Going Deeper: Respect – Session Four

Going Deeper into Loving Others

Respect: Freedom to Walk Away

We’re glad you’re back and we’re ready to go deeper into loving others. Gather your Bible, pen or pencil, and journal. Hopefully a friend or two, too.

Let’s talk about respecting others’ freedom to walk away.

Father God, reveal Your heart of love for others. Open our hearts to love like You.

Read Reflection Scripture:

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

– Romans 14:12-13 ESV

What insights did you gain from the Reflection Scripture and Reflection Thoughts which helped you process respecting others’ freedom to walk away?

So then… The verse begins with one of those phrases which should cause us to read what comes before to make sure we have the context.

Read Romans 14:9-12

What does this tell us about the context?

The context is Jesus’s authority over all people, both the living and the dead. Believers and unbelievers alike. It was to this end, establishing His authority over all, He died and lived again. Every knee will bow, every tongue confess: Jesus is Lord.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Because God is judge of all, we will all give an account of our lives to God.

What does it mean to give an account?

According to Merriam-Webster’s, an account is “a record of debit and credit entries to cover transactions involving a particular item or a particular person or concern” or it can be “a description of facts, conditions, or events.”

Witnesses in a trial are asked to give an account of the events being tried. We too will be called to give an account. Only each one of us will be on trial for our entire life.

Giving an account of our lives before God on judgment day can be a fearful thought. Facing Him with all our failures. Confessing them openly. Heaven forbid we try to justify our actions, defend our life before the One who knows why we did all we did even better than we do!

The Greek word translated as account is logos, meaning “a word, uttered by a living voice; discourse; speech” (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). We will each have to give a speech or a word (the Greek tense is singular) justifying ourselves before God.

For Believers, there is only one word we need to give: Jesus.

Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14). Yes, it’s the same Greek word: Logos. Jesus is our Logos on judgment day. He is the only One who can justify us before our Judge, His Father.

Amen!

Did you consider your own path to God and the detours you made? Were they crucial in your faith journey? What if someone had blocked you from making those decisions? Where do you think you would be?

Carol says:

My journey of faith has been riddled with wrongs. Too many to mention.

There are some wrongs I have asked why He didn’t stop me. Why did He let me make those choices?

Well, let me warn you, ask and you will receive. You just may not like what He says.

Several years ago, during a prayer retreat, He gave me the answer to my question: Without those sins in your life, you would be an arrogant, prideful, legalist.

Talk about humbling.

Without my own glaring, can’t-justify-this-for-anything kind of sin, I would be a grace-less hard-hearted Pharisee.

I have no other Logos but Jesus. And I can say with all truth: I am the worst.

Knowing your own story of God using failures in your life, what did you conclude about blocking others’ freedom to walk away?

God is Judge.

Was it hard for you to praise Him as Judge?

It may have been. It’s not an aspect of God’s character we relish. But let’s remember, He is not only the Judge who rightly condemns, He is a merciful loving Judge who chose to pay the debt we owe. All we have to do is believe He has done it for us, and live life based on that belief.

Read Romans 8:3-4

He is a Judge like no other! Praise His name!

Turn to Luke 15:11-32

Our first two days of study focused on the story of the father and his two sons, referred to in most Bibles as The Parable of the Prodigal Son. Who did we see walking away in the story?

The younger son walked away from his father’s household along with his share of the inheritance. The older son walked away from the celebration of his brother’s homecoming.

Who did we see giving respect to those walking away? How?

The father showed respect all around, and only got disrespect in return.

  • The father gave his younger son what he demanded, dividing his estate into two parts. They were unequal parts. In Jewish families the older son got a double portion of the inheritance. So, in this case the older brother received two-thirds while the younger was given one-third.
  • When the younger son returned home, his father embraced him, dressed him in his finest, and threw a big party for him. He was dead but now he’s alive. He was lost but now is found!
  • The older brother’s response to the celebration was anger, he wanted no part of it. But the father went out to him, tried to console him, and encourage him to join the party. All his older son could do was complain about the treatment he had received from his father after being the only obedient son. Hmm…

From a worldly perspective, neither son deserved the father’s respect. The father looks a bit like a pushover. To get a better idea of the lesson Jesus is teaching, let’s back up and see why Jesus told this parable in the first place.

Read Luke 15:1-3

Why did Jesus tell this parable of the father and the two sons?

The Pharisees and the scribes were complaining about Jesus interacting socially with known sinners and allowing them to draw near to Him. Didn’t He know they were unclean?

Now, this isn’t the only story He told in response to the religious leaders’ grumbling. He told two other parables before the one about the father and his two sons.

Read Luke 15:4-10

Just to make it clear. Why was Jesus telling these parables?

To answer the complaint of the church leaders’ objection to His socializing with sinners.

What was lost in the first parable? the second?

A sheep was lost in the first story. A coin in the second.

What happened when they were found? Did anyone object to celebrating with those whose lost items were returned?

The one who found the sheep and the coin rejoiced and invited the neighborhood to come celebrate with them. There is no record of anyone objecting. What was lost was found! Amen! Let’s party!

What do the lost items in these parables represent? Who do the owners represent?

The sheep and the coin represent the lost sinners. The owners represent God, aka Jesus, seeking the lost.

Jesus equates a lost sheep and a lost coin to lost sinners. No one judges when these two are found. They rejoice with the Finder.

Then Jesus tells the story of the father and his two sons. Suddenly, the lesson of lost and found gets more complicated. Why?

Do you find this transition difficult to make?

What is Jesus telling us? How are we supposed to view those who walk away? whether they are out-and-out reprobates? or hard-hearted legalists?

We are supposed to view those who walk away from God and His way as lost sheep who don’t know what they’re doing or a lost coin of great worth. Neither have any sense of their lostness, and neither do we. We are born lost, we just don’t know it.

Make no mistake, both those sons were just as lost as the sheep and the coin. Both needed to be found and embraced by the father. But only one recognized his lostness. The other didn’t.

In the end, one judged himself rightly. 

The other judged himself wrongly.

Who do the younger brother and the older brother represent in Jesus’s parable?

The younger brother represented the known sinners Jesus was dining with. The older brother, the Pharisees who refused to join the party.

We all need to embrace our lostness in order to be found. But it’s harder to see our sin in legalism and judgment than in a rebellious, law-less life.

Judgment kept both the Pharisees and the elder brother from rejoicing and encouraging the finding of the lost. Judgment is deadly when it comes to respect and loving those who walk away. It keeps us from responding with compassion or seeing the value of every person He created.

What was the father’s perspective regarding the younger son?

The father viewed his youngest as resurrected from the dead. He was lost and now is found! Just like the sheep and the coin.

We are the sheep, the coin, the younger son, and the older son. All lost, dead in our sin and transgressions. But Father God sent Jesus our Older Brother to find us. He sent Him to show us the Way.

When it comes to respecting and loving those who walk away, we need to embrace the Father’s perspective. They are lost, wandering without a clue of their lostness, but they have great value, so we treat them with respect.

Turn to Jude 1:3-23

What was at the heart of Jude’s concern for the church?

Jude wanted to write to the church about the wonderful blessing of the gospel but found himself pressed to encourage Believers to contend or struggle for the faith which was being perverted by people within the church.

Where the prodigal son story deals primarily with those who physically walk away from God and how Believers are to deal with them. Jude deals with those in the church who walk away from God’s truth but stick around to teach it to others.

Read Jude 1:9-10

What did Jude commend the archangel Michael for? In contrast, what are “these people” doing?

Jude commends Michael for not blaspheming even the devil but putting him under the Lord’s judgment. In contrast, the ungodly who were perverting the gospel blaspheme what they do not understand, like unreasoning animals. Does their lostness sound like those sheep? Can you hear the reason behind Jesus’s prayer on the cross: Forgive them for they know not what they do?

Read Jude 1:17-23

How did Jude counsel us to deal with the ungodly in the church?

Where the ungodly are identified by their divisive behavior, sincere Believers are called to keep themselves in God’s love, by building one another up in holy faith and Spirit-led prayer. While we wait for God’s mercy, we are to offer compassion to those who are lost.

Mercy and compassion are given to individuals in distress. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see those who twist God’s truth for their own gain as being in distress. It can be difficult to stir up feelings of mercy. Recognizing their lostness can help us see them as afflicted and treat them respectfully, knowing if they stay on their current path it will be a terrible end. Keeping the Father’s loving perspective in mind helps too.

What does keeping ourselves in God’s love look like practically?

  • Spend time in His presence in Word and prayer.
  • Repentance, confession, receiving His forgiveness and love for you.
  • Increase your personal knowledge of Him through obedience.
  • Guard your heart with His truth, so the enemy can’t get a foothold.
  • Worship and fellowship in community where you can experience God’s love through others.

Growing in knowledge for His love and mercy, experiencing His grace in our lives, enables and equips us to offer compassion to those who are as lost as sheep and valuable as a silver coin.

When we see ourselves in them, grace flows in abundance.

We are not to judge or condemn those in church who have been lied to by the enemy. We are to struggle for the truth of the faith with mercy, all the while trusting God’s judgment and sovereignty.

Read 2Timothy 2:24-26

What does this passage tell us about the lost?

The lost are trapped in a snare, captured by the enemy to be used for his will. (Do you see a connection with the lost sheep or coin?)

What is their only hope of repentance?

God is the One who grants repentance. He is the Finder, the Seeker of the lost. He alone opens the eyes of the blind and gives the gift of faith which leads to a knowledge of the truth.

What are God’s people called to do?

The Lord’s servant must not argue but be kind to everyone. There is no debating anyone to faith. We must be able to teach and endure evil with patience, correct with gentleness. There is no browbeating anyone into truth.

Only through God-given repentance will anyone come to the gospel. But is it possible for Him to work through Believers, by the Holy Spirit, blessing us with the ability to instruct gently with kindness and without argument? With patience and grace?

Stacy says:

Over the last year I have watched a dear family member slowly walk into anger and bitterness. Early on when the circumstance was new, I had the opportunity to gently ask, “What was your part in this situation? Where did you mess up?” I listened as the loved one repented of their way in the matter and watched as the Lord worked to bring healing and restoration. I thought no matter how the situation turned out, the direction our family was headed was good because all of us were drawing closer to God. That was in the beginning. Now, my loved one is full of anger, bitterness, even hate, and it has left us all reeling at times.

I’ve felt quite helpless in watching him walk away. Just this week it caused much drama, much pain, hurt so deep it will take years to recover. I yearned for words to turn it around, something I might say or do to change the direction. I listened as other members of the family discussed what to do and what to say. In the end, no matter how much they talked, there was no talking any sense into him.

The words of Timothy bring me hope. Another’s repentance is never based on me or something I can say or do. Repentance is God’s work. His gift to give, and through repentance we come to our senses.

I’m left with a desire to patiently endure evil in the hopes God’s kindness and gentleness will make way for our loved one to come to repentance, and his heart will be re-captured by Him to do His will.

Read Genesis 1:2-3

The Spirit of God hovered over the formless void and darkness of the deep where God was creating. When God spoke, His words went through the Holy Spirit, and darkness became light.

Believers carry within them the Spirit of God. Perhaps when we allow His Spirit to reign and rule in our lives, loving others with respect, we make the way for those in our sphere of influence who are lost in the dark to hear God’s Word when He speaks, and His light fill the dark void in their soul.

Jude reminds us of the predictions of the end times. Scoffers will increase in number and more and more will wander from truth, but we still have a role to play. We are the only source of light in a dark world. What a blessing it is God uses us to help others find faith. He doesn’t need us to do it, but He includes us in His plan.

Read Luke 10:16

What’s really happening when someone rejects you for your faith?

When we are rejected because of our faith, it is not us being rejected, but God the Father.

This is not personal from our perspective. It’s not about us. It’s about the lost and the One who came to find them.

Our own fear of the Lord should be bolstered as we consider what awaits the lost on judgment day. It should also stir us with mercy and compassion for those who will face His wrath without the one Logos.

Praying for the salvation of those who walk away is the ultimate respect we can give them. Bringing them before the Father after we have done all He’s called us to do, then watch and wait for their return.

God is the ultimate authority when it comes to salvation.

Our next week of study on Respect is respecting Authority. 

[Click link for the homework: Respect Week 4_ Authority – Homework]

Lord, teach us to love like You.

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