It was the mid 1990s Buddy (my husband) and I were very active in the Main Post Chapel at an Army post. There we met a young chaplain, a captain, who will be called Pete. Pete was very popular with the chapel crowd. His sermons were funny and entertaining though a little short on substance. He was from Tennessee and told many stories about his family. From the pulpit he told us that he was “a card carrying member of the NRA” and his hero was Nathan Bedford Forrest. All I knew about Nathan Bedford Forrest was that he was a Confederate general during the Civil War. I learned after that Sunday Pete announced this in the pulpit from my Civil War student husband, that Gen Forrest was believed by historians to be the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. I don’t know if anyone else in the congregation knew anything about Gen Forrest, but if they did…well…Pete just might have raised a few eyebrows. Late that summer many of us were participants in the wedding of one of our chapel congregation. Pete was not a participant but an invited guest. Buddy and I, my cousins Lea and Bruce, the senior chaplain, his wife, the Main Post Chaplain, and Pete were all seated together at a table at the reception. Pete was in the dumps because his wife, also an Army captain, was serving in the Lower 48. I guess the wedding had made him miss her even more. When the wine was served for dinner, Pete imbibed heavily. He was slurring his words, talking very loudly and was being generally very obnoxious. Now this type of behavior is frowned upon for Army officers and really frowned upon for chaplains. One of the officers talked Pete into leaving the reception early and thankfully Pete didn’t put up a fight about it but he did swipe a bottle of wine on his way out as he loudly exited the reception. On our way home that evening Buddy and I discussed the Pete incident. We were both concerned about his behavior. Pete was the chaplain for the battalion and as such he ministered to young, impressionable troops. We had heard rumors that his ministry included drinking with these young troops. After the antics at the wedding reception we began to wonder if what we had heard was more than mere rumor.
Over the next couple of days the incident weighed heavy on my mind. For some reason I just couldn’t get past it. I prayed about it, searched my heart and the scriptures on forgiveness and judging, but nothing seemed to give me any peace. What bothered me most was that a chaplain, a minister, seemed to think this was acceptable behavior. Didn’t he realize this was not exactly the example he should be setting for the young troops? Wouldn’t they think that if a chaplain behaved like this it was certainly OK for them to? I kept feeling that I should confront Pete about it. I am terrible at confrontation. I get upset and always end up crying. Buddy suggested I call a chaplain friend of ours in Virginia for advice. So I called our friend and told him the entire sordid story. He kind of chuckled and said, “Well, Gayle, it looks like you have been chosen.” Of course I said chosen for what? Our friend said it looked to him like God had chosen me to confront Pete about his behavior. That’s why I could not seem to get past the whole incident. He said I could be saving a chaplain his career and a lot of heartache down the road.
That’s not what I wanted to hear! So I got on my knees and prayed. I mean I really got on my knees and prayed! I prayed that somehow things wouldn’t get ugly. I asked the Lord to prepare Pete’s heart to hear my words in love. The Holy Spirit gave me the suggestion to write my feelings out in a letter to Pete. Then he wouldn’t feel threatened and he would have time to digest what I said before he reacted. The most amazing thing happened to me then…I felt total forgiveness for Pete wash over me and I was totally at peace.
When Buddy came home for lunch I told him everything. He immediately called Pete and set up an appointment to come to Pete’s office that afternoon for a counseling session. Buddy spoke to him as both a senior officer, Buddy was a LTC at the time, and as a member of our congregation. He said Pete listened intently to every word and acted in humility and with a repentant heart. Pete went to everyone’s home that evening and apologized for his behavior. After choir rehearsal that evening he called me aside and thanked me for my letter profusely. Through Buddy’s words and my letter, the Lord convicted Pete’s heart. The last time I saw Pete was a few years later at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was wearing that silver eagle on his collar… rank of a full Colonel!
“LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU”
I tell you this story because loving one another as Christ loves us is fraught with difficulties for us humans. When we love one another as God loves us we must remain accountable to God and accountable to each other.
Father God commands this in Leviticus 19:18 so it isn’t just a New Testament command. As I read the scripture for today, I began to ponder how I could love other Christians as God/Jesus loves me? To answer this question we all need to first understand how God loves us and how we are to love Him.
In John 15:9-14 …Jesus says…9 “As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love.(A) 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands(remember Jesus kept every letter of the law perfectly) and remain in His love.(B)
11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.(C) 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved(D) you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life(E) for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
WOW…now that’s some pretty big shoes to fill! In other words, it looks as if Christ laid down His life for those who keep His commands and His love.
As we delve deeper into this scripture we find that obedience is a big part of our love for God and Jesus’ love for the Father. Yet the word obedience often produces negative images in our minds eye. Love and obedience may seem antithetical but in actuality they are complimentary. Love isn’t just an inward feeling. It isn’t a warm feeling or beautiful words. Love is both an inward feeling and an outward action. John tells us in 1 John that “this is love for God: that we keep His commands.”
Love is the basis for Christian discipline and the motivations for Christian action. Love is commitment and CONDUCT. Biblical love is always defined by God’s law and our obedience to that law.
The world tells us today that love is based on tolerance. Tolerance of all religions and tolerance of all kinds of behavior. Many Christians have swallowed this hook, line and sinker! The world worships at the altar of tolerance but my fellow Christians, we must always remember, tolerance is NOT a virtue when it hides evil. Christian love should be fashioned on temperance, self control, discipline, and accountability to the Word of God and to one another. We must always remember the authority of scripture and the part that authority should play in our lives.
Jesus loves us all, Jew, Gentile, male, female and while we were still sinners he died for us. Yet in this great and wondrous love for us He is never tolerant of sin. His love expects obedience from His followers. He even tells us that “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. 32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Did Jesus love the Pharisees? Absolutely, yet He called them vipers and hypocrites. Did Jesus love the Samaritan woman he met at the well? Of course, but that did not keep Him from pointing out her sins to her. Did He love the money changers? Yes, but He still turned over their tables and ran them out of the Temple. Did He love Peter? We all know Peter was one of his inner circle and the one He said he would build His church on. He still rebuked Peter and called him Satan. Jesus’ love was not always that warm and fuzzy love we want to believe it is. So how does all of this teach us how we can love each other as He loves us? It isn’t so cut and dried, is it? Tolerating sin in our churches is not loving each other.
Loving other believers as God loves us should always bring about an inspection of our own lives and our obedience to God. As Jesus tells us we need to take the plank out of our own eyes before we try to take the speck out of our neighbors’. We should never condemn others for sin. Jesus tells us that He did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Our rebukes, done in love for others should be done to save them from heartache not condemn them to hell.
But we are not to sweep sin under the proverbial rug. Jesus tells us that we will be considered least in the kingdom of heaven if we annul one of the least of God’s commandments and teach others to do the same…but…if we keep and teach all the commandments, we will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. We are not to cause others to stumble. This too is declared a grave sin by Christ. If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble…meaning those who believe in Christ Jesus…it would be better for that person to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the sea. Woe to the world, says Jesus, because of things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through who they come.
Biblical law defines Biblical love. God’s law and love are not in opposition to one another. All scripture is “God breathed” Paul tells us and it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Every good work…that includes loving one another as God loves us. Oh and by the way…Paul is speaking of the scriptures of the OLD TESTAMENT here…remember…they had no New Testament yet!
Jesus’ command to love one another as He loves us isn’t just about a warm inward feeling for others. It isn’t about tolerance. It isn’t about turning a blind eye to sin. He didn’t say be tolerant of one another as I am tolerant of you! He said LOVE ONE ANOTHER! Obedience to God is LOVE! Ignoring God’s instructions for living a holy life…which doesn’t mean a perfect life but one dedicated to God…is not loving our fellow Christians. On the contrary we condemn ourselves and cause fellow believers to stumble by doing so.
Our churches should be sanctuaries for believers. Our church body should be a sanctuary from the wickedness of this world. We should make a place where we come to replenish our faith, grow in God’s love and be fed by God’s Word. We can make our church that kind of sanctuary by obedience to God’s Word which means loving God, which leads to loving one another as He loves us.
And the greatest of these is this…
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND, ALL YOUR HEART AND ALL YOUR SOUL AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF!
Copyright Gayle Wheat April 2013©©
About the author: First of all I want to thank my sister, Carol, for inviting me to write for her website. I am very honored, indeed!
Carol and I first met in 1999 at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. We have so many things in common that we hit it off right away and have been dear friends ever since. We are both only children so have adopted each other as sisters and we share the strong bond of being Army wives, each of us for 30 years!!!
I was born in Pampa, Texas in the Texas Panhandle, attended college at West Texas A&M in Canyon, Texas, where I earned a bachelor's degree in music, married my high school sweetheart in 1971 and traveled the world with him for 30 years as he served in the Field Artillery in the United States Army. We were stationed in such wonderful places as Germany, Israel and Alaska. My husband, Buddy, served in the first Gulf War and also in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan before his retirement in 2003. He retired as a full Colonel. He then decided to attend seminary, went to Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, PA and was called to two rural Presbyterian Churches in Juniata, County PA. In 2010 we began to have a longing to move back home to Texas and thanks be to God were called by the First Presbyterian Church here in Gatesville, TX a neighbor of Fort Hood.
I have taught band, worked as a music director for an Army Music and Theater Center in Aschaffenburg, Germany and worked in a bank in Northern Virginia while Buddy served at the Pentagon. I love to sing for the Lord and do solo work in whatever community I live in and in church of course. I love reading and I love to write although I have no formal education in it. My favorite subjects to expound on are religion and politics. I love living in my home state of Texas and I am proud that God saw fit to make me a GRIT...Girl Raised in Texas!!! I am an American by birth and a Texan by the grace of God!
Hope you enjoy my articles as a guest write and are occasionally even blessed by one of them. 😊