If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:3-7 the Message
On this day after Valentine’s Day, I’ve been reflecting about the nature of love.
If I was to ask 100 different people what the term love means, I’d probably get 100 very different kinds of answers. We use the term love for everything from ice cream to puppies, from children to grandparents, from our spouses to the weather. But what does it mean? When I say I love you, does that say anything about you, or am I only talking about some warm gut or heart feeling? If it’s only about an internal feeling, then what happens when one of us no longer feels it? When the pressures of life and the ugliness of our own failures and brokenness collide? What happens to love then? Paul is writing to a community in crisis…in conflict. This is how we must treat one another!
Paul talks about the character of love, with a series of 15 verbs. He starts with love is patient, or long-suffering. If that is not hard enough, we’re to be kind too. While patience is the passive aspect, kindness is to show active goodness to one another. Real love shows active goodness to others. When we remember how patient and kind God in Jesus Christ has been to us, then we too can be patient with others.
Then Paul tells us that love does not envy or is not in a competitive type of relationship. If you find that you are often trying to out-position others…or get the upper-hand over them, then you are not displaying love. It is never about trying to be in a better position or to gain the favor of others. Love is also not about boasting or attempting to get acclaim for yourself or your surrogates (such as your children or grandchildren), but rather to think of others. Love is not proud, puffed up or arrogant. It’s also not rude, nor is it self-seeking. All of these things on the list attempt to put one’s self in a better position, while at the same time keeping the other person down. It is the opposite of love, to want to see one’s self exalted over others.
If we find ourselves easily angered by the littlest things then we know that have not been truly patient and therefore not truly loving. And this leads directly to the next thing…Love keeps no record of wrongs.
To live in love together ultimately is to act as Jesus Christ has and to forgive. In the Greek Paul is alluding to the words of Jesus on the cross as he extends his forgiveness to those crucifying him. So too, love for one another is to be symbolized by forgiveness for wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love is honest and truthful and leads to speaking and living the Gospel. Love rejoices in the truth.
There is nothing that love cannot face. Love always perseveres, it has a tenacity, buoyed by confidence in the future. Love never ceases to have faith, and it never loses hope. Love perseveres through the worst of times. Love never fails.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
I acknowledge that the sins of my heart find Paul’s message to Titus in these two verses incredibly hard. And in my nearly 30 years of full-time and part-time ministry, it is uncommon to find a congregation that doesn’t struggle to live this out.
Paul tells us to slander no one and to be peaceable and considerate. In the Greek it also has the emphasis of “to avoid quarrels”. In other words, we are not to be offensive or argumentative in what we say and how we act. We are to be considerate and show real humility towards everyone…not just those who are always kind to us. We are to be gentle and even meek toward others. These are the characteristics of Jesus…are they not?
Literally we are to show “all gentleness to all men”…there is to be no limit to our kindness and humility.
It breaks my heart each time I deal with Christians who slander others or are argumentative and some who regularly create quarrels and divisions. Brothers and sisters, this should not be so.
My prayer for each of you is that you too will grow in gentleness and kindness toward others. I want people to think of me as gentle and kind. It is my prayer…and I hope that you will join me… that the Holy Spirit would continue to work in my heart to form the attitude of gentleness and meekness within me… AMEN.
“…the more enlightened we are the more greatness and vileness we discover in man…man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness….what sort of freak then is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, the glory and refuse of the universe!”
So wrote Blaise Pascal in Pensees in 1669. Pascal describes what we all see in humanity. The best and most moral humans that ever lived still had severe faults. The worst and most vile humans that ever lived, still displayed positive character traits. How can this be? There truly is in every human being “some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness” The book of Genesis answers some of these questions. At the end of chapter 1 and into chapter 2 we discover humans, male and female, created in the image/likeness of God. But when we get to chapter 3 of Genesis, we read of the Fall of humanity and the subsequent effect of the sinfulness and fall on the rest of Creation. Created in the image and likeness of God, yet fallen and totally depraved. Only Christianity can account for what we see in ourselves and in others.
This week in our class in Sunday School we will be discussing this topic and how the book of Genesis sets the foundation for the Redeeming work of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul, in his seminal work in the letter to the Romans, begins with that foundation in chapter 1 of the letter to the Romans.
All are welcome to the class this Sunday morning January 15, 2017 at 9:45 A.M.
I am a recovering anger addict. Are you an anger addict? When we are angry we are freedom fighters in our own minds. We are the righteous opposing the evil and injustice of our time. It makes us feel good and self-righteous and is therefore addicting and infectious. But there is a problem with anger….and it is that we are all fallen and prone to error. Not only could we be wrong…but because we are angry, we are likely to shut out all other opinions and ignore facts. There are times to be angry…but they are few and should be very limited and filled with self-reflection.
Remember Paul’s warning in Ephesians…
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
Remember also James admonition… “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” — James 1:19-20