Friday, February 19, 2010

To Know, Know, Know Him (1 Corinthians 13 Concluded)

This is the final post (for now) in my series on 1 Corinthians 13. It is actually a repost from a couple of years ago but I thought it made a great conclusion!

So, tell me: When you read 1 Corinthians 13; you know, "Love is patient, love is kind...", how do you apply it to your own life? Do you immediately get struck with a sense of guilt right there at the beginning? Patient? Yeah, right...not with these kids... Or what about the next phrase, Love is kind...like as in how we should treat our spouses? Other drivers?

When I read through verses, 4-8 of that particular chapter, I always think of how I need to apply these verses to my interactions with my family and others around me.

But tonight, I saw it differently. Tonight, I inserted the name of Jesus...right there in all those places where it says "love". Just change it to Jesus and see what you come up with. More than that, end those phrases with your own name. Like this:

Jesus is patient with Sarah.
Jesus is kind to Sarah.
Jesus does not envy nor does he want Sarah to envy.
Jesus does not boast (although he does dance over Sarah).
Jesus is not proud (though he does take joy in his Creation, Sarah)
Jesus is not rude nor does he want Sarah to be rude.
Jesus is not self-seeking and he wants Sarah to be self-less too.
Jesus is not easily-angered nor does he want Sarah to be easily angered.
Jesus keeps no record of wrongs...even Sarah's wrongs.
Jesus does not delight in evil...nor should Sarah delight in evil.
Jesus rejoices with the truth...he wants Sarah to rejoice with the truth!
Jesus always protects Sarah.
Jesus always trusts God's Word and Promises for Sarah.
Jesus always hopes for Sarah.
Jesus always has and always will persevere for Sarah.
....and, best of all, Jesus will never fail Sarah.

Here's the part I always miss from that passage: verse 10: "but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears." I never get to that part because I stop half way through the litany of love's characteristics. I stop because I am so overcome with my own inadequacy that it shames me and I know I can't ever be all those things that love is.

But wait a minute...when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears! When Jesus covers me and works through me I think I just might be able to be some of those things after all! By God's grace, we all have the ability to posses a clean slate any time we want to! We can make that imperfection disappear by asking Jesus to come with his perfection!

Can it really be that easy? Yes, it can. Because Jesus did the most difficult thing of all. He became sin for us so we could become the righteousness of God. He did the hard stuff so it could really be that easy for us. Let's not take that for granted!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part Eight

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v. 6: "Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth"

In this verse, I am again reminded of Jonah and his calling to the Assyrians of Ninevah. Let me just preface this by saying that the following thoughts are just a portion of what this verse could be saying--it's just a thought tangent and not meant to be a complete summation.

We read in the book of Jonah how the prophet was sent to Ninevah to warn the people of God's coming wrath. Even though God knew that Assyria would invade his people, Israel, in just 50 years' time, he sent Jonah with a message of truth and salvation anyway. That's the God of grace we serve.

Although the Bible doesn't give a specific reason why Jonah first avoided going to Ninevah, we get the impression that he didn't think they were worth saving. He knew they were a wicked people and it's obvious he didn't have a heart for them. I wonder if he even rejoiced in their unrighteousness? If he didn't think they were deserving of God's grace, then it's likely he put himself above them in importance. He even went so far as to become angry with God after God honored their repentant hearts by sparing the city.

Lucky for Ninevah, and for us, God rejoices in truth. He loves to see his children step into a realization of his love and purpose for their lives. God spared this evil city--even knowing that some of these same people would take part in Israel's destruction just a generation later--because of their acceptance of his truth.

How can we apply this verse in a practical way? Have you ever taken a secret joy in the misfortune of another? Really? You don't think so, huh? What about...

*the "perfect" daughter of a friend who becomes pregnant outside of marriage
*the snobby co-worker who walks around unknowingly with her skirt tucked in the back of her nylons?
*the obvious weight gain in your ex's new girlfriend?
*your "know-it-all" brother, sister, friend who gets caught cheating or lying or stealing
*that celebrity whose dirty laundry is aired all over the media

Any time we take pleasure in the unfortunate circumstances or the consequences of sin in the life of another--even if we think they deserved it--we are rejoicing in unrighteousness.

To truly love not just our neighbor but our enemy as well, (Matt. 5:43-48) we must lead them to truth and rejoice in their discovery of it. Why should I be any more deserving of the truth than any other human being? Christ died for all of us and his promises are true for everyone.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's Time to Grow Up! Part Seven

1 Corinthians 13 is basically a study on the selflessness of love. It is a challenge to me asking: What are my motives?

v. 5: "Love is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered"

(cue Don Henley): I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter...but I think it's about forgiveness...

The first six parts of this study were done two years ago--and then I stopped. I'm not really sure what set me back but I think I got hung up on the meaning of this portion of verse 5. As I tried to make sense of it last night, I originally thought it meant, "don't provoke", but now that I've thought it through, what I think it's really saying is, "don't allow yourself to be provoked".

There are a couple of common sense reasons why this is important. First of all, if God is for me, what does it matter if anyone else is against me? Not that I don't get hurt when there's conflict in my life, but is it really worth it to respond to those who would provoke me? I've experienced the heartache that comes from casting my pearls before swine. Remember what your mama taught you: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.

Wait a minute!!! That's not true! Often times, words hurt worse than physical abuse. Words carry curses and reverberate through our heads for much longer than it takes for a bruise to heal.

This is where the next portion of the verse comes in. "(Love) does not take into account a wrong suffered". Forgiveness. Always forgiveness. What God has shown me in this verse is that if we'll keep an attitude of forgiveness--always forgiveness--then we'll automatically keep ourselves from being provoked.

If we commit to forgiving, even before the wrong is done, then when the provocation comes, God's love will be a barrier between us and the hurt. We'll be more concerned with the hurt inside the one provoking us than we will be about the hurt they are attempting to cause in us.

We can do this by practicing grace. If there's one thing the Lord gives us in abundance, it's His grace. If we are to be Christ-like, let's begin by extending that grace to everyone around us--most of all to those who, by their actions, seem the least deserving of it.
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