Archive for the ‘#love’ Tag

Haven’t Seen It Yet   Leave a comment

Love is Complicated   8 comments

Do you believe in true love?

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Yeah, asking a writer who specializes in apocalyptic fiction if she believes in “true love” is going to garner a complex answer. There’s a reason I have never successfully written a romance novel. The hearts and flowers version of love doesn’t live in my house, never did and never will.

Brad and I have only ever been married to each other (33 years this month), but our parents had eight marriages between them. That might account for why I have a jaundiced view of “true love”. It makes it sound like you’re destined to be together and it’s going to be wonderful. And that’s a crock of nonsense. It’s why I can’t write romance, because I think love is work. When you meet a couple who have been married for 30+ years, it’s because they CHOSE to stay together, not because they felt romantic and happy with one another.

Which is not to say I don’t believe in love. The love of God created mankind, stepped down from a perfect heaven into our messy existence (diapers) and went to the Cross for us, so I absolutely believe in His love. I think human beings, made in the spiritual image of God, can experience and give faded facsimiles of God’s love. In our bent state, we can imitate God, imperfectly. I just don’t think it’s something we feel in our warm gushy parts – except occasionally, when we’re curled up in bed with our backs melting together or when we’re holding our babies in our arms. A lot of what we call love today is infatuation, sexual lust or just plain manipulation of a significant other. Yeah, sometimes we feel like we’re “in love”, but the high divorce rate in Western society suggests we have no idea what love really is.

For me, love is something we do regardless of whether we feel it – hence why I am still married to Brad (an admittedly challenging guy) after 33 years. Many has been the time when I could have tossed all three of my family members out into the cold Alaska winter with nary a qualm, but I made dinner for them instead. That is love in action. Love is a verb in my vocabulary, only rarely a noun. It’s sometimes a feeling, but more often it’s an obligation. I have learned that when I love those around me, I gain benefits after the fact, but only if I pay the investment of love first.

Love can be hard. It’s hard to speak the truth to those you want to love you, knowing that they might just dump rage in your lap instead. You can only really do that if you view love as a verb – something you give to someone else without expecting something in return. A lot of us go through life never feeling loved and so we think love isn’t real, but it is. We experience it every time we give it, but so few of us do that these days. Sacrificial love – caring about another human being without expecting anything in return – is really not in fashion in the 21st century. We too often substitute sex for love and then when the warm romantic feelings are not reciprocated, we think there’s no love there. And that is entirely possible, because we confuse lust (a primal urge) with love (an action we do for others).

So do I believe in “true love”? If true love is hearts and flowers that lead you to happily-ever-after – no. Any time you get two human beings together, there will be conflict and that doesn’t meet up with the hearts-and-flowers concept of “true love”. I do believe in real love, which is something Jesus empowers me to give to others and occasionally it is returned to me. Sometimes that’s in my marriage or from one of my children, sometimes it’s from a random stranger. And those expressions of love toward one another have gotten Brad and I through 33 years of ups, downs, sideways and upside-downs. Is that “true love”? I don’t know. It’s real and like most things that are real, it’s messy.

Posted December 17, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Remember I Love You   Leave a comment

Make room for us in your hearts;  we have wronged no onewe have ruined no onewe have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I told you before that you are in our hearts so that we die together and live together with you. 2 Corinthians 7:2-3 

Image result for image of discipline of loveIt’s easy to forget that the church at Corinth was a troubled and young church. Paul wrote letters to them to address the various problems in the church, some of which were quite severe. The Corinthians were stiff-necked. They thought their church was doing well and they had expected Paul to praise them, not write to them in a strict manner.

Paul knew that the church members would discuss why he’d written such a letter. They’d have various explanations. Some of them probably complained about it. One popular idea was that Paul wanted to control their church. Probably many of the Corinthian Christians thought Paul no longer loved them. Like children sternly disciplined by a beloved parent, they might have felt bereft. It was hard to be a Christian in such an evil city as ancient Corinth was. Those Christians needed mature leaders like Paul to be tough with them when needed.

Knowing this, Paul mixed his rebukes with expressions of love and reminders of what he was about, as he does here. When he’d been in Corinth, he’d taught God’s message without trying to control anyone or use anyone for his advantage. The Corinthians knew that because they’d been there.

He wasn’t trying to accuse them. He wanted them to remember his love for them and to know, despite his absence of a few years, his love had not changed. He wrote those letters because he loved them and wanted them to sort out their problems for their own goods. Paul was trying to teach them how to serve God better.

Happy Valentine’s Day   3 comments

On Monday, I made it pretty clear that I think Valentine’s Day is a farce designed by Hallmark and the department stores to get American consumers to consume more, preferably on credit because VISA and its ilk need our money too.

Brad gave me a Valentine’s Day gift last night.

Image result for image of red ford taurus covered in snowMy car has been down during the most recent cold snap, but on Monday, it started warming up and yesterday it made it into the 20s. Brad got my car running. No big deal, he said. It started up pretty well, what with it being warm and all. But why did it stop working during the cold snap?

He got down on his knees and figured it out. Apparently, the electric cord that attaches to the car had come loose so that the engine warming devices were not able to function. It’s subtle. You can’t see it unless you kneel in the snow, which he did. He then fixed it so that it wouldn’t happen again.

Image result for image of valentines dayThat’s my Valentine’s present. Cost – about $1 in parts that were kicking around our garage and about 45 minutes of his time. Value – well, I like my independence, made possible by my car and Brad doesn’t have to get up earlier than he would prefer to take me to work and then quit work earlier than he would prefer to come drive me home.  So there’s the whole marital peace angle. That’s love rather than consumerism. He gave me something I needed rather than something I might not even want.

The flowers will be dried up and thrown away in a week. A working car can be around for a good long while.

Posted February 14, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in culture, Uncategorized

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Be Alert & Love   Leave a comment

Do you “get” it?

Will you apply God’s Word to your life and be changed?

We’re drawing to the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (don’t worry, I’ll continue into 2 Corinthians because they really are tied together). We’re about to wrap it up. In this section, Paul suggested love is the remedy for church ills and he provided three elements of spiritual maturity.

Ask yourself – Do you qualify as a mature Christian by Paul’s standards?

Exhortations of Spiritual Maturity

Stay alertstand firm in the faithshow couragebe strong. Everything you do should be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

In these opening two verses, Paul unveiled five moral exhortations:

  • Be on the alert
  • stand firm in the faith
  • act like men
  • be strong
  • let all that you do be done in love.

Image result for standing guardThese five exhortations are all present tense imperatives demanding continuous action. God’s commands are not good advice. They are not optional. God’s commands are not like a cafeteria where we can pick or choose what we want. All five commands are incumbent upon the believer. The first four commands employ military metaphors to encourage resoluteness in the faith, while the final command summarizes the previous four.

  • Be on the alert. This command is a warning to watch out for those that seek to bring about division. Paul urged the Corinthians to be watchful regarding danger from inside as well as outside the church. Most of the problems in Corinth, and in most of our churches today, arise from within the congregation, so we must be especially alert. The expression “be on the alert” sometimes occurs with anticipation of the Lord’s coming, so that may have been in Paul’s thinking as well. We should expect the return of the Lord at any time, and our behavior should reflect the Lord’s values and should not be characterized by sinful activities.
  • Stand firm in the faith. This is a military image that urged the Corinthians “to hold their ground” and not retreat before an enemy. The command to “stand firm” has already served as the bookends for chapter 15 (15:2, 58). The phrase “the faith” here probably denotes both the body of Christian teachings and our own personal relationship with the Lord (theology and lifestyle). Since there are many temptations out there that can cause us to depart from the faith we need to be vigilant and stand firm. Are you standing firm in the faith or are you like shifting sand?
  • Act like men and be strong. These next two commands should be taken together. The verbs are frequently combined in the Old Testament to exhort God’s people to have courage in the face of danger, especially from one’s enemies. The word Paul used for “be strong” is in the passive voice, meaning “be strengthened.” We cannot strengthen ourselves; that is the Lord’s work. Our part is to submit ourselves to Him. General George Patton summed it up well, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

The fifth and final command is the glue that holds the other four together. In 16:14, Paul exclaimed,

  • Let all that you do be done in love. Paul made his point especially clear by framing this letter’s closing: “Let all that you do be done in love” (16:14), and “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus” (16:24). This love involves both love for the Lord (16:22) and love for one another (16:24). Paul earlier challenged his readers with the fact that “knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” (8:1). Love is the greatest motivating force for ethical behavior. The old saying is still true that “People need to know how much you care before they care how much you know.”

Love is the remedy for church ills.

Characteristics of Spiritual Maturity.

16:15 Nowbrothers and sisters, 12  you know about the household of Stephanusthat as the first converts 13  of Achaiathey devoted themselves to ministry for the saintsI urge you16:16 also to submit to people like thisand to everyone who cooperates in the work andlabors hard. 16:17 I was glad about the arrival of StephanusFortunatusand Achaicusbecause they have supplied the fellowship with you that I lacked. 14  16:18 For they refreshed my spirit and yoursSo thenrecognize people like this.

16:19 The churches in the province of Asia 15  send greetings to youAquila and Prisca 16 greet 17  you warmly in the Lordwith the church that meets in their house. 16:20 All the brothers and sisters 18  send greetingsGreet one another with a holy kiss. 1 Corinthians 16:15-20

In these six verses, Paul shared five characteristics of spiritual maturity:

  • service
  • submission
  • friendship
  • hospitality
  • affection

All five characteristics are essential aspects of growing to maturity in Christ and in our relationships with God’s people.

  • Service. Stephanas and his family were Paul’s first converts (“first fruits”) in Achaia, the province in which Corinth stood. They had given themselves selflessly to serving the Corinthians. They were probably loyal to Paul and may have been the source from which he received some of his information about conditions in this church. Verse 15 states that the household of Stephanas “devoted themselves for ministry to the saints.” The King James Version translates the verb “devoted” as “addicted.” I like this! They were serving in ministry so consistently, so regularly, that it was like an addiction; they were hooked on ministry. That’s not such a bad addiction, is it? Could anyone accuse you of this?
  • Submission. The Corinthians had a problem with submission to authority. They were competitive, stubborn, and even arrogant at times. Many in the church wanted to do their own thing. Paul encouraged them to appreciate some less flashy servants of the Lord. Submission is not earned by holding an office; it’s earned by godly character and service. There’s no indication that Stephanas was a pastor, or even a church officer. He was apparently just an ordinary Christian with extraordinary love. But he deserves as much respect as pastors and elders. Mutual submission is a key theme of Spirit-filled living. All believers are to submit to each other (Ephesian 5:21). Service, not status, should be the basis for honor in the church. Are you submitting to the various servant leaders in our church? Do you esteem them above yourself? Do you seek creative ways to honor them?
  • Friendship. Apparently, when the financial support for Paul’s missionary work dried up, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus bailed him out. But even more meaningful is the fact that they “refreshed” his spirit. One of the finest compliments that can be paid of another Christian is to say that he or she is refreshing to be around, picks up your spirit, and encourages you to keep going. I know a lot of people in our church who are like that; I always feel better after being with them. They are a blessing to everyone they come in contact with.

Consider – when you enter a room, is there more joy, peace, and love than before you arrived? When you leave, is the atmosphere and attitude better? Do you refresh your fellow-believers or bring them down?

When you experience refreshment from other believers, how should you respond? Paul recognized such people and gave them kudos. Thank them. Write them a note. Give them a hug and tell them how much they mean to you.

This section closes with two additional marks of spiritual maturity: hospitality and affection.

  • Hospitality. Aquila and Priscilla opened up their home and hosted a church. According to the New Testament, this dynamic ministry couple lived in at least three different cities—Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome—and in all three places they had a church in their house. Furthermore, it was at their house that Paul stayed during his very first visit to Corinth, probably for more than a year and a half. There may be no greater tool for ministry than the Christian home. Because the home is a testing ground for the power of love and acceptance, it serves as a living demonstration of God’s love for those seeking to be part of God’s family.

The late Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Elizabeth, moved from America to Switzerland and started L’Abri (“shelter”) in their home in 1955. Soon they were inundated by students and others seeking answers to life’s questions. They provided biblical truth, acceptance, and hospitality to all who came to their door.

Some people have a real gift for hospitality. Note the entire household of Stephanas is recognized in 16:15. Parents, children learn love and service in the home, and they learn the lack of love and service there also. They learn hospitality as they see their parents practice it; they also learn to hold on to their stuff tightly as they watch parents who do that. As a parent, are you helping your children learn through observation and practice how to live out these characteristics?

Affection. Paul saw the custom of the holy kiss as a proper corrective to the cliquishness and bickering that characterized the church at Corinth. It could also serve as a remedy to the tremendous personal isolation that so many feel today. Why, then, has this custom of kissing one another on the cheek all but passed from the church? First, it faded because it was liable to abuse. Some people had trouble distinguishing holy kisses from other kinds. Second, it faded because the churches became less and less about fellowship. In the little house churches, where friend met with friend and all were closely bound together, it was the most natural thing in the world; but when the little fellowship turned into a vast congregation, and houses gave way to cathedrals, intimacy was lost and the holy kiss vanished with it. The kiss, of course, is not the important thing; a hug, or a warm two-handed handshake, or an arm around the shoulder can express the same feelings, and in some cultures might be more appropriate. Alaskans are not, societally, big on kisses and I never really know what to do when a near-stranger hugs me. On the the other hand, if someone in my Sunday School spontaneously gave me a hug, I would return it because I consider them at least acquaintances. The key is the love and intimacy that the gesture symbolizes. Who needs a hug or a holy kiss from you today? How will you communicate your love to others in the body of Christ? Love is the remedy for church ills.

Mark of Spiritual Maturity (16:21-24).

I, Paulsend this greeting with my own hand. Let anyone who has no love for the Lord be accursedOur Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with youMy love be with all of you in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 16:21-24

Please notice that this third and final point is singular, not plural. In fact, in these four verses, Paul boiled down everything that he has said in this passage and in this letter to a single word: LOVE. First, however, he provided a note in 16:21: “The greeting is in my own hand—Paul.” This verse indicates that this letter, like most of Paul’s letters, is written by a scribe. The scribe did not compose the letter. He merely put ink to paper or papyrus. In our day, this is akin to an executive that dictates a letter to a secretary but signs it and adds a brief note at the bottom. Paul picked up the quill and signs off this letter with a personal touch.

In 16:22, Paul’s personal touch is a verse with a curse: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.” Wow! Sobering, right? The word “accursed” means “devoted to destruction.” Did Paul mean temporal or eternal destruction? Most scholars argue for the latter; however, there is no contextual reason to assume that Paul is now all of a sudden discussing unbelievers or false teachers. Rather, it seems that he is still addressing believers. True to form, some of the Corinthian church members did not love the Lord. Lack of love for the Lord refers to factiousness, self-seeking, strife, and carnality that practically denies one’s love for Christ. In this context it means lack of obedience to Him in such things as exalting human wisdom over the wisdom of the cross, tolerating incest, attending idol feasts, dividing over spiritual gifts, and abusing the Lord’s Supper. Those who fail to love the Lord and other believers will face God’s curse. This probably is exclusion from fellowship in the local church. The opposite of this is “Maranatha,” an Aramaic word that means, “Our Lord, come.” This is similar to John’s final words in Revelation 22:20: “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Paul concluded this strong but loving epistle with a prayerful benediction of God’s grace. This is the very same way that he began his letter: “Grace to you” (1:3). What a wonderful reminder that people need the grace of God, for without it they are hopeless. The most loving act that we can perform is to show people God’s grace.

First, we must share God’s grace in salvation. This means informing people that God’s love is not based on our own merit but on Jesus Christ’s merit. We receive salvation the same way that we would receive a Christmas gift. We simply open up our hands, receive it, and then express gratitude. We must also be messengers and dispensers of grace to those who are believers. This means not only do we proclaim God’s grace in salvation, but we exemplify God’s grace in being gracious.

The last sentence of the letter, written in Paul’s own hand, reaffirmed his love for all the Corinthians—despite their failings, despite their arrogance. Although Paul knew some pretty ornery people in the Corinthian church, and some of them made his life difficult, he sent his love to all of them.

Paul wrote thirteen letters, yet this is the only one that he ends with an affirmation of his love for his readers. It’s amazing when you think of the church to which he expressed it. This was the church that resisted him the most, that was the most fractured in its love life. But Paul wrote, “I love you,” not just in himself but because of the relationship with Christ that had transformed his life. Out of that he expressed his love for the church, because he knew that’s the only kind of love that lasts, the only kind of love that makes a difference, the only kind of love that’s tough enough to survive in the face of the personal rejection and insult he had experienced from this church.

Who do you need to express love to today? Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to come alongside of? Who do you need to serve or to reach out to? Our church will advance when we show love for one another. As Jesus said, “All men will know that we are His disciples by the love that we have for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Love is the remedy for church ills.

Love is Eternal   Leave a comment

Love Never Fails
(13:8-13)

Love never endsBut if there are propheciesthey will be set asideif there are tonguesthey will ceaseif there is knowledgeit will be set aside. For we know in partand we prophesy in part,  but when what is perfect comesthe partial will be set aside. When I was a childI talked like a childI thought like a childI reasoned like a childBut when I became an adultI set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to faceNow I know inpartbut then I will know fullyjust as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faithhopeand loveBut the greatest of these is love.  (1Corinthians 13:8-13)

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul set out to show the superiority of character over charisma. Christian love overwhelms spiritual gifts.

  • Verses 1-3, Paul stated even the most highly prized gifts, exercised to the ultimate level of success, but without love, are of little value to the one who is gifted or to the one who is the recipient of his ministry.
  • Verses 4-7, Paul described love in a way which defines it in very practical terms and also shows the Corinthians’ lack of love.

In our subject passage for this week, verses 8-13, Paul reasoned love is superior to all the spiritual gifts because love outlasts them. Love never fails; spiritual gifts do fail.

The statement, “love never fails,” nicely links Paul’s words in verse 7 with those which follow. Love “never fails” because it always bears up, always has faith, always hopes, always endures (verse 7). Furthermore, love “never fails” because it is eternal.

The word “fail” is the translation of a word which literally means to fall. This same word is used to describe the fatal “fall” of the young man from the third story window during Paul’s really long sermon in Acts 20:9. Ananias and Saphira both “fell” dead when confronted by Peter (Acts 5:5, 10). Paul employed this term when he spoke of the 23,000 who “fell” dead in the wilderness due to their immorality (1 Corinthians 10:8; Exodus 32:28). In other words, love does not die; it does not come to an end. Love is like the Energizer Bunny that keeps going and going and going …

In contrast to love, which does not come to an end, spiritual gifts do come to an end. Paul said they fail. He wrote of the demise of the three spiritual gifts considered most valuable by the Corinthians. Gifts of prophecy will be done away with; tongues will cease; knowledge will be done away (verse 8). Knowledge and prophecy in this age are partial and incomplete. But when “the perfect” comes, this will render the “imperfect” obsolete.

My husband is a repairman. Often when he is called out in the middle of the night because someone has no heat, he will repair the boiler/furnace temporarily. He keeps used parts on hand to effect those repairs. He will then return the next day when he has secured the brand new part to make permanent repairs. Consider the late night repair to be “imperfect” until he makes the “perfect” permanent repairs.

Paul contrasted the permanence of love with the temporary nature of all spiritual gifts. I know there’s debate about how some gifts may be temporary in nature, but I don’t see that in Paul’s writing … and neither do the Bible commentators I read in research here. I guess the gift of tongues is singled out because of a subtle distinction in the Greek text. One Greek word is employed to refer to the passing of prophecy and knowledge, translated in the NASB by the expression “done away.” The cessation of tongues is depicted by a different term, rendered “cease” in the NASB. While the verb employed for the passing of prophecy and knowledge is passive in voice, the term used in reference to tongues is middle in voice. This subtlety is interpreted by some scholars to mean tongues will cease after the days of the apostles before the cessation of prophecy and knowledge.

“They shall make themselves cease or automatically cease of themselves.” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), IV, p. 179.

All Christians should be knowledgeable and honest enough to say that the so-called “cessationist” position (certain gifts—especially tongues—came to an end at the close of the apostolic age) is based upon inferences rather than upon clear statements. Yes, I am a Baptist who does not speak in tongues, but I don’t agree with the “cessationist” position. It is one thing for the Bible to say tongues will cease; it is quite another to say tongues have ceased. Doctrine based upon clear, uncontradicted statements is to be held more dogmatically than doctrine based upon inference. I too hold certain beliefs based upon inference, but I desire to acknowledge them as just that. In 1 Corinthians 14:39, Paul pointedly prohibited us from forbidding others to speak in tongues. This is not an inference but a command. So, there you have it. I don’t speak in tongues because God hasn’t given me that gift, but I believe He has given others that gift. I’ve seen very.few people who exercise the gift do it properly, but the only argument I have against that is 1 Corinthians 14, which also tells me not to forbid others from speaking in tongues. Therefore, ….

I don’t embrace the cessationist position, but I also believe God is not obliged to give the gift of tongues anyone today. There are certain vital and necessary functions in the church, for which there are accompanying general commands. All are commanded to give, to help, and to encourage. All may not be gifted in these areas, but it seems necessary that there be some who are thus gifted. All are not commanded to prophesy or to speak in tongues. I don’t think tongues are necessary for the work of God, but I don’t deny the possibility of tongues. I also question the practice of tongues by some Christians. Not all that is called tongues is biblical tongues, and much of what is practiced as tongues (whether genuine tongues or false) is not practiced as the Scriptures require. In spite of this, a blanket rejection of the possibility of tongues cannot be biblically sustained.

Paul showed love to be superior to all spiritual gifts because it is permanence. Spiritual gifts are not permanent because they are not perfect. Spiritual gifts are partial. We know in part, and we prophesy in part. Prophecy is never wrong or inaccurate; it is simply incomplete. Peter wrote of the prophets of old who spoke of the sufferings and glories of the Messiah who was yet to come and whose own writings puzzled them because they were incomplete (1 Peter 1:10-12). Paul was privileged to fill in some of the gaps of the Old Testament Scriptures by unveiling certain mysteries (Ephesians 3:1-13). Nevertheless, his revelations were partial. He did not reveal all that we would like to know. Because of this, his letters raised unanswered questions, and false teachers were quickly on hand to distort his writings (2 Peter 3:14-16).

God used th prophets of old to reveal all He wanted us to know—but not all there is to know nor all that we would like to know. When “the perfect” comes, the imperfect will no longer be necessary. The imperfect will be done away with. I doubt the completed canon of Scripture is “the perfect” which will come (13:10) is the completed canon of Scripture. More likely, Paul meant the kingdom of God for which we eagerly wait. Only then will we know fully, just as we are now fully known (see verse 12).

In verses 11 and 12, Paul told the Corinthian Christians, and us, that we should view spiritual gifts as we do the toys of our childhood. We kept some of our kids’ toys for when friends bring their children to our house and while they still delight small children, our kids themselves have moved on to other “toys” … musical instruments, cars, etc. Childish toys are great when we are children, but they should hold little attraction for adults.

Paul’s illustration taught an important lesson to the Corinthians and also gently rebuked their pride and arrogance. Did they think they were wise? Of course, they did (see 4:6-21)! But their wisdom and understanding were partial. In the light of eternity, such knowledge will be set aside as imperfect. Did the Corinthians believe they saw things clearly and that their perception of matters was accurate? Paul let them know their knowledge was sketchy compared to the perfect knowledge which will be ours in eternity.

Our perception of truth and reality is like looking in a cheap, old mirror which only imperfectly reflects reality. Our modern mirrors are so much better than those of Paul’s day. His mirror was probably like the “mirrors” at a highway rest stop. Many states use metal “mirrors” in their restrooms to cut down on vandalism. Those mirrors make it very difficult to see yourself clearly. The Corinthians did not see as clearly as they thought, either. At best, their knowledge was partial. They shouldn’t have clung to their spiritual gifts with pride and thought too highly of themselves. They should have possessed and appreciated all the gifts as temporary provisions of God, seeing them as partial and inferior to what eternity holds for us.

Paul declared love is not only better than any or all of the spiritual gifts, but that it is even greater than faith and hope. Spiritual gifts fail, while love lasts. Faith, hope, and love all “abide” (verse 13). While love is greater than spiritual gifts which do not last, love is also greater than faith and hope, which “abides” and “endures.” Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It won’t be necessary in heaven because we will be with God face-to-face. Hope too seems to be temporal.  “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:24-25). Faith is necessary for salvation because it waits for God to reveal His plans, but that level of trust in the unknown will be unnecessary when we’re with God in Heaven. We won’t need to hope for eternity any longer because we will already have received it. But love will still be there. Love is not something to look down upon as inferior to spiritual gifts and wisdom. It holds greater value than anything else.

Something of such great value must not only be esteemed, it should be sought. Jesus told the parable of the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46). When the merchant found the one pearl of great value, he gladly sold all he had to purchase it. Paul told us that love is that “pearl of great price.” It is the thing of great value. The Corinthians, knowingly or not, sacrificed love in their pursuit of certain spiritual gifts (see chapter 8). Paul showed this was contrary to eternal values, since love is the greatest. One does not wisely sacrifice that of the greatest value for something of lesser value.

The first verse of chapter 14 is Paul’s “bottom line,” the application he wants his readers to accept and accomplish. In saying love is the greatest, Paul is not belittling spiritual gifts. He merely seeks to put spiritual gifts into perspective. Spiritual gifts are a gracious provision of God, but they are never to be pursued or practiced at the expense of love. Love is to be pursued as the “pearl of great price,” but the spiritual gifts are not to be neglected. Love is the attitude of heart which adds value to the gifts.

A former pastor of mine was descended from the Bach family of musicians, so it was a family requirements that he learn to play an instrument and many of the men in his family were accomplished fiddlers (he grew up in the Ozarks). He learned the notes and fingering and bow work, but he just wasn’t that good. He tried (and his sons wished he wouldn’t), but he couldn’t make a good violin “sing purdy.” Spiritual gifts are like the violin. They are good. When employed by immature, carnal, self-seeking Christians, however, spiritual gifts produce an unpleasant sound. When spiritual gifts are employed by spiritual Christians, those who walk in love, the gifts they exercise are beautiful; they are edifying to others. Love is one ingredient that can never be absent without being noticed. The Corinthians might have professed to pursue and practice love, but they were lacking in it.

Christian love is a huge topic, but you can summarize Paul’s teaching on the subject with two main statements:

  1. Love should be our priority
  2. Love should be pursued

Love as a Priority

Spiritual gifts have little value apart from love. Spiritual gifts do not abide, while love does. Love is even superior to faith and hope, which do abide.

This truth is not unique to Paul. The teaching of the entire Old Testament and of our Lord Jesus Christ can be summed up by one word—“love.” (See Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; John 13:34-35; John 15:12-13; John 15:17).

Love was the goal of Paul’s instruction:

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).

Peter and John referred to love as the highest level of Christian growth, and Paul spoke of it as the basis for edification (see 1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 John 4:7-11; 2 Peter 1:5-7; Ephesians 4:1-3, 14-16).

Love is to be a high priority for the Christian, but it is so quickly and easily lost. Certainly love was lacking in the church at Corinth. The church at Ephesus all too quickly lost its first love and did not even seem to know it (see Revelation 2:1-5.

THE PURSUIT OF LOVE

Love is not automatic. It’s quickly lost, and it comes about only when we make it our priority and pursuit. How does one pursue love? We begin by reading God’s Word and meditating upon it. This epistle was written not only to the saints at Corinth but to all the saints, including us (see 1:1-2). The first thing we gain from God’s Word is an accurate definition of love. Our society does not have the same definition of “love” as the Bible says Christians should hold. The Bible is the only source of truth which defines what love is and does.

As the Word of God speaks to us of love, we should recognize our lack of love, and repent of it. Surely as Paul’s description of love’s conduct begins to unfold in verses 4-7 of chapter 13, it became increasingly clear the Corinthians lacked love. As we meditate on these verses and many like them in God’s Word, our lack of love must be recognized and repented from as the serious sin it is. This is what Jesus called for in His letter to the Ephesian saints in Revelation 2 and it is what He requires of us today.

Having recognized our lack of love and repented of this deficiency, we must now look to God alone as the source of love. Love does not originate within us. We love as a result of God’s love for us. We are to keep ourselves in this love (1 John 4:19; Jude 1:20-21). 

If we are to keep ourselves in the love of Christ, we must never stray from the cross of Christ, because that is where God’s love for us was poured out (Romans 5:3-8).

The love we have received from God came in the form of a cross—sacrificial love. That is the kind of love we are to manifest toward others (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:25-27).

The way we demonstrate love toward God and toward others is by obeying His commandments. This is why the Old Testament law can be summed up in two commandments, both of which are the expressions of love. Legalism is man’s attempt to keep God’s law without love. Love is that state of heart which seeks to please God by keeping His commands. In chapter 14, verse 1, Paul instructed his readers to pursue love, and the rest of the chapter tells us how that is to be done. We pursue love by exercising our gifts in a self-sacrificial way that endeavors to edify others. If most of the church today ignores the instructions Paul laid down here, we can conclude the problem begins with a lack of love toward God and toward others. Love is not so much a warm and fuzzy feeling as the grateful disposition to please God and others at our own expense, by keeping His commandments as initially laid down in the Old Testament and clarified in the New.

Just a reminder that I’m speaking primarily to Christians because this epistle was written primarily to Christians, but now I want to say something to those who have not yet acknowledged their sin and trusted in the sacrificial death of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. You cannot express the love of God until you have first experienced it. This is why some Christians scoff at you when you try to lecture them about love. Christian love is impossible for those who have not yet accepted the love of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I urge you to consider the awesome reality of God’s love, expressed toward you in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Even while we were sinners, Christ died for us, to bear the penalty for our sins, and to give us His righteousness, as we place our trust in Him by faith. May you trust in Him this very hour and thus come to experience His love.

Christian Love Has No Sell-By Date   Leave a comment

It bears all thingsbelieves all thingshopes all thingsendures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Paul spoke of four different qualities of love, all linked to each other by the word rendered “all things.”, which seems to fall short of communicating what Paul is saying. Love does not, for example, believe everything. It is not “love” for a mother to believe her child when he denies getting into her freshly made pie, when the meringue has formed a mustache around his mouth. Paul had just written that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (verse 6). While we tend to read these as separate phrases, they are dependent upon one another and should be understood in context. How could he inform the Corinthians that “love” accepts everything as truth, believing whatever one is told and not contradict that earlier statement?

Image result for image of love enduresInstead, what it means is love is always characterized by certain qualities, without exception. Throughout history, man has sought to excuse disobedience or sin by convincing himself that his situation is an exception. Jesus was asked if a man could divorce his wife for any reason at all (Matthew 19:3). His response was a refusal to dwell on the exceptions. He focused instead on the rule. He knew that for the Pharisees, the exception had become the rule. This is why Paul had already excluded any “loopholes” in the Bible, by insisting that whenever we succumb to temptation, it is not because we had to (The “I’m only human” defense), but because we failed to act upon God’s divinely provided “way of escape”:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

And so Paul informed his readers that there are four things love never ceases to possess and to practice, four things which can always be expected from genuine love.

(1) Love always bears up under adversity (“bears all things”).

Love had endurance. It can continue no matter what the opposition.

Edwards points out that the Greek term employed by Paul has two senses:

The term used here by Paul “… means originally ‘cover over,’” … then, “contain as a vessel.” From this latter meaning two metaphorical uses of the word are derived, either of which may be here adopted:

  1. that love hides or is silent about the faults of others;
  2. that love bears without resentment injuries inflicted by others.

(T. C. Edwards, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (London: Hodder and Stoughton, n.d.) p. 347)

I do not believe we are forced to one choice or the other. It is completely within the realm of possibility that Paul meant us to understand this word in terms of its broader range of meaning. If true, we can see two major dimensions to love’s consistent capacity to “hold up” rather than “fold up.”

Firstlove bears up silently; that is, love covers sin with a cloak of silence. Sin is shameful, and love does not wish the sinner to be shamed more than necessary. Noah’s son, Ham, broadcast his father’s shame to his brothers when Noah was drunk and naked in his tent. His brothers “covered” Noah’s nakedness in a way that prevented them from viewing his shame (Genesis 9:20-23). Peter reminds us that Jesus suffered silently, not responding verbally to the abuses hurled upon Him, and that this pattern of silent suffering is to be followed by all the saints (1 Peter 2:18–3:15; 4:8).

Matthew’s Gospel sheds further light on this matter of our silence when Jesus teaches His disciples about church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20). We are to go privately to a brother who has sinned against us, and if he repents as a result of our rebuke, the matter is settled, never to be made public. If, however, this wayward brother resists and refuses to repent, then the matter once dealt with in the strictest privacy must now be dealt with in a way that becomes more and more public. After all efforts to turn the wayward brother from sin have been rejected, the whole church must be notified of his sin, and he must be publicly ex-communicated. Love always seeks to keep the sin of a wayward brother as private as possible, but this does not mean we cannot and should not be confronted publicly, if all private efforts have failed.

Second, love always bears up, no matter how great the persecution, suffering, or adversity. Job’s wife “tempted” him to sin by urging him to “curse God and die,” thus bringing his suffering to a conclusion. Love never caves in or collapses under duress. Love always holds up. Should we attempt to deceive ourselves by thinking otherwise, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:13 jolt us back to reality.

Third, love always has faith (“believes all things”). Love never forsakes faith. The word translated “believes” in this verse is a verb, and the noun which shares the same root is very often translated “faith” in the New Testament. Of all the many times Paul employed the verb found here in our text, virtually every time it is used in a context which indicates the one who “believes” is the one who “has faith.” It is often used of those who have come to faith, those who have become “believers” (see 1 Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 14:22). Only once in Paul’s epistles does this verb refer to a belief in something other than the truth of the gospel:

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it (1 Corinthians 11:18, emphasis mine).

Love always believes; it always has faith, even when life seems to be crumbling about us. Adversity is never an occasion for unbelief. Paul, imprisoned and awaiting a verdict from Caesar, was filled with faith, trusting that his death would either bring him into the presence of God or that his life would be used to draw others nearer to God (Philippians 1). Suffering is not an excuse for the failure of faith; rather, it is an occasion where love and faith may be demonstrated.

I know that faith, hope, and love are often mentioned together or are found in very close proximity to each other. I’ve come to appreciate the very close association that exists between love and faith. When Jesus summoned the four fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John, why did these men leave their nets, their boats, and even their fathers to follow Jesus? Was it because of their faith? Partly, but I think they were drawn to Jesus out of love—His love for them and theirs for Him. These disciples did not understand a great deal about Jesus and His gospel until after His death, burial and resurrection. What kept them following Him before these things were clear in their minds? Faith, in part, but also love.

Love always has faith. Our love for God and our trust in His Word should give us unlimited faith in Him. Those men and women whom we love we must also trust, but within limits. We dare not believe everything we are told. In Deuteronomy 13, Moses warns the Israelites concerning those who would lead them astray. Included among those who might mislead us are those we call our “loved ones” (see 13:6-10). Love is never a license to uncritically accept all we are told. The love we find in the Bible is based on the truth (see Philippians 1:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:5).

Our faith must not be in our fellow man, but in God. No matter how bad things may be, no matter how much grief others may dish out to us, we should have unlimited faith in God. We should have faith in His promises to sustain us, to keep us from falling, and to perfect His work in us. We should have faith that God is using our trials and tribulations to strengthen our faith (Romans 5:1-11James 1:1-18) and to bring about our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Paul found great consolation in his sufferings for Christ’s sake because it enhanced his sense of identity with Him and his love for Him (see Philippians 3:8-11Colossians 1:24-29).

All too often I see a kind of cynicism in Christians that is not compatible with faith. Of course, we believe in the depravity of man. We know this world is passing away and that the unbelieving world’s efforts to bring about the improvement of man’s moral and spiritual nature are doomed. We know a genuine and permanent peace will never be negotiated or brought about on this earth, apart from the return of our Lord and the establishment of His kingdom. Nevertheless, we can have faith that God will bring about His purposes for this earth and that He can save those who are seemingly hopelessly lost in their sins (such as Saul of Tarsus). We can be optimistic about what God will accomplish through us in this world. Love, true love, always manifests faith.

Fourth, love always has hope. Faith is believing in what is ultimately real and true but not immediately seen (see Hebrews 11:1). Faith believes God is going to give us that which our eyes do not and cannot see but which God has promised to us. Hope is our longing and desire for those things which are future, which by faith we believe we shall receive.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it (Romans 8:22-25).

The concept of hope is frequently found in Paul’s writings. Hope enables the Christian to face even the most adverse circumstances, hoping for the promised blessings which will follow. “Hopeth all things is the forward look. The thought is not that of an unreasoning optimism, which fails to take account of reality. It is rather a refusal to take failure as final. Following on from believeth all things it is the confidence which looks to ultimate triumph by the grace of God.”

We can fairly readily grasp the relationship between faith and hope, but what is the relationship between hope and love? It seems to me that we hope for what we really love. I think we see this kind of hope in the life of Jacob. When Jacob fled from home (really from his brother Esau), he went to live among his relatives in Padan Aram. Finding his uncle Laban, Jacob stayed with him, falling in love with his younger daughter, Rachel. Jacob worked for seven years to earn the dowry for Rachel, only to discover that Laban had given him Leah instead. It took another seven years of labor before Jacob had paid the dowry for Rachel. And yet we read these words concerning Jacob’s attitude toward the delay in obtaining Rachel for a wife: “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20). Jacob’s love for Rachel gave him both hope and endurance.

Of course there is a sense in which our love for others should give us hope for them. We love the children God has given us, and as they grow up, we have hope that God will save them and that they will grow up to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Our hope, however, is not in them so much as it is hope for them. We have hope for our children because ultimately our faith and hope are in God. We have hope that God will accomplish certain things in them.

Many of the Corinthian Christians were Paul’s spiritual children (1 Corinthians 4:14-15). In spite of all the abuse he had taken from these, his children, Paul had great hope for them (see 1 Corinthians 1:4-9; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 9:11-15; 13:6-14).

Man’s hope may be wrongly placed (see 1 Timothy 6:17), but the only true source of hope is God, and particularly the Lord Jesus Christ (see Psalm 33:171 Peter 1:21Psalm 31:24; 38:15; 42:5, 112 Corinthians 1:101 Timothy 1:1). Christians should be characterized by hope in the midst of adversity, and it may well be this hope which opens the door for sharing our faith with others: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). True love is characterized by a consistent hope. Love always hopes.

Fifth, love always perseveres (“endures all things”). Some have been troubled that the first description of love (“bears all things”) is too similar in meaning to Paul’s last description (“endures all things”). I believe these two things are related, just as “faith” and “hope” are related. I see the “bearing” of things related to the intensity of the trial or offense. “It was more than I could handle,” someone excuses. “How much am I supposed to put up with?” another asks. Perseverance or endurance do not focus so much on the intensity of the trouble as the duration of it.

Love, Paul wrote, does not run out of time. Love lasts. This point will be taken up in the following verses. No matter how difficult the trial, love bears up under it; no matter how long the trial, love perseveres. This was not the case when the Corinthians divorced one another (chapter 7) or when one believer took another to court (chapter 6). There is a world of difference between a Christian asking the question, “How long?” and the Christian throwing in the towel with the excuse, “Too long!”

This, by the way, are what marriage vows are all about. When a man and a woman love each other and enter into covenantal marriage by the taking of vows, they promise to love each other, no matter what. And when they repeat their vows to each other, they commit themselves to loving their mate, “until death do us part.” Love does not put time limits on its own existence, even when things get rough.

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