“Children… Your Children… My Children”

There is a cool progression between 1, 2, and 3 John.

In 1 John, he addresses little children (as well as young men and fathers), encouraging them in the faith.

In 2 John, he is speaking to the “elect lady and her children” and rejoices in the fact that some of her children walk in the truth.

In 3 John, there is no “some.” He simply finds joy in the fact that “my children” walk in the truth.

There is a building sense of ownership here, not in terms of possession, but rather of responsibility.

In the beginning, John speaks of children in the vague and general sense, routing them on in a scholarly fashion. Then, we see him draw nearer to them. They are you children, still holding some sentimental value but ultimately someone else’s problem. Then, finally they are wholly and fully his. Their well-being is his “greatest joy.”

It reminds me of Jesus’ final intimate encounter with Peter (John 21:15-19). Three times Jesus asks if Peter loves Him as He asks him to lead His church. Twice, Jesus uses the word agápē, an all-encompassing love, God’s love. Twice, Peter uses the word phileō, a friend or brother kind of love. Jesus changes His word to phileō, meeting Peter where he is at, and Peter responds in kind. Then, Jesus lets Peter know he will one day die for His church, just as Christ died. And indeed, Peter did die that way.

Peter’s love for Jesus ascends through time. He begins with acquaintance, then familiarity, then friendship, then deep affection, and finally love to the point of death. And his love for Jesus reflects his love for the church. John 15:13 tells us that if we love Jesus, we will love one another. 1 John 4:20 goes on to say that if we say we love Jesus but hate one another, then we are liars. We are commanded by our ever-loving father to love our fellow human being with the same love He has for us. They are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. They are ours.

God once asked Esau, “where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:1-16) Esau answered, “am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer to that question is yes. Let us keep them well.

 

 

Cain and Esau: a Lesson in Rebellion, Protection, and Provision

Cain and Esau are the quintessential bad brothers of the Bible.

Cain sets the ill standard right of brotherly love right from the get-go (Genesis 4). In fact, he’s the first brother on Earth. Abel comes along and God shows favoritism towards him, and Cain is pissed. But it’s important to note that Cain is still the firstborn. He’s entitled to all the cool stuff his parents have to offer. But that’s not good enough. So, he kills his brother. God calls him out on it. There’s nowhere for Cain to hide. The LORD of the Universe has caught him red-handed. He sends Cain into exile and Cain now is afraid. But God does not lead him hanging. He slaps the “mark of Cain” on him, not a sign of condemnation, but of protection. No harm is to come of Cain outside the punishment God had prescribed for him. So, Cain loses his birthright, but he goes on to have a big family of very successful offspring. The condemnation of Cain is counterbalanced by the mark.

Esau, who comes generations later, is also a big brother with an attitude problem (Genesis 25:19-34, 27). He sells his birthright to his little brother, Jacob, for a bowl of soup. Once Esau calms down and realizes what he’s done, he threatens to kill Jacob. Jacob flees. Years go by. Esau never gets his birthright back. But he manages to build up a sizable family for himself. When Jacob meets Esau again, Esau is in fact much stronger in numbers than his little brother (Genesis 33). Upon Jacob’s shoulders, the nation of Israel is built. Still, God keeps a place for Esau in His heart. When the Israelites are coming back from Egypt towards Canaan, intent on clearing land for their new home, God tells them to leave the nation of Edom (Cain’s people) alone, for Jacob and Esau were brothers.

I love that God does not just let things slide. He holds us culpable for our actions. But even in our sin, He watches over us, not because we deserve it, but because He is God. He does not forget our past, but neither does He hold it against us. And He calls us to do the same. So, where you have erred, know that it is not forever. Where you have been wronged, know that God sees. Nothing escapes His sight. We are all His children, born into the family of God through Christ, who makes us all one.

 

Jonah 4

You may or may not be familiar with the life of Jonah.

Jonah was a prophet way back when. God tells him to go to a place to Ninevah to preach to the people there, that they would stop doing all the bad stuff they were doing and instead do good. Jonah receives his mission and runs away, taking the soonest ship to the furthest town. En route, he hits a storm and, in a moment of conviction, asks the crew to throw him overboard. Not knowing what else to do, they do just that. Jonah is swallowed by the sea creature a la Pinocchio and spends three days in the belly of the beast. At that point, he has a change of heart, asks God for a hand out, and God does just that. The creature spits him out and he high-tails it over to Ninevah to ask them also to turn their lives around. In no short time, they do.

And all ends happily ever after, right? I wish. No. Many retellings of Jonah’s life end there, but his life extends to another chapter. In this chapter, he is sitting on a hill looking over the just-saved city of Ninevah, hoping that God will change His mind and blow it up. “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster. And now, Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live,” says the prophet. Despite all that Jonah has been through, he still wants the Ninevites to die and for God to take him with them.

Fortunately, God doesn’t grant Jonah’s request. Instead, he lets Jonah sit in the hot sun for a good, long while until Jonah is about to faint. Then, He grows up a plant to cover Jonah’s head. Jonah loves his plant because the comfort it provides him. God allows him a moment of solace than kills the plant.

Jonah flips out. When God asks him if his anger is justified, Jonah is 1200% sure that it is. At this, God asks a follow-up question, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in the night and perished in the night. But may I not care about the great city of Ninevah, which has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?” With that, God drops the mic and Jonah’s story ends there. We don’t know how he responded. In truth, we don’t need to. This is God’s question to us. We all have plants in our lives, things we put in priority over the people all around us. Are we brave enough to let them go and selfless enough to see the needs of others, even if those needs belong to those we don’t see eye to eye with?

The challenge is simple. God is waiting for the answer. Don’t be a Jonah. Answer the call.

The Least of These

Who is the least of these?

We all are. We can be poor of spirit

and poor of money

and beat down and cast out and left alone.

Reach out to your brothers your sisters

your fathers your mothers your uncles

aunts cousins across the world

and across the street

listen to one another

be there and support

“listen listen love love”

for God is good

and we are ALL His children!

Action/Initiative

There are prisoners in jail

There are poor needing food

There are lonely needing friends

There are opportunities to better the lives of others

and ourselves

around every corner

Will you keep your eyes open to see them,

your ears to see them,

your hands to reach them, your feet

to go?

The opportunities are there

Will you accept their invitation?