Today, I will begin a new series of posts on the basics of what we believe. Peter encouraged the early Jewish believers in I Peter 3:15, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." I fear that far too many in the church today are far too quick to proclaim what they believe, quite confidently I might add, but have no earthly idea as to why; let alone defend it. This is exactly what Peter is speaking against. Instead, he said that we must be prepared at all times to have an answer for the hope that lies within us. To not do so is a failure.
There is a tale told of that great English actor Macready. An eminent preacher once said to him: "I wish you would explain to me something." "Well, what is it? I don't know that I can explain anything to a preacher." "What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all." Macready's answer was this: "This is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction." In order to do this, we must know what we believe and why we believe it.
The first basic I believe that we are to hold as children of God is that the only true basis of Christian fellowship is Christ's agape love, which is greater than any differences we possess, and without which we have no right to claim ourselves Christians. That is exactly what the Apostle Paul said when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth:" This is called the love chapter of the Bible. Of course, the word charity, which is also translated as "love", is from the Greek word agape. In this chapter, we find a display of love, not a definition. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you know, without love it is for naught. Understanding and knowledge is not enough, without love they are virtually useless.
Also, the Apostle John further elaborated on the need for love when he spoke in 1 John 3:10-23, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." He went on to say in 1 John 4:7-11, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." In other words, if God so loved us before we done anything to impress Him, how much more should we love those “unimpressive” souls around us. After all, as our Lord challenged in Matthew 5:46, "For if you love those who love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" We must love the same way that God loves; unconditionally.
In conclusion, William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice to the House of Commons, told a touching story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child's breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, "Momma, kiss me!" Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord. You see, real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn't count the cost. That is the love that we are to have for one another.