April 8th, 2016 by Carl Buffington
“Do you love me?”
Is a question Jesus asks Peter in the gospel reading for this Sunday -- three times!
I have often wondered how I would answer that question.
Take a minute and ponder it. What would you say to Jesus? After all, I suspect he is asking.
If you try to steal Peter’s answer as I often have i.e. ‘You know I do’ or give a one-word response i.e. ‘Yes’, then hear the second part of the question, ‘How do you love me?’ How is your love expressed?
Paul thinks that’s all that matters!
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Gal 5.6b
Throughout scripture the focal point is always love God: e.g.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deut. 6.4-5
And the first commandment concludes: “but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
And the way to love God is always to do what he says. It is how Jesus loved his Father**.
Look at the red below from John’s gospel chapters 14 and 15:
Love and doing what he says go hand and glove throughout scripture. And the one command is Love each other.
Christianity is flooded with giving and loving. “God so loved he gave…” God gives. God loves. We are to be givers; we are to be lovers – of our resources and ourselves.
In my daily readings recently I came across the verse in Luke (11.42) where Jesus tells the Pharisees that they should indeed tithe but that is not all, they must not neglect justice and the love of God.
We begin our obedience with the simple things like tithing and then pray God will entrust us with “true riches.”
So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? Luke 16.11
Here’s a true-life story about giving and going and doing as God guides and then experiencing true riches!
An old friend and missionary, Fr. George Pierce, was staying in our home this week. For a couple days and nights we sat up talking and reminiscing. Seven years ago with the death of Daisy, his wife, at the age of 77, he gave away everything, and packed one suitcase and bought a one-way ticket to Nepal. He had previously served the Lord as a missionary to the American Indians, and in Africa, so he wasn’t exactly heading off blindly, and God had called him. At 85, he now oversees twenty-six clergy and who knows how many churches and house churches in Nepal. Amazing!
If you have never understood the connection between obedience, freedom, and love, perhaps as you respond to Jesus’ question, you may hear his invitation to come closer, and you may want to venture out with a one-way ticket and find ways to give of yourself and your resources.
PS Here is a clip from Nicky Gumbel’s THE BIBLE IN ONE YEAR devotional – 26th of March.
Mother Teresa once gave an interview to Hello! magazine. She was asked the question, ‘Is it only the affluent who give?’
She replied, ‘No, even the poorest of the poor give. The other day a very poor beggar came up to me and said, “Everyone gives to you and I also want to give you twenty paisa” – which is about two pence. I thought to myself, what do I do? If I take it he won’t have anything to eat, but if I don’t take it I would hurt him so much. So I took it, and he was so happy because he had given to Mother Teresa of Calcutta to help the poor. Giving cleans the heart and helps you get closer to God. You get so much back in return.’
Generosity is not just a nice character trait that people have. It is right at the heart of what our faith is all about. C.S. Lewis defined Christianity as ‘a kind of giving’. God has poured out his generosity to you in Jesus (John 3:16), and you are called to respond in faith and generosity to others. Each of the passages today is about blessings and curses. The key to blessing is generosity – ‘the righteous give generously’ (Psalm 37:21).
Some people in life are ‘givers’ and some are ‘takers’. According to David, this is a key difference between the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’: ‘Wicked borrows and never returns; Righteous gives and gives. Generous gets it all in the end’ (vv.21–22a, MSG).
Generosity is not an occasional act; it is a way of living. The generous are ‘always generous and lend freely’ (v.26). The Lord delights in those who live like this (v.23). You may hit problems and stumble but you will not fall (v.24). God’s promise is to bless you and your children (vv.25–26).
In today’s world we are confronted by many ‘children begging bread’ (v.25). The bigger picture of this psalm is a vision of the entire people of God upheld by the practice of mutual generosity: giving and receiving. It was the people who followed God in generous giving to the poor that would find that their own needs were met when things took a turn for the worse. Whether financially, or otherwise, the rest of the community would support them in their need.
Today we are aware of great need both locally and further afield. God’s will for all his people is to uphold one another by ‘[giving] generously’ (v.21).
Lord, thank you for the amazing promises you make to those who give generously. Help me never to be satisfied with the level of my giving but always to seek to become more generous.
(There is a NT and OT lesson along with Psalm or Proverb).