The Golden Rule

Christian Love Is Seen In Action

“The Golden Rule” (also known as respect) has shown its face in so many ways.  Confucius is known to have said, “Do not to others what you would not wish done to your-self.” Rabbi Hillel is attributed with saying, “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.”  And of course, we’ve all heard our mothers say, “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

the Golden Rule - love in action http://andrewholm.com/the-golden-rule-love-in-action/

In Matthew 7:12 we find Jesus’ version of the rule.  While the meaning might be similar, the voicing and resulting implications are completely different.  This is what Jesus said:

“So in everything, DO to others, what you would have them DO to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV).

The previous versions are all voiced in the negative. We’re told what we should avoid doing, so it’s not done to us.  Jesus, on the other hand, voiced the rule in the positive.  Jesus told us to do what we would wish others to do – that is, act in love. Jesus told us to do what we would wish others to do – that is, act in #love. #GoldenRule #Matthew7 Click To Tweet

What we’ve made it…

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Santology, Part 2 – Who has the power? (Omnipotent?)

This is part 2 of a discussion on the sacred and secular struggle many Christian households face during Christmas.  My goal isn’t to condemn secular traditions; rather, to ensure we are thinking about the impact some of our secular traditions have on our spiritual lives.

santology-pt2-power

Christmas is a time to reflect on how God reveals Himself to us.  While we understand that to be true, it is somewhat beyond our understanding of how God operates.  In fact, Christians wouldn’t argue that God is omnipotent (meaning all-powerful); however, we often allow secular Christmas (Santa, Elf on the Shelf…etc) to hold aspects of power without thinking of the potential impact it may have on our spiritual Christmas (Jesus).  While the issues are usually subtle, the impact is often great.

Our all-powerful (omnipotent) God.

Sometimes we misunderstand the tension between ability and willingness. God is fully able to do anything, but not always willing to do what we want Him to do.  God’s goal is to mould and shape us by the experiences in our lives.  To explain this, James wrote:

 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.[i]

God uses his ultimate ability in this way, because he loves us.  God is our heavenly Father who, even though we don’t understand most of the time, disciplines us so that we can grow and mature.  With that said, our choice to either ignore God or embrace God will either end with a real consequence or real reward respectively.

16 For God so loved the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.[ii]

Out of love, however, God doesn’t wish any of us to be lost forever.  In fact, both 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9, both point to the fact that God’s desire is for all of us to be saved. This of course brings us back to God’s omnipotent power – God is able to save all of us, but, out of love and desire for us to mature, gives us the freedom of choice.

So, what does this mean for our understanding of God’s power and Christmas?

Three things we should understand about God’s omnipotent loving power:

  1. God always can, but not always will;
  2. God loves us in a way that helps us; and,
  3. God’s consequences and rewards are real.

Most of us understand these three spiritual realities; however, when Christmas approaches, we sometimes forget that these spiritual realities are sometimes trumped (or at least downplayed) by Santa and/or Elf on the Shelf.

The “Knotty or Nice List”

Depending on where you go in the world, the consequences of being on the knotty list are different. In our North American context, any child who is “bad” should expect to receive coal Christmas morning.  Some may argue the meaning of receiving such an item, but the general understanding is: if you’re bad, you’ll be on the knotty list, won’t receive the toy you asked for, and instead receive coal.

The Elf on the Shelve has a similar power, in that, if a child is bad, the elf will report to Santa and thus giving the threat of “toy letdown”.

Do we allow Santa to have godly power?

At first, you might laugh at that question! I did!  Over the past few years, I’ve thought about some of the implications, but my attention was seriously turned toward the topic when I saw the movie “Santa Buddies” where kids actually pray to Santa. Have a look:

We may quickly dismiss this as something we don’t do; however, there are some serious threats of a potential negative impact on Christian households.

From what I can see, there are two (2) main issues surrounding this topic:

  1. We give Santa the ability to determine good and bad and resulting consequence or reward.

By focusing our attention on this, Santa becomes the provider and punisher.  If kids are misbehaving, why don’t we focus on the fact that God is always watching (not just during Christmas) and wants what’s best for us, because He loves us.  To me, that’s a message worth focusing on!  That’s a message of hope; much better than “no toys” or “you’ll get coal!”

  1. The “Empty Threat”

Let’s be honest for a minute.  If a child misbehaves to the point of threatening, “you’ll get no gifts on Christmas…”, we all know the threat is as empty as your wallet!  At the end of day, the gifts remain.  The only thing we teach our kids is that consequences aren’t real.

So, what’s the potential impact on our Spiritual lives?

While I know there are many other factors at play other than Santa, a secular focus during Christmas, doesn’t help in combating against these three (3) things:

  1. If God doesn’t, I must have been bad (have sin);
  2. If I experience bad things, God doesn’t love me; and,
  3. It doesn’t matter if I’m bad; consequences are empty.

 

When the real truth could be as far from these three concepts as possible, we need to make sure we focus on the right things during Christmas. We can have fun without giving God’s authority to Santa.  If we do give over that authority, we really take the risk of encouraging these three backward ideas.

What are my options?

As I’ve said before, I am not trying to condemn secular Christmas!  By writing about these issues, I want to make sure we are thinking about the potential impact on our spiritual lives so we focus on the most important things.

Focus more attention on what you want to see.

If you want to use the Elf on the Shelve, maybe you can have a look at the “The Kind Little Elf“.  Instead on using the Elf in terms of a behaviour tool, the Elf encourages acts of kindness throughout the Christmas season.

Reserve godly characteristics for God.

Why do we point to Santa, when God is more powerful?  Have fun with Santa, and when times of behaviour and/or need come into play, make sure to point to God.  When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend named Mary.  I was the first child, so my imagination took over.  There was no issue with having an imaginary friend.  In fact, creativity and play are encouraged among kids for development.  The problem came in, however, when I used my imaginary friend to hide my parents car keys when we were visiting a friend.  I didn’t know where the keys were, because Mary had hid them.  Long story short, my father asked me to ask Mary to get the keys (in the father-like serious tone no kid can ignore)!  The fact is, using imagination isn’t the problem.  The problem is when our imagination trumps or goes against important truths.  Parents have the responsibility of working through that tension.

Your turn! Have you ever noticed Santa was allowed some godly attributes?  What have you done as a parent/grand-parent/friend to counteract this issue?

Click here for PART 1


[i] James 1:2-4, ESV.

[ii] John 3:16-17, ESV.

LOVE: What the English Language Can’t Explain

Greek Words For Love

For many of us, the term LOVE is used in many ways.  The only way to really understand it’s meaning, is by hearing the context in which it’s used.  For example, if a husband told his wife, “I love you,” we would understand that differently than if a sister told her brother, “I love you.”  The English language offers one word (LOVE) with many meanings, and in communication, we decipher the true meaning in a particular context.

Well, not all languages are as complicated as English.  Greek offers four words for our relational LOVE and at least one for possessive LOVE.  This becomes very important when understanding Scripture and knowing what kind of love the Bible is referring to.  I would never consider myself a Greek scholar, but hopefully this gives you a better understanding of the word and it’s meaning.

1. Phileo

This is friendship love – the kind of love we have for a friend. This particular love is interesting because it’s the only love we actually choose. Generally speaking, love is a very natural thing, and in many cases, necessary to survive. While many of us have the desire and want to socialize and have friends, it’s still a choice to do so. In the Bible, we read about loving each other in unity and also the relational love between God and humanity (John 16:27). In this particular case, the follower of Christ finds friendship and relationship with the Father because we chose to follow.

2. Eros

While some will say there are exceptions, eros is normally used when referring to the passionate or sexual love between two people.  This is where the word erotic comes from.  Interestingly enough, this is the only word for love that doesn’t show up in scripture.  We can’t prove why, however, I would think we don’t see it because the Bible isn’t about this kind of love.  Yes, God intended us to be fruitful and multiply; however, the biblical story is between God and humanity.

3. Storge

Where eros is the love between a man and women and phileo is the love between friends, storge is the natural bond of love between family members.  This is the love between parents and their children, between siblings, and among social and racial groups (patriotism).  While this word doesn’t directly show up in the Bible, there is a compound version found in Romans 12:10.  It is a combination of philia and storge, giving a translation of “love one another with brotherly [and sisterly] affection,” or with a “strong natural affection.”

4. Agape

While eros, philia, and storge all have relational components, agape is much different.  It’s still a relational love; however, it’s affectionate and not attractive.  Agape is more concerned with unconditional giving than merited receiving.  Of course, this is the kind of love we experience with God, and it’s the kind of love God expects us to show each other – especially in terms of forgiveness.  We try, however, to love God with agape love with our obedience, our love for him in our worship, by accepting Christ, and by mirroring that love among one another.  A perfect example of this kind of love can be read in John 3:16, where John explains how the Father sent the Son to die for us to give us eternal life to all who except it.

Our language is so simple compared to other languages.  As a result, we need to be careful how we interpret words like LOVE so we embrace the correct meaning.  When reading Scripture, it’s important to note that agape LOVE is the end goal, while philia and storge fit into our personal relationships with one another and  eros is very important among healthy marriages, the Bible is most concerned about how God loves us with agape love.  Epithumia refers to our desire to pursue healthy or harmful passions – the former pushes us towards understanding agape better, while the latter blurs our vision altogether.