(For September 23, 2012 midweek church email devotion)
We saw last Lord’s Day evening that Jesus teaches us God’s greatest command is to love. You could sum up even His two pivotal means of the Moral Law (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18) in one word, which must be behind it all: LOVE. The Law is simply our tool through which we love both God and man.
We also touched on what we will look at in King Jesus’ letter to the Church of Ephesus in the beginning of Revelation 2 next Wednesday night. The Church was strong on doctrine and persevering in the truth. Yet, Jesus held it culpable for not loving as it used to, and warned He would take away their local visible church if they didn’t rekindle their love for Him and His Body. They obviously did not remember and repent, as they are no more.
In preparation for that evening sermon, Let Love Move You, I had been reading 1 Corinthians 13 about love and am continuing to review it to grow my love for God and you the brethren. It’s worth noting that the chapter stems out of a concern for the body of Christ in chapter 12, which emphasized that we best not act like we don’t need each other.
Here’s what I found studying 1 Corinthians 13. First, it’s overwhelming if you’re honest with yourself. There are so many things stating negatively and positively what love should look like. And it’s a sobering check-up for anyone who is truly seeking to love better. Here’s what I did. I picked two areas that I recognized I most need to work on to love more. If we can work on one or two things, that will improve us everywhere and protect us from the paralysis of over analysis. Second, I noticed that the areas of love I want to work on seem to correspond to the one spiritual fruit I picked out of Galatians 5:22-23 to cultivate more of in myself during our family visitations in January. I wonder if you will see the same connection for yourself.
I want to encourage you to think about how you can love God and one another better. Practicing first with your family and your church brethren. Look at the list I am pasting below from 1 Corinthians 13 and ask God to show you where you need to love more.
What Love (Charity: “agape”, brotherly love) Does NOT Do or is NOT like (verses 4-6, 8):
What Love (Charity: “agape”, brotherly love) DOES Do or IS like (Verses 4, 6-7):
If you’re like me, it might be painful to first read this list and realize how little we love. But ask the Holy Spirit to help you, and just like the fruit of the Spirit you selected at family visitations, you will grow in the area of love you focus on if you think and pray about it and try. And while of course it is for God’s glory and the betterment of our brethren that we love more, my third lesson has been that the personal experience of loving more really is transforming and tremendously beneficial on the inside, even early on. I like the way I think and feel differently when I work on loving more. It’s better for myself.
Don’t forget, it’s never too late to change. Remember that verses 1-3 of the chapter say that you can know a lot and do a lot of good things, but if you don’t have love behind it, it’s just annoying clatter to God and man, and it profits you absolutely nothing. Of course, if you’re doing nothing, that’s just as much unloving.
May you be irritated enough to love (remember, we are to provoke — Greek, “irritate/incite” one another unto LOVE and good works, Hebrews 10:24).
Remember also that if you are reading the list and focusing on what you think someone else should be doing differently, you’re missing the point. Love loves first, regardless of how we may feel someone else is unlovable: We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19). Got a problem with someone else? The answer is not to wait for them to love you better. The answer is for you to act like Jesus and to first love them better. Now, if you just said, “Yeah”, thinking of the other person again. You’re still missing the point. And you’re still not loving, for “love seeketh not her own”. Thus, you’re still not loving God if you refuse to love your brother or sister as yourself in thought, word, and behavior (1 John 4:20). Why? He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:8).
Humbled by all this? Me too. That’s good news, as Peter says that … God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). In fact, Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we see Peter in total agreement with Paul: And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
Let love move you, beloved. This will be a better world, we will have a better church family, you will have a better family, and you will be a better you. If you love more.
I leave you with these quotes from one of my favorite books I’ve ever read: Henry Drummond’s, The Greatest Thing in the World. The book is based on 1 Corinthians 13, which Drummond refers to as “Christianity at its source”. (The parenthetical explanations I provided of love’s qualities above are also from Drummond.):
” … that language of love–understood by all, and eloquent to everyone …
… Now, the business of our lives is to fit these things into our character. That is the supreme thing to which we need to address ourselves; to learn love. And life is full of opportunities for learning love.
… Love is not a thing of emotion and gush. It is a robust, strong, manly, vigorous expression of the whole character and nature in its fullest development. And these things are only to be acquired by daily and hourly practice.
… Contemplate the love of Christ, and you will love.”