In 1st Corinthians 13, Paul wrote what was to become one of the classic wedding poems. His tag ending for the poem goes “the greatest of these is Love.” One could argue that Paul had the makings of a multi-platinum song writer if he had just stuck with it (how many copies of “all you need is love” did the Beatles sell, anyway). We love to talk about love, and we love to hear about it. It seems we all just want to be loved. And when we talk about it, want it, or even try to give it, it seems we generally reduce love down to just about what the Beatles did; a warm, fuzzy feeling that sells buckets of records. And that’s also how we usually talk about our love for Jesus – in terms of warm fuzzy feelings.
But real love is something else entirely. The reason Paul never sold those gazillion records (besides the obvious anachronistic technical difficulties) is because he just didn’t know where to stop. In verses 4 through 7, he wrote about love in a way that makes it something hard. Something that requires commitment. Something that, dare we say it, requires that you put someone else’s interests above your own. The question I would like for us all to consider is whether we truly love Jesus, or whether we just have warm fuzzy feelings about Him. Because if we love Him, we have to deal with Love on His terms:
Love is patient – are we committed to patiently waiting on the plans that Jesus has for our lives, or do we rush ahead with our own agendas?
Love is kind – we might ask how we could be kind to Jesus, since He isn’t here bodily at the moment, but he left us with the answer in John 15 when He said “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” We love Him when we love the brothers and sisters we have in Him. When we hate those we should be serving and following Jesus with . . . how unkind to Jesus is that?
Love does not envy – are we, as Paul was, content in any circumstance? Philippians 4:12-13.
Love does not boast, it is not proud – Paul wrote “But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” Are we more concerned with getting credit for what we do, for how important we are in the Kingdom, or for God’s purposes to be fulfilled? A true, loving, Christ-like life could require that we do what is right, love as we are called to, and NEVER be recognized for it in this lifetime.
It is not rude – I think we are rude to Jesus more often than we think. Maybe the best way to think about this is to look at how we respond to priorities in our lives. How many times to we find ourselves having plenty of energy to do the things we want, while always being “too tired” to really get involved in spiritual things. It’s not that we can’t exert the extra energy reserves it takes some times to serve, its that we hoard them for our own use. How rude is it to give Jesus the dregs of our efforts.
It is not self-seeking – Simple enough. Just let God control your life, go where He says, do what He says. Nothin’ to it. Exept that we want ownership of our own lives and we fight for that ownership tooth and nail.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs – How much time do we spend mad at God. Feeling slighted because things haven’t worked out the way we wanted them to (see self-seeking, just above)? And how often do we hold that grudge for years, refusing to serve because clearly “God just isn’t fair.” And all the while we forget the price Jesus paid for us. A price so steep, it should cover an eternity of perceived unfairness, particularly since God isn’t unfair anyway. Ever.
“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18: 7-8.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth – well, this one seems obvious – Jesus is the Truth. Do we delight in Him ( and I mean do we delight in Him where, oh my goodness, others could see us?). Do we talk about him, because we just can’t help ourselves because we are delighted, or do we delight in the last movie we saw instead, in our last fishing / shopping / fill-in-your-own-blank here trip, in the stuff we have acquistively acquired?
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres – does that describe our relationship with Jesus, or do we cut and run when the going gets tough?
The real hard Truth is that if we don’t love Jesus on the terms Paul described in I Corinthians 13, we really don’t love Him at all. We need to stop and take a hard look at what we are committed to. Love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling, it is a commitment to a way of life that seeks the welfare of the One we claim to love.