Dare to be a Gaius

It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it” (3 John 3)

Last week I returned from a visit to a country that is almost half way across the world from here. My friend was getting married and I went there to celebrate with her.

It was a beautiful time, filled with fun and sweet fellowship. I enjoyed spending time with my friends, whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, talking and going out for coffee. The wedding was beautiful. It was a special time

As I prepared to leave, saying “good-bye” was harder than ever. I felt like I was leaving my family behind. When I think about my time there and the way I was welcomed, I thought of Gaius.

The name Gaius was a popular name at the time the letter was written, so it is not easy to say exactly who Gaius was. All that is known for certain is that he was an Elder in a congregation and that the Apostle John loved him. We also know of his character. John addresses the third epistle to Gaius and testifies to his character as well as to Demetrius’ character from what he heard from others.

John wrote that Gaius was faithful to the truth and that he walked in truth. He was faithful to brothers and sisters in the Lord, even to total strangers! John encouraged him to send these brethren on their way in a way that honors God and to show them hospitality.

Gaius was able to walk in the truth, because he was first faithful to it. But. first and foremost, he was faithful to God and to his commands. This, in turn, enabled him to be faithful to others. His actions truly spoke louder than words! He had no need to testify for himself, because others did it for him. Those who came to his congregation, friends, acquaintances and even total strangers  were welcomed in the same manner. He showed hospitality and demonstrated The Lord Yeshua’s love for all. We are reminded of the correct order of things from the believers in Macedonia. “And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” (2 Corinthians 8:5). To the Lord first and then to the brethren. This is foundational and a good principal to apply in our lives. We can serve others, because we have bowed the knees in prayer before the Lord.

I’m sure that we’ve all been to meetings or events where everyone, except us, knew everyone else. We felt awkward and out of place. Have you ever visited a different congregation, where you didn’t know many people? How about a youth group where you are the “new person”, or you were just there for a short while and you probably wouldn’t see those people again? I have. And I’ve seen others in that position as well. Sadly, I’ve seen newcomers sit alone and hardly communicate with anyone, even in a large group. The tendency of most people, myself included, is to greet and socialize with those we know and feel comfortable with. It’s not easy leaving our comfort zone. But Gaius did. He welcomed total strangers, because he saw them as members of his family in God. He “made the effort” to make the brethren feel at home and related to them with brotherly love and kindness. In short, he extended himself to others.

Do we welcome the brethren? Would we welcome a total stranger into our homes and give him/her a place to stay for a while? “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). Hospitality is a gift we all can cultivate. It takes a willingness on our side.

In addition to hosting others, we can help others by going an extra mile – delivering food to a family that is sick or needy, driving someone who has no means of transportation to get somewhere, helping someone to move, helping to clean, and the list goes on and on. Going the extra mile is something I am still learning to do. It is a way of showing love for our “neighbour”. Not helping when we can is simply being “self”-ish, which does not reflect Christ’s love. There is, indeed, much that we can learn from Gaius.

But, John emphasises the godliness of his character by comparing it to the character of Diotrephes, who was the complete opposite, who received no one and put people out of the church.

Am I a Gaius? Are you? I truly desire to be. I want to be one whose faithfulness and love reflects the character of God. I want to reach out and greet those who sit alone, aside from the crowd, or in the middle of a crowd. I want to share the Lord Yeshua’s love, so that others would glorify God glory because of his work in me.

The people I stayed with during my trip reminded me of Gaius. They acted out what they said they believed. They showered me with love and warmth and made me feel as part of their home and family.

Lest we get the wrong impression, Gaius was not perfect. None of us are. But we all strive to be like The Lord Yeshua, the perfect One, who is the best example of all. He left his comfort zone, to make complete strangers, even His enemies, his own.

Will we dare to be a Gaius?

© Hannah Kramer

Seasons

“All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.” (Isaiah 28:29).

In the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are told by the wisest of men that there is a time for everything. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). It is probably the best-known chapter in the Book of Ecclesiastes, and is as relevant to us today, as when it was written.

As seasons come and go, we experience changes in nature. Yet despite the recurring seasons every year, no season is like another that year, or even like the season the previous year. Nor will the following year be exactly the same in its seasons, although the names for the different seasons remain.

So it is in the seasons of life. We have our Summers, Winters, Springs and Falls, yet each season is different. Spring this year may be completely different from spring of last year. And it is definitely not the same as winter.

As humans,  we have no control over the changing of the seasons and times, yet sometimes we wish we did. “If only I could fast forward to a certain time”, or “If only I could press ‘pause’ on the present”, or “If only I could rewind, just once”, and the like. We yearn to change things, either that were or will be.

We all have these moments, don’t we? We may be going through a rough time and wishing the cold blizzard would just pass and the newness of Spring would arrive, bringing with it sweet smells of fresh flowers – the change from April showers to May flowers. Or, we may be sweating in the blazing summer sun, working hard and wishing for a break, a change of some sort.

What about making the most and best of where we are now? Why not live in the season we’re experiencing, while preparing for future season?

Seasons are varied and I will address but a few.

Singleness. All too often, believers tend to relate to singles as being poor and miserable, just because they are single, especially if they reach a certain age. I think singles contribute to that quite a bit by the attitude they have towards the subject of marriage and singleness, especially if they are depressed by it or show desperation.

This could be a fruitful season in our lives to serve God and the brethren. Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 7:32-36 that an unmarried person is concerned about the things of the Lord and how to serve him. This is a unique opportunity to serve where married people sometimes can’t. We should pray to use this time wisely, and not just wait for another season.

It’s time for believers to encourage the single people to serve, to show them that they are welcome as they are, that there is nothing wrong with them for being single, because there isn’t! It’s time to involve them as full citizens of the Kingdom and not as second-class citizens. God knows our hearts. He knows our desires, longings and dreams. He does have the perfect plan for each of us. We need to accept this season as a gift until he chooses to give us another gift.
God controls everything. It’s either we believe it or we don’t and how we relate to God’s sovereignty in this matter will determine us attitude in all seasons.

The gift of old age. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness”.(Proverbs 16:31). Young people don’t always appreciate their elders. I don’t mean the leaders in our congregations, but rather those who are of older age and are mature in their thinking. We put so much emphasis on age. Why? It is not a factor of anything but of how long a person lived.

A common attitude, even among older people, is that the world belongs to the young. Does it really? Do our elders have no room or say anymore? Have they nothing to contribute? I believe they have much to give, much wisdom to impart, much love to show, if only given the chance. If only the young of age would seek it. We should not underestimate or judge older age, or any age, for that matter. A Titus 2 woman is an older and wiser woman, who is seasoned in life and can teach younger ones better than, perhaps, their own peers.

If you are young, do not despise old age or view it poorly. You have a lifetime of experiences to learn from. If you are older, you have a lifetime of experiences to share.

Loss and need for a friend. Going through a time of loss is difficult, particularly if it is experienced alone. Perhaps someone special is far from you and you long for the close friendship you had. This too is a season and it will pass. It’s not easy, but you do have one friend who does not change. He goes through all the seasons with you and is the same then and now. The Lord Yeshua. He is a friend that time and distance cannot overcome. Trust him. He can give you another human friend as well in time. Maybe now He wants you to learn to rely on Him first.

Whatever season we may be in now, we need to live in it and do our best to glorify God in it. We shouldn’t try to live in another season. But we can prepare for it, as the farmer plants seeds in anticipation of rain. After the rain, he reaps the harvest.

If you’re single, prepare yourself for marriage, yet serve as you can where God placed you today.

If you need a friend, pray for someone that both of you will be able to encourage and build one another. And ask God to show you if there is someone else who needs a friend. Maybe you can be that person.

If you’re older in age and feel out of the loop, pray to see where you can help others, perhaps who are younger, who need guidance. Be a Titus 2 woman (or Titus 1 man) and be a guide.

Try not to compare seasons. Every season in life, like each of us, is different. Try to encourage and build up others in the circumstances that they are in now. Encourage them keep to their eyes on The Lord and not on themselves. It will help us all to value the time we have now.

Be thankful in all seasons.

© Hannah Kramer

Where has the love gone?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

A friend of mine published her first album, featuring songs written and arranged by her, accompanied by a few more friends, who sang and played. One of her songs especially touched my heart. As my friend introduced that song, she mentioned she hadn’t seen many songs (at least in Hebrew) that spoke about love. There are, of course, songs about the Father’s love for us and our love for Him, but there are very few songs about brotherly love, if at all. What she said struck me and I suddenly realized that she was right. I have been pondering this issue for a while now, even before she introduced her song. I was at an event where we sang some worship songs at the beginning of the event, and one song was how we love the Lord Yeshua, because He first loved us. Then this thought came to mind: We can’t love each other, brother and sisters in Messiah Yeshua, unless we first love Him.

Seems kind of obvious, right? We are commanded to love one another, as the Lord Yeshua loves us. Easier said than done. Why is it then that there aren’t many songs about brotherly love? Is it perhaps because our brotherly love may be lacking? Maybe it’s easier to say we love the Lord than to say we love our brothers. In both instances, love would need to be demonstrated. We know we often fail the Lord, but He is always ready to forgive. Not so with the brethren. Perhaps, it’s easier to love those who are closer to us, or those who are easier to love. Why is it that we don’t greet every believer warmly, with brotherly affection? Why is it we can walk by people we fellowship with, serve with and even grow up with, and not say ‘hello’, and genuinely inquire how they are doing? Where has all the love gone? Did it ever really exist in the first place?

It is very disturbing to see such incidents. Yes, I, too, at times greet only those with whom I am close and those whom I know better. But, I do try my best to greet everyone, even if we have differences of opinion, or theology or if we just aren’t the best of friends. I am troubled when believers gossip and put down fellow believers. I am saddened at seeing people being regarded so highly that it creates a form of elite amongst us. Where has the love gone?

My friend’s song about brotherly love mentions “If any of us stumbles, we will restore him with the spirit of meekness.” (@aperfectheart). How often do we do that?

In order to raise each other up, in order to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galations 6:2), we must first rid ourselves of pride. The following verse reads “for if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (verse 3). Are we too proud to do that?

There is a song that I grew up with, which I remember always. It’s from “Psalty the singing song book”. Some of you may know it. Here is a clip of the song –

Make me a servant – Kids Praise 4:  

It’s so easy to talk about passages like 1st Corinthians 13 and emphasize again and again that this is what love is and that we should love each other. Yes, it is a great description of what love is and yes, we should love like that. But, saying it is not enough. I believe that the love we are supposed to demonstrate towards one another has gotten cold. And, in some instances, it’s cold, it’s almost freezing. Oh, we know how to love when it comes to our friends, particularly to those who us love in return. Or, to those who are beneficial for us. We can care, help and be warm and friendly. But, when we have no particular need of someone, yes, no need, we often have a tendency to disregard them. Just like any object we might have and don’t need. Instead of treating our brethren like humans, we tend to treat them as objects; we either need them or we don’t. And our attitude towards them reflects that and it changes along with that. Instead of warmth and help and love, we get, or give, a cold shoulder and demonstrate apathy.

As those called by and who believe in the God of love, who loved us while we were yet sinners, we cannot and must not be this way. When we truly love the Lord Yeshua, His life and love in us are enable us to love one another. God cares deeply about our relations as brothers and sisters. So much so, that a man cannot bring his sacrifice before Him until he has made peace with his brother (Matthew 5:21-26).

The Lord Yeshua humbled himself and washed the feet of His deciples, even the feet of Judah, whom His knew was going to betray Him. What a love He had and demonstrated in real time! We are commanded to follow His example. Can we wash the feet of those we dislike, don’t get along with, even – hate? Once we take the towel and start washing sore, dirty, filthy feet, and tending to wounds, we learn humility pretty fast. Imagine cleaning those feet with love. How tender and caring the cleaning would be, and how precious to the one receiving. Imagine how you would feel if someone you didn’t get along with and maybe can’t stand the sight of, took a towel and washed your feet, treating them with love and care, until all the wounds were gone and they were soft and clean.

The attitude with which I come to wash my brothers feet is important. If I have resentment towards him, my face will show disgust and repulse at washing his feet, especially if they are full of blisters. But when I love my brother, through the love of Messiah Who is in me, though there may be blisters, I will want to tend to them. Here lies the difference. Lest we tend to think in a box, the washing of feet is not only physical. It also has to do with helping to remove the filth of the world which affects all of us daily, whether we are conscious of it or not. A hand on a shoulder, a word in season, a smile and an offer to come alongside, a telephone call or email saying “the Lord brought you to mind and I just prayed for you and want to know how you are” can be as much of a healing and comforting blessing as a physical foot-washing.

Love is part of fruit of the spirit (Galations 5:22). Notice the rest of the passage – “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (23-26, emphasis added).

Godly love does not seek its own glory and is not competitive. It helps us encourage one another to run the race with diligence and not to give up. When we truly love, we pray for one another and seek the other’s good. When we truly love, we reflect the presence of the  Lord Yeshua in us. He is not ashamed to call us brothers. Are we?

I want to leave today you with this poem by Ruth Harms Calkin, called “I Wonder”. It touched my heart and pray that it will yours.

© Hannah Kramer

I Wonder – by Ruth Harms Calkin

You know, Lord, how I serve You 
With great emotional fervor
In the limelight.

You know how eagerly I speak for You
At a women’s club.

You know how effervesce when I promote
A fellowship group.

You know my genuine enthusiasm
At a Bible study.

But how would I react, I wonder…
If You pointed me to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled old woman

Day after day
Month after month
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew