LOVELY: The word for “lovely” here is made up of 2 Greek words. One is the word for “toward,” and the other is the word “love” (phileo). So a good translation would be to that which pushes you toward love or that which calls forth love.
To think upon that which is lovely is to think upon things that push us toward love.
But not just in an abstract feeling way. One of the problems with the word “love” is that it’s overused.
And there’s another thing about this word “love.” We use the one word “love” for everything. The Greek language has 3 different words for “love.”
It’s easy to read this passage as thinking nice thoughts, thinking about nice things, or even thinking nice thoughts about God. But this is way more concrete and tangible.
Think of things that are lovely and build your life on things that drive you toward love. And not just the feelings of love, but the actions of love towards others.
Let’s work this idea out in another passage of scripture written by one of the other early church leaders, John the Apostle. He writes a letter that connects our faith in God and receiving the love of God through Jesus to how we love the people around us.
Have you ever gone to an all-you-can-eat buffet? Are you more generous or stingier when you realize something can't run out?
Love lavished is like that never-ending buffet course. It’s not about our performance. It’s about us receiving a relationship. Love always has a relationship associated with it.
So, we receive the love of God, but then it flows outward to others. How we love should be something the world just doesn’t get. Not because we’re cold, but because we’re not playing from the same book they are.
Living a life of faith is having hope – moving in the direction of that which we do not yet see. But it’s not an aspirational hope like:
It’s more like a journey you take with a destination. You pack for the trip. You know what’s at the end.
John is not saying that when you are a Christian, you won’t sin. That directly contradicts what he said earlier in his letter (if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves – 1 John 1:8)
There has been tremendous damage done by this idea that Christians don’t / can’t sin.
You’ve heard it in churches – praying against “sin” and worrying about “sin,” but what we sometimes think is “other people’s sin.” And when we do that, we create a barrier that puts us on one level and the “other people” on a different one.
What if we just concerned ourselves with our own sin?
It's not about IF you sin, but about where you abide, where you’re hanging out, and what things you’re thinking or dwelling on.
For us, that’s supposed to come from a different source.
So “loving God” is not this abstract feeling or ritual. It’s how we love the people around us, like our brothers and sisters – in the best sense. How you do that shows what literal family you’re in.
Think of the people who “sin differently” than you do to the extent that you can’t possibly imagine how they’d be in the family. What would change if you saw them as a brother or sister?
“Think on these things” is not what you do in your head. It’s what you do with your life.
Think about it this way, what’s harder:
Sitting through another bible study or sermon or practically, daily, living out the way of Jesus – a giving, sacrificing, pouring out, even to the end, kind of love? Towards others. Towards the person or people you don’t think could possibly deserve it? Building your life there?
ADMIRABLE (or good report): The only time this word shows up in the New Testament is in this passage. It can be translated highly regarded, gracious, well thought of, or speaking favorably. But it’s one of those words that has a dual meaning.
The word was also used in surrounding pagan culture, where a moment of silence was taken before offering a sacrifice to the gods. That moment of holy silence. The idea is that what is spoken before a sacrifice is what the gods would hear. It’s a pause before a sacrifice, an offering, or an act of worship.
For followers of Jesus, your very LIVES are that sacrifice – continually offered up, continually poured out. They’re the act of worship. Not our church attendance, not our songs.
Think about the person you respect or are in awe of most in the world. What if they announced they were coming over to your house? You’d pull together the best you for that moment.
This can profoundly shift our interactions with others. Because our responses, our love, isn’t even about them, or how they respond, or even if they deserve it. It’s about God. It’s how we worship.
Imagine if you paused and looked at the sacrifice or act of worship of your life. You look down at what you’re offering to God, offering to the people around you. What does it look like?
What does that look like when it comes to loving others, especially the difficult others or the others you don't think deserve it?
Because that’s how you offer the sacrifice. In the moment of Holy Silence, think on these things.
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