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Longing for Love…Duty does not have to be dull. Love can make it beautiful and fill it with life

15 Apr

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Paul gives us God’s description of love (agape) in 1 Corinthians 13 and states quite boldly that all of those qualities really are manifestations of the first one, love — that, after all, joy is love enjoying itself; peace is love resting; patience is love waiting; kindness is love reacting; goodness is love choosing; faithfulness is love keeping its word; gentleness is love empathizing; and self-control is love resisting temptation.

Love is the key; love is the main thing. This chapter, therefore, is setting forth that quality of love which is the work of the Spirit of God within us reproducing the character of Christ. Now once you have love all these other qualities that are part of the fruit of the Spirit are possible to you.

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Pierce, Aiden, Sheldon, and Brinson (our grandsons in Shiyan, China)

Love for God is not difficult, because all you need to do is be aware of how he has loved you — in creation, in the supply of all you need, in leading and putting you in various places with various persons. But above all else he has loved you in having given his Son for you, having redeemed you, having forgiven you, having healed your inner hurt.

If we have the love of God in our hearts, then we can be patient; we can be peaceful; we can be good, loving, faithful, gentle, kind, and all these other qualities. But without love all we can do is imitate these qualities, and that is what produces a phony love. One of the most deadly enemies of the Christian cause is phony love.

That is why, in Romans, Paul says, “Let love be genuine,” {Rom 12:9a RSV}. When you come into the church, especially among the people of God, love must be genuine. If it is not, it is hypocrisy. If it is put on just for the moment, if it is an attempt to put on a facade, to act like you are kind, thoughtful. gracious, faithful, and so on, but it all disappears as soon as the situation changes, that spreads death within the whole community. Genuine love, however, will produce all these qualities.

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote,  “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”

Dr. Halbeck, a missionary, saw lepers at work. He noticed two, particularly, sowing peas in the field. One had no hands; the other had no feet, these members being wasted away by disease. The one who wanted the hands was carrying upon his back the other, who wanted the feet. He, in turn, carried the bag of seed and dropped a pea every now and then, which the other pressed into the ground with his feet. And so they managed the work of one man between the two.

What makes life worth living? Love does. Paul contrasts love here with certain things that were highly regarded in Corinth and are still highly regarded in the world today. The loveless person produces nothing, is nothing, and gains nothing.

This thirteenth chapter of the Book of 1 Corinthians is about love. Since few subjects are more important, let me remind you of some of the reasons love holds such importance.

(1) The whole Old Testament Law is summed up by the one word, “love” (see Leviticus 19:17-18; Matthew 19:19).

(2) Love sums up the Christian’s responsibilities in the New Testament (Romans 13:9).

(3) Love is the capstone, the crowning virtue, the consummation of all other virtues (Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peter 1:5-7; Colossians 3:12-14).

(4) Love is the goal of Paul’s instruction (1 Timothy 1:5).

(5) Love is the distinguishing mark of the true Christian (John 13:35).

(6) Without love, the value of spiritual gifts is greatly diminished (1 Corinthians 12:1-3).

(7) Love is greater than any of the spiritual gifts and is even greater than faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13).

(8) Love endures suffering under persecution, and Christians will be persecuted (Matthew 24:10; 2 Timothy 3:12).

(9) Love is easily lost, without one’s even being aware of it (Revelation 2:1-7).

(10) Love is misunderstood and distorted by the unbelieving world.

(11) Love is vitally important to Christians, for it should govern our relationships with other Christians, especially those with whom we strongly disagree.

Love is patient.

I have always admired the spouse who said “I love you, not because you’re perfect, but because you’re so perfect for me.” It reveals an acceptance and understand that is not shallow or weak.

The Greek word (makrothumein) used in the New Testament always describes patience with people and not patience with circumstances.  It is the word used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself and who yet will not do it.  It describes the man who is slow to anger and it is used of God himself in his relationship with men. 

Sometime ago one of our members complained after services because of a distraction during the Sunday morning worship. Two people were mumbling to each other, it seemed. Because I knew the situation, I was able to offer a quick and adequate explanation: “Forgive them,” I said. “I need to explain that one of the people is a new Christian and doesn’t speak much English, so the message is being translated.”

Something similar also occurred: a young man was wearing a baseball cap during the Sunday morning class…one of the members commented on it to me after class ended. I explained calmly that the person had just concluded chemotherapy and was conscious of the fact that he’d lost most of his hair. To that person’s credit, there was quick retreat from his words and thoughts.

All of a sudden everything changed. Patience replaced impatience. Why? Because patience always hitches a ride with understanding. The wise man says, “A man of understanding holds his tongue” ( Prov. 11:12).

Before you strike out, tune in. “It takes wisdom to have a good family, and it takes understanding to make it strong” ( Prov. 24:3 ). Before anything else, love is patient. May I urge you to do the same?  “God is being patient with you” ( 2 Pet. 3:9 ). And if God is being patient with you, can’t you pass on some patience to others? Of course you can. Because before love is anything else: Love is patient.

Fosdick points out that no one treated Lincoln with more contempt than did Stanton.  He called him “a low cunning clown”, he nicknamed him “the original gorilla” and said that Du Chaillu was a fool to wander about Africa trying to capture a gorilla when he could have found one so easily at Springfield, Illinois.  Lincoln said nothing.  He made Stanton his war minister because he was the best man for the job and he treated him with every courtesy.  The years wore on.  The night came when the assassin’s bullet murdered Lincoln in the theatre.  In the little room to which the President’s body was taken stood that same Stanton, and, looking down on Lincoln’s silent face, he said through his tears, “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.”  The patience of love had conquered in the end.

We might occasionally respond the way an elderly couple in a nursing home did.  They were constantly fighting, arguing, yelling at each other as they had from the time when they were first married as young people. They would argue and fight from the time they got up in morning until they fall in bed at night.  Finally one day the wife says to her husband, “I’ll tell you what, let’s pray that one of us dies. And after the funeral is over I’ll go to live with my sister.”

Robert Ingersoll, the well-known atheist of the last century, often would stop in the middle of his lectures against God and say, “I’ll give God five minutes to strike me dead for the things I’ve said.” He then used the fact that he was not struck dead as proof that God did not exist. Theodore Parker said of Ingersoll’s claim, “And did the gentleman think he could exhaust the patience of the eternal God in five minutes?”

Patience is the red carpet upon which God’s grace approaches us.

Love is kind.

“Love is kind,” writes Paul.

Nehemiah agrees: “You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness” ( Neh. 9:17 ).

David agrees, “Your lovingkindness is better than life” ( Ps. 63:3 nasb ).

Paul speaks of “the kindness and love of God our Savior” ( Titus 3:4 niv ). He is exuberant as he announces: “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it” ( Eph. 2:7–8 msg ).

If longsuffering (or patience) is the passive side of love, kindness is the active side. Kindness is: “… a word suggesting goodness as well as solicitousness. They are interested in true goodness, actively interested in the welfare of those about them. Obviously these people are doers; they do not claim good intentions but then plead helplessness because of weakness or apathy.”

Kindness is the opposite of “having a chip on one’s shoulder. A chip on one’s shoulder predisposes one to hostile action with only the slightest provocation. But kindness in one’s heart predisposes one to helpful action which only requires the hint of a need before it takes action.

In a world that is saturated with harshness, a kind disposition is a refreshing breeze. There is many a woman who would trade a handsome husband for a kind one. Kindness would stifle the plague of child abuse. More kindness among brothers in the Lord would alleviate so much church trouble. The Scriptures demand that we be kind to each another (Eph. 4:32). Kindness is characteristic of God and should thus characterize the Christian as well:

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men (Luke 6:35).

And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).

Soon after Angi and David’s sixth anniversary, the couple’s home burned to the ground.  Angi’s first act, when they were allowed to hunt through the blackened remains, was to search for their photo albums.

When she went to tell David that the pictures had indeed survived, she found him carefully placing in a box some charred, folded pieces of paper — their courtship love letters.”

As I watched David kneeling there in the ashes,” she says, “I was overcome with the certainty that we were meant for each other. There, in the face of our greatest tragedy, our first thoughts were not of our material loss but of the potential loss of these precious parts of our life together. As I knelt to help him with the letters, I was certain that we hadn’t lost anything that mattered after all.”[1]

Jesus’ invitation offers the sweetest proof of the kindness of heaven: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. ( Matt. 11:28–30 nkjv )

Farmers in ancient Israel used to train an inexperienced ox by yoking it to an experienced one with a wooden harness. The straps around the older animal were tightly drawn. He carried the load. But the yoke around the younger animal was loose. He walked alongside the more mature ox, but his burden was light. In this verse Jesus is saying, “I walk alongside you. We are yoked together. But I pull the weight and carry the burden.”

The following letter was send to Ann Landers, the famous newspaper columnist who dispensed advise for those who wrote: “Dear Ann Landers:  I have a message for that 16-year-old boy who has a “21-year-old problem” — his brother.  My brother drowned three weeks ago.  One minute he was alive and full of fun.  The next minute he was gone, forever.

“I never felt especially close to my brother.  We fought and didn’t agree on many things.  But now I realize how much a part of my life he was.  Sure, he got on my nerves, and I’d tell him to bug off.  But now I remember all the favors he did that only a brother could.

“I’m just trying to urge people to think about what their brothers and sisters mean to them and to express their appreciation.  I hope they do it today because tomorrow may be too late.  — Miss Him a Lot.

She responded this way: “Dear Friend: I’m sure your letter will make millions of brothers and sisters think.  Thanks for expressing those beautiful sentiments. —Ann Landers, 8-24-92

Dr. Smiley Blanton tells us that “Eighty percent of the problem patients that have come to me, come because good manners were never taught them as children.  As adults, they made mistakes and were rejected.  They couldn’t play the game of life because they didn’t know the rules.”

Compassion lies at the heart of our prayer for our fellow human beings. When I pray for the world, I become the world; when I pray for the endless needs of the millions, my soul expands and wants to embrace them all and bring them into the presence of God. But in the midst of that experience I realize that compassion is not mine but God’s gift to me. I cannot embrace the world, but God can. I cannot pray, but God can pray in me. When God became as we are, that is, when God allowed all of us to enter into the intimacy of the divine life, it became possible for us to share in God’s infinite compassion.

 Love is not jealous.

 Jealousy or envy is resenting another person because of what they have or how they have succeeded. Envy possessively wants what somebody else has. Love, in contrast, is glad for somebody who is popular or successful or beautiful or talented or married or have children….the list could go on and on.

Jealousy is a feeling of displeasure caused by the prosperity of another, coupled with a desire to wrest the advantage from the person who is the object of one’s envy. The loving person will rejoice at the success of others. Jealousy has destroyed many a home and church.

In despair and frustration, we often allow similar circumstances to cause a “flicker” to occur in our attitude. And this can become a problem: for what is a flicker today can turn into a fire tomorrow.

Suppose you spotted a flame in your house. Not a blaze and certainly not a fire, but tiny tongues of heat dancing on the hem of a curtain, on the fringe of the carpet, to the side of the stove. What would you do? How would you react? Would you shrug your shoulders and walk away, saying, “A little fire never hurt any house.”

Of course not. You’d put it out. Douse it, stamp it, cover it—anything but allow it. You would not tolerate a maverick flame in your house. Why? Because you know the growth pattern of fire. What is born in innocence is deadly in adolescence. Left untended, fire consumes all that is consumable. You know, for the sake of your house, you don’t play with fire.

Jealousy, or envy, has two forms. One form says, “I want what someone else  has.” If they have a better car than we do, we want it. If they are praised for  something they do, we want the same or more for ourselves. That sort of jealousy  is bad enough. A worse kind says, “I wish they didn’t have what they have” (see  Matt. 20:1-16). The second sort of jealousy is more than selfish; it is desiring evil for someone else. It is jealousy on the deepest, most corrupt, and destructive level.

The cure for jealousy? Trust. The cause of jealousy? Distrust. 

Charles L. Allen in The Miracle of Love writes of a fisherman friend who told him that one never needs a top for his crab basket. If one of the crabs starts to climb up the sides of the basket, the other crabs will reach up and pull it back down. Some people are a lot like crabs.

 Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Peopereuomai (“to brag”) is used nowhere else in the New Testament and means to talk conceitedly. Love does not parade its accomplishments. Bragging is the other side of jealousy. Jealousy is wanting what someone else has. Bragging is trying to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy puts others down; bragging builds us up. It is ironic that, as much as most of us dislike bragging in others, we are so inclined to brag ourselves. Charles Trumbull once vowed: “God, if you will give me the strength, every time I have the opportunity to introduce the topic of conversation it will always be Jesus Christ.” He had only one subject that was truly worth talking about. If Christ is first in our thoughts, we cannot possibly brag. 

C. S. Lewis called bragging “the utmost evil.” It is the epitome of pride, which is the root sin of all sins. Bragging puts ourselves first. Everyone else, including God, must therefore be of less importance to us. It is impossible to build ourselves up without putting others down. When we brag, we can be “up” only if others are “down.” Jesus, who had everything to boast of, never boasted. In total contrast, we who have nothing to boast of are prone to boast. Only the love that comes from Jesus Christ can save us from flaunting our knowledge, our abilities, our gifts, or our accomplishments, real or imagined.

Arrogance and boasting are the reverse side of the coin. Jealousy is my sinful response to the prosperity of others. Arrogance and boasting are my sinful response to my own prosperity. Arrogance (or pride) takes credit for my “success,” as though it were due to my own merit or superior efforts. Boasting is letting other people know about my success in a way that tempts others to be jealous of that success.

 Love is not Rude

The principle here has to do with poor manners, with acting rudely. It is not as serious a fault as bragging or arrogance, but it stems from the same lovelessness. It does not care enough for those it is around to act becomingly or politely. It cares nothing for their feelings or sensitivities. The loveless person is careless, overbearing, and often crude.

William Barclay translates our text as, “Love does not behave gracelessly.” Love is gracious. Graciousness should begin with fellow believers, but it should not end there. Many Christians have forfeited the opportunity for witnessing by rudeness to an unbeliever who offends them by a habit the Christian considers improper. As with Simon, sometimes our attitude and behavior in the name of righteousness are more improper, and less righteous, than some of the things we criticize.

Love is much more than being gracious and considerate, but it is never less. To the extent that our living is ungracious and inconsiderate it is also unloving and unchristian. Self-righteous rudeness by Christians can turn people away from Christ before they have a chance to hear the gospel. The messenger can become a barrier to the message. If people do not see the “gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1) clearly in us, they are less likely to see Him clearly in the gospel we preach.

 Love Does Not Seek Its Own

I understand that the inscription on a tombstone in a small English village reads, Here lies a miser who lived for himself, and cared for nothing but gathering wealth. Now where he is or how he fares, nobody knows and nobody cares.

In contrast, a plain tombstone in the courtyard at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London reads, “Sacred to the memory of General Charles George Gordon, who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.”

What’s the cure for selfishness? Get your self out of your eye by getting your eye off your self. Quit staring at that little self, and focus on your great Savior. 

If Christ becomes our focus, we won’t be like the physician in Arkansas. He misdiagnosed the patient. He declared the woman to be dead. The family was informed, and the husband was grief-stricken. Imagine the surprise of the nurse when she discovered that the woman was alive! “You better tell the family,” she urged the doctor. The embarrassed physician phoned the husband and said, “I need to talk to you about the condition of your wife.”  “The condition of my wife?” he asked. “She’s dead.” The doctor’s pride only allowed him to concede, “Well, she has seen a slight improvement.”

The story is told of a chauffeur who drove up to a cemetery and asked the minister who served as caretaker to come to the car, because his employer was too ill to walk. Waiting in the car was a frail old lady with sunken eyes that showed years of hurt and anguish. She introduced herself and said she had been sending five dollars to the cemetery for the past several years to be used for flowers for her husband’s grave. “I have come in person today,” she said, “because the doctors have given me only a few weeks to live and I wanted to see the grave for one last time.”

The minister replied, “You know I am sorry you have been sending money for those flowers.” Taken aback, she said, “What do you mean?” “Well, I happen to be a part of a visiting society that visits patients in hospitals and mental institutions. They dearly love flowers. They can see them and smell them. Flowers are therapy for them, because they are living people.” 

Saying nothing, she motioned the chauffeur to leave. Some months later the minister was surprised to see the same car drive up, but with the woman herself at the wheel. She said, “At first I resented what you said to me that day when I came here for a last visit. But as I thought about it, I decided you were right. Now I personally take flowers to the hospitals. It does make the patients happy and it makes me happy, too. The doctors can’t figure out what made me well, but I know I now have someone else to live for.”

As always, Jesus is our perfect model. He “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). The Son of God lived His life for others. God incarnate was love incarnate. He was the perfect incarnation of self-giving love. He never sought His own welfare, but always the welfare of others.

 Love is not easily provoked.

The Greek paroxunoô, here translated provoked, means to arouse to anger and is the origin of the English paroxysm, a convulsion or sudden outburst of emotion or action. Love guards against being irritated, upset, or angered by things said or done against it. It is not provoked.

The apostle does not rule out righteous indignation. Love cannot “rejoice in unrighteousness” (1 Cor. 13:6). To be angered by the mistreatment of the unfortunate or by the maligning and contradiction of God’s Word is righteous indignation. But when it is truly righteous, indignation will never be provoked by something done against us personally. When Jesus cleansed the Temple, He was angered at the profaning of His Father’s house of worship (Matt. 21:11-12). But on the many occasions when He was personally vilified or abused, He did not once become angry or defensive.

Like his Lord, Paul was only angered by the things that anger God. He responded strongly against such things as heresy, immorality, and misuse of spiritual gifts. But he did not become angry at those who beat him, jailed him, or lied about him (see Acts 23:1-5).

The being provoked that Paul is talking about here has to do with things done against us or that are personally offensive. Love does not get angry at others when they say or do something that displeases us or when they prevent us from having our own way (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21-24). Love never reacts in self-defense or retaliation. Being provoked is the other side of seeking one’s own way. The person who is intent on having his own way is easily provoked, easily angered.

We get angry when another person gains a privilege or recognition we want for ourselves, because it is our “right.” But to put our rights before our duty and before loving concern for others comes from self-centeredness and lovelessness. The loving person is more concerned about doing what he should and helping where he can than in having what he thinks are his rights and his due. Love considers nothing its right and everything its obligation.

Telling our wives or husbands that we love them is not convincing if we continually get upset and angry at what they say and do. Telling our children that we love them is not convincing if we often yell at them for doing things that irritate us and interfere with our own plans. It does no good to protest, “I lose my temper a lot, but it’s all over in a few minutes.” So is a nuclear bomb. A great deal of damage can be done in a very short time. Temper is always destructive, and even small temper “bombs” can leave much hurt and damage, especially when they explode on a regular basis. Lovelessness is the cause of temper, and love is the only cure.

Love that takes a person outside of himself and centers his attention on the well-being of others is the only cure for self-centeredness.

 Love Does Not Take Into Account a Wrong Suffered

 Paul tells us that love “does not take into account a wrong suffered.” I like what Morris writes on this point: “Paul’s next point is that love does not, so to speak, go around with a little black book making a note of every evil thing. ‘Love keeps no score of wrongs,’ says Paul (the NEB translation). We find it hard to forget it when people offend us, often storing up such grievances.

Logizomai (take into account)is a bookkeeping term that means to calculate or reckon, as when figuring an entry in a ledger. The purpose of the entry is to make a permanent record that can be consulted whenever needed. In business that practice is necessary, but in personal matters it is not only unnecessary but harmful. Keeping track of things done against us is a sure way to unhappiness—our own and that of those on whom we keep records.

The same Greek word is used often in the New Testament to represent the pardoning act of God for those who trust in Jesus Christ. “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (Rom. 4:8). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19).

Once sin is placed under the blood of Christ there is no more record of it. It is blotted out, “wiped away” (Acts 3:19). In God’s heavenly record the only entry after the names of His redeemed is “righteous,” because we are counted righteous in Christ. Christ’s righteousness is placed to our credit. No other record exists.

That is the sort of record love keeps of wrongs done against it. No wrong is ever recorded for later reference. Love forgives. Someone once suggested that love does not forgive and forget, but rather remembers and still forgives. Resentment is careful to keep books, which it reads and rereads, hoping for a chance to get even. Love keeps no books, because it has no place for resentment or grudges.

Chrysostom observed that a wrong done against love is like a spark that falls into the sea and is quenched. Love quenches wrongs rather than records them. It does not cultivate memories out of evils. If God so completely and permanently erases the record of our many sins against Him, how much more should we forgive and forget the much lesser wrongs done against us (cf. Matt. 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32)?

 Love Doesn’t Rejoice in Unrighteousness

Love never takes satisfaction from sin, whether our own sin or that of others. Doing wrong things is bad enough in itself; bragging about them makes the sins even worse. To rejoice in unrighteousness is to justify it. It is making wrong appear to be right.

The rejoicing at sin, the taking pleasure in them that commit sin, the exultation over the fall of others into sin, are among the worst forms of malignity: (Romans 1:32 NIV)  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

(2 Thessalonians 2:12 NIV)  “…and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

We cannot imagine taking delight in a tragedy that befalls a friend or loved one; yet when we delight in sin, we are delighting in that which offends and grieves our heavenly Father and which is tragedy to Him.

 If we love God, what offends Him will offend us and what grieves Him will grieve us.  (Psalms 69:9 NIV)  for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

Granville Walker said,  “There are times when silence is yellow, times when we ought to stand on our feet and regardless of the consequences challenge the gross evils of the time, times when not to do so is the most blatant form of cowardice. But there are other times when silence is golden, when to tell the truth is to make many hearts bleed needlessly and when nothing is accomplished and everything is hurt by a loose tongue.”

Sin can produce nothing but harm. In the unsaved person sin is evidence of his lostness. In a believer sin is evidence of disobedience and broken fellowship with God. To love a person is to hate his sin. Discipline in the church is necessary not only to protect the purity of the body but to help the sinning believer confront his wrong and to repent: (Matthew 18:15-20 NIV)  “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. {16} But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ {17} If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. {18} “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. {19} “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. {20} For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Paul had reminded the Corinthians of his command: (1 Corinthians 5:11 NIV)  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

 Love Rejoices in the Truth

After mentioning eight negatives, things that love is not or does not do, Paul lists five more positives (see v. 4a). The first is a contrast with the last negative: love rejoices with the truth.

At first glance it may seem strange to contrast not rejoicing in unrighteousness with rejoicing in the truth. But the truth Paul is speaking about here is not simply factual truth. He is speaking of God’s truth, God’s revealed Word.

Love is consistent with kindness but it is not consistent with compromise of the truth. Compromising the truth is not kind to those whom we mislead by our failure to stand firmly in the truth.

“This is love,” John tells us, “that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 6).

Love, truth, and righteousness are inseparable. When one is weakened the others are weakened. A person who teaches falsehood about God’s truth should not even be received into our home or given a greeting (v. 10). We are not to rejoice in a wrong doctrine that he teaches or in a wrong way in which he lives. Love rejoices in the truth and never in falsehood or unrighteousness.

On the other hand, love does not focus on the wrongs of others. It does not parade their faults for all the world to see. Love does not disregard falsehood and unrighteousness, but as much as possible it focuses on the true and the right. It looks for the good, hopes for the good, and emphasizes the good. It rejoices in those who teach the truth and live the truth.

A minister was known for his love and encouragement of the people of his church and city. When he died someone commented, “There is no one left to appreciate the triumphs of ordinary folk.” Love appreciates the triumphs of ordinary folk. Our children are built up and strengthened when we encourage them in their accomplishments and in their obedience. Love does not rejoice in falsehood or wrong, but its primary business is to build up, not tear down, to strengthen, not weaken.

 Love Bears All Things

Paul has just written that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (verse 6). How can he now inform us that “love” accepts everything as truth, believing whatever one is told?

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.

Love does not justify sin or compromise with falsehood. Love warns, corrects, exhorts, rebukes, and disciplines. But love does not expose or broadcast failures and wrongs. It covers and protects. Henry Ward Beecher said, “God pardons like a mother who kisses the offense into everlasting forgetfulness.”

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.

During Oliver Cromwell’s reign as lord protector of England a young soldier was sentenced to die. The girl to whom he was engaged pleaded with Cromwell to spare the life of her beloved, but to no avail. The young man was to be executed when the curfew bell sounded, but when the sexton repeatedly pulled the rope the bell made no sound. The girl had climbed into the belfry and wrapped herself around the clapper so that it could not strike the bell. Her body was smashed and bruised, but she did not let go until the clapper stopped swinging. She managed to climb down, bruised and bleeding, to meet those awaiting the execution. When she explained what she had done, Cromwell commuted the sentence. A poet beautifully recorded the story as follows:

At his feet she told her story; showed her hands all bruised and torn, And her sweet young face still haggard with the anguish it had worn, Touched his heart with sudden pity, lit his eyes with misty light.

“Go, your lover lives,” said Cromwell; “Curfew will not ring tonight.”

This quality is most often lived out by mothers. Jean Kyler McManus said: “God knew there should be mothers to hear each infant’s cry, To pat away the little tears that fill a baby’s eye . . . God knew there should be mothers to hear a child’s first word, To listen with attention when a child’s voice mist be heard . . .  God knew that each and every child needs someone close each day To help them out, to cheer them up at home, at school, at play –  To teach them how to share this world with sisters and with brothers – And so in His great wisdom. God created mothers.”

This is a worthwhile prayer: “ Dear Lord, Thank you for this child that I call mine; not my possession but my sacred charge. Teach me patience and humility so that the best I know may flow in its being. Let me always remember, parental love is my natural instinct but my child’s love must ever be deserved and earned; That for love I must give love, That for understanding I must give understanding, That for respect, I must give respect; That as I was the giver of life, so must I be the giver always. Help me to share my child with life and not toclutch at it for my own sake. Give courage to do my share to make this world a better place for all children and my own.”

 Love Believes All Things

Love is not suspicious or cynical. When it throws its mantle over a wrong it also believes in the best outcome for the one who has done the wrong—that the wrong will be confessed and forgiven and the loved one restored to righteousness.

Love also believes all things in another way. If there is doubt about a person’s guilt or motivation, love will always opt for the most favorable possibility. If a loved one is accused of something wrong, love will consider him innocent until proven guilty. If he turns out to be guilty, love will give credit for the best motive. Love trusts; love has confidence; love believes.

 Love Hopes All Things

Even when belief in a loved one’s goodness or repentance is shattered, love still hopes. When it runs out of faith it holds on to hope. As long as God’s grace is operative human failure is never final.

 Love Endures All Things

Hupomenoô (“to endure”) was a military term used of an army’s holding a  vital position at all costs. Every hardship and every suffering was to be endured  in order to hold fast.

Love holds fast to those it loves. It endures all things at all costs. It stands  against overwhelming opposition and refuses to stop bearing or stop believing or  stop hoping. Love will not stop loving.

Love bears what otherwise is unbearable; it believes what otherwise is unbelievable; it hopes in what otherwise is hopeless; and it endures when anything less than love would give up.

After love bears it believes. After it believes it hopes. After it hopes it endures. There is no “after” for endurance, for endurance is the unending climax of love.

 The Permanence of Love

Love is far superior to the spiritual gifts. The great permanence of love clearly shows its superiority.

Love never fails, never ceases, and never vanishes. Love endures and lasts forever. But not so with spiritual gifts: the spiritual gifts shall cease to be and shall vanish. When? Spiritual gifts are only temporary; they are not permanent; therefore, they are far inferior to love. Spiritual gifts were only temporary tools available to the first century church to use in reaching and ministering to a lost and needy world.

Love is perfect and complete. We know nothing perfectly, and we can proclaim and predict the truth only with partial certainty. No person knows all the truth. However, a day of perfection is coming, and when it comes, only that which is perfect will stand and endure.

The point is this: love is perfect; therefore, love shall endure and be the primary trait between believers in eternity. Therefore, love is far superior to the gifts.

Love is mature—maturity of behavior. However, the day of maturity is coming, the day when he shall set aside all the childhood understanding and thoughts and become a mature man, a perfected man. Love is the great gift and quality existing upon earth today that shall endure throughout eternity; therefore, love is far superior to the gifts and abilities of men.

Love is being face to face with God—a perfect consciousness and knowledge of God. Our present relationship with the Lord is comparable to the reflection we see through a dark mirror. We can faintly see the figure, but it is not fully distinct nor clear. Therefore, we only see God and the truth in part and we only know God and the truth in part. However, the day is coming when we shall know God even as He knows us—perfectly.

—————————————–

[1] Reader’s Digest, August, 1982

[2] W. L. Watkinson

[3] Stanley Hauerwas, quoted in Context (Sept.l5, l989). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 8.

[4] Fr. John Shea in U.S. Catholic (March 1990). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 7.

[5]Moody’s Anecdotes, pp. 71-72

 

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Article

 

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