1. In Leviticus 19:18, God commands his people to love one another. The same imperative is before us with the coming of Christ. How can its “newness” be practiced today? What excuses do believers offer in failing to practice this?
First of all, we have an example to follow in our Lord Jesus. He didn’t just talk about love, He demonstrated it! We will find that loving others is easier when we love out of gratitude for His life, death, and resurrection rather than out of mere obligation. As we do, we may discover anew aspect of love when others don’t respond in kind. Despite that, the love that Jesus expects us to extend is far-reaching in scope. Helped by the Holy Spirit, we can love others as our Father in Heaven loves them.
Sometimes believers may excuse their lack of loving action because of the existence of government social programs. Someone needing food comes to the church door, and we direct him over to a social service office to get some food stamps. What a lost opportunity to show the love of Jesus!
2. What was a time in your life when, because of your faith in Christ, you changed your attitude toward someone from hatred or anger to love? How did things turn out?
Walking in the light of love is not something done occasionally. Rather, it is a mind-set, a consistent way of life. One who abides in the light accepts the circumstances of life as a way to demonstrate Christ to others. Experiencing hatred is one such circumstance; being able to re-turn love is the challenge. The mature Christian is able to change his or her view of others to be able to do this (Luke 6:28).
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3. What happens when Christians “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk”? How will you repair the damage for past inconsistencies in this regard?
Whether we like it or not, Christians are constantly being examined by the world. Others maybe either threatened or intrigued by our insistence on the uniqueness of Christ; in either case, they are on alert for times when our behavior is inconsistent with our witness. When our lives re-veal inconsistencies, we cause hardened heart sin those who observe us. Also, we make it difficult for other believers to witness because they are assumed to share the same faulty life style that we demonstrate.
The Gospel message is bold in asserting that “there is none other name . . . whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). To “talk” this assertion without “walking” it makes the claim seem laughable to unbelievers. But the damage can be repaired; the reinstatement of Peter is an example (John 21:15-19). If someone points out a real or imagined inconsistency, stay humble and admit the possibility of error.
3. The gospel is for all! Yet the devil tries to sow division in the church. What can we do to recognize, prevent, and heal such divisions?
One of the devil’s tactics is to attempt division between old and young. Taking care to include both in church activities requires alertness and planning. Another satanic tactic targets relation-ships between the church board and the congregation. This may take the form of criticism as expressed in private murmurings. Asking theoritics to bring their concerns directly to the people involved is important.
Prayer is effective against divisiveness. We often do not know where the enemy is attacking, but God does. People can build up animosity in the privacy of their thoughts, but God is aware of these. Speaking words of recognition and encouragement can help them to feel less isolated. The Holy Spirit can arrange the circumstances for this to happen, but we must be ready.
4. Give examples of loving the world. How does love of the Father provide an antidote?
Be sure to get the definitions straight. By “the world,” John is referring to the culture of fallen humanity. This is a culture built upon the idols of human achievement, pleasure, self-absorption, and independence from God. A godly person may achieve fame and fortune in sports, politics, or business, yet not “love” any of those things in the sense of placing God in second place. On the other hand, a person may never achieve fame and fortune in sports, politics, or business, yet desire sit so badly that he or she creates an idol.