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«Knowing Through Loving Beloved brethren, I have been pondering what the Bible says about the current limitations imposed upon our knowledge. We can ...»

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Knowing Through Loving

Beloved brethren,

I have been pondering what the Bible says about the current limitations imposed upon our

knowledge. We can and do easily assume that we know much, and we act accordingly. We

know what we want and need as well as what others want and need. We even know others’

thoughts and intentions, and due to the advancing scientific and technological advances in our

day, we pretty much know all that there is worth knowing.

What I have just written may sound smug and arrogant, and it is, but such thinking and the actions to proceed from it are based on assumption, not knowledge. It is frustrating, inefficient, and dangerous for us to assume more than we know. Most, if not all, disagreements that arise between individuals are largely prompted by ignorance. Most of the wars that have been fought, especially in modern times, have begun because the combating powers acted on partial and inaccurate intelligence, made worse by miscalculation and mismanagement of data.

We all do know some things about some things; we all do know relatively more things about a few things that are special to us. However, no one has ever or will ever know in this life all things about all or even about a few things. Yet in every age people have assumed that their generation was at least near the pinnacle of knowing all things about all things.

The truth is that the difference between knowledge that the most intelligent and highly educated person possesses and the knowledge that the most ignorant and uneducated person has is miniscule in comparison with the immense universe of ignorance that both share. Even in our vast and common ignorance, however, there is a critical difference between a person knowing what he does not know and his not knowing what he does not know. I may know that I know little, if anything, about molecular biology and human anatomy, and that knowledge of my ignorance tends to make me rely more or a trained doctor than on myself when it comes to medical treatment. However, when we fail or refuse to know that we do not and cannot know all things, we then live and move and have our being in confident but blind assurance that we can live effectively. We even fancy ourselves as being experts on how others should live.

The Bible plainly tells us that now we know in part (1 Cor. 13:9). How did the Apostle Paul come to that realization? The answer is not that he was a lover of knowledge and wisdom, but rather that he was a lover of the God of all truth, knowledge, wisdom, and love. Paul declares the deficiency of all human knowledge toward the end of the love chapter of the Bible (1 Cor.

13). The reason love is patient, kind, and not arrogant is that when we love others, we seek to know them as they really are and not as we wish them to be. We seek to know them not to discover and condemn their faults and sins—true love enables us to accept that such things are in all of us. When we love others, we do not seek to know them so that we might dominate them and seek to change them by our controlling directives.

The more we grow in love, the more we realize that such love comes only from God and that our love springs from His love and is growing to be ever more like His love. The love of God does not prompt Him to seek loveliness in us and to love according to what He finds. The love of God deposits loveliness in us and nurtures that loveliness to perfection. Therefore, love is not provoked, takes no account of a wrong suffered, bears, believes, and hopes all things in the light of truth (1 Cor. 13:5-7). When we grow in such love, we find that facts, truths, even thoughts and intentions of God and others begin to open up to us. This is how we come to possess true knowledge. People yield their secrets (that form a substantial part of them) only to those who love them and help them to know that they love are loved. Those who love become keener gatherers of intelligence and knowledge because their love not only encourages disclosure from others but also because those who love most know best how to use the knowledge they attain in ways that serve to bless those from whom they gather the information.

Even though we may grow in love and grow in the understanding of our vast ignorance, we will never be perfected in love or knowledge in this life. But on the final day when we are all changed into the perfect likeness of Christ, we will know all things and know them as Christ knows them. Then, also, we shall be known by others as we have been known through all time and eternity by God, who in love has chosen and predestined us in Christ to the end that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In light of that glorious perfection we shall see our brethren and ourselves as God has seen us from foundation of the world—perfected in His beloved Son. That is why in glory there will be no accusers, no judgment, and no condemnation. All people in that glory will be transparent and unashamed.

While we can only here and now dimly see each other in that light of holy love, we should be increasingly affected and guided by that light. Then, because we humbly know that there are many factors and features to the lives and circumstances of others of which we are ignorant, we will exercise the judgment of charity as well as a spirit of patience, kindness, and gentleness that issues from the Holy Spirit. Then we will be slow to speak and ready to hear, slow to give glib directives and quick to seek understanding, slow to take offense based on our partial knowledge and quick to seek and rejoice in a fuller apprehension of the truth. Such living brings relief and joyful comfort to others while it fills us with joy in the knowledge that we are blessing and not needlessly bruising others.

Yours, learning to find light by loving,

–  –  –

Dear brethren, How well do we understand prayer? How well do we pray? The answer to the first question is one we cannot rightly answer because we are inclined to overestimate our understanding of prayer. The Bible tells us the humbling truth when it declares that we do not know how to pray as we should pray (Rom. 8:26). Because we do not know how to pray we tend either not to pray or to pray amiss. That is the answer to the second question.

The good news is that we can grow in our understanding and practice of prayer. Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray and He did, giving to them the model that we call the Lord’s Prayer. But how well do we understand our Lord’s model prayer and fashion our praying in accordance with it? One of the ways we can test our comprehension and competence with respect to this enormous privilege and power is by our simply reflecting upon the degree and frequency of our anxiety. We are taught in God’s Word that true praying vanquishes our anxiety (Phil. 4:6,7). The apostle Paul writes in stark and absolute terms when he tells us to have no anxiety about anything, and positively in everything to express our requests to God in prayer.

The immediate result of such praying is not always that we receive the answer to our request but rather is always that we receive the soothing embrace of our Lord to whom we pray. Paul indicates this when he writes that the first result of our prayerful petitioning is that the God to whom we pray gives to us His incomprehensible peace. Our Lord delivers us from our anxieties as we cast our burdens upon Him (1 Pet. 5:7). He does so because He cares about and will tend to the burdens that we prayerfully deliver to Him infinitely more than we could ever do.

However, He cares more about us than He does about our burdens. He lovingly acts to correct our perceptions of our burdens that are distorted into exaggerated proportions by our fears. The Lord does this because He loves us better than we love ourselves or the other people for whom we pray.

The Lord replaces our anxiety with His peace in a way that Paul clearly specifies in two aspects of our relation to Christ. God first deals with our emotions; then He deals with our thoughts.

Fear and its lesser cousin, anxiety, are not in themselves sins. They result as bitter fruits of sin.

Adam knew no fear until He sinned, and then he hid from the Lord his God because he was afraid (Gen. 3:10). The path of our thinking is now cluttered with the thorns and thistles of our primary emotions of shame and fear. Even in Christ we are plagued by these emotions and we try to think our way out of them instead of praying our way out of them. But our thoughts alone are inadequate in this case. Consider how Adam used his mind as a result of his fear: he tried to excuse himself and blame his wife (and, implicitly God) for his plight. By our praying, by our entering humbly and gratefully into a more conscious, intentional, and dependent communion with our God, instead of our trying to put Him off by our rationalizations, we come face to face with the Prince of Peace and our agitated emotions are soothed and sealed in Him and His grace and love.

From this divine treatment serving as a sentry that guards our emotions we are then treated to an enlightening transformation of our thoughts. No longer do we allow our anxiety to captivate our thoughts and pervert them into fuel for our worries. Our thoughts, instead, begin to focus and reflect upon the person and work of our Savior. Truths such as the immeasurable love, infallible wisdom, and almighty power of our Lord—all now in Christ engaged to work for us—open our eyes so that we see that He who is for us is infinitely greater than all that is or could be against us.

When we are brought into the matrix of the peace of God, we can then face even the worst prospect as a legitimate answer to our prayers. We may dread the worst and seek to avoid it apart from prayer, or even to dodge it by our praying amiss. But when we find refuge of heart and mind in Christ through whom we pray, we can and do ask with sincerity and with grateful trust that it not be our will—our finite and worried will—that prevails, but rather that God’s will be done. So, let us learn to pray more and to our wonder and delight we shall find that we worry less. Our worries will decrease as we find the One to whom we pray increasing in our apprehension, as He works in answer to our prayers and for our peace, His glory, and the good of others.

Yours gratefully in Christ,

–  –  –

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I have expressed casually on several occasions my observation regarding what the Bible has to say about titles that are given to various people in the Church. It is not an insignificant matter and therefore I intend to address it a bit more fully in this letter.

Let us begin by considering the state of the Church in our day with respect to the matter of titles and ranks used among the people of God. We as Protestants have a history of deploring such offices and titles as Pope, Cardinal, Archbishop, and so forth in the Roman Catholic Church.

However, we have our own titles that indicate a hierarchy among us that may be closer to what we criticize than we may realize. There are Priests, Bishops, Superintendents, even Apostles named among the Protestant ranks of Lutherans, Methodists, and Independents. In our own Presbyterian denomination we have Elders and Deacons because we see clearly those offices in the New Testament (1 Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:5; Acts 6; 1 Tim. 3). However, does it follow that we find titles of respect attached to those offices anywhere in the Word of the Lord? We will search the Scriptures in vain to find anyone addressed in them as Reverend, Pastor, Elder, Deacon, or even Apostle. The men who served the Lord as the foundation of the New Testament Church (Eph. 2:20) invariably announce themselves and are addressed by their given names. Paul introduces himself in his letters, for example, not as, Apostle Paul, but rather as, Paul an apostle. Furthermore, such men as the apostles uniformly cultivated not so much a superior or paternal relationship with those to whom they ministered, but more of an egalitarian and fraternal relationship. The highest rank any of them ever claimed was that of brother who served lovingly their brethren.

Why were they that way? It is because they took seriously the warning and instruction of Jesus about His followers attempting to determine their rank in relation to each other. Our Lord tells us that kings of the Gentiles assert and maintain high ranks and positions of domination over others but that in His Church it must not be so (Lk. 22:24-26). The greatest in Christ’s body will be the least imposing, most humble, and most loving servant of his or her brethren in Christ.

This is so because it was the very essence of Christ that He humbled Himself to become our servant, in things as mundane as His washing His disciples’ dirty feet and as magnificent as His pouring out His life for us (Phil. 2:1-7). If anyone deserves a title, it is our Lord Jesus. And yet His Word tells us that He is not ashamed to call us His brethren (Heb. 2:11-17).

The truth is that the Son of God came to our world to redeem us by giving Himself up for us (Gal. 2:20). He came not to create an organization or corporate structure that contains various tiers of rank and dominating power; He came, instead, to create for Himself a bride, the Church, composed of living stones whom He cherishes and calls to love one another as He has loved them. When we erect ranks and create and use titles, we do not serve to build one another up so much as we devise ways to distinguish ourselves from each other so that we relate to each other like masters and slaves instead of like mutually loving brethren.

I am not asserting that our use of titles is done with a conscious determination to make ourselves something that is not in accord with our Lord’s loving and edifying intention and design. I am suggesting that we should become more conscious of how we address one another in the body of Christ, and of how we regard one another. We never want to slip into an attitude where we begin to lord ourselves over others, or allow others to lord themselves over us in the body of Christ.

We rather want to be intentional in regarding ourselves as being loving brethren, called to regard and to treat one another with due respect and, above all, with the royal law of love whereby we all together humble ourselves and seek to edify our brethren.

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