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The Word For Today

The Law of Love (1)

A newspaper told the story of a boy with cancer who was going through chemotherapy and losing his hair. To show their love and support, his classmates all shaved their heads so he wouldn't be embarrassed about returning to school. The newspaper carried a picture of them all with their bald heads, accompanied by the caption, 'Everything we do, we do together.'

That's the 'law of love' Jesus was talking about when He said, 'A new command I give you: Love one another.' This must have sounded radical to the people Jesus was addressing, for they lived by two Old Testament laws: (1) The law of revenge. Before Moses came along, the law of the land was the law of the jungle. It said in essence, 'If you hurt me I'll hurt you and then hurt you even more!' Enemies actively sought ways to settle old scores because revenge wasn't just acceptable, it was encouraged. (2) The law of retribution. In Moses' time, revenge was replaced with retribution, which allowed 'an eye for an eye', but no more (Leviticus 24:20). You could do to your enemies only what they had done to you. To us this sounds harsh, but back then it was major progress.

Then Jesus came along and introduced a third law: the law of love. It meant you didn't have to get even; you could choose to forgive. Indeed, if you didn't, your prayers wouldn't be answered. This new commandment demonstrates the unconditional love God shows to us - then calls us to live the same way. So the law of love should govern your life every day.

Soulfood : 1 Sam 24-26, Lk 4:14-30, Ps 110, Prov 17:15-17

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The Danger of Pursuing Power

The first lie Satan told Adam and Eve was a direct appeal to the ego in all of us: '...You will be like God...' (Genesis 3:5 NRS). The crafty old serpent pulled back the curtain to Heaven's throne room and gave our first parents a glimpse of power and glory and they were hooked. And we've been hooked ever since! If you've spent any time in the company of social climbers and 'name droppers', you realise human nature hasn't changed much. It's still about staying on top! And since manners can take you where money alone can't, you can actually take classes that teach you 'power table manners'. Things like never handing your plate to the waiter and never stooping to retrieve dropped cutlery. In fact, to ensure your place on the ladder of upward mobility, a cardinal rule is never to stoop at all! Not even to help meet people's needs, admit your mistakes, or give to those who can't repay you.

The pursuit of power makes you think you're better than others and prevents you from serving them. It makes you susceptible to flattery, resistant to honest counsel and leads to isolation and non-accountability. You see it every day in little things, like never complimenting those under you in case they 'forget their place'; refusing to be loving and courteous to your mate in case you lose your most powerful weapon - control; putting personal ambition ahead of personal integrity; withholding intimacy to punish and manipulate someone.

Such power plays are designed to get you what you want at other people's expense. That's why the Bible warns, 'A man's pride will bring him low, but the humble...retain honour.'

Soulfood : 1 Sam 20:30-23:29, Lk 4:1-13, Ps 102:18-28, Prov 17:11-14

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Forgive, for Your Own Sake!

A lady writes: 'I found my husband with another woman. Although he begged me for forgiveness, I wanted my pound of flesh, so I filed for divorce even though our kids asked me not to. Two years later my husband was still trying to get me back, but I wanted none of it. He'd hurt me and I wanted revenge. Finally he gave up, married a young widow with two children, and rebuilt his life without me. They're all so happy and I'm just a lonely, miserable woman, who let bitterness ruin her life.'

Now there's no question that infidelity is wrong. But without forgiveness, what's left? There's a point at which anger stops being a healthy emotion and becomes a driving force. Like a drug, you need larger and larger doses. Once that happens, you move even further from forgiveness, because without anger you've no energy at all. It's what drives hate groups and extremists. Without bitterness they've no reason to exist. If you take bigotry from the racist, revenge from the zealot and chauvinism from the sexist, what's left? 'Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.'

Bitterness is fatal; it kills your soul. So how can you stop yourself from becoming bitter when you've been hurt? (a) By looking into the face of the person who hurt you and seeing, instead, the face of the One who showed you mercy when nobody else would have given you another chance. (b) By realising that before the day, the week, the month or the year is out, you'll be needing mercy yourself.

Soulfood : 1 Sam 18:1-20:29, Lk 3:15-38, Ps 102:12-17, Prov 17:7-10

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