The Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, are known for their beautiful sweaters. Patterns are woven into the fabric using sheep’s wool to craft the garments. Many of them relate to the culture and folklore of these small islands, but some are more personal. Each family on the islands has its own trademark pattern, which is so distinctive that if a fisherman were to drown it is said that he could be identified simply by examining his sweater for the family trademark.
In John’s first letter, the apostle describes things that are to be trademarks of those who are members of God’s family. In 1 John 3:1, John affirms that we are indeed part of God’s family by saying, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” He then describes the trademarks of those who are the children of God, including, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (4:7).
Because “love is of God,” the chief way to reflect the heart of the Father is by displaying the love that characterizes Him. May we allow His love to reach out to others through us—for love is one of our family trademarks.
Father, teach me to love with the love of Christ that others might see Your love reflected in my care and concern for them. May Your love drive and dominate my responses to life and to others.
Love is the family resemblance the world should see in followers of Christ.
In 1 John 4:9, John’s words parallel those of Paul in Romans 5:8, which reads: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Notice that with both Paul and John the emphasis is on how God’s love has been proven through the sending of His Son to us. Paul’s perspective, however, is rooted in our unworthiness while John’s focus is on the gift of life in Christ.
Mont Saint-Michel is a tidal island located about a half-mile off the coast of Normandy, France. For centuries it has been the site of an abbey and monastery that has attracted religious pilgrims. Until the construction of a causeway, it was notorious for its dangerous access that resulted in the death of some pilgrims. At low tide it is encompassed by sand banks, and at high tide it is surrounded by water. Accessing the island was a cause for fear.
Access to God for Old Testament Jews was also a cause for fear. When God thundered on Mt. Sinai, the people feared approaching Him (Ex. 19:10-16). And when access to God was granted through the high priest, specific instructions had to be followed (Lev. 16:1-34). Accidentally touching the ark of the covenant, which represented the holy presence of God, would result in death (see 2 Sam. 6:7-8).
But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can now approach God without fear. God’s penalty for sin has been satisfied, and we are invited into God’s presence: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace” (Heb. 4:16).
Because of Jesus we can come to God through prayer anywhere, anytime.
Then boldly let our faith address God’s throne of grace and power, There to obtain delivering grace In every needy hour. —Watts
Through prayer, we have instant access to our Father.
For Jesus to be able to identify with and to save sinful humanity, it was necessary for Him to be fully human. Earlier, the writer of Hebrews affirmed that Jesus was fully “flesh and blood” like us (2:14 niv). Here in verse 15, he further affirmed that because He has been through suffering and temptation, Jesus knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted. Jesus is therefore qualified and able to help us (Heb. 2:17-18; 5:1-2). But in order for Him to make propitiation for sins, Jesus had to be “without sin” (v.15, also 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:26-27; 1 John 3:5).
While reading the obituary of Eugene Patterson, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Atlanta Constitution from 1960 to 1968, I was struck by two things. First, for many years Patterson was a fearless voice for civil rights during a time when many opposed racial equality. In addition, he wrote a column every day for 8 years. That’s 2,922 newspaper columns! Day after day, year after year. Courage and consistency were key factors in the impact of his life.
We see those same qualities in the apostle Paul. Acts 13–28 records his bravery in one harrowing situation after another. After being shipwrecked on his way to stand trial before Caesar, he landed south of Rome, where many brothers in Christ came to meet him (Acts 28:11-15). “When Paul saw them,” Luke wrote, “he thanked God and took courage” (v.15). During the next 2 years as a prisoner, Paul was allowed to live in his own rented house where he “received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence” (vv.30-31).
Every follower of Jesus can be a consistent giver and receiver of courage. The Lord can use us today to encourage and strengthen each other.
O keep up your courage, each day to the end; Go forth in the strength of the Lord; Trust wholly in Jesus, thy Savior and Friend, And feed on His own blessed Word. —Miles
When people share their fears with you, share your courage with them.
Today’s passage chronicles one of Paul’s journeys and how he and his companions were received and shown hospitality. It is easy to forget that this was not a luxury cruise with an exotic island destination. During this trip, Paul was a prisoner and he and his companions (soldiers included) were met by and stayed with Christian believers. It is possible that Paul was allowed to live in his own rented home under house arrest and share the gospel (vv.30-31) because the soldiers were impressed by the hospitality that had been shown to them.