Tag Archives: Bible

Twelve Years

cd-caya-2This is the week for remembering, it would seem. Just days ago I marked the eleventh year since the start of this blog, and today, August 29th, we passed another special day in our family’s history.

In the year 2002, our music had become the primary focus of our days and weeks, and even years. Our young family—married less than five years, with boys aged nearly-three and almost-one—we had begun to accept invitations to share our music with people around the entire country. Weeks and months were spent on the road performing the songs I had written previously, as well as leading groups of Christians in worship music composed by others. This often led to more songs being written by me (including some more worship songs to lead more people in singing) and it eventually led us to produce another album-full of these songs in recorded form.

That summer we had spent a few weeks in the studio, after a few weeks in various practice locations, after a few years of crafting and “learning” the songs ourselves. The culmination of these weeks produced our third full-length studio album: Come As You Are. And on August 29th, at Crosswinds Wesleyan Church in Canandaigua, NY, with our friend Paul Robert Jones opening the evening by performing some of his own music, we celebrated the finished work of this album with a hundred or two of our friends. It was a great, fun, memorable night.

Through the years, the songs we recorded that summer have spread across the globe. The CDs and cassettes have made their way through postal services, and carried by hands to far away lands. They have been downloaded to computers and other digital music devices. And they have impacted hearts and minds and lives with the message from our Father: come as you are, not who you will be; it’s rough from the start, you might think you are beat. But it’s not the righteous I want, for I came to seek and save the lost. Just come to me!

The song—the whole album—was a collection of the words God spoke (even still speaks) to me. His invitation to a broken soul, well aware of his inabilities and shortcomings and failures, to a life of freedom with him. Free to be my broken self. Free to hope for better, to know he accepts me and wants to show me, lead me to the Life that I’m meant to have with him—in him.

We listened to it again tonight. Most of my kids and I. (Mom and oldest daughter were off sorting clothing for a community clothing give-away, and scoring some that would also help our family.) We listened, and sang. I told stories from the recording days. I thought through the words. I think they did the same.

The message still resounds in my heart. All of these songs. I want to know you better Lord. I want nothing less, nothing more.1 And, I don’t want this to end here; my life for you just in a song. Please change my heart, Lord, and let me words speak for you. I give my life to you.2 And, songs like The Mountain To The Sea, and My Visible, See-Through Friend, and Because… all of them, really. All reminding me of my life, found in him.

If you’ve not heard the album, you can listen to all the songs here. Or, we’re on Spotify. And iTunes. And Amazon. You’ll find us out there. I would love for you to hear the whole thing. All the better if you can find a quiet time to listen to not just my voice, and Jen’s voice… but the voice of The One who made you, loves you, and invites you:

Come as you are.

  1. The One – basic – Come As You Are
  2. Heart Of Mine” – basic – Come As You Are

Real Power

jay_cutlerStrength.
Power.
Might.

Words that have impact, weight, gravitas. Vivid pictures of great force and ability prominently display on the screen of our minds. Big, overwhelming, unstoppable, unbreakable.

Powerful.

We love strength. We need it. The events of our lives remind us so often that we lack control, ability… power and strength.

And so we create heros who are strong. We even create villains in our various narratives who are equally strong—or stronger—and the irresistible draw of the story is that the hero, through whatever strength, power, ability he or she might muster, is able to overcome the impossible odds and defeat… overpower the enemy.

Because that is strength.

Right?

Well…

This week, my thoughts have remained on the idea of weakness versus strength. How can it be that our weakness, our brokenness, can be our strength? Inevitably I am drawn back to the foundational Truth that God himself is our only source of strength. The only source of Strength.

The trick is, he doesn’t always display his strength in the way we first think of strength.

I wrote about Strength In Weakness earlier this week. I shared recent reminders of how our weaknesses are not our downfall, but with God, they are a greater strength. We need him, and our weaknesses focus us—again, and again—on that essential reality.

And again my thoughts betray my true, fundamentally flawed thinking. Weakness is my inability, and strength is my ability. Strength to change things. Power to move, alter, overcome.

Perhaps this is not true strength at all?

Jesus told his friends that, “in this world, kings and great men ‘lord it over’ their people… But… you… will be different… the leader should be like the servant.”

And in the previous post, we remembered how Jesus even restrained his power all the way to an unjust execution. Arguably demonstrating more strength than an overpowering, awe-inspiring display of “power”.

I once heard the term “meekness” defined as strength under control. Is this evidence of greater power; greater strength? Yielding of available power. Sheathing the sword.

Too often we want Power to overcome, destroy the Foe. But more often, Power is demonstrated by restraint. By submission. By being the Servant.

Philippians 2

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

God speaks in a whisper. He was born a baby, in a barn, in a tiny Nowhere Town. He died the death of a criminal, without resistance.

His Power and Strength are far beyond what we can fathom, far different than we can comprehend.

Holding back your tongue is power. Holding your temper. Pulling punches. Turning the other cheek. Laying down your own rights, willingly, for another’s benefit. Without being asked to. These are some examples Jesus modeled; he who has true power.

When you next ask for a demonstration of his Power… it might turn out differently than you expect.

There is no doubt that all Power and Strength and Glory and Honor belong to him, and him alone. What that looks like, he continues to slowly reveal to me. You may have a clearer picture of it than I do, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below, or contact me directly.

But I know this—he is Power, and Strength. And my greatest ideas of Power pale in comparison to all that He is.

And the best part is, one of my favorite sections of scripture—a prayer for power and strength—talks about God’s immense power… to change me from the inside! How much more subtle can you get, but Paul says it’s beyond our imagination!

I leave you with Paul’s words. Be encouraged, in His Power.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

I’m (Not) The Awesomest Person Ever

superman

I’m really good at a lot of things. I think I always have been. My sister-in-law once called me “golden boy”, or something like that (even before I was her sister-in-law), because everything I touched “turned to gold”.

And yet, I’m really not awesome.

I wish I was. I would have lots of uses for supreme awesomeness. I think of what a fantastic Dad I could be; always there for each of my kids with complete understanding, compassion, enthusiasm—whatever they need, exactly when they need it. I know I could be the perfect husband to my wife; empathetic, again understanding and compassionate, kind, gentle, humble, gracious, and always considering each moment from her perspective, and for her good.

If I was really awesome, I’d treat every person I spent time with each day as though they were indeed the Son or Daughter of the King—which they are. It wouldn’t matter what they looked like on the outside, or whether I was in a good mood at the moment, or even if I had time in my day to give to them. I would see them, and know them, and listen to them, and give them the honor they are due as another of His Masterpieces.

I’d also probably do some pretty amazing things along the way; whether through my music, or writing, or even through some tasty culinary creations. If I was the awesomest person ever, the world would be full of my most amazing works.

But I am definitely NOT the Most Awesome Person Ever.

(Just ask any of those people listed above.)

And I’m glad I’m not. I’m glad for the reminders that my life is only full, complete, real, meaningful… LIFE… with, and in, and through Jesus, who IS the Awesomest Person Ever. (See Colossians, Hebrews, and several other sections of the New Testament for more on that.)

I fail my wife all the time. When she needs me to show her grace, I’m often at (or past) the end of my own reserves, and instead I offer her insecurity; words and actions originating in my own lacking. I fail my kids even more (if only because there are more of them to fail) with busyness, tiredness, selfishness, all taking me from them more than I care to admit.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matt 5:3)

Jesus said that.

And this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

As I was reminded by the book I recently recommended here, Jesus is clearly, far-and-away, without-rival, The Most Awesomest Person Ever.

Remember what Paul said, when he wrestled with wanting to be better (more awesome)?

That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5-10)

No. I am not awesome. Neither was Paul (who was likely more awesome than me… even if he might not admit to it), and neither are any of us who are not Jesus, the full embodiment of God the Father.

His grace is all I need. All we need.

We may not be awesome, but he is. And that IS awesome!

Christians Being Christian

wwjdI am not very comfortable in “Christian” settings. For a long time now, I’ve said that I “don’t like Christians”, but that’s meant to be at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I know that Jesus is life, that there is no life outside of him; and for me, everything I do, and see, and experience runs through that filter.

I am also quite fond of others who see the world around us from that perspective: knowing the loving Creator Father who made it, and us, and Jesus whom he sent, and his Spirit in us. It’s wonderful spending time with others who share that same understanding, passion, and reality.

But I recently had a moment of clarity on this subject. It’s not Christians that make me feel uneasy, it’s being at any event or location where Christians are “being Christian”.

It’s that pretense, that front, that game playing … that is what gets me to put my own guard up, and, sadly, it’s why I usually try to avoid “Christian” events.

When the language becomes Christian, when certain behaviors are expected, beliefs—not in Jesus, but in the “traditions of man”, as Paul often labeled them—are silently presumed to be firmly held and agreed upon; this is when my stomach usually tightens into disquieted knots.

I love being with other believers, but if the reason for gathering is somehow labeled “Christian”, or all the participants know that they are there to “be Christian” … I think that’s where it starts to fall apart.

And the reason is that we are not supposed to BE CHRISTIAN.

We are supposed to love each other. Love God. Be loved. The things that we think mark us as believers are evidence of lives changed from within, by God himself. Not our own efforts at all. That’s so important.

It’s completely from, for, about, and through him.

So when we who live our lives wholly with Jesus are in a setting that is not specifically “his”, I find that those times are more relaxed. (As long as we’re not “being Christian” and condemning wrong behavior that is acceptably condemnable.)

This is part of the problem. “Being Christian” is often akin to thinking a certain way on various issues, behaviors, and doctrines. (This is why there are so many splinters of the church. Doctrinal spats create unending levels of division between believers.) Christians are against homosexuality and gay marriage; six-day creationism versus evolution (and every other theory of our origins); taking God, prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Bible out of public arenas like schools and other government buildings; and many Christians hold strong views about politics that they tie to their “Christianity”.

How do any of these things make us “Christian”? In what way do they distinguish us as followers of Jesus? How are we like him by conforming to these standards?

Jesus prayed for us. Did you know that? Right before he went to the cross, John records the words he prayed. He prayed for the people he was with, and he prayed for us. Listen:

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”1

To Jesus, our unity was paramount. We in him, he in his Father, Father in him, he in us. That we as believers—centuries and millennia in the future—would be visibly, notably united was foremost in his heart and mind as he faced death on the cross.

Jesus’ unity was not just a doctrinal thing. He spent time with people who may have disagreed with him. He certainly spent time with some who were different from him. He was usually chastised in regards to whom he chose to spend his time with.

He was not “being Christian” at “Christian” gatherings.

Why can’t we just be together, and enjoy each other, and share the variety and diversity of our lives and selves together, with no need for judging, condemning, conforming, reforming, or any other manipulation of each other; whether directly or by inference?

I don’t know. But that’s why I don’t enjoy Christian gatherings. It’s a bunch of Christians being Christian.

We are most like Jesus when we love, accept, offer grace and truth together—which I think is much less common practice than many Christians admit—and truly love people who most need loving.

Which is all of us.

I don’t want to be a Christian. I want Jesus to live his love through me. (Just as he prayed for us above.) I want to be so close to him that people recognize his scent on me. Not through any of my own strength, or practice, or perfecting… just the work he is doing in me. It’s not at all about me. Only him. And you.

If we all live like that, being together with Christians who are truly “being Christian” would be the most amazing place on earth.

Because HE is embodied in us. (We’re not trying to be his body.)

Oh man. That would be spectacular.

We just have to stop trying, and let him change us. Stop being Christian. Be loved. And Christ will be in you.

Amen.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Jesus+Nothing=EverythingA good friend of ours read a book a while ago and thought that I might enjoy it, too. She was right.

What I most enjoyed about this book was it’s emphatic emphasis (is that a thing?) on the singular fullness of Jesus. (Which, I’m sure you already gleaned from the title.)

The concept is, nothing we can add to who Jesus is, and what he has already done, will in anyway add to or enhance our lives, our existence. And, in a slight bending of the commutative property of addition, he asserts that removing Jesus from everything, leaves us with nothing. (That was for my kids, who do not hold much love for math…)

Here’s a quote from early in the book:

God seemed bigger to me than ever, when I’d never been so small.

When you actually feel like you have nothing, Jesus becomes more to you than you ever could have hoped or imagined.

Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

The gospel became for me more than a theological passion more than a cognitive catch-phrase it became my functional lifeline.

Rediscovering the gospel enabled me to see that:

Because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak.
Because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose.
Because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one.
Because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary.
Because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail.

At a very difficult time in his life, the emphasis of the author’s real, tangible life became completely focused on who Jesus is, what Jesus does for him… and the reality of its completion and accessibility to him. And to us.

The gospel erases us, in [a] sense, which is why we avoid it. But that erasing of self is the key to our freedom.

The gospel doesn’t take you deeper into yourself; the gospel takes you away from yourself. That’s why Paul reminds the Colossians (and us), “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (3:3) The gospel frees us to realize that, while we matter, we’re not the point.

Jesus is the point.

We who call ourselves Christians certainly already realize this. But it is not often realized in our lives. The days we live. The hopes we have, challenges we face, thoughts we think. We do not live in the fullness and reality of the gospel: that God so loved [all of us] that he took on skin and defeated sin and death, that we might know eternal life. In Him. And then the “Christian life” flows from knowing, accepting, and living that.

At one point the author proclaims a “hatred” for ‘accountability groups’ because of their incorrect focus. Christianity tends to focus on behavior, and inward attempts to change. But the change only comes from Jesus’ work in us. Once on the cross, and ongoing as we walk with him.

He says this about how we can encourage one another as we live our lives in step with the Spirit:

So, instead of trying to fix on another, why don’t we “stir one another up to love and good deeds” by daily reminding one another, in humble love, of the riches we already possess in Christ? ….

Our greatest need is to look at Christ more than we look at ourselves, because the gospel is not our work for Jesus, but Jesus’s work for us.

The truth that this book presents is that we have everything we need in Jesus. Period. The end. Nothing more is needed. Anything else just gets in the way, and takes our focus off of the Life source: Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2 comes to mind.)

Today, if you are weary, or burdened, or feel as though you are missing something… please look to Jesus. He is already there, with you, waiting for you to cease your struggle and simply follow him. Trust him.

If those are just words, please ask Him to show you how to experience them. There is no life without him. Everything minus Jesus is nothing.

But, as Tchividjian says (I just wanted to get his name in here! It’s pretty crazy!):

Jesus, plus nothing, equals everything.

And in that, we are free.

There Is No Sin In Him

Buckle up, pardners… this may get a little heretical. (Just warnin’ ya!)

jesus-writing-in-the-sandIn many places within the pages of the Bible we read that Jesus was without sin. He who had no sin became sin for us… He is the spotless lamb… He faced all the same temptations we do, but he did not sin.

And on the one hand, that makes sense: Jesus is God. So… duh! Of course he can’t sin!

But, on the other hand—the hand that is WAY beyond our limited understanding—Jesus also emptied himself of all his divine nature (Philippians 2), and lived fully as a man. This makes the strength of the words in the book of Hebrews even more meaningful (Jesus was tempted in every way, yet was without sin) because James reminds us that “God can not be tempted to do wrong” (1:13), and so Jesus faced temptations fully as a man, but he somehow succeeded in remaining sinless.

I’ve been wondering what that means.

Did Jesus just keep all the rules? How? If he was fully human, doesn’t that mean he would fall under the “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” proclamation by Paul in Romans, which leads to death as a result? Well, Jesus did in fact pay that penalty—and he did for all of us, defeating death in the process! But he did not die for his own sin, according to scripture, but for the sins of all of us.

Many times in the accounts of Jesus life we read accusations of wrongdoing. The religious leaders, the teachers of religious law, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and any who thought that keeping the rules was paramount to a godly life, these people would accuse Jesus and his followers of all sorts of rule-breaking. Jesus generally turned it back on them by saying things like, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath,” and:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” 1

The more important things. Hmm…

What I’ve been wondering is, what did Jesus’ sinlessness look like? Does it mean that as a boy he never disobeyed his parents? Does it mean that he always did the right thing every time, always? Maybe. But does it have to? In a religious sense, it probably does. But what did Jesus tell us were “the more important things”?

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” 2

My two oldest sons and I just finished reading through 1 John together, and the resounding themes John clearly wanted to share with the church to whom he wrote were: trust God (and his love), and love each other. There was a third theme of confessing (admitting) your sin, and by abiding in Jesus, whose spirit lives within us, moving past sin that leads to death. (For another day, John also mentioned “sins that do not lead to death”, which I found fascinating. Again… for another day.)

Love. Be loved, and love.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. We love each other because he loved us first. 3

Could it be that Jesus’ sinless life looks a lot different than just doing all the right things, and especially NOT doing the wrong things?

John said in his letter, “[we must] believe in the name of his son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded.” Love is never wrong. But it might break the rules, no? At least, in this broken, sinful, glass-darkly kind of world.

I’m not saying Jesus was a ‘filthy sinner’. Of course not. But I am considering again what “sin” looks like, and so, what his sinlessness looked like.

What do you think? Is Jesus a halo-wearing, robed, sandaled guy who is distant, and sort of meaningless? Or is he the most caring, wise, discerning, honest, truthful, loving person who ever lived? (And, Easter Sunday reminds us—he still does!)

Many times we Christians focus so much on the rule-keeping, and rule-not-breaking, that we miss the “more important things”. Let’s remember this weekend, as we commemorate the cross on Good Friday, and Jesus’ victory over death on Resurrection Sunday, that all we are called to do is to know we are loved, and trust that love (confirmed by Jesus’ spirit living in us), which empowers us to love the ones God has placed us near.

Be loved, trust, and—in God’s power—love.

Perhaps that is what sinless looks like?


Please note… I do not in any way intend to diminish Jesus, nor elevate me nor any other fellow follower, nor anyone really, by any of my thoughts presented in this post. Perhaps the words caused you to ponder, as they have done for me, or, even better, stirred you to remember and live “the more important things” in this day, and every day. Grace and peace to you.

Respect

respect

What is respect? What images come to mind when you hear the word?

Do you think of military chain of command, with each subordinate respecting their commanding officer? Or maybe a similar, thought slightly more informal respect, shown by a young person toward an elderly ancestor?

A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements

Ah… respect is elicited by some ability, quality, or achievement. So, maybe a professional athlete? Some people respect them for their achievements and abilities. Perhaps a graduate of a certain academic program elicits your respect? How about a well-known historical figure who accomplished great, world-changing things in their lifetime?

Definitely.

How about giving up your seat to someone who looks like they need it more? What about trusting someone with something (or someone) you really care about? And do we show respect when we listen to someone; really listen?

Have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of [another]

Hmm. That’s different. That respect is due to another simply because the are. They exist. They are another created being, with feelings, rights, wishes and even traditions.

Our value is not (only) in what we have accomplished. Our real value is found in our worth to the One who made us. We are worth everything to him; his own life.

I overheard someone speaking about respect recently. It was a mother, scolding her young child, saying, “You have to earn respect!” While there is some truth to that (see definition one above) the greater truth is that this mother will not likely receive the respect she is hoping for from her child, because her words and her tone are not giving respect to the other person she is addressing.

It’s always interesting with children. I speak from parenting experience. Sometimes you just need them to obey. “DO WHAT I AM ASKING YOU… NOW!” But I fully believe that when we treat others with full respect, allowing them to make a reasoned, willing decision, a respectful submission to instruction will be the most likely result—even from a child.

Treat others just as you want to be treated.

And…

For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

What if we did it backwards? Like Jesus said in those last two quotes above. It’s not ‘Treat other people the way they treat you’, no… it’s ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ You first. I get to make the first show of respect.

giving-up-your-seatI’ve seen this in action as a school bus driver, believe it or not. I’m sure you have a picture in your mind of what it’s like on a big bus full of young children. And… you’re right. It’s pretty loud, energetic, fun, and crazy! But the drivers who have the best ability to control their busses, when needed, are those who look kids in the eyes when they first get on the bus and offer a genuine, friendly greeting. When things get out of hand, they address the unruly ones by name, firmly but respectfully, and most often, the measure of respect that is given is the same measure returned.

Of course I know this doesn’t always work. Maybe not even very often. But doesn’t it stand the best chance? Isn’t it just the right thing to do?

Jesus thought so.

We have chances almost every second of our lives to show another the respect they are due simply because God has breathed life into them. You’ve probably heard that we will be known by the way we love, well that’s really the same thing—respect is love, is respect. Think about others before you think about yourself. Treat the person next to you like the heir to the throne that he or she is.

(And it will come back to you in the measure that you give.)

So listen to your spouse. Show your teenager empathy. Give heaps of grace to your little ones. Look a stranger in the eye and give a genuine, friendly greeting. Do something for someone that costs you. Maybe even a lot.

We love—we respect—because he first loved us. When we know how much we are loved, then we can treat the people around us the same way. It’s the same principle, on a cosmic, galactic, universal (and beyond) scale.

You have earned my respect because you are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Jesus to do the good things he planned for us long ago. Done deal.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Let’s try it. See what happens.