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Christian Values: Love 

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34a-35 

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned. –Song of Solomon 8:6-7

The number one value mentioned in the Bible, according to research done by Ben MacConnell – no surprise to anyone – is love. The command to love one another is one of the few passages repeated by Jesus in all four of the Gospels. The word love has many meanings in the English language, most of which involve some degree of affection. The Biblical usage of love, however, usually implies caring for the needs of another, and does not commonly imply romance, desire, or even familiarity. For example, in Luke 10, Jesus is discussing the commandment to love our neighbors, and he illustrates that type of love with the parable of the Good Samaritan. In that story, a traveler shows love by caring for a man in need that he does not know. In Luke 6:35, Jesus says, “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” Clearly, Jesus’ concept of love is more inclusive than the exclusive types of love we read of in fairy tales and romance novels.

It is not surprising that love encompasses many other important Christian values. Great acts of love are often also great acts of service. For example, when a soldier dives on a live grenade to prevent the shrapnel from injuring his or her comrades, the soldier has performed a selfless act of both service and love. Other noteworthy acts of love are done for the cause of justice. Martin Luther King, Jr., comes to mind as a person whose tremendous love manifested in his passion for achieving a more just society.

Love is the life-blood of our existence. Just as the blood flowing through our veins carries the nutrients required to sustain life, so love nourishes and animates our being. When blood stops flowing, death is imminent. Without the passion and energy provided by love, our lives become mind-numbingly dull. Love is a raging flame that floods cannot drown, according to the passage from the Song of Solomon. Love makes a house a home; love turns business associates into a family; love makes strangers feel welcomed and valued; and love inspires a couple to bind their lives together into one life. Love brings happiness and purpose into our lives, and then spills over to bless others. Some say God is love. I agree. Without love infusing our words and actions, our lives will lack purpose, joy, and meaning. As the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Love may not be all we need, as the old Beatles song implies, but everything we do and say requires love to attain its highest potential for good.

Come home to church this Sunday. Make your discipleship known by showing your love.

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Christian Values

For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young – let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:2-7

What does it mean to be a Christian? What characteristics distinguish a follower of Christ from the rest of the world? The Bible is full of instruction, but what recurring themes are found in Scripture as a whole? Ben MacConnell, of the Direct Action & Research Training Center (www.thedartcenter.org), asked similar questions, which led to a research project on Christian values. He was particularly interested in the prevalence of the principle of justice in Scripture, but his work considered and compared 20 different ideals commonly associated with Christianity. MacConnell chose specific values, along with their relevant synonyms and antonyms, and searched for their frequency of use throughout Scripture. He summarized his findings in this word cloud, where the values found most frequently are in the larger fonts:

Christian ValuesThe top five Christian values, according to this research, are love, justice, service, peace, and happiness. With the vast variety of instruction provided in Scripture, I find this list insightful. Many different authors, from diverse times, cultures, and backgrounds, contributed to writing the texts of the Bible. Attempting to wrap one’s mind around a central message can be challenging.

Values are guides for action. They are perhaps most useful when expressed as questions by which we measure our words, thoughts, and activities. For example, does what I am about to do reflect my love for others? Will my work make life more just for another? Whom will I serve by following through with my intentions – what persons will benefit? Am I increasing peace in the world and within others or destabilizing it? Do my actions increase the happiness of those around me? Assessing our work with value questions helps to assure we are aiding in the ways we intend, and helps keep us from doing harm in ways we may not be aware of otherwise.

Studying the most commonly mentioned character values in Scripture is useful in determining how best to act like a Christian. One who studies Scripture and seeks to emulate its guidance cannot overlook these five characteristics. In future Life Notes, I will focus each of these five, individually, and explore them further. These ideals are a good starting point, developmentally, for anyone seeking recognition as a Christian.

Come home to church this Sunday. Learning Christian values will help us live them.

Greg Hildenbrand, ContemplatingGrace.Com

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