Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 82 & 83:: Let's Talk About Love

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1 Corinthians 13:4-7

New Living Translation (NLT)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.


What better way than to follow up a chapter about the Biblical view of sex with a Scriptural perspective on love? God's kind of love is the kind that applies to every relationship. It's an unconditional, unselfish love that demonstrates how we should treat our parents, our children, our friends, even the stranger on the street. It is equally applicable in romantic relationships. It's the kind of love that never fails, even when we screw up. It is a perfect love. And I'm going to pick it apart, trait by trait.

Love is patient and kind.

Patience is sometimes an elusive virtue for me. I'm sure it is for most people, but I've known a few who seem to have an unending supply, and it just amazes me. No matter how stressful life gets, though, it's no excuse for getting short tempered or being mean to someone. We all know how it feels to be snapped at by someone we love and trust. It hurts our feelings! Why would we ever want to do that to someone else? 

Consider how patient God has been with us. No matter how I try to live a life that pleases Him, I'm constantly screwing up. I can't go an hour without doing something wrong. I can't help but think of when my girls were small. They were just kids, doing what kids do, and it seemed like their little brains couldn't remember from one minute to the next what was right and what wasn't. It's frustrating, raising kids! They push their boundaries constantly, trying to see just how much they can get away with! How far they can go before they get caught; How much can they get away with before Mom steps in and punishes them.

That's exactly what we do to God. And unlike children, we don't grow up and grow out of it, or reach an age where we no longer have to obey the rules of the house. From the day we accept Christ as our Savior, we become the children of God, and obedience to our Heavenly Father is a life long commitment. One that we constantly fail at keeping, I might add. Yet He continues to be patient with us, always loving us, never kicking us to the curb. Even when we anger Him, He provides our needs. It's a kindness we should learn to emulate!

Love doesn't demand it's own way.

Sometimes it's hard not to make demands. Face it, we're human, and we want what we want. Our wants may not always be such a bad thing, but they should always be weighed against the needs of those around us. If we have to fight to get our way about something, have we really won? Or have we only succeeded in making someone else feel used, resentful, or just plain overwhelmed?

Even God doesn't demand His own way with us. He commands, but doesn't demand. He allows us the freedom to make right or wrong choices. Although we should conform to His will, He isn't going to force us to do anything against our own. He wants our devotion to Him to be totally of our own accord. If He manipulated us like puppets on strings, our "love" for Him would be meaningless. 

Love is not Jealous.

A few years ago, my husband and I went bowling with a couple of friends from church. We were having a great time, as we always did. If you've ever been bowling, you know that three strikes is called a turkey. Well, my friend had gotten a turkey. My husband's turn was up, and he had two strikes in a row. Their scores were very close, and a turkey would push Mark ahead by a few points. He stood there at the end of the lane and lined the ball up perfectly, but something went wrong. He missed the strike. Oh!!!! We were all laughing about how he'd been robbed, and as he pretended to complain about not getting a turkey like our friend had, I shouted playfully "Thou shalt not covet thy friend's turkey!"

It was all fun and games, and there were no serious rivalries. But sometimes in life, we do get jealous of others. Maybe a friend is able to buy a beautiful new car, while we are nearly having to push start our own mode of transportation every day. Perhaps you just lost a well deserved promotion to a co-worker that hadn't earned it. Any number of things could inflame the little green-eyed monster within us. But is that fair? Would we rather our friend drive an old clunker just to make us feel better? Of course not! It might be tempting to resent the co-worker, but to what end? It's not going to hurt the other guy as much as it gnaws at us, eating a hole into our own peace of mind, right?

No matter who it is, we don't have the right to be jealous. God gives out blessings according to His purpose. If you're wasting your time being jealous over someone else's blessing, you might not be paying attention when God tries to offer you an even better one.

Love is not boastful, proud or rude.

Don't you hate it when someone goes around patting them self on the back all the time? It's as if they can't get enough attention. They must suffer from some inadequacy that makes them want everyone to notice whatever greatness they've accomplished. Or how about when someone always makes snide remarks at the expense of others. They think they are being clever or witty. It's like a bully. Their ability to feel good about themselves is directly linked to how bad they can make others feel.

You and I, we're just little mosquitoes in the big picture. God has created this entire universe. He knows exactly how many gallons of water are in the sea, He knows the very temperature of the molten lava bubbling beneath the surface of the earth. He hung the sun, the moon, and every star, and He designed the human body, this immensely complex and complicated machine that couldn't possibly be duplicated at random. Who are we in comparison to that kind of greatness? We're nothing. But does God belittle you? Does He put you down and make you feel worthless? No! God's in the business of lifting us up and giving us life, not stepping on us like ants. 

Love isn't irritable and keeps no record of wrongs.

I am sure this happens in all kinds of relationships, but marriage comes to my mind first with this one. It's so easy to let little hurts and grievances build up in us as we share our lives with someone. And it really is usually the little things. They just pile up one on top of the other until they become one big huge thing, and it so often results in divorce.

Back in the 1960s, there was a movie called Love Story, starring Ryan O'Neil and Ally McGraw. An epic romance, this film has been a favorite for generations. There is a line that was made famous in that movie, and is still often quoted today. As his young wife lays on her death bed, Ryan's character is apologizing for all the things they never got to do, and Ally's character says "Love means never having to say you're sorry."

It's a nice sentiment, but it's wrong. Love means knowing when to say you're sorry. It's also being able to forgive. God's love is so complete that it doesn't keep track of how many times we make a mess of things. When we say we're sorry to God, He takes our mistake and throws it as far as the east is from the west, and remembers it no more. He totally forgets it. We tend to be less apt to forget things, but we should forgive as readily as God does. And our forgiveness should be just as complete. Even if we don't forget what our loved one did, once we say we've forgiven the incident, we never have the right to bring it back up.

Love rejoices in truth, not in injustice.

I read a story once that touched my heart. It would touch anyone's, so I'm going to share it, as best as I can remember it. The story was about some kids in school. I'm not sure where this school was, because caning has never been legal in the US during my lifetime, but in this story, the penalty for theft was 10 strikes across the back with a rod.

One day, a student we'll call Tom, who was the biggest boy in the class came in, angry that his lunch had been stolen. After some investigation, it was determined that Little Timmy was the culprit. The teacher called Timmy to the front of the class and asked if he understood the consequences for his actions. Timmy did, and the teacher told him to remove his shirt. Reluctantly, he did. The teacher and the entire class sucked in a collective breath. The boy was skin and bones.

The teacher knew he had to carry out the punishment, but he sure didn't want to. He asked Timmy why he'd stolen. Quietly, the little boy said that he had no father, and that his mother was barely making ends meet. She hadn't been able to afford to buy groceries, and he hadn't eaten anything in two days. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. After a moment, Tom, the big guy whose lunch Timmy had stolen, asked the teacher, "Sir, the rules say that the punishment for stealing is ten licks with the rod. But does it say who has to get the licks?" The teacher thought about this for a moment, and replied that the rules didn't specify. Tom came forward then and removed his shirt. "Sir, can I take Timmy's punishment for him?"

That's love. Timmy was deserving of the punishment, and Tom had every right to demand justice be carried out. But he wasn't going to get any satisfaction seeing the younger student get caned. The truth was, there had been a wrong committed, and a punishment must be dealt. The truth also was that it didn't matter who took the beating, and for that, Tom rejoiced, and took Timmy's place.

That's exactly what Jesus did for us, too. So next time you feel a little smug about how "karma" or whatever is placing a well deserved bite on someone else's backside, you think about Tom and Timmy, and then rejoice in how Jesus spared you the penalty for the crap you've done. Maybe you'll have a little more compassion on the person who did you wrong. After all, you don't know what led them to do what they did.

Love never gives up and loses faith, because love always has hope enough to endure.

It's what separates real love from selfishness. It's what makes us capable of enduring for a lifetime what most people would throw away out of boredom. It's what binds a parent to a child, and what ensures that a marriage will last til death parts a husband from a wife. It's the impulse that drives a stranger to rescue a child that has fallen into a wash of raging flood waters. It's the compassion that prompts someone to buy lunch for a person who has no home.

It's God's kind of love, and His love is perfect.

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