June 7, 2023

What a joy it is to catch a vision from God! But what then? How can we learn to release that vision back out into the world? We'll land on (or perhaps take flight with) that question this week in The Beautiful. Thank you for being a part of The Equipped community!

The True

True Love

What is true love? It’s a question mankind has long asked in one form or another, and it is one to which the Bible often speaks! The most quoted passage on this topic is probably 1 Corinthians 13, in which Paul describes love as the pinnacle of the gifts, and one that is marked by patience, kindness, contentedness, humility, temperance, and a host of other deferential attributes. The chapter is an essential guide for how we walk out true love.

But in order to define true love, and to understand its source, it is helpful to consider 1 John 4, which tells us, “God is love,” (v. 16), and that, “[w]e love because he first loved us” (v. 19).

We so often think of love as an action to which we are called. After all, this very passage tells us repeatedly to “love one another” (vv. 7, 11, 12, 21), and that the absence of love suggests we do not truly love God (vv. 8, 20). So yes, we are to love actively.

But what is love? And why are we to love? How are we to comprehend that “God is love?” While these questions are broader and grander than our human capacity, they also help us understand that true love is wholly entangled with God’s very being, and within what He has already done for us. True love has a source. True love originates with God. True love begins not in our action, and not even in our love for God, but rather from when “he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (v. 10).

Love—true love—is always a reflection of the love God has for us—a love He freely poured out for us. It is a love—which should frequently result in an action—that transcends our human capacity in all the beautiful ways described in 1 Corinthians 13. But in order for our love to embody those attributes, and in order for it to be true love, it must originate and flow from the one source of true love. For God is love.


To Pay or Not to Pay

There were two major developments in recent days for federal student loans, and a third is expected any day.

First, as part of its deal to raise the debt ceiling (yes, that drama is over now . . . it will return in a similar fashion in two years), Congress set August 29, 2023 as the date on which students must restart payments on their federal student loan debt. Repayments have been suspended since March 2020.

Next, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House both passed legislation that would repeal a Biden administration program to cancel approximately $400 billion in student loan debt. President Biden, however, has indicated he will veto the measure, and Congress does not have the votes to override his veto—which leads us to the third development that is expected any day.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on the constitutionality of the student loan forgiveness plan. The justices are considering whether the administration has the authority to unilaterally cancel the debt in question.

Analysis and eternal perspective: As Jesus followers, we should always use scripture to guide us through difficult issues. When we do so on this issue, we find a theme of compassion and generosity (2 Cor. 9:6, Pr. 11:25, Luke 6:38) as well a guiding principle of being faithful to the debts we owe (Ecc. 5:5, Ps. 37:21, Rom. 13:7-8). Somewhat surprisingly, we also find encouragement to exercise compassion toward those who are in our debt (Luke 6:30, Matt. 6:12, Deut. 15:1).

This may seem like a complicated and contradictory set of principles for us to walk out. However, we gain clarity by looking closely at who is repeatedly encouraged to carry out these instructions—it is you and me. You and I are to be compassionate and generous. You and I are to faithfully repay our debts. You and I are to avoid a heavy hand toward those in our debt.

This perspective allows us to apply the biblical principles of faithfulness and open-handed generosity while also discerning it is the lender who has the authority to cancel debt. We should be cautious about schemes that circumvent this structure, as they reduce the value of both faithful repayment and voluntary compassion.


Dam Breaks in Ukraine

A major dam on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine was destroyed earlier this week, and the ensuing flooding now threatens a vast region in southern Ukraine. While officials from Russia and Ukraine each blamed the other nation, the consequences are sweeping:

- Dozens of towns and settlements are evacuating and in danger of being destroyed

- Additional regions, including Crimea, could be without access to fresh water

- Europe’s largest nuclear power plant could be forced to find an alternative source of cooling water

Additionally, because the Dnipro currently divides Russian and Ukrainian forces for long stretches, conditions on the front lines of the war will deteriorate even further as flooding expands.

Analysis and eternal perspective: War is ugly. Its consequences are immense for those who are fighting. However, the fallout on civilians is perhaps the most heartbreaking. Thousands of innocent people—both Russian and Ukrainian—who were already struggling to survive in a war zone are now being threatened by floodwaters. Many of them will now be homeless in the midst of an ongoing war.

There are no easy answers or quick fixes to the humanitarian crisis that is playing out as a result of President Putin’s aggression. As Jesus followers, we should commit ourselves to praying for the countless innocent people caught up in the multiplying disasters. As we acknowledge the great suffering being endured by our brothers and sisters, let’s lament with them in a way that also reminds all of us of the reason for our great hope.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” (Lam 3:21-24)


Dissenting Views

Members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee have been granted permission to view an important “dissent cable” pertaining to the 2021 military withdrawal from Afghanistan. A dissent cable is a confidential way for federal officials to communicate disagreement with an official policy, and this particular cable has generated significant interest after the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan led to a nearly-instantaneous collapse of the government in Afghanistan, and a return to Taliban control.

Analysis and eternal perspective: As we frequently remind each other here at The Equipped, it will be important to consider the evidence on this matter as directly as possible. While we are not likely to gain personal access to the dissent cable, we should strive to learn from its contents rather than from the competing narratives that will ensue. We can safely begin that process by acknowledging the catastrophic situation of Taliban control in Afghanistan, and we should be in fervent prayer for our brothers and sisters (most especially our sisters) who now live under that persecutory regime.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (Jam. 1:12).

The Beautiful

Catch and Release

For this week's glimpse of something beautiful, Brooke shares an image she calls, “Catch and Release.” It is a reminder of how we are to respond to the beautiful gift of salvation—we are to pass it on! If you’ve caught a vision of a mighty move of God, don’t keep it to yourself! Release it that it might take flight!

“Then the Lord replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.’” (Hab. 2:2)

True love comes from God, is vested in you, and has the power to redeem the world! Let's walk in the source of that miracle today!

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