Thursday, December 8, 2011

Love is....

I’ve been reading this amazing book lately. It’s a worldwide best seller, written in almost 400 languages (more if you count the portions of it that have been translated) and has been around for hundreds of years. I’ve learned more about love from this book then any textbook, romance novel or self-help book could ever have taught me. I’ve been exposed to it for years but only recently have I been able to appreciate what the bible teaches us.
A few months ago I began reading a book called ‘True Love Begins with God’ that explored 1 Corinthians 13. There is likely no scripture on love more known than this passage and I decided to explore it’s message, do some research on it and reflect upon it.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

My research of this scripture tells me that the Corinthians were fascinated with spiritual gifts, predominantly the gift of tongues or languages. Paul reminds them even the gift of tongues is meaningless without love. Without love, a person may speak with the gift of tongues, but it is as meaningless as a resounding gone or a clanging cymbal. It is nothing but empty noise. Prophecy, knowledge, and faith to do miracles are also irrelevant without love. The Corinthian Christians were missing the motive and the goal of the gifts and so Paul draws their attention back to love. He also tells them that a man with faith can move great mountains; but he will set them down right in the path of somebody else – or right on somebody else - if he doesn’t have love. It isn’t an issue of love versus gifts…giving away your possessions or even giving up all the talents you have. Paul is emphasizing the focus and goal of the gifts: love, not the gifts for their own sake.

So very true… you can speak all you want, say all you wish, talk the talk…but if you don’t have love, if you haven’t got comprehension of love then you aren’t walking the walk. You can have all the faith in the world, all the religion you want but if you don’t have love, you don’t have anything. You can give everything away that you own and dedicate your life to serving others, fighting the good fight, but if you heart does not know true unconditional love than you haven’t gained anything.
1 Corinthians 13:4–8a
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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. Love never fails …

Love is patient. Some versions list this as Love is long-suffering and kind. Long-suffering is patiently enduring wrongs or difficulties. Love suffers long: Love will endure a long time. It is the heart shown in God, If God’s love is in us, we will be longsuffering to those who annoy us and hurt us. The ancient preacher John Chrysostem said this is the word used of the man who is wronged, and who easily has the power to take vengeance himself, but will not do it out of mercy and patience. Do you retaliate as soon as you have the chance?
Love is kind: When we have and show God’s love, it will be seen in simple acts of kindness. A perfect example of kindness is to see how children receive us. Children won’t receive and respond to unkind people!

Love does not envy: Envy is one of the least productive and most damaging of all sins. It accomplishes nothing, except to hurt. Love keeps its distance from envy, and does not resent it when someone else is blessed. I think that this is an area that many, including myself, struggle with and has been an area that I have been praying about a lot lately. It is hard when you are struggling to see those who are not. But then you have to look around you and realize that many places in the world there are so many who struggle more.

Love does not boast and is not proud: Love can work anonymously. It does not have to have the fame or the attention to do a good job, or to be satisfied with the result. Love gives because it loves to give, not out of the sense of praise it can have from showing itself off. Some of the people who work the hardest at love are the ones who are so very far from it. They do things that others might recognize as loving, and yet they do them in a way that appears showy, prideful…seeking praise. This isn’t love; it is pride looking for glory by the appearing to be love.

Love . . . is not rude. Where there is love, there will be kindness and good manners. Perhaps not in the stuffy, “look at me, I am so educated, cultured and chic” way of showing manners, but simply in the way people do not behave rudely.

Love . . . is not self-seeking: This is being like Jesus in a most basic way, being an others-centered person instead of a self-centered person.

“Love is never satisfied but in the welfare, comfort, and salvation of all. That man is no Christian who is solicitous for his own happiness alone; and cares not how the world goes, so that himself be comfortable.” (Clarke)

Love . . . is not easily angered: We all find it easy to be provoked, to become irritated with those who are just plain annoying. But it is a sin to be full of anger or quick to anger, and it isn’t loving. Moses was kept from the Promised Land because he became provoked at the people of Israel (Numbers 20:2-11).
Love . . . does not delight in evil: Literally, this means “love does not store up the memory of any wrong it has received.” Love will push the memories of past hurts from your mind and your heart instead of clinging to them. I found an account of one writer who tells of a tribe in Polynesia, where it was customary for each man to keep some reminders of his hatred for others. These reminders were suspended from the roofs of their huts to keep alive the memory of the wrongs, real or imagined. Most of us do the same.

Love . . . does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: It simply wants the best for others, and refuses to taint the view of others. Instead, love rejoices in the truth. Love can always stand with and on truth, because love is pure and good like truth.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Often written as Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
“Love does not ask to have an easy life of it: self-love makes that her aim. Love denies herself, sacrifices herself, that she may win victories for God, and hers shall be no tinsel crown.” (Spurgeon).
He never promised it would be easy. Loves always protects/Bears all things. The word bears can also be translated to covers and this passage is reinforced with 1 Peter 4:8: And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” You have to ensure that your love does ‘cover’ all things and not proclaim, spread the news, gossip etc. about the errors of others. Love doesn’t look like that.

Love always trusts or believes all things. When we love, we never believe a lie, but we also never believe evil unless the facts demand it. We choose to believe the best of others. “Love, as far as she can, believes in her fellows. I know some persons who habitually believe everything that is bad, but they are not the children of love. . . . I wish the chatterers would take a turn at exaggerating other people’s virtues, and go from house to house trumping up pretty stories of their acquaintances.” (Spurgeon)

Love always hopes or Love hopes all things: Love has a confidence in the future, not a pessimism. When hurt, it does not say, “It will be this way for ever, and even get worse.” It hopes for the best, and it hopes in God. Lessons for all…when life gets tough it doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us nor does it mean we are ‘stuck’ with this forever. It means that He will take care of us and that we will grow and learn from this.

Love always perseveres or endures all things: Most of us can bear all things, and believe all things, and hope all things, but only for a while! The greatness of true love is that it keeps on bearing, believing, and hoping. It doesn’t give up. It destroys enemies by turning them into friends.

Love never fails …

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

May this week of love and season of love find you full of the Paul describes.

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