Monday, March 27, 2017

Love Is... Part 3

Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8a)

Most people these days are under the erroneous assumption that love is transient. It comes and goes with the boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses who are in our lives one moment and gone the next. Google “falling out of love” and you will get an endless list of links to articles, quizzes and warning signs:

3 signs you are falling out of love with your partner
8 reasons women fall out of love
Are you falling out of love? A quiz on 10 warning signs
5 signs your partner is falling out of love

Even children believe this which may be why so many doubt or fear losing their parents’ love. Yet 1 Corinthians 13:8 says that love never fails.

Love as God is and created it to be between us never ceases, diminishes, or disappears. Love in its purest form is constant, steady, and foundational. Love isn’t an emotion though emotion may be part of love. Love isn’t the product of hard work but labor may play a part in love. Love is a choice made over and over and over again—a choice I can’t be counted on making every time because of my sinful nature but God will absolutely make each and every moment because of who he is. God is love and must be true to his own nature which is where my confidence in his love for me comes from. God must be God so God will love me always.

God is the source of the unconditional love our hearts long for. His love fills the need we have to be loved, accepted, protected and cherished. Every great expression of love is only truly fulfilled in him.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Love Is...Part 2

This foray into 1 Corinthians 13 started a couple of weeks ago when I made the assertion that my duty and joy as a disciple of Jesus is to love. It seems simple enough. But what is love? What does it mean to love? If I can’t define it, how can I do it? I opened up my dictionary app and looked up the word love. There were nine different definitions listed, a few with multiple sub-meanings, each highlighting a different facet of the word, none of which helped me put into words an adequate definition to help me move forward with actually “loving” God and my neighbor. That’s when I turned to 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

So to love God and my neighbor, I must be patient and kind, never envious or act out of self-importance. My words and actions must never dishonor or come from anger. I can never hold a grudge and or be driven by self-interest. To love God and my fellow man, I must not seek out or celebrate evil—but search for and revel in truth. I will need to safeguard those who are precious to God and never give up in my zeal for the Lord. Because of who God is, I will believe the unbelievable and count on what I can’t yet prove.

1 John 4:16 says “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”  So not only does 1 Corinthians teach me about how I am supposed to interact with God and others but it teaches me something about God himself:  God is patient and kind, never envious or acts out of self-importance. He never dishonor, acts out in anger, holds a grudge, and is never driven by self-interest. He does not seek out or celebrate evil, but revels in truth. He safeguards those who are precious to him and never give ups. Because of who God is, He makes the unbelievable believable and gives that which has yet to be credibility.

It seems love is hard work and a skill I will need a lifetime to master. It’s a good thing I have such a perfect example to follow in Jesus.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Love Is...Part 1

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Social media is filled with too many resounding gongs and clanging cymbals these days—So many people voicing their opinions about what is right and wrong. People arguing in the comment sections like it is their duty to explain to the “moron” who commented last how foolish and flawed they are in their thinking. I’ve seen it happen not just on controversial posts but in the comment section of completely unrelated, harmless items like a cute video of puppies or a condolence to a family suffering hardship and the celebration of a group’s achievement. It’s almost like we believe our condescending, harsh comments will make a difference, change a mind. But even if I am right and can prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt, blindsiding others with my righteous indignation only serves to push people further from the truth. As the saying goes, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Yet it’s so easy to get caught up in one of those kinds of useless debates before I know it is happening. A few years ago, I got into a heated discussion with someone because I made the mistake of assuming that if I just explained my position, the other person would understand. To my surprise, she didn’t and having made the same assumption, she answered by explaining her position. The discussion quickly became an argument with neither of us listening and both of us desperately trying to “enlighten” the other. We ended up hurting each other in a way that led to the eventual end of our friendship.

Being a Christian isn’t about being right! Being a Christian is about recognizing how wrong we are without God as the center of our lives. It’s about loving God in response to the love he has for us and the grace his love for us has fostered. It’s about reaching out to others in that love with the skills and gifts God has provided and encouraged us to develop. God is and provides the love that is the glue that binds us together in our differences and it is the propellant that pushes us beyond our limitations to extraordinary actions of faith that can and do make a difference.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Chapter 13 Love

A friend recommended a book to me called When Christians Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton. I found it reflected my own sentiments when it comes to some of the hot topic issues and it was nice to read that I’m not all alone in my stance that my only duty and joy as a Christian is to love. With the social and political atmosphere these days, I really needed that affirmation. It seems simple enough—all I have to do is love and I’m good. But how am I to love? And who?

Do I even really know what that unassuming four-letter word means? I love my family and friends. I love sparkly jewelry and I absolutely love pizza even if it doesn't love me! I love poetry and music and often walk out of the theater exclaiming my love for the movie I’ve just seen. I love my new dark rinse jeans and I love even better how they make me look!! I love ideas and I love lazy Saturdays in my pajamas. I say it a lot! But for all that, I am hard-pressed to come up with an actual definition. The dictionary isn’t much help either as it provides numerous meanings making it difficult to pin down what love really is.

1 John tells us that God is love. God = love. That means that if I can understand love better, than I will know God better. This of course led me to that most famous bible passage on love—1 Corinthians 13. So over the next few weeks, I am going to take a closer look at this all too familiar passage and invite you on the journey. 

We often hear it read at weddings but this passage wasn’t originally meant as advice to couples on how to live together. It was advice from a pastor to his church. Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth teaching the infant church there, giving them a firm foundation in their faith to allow them to continue to grow and mature after he left, and in his absence, things had pretty much fallen apart. Cliques formed separating the church into factions. The Corinthians slid back into some nasty moral habits and their gatherings had less to do with worshiping God and more to do with attaining individual religious status and prestige in the pursuit of supernatural spiritual gifts. These words are Paul’s advice to a local congregation on how to interact with each other. 

The passage starts out in the last sentence of chapter 12 which says “and now I will show you the most excellent way.” That’s what I want—the most excellent way to interact with my brothers and sisters in faith and with every human. I want to know love well enough to be able to define it, because then I feel as though I will really grasp the meaning of the word that is the very nature of God whom I want to know and emulate.

Next week: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3