The last two posts have gotten me thinking about love … a lot. There are so many facets to this particular subject, that I could write multiple posts about it. And, quite frankly, I know not to what pathways this will lead; but, I hope we all get something out of the journey.
First, I know love is important (aside from the fact that we wouldn’t be here if not for God’s love). But it’s not so much God’s love that I’ve been thinking about. It’s my love for others. In 1Cor 13: 2,3 God says we can have faith to move mountains but without love it’s all worthless. Whoa! First, I don’t know that I have enough faith to move a mountain. I’ve never been tested to that point; but, it makes me wonder.* But, even if I do have such faith, it’s love that really counts. It’s love that’s going to “get me home”
In my last post I quoted from the New Living Translation (NLT), the characteristics of love found in 1Cor 13:4-8. Now I’d like to list those characteristics as they are given in the New International Version (NIV). (The NLT is a ‘thought for thought’ translation; and the NIV is a ‘word for word’ translation.
Love is: Patient… Kind… Not Boastful… Not Proud… Not Rude… Not Self-seeking… Not Easily Angered… Keeps No Record of Wrongs… Does Not Delight in Evil… Rejoices With the Truth… Always Protects… Always Trusts… Always Hopes… Always Perseveres… and, Never Fails.
Well, that’s only fifteen items. Should be doable, right?
Last Sunday my minister made a statement I really like. “There are only two kinds of Christians. Those who are not perfect… and admit it. And, those who aren’t perfect, but won’t admit it. (Instead they try to hide it.)”
I was in that second group for a long time. (Religion had a lot to do with it.) Now, I try to live in the first group. I do try to get my life “right”; but I can’t always make it happen. Not even when I’m thinking about it and really working at it. When I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, saying, or thinking (operating solo and on auto pilot), well let’s just say it a real short trip to disaster. Yes, I do manage to crash and burn with regularity.
So, I’m thinking this love thing holds promise for me. And, as noted above, I only have to master those fifteen facets of love! It shouldn’t be too hard. After all, I’m already pretty good at some of them.
Let’s take “ Love is Patient“ for example. I’m often complimented on my patience. On customer support helplines, I wait patiently. When I get the first level of help, I’m patient – even when I know it will take 2nd or 3rd level support to solve my problem. I understand that they have a process. I understand they have to ask me to do certain things I’ve already done. I do them again. Eventually, I get to the guy who can fix it, and he does. Hey, they’ve all got a job to do. They are trying to help, and I can be patient enough to “go through their system”. In checkout lines, a new cashier, or the person holding things up while they get the exact change… no problem. I’ve been on new jobs myself and I appreciated people who understood and were patient with me. And, as for that exact change thing… well, I wait patiently because I know that, sometimes, I do the same thing. So, I guess I’m pretty good in the “patience” department.
Well, … yes, there was that time last week. My wife had asked me a question and I was trying to answer. She was saying, “…OK, but…” and telling we why my answer was not going to work. After, about the second or third “yes, but…” I lost it. My voice got several decibels louder and a whole lot sarcastic. And, the argument was “on”. We eventually worked through it. But, looking back, I have to tell you it took no time at all for me to get afoul of at least five ‘facets of Love’. By my reckoning I failed miserably at: Patient; Kind; Not Rude; Not Easily Angered; and Always Protects. And this, to my wife of 35 years! She cried; and I think maybe, Jesus did too. So yes, I have work to do.
Here’s a couple more I’ve had a great deal of trouble with. (But, I – with God’s help – have made real progress on ’em). It’s those, “Keeps No Record of Wrongs”; and the often related, “Does not delight in evil”. A hypothetical example: your manager, who – because you wouldn’t mislead a prospect in order to get a huge sale (that you both needed) – soon after, had you demoted. And then, that person was slammed with health issues. Isn’t it at least a little OK to say, or at least think, “…well, they had it coming”?
Obviously, from God, the answer is, “NO”.
Think about it this way, that HUGE pile of sin I laid-off onto Jesus as He hung on the cross… what about that? Instantly, it was taken, and … what? It was disappeared. It was forgiven. I was forgiven. I did not get what I deserved. Through God’s Love, I received God’s Grace. Never again do I have to think about it. It’s as if it never happened. (Other than the consequences I earned; and had to deal with. But then, Jesus was with me through that.) The result? True freedom.
That’s what I learned about “keeping that record of wrongs” and “delighting in evil” – it hurts ME. It punishes ME. On a lot of levels. My solution: I’ve learned to ask forgiveness for those who wrong me. I also ask Jesus to help me with my feelings of hurt, betrayal, abandonment, bitterness, (sometimes, vindictiveness), etc. But mostly I pray for the person(s) who “injured” me. After I’ve done that for awhile, I find I can just… let… it… GO. I can say, “I forgive them” – and absolutely mean it. It’s liberating. It restores my joy, my self-image, my integrity, and a whole lot more.
As I’ve worked on this post, I’ve come up with (what to me are) three critical observations.
- What is the source of Love? God! Without Jesus, we don’t have it – not the right kind and not enough of any kind (1John 4:7,8 and Eph 3:17-19). It is God’s love for us, that empowers us to love others. It’s not, “…my love for others.” (paragraph 2, above). It’s how I redistribute God’s love for me… to others. However, even after we are “saved” we will still have issues with this; because…
- Only God’s Love, never fails (Rom 8:38,39). We, on the other hand, are broken people. We live on a broken planet, in a broken society and a broken culture. Every single one of us will screw-up from time to time. It is inevitable. It doesn’t make you a hypocrite – unless you try to hide it and don’t acknowledge it. When your “reservoir” of love runs low, there is only one place you can get it refilled. Which leads to…
- As Christians, we do not fly solo. We should never act as if we do. God has given us a great gift in the form of the Holy Spirit. He is always with us (John 14:15-17 and Rom 8:11). Get comfortable with that concept. Talk to Him – you’re talking with God. Learn His “voice” and how He communicates to you. Pay attention to what He “says”. Learn to rely on Him. Hmmm…. Is it ever correct to refer to ourselves in 1st person singular, (“I”); or should it be, 1st person plural, “we”?
I’m sure there is a lot more to be said on the topic of Love. But, that may be for a future post(s). Now I’ve got to work on putting what I already know, into action . It ought to keep me busy for, oh … the rest of my life!
* My wife pointed out that I have faced a mountain. With God’s help, I came out of it totally changed; and with my faith renewed. God showed me the way to remove that mountain. I should point out that this particular mountain was self-made. It took about 15 years for me to get it built; and quite a few more years of hard work to remove it. You can read about it in my post of April 25, 2012.