Posts tagged love
[Due to technical difficulties yesterday (namely that I had no access to the back-end of my website) TED Talk Tuesday had to be delayed until Wednesday. However, to thumb my nose at the internet gremlins who attacked me, I refuse to change the name to TED Talk Wednesday. So there!]
When I began watching this talk, I fully expected to hear Lawrence Lessig tell us how our political system is broken. What I didn’t expect to hear was how we could fix it, let alone why we should fix it. Lessig’s story about his lecture at Dartmouth (15:24) and his response about love stirs me to the core – not because of my love for country, but because of his passion and his definition of a love that would do anything and everything.
It is my belief that love changes the world. In Lessig’s area of passion, that may be love of country. In mine, that may be love of God and his people. In yours, it may be love of something else. Whatever it is, love will do anything and everything and, just maybe, can bring hope to a hopeless situation.
1 John is an interesting read. So much of it is devoted, seemingly, to identifying who is truly a follower of God and who isn’t. It very much seems like some kind of litmus test for Christians. But if so, it is a confusing one.
In one sentence, John says that once you have become a child of God, you no longer sin. In another, he says that we all sin and need to ask forgiveness. So what’s going on here?
Well, I think we can find a clue when we look at the audience of John’s letter. John is writing, according to his own words, to believers who have already accepted the teaching about Jesus. These are people who would have been well aware that simply accepting Jesus does not make a person perfect. However, John is trying to encourage and challenge these believers by saying, in a sense, “Once you’ve been washed clean, you would never jump back into the filth, right?”
His words show how foolish and stubborn we all are – those of us who know the truth and have glimpsed the reality of God and yet continue to sin. Our actions are like a cheating spouse who, though his wife knows of his indiscretions and has forgiven him, continues to pile misery on misery, affair on top of affair. Now, you could certainly the sanity of the wife, continuing to forgive her husband, but the greater flaw is in the husband.
Likewise, if God had peers, they would probably call him a fool for continuing to stick with us – for persevering in his grace and forgiveness for us. But is is we who have the greater flaw. If we really loved him as we say we do, wouldn’t we just stop the cheating?
In Ephesians 3, verses 17-19, Paul uses a somewhat circular statement to challenge and encourage the Ephesians:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
So, being rooted in love, I pray that you will come to know this love. It sounds strange, but isn’t that the reality of life and love? Understanding love is kind of like wading into a vast ocean. You have to take one step at a time and you get a little deeper with each step. In many ways, you have to get wet before you can get really wet.
This, to me, is why our love for other people is so important. You see, the love of God is perfectly capable of overcoming anything, just like the ocean is fully capable of getting anything wet. But without that first step, people would never experience that ocean!
Our meager, messed up human love is that first step. And being rooted in established in those few shallow inches of love will cause people to go deeper. Our love leads people to experiencing God’s love.
That’s the responsibility that we’ve been given. So today, when you have the urge to say something rude or selfish or to put your desires above those of others, remember that first step into the ocean and decide whether you want to be that step or not.
Paul’s writing to the Corinthians spans a full spectrum of church and personal issues. Just in today’s reading, he tackles sin, faith, reconciliation, personal difficulties, idolatry, repentance and generosity. But there is a common thread throughout today’s reading, and, indeed, throughout Paul’s letter – a thread of Paul’s love of and pride in the people of the Corinthian church.
Multiple times, Paul speaks of “boasting” about this church. In today’s language, Paul would be hashtagging #ilovethischurch over and over when he talked about the church at Corinth. These guys were the real deal and Paul knew it. Of course, they had their issues, as we all do, but Paul could see through the mucky parts and recognize the incredible heart on display in this church.
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is really the result of him seeking to help them live up to the hype! He knows the things they’ve struggled with an he knows some areas where they have seen some success. He also knows that they have good intentions, but he wants to be sure they follow through with those intentions.
At the end of the day, Paul is a champion for these people – he is an advocate of the highest order. And, like his old pal Barnabas, he is an encourager – a cheerleader – for these young followers of Jesus. He walks the fine line between admonishment, instruction and encouragement. And for this thriving young church, it was just what they needed.
I’m guessing that, at some level, that’s just what we all need – at least a little. Hold me accountable for the things I know I screwed up, encourage me in the areas where I’m doing well or making progress and instruct me in those areas where I lack some wisdom, knowledge or skill. Yeah, I’ll take that all day long!
The question I have for myself and for you is this: Who do we have in our lives who could use this kind of mentor? It’s easy to criticize, easy to cheer-lead and even easy to instruct. Marrying the three into the kind of care Paul exhibited to the church at Corinth requires dedication, laser focus and , most importantly, empowerment from the Holy Spirit. Let it be!
1 Corinthians 13 has been called the love chapter, which makes sense given the subject matter. However, when taken in context of the preceding chapter, chapter 13 takes on even more meaning. Remember, these chapters weren’t written as chapters. They were part of a letter – continuous thoughts flowing into each other.
So, when Paul speaks of the diversity of gifts in the Church in chapter 12 and ends that chapter by saying, “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts,” then follows that up with, “And yet I will show you the most excellent way,” he then begins to talk about love. Love is at the pinnacle of everything. As Paul goes on to explain, love is a prerequisite for all of the gifts of the Spirit and is even greater than faith and hope.
When taken in this context, love becomes the lifeblood of the Church – the body of Christ. Love is the unifying force that runs through all of the various body parts. Love is what makes all of those part function and perform together. Love is really important!
The other thing I noticed for the first time is that Paul’s famous “love is…” statements are given not as directives, but as observations. Paul speaks of the outflow of love – the results of loving. In other words, he doesn’t say, “If you want to show love, then be this way.” He says that we should seek to love. And if we do love, then the result of that love will be patience, kindness and all the rest.
In some ways, that makes the instruction a lot simpler. What do we need to ask God to give us? Love! Rather than praying to be patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, etc. we can cover the whole lot by praying that God will help us to love. And that is my prayer today and every day for the past 10 or 15 years: “God, help me to see people as you see them and to love them as you love them.”
It’s not a complex prayer, but it has become the cry of my heart and I recognize God answering that prayer in big and small ways nearly every day.