Friday, January 25, 2013

Day Twenty-Five: Love

The WORD of the Day:

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails...And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 
--I Corinthians 13:4-8, 13

Let Me Give You a Lift:

Today's Word might be the most well-recognized passage in the whole Bible about love.  It's taken from an entire chapter on love written by Paul to the Corinthians. In fact, perhaps the most powerful statements in the Bible about the importance of love are in the verses right in front of the ones listed above:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Without love, we are nothing. Why is that the case? Simple. God is love. Love is the cornerstone of everything. In fact, the two greatest commandments, on which "all the law and prophets hang," tell us to (1) love God with everything we've got, and (2) love other people the way we love ourselves.  I love Paul's statement: 

"And now abide faith, hope, and love; 
but the greatest of these is love."

That is such a profound statement; faith and hope are no small things to God. But Paul is saying, yet again, that you can't have either of these pillars without the foundation of love underneath them.  How can we believe in a God of love without loving? How can we hope in a Savior who loves without loving? We can't. 

So how do we love? Well, in the verses above Paul gives us some of the mechanics: patience; kindness; not being proud; not being rude; not delighting in the failings of others, but encouraging them; persistence; perseverance.  

Notice that all of these attributes are actions--ways we temper ourselves, or ways we help others.  As we discussed in the post on Charity, the kind of love God calls us to is not a warm fuzzy feeling about everyone around us.  There are some people we will never feel that way about.  Some days, I don't even feel warm and fuzzy about myself! I'm sure that some days, God doesn't feel warm and fuzzy about me either. 

But that's not the point. Love is a choice; a series of decisions and actions that builds an enduring relationship.  It's the sincere desire for the good, for what's best for others, and actions where we can help to achieve either. It's the kind of love that requires practice, and it's the clearest evidence of grace on this earth.

Two important thoughts to close on. Anything we do in the name of God should be motivated by love.  If your "religion" (or any actions toward others, really) is motivated by something other than love, then I would urge you to reread Paul's words above.  Anything but love is missing the point.

Secondly, often Christianity (faiths in general, but I'll stick with what I know) gets a bad rap because people have practiced (and preached) their "religion" based on things other than love (hate, greed, envy, conquest, pride, self-righteousness), or with an approach that could not be considered loving. But the thing to remember is this: love is the foundation of the entire faith. If you see people doing hateful things in God's name--remembering there's a profound difference between hatefulness and respectful disagreement--please don't consider that person as characteristic of the lot.  He can't be, he doesn't reflect our Savior. God is love. Living well is living loving. That is the beginning and end of it.

Give it a Listen:

Today's song is "Live Like That" by Sidewalk Prophets.  The song is about living love, plain and simple. A verse I love, and an important question to ask when self-evaluating: "Was I love when no one else would show up? Was I Jesus to the least of us?"

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