About 15 years ago I was at a talk with Josh McDowell, the writer of many books and a speaker all over the world. He told us an interesting story from Ephesians chapter 5 regarding the teaching about husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the church. Josh loves to travel all over the world and he was on this quest to understand the definition of love for the entire year. He was talking to great pastors and missionaries and theologians and presidents of seminaries asking them all the same question: what's the definition of love in the Bible? Most of them took him back to the love chapter in 1st Corinthians 13. Josh said, no, that's a description of love, it’s not a definition. So he was frustrated all year long and praying about it. Finally, he sat down at Thanksgiving dinner with his father in law sitting beside him, and Josh told him his dilemma. His father in law looked at him kind of funny and said, Josh, the definition is in the next verse: no man ever yet hated himself, but nourishes and cherishes himself. That's the definition of love.
We're supposed to love each other. We're supposed to love God and let Him love us. Remember what love does: it nourishes and cherishes. To nourish means to provide something that is needed. God is three in one: body, soul and spirit. If you're nourishing someone's body, you're loving them. If you're nourishing someone’s spirit or their soul, you're loving them. What is cherishing? It's protecting, honoring, and respecting. If you cherish something, it means you take care of it and have a real respect for it.
When we talk about love, understand that God keeps things in tension. There's a tension that is supposed to be there, like instruments have. I play the guitar, and when someone plays the guitar, it only sounds good because the tension is appropriate for each string. You need to change the tension every time you play to get it to sound right. The Scripture is in tension too. You may read Scripture when you first start learning the Bible and see how it says one thing here, and it says another thing there, and it could be a little confusing. It's not because they are opposing each other, it's because there's a tension that we're supposed to hear and listen and learn. For example, we see Paul saying that salvation is by faith alone and yet James says faith without works is dead. That seems like a tension until you study more and realize that the works or the fruit show that the faith is there. They don't make the faith appear, they show that the faith is there.
There's another tension when it comes to teaching about love. Love covers a multitude of sins, but doesn't the scripture also say if your brother sins against you, rebuke him? That seems like tension. I'm supposed to cover every sin? No, instead, it covers a multitude of sins. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. How do you work out that tension? The C minus is something I want you to be aware of. The C minus is critical, contempt, and condemnation. We want the minus out of our life. The C plus we want added to our life. Consider the woman caught in adultery; Jesus said, neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more. Now you notice a combination of two things: He has no condemnation, but He does have correction. The correction is part of the C plus, but the C minus, the critical Spirit, says, you failed again. Sometimes we say that to ourselves, right? That's critical and contempt at the same time. So we want to get critical and contempt and condemnation out, like mocking, sarcasm, or rolling your eyes. Some people say those things to themselves, some people say to others, and sometimes we just think it. It’s important to repent for your thoughts, too.
Matthew 18 says, if your brother sins against you rebuke him. Jesus said, neither do I condemn you go and sin no more. So it turns out we need to get the condemnation out, but we have to keep the correction for ourselves and for others. We speak the truth in love, but we have to keep the correction in.
So what are the three C’s? We can have a complaint. We can have a correction, but where’s the correction supposed to start? With us. If we would judge ourselves, we wouldn't need to be judged. That's what the Bible says. If we would correct ourselves, we wouldn't have to have someone else correct us. We're going to hold on to the complaints and the correction, but with commendation, instead of condemnation. Commendation is building another person up even as I bring a correction. We have commendation, but we have a complaint or correction. And of course, it's the Lord speaking. One of the things that goes along with being loving is speaking the truth in love.
As a Christian, truth actually has three parts. The first one is getting the facts right. What's the second element? We need to get the love right, speaking the truth in love. What's the third part? We must get the timing right. The facts, the love, and the timing. So when you speak in truth in the future, we're trying to get the facts right, the timing right, and the love right. In Revelation 2, Jesus is speaking to that first church in Ephesus about the truth. “I know all that you've done for me. You've worked hard and persevered. I know that you don't tolerate evil.” This is a commendation. “You don't tolerate evil. You've tested those who claim to be apostles and prove they are not for they were imposters. I also know how you bravely endured trials and persecutions because of my name, yet you've not become discouraged.” Next he has a correction or a complaint to add to the previous commendation. “But I have this against you, you've abandoned the passionate love you had for me at the beginning. Think about how far you’ve fallen. Repent and do the works of love you did it first, I'll come or I'll come to you remove your lampstand from its place of influence if you do not repent. Although to your credit, you despise the practice of the Nicolaitans, which I also despise.” Most people think the Nicolaitans were lording over people. “The one whose heart is open, let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is saying now to all the churches, to the one who overcomes I will give access to feast on the fruit of the tree of life that is found in the paradise of God.”
The Lord is showing us and revealing to us that yes, there could be a correction, if there's no condemnation. There could be a correction with commendation, but if we're going to get the truth right in any of these matters, we have to get the facts right and the timing right and the love right.
Prayer: Father, we thank you that you always get it right. You know when to correct, you know how to commend us and you continue to do that Lord. We thank you, Lord, for your great promise that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We receive Lord that freedom from condemnation, but Lord, we also receive your correction. You're so good Lord, your rod and your staff, they comfort us. Lord, we declare your rod is for correction and your staff is for protection. We receive both of them as we prepare our hearts, Lord, to embrace each other Lord, and to speak the truth in love.
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