I was reminded of a passage of Scripture this morning that bears repeating and quoting here. It is a passage that I haven’t read outside of an academic setting in a while and a passage which should be preached on and looked at and taken more seriously in the church today. Here it is.
If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13 HCSB)
Paul gives us the qualities of love (patience, kindness, non-envious, humble, not conceited, acting properly, selfless, non-provoked, doesn’t hold grudges, hates unrighteousness, rejoices in truth, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”, and is eternal) in this passage. We have all heard these things more than once, but have we ever REALLY looked at them? Have we ever REALLY meditated on what their implications are for our lives? Most haven’t.
One of my favorite statements in this passage is the one made in verse 7:
[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7 HCSB)
How often do we find something we think is love and it doesn’t measure up to this? How often have we wasted our time on people and in relationships that weren’t love? How often have we traded joy in the supremely valuable for the superficial happiness found in things that don’t really matter and will never endure?
Love Bears All Things
This is a tough one for us to grasp I think. We want “love” that takes the burden off of us rather than a love that shares a burden. Biblical love shares the burden. In fact, Biblical love bears ALL things. There are no exceptions to this rule.
There is a family at my church this is going through some very hard times at present. The wife and the husband are probably going to be seperated for a while (not by their choice…and we’ll leave it at that). Sunday morning, I was praying with the husband and his heart is broken over this notion. I have the impression that if he could he would take his wife’s place in an instant. He doesn’t care that she made mistakes. He loves her and that is more important to him than anything that she may have done. That’s Biblical love.
Love Believes All Things
Biblical love is built on trust. We can’t love someone we aren’t willing to put our trust in. But it goes the other way too. If we aren’t trustworthy, than we are not a loving person.
Trustworthiness doesn’t just mean not gossipping. Gossip is a part of it, but being trustworthy goes so much deeper than that. I think of a dog. A dog is trustworthy. If treated correctly, that dog will lay it’s life down for its master. And sometimes if it is not treated properly it will do the same simply because it is loyal. Trustworthiness and loyalty go hand in hand.
Love Hopes All Things
Love is full of hope. Love has hope that things will work out no matter what the circumstances. Hope is not a feeling. Hope is something that we have and do.
The people who died in those towers on 9-11 may not have felt hopeful, but if you heard some of their stories, you know that they had hope.
Hope goes beyond feelings. Hope permeates to the core of who we are and it mixes with trust to create an attitude that says, “I may not feel like I did yesterday but I trust this person and I know that no matter what things will work out.” That is hope. Hope says, “Screw feelings! I’m gonna make this work!”
Love Endures All Things
Love is an enduring quality. So many times we pretend to love. We won’t redily admit that, but it is true. I know it is true in my life all too many times. I want a love that has everything peachy keen and smooth. I want a love that is sweet all the time and never bitter. The flesh won’t allow for that though. Our natural inclination to sin keeps love from being this way. That is why true love will press on through it.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV Emphasis mine)
Paul “strain[s] forward”. He “press[es] on”. He loves his Jesus and knows that there is more there than his momentary light affliction.
For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 HCSB)
Love endures all things. Love forgets itself and presses on whether it feels like it or not.
A great problem in the American church is the obsession with feelings. All of us are guilty on some level of this obsession. We leave a relationship because we don’t “feel” the same as we once did. We don’t take a job at a church at the young age of 17 because it doesn’t “feel” right. We leave a church because we don’t “feel” that we are being fed. We are called to love God and love eachother (Matthew 22:37-39). This has nothing to do with feelings and emotions but everything to do with God. If the Spirit is in you, you should not be following your heart and your feelings. As Jeremiah says,
The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick–who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 HCSB)
So what are we to do with thoughts and comments like these? Apply them, for Christ’s sake! For Christ’s sake and His sake only. Living a life that fully glorifies God requires that you love in this way. Fully enjoying God requires that you love in this way. So do it. Love in a Godly way. Read this passage from 1 Corinthians and meditate on each of the things that Paul says about love. Find out where your lacking and do what it takes to fix that. Paul tells us,
So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12 HCSB)