February 21, 2020
Well, it's come and gone, Valentines Day, that is. Did you get "loved on?" Did you do some lovin' on? Will it continue, and, if so, "Now What?" That's what I want to address in this week's article.
If you read my article on Valentines you may remember I was writing about how Valentines and love go together. I invited you to join me in 1 John 4:7-12 which is all about love and loving. John deals with three "First Responders" in relationship to our need to be loved and our responsibility to love others: (1) God the Father (2) The Lord Jesus through whom God brings his "unfailing love" (Psalm 40;11) to us and (3) God's people through our commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord. John argues that God's love is only brought to "full expression" through us; that's both humbling and challenging. It's an expression of the commandment which Paul argued (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) sums up the whole law (of God): "Love your neighbor as yourself.
I want to take a look at what that "full expression" should look like through us. I want to take you into 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a. As you may know 1 Corinthians 13 has become known as, "the love chapter." Let's see why.
In the first three verses of Chapter 13 Paul reminds the believers in Corinth (and us) that we can have all kinds of cool things from God (like "spiritual gifts), but if we don't have love these things don't mean diddly (my word, not Paul's). Then he defines love.
Concerning these characteristics of love David Prior writes: "They sound ordinary, obvious, almost banal (commonplace); but they are probably the most difficult habits to cultivate" (Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians, The Bible Speaks Today, P. 230). I think he's right.
Paul begins: "Love is patient and kind." Most of the translations use these two words. The KJB translates patience: "suffereth" (or suffers) long." I think the translators were on to something as they attempted to put God's Word into the language of the people. Patience can involve suffering and there may be a struggle to continue with kindness. I am aware of at least two situations where parents are suffering over the decisions of their adult children.
Eugene Peterson, in The Message (a paraphrase of the Bible) begins 1 Corinthians 13:4: "Love never gives in." Someone has suggested that, patient and kind: introduce the theme of the whole passage; "Love has a big heart." I suspect that Paul had patience and kindness in mind when he wrote to the believers in Ephesus: "be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love: (Ephesians 4:2, NLT). Proverbs 17: 9 says, "disregarding another person's faults preserves love: telling about them separates close friends: (NLT).
Kindness is a type of presence with people that has much to do with the mouth. Kindness and criticism cannot share the same mouth. One of the great examples of kindness instead of criticism is found in John 8: 1-11) where Jesus is confronted with a woman who had been caught in adultery by the religious leaders. Notice the difference between their response and Jesus' words to her. In kindness, he spoke new life into her: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more: (John 8:11).
I'll have to admit, folks, since I've been working on this scripture David Prior's words keep coming back to me. I wrestle with patience and kindness every day. I find myself repeating them about a dozen times a day; especially in relationship to my wife. I want to love her with these words, but a lot of times it's the "little things" that catch me off guard and the "flesh" takes over. Even after 52 years as of February 10th. Can any of you relate to this? Now when this happens, I hear the Holy Spirit: "Patience and kindness." So I repeat them again and hear Paul's words in Galatians 5:22,23,25): "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, kindness,, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (which goes along with kindness), and self-control...If we are now living by the Holy spirit, Let us follow the Holy spirit's leading in every part of our lives,: "O, Lord, have compassion on me, for I am weak" (Psalm 6:2). That's love expressed through patience.
David Prior writes concerning the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13: "the verbs (action words) Paul uses are all in the present continuous tense, denoting actions and attitudes which have become (or need to become) habitual, ingrained gradually by constant repetition: (ibid. pp 229, 230).
As we go through the rest of the characteristics of love in this scripture, I'd like to allow the J.B. Phillips translation to be our commentary or explanation. Verse 4:13b "Love is not jealous or boastful or proud..." Phillips: "It (love) is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance." I'd like to jump in here with Philippians 2:3,4: "Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better (or more important) than yourself. don't just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing" (NLT).
Verse 5: It is not "rude". Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable (I can have trouble with this one; especially if I'm not feeling well), and keeps no record of when it has been wronged." Phillips: "Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil..." A couple thoughts from William Barclay: "When we lose our tempers, we lose everything..." (Paul wrote that it also gives a "foothold to the devil, Ephesians 4: 26,27). Barclay continues: "One of the great arts in life is to learn to forget...Christian love has learned the great lesson of forgetting" (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, the Letters to the Christians, P. 122). As a child I used to hear one of my grandmothers say against someone: "Well, I'll forgive, but I won't forget!" The tone of her voice always sounded like she hadn't forgiven either.
Verse 6: "It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out." Phillips: Love does not "gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails." Prior writes: "We can fall into the trap of rejoicing, not in what is good and true, but what is murky and sordid...That is the reverse of love, which longs to see others stand and grow, which is saddened and hurt when another is defeated: (ibid. p 232). "Lord, help me not to diminish others by the way I think and speak about them but rather help me to see the potential good in them and help to bring it out. Help me to find a way of being constructive, Prior observes: "It is often true that we make people what we believe them to be: (ibid. p. 123).
Verse 7: "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." Phillips: "Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything." Prior writes: "...love enables us to exercise a strong assurance that, however black it seems, God has not lost his way and has for us "a future and a hope" (ibid. p. 232).
Verse 8a: Love will last forever. Phillips has it: "It is in fact the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen. "Patient and kind, Patient and kind, Patient and kind..." Are you with me?
Until next time,