Loving truth AND loving others

1 Cor. 13:6 — Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (NIV)

The careful walk we must take in the Spirit is to understand we want to communicate with kindness, but we cannot work so hard on being kind that we neglect truth. Then, there is the other side that gives little regard for kindness because TRUTH is to vital to them.

If we work so hard to be kind but neglect truth, we imperil others who are obviously ignoring something that bring LIFE. But truth delivered without compassion or kindness is likely to fall on deaf ears.

What brings that balance is the powerful love of God. It is sincere love that causes us to wake up to truth and then long for Kingdom rightness to be brought into the lives of others. It is a heart with feeling compassion that draws us to others and with every possible means we want to bring TRUTH into other lives. The heart truly set free by Christ longs for truth in others and does its best to communicate with kindness.

But the truth spoken in love doesn’t always meet with “positive” results. The thing to remember then is that the results are not up to us. We don’t get to dictate the response at the altar call. We WANT to manipulate that response, but a heart set free by Christ will not let that happen.

Speak truth in love. Rejoice in truth. Rejoice in loving others. Do not manipulate others for response. Bring Kingdom rightness and let the Spirit bring the results.

 

The Radical Love of Christ

1 Corinthians 13. I usually avoid this chapter because it was so abused at weddings over the years. Coming back to this chapter as an “ancient well” in my spiritual reading is always the toughest passage to visit.

But it is so needed. Especially in the Body of Christ. Especially in this day.
The Corinthians church was into spiritual superiority. They were taking different gifts and treating them as marks of superiority. The powerful manifestation gifts (tongues, healing, prophecy, etc.) were treasured and exalted. Yet, other groups would take their favorites (or the ones they loved but were getting beat up by the other groups) and would whack away at their “opposition.”
Opposition in the Body of Christ. It’s an ancient tale.
It seems this is the game we play. We know the greatest commandments: Love God. Love the neighbor.
But today, I would ask, “Who is my neighbor?”
And for the Church, Jesus might give a different illustration. The reason I say that is today we, as believers, seem more intent on loving our neighbor who isn’t a believer than loving our neighbor who just may be a believer… just not “our kind” of believer.
In this, the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 ring a bit more true.
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2-3, NIV)
No one is without excuse.
“Who is my neighbor?”
It’s the Pentecostal you can’t stand because he talks too much about praying for healing. It’s the Episcopalian you can’t stand because she’s involved in “dead ritual.” It’s the Lutheran you can’t stand because they always want to help the poor. It’s the Catholic, because… It’s the Presbyterian, because…
We spend so much time yipping at each other, we forget the very mark of Christ that is supposed to distinguish us from the rest of the world! “See how they love one another.
May we finally hear those words of our Savior and our King, and actually work by the power of the Spirit to make them real.

Is Love “Fluffy”?

1 John is so full of the word “love” it has to give the Rambo types in the theological world ulcers. It’s probably why Mark Driscoll may stay away from it.

But the concept of “love” is what needs work. We have this mushy definition of, “I am what I am and you need to accept and affirm all of it or you don’t love me.”

We need a reworking of the definition, because loving the neighbor as Christ commands is far beyond this current use of “love.”

Loving your neighbor is learning to “bless those who curse you.” This is far beyond the definition of “love” we have today.

To truly love someone is to have the ability to bring truth into their lives without being harmful. It is placing what is Kingdom rightness in front of people and allowing them to deal with it. They may accept it. They may not. It’s not up to us. But our love for others should compel us to want Kingdom rightness for their lives. 

The definition of “Kingdom rightness” gets messy, to be sure. That is why the first part of the great commandment is so crucial: Love God. When we love God and free ourselves from manipulation, we see his radical love for us. His radical love also brings Kingdom rightness into our lives… and that gets uncomfortable. He doesn’t do it to be maniacal. He does it because he knows what is best.

John’s love is far beyond our current “fluffy” junk. It is radical. It does not fear.

 

Truly Loving

1 Corinthians 13 was the most over-read Scripture at weddings for years and years. What a shock to find out it had nothing to do with weddings.

It does deal with the spiritual arrogance of a group of people who were using manifestation gifts to beat up on other believers.

In the middle of a discussion on manifestation gifts Paul gives the very foundation for how gifts should be used. But that word is one of the most messed up words in our culture today: LOVE.

Our world is generally good at contorting words. So, when a text uses “love” and we superimpose our very weak version of “love” onto it, we really lose sight of some incredible possibilities with the word Paul is giving.

Several years ago in a theology class at Luther Seminary, my professor talked about what it meant to walk in love and speak the truth in love. When you love someone, you want the best for them. As a believer, you want God’s best for them. When we know our freedom in Christ, we will be able to truly speak the truth in love.

This is how it looks: We speak truth into their lives without fear of the response. We speak without manipulation. If I truly love someone, I speak what I truly understand to be the Kingdom’s best for them, yet I yield to the work of the Spirit. Too many times it is tempting to speak into someone’s life to manipulate a response. We know what we want them to say in response and we work hard to get that response.

The other thing we do when we are truly free in Christ we speak the truth in love and we cannot worry about the response. We may want a “positive” response. We may not get it. It’s not our call.

Loving someone is seeking God’s best in their lives. I want to show people God’s best. Not everyone goes for it. I’ve learned to relax over that. It helps me to keep on loving them. The rest is up to the Spirit.

Walking in the love of the Kingdom is something far beyond the lousy definitions of “love” we carry in this world. It is tougher. It is richer. It is worth it.

Walk in love.

Carl and Ellie

Disney’s movie, “UP”, is one I cherish. The first time I saw it was in 3D at the movies with my oldest son. Once the movie moved from the early montage to the storyline, we laughed so hard we cried.

Yet, it was that first montage that held me. This was why this movie would mean so much to me. The movie begins with Carl as a young boy. He is shy and awkward. (I have an immediate affinity for this kid.) He adores an adventurer he sees on the movie reels at the theater. (This is set in the early 20th Century to begin.) Carl then meets a young girl who truly loves adventure. The montage tells of their growing old together. It is incredibly touching. You see the joy of getting married, then wanting to save money to make that big adventure to South America, and needing to dip into that savings to take care of things in life.

You also witness the sorrow of their inability to have children, yet their joy in cherishing each other. As a young girl Ellie had started a scrapbook about the adventures she would take. She had left a section blank to document the eventual big trip they would take to South America. In their senior years Carl decides to go all out and buy two plane tickets for South America. Right after that Ellie gets sick. She never makes the trip. Before she dies, she gives Carl the scrapbook.

The real adventure happens when Carl is forced to go to a nursing home, but the morning he is to leave his house, he floats it away with a million helium balloons. He then discovers a stowaway and the fun is on.

It’s a great movie, but watching it again last night I am left with deep emotions over the journey of life. Carl felt he had disappointed Ellie because he never got her to South America. He had never looked at the scrapbook after Ellie had passed away. His love for her was so deep, but he felt he had disappointed her. Her life had not turned out like she wanted. Or, so he thought.

My greatest adventures are with the one God gave me as my spouse. I have disappointed her. When we married, there was a journey we thought we would take together and it has not happened. It may never happen. It’s possible that one day we could visit a place we have dreamed of living in as missionaries, but outside of that, I have not been able to help fulfill that dream. But what I have found as we have journeyed together is the disappointment is with myself. She has taken this journey with me and has filled the pages of that scrapbook with new things. (Carl finds Ellie did the same thing. Her great adventure was the journey with Carl.)

In these 21 years of marriage we have witnessed so many ups and downs. We have lived with laughter and sorrow. But the journey has been together and I cannot imagine life without her. I am the bumbling Carl in many ways. What I want to be all through my life is that Carl that loved deeply. The Lord has so gifted me with a precious wife and this Thanksgiving, I am thankful above all for his great grace that brought her to me.

All You Need is Love…

Peter waits until the last characteristic to put in LOVE. He starts with faith… ends with love. Why? This kind of love is the toughest things we’ll ever have and do in our lives. Only God brings it and we can only live in this power through the Spirit of God.

When we live unselfishly, working for the good of others, bearing burdens in prayer for others, living in kindness, (and the list goes on)… we’ll know love.

All of these characteristics are vital. The call is great. We are called to partake in the divine nature. These qualities are essential. We don’t just get them and then check them off our list. We GROW in them. We become productive and fruitful (v. 8). Without them, we are blind (v. 9).

Is Christ worth it? Really. Is HE worth it? The question can’t be, “Is it worth to me?” We would give up to easily. Is HE worth this pursuit? Is Jesus great? Then join this journey.

“For if you do these things you will never stumble” (v. 10b).

The journey is a high calling. We have a high calling, but we have the divine power to reach this calling.

Happy climbing.