July 2018

LOVE IS!

 

Recently, I had the awesome privilege to participate in the wedding of a beautiful young couple. The day was beautiful, the wedding ceremony was special and Christ-honoring, and the bride and groom were Spirit-filled and ready to begin life’s journey together. The phrase, “For our good and His glory” seemed to fill my mind as I led these young people in saying their vows to each other, and to God.

 

One of the passages I included in the service was 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – Paul’s “love” passage. In these short four verses, Paul tells us what love is, and isn’t. It’s a staple at weddings and anniversaries, and it is widely considered one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture. As I studied them, though, I kept feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit to dig deeper – that there might be more there than I was giving the passage credit for.

 

It’s a trap we “life-long” believers sometimes fall into – rushing through a passage that we have heard so many times for so many years, marveling at the beauty and perceived simplicity of God’s message, without ever stopping to think about whether God may have something new to teach us. I discovered this about Paul’s “love passage” when I just slowed down and took a moment to listen, and learn, when the Holy Spirit teaches.

 

For instance, while this passage is beautiful, the context in which it was written reveals that Paul meant so much more than a lovely little monologue about the wonderful virtues of love. Remember, Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth as a reprimand and a warning. This church had forgotten what it meant to love each other as Christ loved them. Apparently, to this church, all gifts weren’t the same – some were better than others, and likewise some church members were better than others.

 

Paul was telling this church that love is the foundation of everything – grace, mercy, salvation – and how we accepted the love of God in Christ and how we shared that love was the cornerstone of our relationship with God, and with each other. In other words, they weren’t loving each other, and the world around them, because they were too busy loving themselves. It is against this backdrop that Chapter 13 begins (remember, we added these chapter designations later – this was all one run-on sentence to Paul). It’s impossible to really understand Chapter 13 until you understand why Paul wrote the first 12 chapters.

 

Paul was writing a letter to a dysfunctional church for their abuse of spiritual gifts. Read it like that. Love is patient, and you’re not. Love is kind, and you’re not. Love doesn’t brag, and you do. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, but you do. Love doesn’t rejoice when a brother falls, but you do. And on and on. He was pleading with them to love others as Christ loves them. Love here is an action, not an emotion – it is a decision of the will.

 

Paul was writing to a church, and to people, who had failed miserably at all fifteen elements of love. And he still is. Read this passage again, and, ask yourself if you can check any of these off as “mission accomplished.” If you’re like me, you will see afresh that we all have a lot of work to do!

 

In His Love,

Bro. Heath

 


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