Sunday, April 27, 2008

Love - Part 6: Does Not Act Unbecomingly

Love . . . does not act unbecomingly;”
1 Corinthians 13:5

When thinking about 1 Corinthians 13, this aspect does not seem to stand out as much as say, patience. But when closely looking at it, it is a vital aspect of love. The opposite of this “acting unbecomingly” is also specifically commanded to be portrayed in the lives of women who are followers of Christ (as will be seen later in this writing).
Unbecomingly refers to a person’s behavior and how it is expressed in their lives. But what does ‘unbecomingly’ and like words mean?

Unbecomingly: in an unsuitable manner; indecorously*

Unseemly: indecently*

Indecorum: impropriety of behavior; that in behavior or manners which violates the established rules of civility, or the duties of respect with which age or station requires; an unbecoming action. It is something synonymous with indecency; but indecency, more frequently than indecorum, is applied to words or actions which refer to what nature and propriety require to be concealed or suppressed.*

This aspect of love, not acting unbecomingly, is to be the opposite of the above and to instead, “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). As God is holy, so should we be. As He is all-loving, so should we be. He is our example. He is the one whom we should strive to imitate in all our behavior—every moment of every day.

In 1 Peter 3:1-2, a like admonition is given specifically to wives (though the character principles can also be applied to all women) “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” Chaste and respectful behavior. A heart condition expressed outwardly through behavior. Paul in writing to Titus exhorts that women are “to be reverent in their behavior” (Titus 2:3).

We can thus conclude that:

1) Women are to be noted by their respect.

Respect is: “Regard; attention. That deportment [how one carries themselves] or course of action which proceeds from esteem; regard; due attention; as, to treat a person with respect".*

Respect is a vital aspect of godly character especially towards one’s parents and elders. Unfortunately this quality is woefully lacking in today’s society. This is illustrated in the lack of things as simple as responding to others with a “Yes, sir” or “No, ma’am”; to parents with “Yes, Mom” and “Yes, Dad”; to speak to one’s elders with Mr. and Mrs.; to not interrupt when others are speaking . . . but all of this has changed. We as a society have lost the essence of respect and concern for others. Self is what is lauded. Self is what is to be appeased and satisfied. We are told that we must have ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-worth’ and often this is at the expense of others. How different, though, this is from the true and godly love that is spoken about here in 1 Corinthians chapter 13!
2) Closely related to respect, and yet with a much deeper meaning and connotation, is the beautiful quality of reverence.Reverence is defined as “Fear mingled with respect and esteem”, with reverent being “ Expressing reverence, veneration or submission. Submissive; humble; impressed with reverence”.* This quality of reverence is a topic in and of itself as it covers the vitally important, but often sadly lacking, heart attitude and fruit of submission. (Prayerfully an article on submission will be written sometime in the future.) (Closely tied with this topic of reverence is the quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which has been written about previously. I encourage you to also read this article [part 1 and part 2] in conjunction with what is written here as it adds more completeness to the discussion).As followers of Christ, specifically as women, we must exhibit these aspects of “not act[ing] unbecomingly”. We must give respect and reverence to our fathers, and for those who are married, to their husbands. In addition to this, respect and reverence need to also be exhibited at all times in our lives, to all people. We should be characterized by behavior that is reverent and respectful.

3) Women are also to be chaste in all their behavior

Chaste: “free from obscenity. In language, pure; genuine; uncorrupt"* [also can refer to physical purity]. This is another beautiful, inward adornment of godly womanhood. Purity in heart which bears fruit to purity in action and word. Purity that is free from vulgarity and “filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting” (Ephesians 5:4); free from falsehood and deceit as it is genuine and true.

All of these, reverence, submission, respect, chastity, are expressed through our words, our actions, and our behavior. But it begins as a heart condition. If our hearts have learned wild, independent, disrespectful, dishonoring character/behavior, that is what will be expressed no matter how hard we try otherwise. One example in Scripture is in regards to the words we speak: "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. " (Matthew 12:34b) If, however, our hearts have been trained in love that does not act unbecomingly, this is what will be seen by others.

May we all strive to “put on love" (Colossians 3:14), this “not act[ing] unbecomingly”, making it part of our character so that it becomes so ingrained into us that it becomes who we are. Women who have adorned themselves not with outward adornment (1 Peter 3:3), but with inward adornment that is expressed outwardly (1 Peter 3:4). Reverent, respectful, chaste and pure, pleasing in the sight of our Lord.

*All definitions taken from Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Words for Edification

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

This morning as I was reading in Ephesians, the above verse once again convicted my heart. This is an area that I have difficulty with at times - especially during times of tiredness, or when I am struggling with my emotions. Our words have such power - power that can bring devastation, or restoration. James tells us that “the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity” and that it is “a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” (James 3:6, 8) This type of tongue is our nature. Spewing out words that destroy and bring pain. Angry words. Bitter words. Arrogant words. Words that belittle. Often those dearest to us are the recipients of these words, namely, our families. When we speak words such as these, they cut to the heart of those whom we love, and can cause irreparable damage.

But God has called us to set aside our own fleshly desires, and to speak “only such a word as is good for edification”. Edification is the building up of others; encouraging and strengthening them by a cheerful and instructive word. “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (Romans 14:19) We set our heart, our goal and aim, upon this. Striving to encourage and strengthen our dear ones in the Lord by speaking sweet, encouraging and instructive words to them. May our hearts desire not be to seek our own satisfaction, but to instead speak according to “the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Day by Day

This hymn is one of my favorites and such an encouragement to me, and I hope that it will also be an encouragement to you. :)

Day by day and with each passing moment,

Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best -
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Ev'ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in ev'ry tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

*Words by: Carolina S. Berg, 1832-1903; trans. by Andrew L. Skoog, 1856-1934

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Love - Part 5: Not Arrogant

Love . . . is not arrogant” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

And the opposite of arrogance is humility. Arrogance is: “a feeling of superiority or an offensive exhibition of it; that species of pride which consists in exorbitant claims of rank, dignity, estimation or power, or which exalts the worth or importance of the person to an undue degree”*. While the definition of humility is: 1) “freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind”*. And in regards to our relationship with the Lord it: “consists in lowliness of mind; is a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God . . . penitence for sin, and submission to the divine will”*.

The greatest and purest example of humility is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8). This is true humility at its fullest. God Himself, the creator of the universe, became a man. Why? To give salvation freely to whoever would believe upon Him. He, being perfect, took all sin upon Himself and died in our place. In the preceding verses, believers are exhorted to “Have this attitude in [ourselves] which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). How do we do this? “by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:2-4).

In our lives, either humility or pride will be the essence of our character. It is up to us to decide which it will be and the rest of our character will be the result of which one of these is reigning in our lives. Because of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, pride is inherent in every person. It is our sin nature; pride in and of ourselves and the desire to please and satisfy our own wants and pleasures, this is worldliness. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16). “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant . . . .” (2 Timothy 3:2). This pride is what caused Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. The serpent said to her, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5). First casting doubt upon the one and true God, the serpent also spoke to Eve’s pride; offering a tantalizing appeal to satisfy and glorify herself. And Eve was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14) and succumbed to the temptation. For “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate.” (Genesis 3:6). We too are daughters of Eve. Born with this same sin nature; this same pride and desire to please and satisfy ourselves.

If this is our nature, we must then exercise to overcome it. In Zephaniah 2:3, it is exhorted to “seek righteousness, seek humility”, and he who “seeks, finds” (Luke 11:10). This seeking is actively searching and studying; it is not passive. Colossians 3:12 states that we are to “put on a heart of . . . humility”. Put on. Active work and labor. We cannot put on our socks without effort on our part. We can sit there and hope and wish that our socks will get on our feet, but without performing action, I can assure you that it will not happen. Likewise, we cannot be humble, unless we put forth the effort to be humble. We cannot expel pride, unless we work on conquering it in day to day instances.

The prophet Daniel is an example of this. In a vision, an angel spoke to Daniel saying, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God . . . .” (Daniel 10:12). Like Daniel, we too are to “humble [our]selves under the mighty hand of God, that He might exalt [us] at the proper time,” (1 Peter 5:6). In the previous verse, verse 5, Peter commands “all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” God Himself has declared: “but to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2b). Again in James it is stated: “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6). How, though, do we cultivate this humility? How do we practice it instead of pride? James gives the answer to these questions: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8a). By submitting our will to God’s will and by drawing near to Him, thence comes humility. Drawing near to God is aligning our hearts closer with His. This is brought about by the reading and study of His word, meditation upon it, application of it to our lives, prayer to our Father and communion with Him.

As shared in a previous post in this series:
A truly humble heart . . . knows that the One working through her is the Lord. And that in and of herself, her “righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6). The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans echoes this thought in quoting Psalm 14:1-3: “ ‘. . . There is none who does good . . .’ ” (Romans 3:12). What does Christ say? “ ‘No one is good except God alone.’ ” (Mark 10:18). So as believers, any good that works through us, is because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, working in us through the Holy Spirit.
When we recognize this, there is no room for pride and arrogance in our lives. Instead our hearts bow before the Lord in submission, honor and reverence. All that we are is because of Him. He is the one who has redeemed us, has filled us with the Holy Spirit, and who guides us in His truth. Teaching us, disciplining us and loving us.

but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 15:57

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 3:20-21 and 4:1-2

*Definitions taken from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language and The Random House College Dictionary

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Teach Me . . .

"Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day."
Psalm 25:4-5

-Posted by Leah