It seems appropriate to write about love over these next couple of weeks as we approach Valentine's Day. Click on the link and you will see a few interesting facts about this day that comes around every February 14th. How do you celebrate Valentine's Day? Or maybe a better question to ask is , DO you celebrate Valentine's Day?
When I was a young women in my teens and early twenties, I was like anyone. I wanted to be noticed and thought of, especially on the day that had become a symbol of love and romance. We are creatures who desire relationships, whether the romantic kind or those that are purely platonic. We want to feel special to someone. We want to be remembered on those special occasions like birthdays and we want to feel that we have value.
Last week I touched on the idea of, The Real Romance, being the one we have with the Almighty Creator. He alone, knows our deepest fears, hurts and desires. As much as our significant others care for us, they cannot fully know us like God does. That being said, this week, I wanted to look at love from our perspective. I don't know about you, but I think real love is hard!
If you are a Christ follower, then you are probably familiar with I Corinthians 13. This small chapter in the New Testament has become the defining essay on love. The Bible is full of passages and verses talking about love, from the love of God, to the love of man and all the complications in between. I'd like to break down the 13 verses in this passage into bite sized chunks and chew on them for a bit.
This letter to the church at Corinth was written by the Apostle Paul. He begins this chapter with a series of actions that, during the time, were probably looked at as special manifestations of faith. Speaking in tongues, prophecy and knowledge, as well as sacrifice of possessions and self, were all looked at as being important actions for Christians to participate in. I am sure, that just as we look at people in our church who give large amounts of money, lead the worship team, work with children, evangelize or preach, as people who are doing good things for the sake of the gospel, the Christians in Paul's time felt similarly towards those who were visibly living out their faith.
However, Paul adds a condition to each of the actions he has mentioned. Without love, every one of them is meaningless. That seems pretty harsh doesn't it. I mean, we all do things because it is expected, or because it has to be done. Does that mean, when I get to heaven, those things I did out of obligation or pressure will burn up in the fires of judgment? Let's look at the next section.
Paul goes on to give these amazing characteristics of love: patient, kind, not jealous....This list should certainly make us reexamine whether our love is up to this "gold" standard put forth in the scriptures. We can't really be expected to love others in this way, can we? I mean, who hasn't acted in an unbecoming way. I literally threw things when I got mad, when my children were younger. Not a very becoming example of love. When my spouse and I were at odds it was usually because we were seeking our own. With divorce rampant in our country the characteristic of love enduring all things, hardly seems a reality.
As we read on we are suddenly faced with the reality that everything we do is imperfect. The gifts that we have been given will cease. The knowledge that we have will be done away. It also tells us that we don't know everything there is to know. It goes on to say, "...but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away...." This phrase tells me two things. The first is that this life we are now living is not perfect. Ta, da! I bet you didn't know that (insert sarcasm here). The second is that the perfect is coming. Only Christ is perfect and it is only through Him and His shed blood that we enter into that ability to be perfect.
Paul goes on to make two analogies:
1. The child becomes a man (or woman).
For those of you who have raised or are raising children, you get this. Children think on a different plain than adults do. They speak differently, think differently and reason differently. When we become adults we are expected to behave like adults, not children. That doesn't mean we don't get in touch with our inner child once in a while. This is especially important when you have grandchildren!
2. The mirror versus reality.
In this second analogy Paul talks about our reflection in a mirror as that which is dim. The reflection is not our real self, it is only an image of ourselves. A reflection is not the real deal.
These two analogies remind us that we are just children and we don't know everything. Only God knows all. Only God is perfect. It doesn't matter how much we are doing. It doesn't matter what grandiose plans we have. If we are doing these things without the love of God, they are meaningless.
Why is love hard? Because we are trying to do it by reasoning as a child, "If I do this, I'll score points with God." We are looking in a dim mirror and thinking, "I look pretty darn good!" That knowledge and that reasoning are part of what make love hard. Our love is selfish and distorted.
Only God's love is perfect. It is only by walking with Him in a close personal relationship that we will be able to live a life of true, selfless love. That is the love that will count for eternity.