What Is This Devotional About?
During the seven days of prayer and fasting we would like to provide you with a resource that guides you through 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, focussing on two to three aspects each day of how we are to love each other as described in those verses. We feel very strongly that God is calling us anew to make it a priority to love one another. We would therefore like to encourage you to set time aside during those 7 days and e.g. replace a meal or time usually spent on social media with reading this devotional prayerfully. It is a response to a word God gave Kerstin, who is heading up Prophetic Ministry, towards the end of last year and we would like to share this with you.
Love One Another
God does that sometimes with me - I don’t know how He gets your attention – but with me, it is often that I am annoyed with something and when I then manage to ask Him what’s going on instead of riding the wave of my emotions He usually gives me some pretty amazing insight. So, one day while I was worshipping at church I just couldn’t get into it – a very sure way to get me annoyed and thus my attention because I love worshipping. So when I asked God why I couldn’t connect to the worship, I felt led to read the story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus, which can be found in John 1:38-44:
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
When reading this, something struck me: Jesus had already awakened Lazarus from the dead and he had come out of his grave but he was still completely covered in grave clothes. I felt God say that this is the condition the church is in. We have been called to new life and God has already started something fresh and beautiful in us but we are still dressed in clothes that don’t belong to us anymore. I felt God point out that those grave clothes were good and had a purpose at one point but now it is time to take them off. Just imagine how odd it would have been had Lazarus wandered around the city dressed like a mummy!
Yet another thing got my attention reading this story. It was not Lazarus himself who took off the dressings nor did Jesus do all the work but instead he told the, most likely awestruck and possibly slightly frightened, bystanders to “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” I can only imagine that this must have been a rather eerie order to take. After all, Lazarus had been in the grave for four days already. What would they find when they took off the clothes? Rotten flesh accompanied by the overwhelming odour of a decaying corpse? Would bones show? Would Lazarus be extremely pale? Or would he be fully restored? I mean, honestly, how often have you witnessed someone being raised from the dead?
I felt God say that this is exactly what he would like us to do, that this is the kind of community he would like us to be. To be brothers and sisters who help each other out of clothes that once had a purpose but do not belong to us anymore. To help each other to do away with the crutches we have got so accustomed to and instead assist one another to work out our salvation, as it says in Philippians 2:12. When I was sharing this word with the staff team but had left out the bit about people probably being afraid to unwrap Lazarus, one of the staff had a picture of people undressing Lazarus’ face being rather scared to do so but when they had uncovered his face completely, it was actually Jesus’ face that was revealed, shining brightly and beautifully with love.
One question remains, though – what exactly are those things that we use as crutches that could be symbolized as the grave clothes mentioned above? This is very individual, isn’t it? We might have old habits that we developed a long time ago and are not aware of even having at all. It could be worrying, self-pity, doubting, anything really that keeps us from being in a close relationship with God. I remember very clearly the Lord once saying to me, “We need to talk about your anger; it is your god.” I did not understand what He meant by that and when I asked how an emotion can be my god, His answer was, “You turn to it in times of trouble.” I think that is the best definition I have ever heard of an idol!
So, on the one hand, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what gets into the way of giving God the first place and allow others to speak into our lives.
But when I kept asking God about the grave clothes, the crutches we are using, I had an interesting experience. It happened again during worship in church when all of a sudden I could almost feel in my body what it would be like to be on a rack and have your limbs stretched to a point where you can feel the ligaments be torn apart, one fibre snapping after the other. When I asked Him what that was about, I heard God’s answer very clearly: “This is what pride does to a fellowship. And this is one of the grave cloths that are in this church: Pride to know better, pride to know how I am going to move and how I have to deal with issues. Pride to know what real devotion to me looks like on the outside. Pride to not care if someone has a problem with a certain style and to happily leave them behind.”
But God never reveals a problem without already having provided the solution. When we ask how we can prevent our fellowship from being torn apart by pride the answer is grace. If we have grace for others to be different and to make mistakes a lot of harm can be averted. And above all, the antidote to pride is love. As Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Holy Spirit, I give you permission to reveal to me in which area of my life I am still wearing grave clothes that are of the old nature and don’t suit me anymore. Help me to see where I am proud or go wrong any other way. I do not want to be in agreement with a lie that keeps me from being in relationship with you and in relationship with others. I want to contribute to being a community that in love helps each other out of their grave clothes, and I want to allow my brothers and sisters to speak into my life as well. I decide to lay down all my presupposed notions of how you are going to work, be it that you will do it again the way you did it in former times, be it that you are going to do it the way other churches have experienced it. I want to align my will with yours. Give me a hunger for the things that you want to do, break my heart for what breaks yours and above all, fill me anew with your love so that I can love others as you have loved me first.