The last e-mail ended with a word about the dead traditions of men and dead heart attitudes of men, even of the hypocrisy of speaking and teaching about one way of spiritual life (perhaps of loving your neighbor as yourself) but living in quite another way. First, I feel to touch on this “neighbor” part a bit here, particularly about who is to be considered our “neighbor.”
Now, everyone (in Christ) is not called to the foreign mission-field, or to the urban streets of our cities to minister to the poor and the hurting there. Of course not. But there are hurting and lost and poor people EVERYWHERE. All people who are not yet regenerate in Christ fit into this category, by the way, so we can’t live on this planet and not come across such people daily. The question is, do we have the hearts that are needed to be faithful to the ministry of reconciliation that has been given to us by the Lord, to the loving of our neighbors as ourselves, and if we don’t, might that be because we too have somehow become spiritual vinegar?
I can’t help but think here of the parable of “The Good Samaritan” and how “the priest” in that story could have been on his way to a meeting with other priests in which they studied the laws of God about “loving their neighbor” but genuine human kindness and compassion towards others was not much of a part of their lives. I also wonder if the “Levite” in that story was in too much of a hurry to get to his “worship service” or his spiritual “conference” that he missed out on the TRUE WORSHIP that God was looking for from him along the way. How often do we do this too, rest on religious lees which can be our traditional or habitual ways (even ways of thinking) instead of living as those constantly ready to be poured out for others?
Agape,” by the way, beloved, is a Greek noun which is translated in our English Bibles as “love,” and “agapeo” is the verb form of this same word which is also translated in our Bibles as “love.” Just to call these words “love” though does not describe them very well, not as they are used in the New Testament anyway. Agape love has to do with being poured out. Let me explain why …
“Agape” is translated “charity” in the King James Version of the Bible, and most people think that this primarily has to do with the giving out of money and help to others, but this is an insufficient translation of the word “agape.” The apostle Paul shows us in his writings that agape love is something that goes far and beyond the simple giving to the poor and the needy of the world. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, Paul wrote, “And though I feed the poor with all my goods, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love (agape), it profits me nothing.” I believe that this is saying that “agape” love DOES give to the poor and the needy, but that the MERE ACT of this giving is not what “agape” love is.
Let’s put it this way …
When the scriptures say that Jesus was “moved with compassion” for hurting people, it does not mean that He was moved by human emotions. No. To be “moved with compassion” as Jesus was moved is to be moved with God’s agape love. This is something that comes from the Father Himself. In regard to our ministering and giving out to others, if we are moved by human compassion for people it may cost us our time or our money, but if we are moved by God’s agape love for people, well, that just might cost us our lives.
The best way that I can describe “agape” love, beloved, is as the sacrificial and unconditional giving out (pouring out) of ourselves for others. It is the unconditional surrender of our lives unto God that He might use us for the best interest of people and this regardless of the personal cost to us. Surely, this kind of love is shown in no better way than in the Cross of Jesus Christ, and surely this very same kind of love will be seen in no better way in the end of this age than through a people who are willing to lay down their lives for other people.
Beloved, spiritual vinegar tends to flow out from the hearts of those who have rested on religious mindsets and who try to remain within certain zones of personal comfort or safety. The NEW WINE of the Kingdom though flows out from the compassion of the Father Himself, and is most often made manifest through (our) selfless and sacrificial acts of love toward and for others. The New Wine of the Kingdom, beloved, is simply Christ, even the Spirit as it comes forth from our relationship with the Father to touch and change the world.