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I’ve said for decades that communication is a wonderful thing. So many misunderstandings can happen because people do not communicate their thoughts and feelings. I’ve also learned over the years that many misunderstandings happen when people communicate as well. Words can be encouraging, or they can be hurtful, and they don’t always come across as we intended. And then, of course, there are the times when hurt is intended. I can just imagine how disappointed Jesus is at times like this. Jesus very clearly tells us that the most important commandment is to love God, but the second most important is to love each other. (Mark 12:29-31) He sets a pretty high standard for us to live up to, and though we continually fail, we need to keep trying.

In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus tells His disciples that reconciling with your brother, which in our context means any Christ-follower of either gender, is more important than bringing your offering to God. In those days, a gift for God was a sacrifice on the altar of the temple. For us, that may mean an act of service or an act of worship. It may mean participating in communion. None of it is more important to God than following the second greatest commandment.

King Saul had been given instructions to strike down the Amalekites and to destroy everything they had. (1 Samuel 15:3) But he didn’t. He spared their king, and he kept some of the choice animals to offer as a sacrifice to God. God was not pleased. (I Samuel 15:11) Saul defended himself to Samuel, but Samuel’s response (I Samuel 15:22) was that obedience was more important than sacrifice.

God’s desire is the same now as it was then. He desires our obedience which includes living at peace with all people. (Romans 12:18) This is more important than what we see as our gifts to God, and we should never think that our acts of service or worship are a way to make up for not loving our neighbour. If you have done something to offend someone, take the time to make it right with them. Then come back to the altar and give your gift to God. (Matthew 5:24) The act of service or worship you present will then be a pleasing offering.


It has been five days since the senseless shooting of theatre goers in Aurora, Colorado. Usually after a terrifying incident like this one, you hear stories about the heroic acts of people helping others, so I was surprised to read the story of a young man who set his crying infant son on the floor, and ran out of the theatre, leaving behind not only his son, but his girlfriend and a four year old daughter as well. He then fled the theatre, got in his car and drove away. His girlfriend borrowed a phone, presumably well after the chaos had settled, and called him. They were later reunited at the hospital where he proposed, and she accepted. (I don’t pretend to know any of them or the situation well enough to understand their motivations, but based on the facts I have, I would not have said yes.)

Thankfully, this young man seemed to be the exception; there were in fact heroes there too. According to the reports, a complete stranger protected that abandoned fiancée and her daughter. Several other young men gave up their lives to protect their girlfriends from the flying bullets. The girlfriends all survived. The comments that I have heard, all suggest that protecting loved ones is what real men do. There are probably many men who have told their sweethearts that they would take a bullet for them, but I don’t know how many thought that they might really have to do it one day.

Jesus said that there is no greater love than to give up your life for a friend. (John 15:13) He knew when He said it that He would be giving up his life within a day. His purpose for coming to this earth in human form was to give up His life so that we wouldn’t have to give up ours. Yes, we will one day all give up our earthly bodies, but they are only the wrapping of our souls. We can live eternally, because Jesus was willing to die in our place. He commanded us to love others in the same way that He loves us. Just so that there is no ambiguity, that instruction is repeated several times in John 15:9-17:

  • We are told to remain in His love, (John 15:9) and we will do that by obeying His commandments. (John 15:10)
  • Then He clarifies that His commandment is to love others just as He has loved us. (John 15:12)
  • We demonstrate that we are His friends by following His commands, (John 15:14) and once again He repeats that His command for us is to love other people. (John 15:17)

We won’t all be required to demonstrate our love for someone by dying in their place, but we can still make other people a priority ahead of ourselves. We can lay down our lives in service to others while we're living.


I walked into the grocery store yesterday morning, but unlike the many people looking at the large variety of flower arrangements just inside the door, I was there to buy food. When I got to the check-out, there were two lanes open—the express lane and a lane dedicated to flower sales only. Yes, it was Valentine’s Day, the one day a year set aside to celebrate love with hearts and flowers, red and pink. Now as much as I think that you should show your love every day of the year, I don’t have a problem with setting aside one day in particular to make a point of showing it. I think mothers should be celebrated every day of the year too, but if it weren’t for Mother’s Day, we might not ever get around to saying thank you.

My problem with Valentine’s Day is more about people's perceptions of what love is. Real love is not all about hearts and flowers. It’s not always pretty. Love is about commitment and sacrifice. When you make a vow to love someone until death separates you, that is going to take some work. For all those who made or accepted proposals of marriage yesterday, you need to realize that a time will come when those warm fuzzy feelings will wear off, and you will have to face reality. I hope that you never have to face devastating things together, but you might, and you will certainly have to face daily routine—jobs, laundry, bill paying, choosing between one person’s wishes and the other’s. Are you willing to put someone else’s needs and desires above your own? Are you willing to risk your life for them?

John 15:13 tells us that there is no greater love than laying down your life for someone else. This is what Christ did for us. God loved us so much that He sent His son (John 3:16) to pay the penalty for our sin, to be our substitute so that we would not have to face the punishment that was intended for us. (Romans 5:8, I John 2:2, I John 4:10) It is hard to imagine that kind of love, but that is what Jesus commands in John 15:12. Love others as I have loved you. There is no greater love than laying down your life for your friends. You are my friends if you love each other this way. (John 15:12-14 LC paraphrase) Do you think that you are ready to show that kind of love? Peter thought he was too, (Mark 14:31), but after the rooster crowed in the morning he realized the truth. (Mark 14:66-72) Loving as Jesus loved is a lot to live up to, but this is what true love means.


What does Jesus mean by the word hate? It seems so harsh. Isn’t Jesus supposed to be all about love? A few of my Twitter friends and I have been reading Luke (#thebookofluke) this month, and one of them asked me about Luke 14:26. I have had the same question in the past, and probably many others have too, so I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about it.

As with every verse we look at in the Bible, we must consider the context and interpret it in the light of other scripture. Jesus certainly was, and is, all about love. He said that the two most important commandments were to love God and love others. (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:33 Luke 10:27-28) He even told us to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-31) We have also been told to honour our mothers and fathers. (Matthew 19:19, Mark 7:10, Ephesians 6:2-3) That was important enough to be one of the Ten Commandments--the law. (Exodus 20:12) Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17) So why is He telling us that we cannot be His disciples unless we hate our families and even ourselves? The word here translated as ‘hate’ is a relative term. It means that we must think less of, and, if necessary, disregard our family. Now, if our family members have the same belief system as we do, and are willing to put Christ first, it may never be an issue, but if they disagree with our beliefs and our commitment to God, then we have to choose—God or family? God freely allows us that choice, but if we choose our family over Him, we cannot be His disciples.

Let’s be clear about this. Everyone, without exception, is invited to receive salvation. That is the meaning of the parable of the great banquet. (Luke 14:16-24) People were urged to come to the feast, so that God’s house would be filled. The only ones who did not come were those who chose not to. But there is a difference between accepting salvation and becoming a disciple. Do we really want to live for Jesus? Is He really the most important part of our lives? Luke 14:28-33 talks about counting the cost. Each person who undertakes to build a tower or fight a battle must count the cost to determine if they can complete the task. The same is true for us. We must decide if the eternal rewards of sacrifice for Jesus will be worth the cost of the challenges we face in our few short years on earth.

Jesus, too, counts the cost to determine if we are committed enough to be on His team. Are we worthy of the responsibilities that He will assign to us if we say that we want to work for His glory? Can He count on us to see it through to the end? When He said these words, He had a large crowd of people pressing in all around Him. (Luke 14:25) Many were probably following Him because they wanted to be healed, or because Jesus had a habit of feeding people, or simply because they wanted to see what everyone else was doing. Jesus’ use of direct language would have certainly thinned out the throng. We know that none of them were willing to stick by Him when He faced death; they all fled. (Mark 14:49-50) If we are to be Christ’s disciples, we have to be willing to give up everything else and put Him first. It is your choice to make.