Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Showing Love to the Unlovable

Philippians 1:23

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far

IMG_0435-0Have you ever been torn between two choices? Let me add – and both choices are good. Like what to eat – when they are offering seafood or steak (I didn’t say and – no surf and turf)? When the seasons cross – and you are faced with the choice of watching a Ravens game verses and Orioles game – for me that is a tough choice? I guess it would depend on if the Orioles are in the hunt for the playoffs and what team the Ravens play. Some solve this problem with a split screen TV or two TVs in the same room.

What if you’d rather make one choice but another choice is what is before you? That is what Paul faced in today’s passage. Both choices were good choices – stay with God’s people and serve God on earth – even under pain and persecution – and going to be with Christ in death. He desired to part with this world and go to be with Jesus – yet the choice that was before him was to remain and at times suffer – for the sake of the early church.

Here is today’s passage in partial context. In my Bible this section of Scripture is sub-titled Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel. Philippians 1:12–26 – 12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

What choices do we make everyday that may or may not be our first choice? What about showing love to those who do not deserve to be shown love (in our opinion)? Are we called to love even those who are our enemies? That was the instruction that Jesus gave us. Matthew 5:43–48 – 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Did you know that love is not an emotion – although many confuse their emotional feelings with love? Love is a choice – a decision. We decide whether to show love to one another. It is easier to show love to those who love us back – but we are called to love even those who say ill against us – to love our enemies. It is not an easy choice – but it is a choice we are called to make. Like Paul’s – we are often called to do what is best for the Kingdom rather than what is good for us (in our minds).

Who is it we have not shown love to of late – someone at school – someone at work – someone at church? Is there someone that is unlovable in our life we have trouble loving? I’m sure I don’t need to remind us – but I will anyway – we were loved by God while we were still His enemies. Romans 5:8–10 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Just something to think about today as you go on your way.

P.S. – I will try to get back to posting by 9 am – sorry – taking a writing day to catch up!

P.S.S. – an upcoming sermon at First UMC in Laurel titled Sharing Faith Is Sharing Love and will be shared on June 19.

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June 8, 2016 - Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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