution is for us not to remain stoic because stoicism is about looking inwards and depending on oneself.
The Lord knows our weaknesses and has given us an approach in the form of other brothers and sisters who can help to share our load. It is simple and yet difficult as it means we have to unburden ourselves to someone close to us, making ourselves vulnerable.
We must, therefore, find a handful of people to share each other’s burden and people whom we can be honest and direct with and who will not abuse that trust. With the internet, the person might even be across the oceans.
See also B29, Cultivate a few close Christian friends, and B30, Confess our sins to one another.
Share one another’s burdens and look after each other’s interest.
B35 - Serve each other
The body of Christ is about how we relate to each other.
‘We are to ‘love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor’.
Eph 4:12 explains that the purpose is to
‘equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.’
And Phil 2:4 reminds us to be selfless.
We are born differently and blessed with different gifting. We are to serve the body of Christ by serving each other selflessly with our unique abilities.
Together, we build each other and the church.
B36 - Esteem others better than ourselves
B37 - Associate with the lowly
In Rom 12:!6, we are told specifically to associate with the lowly. The Greek word is tapeinos and it means lowly in position or spirit. NIV says, ‘people of low position’ while NLT uses the term ‘ordinary people’. KJV calls them as ‘men of low estate’.
In other words, not the rich folks.
Believers are to be humble and be able to move across different economic strata with no airs about their positions.
Do not remove yourself from people who are of lower economic status but instead associate with them.
See also B145, Do not despise the poor.
B38 - Work within a church structure
Christ is the head of the church (Eph 1:22).
1 Tim 3:1-12 describes a church structure consisting of elders and deacons.
And 1 Cor 14:33 explains the why – that ‘God is not a God of confusion but of peace’; just think how meticulous God is in terms of the creation of our human body, where everything is in its place for a reason.
Not everyone may like this but as imperfect as the church is, believers must still acknowledge a structure within a church for accountability and management and therefore work within it. God is a God of order.
See also D57 – Jesus loved order.
B39 - Receive a little child always
Believers are told to receive a little child in his name and never to hinder them from coming to Jesus (Matt 19:14). When he met them,
‘he laid his hands on them and went away’ (Matt 19:15).
Jesus always received a little child with love and compassion.
Love all little children (including those pre-born babies too).
B40 - Do not place unnecessary and unscriptural rules on believers (for leaders)
The Pharisees added their own understanding and interpretation about the general guidelines given in the Bible. They got into the specifics of behaviors relating to the Sabbath, what it meant to ‘honor your father and mother’ and the rituals relating to washing hands.
In Mark 7:1-23, Jesus highlighted how the Pharisees had augmented Biblical laws, found in the first five books of Moses, with more specific details based on their understanding. In so doing, these Pharisees went beyond Scripture.
In Acts 15, however, when the disciples met together to decide whether circumcision should be included for a Gentile, instead of adding rules, they simplified them to just four basic ‘not-to’ –
Not to eat food offered to idols, not to eat food with blood in it or had been strangled, and not to practice sexual immorality (Acts 15:20).
As can be seen here, less rules are, in fact, better.
As humans, most of us enjoy creating rules, especially in societies where people are highly regimented. Rules provide clarity. Over time, leaders in all denominations amass their own ‘rules’ or ‘practices’.
This project does not provide rules. What you find here are guidelines for good Christian living. Use them with wisdom and do not consider them as a checklist of behaviors.
See also S134 and S135, Traditions of men (Leaders) Rule-creator and Enforcer. Also, see D249 – Church traditions maybe special ….
As leaders, be careful not to place unnecessary behavioral constraints/ rules on fellow believers.
B41 - Do not burden others (for leaders)
When Paul was a missionary, he made it a point never to burden that church (2 Cor 11:9) whether it was in Corinth or Thessalonica.
Leaders, especially full-time staff, must never burden their church members by always asking for money over and beyond what the members can afford. This is not the kind of fruit that our Lord Jesus explained in Matt 7:20.
See also S24, Become a burden to the congregation.
Leaders must not burden others but should consider working as tentmakers to support the ministry, if necessary.
B42 - Lead by serving (for leaders)
Christian leaders are servant leaders. They are firstly followers before they become leaders; Jesus’ disciples showed that.
‘The greatest among you shall be your servant’ – Matt 23:11.
Just before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus got down and began to wash his disciples’ feet, explaining that
‘For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you (that is, to wash each other’s feet)’ – John 13:14.
It was a powerful imagery of humility.
Who is a Servant Leader? What did Jesus do?
- He was God’s Son but yet a servant.
- He chose to take on the form of a man to be with us.
- He went where the people were and brought us back to him.
- He did not stay in an ivory tower.
- He humbled himself to dwell among men and was born in a stable, not the most pleasant of places, while living the bulk of his life as a blue-collar worker, a carpenter.
- He made time to connect and disciple, especially his inner circle of twelve. It took him a good part of 3.5 years to do so.
- He did not keep a distance from the people; he was always reaching out.
- He was loving and his compassion came through; he did not even hide his tears from his followers – he wept at Lazarus’ tomb.
- Finally, his death on the cross was about reconciling us back to God the Father.
It was never about his own will. He was selfless.
For more information, you might like to read books from John Maxwell, a Christian management consultant who is a well recognized expert on Servant Leadership.
Christian leaders must lead through transparency and by serving and interacting in the frontline with fellow believers.
B43 - Guard our actions never to be a stumbling block to others
Christians have to be aware of sins so that they do not cause another believer to stumble. People are always watching.
Paul reminded Christians that if food was to cause another person to sin, and that it could
‘somehow become a stumbling block to the weak’ (1 Cor 8:9),
then we must not consume it.
When he shared that he was referring to food offered to idols. Just as well, it might be drinking alcohol. While it is fine to drink beer for one believer, it might cause another believer who has a weakness for alcoholic drink to end up drunk. As a result, it might be better for the believer who does not have a drinking problem to avoid drinking in front of someone who has a weakness for alcohol.
Christians must be alert not to stumble another believer.
To start, do not sin and guard our actions so that we are not a stumbling block to others.
See B62, Don’t harm the body of Christ.
B44 - Do not choose the best seats or titles
Jesus related how the Pharisees
‘love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues’ (Matt 23:5).
These seats were obviously a symbol of pride and status. Jesus reminded his audience to remain humble in making choices as our outward action is a symptom of our inward condition.
How can we demonstrate humility? Refer to B42 on Lead by serving.
Start by not choosing the best seats or titles in the synagogue.
B45 - Do not judge others (as in condemning others)
In Matthew 1:18-19, we read that Joseph became aware of Mary’s pregnancy and he was obviously not the father. According to the Jewish Law, ‘both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death’ (Leviticus 20:10).
That was the ‘rightful’ thing to do at that time; to report Mary to the relevant religious authority. Yet, Matthew 1:19 says:
‘Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.’
The Greek word for ‘just’ was dikaios or ‘just especially in the eyes of God’/ righteous.
Joseph chose mercy rather than judgment.
Matt 7:1 says,
‘Judge not that you be not judged.’
In Rom 14:13, Paul said to believers to ‘stop passing judgement on others’ but instead that we should personally not stumble others. The counsel is to watch our own lives as against watching our neighbor’s because we are all vulnerable to sins. To pass judgement may even elevate our own pride. Instead, the word to believers is to continue loving others.
But Paul did call out some people by names. Consider these:
- Demas – Who was mentioned as someone who forsook Paul ‘having loved this present world’ (2 Tim 4:10),
- Hymenaeus and Alexander – ‘whom I (Paul) have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme’ (1 Tim 1:20),
- Alexander, the coppersmith – ‘did me (Paul) great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deed’ (2 Tim 4:14).
Even the Apostle John, credited with being the epitome of love, mentioned a person named Diotrephes as someone ‘who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority’ (3 John 9).
We are told in Eph 5:11 to ‘expose evil’.
There is a fine line between exposing evil and judgment, and between mercy and judgment.
If we are too judgmental, may we learn from Joseph and show mercy. Yet, may the Holy Spirit provide us the discernment to know which is which.
B46 - Be steadfast in doctrine and fellowship
Acts 2:42, 46 speaks about the disciples fellowshipping with new believers;
‘they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (doctrines) and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.’
They were together:
- Learning the Scripture (Strengthening their understanding of doctrines),
- Praying, and
- Having holy communion together.
See also B28, Meet regularly with fellow believers.
Be steadfast in doctrine and fellowship.
B47 - Do not discriminate because of race or wealth
Acts 6:1 talks about discrimination felt by the Hellenistic (Greek speaking) Jews who felt that they were discriminated.
Believers do not discriminate because of race or wealth. For more information, please also see:
- B352, Do not be partial to the wealthy, and
- S47, Show partiality in church.
Be careful if we become discriminatory based on race and wealth.
B48 - Do not go to the court with a believer but settle privately
Severe disagreement can sometimes happen even between believers especially in business. Paul’s counsel to believers in such situation is to seek out other wise believers to settle the dispute.
It is a shame for believers to end up in a civilian court which might be presided by a non-believing judge(s) 1 Cor 6:1-7.
What does it mean to our business people who have disagreements with other believers? Where can Christian business people go if they have a dispute with another Christian?
Avoid going to courts with another believer but settle disputes privately through arbitration of wise Christians.
B49 - Act dumb and use questions for people to discover things themselves
Luke 24:19 showed how Jesus acted dumb and used questions so as to allow people to discover things themselves. A couple of disciples were on their way to Emmaus, a short walk out of Jerusalem. They were joined by a man who struck up a conversation with them.
However, the man pretended not to know about the crucifixion of Jesus, which from these verses showed that it was big news then. Instead, he got them to explain everything to him. After that, he started teaching and only later, did they discovered that it was in fact Jesus who interacted with them.
Sometimes, it is worthwhile to use ‘self-discovery’ questions for others to open up to us. This method can also be applied to evangelism or parenting.
We can all learn from our Master – act dumb and use questions to get people to discover things themselves.
B50 - Pray life for a fellow believer who is sinning
B51 - Pray for destruction of a fellow believer who is engaged in terrible sins
1 Cor 5:1-5 speaks about a man who had an affair with his father’s wife. Paul said that he was praying for
‘the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.’
When Christians see other Christian friends whom we know are atrociously sinning openly, do we raise our voice and talk to this person? Do we pray for this person? Or do we just adopt the polite and politically correct thing – look the other way?
And if the going gets tough, do we pray tough and uncomfortable prayers? How does this compare to B45, Non-Judgmental?
Biblical teaching is usually about drawing a balance, except when it comes to God or money (B343 – Serve God and not money). Then, it is a choice.
See also B357 to B368, Handling Offences.
B52 - Do not associate with a sexually immoral believer
There are certain believers that we are reminded not to ‘associate with’ in 1 Cor 5:11.
The KJV used the phrase, ‘not to keep company with’. The Greek word is rather long, sunanamignumi, and it means ‘not to mix up together with’, ‘mingle together with’, or ‘keep company’.
B52 to B59 highlight believers we should not mingle with. We begin with B53, ‘sexuality immoral’ or the Greek pornos. It refers to believers who are engaged in consensual sex but who are not married to each other.
See also B365, Handling Offences/ Offended-Confront.
B53 - Do not associate with a believer who is greedy (NB: It is not only food)
1 Cor 5:11 says,
‘But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.’
In Greek, it is pleonektes or an avaricious person – or a person who is pathologically (excessively) greedy for money or other valuables. Do not keep company with such believer too.
NB: It is not only about food.
Look at B52, Sexuality immoral for more information.
B54 - Do not associate with a believer who swindles
1 Cor 5:11 says,
‘But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.’
The Greek word is harpax and it means ravenous or a robber or an extortioner. The NLT uses the words, ‘cheats people’ while the GNT says, ‘thief.’
Do not associate with a believer that swindles.
Look at B52, Sexuality immoral for information.
B55 - Do not associate with a believer who is a drunk
1 Cor 5:11 says,
‘But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.’
All translations use ‘drunk’ or ‘drunken’. The Greek word is methusos or, you guess it, a drunkard – someone who has a habitual excessive use of alcohol and result in intoxication. The person is usually unsteady.
Christians are told specifically not to associate with a drunken.
Look at B52, Sexuality immorality for related comments.
B56 - Do not associate with a believer who is an idolater
1 Cor 5:11 says,
Parallel translations use the word, ‘idolater’ or ‘someone who worships idols’. The Greek word is eidololatres or a worshiper of an image (an idol).
An idol may take many forms other than a physical stature. An idol is any ‘object of worship’ which we ‘excessively admired’. It could be a movie or football star. Or it could even be a politician.
See also B52, Sexuality immorality and S9, Worship Idols, for related comments.
B57 - Do not associate with a believer who is lazy
2 Thes 3:2 says,
‘Keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness.’
The various versions use the word, ‘undisciplined’ (Berean), unruly life (NASB), ‘loaf around (Contemporary), and ‘lazy’ (GNT).
The Greek words are peripateo meaning conducting one’s life or living, and ataktos meaning either disorderly or irregularly or lacking proper order. So, we are talking about someone who is walking in an undisciplined manner.
Paul admonished in v10,
‘If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.’
It means, keep away from someone who is lazy.
‘We command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living (NB: Not handouts).’
See also S146, Choose not to work/ Not to use our talents – Slothful and Lazy.
B58 - Do not associate with a believer who is a busybody
2 Thes 3:11 warns us about ‘busybodies’ or people who ‘interfere in other people’s lives.’ Paul also told the Thessalonians not to associate with such a person.
However, you might like to note that in the case of a lazy, busybody believer, Christians are encouraged in 2 Thes 3:15
‘not to regard him as an enemy but warn him as a brother.’
B59 - Do not associate with a believer who is a divider
Titus 3:10 says,
‘As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.’
In other words, three strikes and a divisive or factious person should be disassociated with.
The Greek word for ‘divisive’ is hairetikos or ‘disposed to form sects’ or sectarian.
NB: The sins highlighted from B52 to B59 are externally visible sins. What about those internal invisible ones, like pride, and unforgiveness which can be even more serious?
It is also useful to read this portion alongside with S139 – Wilfully continue to sin.
B60 - Do not lie to each other
Jesus called Satan, ‘the father of lies’ in John 8:44. The Apostle Paul simply said,
‘Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.’
Believers do not lie to each other as lying belongs to the old self. The problem with lying is that we end up telling a second lie to hide the first lie and it perpetuals from there.
Deception (the act of tricking a person) is also unacceptable as the devil is also called the ‘Deceiver of the whole world’ (Rev 12:9) and, of course, deception can be worse than an outright lie.
Yet, at times, God needs us to be wise. Jesus said in Luke 16:8,
‘For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.’
In the Old Testament, when Samuel was told to anoint David as king, he exclaimed to God, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me’ (1 Sam 16:2). The Lord then gave Samuel a strategy to go forward. He suggested the use of a sacrificial ceremony as an excuse to anoint David as king (1 Sam 16:2-4).
Again, in Jer 38:24-27, Jeremiah had just pronounced a prophecy to King Zedekiah. But if he was to reveal to the officials what he said to the King, he could jeopardize his own life. Hence, King Zedekiah told Jeremiah to say to them, ‘I made a humble plea to the king that he would not send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there’ (Jer 38:26).
It does appear in both circumstances that they were not completely honest with their responses. In both incidents, their lives were compromised.
The principle that we can take from here is perhaps that if lives are involved, then a ‘white lie’ works better. To insist that you must tell the truth at all times in trying circumstances will be the same as telling a French Christian living in the 1940s to always tell the truth when the Nazis asked if there were Jews hiding in their house.
Christians, therefore, have to be wise. If we are not asked a direct question, we may not need to provide a direct response. Technically, we did not lie. And if lives are involved, then we may have to dish out a lie.
It is a challenging issue that Christians should struggle within themselves. The broad guidance is, ‘Do not lie to each other.’
See also B12, Don’t lie to the Holy Spirit.
B61 - Beware of false teachers who teach things counter to the Bible
‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.’
Believers are not to accept everything that is being preached to them but to ‘test the spirit’. In order to do that, believers must be strong in the Word. Hence, it is imperative that we read and digest our Bible daily and understand what is inside.
- Sheep are not exactly intelligent. They tend to wander away from the protection of the shepherd. Sheep gets lost easily,
- Sheep must be led to grass,
- Sheep cannot survive in the wild where there are predators,
- Sheep are weak and need a shepherd to care and protect them,
- Sheep become restless when food is scarce or they have been attacked by bugs,
- Sheep needs plenty of water on a regular basis,
- Sheep follows the voice of the shepherd.
We must develop our spiritual eyes so as to sense wrong teachings. Paul called out some of these false teachers as ‘dogs‘ and ‘mutilators of the flesh‘ (Phil 3:2).
The purpose of this project is to provide resources so that believers can review and be in a position to counter any false teachings.
Every statement relating to ‘sins’, ‘behaviors’, and ‘doctrines’ is supported by the relevant scriptural references and numbered so that they can be easily cross-referenced. A short explanation is also given to provide teaching and clarity to all believers who are interested in the Word.
See also B373, Test every spirit.
B62 - Do not harm the body of Christ
1 Cor 10:23 says,
‘All things are lawful but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful but not all things build up.’
Christians should avoid things that don’t build up or that may even harm the body of Christ.
Subsequently, Paul mentioned about the issues of drinking alcohol and eating food offered to idols. In truth, Christians can do both, that is, as long as it does not result in drunkenness. But Paul had suggested that if it could impact on someone else’s conscience, then Christians should avoid it altogether (1 Cor 10:29).
In other words, we must always be sensitive to people around us and serve others before we serve ourselves.
What can we think of in our modern-day setting?
See also B43, Guard our actions so that we are not a stumbling block to others.
B63 - Be angry but do not take any action into our own hands
‘Be angry and sin not’ –
Eph 4:26. The problem with anger is that it offends and creates deep rooted issues later. On the extreme, anger can result in murder like the case of Cain and Abel.
James 1:20 says that
‘human anger does not produce the righteousness of God.’
Eph 4:26, nonetheless, continues and suggests a way out –
‘do not let the sun go down on your anger.’
Some of us gets angry easier than others. In our anger, we might offend others. And if we do, we have to learn to seek forgiveness from the other party.
Some might even thought about revenge. See B138, Do not seek vengeance, for more information.
Or others might just endure and resent. Whatever it is, it is not good for any of us.
See also the section on offences, where the Lord taught us how to handle offences one-on-one without getting angry or losing the fellowship – B357 to B368, Handling Offences.
B64 - Deal with issues directly, with integrity and honesty
Philemon 1:12-14 – Paul wrote to Philemon because Onesimus, one of Philemon’s slaves who ran away, had become a Christian. Paul was returning Onesimus back to Philemon as the rightful thing to do.
What you will recognize here is that Paul was upfront with the conversation and handled it with integrity.
As believers, we must avoid pussyfooting around issues as many cultures do. The Bible always encourage direct, honest conversations and even healthy debates (Acts 15).
- B32, Submit to one another, and
- B364, If offended, then confront, rebuke, and forgive.
B65 - Honor church elders
The word, ‘honor’, as found in 1 Tim 5:17 is interesting. Firstly, it is given to the elder who works hard at preaching and teaching, or an elder that is good at his role.
Secondly, most versions listed the word as ‘honor’ or ‘double honor’ but NLT and GNT used the term, ‘worthy of receiving double pay’.
The Greek explains that it is given to a presbuteros or an elder of a Christian assembly. The word for ‘honor’ is the Greek time which is translated as ‘price’, ‘honor’, or a ‘value’.
“For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and “The laborer deserves his wages.'”
Effectively, it recognizes that this elder (or, in our modern-day terminology, possibly a pastor) who excels in both preaching and teaching should be rewarded financially.
Here are the principles:
- All preachers of the word must be paid, and
- Good preachers and teachers should be recognized and rewarded financially.
Nonetheless, it is important that B65, Honor church elders is balanced alongside with S21 – Profit from preaching the Gospel, and S22 – Profit from leading a group of believers.
See also B356, Pay church staff on time and fairly.
B66 - Do not rebuke an older man (person)
1 Tim 5:1. Never speak harshly, that is what it means.
We must respect age and be mindful of an older person’s life experiences.
If we feel that the older person may have sinned or done something wrong, do not speak harshly with the person. But rather, approach the person one-on-one as in B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one.
B67 - Exhort an older men as a father
‘But encourage him as you would a father.’
NLT says, ‘appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father.’
No older person likes to be rebuked in front of an audience. If you feel that the older person may have sinned or have done something wrong, then follow the process laid out under B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one.
B68 - Exhort an older women as a mother
The same goes for an older woman.
If you feel that the older person may have sinned or you have been offended by that person, then follow the process laid out under B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one.
B69 - Exhort a younger man as a brother
‘Encourage younger men as brothers.’
NIV uses the word, ‘exhort’. It is an encouraging word. We are not to berate or bully younger men.
If you feel that the younger person may have sinned or you have been offended by that person, then follow the process laid out under B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one..
B70 - Exhort a younger woman as a sister
‘Encourage younger women as sisters with all purity’ – 1 Tim 5:2.
It is a reminder to men to treat ‘younger women’ as sisters and in purity of thoughts. The Greek word for ‘purity’ is hagneia or chastity. That is, in decency and not with sexual intentions.
If you feel that the younger person may have sinned or you have been offended by that person, then follow the process laid out under B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one.
B71 - Honor widows (and believers who are in need)
1 Tim 5:3 – NLT reads,
‘Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her.’
Or ‘Support the widows who are truly in need.’
The word, ‘Honor’, is the Greek word, timao or honor reverentially or esteem. Historically, there was no insurance to take care of widows. So, in a practical sense, believers were being asked to ‘honor’ them, probably with money.
In other words, helped them in a practical sense.
Read also Acts 6:1 when these widows were given a distribution of food to help them.
There will always be poor people on earth and there will always be believers that may be in need. Christians are not immune to sufferings. Hence, Gal 2:10 reminds Christians to remember the poor.
A church must never forget to look after fellow believers who require our assistance. Social work is a natural extension of how we can demonstrate God’s love as a family.
See also B266, Personal values – Do practical social works.
B72 - Get married if we are tempted in a relationship (Boy/ Girl Relationship)
1 Tim 5:14 – Paul’s advice to
‘younger widows is to get married, have children and manage their homes.’
In 1 Cor 7:36, Paul’s counsel for a man who is ‘acting inappropriately toward his betrothed’ to get married. He made it clear that it was not a sin to do so.
Sexual temptation is real and has been around since the time of creation. Currently, of course it is worse with easy access to sexual and pornographic materials on the web.
If we find that we are in fact tempted, it just makes sense to get married.
For many people, that might be effective. For others who may be addicted to pornography, the approach might have to be adjusted.
B73 - Do not forbid marriages but marry someone within the family of God
1 Tim 4:3 makes it clear that we are not to
If a certain sect teaches that it is wrong to be married, then it is a cult. It is fine to marry.
Paul only reminded his audience
‘Not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (2 Cor 6:14),
explaining the contradiction and challenges between a believer and an unbeliever.
In addition, the concept of yoking also implies that a believer should find a spouse that shares a similar vision and worldviews. Otherwise, we might have two oxen going in different directions.
B74 - Love all children
‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven, their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.’
Always love those little ones.
In Mark 9:36-37, ‘Jesus took a child and put him in the midst of them and taking him in his arms …’
Jesus treasured little children.
Hence, even as we are instructing and disciplining, love must permeate through everything we do. Whether it be our own children or children of others. And whether it is a child or a pre-born baby.