Above All Else – (Proverbs 4:23)

Old Indian folklore tells a story of an old Tribal Chief who owned two dogs, one white, one black, brothers they were, who were constantly at war with each other. Day after day the dogs would sit at their master’s side, silently eyeing one another, waiting for his adversary to make a wrong move. Sometimes without rhyme or reason, one would attack the other in a battle that always ended in deep, painful wounds. Both dogs bore scars from previous attacks and both remembered the pain that resulted from every fight, yet this never deterred them from seizing every opportunity for a challenge.

One day a stranger visited the Indian Chief. Upon observing the behavior of the two dogs, he asked the Chief, “which dog do you think will eventually win and put an end to this constant fighting?” The Chief replied, “the one I feed the most.”

The Chief’s response clearly reveals that the dog he feeds the most will be the strongest, therefore, he will win.

Unfortunately, as I look around this world, I see this happening all throughout. Nation against nation, political party against political party, and the list goes on. But sadder still, is watching it happen in our churches, and even more grievous, between the Christians that occupy them. Men and women who are adopted by God into his kingly family, growl, bark, and bite at one another. This is nothing short of self-righteousness, and it is a killer. The apostle Paul warned us of this in Galatians 5:15. He said, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” (KJV) It is stated more simply in another version: “If you go on hurting each other and tearing each other apart, be careful! You will completely destroy each other.” (ICB)

Isaiah also prophesied in chapter 3, “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.” Again, simply put, “Everyone will be against everyone else. Young people will not respect older people. Common people will not respect important people.” You don’t have to look far to see this happening.

Jesus himself said in Matthew 12:25, “Every kingdom that is fighting against itself will be destroyed. And every city that is divided will fall. And every family that is divided cannot succeed.”

As Christians, we are called to love. A Pharisee once asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment of all?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22)

Even the secular world can see that we are in “the last days” that the Bible speaks of. We’re hearing commentaries on television, we read newspaper and magazine articles about it. Yet, there are Christians who are so focused on what their brother or sister did wrong, or what church doctrine has it correct, etc, that they can’t possibly “be sober, and watch unto prayer”, like we’re told to do in 1 Peter 4:7.

In 1 Peter 5:8 we’re told, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” What spirit do you suppose is at work in these “Christians” that do such things?

Long ago, while engaged in a deep discussion with a sister in the Lord, she made a statement that I have not soon forgotten; I’ve pondered it on and off for a few years now. She said, “I’m convinced that one of the reasons Jesus has tarried this long before returning is because his people have not yet learned how to love one another.” How very sad. How very true.

Today, when recalling this statement, I was prompted to read the famous “love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13. But instead of skimming through the familiar verses in my KJV, I decided to read it slowly and thoughtfully in a much “lighter” version of the bible. The effect was quite different. I exhort you to read this “love chapter” also. Even if you know it already, I exhort you to go read it in this lighter version. Read it slowly, line by line; thoughtfully, looking inward, examining yourself. Then ask yourself if there is any place in you that does not quite measure up to God’s standard of loving. I did. And I found that I still have some areas that need work.

The wonderful thing is, you can open your heart to Jesus and ask him to clean out all of that junk. It doesn’t require “a cleaning day” on your part. It only requires you yielding your heart to God and letting him clean it up.

“All of our righteousness is as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6), Psalm 73:26– “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”, and 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all else love one another because love covers a multitude of sins.”

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