I have been thinking about love this week. Not love in the mushy Hollywood sort of way but a broader kind of love. This love isn’t just reserved for a special someone, this love is the kind that comes up in unexpected places and at unexpected times. This love isn’t easy, isn’t always longstanding, but is biblical, I believe.
What got me started was actually something that doesn’t inspire the thought of love. I was very hurt and disappointed by someone this week. An incident happened and it brought up all sorts of past history and behaviour that I had chosen to let slide, ignore, throw up my hands about. But for some reason, this one stuck. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was angry and I don’t get angry very often. But I was. I was filled with all the indignation that comes with being continually disappointed and wishing the person were different and feeling that righteous indignation that comes with these emotions. As in many of these situations I chose to pray and my prayer took the form of telling God what I wished were different and how I thought he should go about it. Though it may seem scandalous, this is actually very therapeutic and it’s not like God doesn’t know what you’re thinking anyway. So, God heard everything I had to say, I got to blow off steam, and those words that are probably not good to say to the person directly got to be said in a non-damaging circumstance. So, why didn’t I feel better?
Well, one thing I realized is that no matter what I would like by way of receiving an apology or being in the right and having the whole universe acknowledge it, I was uncomfortable in my soul because I was unsure how to love a person who had hurt me.
I had another experience this week, quite a week, I know. As I was thinking about love and what it means, I encountered a person who I had never met in my life and found some things that they were saying very very difficult to agree with. That’s a bit of an understatement. What they were saying seemed to go against something that I feel down to the core of my spiritual being. They were not trying to deliberately be mean, they were a godly person and firmly believed that their interpretation of Scripture was valid, and an argument could be made that it is. However, as I was sitting there listening to this person my spine stiffened and my foot started doing that irritated jiggling thing that feet do when there’s no where to put your extra emotion. I was struck again by the idea of love. How do I love a person who is in the body of Christ, who I don’t know from a hole in the wall, that I disagree with but cannot say that they have done anything wrong? How do I love another, unknown believer?
To round out my week, I was made aware of a project that our denomination is undergoing to assist women and children in Canada get out of prostitution. (www.defenddignity.ca) It was a very hard presentation to hear, see, and be reminded of but it did go along with the theme of love that now I see, because I can take a hint, that God is trying to teach me. How do we love the broken, the fatherless, the orphans, be they strangers in need of our help or friends within our everyday lives?
So, how do I love? The Bible commands it so we should do it. It’s really as simple as that. But love has a number of different facets. My love for a friend is different than how I am to love that person I disagree with or that child coming out of prostitution. But I believe that God’s intent for love in our lives means that no matter how we love it should not only bless others but change us as well.
1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous if not the most famous treatment of Love in the Bible. This was the passage God put in my head as I was dealing with this person who had disappointed me. I have to admit I didn’t want to be patient, kind, not rude, and I wanted to keep a record of the wrongs done to me until I felt fully justified. But as I pondered why God would want me to ruminate on these verses in a way that didn’t make me want to roll my eyes, I started to realize something. I am not responsible for another person’s actions, as much as I wish other people would change, I cannot ultimately do that. So, if I am called to love them, that means that in this situation I can be responsible for me. I can be patient in the face of impatience, kind in the face of hurt, choose kind words to talk to someone instead of chewing them out. And that part in verse 5 about keeping no record of wrongs? Well, I have been holding on to my hurt this week. But this isn’t healthy. We are called to forgive and I believe that this is not only because Christ forgave us but because I don’t believe God want us to spend our days in a fog of hurt and distraction because we’re allowing another person’s actions to control us. Holding on to the wrongs that we have suffered keeps us prisoner to that situation and those wrongs. I was reliving the hurt over and over this week until I realized that keeping this wrong close to my heart was doing me harm as well. I was spending too much time focussing on a situation that I could not change and it was affecting my other relationships and taking my focus off God. I’m not trying to be flippant about forgiveness. Some hurts run so deep that it takes years, even decades for God to help heal you of those. I’m talking about holding on to hurts intentionally in order to feel right or justified. Keeping no record of wrongs shows love to another but also frees us as well.
When I think about loving that person whose interpretation of Scripture gave my foot a workout I went back to 1 Corinthians 13 but started at the beginning of the passage. This chapter comes after Paul has been talking about the body of Christ that is the Church and how each person has a role to play regarding spiritual gifting. Now, this person I was listening to was talking about ministering in the Church and how that plays out in life. I was feeling like this person’s interpretation was striking at the heart of where God has called me to minister and use my gifts in the Church. Hence the foot twitching. But, 1 Cor 12:1 begins to talk about using our gifts in correlation with love. Basically the first couple of verses say that you can have all the gifts in the world but if you don’t have love for other people it makes your gifts impotent. Yep, that’s kind of how it reads. Now, where I went with this in relation to this person is that even though this person has a different idea about my role than I do, I need to remember that my gifts are nothing, my usefulness to the Church is nothing if I don’t put love first. So, I could fight this person on their interpretation of Scripture in order to use these gifts but if I don’t show love to them, what’s the point? So, as they were speaking I tried to look at them with grace, to see them as a person who was equally striving to interpret God’s will as I was and to realize that they were not defined as a person by this one opinion. I would not like to be defined by a single opinion of mine so I need to extend that grace to others. This person was seeking God, trying to love and serve others and was just as valuable a member of the body of Christ as I. If I tried to drag this person down or tried to look on them with less than grace, I was doing a disservice to the Church as a whole. If I was to love God and love the Church, I must love them as well and see them as God sees them.
Lastly, loving those who are broken, hurting, the widows and orphans, the innocent, the forgotten. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Whatever they have done, we have sinned as well. God calls us to help those who suffer. Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (NIV). This was the verse quoted by the woman who gave the presentation on Defend Dignity. If we are to love those who need our help, if we are to bring justice and mercy, how do we love? Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (NIV) So those women and children who need our assistance? We love them by promoting truth, protecting, hoping, trusting, and persevering.
So how do we love? We love by seeking truth, hope, justice, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. We seek to love because Christ loved and because that is how we seek his kingdom here on earth. Loving someone is not always easy but it is necessary.