Friday, November 28, 2008

The greatest of these is love...

This is what I woke up thinking about this morning...

"If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal...
Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud,
doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil;
doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails... When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.
But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love. "

I Corinthians 13: 1 - 13

The overwhelming impression that the non-Christian should have of a Christian when they meet is that of love. This is not the benign and polite sort of thing that passes for love so often in our culture, but the powerful, compassionate, courageous, peace-full, glorious love of Christ. In all circumstances, at every meeting, no matter what is happening with the Christian, if the love of Christ is not evident in our interactions with others, we have a problem.

It is possible to have the mistaken notion that a mature Christian is one who does what they know they are supposed to do, who does many works for God and who also knows when others are not doing what they are supposed to do. In contrast to this, the apostle Paul, author of the books to the Corinthians, places his ideas about growth as a Christian - "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things. vs 11" right in the middle of a call to love. Essentially, he is proclaiming that knowledge, prophecy, gifts and abilities, even faith are empty without love. It would seem that the mark of a mature Christian is one of love.

I cannot help but notice how radical Paul's definition of love is. Love is patient, kind, not easily angered. I am pretty sure this also means that love is not irritable, not cranky, not selfish, not wanting it's own way at the expense of others. Love is gentle, respectful, especially when it comes to the issue of beliefs. There are times when we as Christians seem almost offended that the world we live in does not believe as we do, even though Scripture continually tells us to expect this. Frankly, why are we even surprised that people don't trust our faith when we act so defensive and on guard with those who don't believe. Do WE even trust our faith? We fight for our right to believe as if there was an actual threat, when in fact nothing can touch our faith if it is real. Is our God big enough to handle other people's differing beliefs? What He tells us to do is love them, as Jesus did. The fact is, Jesus had a much more difficult time with the religious leaders of His day than He did with unbelievers. We cannot love people if we see them as threatening - fear kills love. This is not an issue between Christians and unbelievers. This is an issue between Christians and their God. Do we trust God enough to keep us safe and whole, while we pour His love and concern out on others? Why are we acting as if we are so uncared for? God's love is peace-inspiring, passionate and kind. Picture Jesus on the cross and the soldiers mocked Him. He turned His eyes upward to the One He knew...KNEW...loved Him and asked God to forgive his tormentors. "Father, they don't know what they are doing...mercy, please, for these lost ones..."

Yikes! There's more compassion in Jesus' agony filled plea than I sometimes grant my own child when she's not doing what I want her to do!!! Who am I to be irritated at my loved ones? And more improtantly, what would happen in our lives, in the lives of our loved ones, in our world, if we truly and fearlessly approached others with the same love that Jesus gave to the soldiers on that day?

I know that I often fail in loving others the way God means me to. I also know that what sometimes is loving doesn't look that way to others. We do not judge each other on these things...none of us is good enough to judge others. For every failure to love you may point out in my life, I will be able to point out the same in you, and vise versa. God knows our hearts, and His love for us makes Him a safe judge. But scripture does encourage us to judge ourselves, to examine our own hearts. Lately I have been feeling irritable with the people around me, and I have been thinking about things that have hurt me, and reliving the angry feelings. Acts that were forgiven long ago are resurfacing. Maybe I am just tired...maybe it's PMS, or the pain from the bladder flare or my sore jaw from the root canal...but no matter what, I do love these precious people around me and I am praying daily for the strength to give myself to them in love and to allow God to minister to whatever owies and needs I have.

Anyway, it's just a thought...

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