Going Deeper into Loving Others
Respect: Freedom to Choose
It’s Tuesday again, and we’re glad you’re here. Gather your Bible, pen, and perhaps a journal. We hope you have someone to talk with as we delve a little deeper into Respect as an act of love.
Father God, how gracious You are to teach us. How awesome is Your love and faithfulness. Open our hearts to learn to love like You.
Read Reflection Scripture:
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
– Psalm 16:5-6 ESV
What insights from the Reflection Scripture and Reflection Thoughts helped you process respecting others’ freedom to choose?
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup… We choose our portion of food, what or how much to eat and drink. These choices affect the outcome of our lives. We can choose God as our portion and our cup or we can choose the world. Either way, He holds our lot.
Because of God’s forgiveness through Christ the cup offered to us may be one filled with blessing and not curse (Ps 16:5; Ps 23:5). Human beings must choose the cup they will drink: fury or salvation (Psalm 116:13).
– Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament; Regarding the Hebrew translated as cup.
Based on our choice, our cup is filled with either His fury or His salvation. Choosing Him as our cup does not mean our lives will be pain-free, without trials and difficulties or free from abuse and persecution. But it does mean, whatever He allows, through our choices or the choices of others, He will work ALL things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
…you hold my lot. The words of this psalm bring to remembrance the dispersal of the Promised Land. Lots were cast to determine the allotted land for each tribe of Israel. Lot can mean both a means of determining something in the fashion of a lottery and a measured parcel of land with boundaries. Both meanings have an application in our Reflection Scripture.
When we choose God as our portion and cup, He determines the boundaries of our lot. The world sees boundaries as something to push up against or cross; Believers understand boundaries as something which provide freedom. Observing those boundaries, staying within their limits, directs us along a path bringing us closer to God.
There are times we cross the boundaries set up for our safety, but even then, God uses our choices and their consequences as an opportunity to bring us back to Him. It’s the same for others. Respecting someone’s freedom to choose allows us to love them no matter the boundaries they cross. By faith we understand God’s sovereignty reigns in all places, and He will use it for their good.
When it comes to our lot in life, our fate or fortune, many believe randomness is the way of the world.
Read Proverbs 16:33
What does Scripture say about God and the outcome of the lot?
How do you feel about God holding your lot in life? being in control of it? Could the psalmist’s words be your own? Do you believe you have a beautiful inheritance?
As Believers, the sovereignty of God replaces the worldview of chance.
Did praising God’s sovereignty increase your trust in Him? How?
I attended a spiritual direction class this weekend and one of the sessions was on meditation.
The word mediation alone has brought up resistance in me over the years so when the teacher began discussing mantras, negative images floated through my mind. The leader requested we give it a try and choose a word to say over and over
My chosen mantra: Yahweh. The Hebrew word for God sounds like a breath. Breathe in… “yah.” Breathe out… “weh.”
I sat straight, feet grounded on the floor, chin tucked in a bit, eyes closed. I connected my breathing to His name… “Yahweh.” All kinds of thoughts began to enter my mind. What are my kids doing? I need to pick up milk on the way home. I forgot to send the group e-mail. I was frustrated with myself. Focus Stacy! Don’t get distracted!
I tried to will my thoughts to cease. I tried and failed. Another thought came, The exit ramp is steep and high. Is there a way around it? I answered, Yahweh. It startled me a little, and brought with it the question of God’s sovereignty. What would happen if I answered every distracting thought during this meditation with His name. What could it hurt by trying?
A few minutes later, as I opened my eyes and light flooded in, I realized when I answer every thought with His name it’s as if I’m proclaiming His sovereignty in all areas of my life.
This week we looked at the choices made in the Bible and reflected on the outcome of those choices and their effect on others.
Martha and Mary
Read Luke 10:38-42
What was the first choice Martha made which set up this scenario?
She welcomed Jesus into her house. Martha had a gift and heart for hospitality. It was her choice to welcome Him, which gave Mary the opportunity to choose to sit at Jesus’s feet.
How did Martha respond to Mary’s choice? Who did she try to pull into the middle of her distress?
Martha was upset about Mary’s choice to sit at Jesus’s feet and not help in the kitchen. It almost seems as if she was upset with Jesus, too. Perhaps she thought He should’ve seen her need and shooed Mary into the kitchen to help.
She wanted Jesus to stir Mary to help her, because her focus was on the wrong thing. What could have been the misplaced focus causing her distress? (There might be more than one answer to this question.)
- Fairness. She wanted help in the kitchen and didn’t think it fair for Mary to be sitting when there was work to be done. We have this desire for life to be fair according to our own perspective.
Have you found yourself distressed over someone else’s choice because it left you feeling like you got the short end of the stick?
- Physical reality. Martha was focused solely on serving a physical meal. Preparing food in the kitchen to put on the table. In contrast, Mary was focused on the spiritual, which Jesus called the good portion and the one necessary thing.
Focusing on the material or physical realm can distract us from what’s truly important, our own spiritual needs and the spiritual needs of those around us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the people not to be anxious about the material aspects of life, but to seek first the Kingdom of God, and all you need will be added to you (Matthew 6:25-33).
How are you when it comes to prioritizing spiritual vs. physical? Do you respect the choices of those who prioritize differently than you? Explain.
Respecting people in their freedom to choose, begins with looking inward. Asking yourself why you are distressed over their choice, and then discerning the root of your upset. Is it due to discontent with our own choice? or are our priorities out of place?
Abram and Lot
Read Genesis 13:2-13
Abram let Lot choose his land first. And Abram settled in the choice. The Hebrew word translated as “settled” means “to dwell, remain, inhabit” (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).
Consider the last time you let someone choose. Was it where to go for dinner? what to watch on TV? or what movie to see or game to play?
Were you settled in their choice? Did you respect the freedom you gave them to choose?
I’ve been on both sides of this one.
Not too long ago, my husband gave me the choice of what to do on a date night. He seemed settled with my choice. But when it came right down to it, as in time to go, he wasn’t. So, we did what he wanted. I’ll have to tell you, it took me the better part of an hour to settle in the decision, and that was after I told him how hurt (i.e. disrespected) I felt in his change of mind.
Respecting another’s freedom to choose, when it affects us too, can be painful.
Re-read Genesis 13:4
What does this tell us about Abram’s heart attitude?
Does this sound a bit like our Reflection Scripture? Abram called on the name of the Lord, we could safely say: The Lord was his chosen portion and cup. He trusted God to determine his lot, no matter what choice Lot made.
Read Genesis 13:14-18
What happened after Abram and Lot went their separate ways?
The Lord took Abram for a tour, showing him the boundary lines of his inheritance – a beautiful inheritance – including innumerable offspring. Can’t you just hear Abram’s heart singing the words of our Reflection Scripture even before they were written? …The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.
Abram could respect Lot’s freedom to choose, because he trusted God.
Turn to Genesis 14:8-16
Lot’s choice of a homestead came with some trouble. Looking at Genesis 13:13, it might have been predicted: Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
When Abram heard Lot was taken away as plunder in a war, he didn’t hesitate to gather his men and go after them. Abram pursued Sodom’s enemy, not just to rescue Lot, but with the intention of defeating the victorious forces and returning all the possessions of those in that city.
Abram surely knew the reputation of Sodom before Lot settled there. How do Abram’s actions reveal respect for Lot despite his choice?
Lot was family. Abram, his older kinsman, certainly could have given him a piece of his mind for putting him at risk and making a bad choice, but he didn’t. He could not let Lot’s choice destroy him or keep him captive when he had the power to rescue. Lot was worth saving.
Read Genesis 14:17-24
Here is what happened after the battle. Who do we see Abram respecting above all else? How?
Lot’s choice pulled Abram into a fight that wasn’t his. Through it all, Abram showed respect for Lot, but above all, he respected God. After his victory, he gave offerings through the priest of God Most High. And he would not let the king of Sodom get any credit for his prosperity by taking the reward offered to him. God alone would get the glory for Abram’s standing and strength in the community. Abram’s choices were ultimately based on respecting the God he trusted.
Even though Abram trusted God, he had a season of doubt.
Read Genesis 15:1-16
Did Abram’s inheritance come to him in his lifetime?
God’s promise of inheritance would not come for more than four centuries.
Will the result of our choosing God as our chosen portion necessarily come in our lifetime?
Can the choices of others destroy or put at risk the beautiful inheritance He has prepared for us?
Know for certain… God’s promises are eternal, they go well beyond the temporal, and nothing, not even a nation enslaving you for 400 years, can destroy or mar the inheritance He has in store for you.
Our incorruptible certain inheritance is eternal, when we choose God and place our trust in Jesus.
One side note before we leave this passage. Read Genesis 15:11 again. Abram had done his part in receiving God’s promise. He prepared the sacrifice and waited. But while he waited, the birds tried to steal the offering of faith laid before God.
God’s promises will come under attack; the enemy will swoop in with his lies. We must continually drive them away until their fulfillment. God’s promises will not fail. But it is a spiritual battle to trust Him as well as respect those around us.
Where were both Abraham (formerly Abram) and Jesus looking as they walked the earth by faith?
Abraham looked forward to a city built by God, not human hands. And Jesus, focused on the joy set before Him.
Like Abraham and Jesus, we must learn to keep our eyes on the eternal – on the joys of a beautiful inheritance set before us – and not on this world, in order to respect the freedom of others to choose. Even if they choose to crucify us.
Yes, it sounds ridiculous. It’s yet another upside-down-from-the-world’s-way truth we need to wrap our minds around as we pursue a life like Jesus.
Read Mark 1:40-45
Why did Jesus reach out to heal the man?
Some translations say pity (ESV), others compassion (NASB, KJV, NLT), but at least one uses the word indignant (NIV). There’s a complex picture painted here which few scholars seem to want to tackle. Also, a couple of original language manuscripts use different Greek words in the text adding more interest to the meaning. One word used, literally means anger and is found translated as indignant and compassion. The other literally means “to be moved as to one’s bowels,” thought to be the seat of compassion, thus the translation compassion or pity.
When we come across a difficult passage like, Jesus was indignant because a leper asked Him to heal him, we have to interpret it through the whole of Scripture. What we know of Jesus and God’s love, Jesus could not possibly be indignant at the man or his request.
According to Merriam-Webster’s, indignant means to be filled with anger aroused by something unjust. Jesus was not indignant because the leper asked to be healed. He was angry at what sin does to His beloved creation. It was a righteous anger.
Can you relate? How?
Really, compassion has the same root cause. Something in us is moved to action, and in some cases anger also rises due to the pitiable circumstance or situation. Sin wreaks havoc through birth defects, diseases, chronic conditions, natural disasters. They are a result of sin, not our personal sin, but the effects of sin on the world in general. They are the result of the rule of the prince of darkness.
Jesus healed the man, but warned him not to tell anyone what He had done for him, but the man did not follow His instructions. The man’s disobedience caused Jesus inconvenience, restricting His ministry to desolate places, because He could no longer enter a town in the area without being mobbed.
The man’s refusal to follow Jesus’s instruction may very well come under the same category, a product of living in a sin-full world. He was so excited to be healed, free from the effects of sin, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, even when the Healer strongly warned him not to talk about it. The temptation was just too great.
Jesus’s response to this sin was probably the same as to the leprosy itself. Indignant. Yet even in His anger. In the inconvenience of being relegated to the outskirts. He continued to be respectful to all who crossed His path. No matter their choice to listen to Him or not.
Can you say the same?
Read John 13:1-11
What was it Jesus did to the end?
He loved His own who were in the world, till the end.
We’ve been considering respect as the first step in loving others. How do we see Jesus respect His own in this passage?
- Peter’s questioning of the Teacher’s actions could be considered disrespectful. Yet, Jesus gently explained why He needed to do what He was doing. Then Peter proclaimed his desire for even more than He was doing for the others. Still Jesus acted respectfully, again explaining. Could there have been a little pride on Peter’s part?
When others question your actions in an area where you have authority and know what you are doing, how do you respond? Is it generally respectful? or does it depend on who is raising the questions?
- Jesus also treated the one He knew was unclean, the same way He treated the clean. Our choices in life, what cup we drink, make us clean or unclean. Judas chose the cup of the world, all the while wanting others to think he was drinking from God’s cup. Still Jesus respected him just the same, despite his choice.
How do you treat those who you know are “unclean”? sold out to the world? Do you respect them the same as those you know to be sincere Believers? Do you serve them with the same love? the same heart?
This is what Jesus did: Loved all who were given Him, to the end. Even when He knew one would walk away, causing Him much pain in the process.
As we ended our session in the shop today, we offered those gathered with us an opportunity to both serve a sister and be served, as a picture of respecting others in their freedom to choose. When we love others through respect it takes a humble heart in both the giving and the receiving.
Jesus washed the disciples’ feet because it was the custom at that time. Walking around in sandals all day in the dust and grime meant feet were yuck. And they weren’t tucked under the table because they didn’t sit in chairs.
In our lives feet might actually be the cleanest part of us. They rarely see the light of day. Our hands are a different story.
Take a moment to think about all the things you’ve touched in the last few hours.
On the outside they may look clean, but the truth is we all come to His table with dirt on our hands. Let’s end our time together by washing the hands of another sister. As you do notice your emotions and thoughts. Do you feel your space is being invaded? Are alarms sounding in your mind?
This is what Jesus did: Loved all who were given Him, to the end. Even when He knew the choice of one would cause Him much pain.
Loving others requires intimacy, humility, and pushes us out of our comfort zones. Jesus stooped low from heaven and onto His knees to wash the feet of the disciples as an illustration of His love for them.
We washed one another’s hands, humbly sharing love and grace, by both receiving and giving.
When we finished, we prayed over the sister whose hands we washed and gave her a blessing.
God bless you as you learn to love others like Jesus.
Maybe you could find someone to bless today, through both washing and receiving.
Our next week of study on Respect is respecting everyone in their Freedom to Walk Away. [Respect Week 3_ Freedom to Walk Away – Homework]
Lord, continue to bring healing to our hearts as we journey deeper into loving others. Prepare us to come into agreement with You about our failures to love like You, and to receive Your much needed grace in the process.