Welcoming Love

Jude - Second in a series

Jude's letter was written somewhere between 64 and 80 AD, to Christians of an unknown congregation or area: "to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, called"… (Jude 1)

Of the many translations of the Bible, from the King James to the New International and beyond, some say, To them that are sanctified or called, and some say, To those who are loved by God the Father (Jude 1). There is a Greek word that denotes "purification" and "separation" for sanctified (see 1 Cor 7:14, 1 Tim 4:5, 2 Tim 2:21, Heb 2:11, others) or, for called, "invited" or "appointed," but in Jude 1 "God's welcoming love"* is more in view. Let’s combine the language insights and say, "the welcoming love of God that sanctifies."

So, what is the welcoming love of the Lord that sanctifies? Some examples are seen in the life of Sarah, "who gave us birth" (Isa 51:2), the mother of the faithful.

When her husband, Abraham, was called by God to go to a new land, he went out "not knowing where he was going." (Heb 11:8) Sarah faithfully accompanied him, and her biggest problem turned out to be her beauty.

After arriving in the promised land, it became necessary to travel to Egypt to water their flocks. Knowing Sarah was an object of desire, Abraham entreated her, "I know that thou [art] a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee." (Gen 12:11-13)

She was in fact taken into Pharaoh's house, which was quickly overrun with plagues (Gen 12:17) and Pharaoh understood he had taken a man's wife. Yet he had not touched her, as he said to Abraham, "Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way." (Gen 12:19)

The welcoming love of God that sanctifies is expressed in his protection and help when others forsake us. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. (Ps 27:10)

You may ask, Why didn't God keep Pharaoh from taking Sarah and she could have avoided the situation altogether? But recall, her beauty was very great so that Pharaoh desired her for his harem. Is it better to have no gift? We, too, have gifts coveted by controlling types, but the Lord is with us. Again and again in Scripture, God rescues his own from the attacks and strongholds of their enemies, and as we read the Bible, we begin to believe in our hearts that God will show us welcoming love in our worst straits. If we are His then we are Sarah's daughters, and must not be afraid of any fear (1 Pet 3:6): If God be for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31).

It appears that Sarah was given a maid as a gift for her time in Pharaoh's harem, Hagar the Egyptian (Gen 16:1). In her mid-70s Sarah still had not had children, so she offered Hagar to Abraham as a means of securing an heir. Thus was Ishmael, Abraham's first son, born.

But Sarah remained barren till she was 90 years old and then gave birth to Isaac. In time she demanded that Hagar, whose life she had upset considerably, be cast out with Ishmael, and God agreed with her judgment (Gen 21:10-12). He understood that she needed the conflict between Hagar's son and hers to be resolved. (Gen 21:9)

God’s special love for his called and kept people does not coddle them in human sin and failure. Sarah was required to live with Hagar till Ishmael was old enough to become a man on his own; yet the Lord agreed that Isaac should not grow up taunted by an adversary, even despite her being the root cause of the problem. Welcoming love does not imprison its children by guilt, shame and conflict, but rather sets us free and resolves confusion.

Before Isaac's birth, Abraham again gave Sarah into the arms of a foreign king to save his own life, and this was in the time frame of Sarah's conception! Yet, once again God protected her: And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night… (Gen 20:4) and he sent her back to Abraham.

Sarah remained faithful throughout the years and the insults. She welcomed the welcoming love of God. [Many of these insights are found in the God Remembered Abraham Bible Study on SistersSite.]

In comparison, what do those outside of God's family have that is of any comfort? Why does it take some people so long to enter his gates? Why are hard-hearted souls so slow to embrace the better land where the welcoming love of God sanctifies?

Perhaps they do not feel quite ready to forego the self serving enjoyment of forbidden pleasures, and dreaming that they are in control of their personal agendas, like those whom Jude exposes. But as humans we all serve a higher power, whether the Lord or Satan, and there is no middle ground. We may think we have our own place in the sun, but we do reside in one territory or the other, in the Welcoming Love or the despising of it.

*My sources are the Interlinear Bible on Studylight.org and The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English by Alfred Marshall.

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

Ninth in The Lord's Prayer Series, "The best prayer to pray in times of stress"

We are promising God that as He forgives us, so shall we forgive others. We will not expect his mercy and fail to model it; we will extend mercy to those who hate and offend us, in most cases.*

The parable of the annoyingly persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) comes to mind. There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man... (vs 1)

The widow continually went before a judge saying, Avenge me of my adversary. (vs 3) The judge ignored her for a while, but then thought to himself: Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. (vss 4, 5)

And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (vss 6-8)

There is a vast difference between the judge who did not fear God nor care for man and our LORD who IS God and LOVES man. The widow was right to be persistent, but here the analogy seems to end. Our LORD knows the help we need. He is not forgetful or indifferent. If our prayers say to him that we feel he has a stony heart, that we are disappointed in his sense of timing, that we feel he should see our plight just as we see it, that we have judged He is remiss, then we are insulting him.

Prayer is not badgering. Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when he comes?

Anger and bitterness against those who have transgressed against us engenders stress. Pleading with God to PLEASE help us forgive, for we CANNOT, also builds stress. When unable to forgive after much prayer, then pray for more of the Holy Spirit. As we are filled we will gain victory over resentment. We will have strength and ease to forgive 70 times seven offenses.

*They who would rightly pray to God for pardon must pardon those who wrong them. Joseph (Gen. 50:14-21) and Stephen (Acts 7:60) are conspicuous examples. We need to pray much for God to remove all bitterness and malice from our hearts against those who wrong us. But to forgive our debtors does not exclude our rebuking them, and, where public interests are involved, having them prosecuted. It would be my duty to hand over a burglar to a policeman, or to go to law against one who was able but who refused to pay me (Rom. 13:1-8). If a fellow citizen is guilty of a crime and I do not report it, then I become an accessory to that crime. I thus betray a lack of love for him and for society (Lev. 19:17, 18). - A. W. Pink

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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