What Love Isn’t

How many of you have ever heard 1 Corinthians 13 read at a wedding? I can imagine many of you sitting at home with your coffee mug in one hand and raising the other. It is a well-known wedding Scripture for a good reason: it speaks to the heart of what love is. But did you ever stop to notice that it actually says more about what love isn’t?

It is in the ”isn’ts” that this passage has its greatest power, especially in a world so filled with hate. Somewhere, somehow, we as a society turned a dark corner where hate-filled rhetoric is not only accepted, it is the norm. Just look at the flags, bumperstickers, social media posts, and click-bait ”news” bits where self-important commentators inflame the audience with derogatory and damaging statements that go unchecked. Unchecked, until the online comments begin. Then hate parries hate, and things escalate until you stop and think to yourself, ”Where is the love? Where is the goodness? Where is civility? Where are your manners?

Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth had nothing to do with weddings. He was facing a contentious congregation that was devolving into patterns of us-versus-them, and hate was unleashed. So he wrote these timeless words:

1 Corinthians 13 (Common English Bible)

13 If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.

So that is what love isn’t. It isn’t arrogant, so love would never think its own opinion was more intelligent or valuable than another person’s idea. Indeed, love would quietly accept diverse thoughts, and would silently agree to disagree.

Love isn’t jealous and doesn’t covet the things other people have or seek its own advantage, so love celebrates everyone else’s achievements and success, and doesn’t put someone down in order to lift itself up. When there is no jealousy, there is no competition for attention.

Love isn’t rude, so love wouldn’t post anything that is offensive, even if it agreed with the meme/post/article. Love wouldn’t hide behind flags that use profanity (or euphemisms for profanity), even if it doesn’t like the person to whom the profanity is directed.

Love isn’t irritable, so when love sees those flags, she bites her tongue and keeps on driving.

Love never enters an argument with a list of past grievances, because love FORGIVES.

One of the things love doesn’t love is injustice, and so love works hard to be sure everyone is treated fairly. And love loves truth, especially the One who is the Way, the Life, and the Truth.

Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end. We know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things. 12 Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. 

We have a chance every day to choose love. That’s it. That’s the choice. You either love or you hate. May we choose a love so vibrant and strong that it brings glory to our Father and honor to our family. Remember, they will know that we are Christians by our LOVE.

13 Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.

Love’s Pure Light by Alice Rogers

Feeding Enemies

Man, the gospel life is tough. God has such great expectations of his people. We are called to behave in ways that are far above how we probably would prefer to live. If we were left to our natural inclinations, we would be a sorry lot indeed. Living a life focused on righteousness has its rewards in both the short term and the long run….but the principles are high.

For example, God calls us to love others…as in ALL others. Have you ever really tried to do that? How can you possibly love everyone including your obnoxious neighbor, the mean girl undermining your work, and your unrepentant ex?

And how about this…we should bless those who persecute us. And be patient. And work hard, and don’t seek revenge, and….

Romans 12 (New Living Translation)

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

I love how the New Living Translation translates the first sentence: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them!” I can almost hear Paul saying this.

What do you suppose he is up to in this passage?

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

I think these timeless words were his attempt to create something new out of the old things. He was carving out a distinct identity for this new thing that Jesus had started and wanted those who followed Jesus to be unique and noticeably different from all the other people. He set the bar high because Jesus set the bar high. And just in the same way that a fence protects the children who play inside it, these high bars protect our hearts and our souls from corruption, self-indulgence, and vapidity.

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Christ-followers are people of peace. Christ-followers are generous, loving, patient, humble, and honorable; and would never repay evil with evil. Christ-followers are DIFFERENT.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
    I will pay them back,”
    says the Lord.

20 Instead, 

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
    burning coals of shame on their heads.”

I remember once hearing a speaker at a youth retreat ask the audience if people could tell if we are Christian or not. It is a question worth revisiting. Look again at how Paul describes the way God wants you to live. How are you doing? Can people tell that you are a Christ-follower by your choices?

Today is a good day to raise your own bar. It’s never too late. Go out and find a way to feed an enemy in the name of the Lord. And don’t just pretend to love people…..really LOVE them. After all, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

For the Love of God by Michelle Robertson

Some Good News

One of the unexpected blessings that has emerged in the last two months is John Krasinski’s show called Some Good News. Have you seen it? It is amazing. Krasinski is a well known actor from The Office and the new Jack Ryan series. He developed a wonderful show that he tapes in his family room each week which seeks to bring you one thing: some good news. He staged a presentation of Hamilton for a young girl who had tickets to Hamilton on Broadway for her birthday which of course was cancelled. So Krisinski corralled the cast…including LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA…to a ZOOM production of one of the most popular songs from that show. The girl cried. I cried. Then he did a ZOOM graduation, a ZOOM prom, and even a ZOOM wedding. The show is full of video clips of people from all over the country doing very thoughtful things for others. I have literally cried every week watching all the stories of people just being GOOD.

So in that spirit, today we will focus on a happy reading. Let’s take a trip to Romans to see what kind of encouragement we can discover there. Let’s talk about love. Let’s talk about prayer. Let’s talk about showing honor. Let’s share some good news.

Romans 12 (Common English Bible)

Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other.11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 

Love that is genuine enables people to hold on to what is good. Where is God calling you to show love without pretending? How can you love the people around you (some of whom are probably unlovable) like members of your family? (Some of whom are definitely unlovable!)

God calls us to be happy in our hope. What an appropriate focus for where we are right now. If we didn’t have hope, where would we be?

Maybe the best way to have hope is to give hope away.

13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart.

Take these words to heart. Welcome the stranger. Give to those in need. Bless the folks who are ugly to you. Cry with your friends when they are crying. (Turn on Some Good News. That will take care of it.) Hang out with the marginalized.

In short, the way to be happy in these times is to be like Jesus, the original Good News. You have the power to be some Good News to somebody today. Go do it! You’ll be the one to get the blessing.

No Wake Zone by Michelle Robertson