Once, there was an orphan girl who was deceptively lured into prostitution. One day, she was told that a couple had paid her pimps to adopt her; she was free to go. The couple brought the girl into their home where they cared for other boys and girls who had shared a similar fate as her. They were all loved as family.
Months later, one of the boys got into trouble and it was discovered that the orphan girl knew the people who could get the boy out of trouble. Their adoptive parents begged her to help but she refused, insisting that her adoptive brother had brought this end upon himself. The boy never came home. The girl carried on with her life.
Perhaps when you consider the parable above, you might think: the girl should have helped her adoptive parents to save her brother, if not out of love for him, at least as an expression of love and gratitude to her parents. It would be unsurprising if you felt that way: the parable (albeit imperfect) is about the Christian life.
A Christian is but one who had been saved by God’s mercy through the costly sacrifice of Jesus and adopted into, and loved as, His family. God’s desire is that His children will love Him and love their siblings in His family (Matthew 22:37-40).
The love that God desires His children to have for one another is the same love He has for His children (John 15:12). And one of the most important goals of godly love is to prepare the beloved for heaven (John 13; Ephesians 5:25-27). Love, however, always requires sacrifice and may be costly – indeed, love at its greatest and purest is the ending of one’s self (Matthew 16:24-25). But gratitude for God’s grace and love, and God’s provision of grace, empowers such sacrificial love.
We learn from 1st Corinthians that the Corinthian believers had, like the girl in the parable, clung to their self interests and pride; they exercised their freedom as they saw fit, without a care that their actions were causing harm to others around them, especially harm to the faith of others.
Unfortunately, we too may have at times behaved like the Corinthian believers and like the girl in the parable. Having received the costly grace and love of our Heavenly Father, have we refused to love our siblings in Christ? Have we done anything (e.g. exercised our freedom, practised certain lifestyles, made certain life choices or said things) that would cause a fellow believer to stumble and diminish their faith in God? Or do we act out of love for, and seek to edify, our fellow believers, drawing them closer to Christ?
Personally, I find myself struggling, given the complex and interconnected world we inhabit, to live by the most excellent way of love. Every conversation I have, every sentence I pen, every question I pose, whether at work or outside of work, e.g. in academic articles or in leisurely writing or in a sermon, or on social media; every Facebook post I like or put up, I wish I could carefully filter through a prism of Christ-mediated love.
But there are times I neglect and times I falter. Yet, the grace of God covers my failures. It is my prayer that I will, unlike the girl in the parable, always act rightly out of love for, and gratitude to, God. This could be your prayer too; may the grace of God be with us all and may the Good Shepherd equip us with good things for doing His will – to love God and to love His family in Christ.
By Ronald Wong (YCKC Bulletin 12&13 April 2014)