This Week’s Sermon From the Ranch – Thinking Of Others

Thinking Of Others

Lesson 29 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder

 

The story’s told of two friends who were walking through a desert together when one of the friends slapped the other in the face.  The one who was slapped wrote a note in the sand saying:

 

Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

 

But as they walked further along, the one who had been slapped fell into a pool of water and began to drown.  This time, his best friend reached down and pulled him out of the water, saving his life.  This time, the friend who was rescued etched a note on a stone saying:

 

“Today my best friend saved my life.”

 

When asked why he wrote one note in the sand and the other note in stone, the one who had been slapped and then later rescued replied:

 

“When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away.  But when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can ever erase it.”

 

Too often, we get this backwards:  we write people’s offenses in stone rather than sand, perhaps because they’ve hurt us so much, or perhaps to protect ourselves from being hurt again.  Then we write the good deeds that people have done for us in sand, forgetting over time just how significant those good deeds have been in our lives.

But according to the Bible, true love keeps no record of people’s offenses at all.  As Paul said to the Corinthians:

 

“Love… keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5b).

 

Last week, we looked at the importance of thinking of ourselves properly, without falling into the traps of pride or low self-esteem.  This week, we’re looking at the importance of thinking of others properly, without falling into the traps of conceit or comparison.

 

When Paul wrote about love to the Romans, he wrote a simple yet profound statement:

 

“Love must be sincere” (Romans 12:9a).

 

While this may seem obvious-that if we love someone we should love them sincerely-it’s not so easy to do.  For some people, it’s easy to fake love.

 

I know a man who seemed like he was a friend to everyone, describing himself as having “great people skills.”  Yet in private conversations with him, I discovered that he viewed others with various degrees of disdain, resentment and frustration, often thinking of himself as better than those around him.  The love he showed to others was based on keeping up his image in public more so than holding those around him in true esteem.

 

This is just a shallow imitation of what real love looks like.  Real love is sincere.  In Latin, the word “sincere” literally means “without wax,” (sine meaning without, and cera meaning wax).  Apparently, if a craftsman carved a statue in stone and accidentally nicked or chipped the carving along the way, they would fill those spots with wax.  For all appearances, the statue looked pure and faultless.  But after a while in the hot sun, the wax would melt and the truth would be known:  that which appeared pure and faultless at first was in fact quite flawed.

 

When Paul said that love must be sincere, or without wax, he was saying that love shouldn’t be just for show, but for real.

 

In the past, I used to think that the word “sincerely” was just a formal way of signing off on a business letter, as I learned in business school back in college.  But in recent years, and knowing the meaning of the word sincere, I find myself using it more and more often.  When I write a note from the depths of my heart, I sign it, “Sincerely, Eric Elder.”  To me, it’s no longer just a formal closing, but a heartfelt statement saying, “I really mean this from the depths of my heart.”  It’s much closer to meaning “Love, Eric Elder” than I ever would have thought.  And that’s just what Paul said:  Love must be sincere.

 

I find that it’s helpful for me to check how sincere I am in my love for others by substituting the words “true affection” for love.  I might be able to say that I love someone, whether a friend or a co-worker, or even someone with whom I disagree or who I’m tempted to consider an enemy.  But when I ask myself if I have true affection for them, then the flaws in my love for them are revealed.

 

When this happens, I have to regroup my thinking, and try to see them as God sees them:  as beloved children of His, whom He has created for specific plans and purposes here on earth.  When I change my thinking, it changes how I view them, and subsequently how I love and interact with them.  It doesn’t always happen in an instant, but I recognize it much quicker now when I do the “true affection” test!

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he includes more than a dozen statements about what love looks like when it’s sincere.  Here are a few of those statements:

 

– Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
– Honor one another above yourselves.  
– Share with God’s people who are in need.  
– Practice hospitality. 
– Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  
– Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  
– Live in harmony with one another.  
– Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. 
– Do not be conceited. 
– Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  
– Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  
– If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  
– Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath 
– Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

If you reframe each of these as a question, you’ll get some good ideas for what you might do this week, this month, or this year to show more love to those around you.  For instance:

 

– What can you do to show your devotion to another brother or sister in Christ?
– What can you do to honor someone else above yourself?  
– What can you do to share with other Christians who are in need?  
– What can you do to practice hospitality towards someone you know?
– What can you do to bless someone who is persecuting you?  
– What can you do to rejoice with someone as they rejoice, or to mourn with someone as they mourn?
– What can you do to live in harmony with others, rather than provoking continual discord? 
– What can you do to be humble instead of proud, and to associate with people of low position?
– What can you do to avoid being conceited?
– What can you do to refrain from repaying anyone evil for evil?
– What can you do to do what is right in the eyes of everybody?
– What can you do to live at peace with everyone, as far as it depends on you?
– What can you do to not take revenge on someone else, but leave room for God’s wrath?
– What can you do to avoid being overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good? 

 

I know that I want to keep my love for others sincere, without wax, as pure and flawless as possible.  I want to have true affection for others, whether they’re close friends and family or just casual acquaintances or strangers or even enemies.

 

I want to think of others as God thinks of them:  as children of His, created by Him for specific plans and purposes here on earth.

 

I don’t want to be the kind of person who etches in stone those things that others have done wrong.  I don’t even want to write them in sand.  I want to be able to keep no record of wrongs, recalling instead only the good that others have done for me in my life.

 

But I know that to do all of this it will take more than what I can do on my own.  It will take the love of Christ, living in me and working through me, to think of others the way God wants me to think of them.  If you want that, too, I hope you’ll pray with me today.  Pray that God will help you to love others in ways you could never have done on your own.  With His help, you’ll be able to express love to others as the Apostle Paul encouraged the Romans to do, saying:

 

“Love must be sincere.”

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for loving each one of us and giving each one of us a purpose and a plan for our lives.  Help us to think of others in the same way that You think of them.  And help us to treat them with the love and honor that is due them.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Jesus: Lessons In LoveP.S.  If you’d like some more ideas about how to be more loving towards those around you, I’d be glad to send you a copy of a devotional book I’ve written called “Jesus: Lessons In Love.”  The book expands on this theme by looking at the life of Jesus through the gospel of Matthew, seeing how Jesus loved those around Him, even those who were bent on taking His life.  I’d be glad to send you a copy in paperback, anywhere in the world, for a donation of any size to our ministry.  You’re gifts help us to continue sending these messages freely around the world each week, and we’re glad to send you a gift in return.  To make a donation and get a book, just click the link below.
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Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 12:9-21.  What would it look like for someone to be devoted to someone else in brotherly love?
2.  How can you honor one another above yourself, truly honoring them for who they are and who God created them to be?
3. What are some ways you could “share with God’s people who are in need,” or “practice hospitality” towards those around you?  How can doing these things express your love in ways that words alone may not express?
4.  What are some reasons God wouldn’t want you to take revenge on someone, but to leave it in His hands instead?  What are some ways you can bless your enemies or those who may be persecuting you, and what might be the result when you do?

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