It is a far cry from perfection when I think of my years as a life filled with love. Just this morning, I was faced with two calls to make to apologize for putting my mouth in gear before thinking with my heart. With each call, I found instant forgiveness and understanding, but I also found release from the stress and anxiety that my life had been full of since moving my Dad from a house to an assisted living center…the mountains of calls…dealing with companies…some with compassion, others with the bottom line the motivation.
As usual, I waited several days because I also had a sick child at home, and quite frankly, asking forgiveness was not top on my list…even though it should have been! But, because of the Spirit of the Lord, I found myself smack dab in the middle of a very familiar scripture that I memorized (by force) as a child…the love chapter. It was in the few moments of quiet in a not so quiet day, I found answers not only for myself, but answers for others who suffer from a momentary love deficit.
Amazingly enough it was not the “love is patient….etc.” part that cleared my thinking…it was just five verses. I Corinthians 13: 1-3, 8-9. What I realized was that Paul was describing all of us at some time or another. He characterized Christians in three categories.
Category One: I Corinthians 13:1, 8 “I am more spiritual than you because I speak in tongues” or the consistently irritating Christian. Coming from a Baptist upbringing, when I moved into the Charismatic movement and received my “tongues”, I automatically felt a step or two above the “common” Christian who did not speak in a heavenly language. It didn’t take long before the Spirit of God whipped me back into shape and put things in perspective. Paul described these Christians as irritating, noisy gongs.
I remember the Gong Show. When the contestants didn’t get an answer right, they had to bear the unbearable sound of the gong. Once is enough to hear the sound of the gong, but to a Christian who has elevated themselves because of a blessing they received from the Holy Spirit…one gong is not enough. It seems to be a perpetual clanging in everyone’s ears of how they have the Holy Spirit, and the sound of love is drowned out. Verse 8 says this “where there are tongues, they will be stilled.” Oh, to have the gong stilled and silence ushering in the call to walk in love.
Category Two: I Corinthians 13:2, 8 “I am more qualified than you.” Paul said these Christians are really, really bright. They prophesy, have a deep understanding of God’s mysteries, possess great knowledge, and have a faith that is of the mountain moving type. These are super Christians, yet when they act without love, Paul says they are “Nothings”.
Love distinguishes between this person being either a KNOW IT ALL, or one who describes their accomplishments in this way…(Philippians 3:8)”Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ,”. Verse 8 says this, “…But where there are prophecies, they will cease…where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part.” Prophecy and knowledge come and go and as long as we live, we will ever be increasing in these areas, but never totally attaining.
It is good to know…it is good to prophesy…it is good to walk in faith, but when these accomplishments step into first place in our lives, we have forgotten the simplicity of what Christ taught us…the greatest commandment…to love. It is in His love that others see Christ in us. That is why sometimes the seemingly most ignorant believer who walks in love can impact more lives than the PhD who walks in his own glory.
Category Three: I Corinthians 13: 3 “I’ve given up more than you.” This Christian truly has done more than the other two described in these verses. They have followed John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” They have read the story about the rich young ruler and have given everything to the poor, yet there is something lacking in their deeds…they have not walked in love. It is interesting that Paul says they have gained nothing. The word the King James uses for “gained”is “profiteth”. This word literally means advantageous or profit. There was no advantage to their martyrdom and the appearance of selfless giving.
As with all of these Christians, they put their deeds in front of love. Love should be the driving force in speaking in tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith and sacrificial giving. Love positions us where God desires. Love offers the seat of honor to the least. Love speaks words of challenge and change into a life. Love walks in faith because it believes God. Love will give both monetarily and personally to follow Christ to benefit another. God’s passion and desire for us stemmed from a heart of love. His desire for us is that we be conformed to His image…an image of God’s love.