I often take a passage of Scripture and break it down into phrases or sentences, like considering pieces of a puzzle as I put it together to make the whole. The lectionary texts this week are about God’s love at their core, as most Scripture is. I want to keep in mind as I go through this Scripture that it is God’s love,not man’s, that is described here. So I am going to start with I Corinthians 13.
If I speak human or angelic languages but do not have love,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
My husband, Henry, has a gift with languages. He speaks or can understand over a dozen languages. I struggled through Spanish and gave up after one class of Hebrew. Languages weren’t for me but I do appreciate their beauty and history. And God gave us the gift of many languages, including language that speaks my spirit to His Spirit. Yet, here God says through Paul that all those beautiful words are nothing if I do not speak them, use them with love.
If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
And here Paul lists all the â€œimportantâ€ gifts that, even in this new 1st Church, people had begun to bestow their own human glory upon. Faith, discernment, knowledge, and prophecy are all wonderful gifts from God that He gave to His children to use to build His Kingdom. But if those gifts, or any others, are used with manipulation and self-seeking glory, then God sees it all as worthless.
And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
All of these beginning verses remind me of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). I can tithe, give offerings, give myself as a martyr, and yet if my heart is focused on the applause of others, I miss the mark and have not a servant heart. Jesus says that I should do all these things for the Father who is unseen (Matthew 6:5-6).
Love is patient,
This speaks to my closest of relationships! Those of whom I love the most, I expect the most. It also speaks to me about how much patience I extend to fellow Believers. How much patience do I have vs. how much judgment and criticism that I extend? Ouch. God has so much patience with me. How can I do less?
love is kind.
To me, kindness is a gentle, comforting love. When I think of kindness there are people, unassuming people, who immediately come to my mind who have shown me and people that I love such great kindness. They probably do not see themselves as â€œgreatâ€ in God’s Kingdom, but they are.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
â€œIt’s not all about me.â€ Oh how hard it is to allow Jesus to show me how to kill the pride in me. The priests and nuns of the early Church were made to beg their soup and kiss the feet of the older members of their community in order to learn humility. Those are certainly humbling ways but in my life Jesus has used His Spirit to illuminate to me when my heart is swelling with pride and focusing on what recognition I will receive.
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
There are so many aspects of my life when I can see that I was keeping a mental â€œledgerâ€ of the insults and injuries done to me. No greater place than in my marriage and in the Church. In both cases, I expect so much from my husband and from fellow Believers and when they do not meet my standard, there goes a black â€œXâ€ on the debit side of the book. Jesus was so clear as He said that I will be judged with the same measure that I judge others (Matthew 7:1-5).
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
There is no joy when those who are struggling in their sin are struck down. The revelation of sin is so that the sinner can make a change and be restored to an intimate relationship with God. Remember Jonah? He was angry that the Ninevites weren’t going to get what they deserved but instead had repented and been restored to God (Jonah 4).
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
â€œHow many times do I have to forgive my brother?â€ asked Peter (Matthew 18:21-22). And Jesus essentially says that there is no end to the number of times that I forgive â€“ unless I want God to put a number on the times He will forgive me!?? I have been blessed to see the power of God’s love to restore relationships that in the world’s estimation were irrevocably broken and should have died. God’s Love cannot be killed only refused.
But as for prophecies,
they will come to an end;
as for languages, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
What have I made important in my life? Have I made a god of the ministry given to me by my LORD to steward? Nothing. Nothing comes before my LORD. The ministry, the gifts I have been given to further that ministry in God’s Kingdom all must point to the LORD.
For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part.
But when the perfect comes,
the partial will come to an end.
This is crucial. This is where I learn that I am in need of Jesus, His teaching and example, His Spirit to give me His truth and wisdom; the accountability of the Body of Christ as we work together for His Kingdom. We build and we work toward the Day that has been promised.
When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I put aside childish things.
I have often used the phrase that â€œI am a big girl Christianâ€ when I am looking at styles of worship that aren’t my favorite or when someone disagrees with something I wrote in a devotion. I ask God daily for His wisdom to know what is important and isn’t. Children will fight and fuss over a toy even when they do not want to play with it. Children want their world to turn their way and do not want to understand about any limitations. They are easily frustrated at people and events that do not make them immediately happy.
For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part,
but then I will know fully,
as I am fully known.
I have more questions now than I did in 1995 when I first became a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am relying more on Jesus and walking more in faith than I ever have in my life. I hang on to the anchor that is Jesus and wrap myself in the cloak of Hope that says, â€œOne day the shadows and veils of uncertainty will be lifted.â€
Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:1-13 (NLT)
It is God’s love that began this Scripture and was the thread that was throughout. God is faith. God is hope. God is love. The greatest characteristic of all that God is â€“ is love.
I Could Sing of Your Love Forever written and sung by Delirious