Who is the Greatest Among Us?

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

 

Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Let us have no imitation Christian lovePhillips Don’t let love be a mere outward show. CJB Love has no false face. Cotton Patch Version Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them. TLB

As we read the NT in English, we see the word love in its various forms without realizing that there are a dozen or more Greek words used in those cases. Most of them are various forms of the three basic words in the First Century Greek world: eros, philia, and agapa. While eros and philia were widely used, agape was seldom used and had a vague meaning. That is probably why the NT authors chose to use it to represent God’s love.

The Greek word used in this first half of verse nine is agape. What Paul is reminding us is to love the way God loves. We are to agape people.

What does that look like? Paul adds, Avoid what is evil; stick to what is goodNJB More to the point, regard others as more important than yourselfNJB Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. ESV bless and do not curseNIV Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing goodMSG

Living this way is not easy. That is why Jesus, in today’s Matthew reading, told us to take up our cross. A lot of what God expects of us goes against the grain for humans. When Jimmy Carter was President, he was believed to be a failure by most Americans because, in part, he tried to live up to God’s expectations. But we want a powerful man, one who takes no prisoners and asks no questions. We want a Jason Bourne/John Wayne President.

[Just for fun. Presidents J Adams, H Hoover, G Ford, R Reagan, GHW Bush all lived 90 to 94 years. Carter is currently 95 and his wife of 74 years is 92. J Kennedy died at 46.]

While all our Presidents have claimed to be Christians, I think we can agree that some were not adhering to Paul’s admonitions. Who was the best Christian in office? While I have studied the presidency for nearly 60 years, there are several I know little about. But here are some for your consideration. I put Lincoln first on the list even though he refused to join any church. He took the blame for what went wrong and praised those who did good things. He chose enemies for his cabinet because they were the best people for the jobs. He made time for people. It’s a shame he had to lead us through the war.

Others I’ll list with some reservations, meaning they were not perfect. JQ Adams, R Hayes, C Arthur, G Cleveland, W Taft, W Wilson, C Coolidge, H Hoover, H Truman, D Eisenhower, J Carter, GHW Bush, GW Bush. I’ll let God make the final call. His list is probably very different from mine and yours.

In some ways it would be easier to talk about the bad things Presidents did. Those tend to be reported more than the good things. I should add that several of these men would not make the top half of my list of most effective Presidents, though I place Lincoln first on that list as well.

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low positionNIV This is a hard one in our churches. We prefer to sit with our friends who are mostly like us in ways we are comfortable with. That is one reason people used to pay to have reserved seats (actually boxes) in churches. Terrible idea. Sit somewhere else next Sunday.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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