“The Truth about Love”
1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Pastor Tom Millner
November 14, 2010
Love is something we all seek. Songs, sonnets, and swoons fill us with messages about love sought, love gained and often love lost. I had someone say to me once; “enough about this love stuff. What I really need is some practical principles for living through this miserable life I have.” No matter what this man had done in his life (he had seen the world, lived as and where he chose) he always came back to a place that could only be described as lonely. He knew Christ. He had heard the good news over and over. He declared his detest for people and places. His anger often boiled to rage that he had to deal with the ravages of aging and the consequences of having not taken care of himself. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in a position to grasp that he was only seeing coming back to him what he was dishing out. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, is trying to help them to see that at the core of the character that lives, gives, and has been given is the love that translates into action.
What random acts of love have you engaged this week? How have you actively pursued patience this week; patience with others; patience with yourself? Likewise, what acts of kindness have you engaged this week? Warning here; this is a reflective question intended to inspire us to more active deeds that share the love that is God in our lives. If we become list makers of our kind deeds, we fall prey to not love at all, but keeping lists of our wrongs. That occurs when we don’t fulfill what we think should be our quota or becoming full of pride about how kind we are. We read in these verses by Paul that love is NOT a keeper of wrongs nor prideful. Boy, this love thing is tough stuff! It sure is tough to accomplish, but we are called to engage it with patience and kindness, toward self and others. The best advice we can give ourselves is to forget about our “selves” and focus on the ONE who died to make a way for a relationship with us.
Verse 5 in today’s scripture tells us that love is not rude, love is not self-seeking, love is not easily angered, and that love keeps no record of wrongs. For illustration purposes today, let’s put in another word (name) for love. God is not rude nor is He self-seeking. God is not easily angered and He keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus told the crowd around him that if they have seen Him, then they have seen the Father. Therefore Jesus and God are one. If God’s call to us is to live in the character of Christ, then our call is to a Godly character. Instead of striving for the character of God, we more often than not superimpose our character traits on God and call them holy. They are neither Godly nor holy! Let’s look at self-seeking, anger, and keeping record of wrongs as examples.
We’ve heard that the God of Israel was a jealous God. The inference is that He wanted them all to Himself (that He was self-seeking) and did not wish to share them with other gods. I think that an improbable scenario because God is the only God and therefore cannot be jealous of what doesn’t exist. God created us to have a relationship with him because to do so is for the greater good of us. When we create other things that take His place, we are on the losing end of the relationship, not getting the fullness of our purpose for being. When we see a jealous God, we are projecting our selfish traits onto the god of our creation. Jealousy is our trait; love, relationship, and our best interest are God’s traits.
We’ve heard that God is an angry God. I think most of human societies have historically bought that idea hook, line, and sinker. Much of the religious community today operates out of this premise and unfortunately brings devastation to the very lives that Christ died to redeem. What is described as the wrath (anger) of God in scripture is the consequence that is wrought upon self when not living in the light and character for which we were created. If I perch myself on the precipice of the Grand Canyon and take a dive off as though I were a soaring eagle, I will die. That is not the wrath of God on me; it is rather the consequence of not being created with wings for flight! Some of the things that come out of so called Christian mouths today are simply appalling! God hates fags; Haiti’s earthquake is the result of disobedience, 9/11 was God’s retribution on a sinful nation. Humans who don’t get that God’s nature is love superimpose their own evil natures on a god of their self-design, thus justifying for themselves the right to do evil to others. God’s greatest command is that we love Him first and others likewise. Every unloving act toward another of God’s creations is a stab in the heart of God. There are consequences to that, but the consequences are no more at God’s hands than my plunge into the canyon. We were not created to be GOD; we were created to reflect God’ image, which is love. If what you see coming out of yourself is not looking like love, you’re not living to your highest calling in creation! Even our greatest enemy is to be the object of our loving nature, as much for our benefit as for the enemy.
So what about keeping no record of wrongs? Doesn’t the Bible say we will all have to be accountable on judgment day? Doesn’t God keep a record of wrongs then? Turn with me to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter24, verses 46-48. Jesus is appearing to His disciples after His resurrection and just prior to His ascension. Let’s look at what He says: “He told them, ‘this is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’” Repentance is the act of turning away from self-seeking, self-gratifying, self-worship! Forgiveness of sins is the act of holding one not guilty in the face of repentance, having the consequences of that debt removed from the record. The day of judgment is the day we stand before God, recognizing with clear vision the very nature of our own actions and fully understand the depth of God’s love for us by the act of love through Jesus Christ who by His grace and mercy, covered us with His own sinless nature. Judgment day is for our relational benefit, not God’s. In the Lord’s Prayer we sing or say each week: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We cannot yet fathom the depth of His wiping our list clean. We are justified before Him by the action of Christ on our behalf. We have taken the plunge and we see certain death at the bottom, but because of Christ’s love and our recognition of the need and desire to turn the other way, the hand of God reaches out and scoops us back to a place of safety from the consequence of our fall. We can only approximate that by the grace and mercy we experience with each other. Your action may be the only scripture another person reads or hears. Friday night we heard someone reference Saint Francis of Assisi as having said “witness with all you have, and even use words if you must.”
If there is to be a love revolution, it must begin with our recognition that we have not been as loving as God has created us to be, and then to make an about face from our former action and begin acting in His direction. Let go of the lists of wrongs you and others have done to one another and patiently pursue the consequences of grace and mercy into and out of yourself. Discover the truth about love. You were created in its image and made whole again in Love by Jesus Christ. Let’s live like it!