Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lessons from 1 Corinthians 13: Part 3

(Part 1)
(Part 2)

In my last post I began examining the first 8 verses of 1 Corinthians 13. I looked at the first 5 attributes given in this passage of biblical, agape love. It is patient and kind. It is not envious or boastful. It is not arrogant or rude. In this post I will examine the next 4 attributes of love.

6. Love is not selfish
Galatians 6:2 commands us to “bear one another's burdens”. I Corinthians 12:25 gives us the formula for ensuring that there is no “schism” in the body of Christ – “care for one another”. This is the most descriptive attribute of love. It is not selfish. It is completely selfless. Philippians 2:3-4 reminds us to “esteem others higher (or better) than ourselves”. It's this type of selfless love that the Apostle John writes about in I John 3:16 where he writes, “hereby perceive we the love of God because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

In another recent post here I mentioned that this issue (selfishness) is at the root of all marital issues. Whether that selfishness manifests itself in a sexual affair with another person or in never thanking the marriage partner for their fidelity and for the things they do on a daily basis to demonstrate their love, the result of selfishness is often disastrous. When looking at how we deal with other people the same thing can be said.

7. Love is not provoked
The word “easily” that we find in the KJV is a bit misleading. The literal reading of this verse leaves us with the impression that we are NOT provoked to anger against another. James 1:19 reminds us to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”. To be able to listen selflessly requires love!

There is nothing wrong with debate. There is nothing wrong with disagreement. There is nothing wrong with anger. We are, however, cautioned to “be angry and sin not”. In my life I have seen too much infighting in the church as a whole (and have engaged myself in plenty of it). We get caught up in petty issues and preferences and end up deliberately offending people. We are ready to go to war over issues that we have had to read into the Bible, instead of humbly remaining silent where the Word of God is silent. Some will do anything they can to stifle an individuals Christian liberty, while others will do whatever they can to demonstrate their “liberty” - even if it offends another. This is one of the chief problems I see with the mindsets of many in Fundamentalism as well as her critics. When these sorts of attitudes are displayed, I believe that we grieve our Heavenly Father. Love in not easily provoked, nor is it provocative. If we were able to get our arms around this thing called love, many hostilities end.

8. Love does not keep score
This term “thinks no evil” is really an accounting term. At the risk of sounding a bit naive, I'll say this: love has amnesia! Can you imagine going into a conversation without preconceived opinions about somebody? How often have you decided you didn't like somebody because of something they did to you years ago? From that point on, we just keep track of all the “stupid things” they do! We question their motivation. We become haters. Again that cancer called bitterness has gotten hold of us. Have you ever been involved in an argument with somebody and one or both parties end up dragging up “ancient history” in order to make a stronger case? This attribute of love is closely tied in with several of the earlier ones.

9. Love rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth
We are to never take pleasure in sin. When somebody does evil, or evil comes upon somebody, we are not to take pleasure in it. True love as expressed to our God leaves no room for laughter at sin. This could be displayed in the things we say and give audience to. It could also be displayed in the way we react to events. We should be grieved at sin - ours and others. We should be grieved when tragedy strikes others. Yet we should applaud and rejoice when Truth triumphs!

We’ve seen some tragic things in the last number of years. You can look at the events of 9/11 or, here in Kansas, some of the tornadoes of the last several years. Recently, making national news, was the murder of Dr. Tiller, the infamous abortionist. In all of these situations I’ve heard some Christians express something that I can only describe as joy, or at least some dangerous speculation. Last year a town that is just a few miles away from us was leveled by a tornado. I was present at a service where one preacher said (paraphrased), “I don’t know what’s going on in that town that it needed to be destroyed, but I hope they got the message that God is sending them”. I’ve heard several people express joy at the murder of Dr. Tiller…how can a Christian react like that?

I'll have one more post on this passage soon looking at the last 5 attributes of love from 1 Corinthians 13.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this--good timing for me, needed it right now