PEARLS AND PIGS

 Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.  Matthew 7:6

That’s a complicated passage for some people! I’m almost sorry for beginning a blog post like that, but maybe not to tell you the truth. Maybe it’s too uncomfortable for too many people to start off this way though, so how about I begin all over again?

I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.  John 13:34

That passage can also be uncomfortable. Bummer! My question is this; how can you love the way Jesus loved while withholding your pearls at the same time? Tricky? I don’t believe so. I’m feeling whimsically figurative today, so you’re going to need to be patient with me for a paragraph or so. I promise I’ll bring it all together in the end.

During the past few years I have been doing an increasing amount of one on one ministry. Quite a bit of it is discipling or mentoring, but there is prophetic and prayer ministry and some dream interpretation going on too. Sometimes, I’ve developed long-term relationships with some folks and sometimes it’s only one or two meetings, but I always receive at least as much as I give and often times I am convinced that I benefit far more than the ones I am ministering to. I really LOVE this kind of ministry more than I can possibly describe and it has easily become one of the greatest joys in my life. Sometimes, ministry will take place here in my home and sometimes it’s on a phone call or a Zoom meeting. Sometimes I know the people really well and sometimes, the people are in different parts of the country or even the world and I’ve never actually met them face to face. There is one thing that is common in all of these encounters though. We meet together in faith, knowing and believing that Holy Spirit will be there with us and that He will feed us. There is always faith. There is always respect. There is always a deepening love and a delightful sense of anticipation. Every time.

For those of you who have done a fair bit of prayer or prophetic ministry, you already know how powerful it can be when you pray for someone who has great faith and they already anticipate that something is going to happen. They often seem to literally pull the gifts out of you. You probably also know about the people who are convinced that nothing is going to happen. Sometimes, it’s because they’ve been wounded in the past but sometimes it’s because they already believe that you probably won’t have anything of value for them. I’m reminded of another passage. This is about how Jesus withheld his pearls and why he did it.

He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.  Matthew 13:54-58

The way I practice this posture is simple. I mostly just hang out with people who actually love me, or at least have some degree of faith in what I do. Sometimes, it will be someone I just met and sometimes it will be someone like Bert. Bert has been my trusted friend for sixty years now and he is always reliable, honest, forthright, insightful and wise. My father was that kind of a person and I miss his input more than I can say. Thankfully, I have quite a few trusted resources to go to and not one of them are like the people in Jesus’ home town.

The takeaway here is simple. Jesus actually commanded us to love each other the same way he loved us. That kind of love is supposed to be our trademark as disciples of Jesus. The following is part of a new song of mine.

Without a doubt, I understand, it's time for things to change
The world around me has gone mad and things are getting strange
That's no excuse for me to think there's nothing I can do
If I reach out and love just one, I've started something new

Reaching out is not always comfortable and is usually quite uncomfortable. Compassion can be very dangerous. Love is never easy. It doesn’t usually look like a fat, baby angel sitting on a cloud, playing a tiny harp. We don’t really have a choice though. If we are serious about being disciples of Jesus, we really must do this. He commanded us to love each other, just like he loved us. So, what does that actually look like? Can I be passive in my relationships and still love like Jesus did?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I don’t think that any of the above specifications are passive. Most of these definitions are not talking about my relationship with God either, they’re describing my relationship with other people. All of that stuff takes work and is intentional. Most of that list is uncomfortable to one degree or another. I guarantee you though, Jesus was not comfortable at the last supper when he gave Judas one last chance to repent. He was not comfortable when Mary washed his feet with her tears. He was clearly uncomfortable when he was sweating blood in Gethsemane. I guarantee you that he was horribly uncomfortable when he asked his Father to forgive the soldiers standing before him, mocking him, right after they’d nailed him to the cross. Love is ultimately wonderful and rewarding, but it is rarely comfortable. Love is invasive and unpredictable. God, is love.

Here is the rest of that song of mine.

If I spend too much time concerned with things I do not know
I'll never see the things I have are more than apropos
I will reach out and love someone beyond my comfort zone
If I can do this every day, I'll never be alone

Love will change the world. I must do my part
Light will overcome the darkness, Love will change my heart
All we need is love. I must do my part
Darkness will not overcome me. Love will change my heart
Light will overcome the darkness. Love will change my heart

Love has certainly changed my heart over the years. My father and his wise love. My wife and her patient love. Neither of these relationships were easy and both got very difficult from time to time. Lazy people aren’t interested in love because love takes a lot of effort. I have had close friendships go sour and then, with diligence, they were restored. Love always perseveres. Love is patient. I have had love spring out of nothing into something wonderful in seconds and I have seen loves that took years to finally develop and mature. My heart has been broken many times by things that I assumed were love and were not. Every one of my broken hearts were healed and restored by the real thing though. The vessels of healing love were always diverse and sometimes completely unexpected, like the simple affections of a little girl right after my mother died. Her exquisite love pulled me safely out of despair. Emily was literally Jesus to me during that difficult season. I’ve met people from all over the world and they’ve become my friends. Some of them, in seconds. A beautiful young lady walked into our home group several years ago and God actually introduced her to me in an audible voice. “This one is mine” Holy Spirit said in no uncertain terms and He let me know that He was entrusting me with her care. She has become like a daughter to both Lisa and I and that particular love can’t be measured. It is the greatest of joys.

One thing for sure though. Love takes effort. I consider myself rich in friendships, but all of them require ongoing maintenance. I have close, trusted friends, some of whom I have never actually met face to face. Trusted… friends. That kind of love is my pearl of great price. It is my gold. I will take that gold into eternity with me when I graduate. I am a rich man who will continue enjoying his riches in Heaven. I am rich in love and I will continue investing my heart and soul into my friendships. It only makes sense. It is worth the effort. I hope and pray that I can inspire you to dig even deeper than you have in the past to find the treasure. It’s there.

As always, if you want to talk about this letter or anything else, let me know.

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